Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cost of Discipleship

Cost of Discipleship

In general terms, cost is the loss or penalty incurred in gaining something.  In finance, it is the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something; such as price.  When I buy a piece of fruit the cost is what I give the merchant in exchange for the fruit.  I lose money, but I gain the fruit.  I give up A, to gain B.  This implies that the fruit is of more value than the money.
The word cost is also used to define the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.  Runners sacrifice time with loved ones, favorite foods, and amusement time - among other things - to exercise and practice their sport.   The practice of their sport - and the chance of participating in a racing event - is of more value than the things they give up.  Paul saw what runners do as a parallel to the Christian experience.  Ellen White elaborates on Paul’s idea,

In referring to these races as a figure of the Christian warfare, Paul emphasized the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race--the preliminary discipline, the abstemious diet, the necessity for temperance. "Every man that striveth for the mastery," he declared, "is temperate in all things." The runners put aside every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers, and by severe and continuous discipline trained their muscles to strength and endurance, that when the day of the contest should arrive, they might put the heaviest tax upon their powers. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interests are at stake, bring appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God! Never must he allow his attention to be diverted by amusements, luxuries, or ease. All his habits and passions must be brought under the strictest discipline. Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God's word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control. {AA 311.1}
It is obvious then that there is always something to give up.  The following verses make this point clearly.  Let us read them,
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Just like there is no successful runner that gratifies inclination and refuses to obey their coach, “There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God” (MYP 154).
Now, in addition to giving up self, those who follow Christ will suffer persecution.  We read in John 15: 18 – 20,
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;
So, there is a double cost to be a disciple: what we give up and what we endure.  In order to get B I must give up A, but in order to retain B – forever - I must endure C.  So, the question is what is B, and is it worth giving up A, and enduring C, to have it.  Evidently B is Christ.  A is self, and C is the persecution and hatred we encounter as we become followers of Christ.  We see this dynamic in Paul’s experience as presented in Philippians 3: 7 – 10,

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
In the beginning verses of Philippians 3 Paul talks about what he gave up.  Nothing he had before – his ethnic background, his high standing in society, etc. – compared to the matchless charms of Christ.  In verses 7 and 8 Paul says he gives up everything to know Christ, and in verse 10 he says that he endures suffering and even death to continue to know Him.  We can see that Paul makes a distinction between what he gave up and what he endured.
What is not readily said is that the giving up and the enduring are related.  God designs the enduring, to help us in the giving up; and, the giving up helps us in the enduring.  Often the enduring reveals what we ought to give up. If we do not give up what the enduring reveals we should give up, we will fail to endure. Many may believe that the initial cost should be enough, perhaps too much.  Why should we endure trials?  Let us put it this way: if to receive Christ we must die to self, then the trial is to help us stay dead.  Trials teach us to trust, depend and wait on God.  Trials, rightly understood and endured, are to help us develop Christ-like character.  Ellen White says,

God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. {OFC 67.1}

What about us: Loadicea? What will it "cost" Laodicea to be in partnership with Christ our High Priest in His mission to the world? There is a difference between fulfilling the great commission,--"Go ye ... and teach [disciple] all nations,"--before 1844 and being co-laborers with the Harvester during the cleansing of the sanctuary.

It will cost Laodicea everything she thinks she knows about righteousness by faith in exchange for an appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to obtain justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the at-one-ment with God. This is the "offense" of the cross.

Why is Laodicea's discipleship and devotion to Jesus lukewarm and lackluster? The True Witness diagnoses her disease which is causing Him acute nausea,--"I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).
This warning is parallel to that Christ gives those who say, "Lord, Lord, open unto us ... I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ... you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:25-28). That's an awful word--"iniquity." We instinctively pass it on to our Sunday-keeping neighbors.

What we need to realize is that devotion perfectly appropriate during the ministry of the High Priest in the Holy Apartment becomes "iniquity" when weighed against the incomparably greater scope of His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment! Christian experience perfectly acceptable in times previous to the cleansing of the sanctuary becomes "lukewarmness" in our day. To our High Priest, there is no more nauseous sin than this.

The truthful Witness testifies that Laodicea's self-understanding of righteousness by faith is pre-1844. And further, she has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. Her confession is: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." According to the Heavenly Counselor she doesn't know her spiritual condition: "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).

