Greetings MOL Family!
Welcome back to our study on God’s Beautiful Way! Let us continue…
In the Mouth of Two or Three Witnesses
Did you know there was a theater in Jerusalem in the days when Jesus was here on earth? Yes, Herod brought in a theater, along with his other innovations; there was a theater there. Do you suppose Jesus attended? Do you think He sent His disciples down there to take lessons in how to speak, how to act? Oh, but actors certainly get hold of their audiences, don’t they? Yes. One might say there is no method more effective for arousing interest and enthusiasm.
But there is one more effective. And when the truth is lived as it was in the life of Jesus, it will be spoken from a heart that has deep conviction as Jesus spoke. And once again, the testimony will come as it did even from His enemies, “Never a man spake like this man.” Oh, friends, let’s turn aside from all that is cheap, all pretense, all affectation in our personal lives, and let us seek that experience which will enable us to speak, each one in his own way, the gracious words that come from grace within. That is our privilege.
No falsity, no acting in what He did. Notice how this is applied to our experience:
The work that Christ did in our world is to be our example…. We are to keep as far from the theatrical and the extraordinary as Christ kept in His work. Sensation is not religion. – Evangelism, pg. 396
How far are we to keep from the theatrical? Just as far as Jesus did. And He never used it once. Not once did He put on a play. Not once did He say to Peter and John and James and Andrew, “Now here, in order to get the attention of the audience and in order to make a graphic presentation of truth, we are going to put on a play. Peter, you be Moses; Andrew, you be Aaron; Peter, take this rod; that will be Moses’ rod; Andrew, you do this; and so forth. Now practice and practice. And then next week, we will tell the people to come, and we are going to present ‘Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness.’” Anything like that happen? Not once. He never did it once. He never taught His disciples to do it, once. Why should we do it? And why should we go to see it done?
Someone says, “Well now, you are getting pretty close to some things that I have seen done.” Yes, but God has warned us on this matter, my dear friends, not only in these wonderful principles from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, but He has impressed the hearts of the leaders of His people to speak out forth-rightly on this question.
A number of years ago, the General Conference committee gave earnest study to this very question, and passed an action on it. It is written in the Review and Herald, of April 8, 1937. The question was on the matter of moving pictures, and what to do in advising our people – in the churches, and the young people’s societies, the sanitariums, and the schools – on how to relate themselves to the great mass of movies that are available for showing in homes and schools and churches:
“Pictures are not wrong merely because they move.…
And then it begins to give us the different kinds of pictures:
“There is, first of all, a fundamental distinction between natural pictures, or pictures of real life, and pictures of dramatized, theatrical plots. This is a basic line of demarcation.” – Review and Herald, April 8, 1937
What is demarcation? Oh, that means we draw the line, and this side is right; this side is wrong. The basic line of demarcation is this, on this particular principle, is this picture a picture of real life, or is it a drama? If this is a picture of one of our missionaries out in the foreign field ministering to the sick and the needy, if that is the real missionary and those are real sick people, that is real life. But suppose we decide that we want to put on a play. And so, we will dress up somebody and we will pretend. That is something different, isn’t it?
“In contrast, there are the motion pictures of dramatized theatrical plots, usually produced by professional actors and actresses. The very principle upon which these are constructed is inherently wrong, and cannot be approved or condoned by the church. In education we are directed to build only upon the real, the actual, and the true, and to turn away from the false, the speculative, and the fanciful. In literature we are cautioned against the fictional and the unreal. In dress we are to abandon the artificial, the showy, the merely decorative. In diet we are asked to discard the impure, the corrupting, and the hurtful. In character building we are admonished to reject all sham and pretense.
So, likewise in our relation to the motion pictures we must definitely choose only whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, and deliberately refuse that which is untrue and unreal which involves sham and pretense. All such pictures should, because of their inherent wrong, be barred from use by the church, its organizations, institutions, and members.” – Review and Herald, April 8, 1937
Then, I ask you, when we present these precious principles from the Bible, from the Spirit of Prophecy, and from the church leadership, what shall we do? Why, the only thing we can do is to follow the beautiful way, isn’t it?
In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. – 2 Corinthians 13:1
And when God has spoken through His Bible and through the Spirit of Prophecy and through the leadership of this church, and the witnesses all agree, I say, “Thank the Lord”. What do you say? Let us then, not be disturbed, because some individuals, or even some institutions, choose to flout these instructions. Maybe they don’t know. Let’s not be critical. Let’s not condemn. But, oh, let us thank God for the beautiful way. What do you say?
Let us notice the warning of the Spirit of Prophecy nearly a hundred years ago (before the movie came in, before TV was known) on the principle that we are dealing with. Back then in early Battle Creek days, somebody got the idea that if they had little plays, little skits, at the Battle Creek sanitarium, it would be good for the patients. It would entertain them and interest them. God gave Sister White a testimony on the matter:
Worldly or theatrical entertainments are not essential for the prosperity of the sanitarium or for the health of the patients. The more they have of this kind of amusements, the less will they be pleased unless something of the kind shall be continually carried on. The mind is in a fever of unrest for something new and exciting. And if these amusements are once allowed, they are expected again. As soon as these entertainments are introduced, the objections to theater going are removed from many minds. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 578
What does putting on plays, whether in our home, the young people’s society, the sanitarium, the schools, or the church, what does that do? It breaks down the objection to the theater. You can see how it would. I thank God for the light from Heaven. But remember, what is all this for? It isn’t merely to get us to keep away from the theater or the moving picture house. It isn’t just to keep us from listening to most of what is on the radio and the TV, because isn’t most of it in this fashion? The dramatic, the false, the pretense, the acting, isn’t it?
Certainly, these principles will keep us from all that, but remember, that isn’t the greatest purpose. Oh, no. The greatest purpose is that we shall learn God’s method of teaching truth – that we shall learn what our eyes and ears and lips are for. They are to be channels of truth. The eyes and ears are to take in truth, and lips are to pour forth truth.
Oh, friends, if we will be certain that no pretense is allowed a place in our hearts, then no pretending will come forth from our lips, our faces, our actions. Do you see? And remember, this is the power of soul winning.
In that statement in Ministry of Healing, page 100, it says that this method of soul winning – speaking from our hearts the witness of our own personal experience – has an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls. Oh, how much better it is, then, to have the power of the Spirit, for this is where the Spirit works, my friends, and only in this way. It will not work in any other way. Notice this interesting statement in the book Evangelism:
Not one jot or tittle of anything theatrical is to be brought into our work. God’s cause is to have a sacred, heavenly mold. Let everything connected with the giving of the message for this time bear the divine impress. Let nothing of a theatrical nature be permitted, for this would spoil the sacredness of the work. – Evangelism, pg. 137
So, no matter how theatrical methods captivate an audience, remember, we are not trying to captivate. We do not want to yield to the spell of the great hypnotizer. No. We want to have the plow of the Spirit go deep in human hearts through the conviction of divine truth. We want to see people moved by love, not by excitement. We want to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Oh, this is our privilege, friends.
When Daniel stood before the king in old Babylon, gracious words poured from his lips. The king and all his counselors acknowledged that here was something more wonderful than they had ever seen or listened to.
Many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God’s word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings. – Education, pg. 262
Ye shall be witnesses unto me. – Acts 1:8
There was no falsity, no acting in what Christ did. There will be none in what the remnant does.
Join us next week, as we seek for more beautiful Truth, traveling along God’s beautiful way. Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.