Monday, July 7, 2014

What Jesus teaches about The Son

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 2: The Son
"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross." --Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 83
Our lesson this week focuses on Christ's divine nature, and also His "full humanity." The question is asked, "Why is it so important for us to know that Jesus was fully human?"
One of the greatest truths of the 1888 message is that 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 Saviour "nigh at hand, not afar off." He is the "Saviour of all men," even "the chief of sinners."
The key to understanding the heart of the 1888 message lies in that phrase--"a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand." [1] He who is "the way, the truth, and the life" made Himself manifest as One "nigh at hand," "Emmanuel, ... God with us," not with Him only, but "with us" (Matt. 1:23).
Jesus Christ comes to us in the 1888 message in a unique way. And the baffling, often misunderstood, history of that message demonstrates the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Let Christ be revealed in His fullness, and Satan for sure will be aroused to oppose. It is so even today.
Was Christ indeed "in all points tempted like as we are" from within as well as from without? Or was He so different from us that He could not feel our inward temptations? Was He really and truly man? Or was He tempted only as the sinless Adam was tempted? Can we be sure that He was tempted as we are tempted? Or was He tempted in some mysterious non-human way, irrelevant to our understanding?
This message was not the hair-splitting, partisan, cerebral theological contentions that are so common among us today. It was simple, powerful, soul-saving Good News that won sinners, including tempted teenagers!
Ellen White in Steps to Christ gives us the heartfelt answer to the lesson's question: "He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is 'not ashamed to call them brethren' (Heb. 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness" (p. 14).
A. T. Jones (one of the 1888 "messengers"), speaking at the 1895 General Conference said, "'He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken' [quoting Ellen White]. Wherein did He link Himself with us?--In our flesh; in our nature. That is the sacrifice that wins the hearts of men. ... When we consider that He sank His nature in our human nature to all eternity,--that is a sacrifice. That is the love of God. And no heart can reason against it. [2]
This "descent" into humanity was for the purpose of lifting us to become adopted in Christ: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal. 4: 6, 7). In other words, Christ's being "made flesh" is truth that is gloriously verified in the personal experience of those who believe in Him.
Christ entered the stream of human heredity, being exempt from none of the ills of our inheritance. "He took on Him the seed [Greek, sperm] of Abraham," "made of the seed [sperm] of David according to the flesh" (Heb. 2:16; Rom. 1:3). He could not come closer to us.
He came for the express purpose of attacking and conquering the wild beast of sin in the lair where it had taken up residence in human flesh. It was "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3, 4). His battle against sin was real, in no sense make-believe or contrived.
He became the Prince of human sufferers, tasting to the full all the woe to which we humans are subject. Through faith in Him, we become "partakers of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13). In other words, our sufferings are no longer pointless agony, but are elevated to a kinship with Christ. In Christ, our human sufferings take on an eternal glory. He was "crowned with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5) "for the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9), and we too will "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" in His presence, realizing our kinship with Him in suffering (1 Peter 1:8).
Christ's "descent" to us included His taking upon His sinless nature our sinful nature, that He might be tempted as we are and earn the right to succour (help) us in our temptation. He was totally sinless, yet He was also totally tempted as we are:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. ... In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:14-18).
In ancient Israel, the high priest was the counselor, shepherd of the people, physician, healer of their sick souls. The best modern definition of that word "high priest" is Divine Psychiatrist, the Physician of our souls. Christ is the heavenly Healer of our souls, near to each one of us, "able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
If there were any respect in which Christ was exempted from enduring our temptations, He would be helpless to "succour" us in those temptations. Whatever sin that we are tempted to commit that He was not tempted to commit, we would have no Saviour from it. We would be helpless, forever unable to resist such a temptation. But "we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was tempted [in all points] like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15).
The reality of the Son of God truly becoming one of us is seen in His taking upon Himself our sinful nature, yet not partaking in our sin itself. He opens a window into His heart, that we might see the struggle He had to endure: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:30; 6:38).
Surely today we must feel the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who is not afar off, but nigh at hand! A dying world needs to see Him thus.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 181.
[2] General Conference Bulletin, 1895, pp. 381, 382.
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Raul Diaz