It is my most sincere hope that you, the reader, do not have any excuse for waiting any longer to take the Advent message to the world. Ours is the last message of mercy to a world whose probation is fast closing. I have a bond of sympathy for the people in the world, for I was once one of them. I had nothing and thought I had everything. I was about to die and did not realize I was missing out on heaven. Unfortunately our enemy, the enemy of all truth, is constantly at work, especially among Adventists. An old error, which I call Perfect -ionism, has been stealthily reintroduced into our ranks and it threatens to undo many well-meaning Adventists.
The error is usually presented something like this. “You need to get your home life straightened out first. The home is the first mission field. You ought to sell off your business, take the money and move your family into the wilderness away from all worldly influences so that you can concentrate on you and your family. Then, when all that is in order, you can go to work for the Lord.” I have even heard Adventists claim that you cannot do anything that the Lord can bless until you are perfect.
Praise the Lord that we have Scripture to go to when faced with counsel like this!
Job, whom Inspiration calls perfect, never considered himself anything but a sinful man. He even says that he could never think of himself as perfect. “Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.” Job 9:21.
Anyone who decides that he or she is now ready to work for the Lord, because he or she has put away all sin, condemns himself or herself, for we can plainly read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:8. Thus in following the theology that we have to be perfect before we can evangelize, we condemn ourselves to either never evangelize or to self-deception.
Sister White has given us very plain counsel regarding how we will see ourselves even after having successfully resisted the mark of the beast. “Soon our eyes were drawn to the east, for a small black cloud had appeared, about half as large as a man’s hand, which we all knew was the sign of the Son of man. We all in solemn silence gazed on the cloud as it drew nearer and became lighter, glorious, and still more glorious, till it was a great white cloud. The bottom appeared like fire; a rainbow was over the cloud, while around it were ten thousand angels, singing a most lovely song; and upon it sat the Son of man. His hair was white and curly and lay on His shoulders; and upon His head were many crowns. His feet had the appearance of fire; in His right hand was a sharp sickle; in His left, a silver trumpet. His eyes were as a flame of fire, which searched His children through and through. Then all faces gathered paleness, and those that God had rejected gathered blackness. Then we all cried out, ‘Who shall be able to stand? Is my robe spotless?’ Then the angels ceased to sing, and there was some time of awful silence, when Jesus spoke: ‘Those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand; My grace is sufficient for you.’ At this our faces lighted up, and joy filled every heart. And the angels struck a note higher and sang again, while the cloud drew still nearer the earth.” Early Writings, 15, 16. Even the saints at the second coming do not think of themselves as perfect or sinless.
In the Bible we can easily find multiple cases of Jesus sending out very imperfect disciples to evangelize.
In Luke 9:1–6 we read of the twelve being sent out long before Pentecost. This was even before Calvary. Not only was Peter there who would deny Jesus, but Judas, the betrayer, was there too!
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.” Even Judas and Peter were out there preaching and healing with authority over devils. What a spectacle that must have been to perfect angels! Judas counting his coins and lusting after more and yet preaching the gospel effectively and even casting out demons!
That the twelve must have had marvelous success is shown in Luke 9:14. We read of the size of the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus speak following their evangelization. “For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.” There were 5000 men, probably another 5000 women, and who knows how many children? 10,000 adults brought in by 12 sinful, self-centered disciples is an average of over 830 adults brought in per evangelist. What Adventist today can claim 830 souls brought in to hear the message? How are you, dear reader, doing? Have you gathered in 830 souls to listen to the truth? If not, do not wait until you think you are perfect, that time will never come until it is all too late to evangelize anyone on this planet!
Jesus must not have thought He made a mistake in sending out the twelve faulty, sinful, position-seeking disciples, for He repeated His action a little later. “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” ” And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” Luke 10:1,17.
The Spirit of Prophecy also speaks plainly of working effectively for the Lord even before you are perfect. Mrs. White calls the Samaritan woman at the well a heathen and yet records that it was her testimony which converted many to Christ.
“The most important discourse that Inspiration has given us, Christ preached to only one listener. As He sat upon the well to rest, for He was weary, a Samaritan woman came to draw water; He saw an opportunity to reach her mind, and through her to reach the minds of the Samaritans, who were in great darkness and error. Although weary, He presented the truths of His spiritual kingdom, which charmed the heathen woman and filled her with admiration for Christ. She went forth publishing the news: ‘Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’ This woman’s testimony converted many to a belief in Christ. Through her report many came to hear Him for themselves and believed because of His own word.
“However small may be the number of interested listeners, if the heart is reached and the understanding convinced, they can, like the Samaritan woman, carry a report which will raise the interest of hundreds to investigate for themselves.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 217.
Here was this wonderful Samaritan woman, living with a man who was not her husband, charmed by Jesus, that preached the gospel she had heard, bringing a large number to Christ. Jesus did not tell her to go home and get her home life straight before she started bringing others to Him!
If Jesus could use a heathen woman, Peter, and even Judas to spread the gospel—He can also use sinners like you and me. As witness to this, our first open Bible study session held in the Kalispell Public Library, netted two non-Adventist families in attendance who were eagerly looking forward to coming back next week. Jesus is blessing the work of several frail, sinful people. None of us is even thinking that we are perfect or that we will be in the kingdom because of what we have done for Jesus. But we can all be sure that we will be left out of His kingdom if we do nothing. True love for Jesus demands that we spread the word. We believe in stepping fast toward perfection of character but a vital part of this journey is sharing our faith. Only as we become workers in the vineyard can we best overcome evil, grow in grace and not backslide and receive the Holy Spirit.
“Strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service.” The Acts of the Apostles, 105.
“The only way to grow in grace is to be interestedly doing the very work Christ has enjoined upon us to do,—interestedly engaged to the very extent of our ability to be helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them. This is the only way we can grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christians who are constantly growing in earnestness, in zeal, in fervor, in love,—such Christians never backslide. They are becoming more closely identified with the Saviour in all his plans. They are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Their wisdom is increasing, their ability how to work. They seem to comprehend the largest plans. They are ready to engage in the most stirring enterprises, and they have no room for slothfulness; they cannot find a place for stagnation.” Review of Herald, June 7, 1887.
“As the knowledge of the truth is received, let it be imparted to those who are in darkness, without God and without hope in the world. In such labor there is a variety of minds to deal with, and God will greatly bless His servants as they look to Him for wisdom. The Holy Spirit will come to all who are begging for the bread of life to give to their neighbors.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 90.