The True Witness addresses "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev. 3:14). "The angel" is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who have unwittingly led the church into a self-centered understanding of righteousness by faith which it proclaims to the world as its gospel commission.

We know Jesus challenges the Adventist Church regarding her message because He appeals for a correction of course. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed" (Rev. 3:18). The Savior couldn't be more clear. The "white raiment" which Laodicea lacks is obviously garments of righteousness. This clothing is "gold tried in the fire." Furthermore, the Heavenly Merchantman markets His commodity to her. She is "to buy of me gold."

The "gold" of which He speaks is faith and love. "The gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven." [Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.]

Her problem is not a deficiency of doing "much work." The "gold" we lack is not more feverish activity. That we're truly "rich" in, already. Our need is basic. In respect of the very "gold" itself, the True Witness says our treasure-box is empty.

Why "buy" it? Why doesn't He say, "Ask of Me, and I'll give it to you"? Could it be that we must surrender our false concepts of righteousness by faith in exchange for the true? These "goods" we do possess: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).

Writes the pen of inspiration: "What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge." [Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 252, 253.]

The "price" we must give up is "deception," false "spiritual knowledge." In other words we must surrender our false ideas and deceptions regarding righteousness by faith in order to "buy" the "gold."

Is our Lord trying to tell us that we don't really understand what love is, and therefore cannot have true faith? Is the "angel" of the church destitute of "such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ"?

There are two great antithetical ideas of "love." One has come from Hellenism and is the kind of "love" that the popular evangelical churches accept today. The other is completely different, and is the kind of love that can have its source only in the ministry of the true High Priest in His cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. [Early Writings, pp. 55, 56].

Christ Himself makes clear what New Testament faith is, and His view is different from that of the "popular ministry": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him ..." (John 3:16). God's love is the first thing, and until that love is revealed, there can be no "believing." As the result of His "loving" and "giving," the sinner finds it possible to "believe." Faith is a heart-experience, "heart-work" to borrow Ellen G. White's phrase, and it cannot exist until God's love is understood and appreciated.

The "believing" is not motivated by a fear of "perishing" or an acquisitive regard for "everlasting life." The primary cause of faith is "for God so loved." The results of God's love are "that He gave His only begotten Son" and "that whosoever believeth." The believing is a direct result of God's loving the world.

Thus Jesus' clear definition: Faith is a heart-appreciation of the love of God revealed at the cross. A subtle shift has occurred in the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding its understanding of righteousness by faith. An acquisitive hope of reward is set forth before the people and the world to offset the "cost" of discipleship now. Such self-centeredness is antithetical to the "gold" of Christ's righteousness. When faith and love are truly tested, it will be revealed as to what source produced the righteousness--whether it be self or Christ.

Raul Diaz

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Commentary: The Harvest and the Harvesters

The Harvest and the Harvesters

The word harvest comes from an old English word akin to the latin word carpere – to pluck or gather.  The word carpere, in turn, comes from the greek word karpos, which means fruit.  Today it refers to the season for gathering in agricultural crops; the act or process of gathering in a crop; and a mature crop (as of grain or fruit).  The harvester would be the one who gathers the harvest.

In Matthew 13: 18 – 23, Jesus declares the parable of the tares and the field.  Briefly, the land owner sows good seed in the field, but shortly, thereafter, tares appear also.  The field workers asked their master whether to gather the tares and throw them away.  The master replies that they should wait until the harvest, lest when they pull the tare they pull the wheat also.  In Matthew 13: 39 Jesus says that “… the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”  The implication is that at the end of the world spiritual fruit will be mature enough to gather.  The word harvest in the New testament most time refers to the end time.  Other examples are in verses Revelation 14: 15 and Matthew 4:29. 


In this parable what is being harvested is people: those who perfectly reflect the character of Christ; these are the good seed in this parable.  The tares are those who have rejected Christ by choosing the enemy’s way.  Just like a barren tree is distinguishable from a fruitful one in the season for harvest, people’s character will reveal clearly whom they have chosen in the end of the world. 


