Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Matthew
Lesson 9: "Idols of the Soul"
When Adam and Eve rebelled against God's instruction not to eat of the tree, they set up the first idol. They decided to do it "their way," not God's. The human race has been worshipping the idol of self ever since. The story of the rich young ruler captures the essence of this idol worship, which is the basis of all sin. Let's put his story into a modern context to understand him better. We will call him "Rich."
Rich was flipping TV channels and happened on a program on health. He already knew so much about the subject, he doubted this TV doctor could tell him anything. The doctor turns out to be an MD with a PhD in nutritional chemistry and homeopathic medicine. He is talking about wheat plants that have been genetically modified to mature faster. However, it also makes the plants more susceptible to pesticide spray.
Surprised and alarmed that this doctor knows something he doesn't, Rich orders the servants in his household to eliminate all foods containing wheat and pesticides. They must diligently read labels and resist buying anything he wouldn't approve of. He launches into an intense research program to learn everything about the dangers that lurk in food. Predictably, the servants get confused and something forbidden slips through. Rich is enraged and punishes them severely. Then, one of the servants politely asks if they could sit down with Rich and write a list of the now forbidden ingredients. Horrified, he exclaimed "don't you know that sitting is as bad as smoking? I forbid any of my servants to sit."
The list of forbidden foods and ingredients gets longer and more complicated. Gradually the family becomes obviously malnourished and constantly sick. The school nurse finally visits and tells them that unless their health improves soon, she will contact Child Protective Services and have the children removed from the home. Furious that an ignorant bureaucrat is trying to tell him anything, he ordered his servants to immediately begin teaching the children at home.
Rich is proud of his superior knowledge and is certain that he has made the right decisions for his family, but the threat of losing his children makes him uneasy. Rich wants to find someone who appreciates and admires him for his knowledge and control over his family. A new Teacher has written a book and made a series of YouTube videos, so Rich decides to question Him. When they meet, Rich asks Him, "I know the law requires us to consider our bodies the temple of God. I have kept all the known laws of health since my youth. What more should I do to make God see me as pious so He will take me and my family to heaven?"
Rich was initially confused at the Teacher's answer: "Give up all your knowledge and self-generated will power and ask God to give you the blessing of belief, then you will be obedient." That couldn't be right. Rich had worked hard for this knowledge. He had won many arguments showing people how wrong they were. It had become his ministry, a sort of health evangelism. That had to count for something. Anybody could believe, that was easy to say. The proof is in the doing. Rich doesn't realize he has the Gospel backwards.
Notice the sequence in E. J. Waggoner's summation: "So, then, they who are of faith are keepers of the law; for they who are of faith are blessed, and those who do the commandments are blessed. By faith they do the commandments. Since the gospel is contrary to human nature, we become doers of the law not by doing but by believing. If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it. … All are under the curse [of the law], and he who thinks to get out [from under the curse] by his own works, remains there. Since the 'curse' consists in not continuing in all things that are written in the law, therefore the 'blessing' means perfect conformity to the law" (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 56, 57, Glad Tidings ed.)
Many of us have trouble with the concept that first we accept the blessing of belief, which, in turn, makes us naturally conform perfectly to the law. We see our character traits, the habits we try to stop, but nothing works. Some may think that even if you are able to go to a completely new environment, the character you inherited will leave its mark on you until the grave. They say, that's just the way I will always be. I'm stuck, so why try.
For those who have ever thought that, the 1888 message has wonderful news. Jesus was trying to get this across to Nicodemus when He said we needed to be born again. Jesus rewrote our condemned history when He took the human race in Him to the cross. We don't need to go to a completely new environment, we need to believe and accept that we are created new in Christ when He redeemed us on the cross.
"Someone may lightly say, 'Then we are all right; whatever we do is right so far as the law is concerned, since we are redeemed.' It is true that all are redeemed, but not all have accepted redemption. Many say of Christ, we will not have this Man to reign over us,' and thrust the blessing of God from them. … Stop and think what this means. Let the full force of the announcement impress itself upon your consciousness. 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law'—from our failure to continue in all its righteous requirements. We need not sin anymore! He has cut the cords of sin that bound us so that we have but to accept His salvation in order to be free from every besetting sin" (Ibid., p. 61).
It sounds too good to be true, but it's true. We have but to accept it.