Friday, February 12, 2016

Lesson 7: Jesus' Teachings and the Great Controversy

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Lesson 7: Jesus' Teachings and the Great Controversy

"And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon.
And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and
there was no longer a place found for them in heaven" (Rev. 12:7, 8, NASB).
"Michael" is Christ Jesus. The great controversy started with Lucifer's pride and lies long before the earth was created. Adam did not begin the great controversy, but he made the choice for human beings to become aligned with the wrong side of it. By His incarnation, sinless life, cross and resurrection, Christ demonstrated that Satan was lying when he maligned God's character. Jesus has promised He will be always with us, even to the end of the age, when the controversy ends.

What is so wrong about controversy? It is an inevitable fact of human interaction. Shouldn't we be comfortable with it by now? In His prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed for His believers "that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me" (John 17:21).

What Jesus is saying is that He and His Father are perfectly unified, and He wants that for us. Throughout the Bible, God is trying to tell us that unity with Him is what we lost in Eden. Many rebel against that concept because they think it will deprive them of their individual will. They don't realize that their will has been warped, bent to self not to God, so they can't trust their wills.

Many who are longing for something better in their lives don't understand that this very longing comes from the controversy they have with God. Often, to settle this controversy, people think they need to turn to religion. Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you," so people do their best to take that yoke, whatever that means. To most, religion means keeping the law, so they set about to do that only to feel the vague unrest that they are not keeping it well enough. It is not easy to keep God's law perfectly in one's own strength.

The harder you try, the worse you feel, and eventually you get angry with God, accusing Him of asking for the impossible. You reason that God's "yoke" is too heavy, too difficult. He is unreasonable. If we give in to such thoughts, we echo the accusation Satan used when he claimed God is unfair to require absolutely perfect law keeping. In your mind, you are perpetuating the Great Controversy.

The blessing of the message given to the 1888 messengers is that law keeping never brings righteousness, but belief and acceptance of the righteousness of Christ brings righteousness, rest, and peace with God. In sermons given soon after the 1888 General Conference, A. T. Jones, one of the "messengers," had this to say:

"When Israel came out of Egypt, they knew not God, remembering only that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a God, but knew nothing more. To make them understand their condition and what sin was, he took one of their own words and applied it to his purpose. He took a word meaning 'missed its mark' and used it to express sin. Now we have all sinned and come short—that is what Paul means—we have 'missed the mark.' Then the more righteousness of the law a man has the worse he is off—the more ragged is he. …

"Righteousness is the gift of life to everyone who believeth, and Jesus Christ will ever be the purpose of the law to everyone who believeth. It is Christ's obedience that avails and not ours that brings righteousness to us. Well then let us stop trying to do the will of God in our own strength. Stop it all. Put it away from you forever. Let Christ's obedience do it all for you and gain the strength to pull the bow so that you can hit the mark." [1]

So why does God give us the law? The law was given to show us our sins, and our utter inability to meet the perfect demands of its majestic claims. If the law can't save us, but only belief in Christ's righteousness brings salvation, how do we come to belief?

"Faith is the easiest and most natural thing in the world. There is nothing wonderful about faith, as some think, and say 'I try to believe and if I can't then how can I?' But we can believe God with the same faculties we believe others. Don't try to believe—quit it—and believe. We either believe or don't believe—then why not believe? Believe as a child, don't reason it out. Faith goes in advance of reason, knowledge and all else. At school the teacher pointed out a letter and told us 'That is [the letter] A,' and that is all the evidence we have of it. We believed it; now let us receive the kingdom of heaven as we did when a child the words of your teacher. If we reason on faith we can never believe, because to reason faith is unreasonable because the effort of reason always produces doubt. …

"Now, Romans 5:6-8-10, Christ died for you because you are ungodly, and he died for the ungodly, and you can be counted righteous right now if you will believe it. Christ's death reconciled the world unto God but it never saved any or ever can. His death met the penalty of the law, but we are saved by Christ's life. Read Romans 4:25. By his death then we have reconciliation, by his life justification, and by the second coming we have salvation—all these being necessary to complete the plan of salvation." [2]

What wonderful promises! Belief is the "easiest and most natural thing in the world." Why do we have so much trouble believing? The man who built his house on the rock heard the words of Jesus, so he was "well advised." Wisdom resulted in actions which meant his house stood firm. The Great Controversy is played out in our own minds. If our minds are not "well advised" in God's word, we cannot expect wise actions. The Good News is indeed better than we think. Our pride wants to reason it out, but "Don't try to believe—quit it—and believe."
—Arlene Hill

[1] A. T. Jones, "The Sabbath Morning Sermon, No. 1," Presented at the Institute and Campmeeting, Ottawa, Kansas, May 11, 1889,
[2] Ibid., "Sunday Sermon on Righteousness, No. 2," May 12, 1889.