Another parable in the same chapter tells us what makes the difference between these two groups.  In Matthew 13: 3 – 9, we read that a sower spreads around seed in the season for sowing.  But, the seed falls in different kinds of soil, thus what happens to the seed in the end has to do with the soil.  We read in Matthew 18 – 23 Jesus’ explanation of the parable,


Mat 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

Mat 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

Mat 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

Mat 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Mat 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mat 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


Every single person that professes Christianity falls into one of the four categories.  Every one of us chooses which soil to be.  Remember, the harvest season begins when the harvest – the crop – is ready.  If the angels are not gathering us to go to heaven, we have not borne fruit mature enough to begin the harvest.  We have not borne fruit because, as a group, Christians have not chosen to be good ground.  This means that they have chosen not to abide in Christ.   Let us read from John 15,


Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Joh 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.


The branch is so connected to the vine that it is essentially an extension of the vine.  In fact, the branch grows out of the vine.  It is the branch however that bears leaves, flowers, and fruit.  Many people may not know a tree by its bark or leaves.  But, many will recognize the fruit.  If we continue to read this chapter we will find what the fruit is.  Let us read verses 9 through 13,


Joh 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Christ makes an obvious connection between loving an abiding.  Those who abide keep the commandment (the Greek word for commandment is in singular). What is the commandment: to lay down your life.  The commandment is to live a life serving others as Christ lived His life serving others.  This can only be done by abiding in Christ.  It can only be done by hearing or receiving His words, understanding them and believing them. 


There will be those who may look pious but are not.  They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5).  Christ said in Matthew 7,


Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


Whatever they did it was not in Christ’s name.  But, they were professedly Christians.  How can this be?  Were not the priests and Pharisees and Christ’s day professedly God’s people? Yet, they rejected the Son of God, persecuted Him and finally crucified Him.  And, in the name of keeping the Sabbath Holy, they wanted to make sure the crucified were dead and buried before the Sabbath hours.  Reportedly, during the Rwandan massacre many Seventh Day Adventists that were involved in the killings were instructed by the leaders not to kill in the Sabbath hours.  By the fruit you will know them.  They preach God is love, but turn around and describe God as a punitive and penalizing God.  They give people the wrong picture of God.  They, in great measure, keep people away from entering Heaven by keeping people in darkness about the true nature of God.  Thus they hide the keys to enter the door to heaven from people.  Also, notice they do not know they are doing it. 


The point is that the fruit tells us whether you are a disciple or not.  We read in Matthew 25 about those who are truly His disciples,


Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Mat 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Mat 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Mat 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

Mat 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Mat 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


It is, then, in loving service to others that the fruit is revealed.  

Raul Diaz

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Discipling Spiritual Leaders

Discipling Spiritual Leaders

We have determined that the word disciple in the context of the lesson means learner and follower of Christ.  What is Spiritual?  Anything not of the flesh.  What is a leader?  According to the dictionary it is someone that goes ahead of anyone else; a guide or conductor.  The word leader comes from and old English words that means to go.  This would imply that a leader goes ahead.  A leader knows where he taking everyone else.  Thus a spiritual leader is one that not only is a spiritual model, he has been led to Christ and follows Him.  They can say as Paul says,

1Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Paul was qualified to lead by his inclination to follow.  By this definition a spiritual leader is a disciple.  The word discipling is used in the lesson as making disciples.  You cannot make something into something it already is.  So, the title is misleading.  The idea seems to be to make leaders out of followers.  The best leaders identify with their followers.  Hence, the best leaders are followers themselves. 

Christ identified with us.  Paul says in Hebrews 4:15,


Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.


This high Priest, of course is Jesus, whom God sent “…in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…” (Romans 8:3).   If Jesus as our leader identified with us, then we as leaders should identify with those that follow us.  A leader that fails to empathize with his followers is not spiritual.  And, unfortunately, the church is full of those.  This has been the case historically.  Let us read the next quote how this point is brought out by contrasting the Apostles with the leaders in Christ time,


The work of Jesus was to reveal the character of the Father, and to unfold the truth which He Himself had spoken through prophets and apostles; but there was found no place for the truth in those wise and prudent men. Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, had to pass by the self-righteous Pharisees, and take his disciples from unlearned fishers and men of humble rank. These who had never been to the rabbis, who had never sat in the schools of the prophets, who had not been members of the Sanhedrin, whose hearts were not bound about with their own ideas,--these He took and educated for His own use. He could make them as new bottles for the new wine of His kingdom. These were the babes to whom the Father could reveal spiritual things; but the priests and rulers, the scribes and Pharisees, who claimed to be the depositaries of knowledge, could give no room for the principles of Christianity, afterward taught by the apostles of Christ. The chain of truth, link after link, was given to those who realized their own ignorance, and were willing to learn of the great Teacher. {5BC 1088.9}


