Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Discipling the "Ordinary"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 


Lesson 5: Discipling the "Ordinary"


Few people consider themselves "ordinary." Most of us like to think there is something special about us, at least enough to be entitled to be on this earth. Yet, when Adam sold the human race into sin, we lost entitlement to anything except what our new master, Satan, could give us, which is death. All of Adam's children, ordinary or special by the world's standards, are in the same situation. The key to understanding the cross is recognizing that hopeless condition. Our lesson states that "Christ's death was the great equalizer: it showed that we all are sinners in need of God's grace." Indeed we are, but how does the Cross of Christ show that?

The lesson of the cross was no mystic secret reserved for the inner circle of a few close disciples. At the height of His ministry when "there went great multitudes with Him," He boldly proclaimed to them all the same testing truth: "He turned and said unto them, 'If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple'" (Luke 14:25-27, NASB). It was as if He said, I am glad to see you following Me; but are you really sure this is your heart choice? If you follow Me, you must of necessity accept My route.

It is clear that a decision to accept the gospel is a decision to accept the route of the cross, and that decision can be made only by the inner heart of hearts. No elaborate program of evangelistic meetings or emotional preaching can bring a heart to that decision without the drawing power of the Holy Spirit.

The reason the cross is the "power of God unto salvation" is that love alone has true drawing power. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness" (Jer. 31:3). Christ would rather draw by the cross than drive by His power. The converts who come by way of the cross are those whom the Father draws. In His mysterious process of drawing, the Father doesn't want mere lip service, but He wants true disciples who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

Are there barriers to this drawing process? Yes but they come from within us. Many think we must stop sinning before God will accept us. We try our best to "clean up our act," but deep down we are never sure we have done enough.

No involved, difficult, or obscure process of doing battle with sin is the method of God. Christ has won that battle for us, if we are willing to depend by faith on Him rather than our own efforts. But our natures compel us to cherish those pride-filled efforts as if they had saving power. When you see that He has come in your flesh, that is, has taken your place in your particular situation at this moment, you can see how love is set straight on the collision course of the cross, the only source of saving power.

As readily as you say "Thank you" for a kindness done you, your heart responds with a deep sense of contrition. All your petty self-love stands revealed in its ugliness. As in ultraviolet light, all the motives of your heart suddenly appear different from how you ever saw them before. No emotional preaching has done the trick--you have seen something yourself. What you have seen in that light is the real you, the you that is without love. A light shines from the cross that illuminates your soul in the floodlights of heaven, and you see yourself as the Beings of the unfallen universe look upon you, with every character flaw exposed. You want to hide, but this strange light of love bathes your soul, and every little root of pride, self-esteem and reliance on works shrivels up. This is true agape love, which creates value in its objects no matter how "ordinary" they may be.

The fall in Eden affected the entire human race, for Adam and Eve could only produce children with the sinful nature they had acquired. Many think that God's warning to them, "for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17), was not fulfilled because they did not die "in the day." It is tempting to think somehow they had some life force within themselves that prevented them from dying as God had said.

"As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew what He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary. ... What love! What amazing condescension! The King of glory proposed to humble Himself to fallen humanity! He would place His feet in Adam's steps. He would take man's fallen nature and engage to cope with the strong foe who triumphed over Adam. He would overcome Satan, and in thus doing He would open the way for the redemption of those who would believe on Him from the disgrace of Adam's failure and fall" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1901; Feb. 24, 1874).

Christ is willing to make disciples of all, "ordinary" or "special." "'The Father Himself loves you' (John 16:27). He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. ... The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan's delusions have lost their power. ... No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 64-65).

This lesson incorporates so many of the heart-warming Good News truths of the 1888 message, including these few: (1) Christ has accomplished something for every human being. He died the second death for "every man," and thus elected "all men" to be saved. ("For the world, Christ's sacrifice was made"; Christ's Object Lessons, p. 301. "Christ ... redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and saved the world"; My Life Today, p. 323).

(2) By His uplifted cross and on-going priestly ministry, Christ is drawing "all men"--His love is so strong and persistent that the sinner must resist it in order to be lost ("Death has passed upon all men, because all have sinned, and the gift of righteousness has come to all men in the life of Christ"; Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 102).

(3) In seeking us, Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Thus He is a Savior "nigh at hand, not afar off." ("There was in His [Christ's] whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His Divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire, nor did His Divine power for a moment waver"; Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 34, Glad Tidings ed.).

We become aware that the true test of discipleship is that we see our own sinfulness. It is not important if we are "ordinary" or important and special by the world's standards. The cross requires that we see our helplessness to do anything about sin by our efforts. If we are willing to see what our sin cost God to fix the problem at the cross, we will be drawn to Him who died for us and consecrated a way of salvation so we can be with Him. What amazing love!

--Arlene Hill
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