Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Christian Life"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 11: "The Christian Life"

The 1888 message has a transformative effect on Christian life relating to self-understanding, talents and mission, and family life. According to Jesus there are "two commandments" upon which the whole law "hangs" and the second is "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:40, 39). There is not a negative in this commandment. [1] It's a positive promise of God. [2] Faith believes God's promise that in all circumstances of life, He will give you love for your neighbor.
But first God gives you a proper estimate of yourself. Is Jesus teaching what the popular self-esteem movement in the churches advocate? Must you love yourself first before you can love your neighbor?
Jesus addressed this matter with the rich young ruler who asked an old covenant question: "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). The Lord said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (vs. 19). Upon closer self-investigation the youth was satisfied that he had fulfilled all the commandments. But something unidentifiable left him unsettled: "What lack I yet?" (vs. 20).
When Jesus bid him sell all he had and give it to the poor, He invited the young man to follow Him in the pathway of self-denial--the way of the cross (vs. 21). The "young man" "went away sorrowful" because of his "great possessions" (vs. 22). His idol was himself that wealth secured. He hadn't really kept any of the commandments because he was motivated by selfishness. [3]
Whatever Jesus is teaching by the words "love thy neighbor as thyself," He is not teaching you must love yourself first before you can love your neighbor. Self-love is the basis for the self-esteem movement. Self-love was invented by Lucifer and was the original sin that motivated him to rebel against God and murder the Son of God. The false holy spirit assures the sinner that self-denial is the root of his problems. He does not need to go around feeling bad about himself. "I'm OK and you're OK."
Romans 12:3 is the one key on your "soul-computer" keyboard to be hit every day. "I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." The first half can be prayed easily--no problem. I am "chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8), "an unprofitable servant" (Luke 17:10). No person's faith is weak; God gave it to him/her.
Paul's counsel is not to humiliate us into the dust; you and I have been given that "measure of faith" that enables us to hold our head high in the world, and yes, high in the Lord's church, too. A healthy, even vigorous, self-respect is the gift that "faith" gives us here and now.
Is it possible that we could acquire money in a legitimate way and when we meet the Lord still be embarrassed about it? Is it a sin to have money? No, not if God gives it to you. But if you grasp onto it in a selfish manner thinking that you have acquired it by your own hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurial savvy, then you will be ashamed. Because all that we have and are was bought for us by Christ on His cross. All that we deserve is our grave. But He died our second death. That's something to think about for a long, long time. He died penniless and without a swath of clothes. He gave all His riches to you and me. He put it into our bank account before we were ever born.
So now we have a new motivation for managing the money, talents, family, and responsibility bestowed upon us. We are "constrained" by His love. Maybe a better word for "stewardship," which might carry the burden of a legalistic duty, is "fellowship" with Christ.
Jesus loves to proclaim the gospel of God's love and salvation to all the world. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). We may "go" to our neighbors, friends, relatives and work associates. Some may "go" to far off places in the world. Jesus' command requires that we support those who "go" by our tithes and offerings.
Fellowship with Christ doesn't involve a legalistic, self-centered motivation. It means we love the work that is central in the heart of Christ. As the great Evangelist in the Holiest, He is at the nerve-center of the universe. He seeks a resolution to the great controversy by His intercession. He is appealing by the Spirit to alienated hearts globally, "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). He has granted us executive authority in His gospel enterprise. It's a happy fellowship to work with Jesus. In no other way can we get to know Him than to work side by side yoked together.
The Most Memorable Marriage
The common-sense idea regarding marriage is that you ask for, you wait for, you trust, you expect, the Lord to lead the two of you together. And Jesus comments on Adam and Eve when He says, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6). The glue that will hold a married couple together is not their exercise of strong will power, to clinch their fists and grit their teeth and say, "I will be true no matter how horrible this is!" No, the glue is their conviction, their faith, that "God hath joined [them] together."
Believe that He is a loving heavenly Father who above all else has in mind your true happiness; and in His infinite wisdom He sees and knows that your true happiness lies with your being faithful to the "wife [husband] of thy youth" (Mal. 2:14). Such faith can work miracles, and can even transform what the devil makes you think is purgatory--into happy matrimony.
The marriage of Jesus Christ to His Bride is the most memorable one for all time and eternity. The gift of marriage is to help us understand His wedding. The Bible tells about it in Revelation 19:6-8: "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready."
The good news of the 1888 message is that you and I are invited to attend the wedding and the marriage feast: "And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (22:17). Now, around the world, God is preparing that people. Nothing happening in this world is as important. Getting ready for the marriage is an experience closely related to the cleansing of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. This will be grandest party ever held anywhere, bar none!
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] "There is not a negative in that law, although it may appear thus" (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1105; Letter 89, 1898).
[2] "The Ten Commandments ... are ten promises" (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1105; Ms. 41, 1896).
[3] "The lover of self is a transgressor of the law. ... The young man … [had] selfishness of his heart. ... He did not possess true love for God or man. ... In his love of self ... he was out of harmony with the principles of heaven" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 392).
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