The Priests, the Pharisees, and other leading men looked down on the people and have stripped them of any hope for salvation.  Christ undid that.  So, Christ had to choose men who would be willing to be transformed to His likeness. The leaders of the established church in Jesus’ time would not allow Christ to disciple them.  This held the people back in accepting Jesus.  Ellen White states,


The interest of the people in Christ and His work had steadily increased. They were charmed with His teaching, but they were also greatly perplexed. They had respected the priests and rabbis for their intelligence and apparent piety. In all religious matters they had ever yielded implicit obedience to their authority. Yet they now saw these men trying to cast discredit upon Jesus, a teacher whose virtue and knowledge shone forth the brighter from every assault. They looked upon the lowering countenances of the priests and elders, and there saw discomfiture and confusion. They marveled that the rulers would not believe on Jesus, when His teachings were so plain and simple. They themselves knew not what course to take. With eager anxiety they watched the movements of those whose counsel they had always followed. {DA 611}


This hold that the leaders had on the masses had to be undone.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).  Ellen White illustrates how this was done,


After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were so filled with love for Him and for those for whom He died, that hearts were melted by the words they spoke and the prayers they offered. They spoke in the power of the Spirit; and under the influence of that power, thousands were converted.

As Christ's representatives the apostles were to make a decided impression on the world. The fact that they were humble men would not diminish their influence, but increase it; for the minds of their hearers would be carried from them to the Saviour, who, though unseen, was still working with them. The wonderful teaching of the apostles, their words of courage and trust, would assure all that it was not in their own power that they worked, but in the power of Christ. Humbling themselves, they would declare that He whom the Jews had crucified was the Prince of life, the Son of the living God, and that in His name they did the works that He had done (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 21-24).


How effective was the work of the apostles?  Many of the leading men who once rejected Christ joined the ranks of believers (Acts 6: 7).  But, the Lord spoke of also of a latter rain.  Ellen White speaks of that day by saying that as a farmer's crops need rain if the harvest is to come, so the Latter Rain is to ripen the "grain" and prepare "for the sickle." This is "the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul ... that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 506).  Used by the Holy Spirit humble brethren will preach the Gospel in word and deed; in truth and Spirit.  Among those converted will be leaders who before – albeit unknowingly - rejected Christ. Christ exalted – lifted up – in the believer will draw others to Him.  

Raul Diaz

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Discipling the Powerful

Discipling the Powerful

Many times we interchange the words authority and power.  There is a difference between power and authority.  Power is the ability to act or produce an effect; and authority is the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior; I refers to persons in command.  POWER implies possession of ability to wield force, permissive authority, or substantial influence; for example: the power to mold public opinion. AUTHORITY implies the granting of power for a specific purpose within specified limits; for example: “gave her attorney the authority to manage her estate.”  Typically an action is powerful.  A person is powerful when acting.  A person in command has authority.  They may have power at their disposal to assert or enforce their authority. 
What the lesson is talking about is discipling people in command or in positions of authority.  These are people who make decisions that affect others and can actually tell others what to do or not do.  Often they are not available to the masses.  Nevertheless, Christ died for them, too. 
Last week we noticed that the title of weekly lesson gave the sad and mistaken impression that the rich and famous were not disciplable.  This week’s lesson seems to qualify that impression.  Many rich and famous are in position of authority.  Of course, we proved last week that rich and famous are disciplable.  The lesson gave several examples of many who converted to Christianity.  It is the same with those in positions of authority.  It is harder to reach them, largely because they have benefited from the system that have given them the authority.  The issue is: how can they be disicpled?  Let’s review some examples – the ones given in the lesson – to see how it what we can learn. 

