Adventist pastors Bogdan Scur and Shawn Brace are ecstatic about Christ’s presence in their lives. This interview shares that thrill with you. You may also listen to the podcast,1 where Scur, Brace, and Elizabeth Talbot (Jesus101.tv) discuss this subject together. Brace and Scur first explained why, in a world of many moral teachers, they are so fascinated with Jesus Christ.
Brace: I am so fascinated with Jesus Christ because He is so fascinated with me. And all humans, including me, are supremely loved by Christ. He values us more than He values Himself. We owe our very existence to Him—through both creation and redemption. And after you taste this love, you cannot help being fascinated and drawn to Him. Scur: Indeed, Jesus is so superior to every other moral leader. He is the only perfect, faultless human being and flawless moral leader. His wisdom is original, while the wisdom of all other moral leaders is derivative. But I am even more fascinated by who Jesus Himself was and is. He is both the true God and a full human being. He is the beloved Son of God and the Savior of the world.
What does reading your Bible have to do with believing in Jesus? Brace: The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals the heart of Christ and the heart of the Godhead as a whole—a heart of love. Reading it helps me understand His love and respond better. Paul says that “with the heart one believes” (Rom. 10:10). When I encounter Christ through His Word, my heart is stirred to respond to His love by faith. The Bible is a way for me to continuously encounter Christ’s love and be compelled by it. Scur: Jesus Himself tells me that all of the Scripture testifies about Him. This key principle lets me see all of Scripture as either preparation for the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ itself, or implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Does everybody have to be converted? When you think about Christ’s righteousness, what about all the good people who have obviously dedicated their lives to good causes, such as peace, but don’t care about Jesus Christ? Aren’t they all on the same side? Jesus is the Prince of Peace, isn’t He? Scur: Yes, He is. And precisely because He is, He is the one who defines what peace is. Without Him we do not know what life is, or how to love God and each other. Without Him we do not understand what peace is and how we should work for it. Brace: Instead of thinking about “should” or “shouldn’t,” we need to ask what will bring an individual the greatest happiness and fulfillment. We know that there will be people in heaven who never consciously heard of or responded to Christ’s love (Rom. 2:12-15). But why rob them of the opportunity to experience the great joy, peace, and fulfillment of meeting and surrendering to the loving Christ? Of course, it isn’t for me to decide who is or isn’t converted. But I can always share the hope within me and pray that everyone who hears will be attracted to a deeper understanding of and encounter with Christ and His ways.
I once heard a member of one of my churches say, “I brought myself into this church.” Is it OK with you that people bring themselves into God’s church? Brace: The reality is, as sinful human beings, none of us have even an ounce of natural inclination to come to God, much less know how to do it. Scur: We are much too occupied pursuing our own selfish interests and building our own kingdom. Any inclination to God and faith is a gift of grace and the work of God in our lives. We do not bring ourselves into the church. We are led there by God. Brace: John Wesley, to whom Adventists owe a great deal of theological understanding, called this “prevenient grace.” Such a teaching—which is a very biblical teaching—says that, if left to ourselves, we would never even concoct the idea or inclination to seek God, much less go to church. Note this from Ellen White: “Christ teaches that salvation does not come through our seeking after God but through God’s seeking after us.”2 Scur: Very often God uses other people to lead us to faith. We see somebody who beautifully, though not perfectly, exemplifies the life of a disciple of Jesus, and we get the overwhelming desire to live such a life ourselves.
I wonder, is this what you’re saying? Salvation is all of God. There really is nothing humans can do. My earnest church member was probably sincerely wrong because it’s all automatic. People should neither brag nor worry, because everybody is going to be saved: Jesus turned on the salvation switch on the cross. Is that it? Brace: The word “yield,” and such other kindred words as “let,” “allow,” “surrender,” etc., are words Ellen White uses a great deal. Yielding is our “part,” if we can put it in such terms. Our “job” is not to resist what Christ has already started for us at the cross. Through the cross, Christ justified our lives (since we should all be dead right now because of our sins) and draws us all to Himself (John 12:32). If we do not “resist [we] will be drawn to Jesus” and brought to repentance.3 It takes greater effort to run away from God than it does to let Him draw you. Many will be lost at last because they choose to resist and reject the drawing power of God’s grace. Scur: There is a role for human behavior. We do not save ourselves, but we accept or reject what God has done to save us. We still have a free choice. Our salvation is not automatic. Even though Jesus did everything to save us, He does not stifle our will.
What does trusting in Christ do for you today? Brace: Trusting in Christ does everything for me! When I realize that faith works by love (Gal. 5:6) and that “the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14), I recognize that Christ’s love and faith is the fuel that propels all my actions. My life now becomes the way in which I express my gratitude, love for, and faith in Christ through limitless cooperation with His desires for me—call it obedience, if you wish. Scur: Trusting in Christ is changing my marriage, my parenting, my relationship to my colleagues, and many other aspects of my life. Jesus Christ is reordering my thinking, my communication, my attitudes, my feelings, and everything else that I bring into my relationships.
A final question: where do you think this passion of yours for Christ will take you? Scur: I fully expect that this passion will take me deeper into the mystery that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is too good a Savior and too benevolent a Lord not to take me closer to Himself. Brace: Believing in Christ is not simply a good life insurance policy. I’d like to think that—like Moses, like Paul, like Jesus Himself—I would even be willing to give eternity up if it meant someone else’s gain. I follow Jesus not for what He can give me in the future, but because of the incredible gratitude I have for what He’s already given to me in the past. I don’t covet future reward or even present safety, because I don’t deserve anything else good. So, ultimately, I have no idea where this passion will take me! And that’s kind of neat!
1-Soundcloud.com/adventistworld/fascinated. 2-Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 189. 3-Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 27.