Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lesson 8: "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 8: "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"

There is some practical, day-to-day, instruction in James about how to overcome temptation. James has the Good News idea that Jesus taught about the Good Shepherd.

The 1888 message brings to our attention that the shepherd doesn't wait around at home for the lost sheep to find him. If he did, the lost would never find its way home. Rather, the Good Shepherd is not satisfied until he has searched high and low for the one lost sheep. In other words, God takes the initiative in finding you, poor sinner, and carries you all the way home on His shoulders, if you will let him. Thus it's easy to be saved and hard to be lost if you understand this wonderful reality about your Saviour.

James wrote, as a truth for all times, that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). "Besides the devil and the world, each one has his own self, the worst enemy of all, to contend against." [1] "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).

The pure gospel always upsets lukewarm church members. The usual understanding that has been drilled into our people, and especially our youth, is that it is very hard to be a good Christian, and very easy to be lost. Jesus says the opposite, as anyone can see who will consider His words of life (Matt. 11:28, 29).

What James has said is usually understood backwards too. "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" (James 4:5). The bad news idea almost always comes through as we look at this from an old covenant perspective. [2] Because of the universal conviction of how imperfect we all are, we convince ourselves we cannot hope to do the good things we know to be right.

Because of the 1888 message we may have confidence in what this verse is saying. The Revised English Bible brings out the good news more clearly, "The spirit that God planted in us is filled with envious longings" (James 4:5). God the Holy Spirit does not tolerate His people trying to be friends with the world. The context is that of decrying friendship with the world. God desires from His people an exclusive marriage, like that of a spouse, and if they seek to be friends of the world, they may be called "adulteresses."

The first part of James 4:5, "Or do you think the Scripture for no good reason says. ... ," presents the second part of the verse as support for the warning against spiritual adultery. God's jealousy for His bride is in view. God's Spirit yearns for our fidelity with jealousy.

Satan cannot force you to transgress; even if he tries to frighten you by stamping his foot, you don't need to put up with him, for James says that if you "resist the devil, he will flee from you" (James 4:7). You don't need to suffer either allurement or terror from Satan!

"He giveth more grace" (James 4:6) which does more than teach us negative victories; it teaches us how to live beautiful, noble, sin-free lives. You still have a sinful nature (Jesus took upon Himself our same sinful nature, yet He never sinned!); the closer you come to Christ it may be the more you feel the temptations of Satan, but the more decided are your victories over him.

Christ "was in all points tempted like as [you] are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), and even though you are tempted you too may overcome "even as [He] also overcame" (Rev. 3:21). And that's today; you don't need to wait until your deathbed. Like Christ, you will learn instantaneously to tell the devil, "Get thee behind me!"

Yes, you do have something to do--"resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). But you say, "That's my problem--I don't have the strength to resist!" Then read the first part of the same verse: "Submit yourselves therefore to God." Come to the Saviour, singing:

"Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,"

and you will find that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). That is freedom. It's a miracle, but it's true. But please don't expect that you'll never be tempted again. It's your privilege always to exercise the power of choice. [3]

The Lord has taken the initiative in loving and seeking you! He is not trying to hide from you. Now, respond. The Holy Spirit yearns with jealousy for you. Now, "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8).

Probably good sincere people have pounded into you a wrong idea of God (maybe even from the pulpit). God is not waiting for you to maintain a relationship with Him; He wants you to know He is maintaining a relationship with you. It all begins with His initiative, not yours. He wants you saved more than you want to be.

When Jesus came, He changed our ideas about His Father. The Good Shepherd is not waiting for His lost sheep to find Him; He is seeking the sheep (Luke 15:3-32). The text about "seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Isa. 55:6) needs a clearer translation. The Hebrew verb there for "seek" is not the common one, looking for a lost object; it means "pay attention to Me because I am near! I'm not far away, ever!"

This idea of working hard to maintain our relationship with the Lord is a subtle Old Covenant idea that has crept in. When you begin to grasp His seeking love, His cross, you will "hunger and thirst" for His "truth of the gospel." It will expel your love for amusement; it will heal you of your Bible boredom. But we "walk softly": if you are in a spiritual coma, yes, force yourself to read your Bible and pray. But please ... believe the New Covenant.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] E. J. Waggoner, "Thoughts on the Third Psalm," The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1885, p. 375.

[2] Even the Lesson for Wednesday is confusing when it says: "James 4:5 is not easy to understand," "the most difficult verse in the New Testament," and refers to "the ambiguity of the Greek."

[3] "What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 47).

Raul Diaz