Daniel and the three Hebrews with Nebuchadnezzar
The context of why Daniel and his three friends were in Babylon is the frame that connects the story in Daniel 1 with the last years of Judah's existence, beginning with the great repentance, revival and reformation of King Josiah, based on the book of the law and the sanctuary service. There are vital lessons here that we must learn as end-time witnesses, to have an "excellent spirit" (Dan. 5:13; 6:3; compare Prov. 17:27) in the midst of Babylon and beyond. The assurance the stories from Daniel's time gives us, is that God can use us to reach the powerful in Babylon with the message of the everlasting kingdom whose trademark is humility, whose King is the creator, and whose way is in the sanctuary (Psa. 77:13).
Jesus and the Jewish leaders
Jesus early learned His higher identity (Luke 2:49), which was affirmed at the beginning of His public ministry (Matt. 3:17). That gave Him a higher commission that no earthly religious or civil leader in power could control or supersede. While His mission was on a collision course with their power, it was mostly because the power of heaven is more effective, through its humility and spirit of giving, in gaining a deep and lasting allegiance, which likewise lifted one above the negative control of earthly powers. At the same time, Jesus showed that the spirit of heaven, in its unselfishness, shows respect to those in power, calling them also to join the higher allegiance. Thus Jesus would affirm the position of religious leaders, indeed, had to affirm that authority, before unmasking their spiritual poverty (Matt. 23:2, 3). This was necessary, otherwise He would have fomented rebellion, which is opposite of the spirit of heaven. Lucifer was expelled because of that spirit.

Jesus and the Romans
Jesus' unselfish authority, manifested through the power of His word in healing and teaching, reached out to a Roman military leader, a man thoroughly acquainted with Roman authority, and kindled a responsive, humble faith in his heart. Jesus' commendation of that faith contrasted it with the unbelief of His own people (even His disciples; Matt. 8:10; compare 8:26).
Jesus affirmed Caesar's rights, but made them separate (and by implication, subservient) to God's (Matt. 12:17). When Pilate tried to impress Jesus with his authority, Jesus replied to him with respect, but clearly witnessing to the higher authority. "Thou couldest have no power [authority] at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (John 19:11). Jesus was not ignorant of the Roman system or its principles, but His approach in winning disciples was based not on attacking error but witnessing to the truth. This is vitally important in reaching the powerful.
"The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,--extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart."  (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 509.3; emphasis supplied)

The Disciples and Jewish leaders
An error in discipling powerful people is seeking their cooperation in God's work when they have no understanding or experience in the principles of His kingdom. The disciples learned this painful lesson through Judas' course.
"The disciples had been much disappointed that Jesus had not tried to secure the co-operation of the leaders in Israel. They felt that it was a mistake not to strengthen His cause by securing the support of these influential men. If He had repulsed Judas, they would, in their own minds, have questioned the wisdom of their Master. The after history of Judas would show them the danger of allowing any worldly consideration to have weight in deciding the fitness of men for the work of God. The co-operation of such men as the disciples were anxious to secure would have betrayed the work into the hands of its worst enemies." (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 294.2)
Jesus avoided this error, as well as that of exposing Himself to "useless conflict" with those in power (Ibid, p. 450.1). While He would avoid conflict if at all possible, He was ever open to the individual seeker, even "a master of Israel." (John 3:11).

The Disciples and the Romans
Peter had a special vision to prepare him to treat another Roman centurion with the openness and respect that Jesus showed to the earlier centurion. He testified to the corporate nature of the gospel message (Acts 10:28, 34, 35), though he still struggled at times with the prejudice that is a direct attack on the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14).
Saul of Tarsus went from a powerful persecutor to Paul the apostle who shared before many people of power the testimony of his learning the higher power of the gospel in his encounter with Jesus. He wrote to the believers in Rome of the importance of respecting authority, framing the godly attitude with the verb "be subject unto" (Rom. 13:1) which was first used in the New Testament for Jesus' relating to His parents. It means "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden" (Thayer). Can we help carry the burdens of the powerful? In this passage Paul then used the same verb "render" that Jesus did of Caesar (Rom. 13:7).  Paul lived his own advice, with his personal testimony in Rome winning some of Caesar's own household (Phil. 4:22), and even making the last appeal Nero would experience (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 496.1&2). God's witness reaches the highest levels of earthly power.


The lesson should be clear. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10). The preparation for witnessing to, and discipling, the powerful, is effectively ministering to the weak and lowly. For the words of Mordecai to Esther applies to you, dear reader. "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). The powerful are awaiting your witness.