During my freshman year at Southwestern Adventist University in Texas, I took a Bible class called “Life and Teachings of Jesus,” taught by Rob Sheppard.
One day Sheppard asked, “Have you ever heard that Ellen White wrote that there will be people in heaven that have not heard the name of Jesus?” He then said, “Let me show you in Scripture where that can be found.” He opened the Bible and read Matt. 25:31–46 and explained that the final judgement is based on how we have treated our brothers and sisters.
Initially, I found great comfort in that text because it changed my mindset regarding all the things I had been told I needed to do in order to be saved. Later, I realized that treating others is not something we can do through our own power. I also asked myself, “When had I done any of these things — fed the poor, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned?”
In 2003, Dwight Nelson preached a series on Isaiah 58. In this passage, God tells Isaiah that, even though His people seek Him, humble themselves and fast, all of it is meaningless because they do not “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him … ?” (Is. 58:6–7).
As I began to think about Is. 58:6–7, I realized that Jesus was saying the same thing in Matt. 25:35–36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Several years later in 2013, I was teaching the adult Sabbath School lesson that covered the minor prophets. Since the minor prophets are short books, the lesson would include the reading of the entire book. In preparing for the lesson, every day I would listen to the entire lesson, including the Scripture, Ellen White references and notes. About halfway through the quarterly, I noticed a theme of judgment for Israel and the surrounding nations. God’s judgment was always based on the same requirements. It did not matter what nation the minor prophet was writing about, God’s judgement was based on how they had treated the poor, widows, fatherless or disenfranchised. I then remembered the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. I realized the message of judgement found in the books of the major and minor prophets were the same as the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25.
While thinking on these passages, the Holy Spirit brought the following words to my mind. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1.” I thought WOW! In order to have healthy churches and effective evangelism, we need to be loving. If we are not, then we are just making noise!
So how do we become loving? Is the call to go out and work in soup kitchens, donate clothes and give money to homeless people standing on the corner? In Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus says there are those who will say, “Look at all the wonderful works that I have done,” and Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”
Paul is extremely clear about the importance of loving one another. 1 Cor. 13:1 states we are nothing if we don’t have love. Gal. 5:22–23 tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” If we want to be effective in ministry and love is the fruit of the Spirit, we need to be full of the Holy Spirit.
In Genesis 2, when Jesus created man, He breathed in their nostrils the breath of life. Right after the resurrection, in John 20:22, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are to be the new creation full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus still wants to breathe the Holy Spirit into us as we are to be the new creation.
We are to minister like Jesus. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was in Nazareth and was asked to read in the synagogue. He read from Is. 61:1–2, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor.”
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is to flow through us. He is the vine and we are the branches, and we are to bear much fruit (John 15). We are invited to be part of the new creation where the Spirit is flowing through us and blessing others.
In conclusion, in order to be effective in ministry, we need to love people the way Jesus loved people: “If I preach the Three Angels' Messages in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”