Our Greatest Gift to Jesus in 2022
I wish each of you a bright and blessed New Year with Heaven’s treasured gifts of health, happiness, and wholeness.
By the time you read this, the pages of Christmas 2021 will be a closed chapter in our lives. The lights and trimmings of the holiday season have been put away. Gifts given now serve as a reminder of our care for one another as we move into the New Year. Of far more importance
than these temporal celebrations are the spiritual reason behind it: the salvation Jesus brought into our world and our hope for His return. I love what Paul says in Philippians 3:15–21. He contrasts the world’s way of living—with “mind[s] set on earthly things” —with a lifestyle shaped by hope in Jesus’ return. “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” verse 20. The reality that our “citizenship is in heaven” changes everything, including what we hope for and how we live. That hope is fortified by the knowledge that with every passing day and transitioning year, we’re indeed one day and one year closer to Jesus’ return.
Do you remember the day when you gave your life to Jesus? I am a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, however, I publicly gave my heart to Jesus in the waters of baptism on Sabbath, May 22, 1965, at the Sligo Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.
It was my first year in America. I don’t have any photos of that event, but I have the image etched in my memory as the day I began my journey to become a faithful disciple of Jesus. Irrespective of the bumps, bruises and falls I have encountered on my pilgrimage, Jesus has meant the world to me, and I have consecrated my heart to learning more about Him and choosing to follow His direction in my life.
Along the way there have been a host of individuals—teachers, pastors, friends, my dearest companion, Carole, and, in a profound way, my parents Joseph & Ruth Louis—who helped to disciple me and direct my path. Have you ever paused to reflect on those who have discipled (or mentored) you in your growth and maturation as a faithful follower of Jesus?
I get a special thrill when a pastor sends me a photo or a story of a life that has come to Jesus and found in Him the hope of his or her heart. Just look at just three of these pictures (below) that were shared with me in the past few weeks.
Now as a minister of the gospel, it’s easy for me to equate Jesus words of Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19. Mark 16:15 is Jesus’ calling and commission to each one of His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Matthew 28:19 is Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” One has to do with telling; the other with showing, or discipleship.
This may seem like a semantic distinction–a matter of emphasis–until we reflect on the alarming reports of our inability to retain faithful and lifelong members in the church. Earlier
this fall I was listening to the reports presented at one of our General Conference Executive Committee meetings. I cringed when I heard that, of the over 41 million individuals who joined
the Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1965 (the year I was baptized), a staggering 16.8 million have left. That’s 41 percent. Beyond these who have officially dropped their membership, even more have just slipped away. It is truly saddening, and reminds me of the adage, “It takes only as long to forget a thing as it did to learn it.”
One of the three goals our Carolina Conference administration has for the new quinquennial term (2022-2026) is to earnestly pray for the Holy Spirit to convict our local churches to build on-going, multi-year discipling groups, pairing new believers with mature, steady members for at least one year. If we don’t become intentional about Jesus’ command to make disciples, we may not just cringe at the statistical falling away of the faithful. We will experience the shock and sadness of a shaking before Jesus returns. I believe that shaking has already begun its destructive wave.
Let’s praise God for every precious life saved by the power of the Gospel. And pray that those seasoned in his or her walk with Christ will mentor and generate an end-time generation of faithful disciples for the Lord. The very best gifts we can bring to Jesus will not be our gold, frankincense or myrrh. It is simply our hearts. And as we’ve stepped from Christmas present to Christmas past, may the focus and passionate quest of our Christmas future be that of reaching and guiding other hearts for Heaven. Without a doubt, that will be the best gift we can bring to our Jesus in 2022!
Your servant leader,
Carolina Conference President