Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lesson 2. Restoring Dominion

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 2. Restoring Dominion

Our lesson this week asks an intriguing question: "What can the church do to help people regain some of what was lost after the tragic fall of our first parents in Eden?" [1]
Many people define what was lost in Eden in egocentric terms. Adam and Eve had interesting jobs and it wasn't difficult or hard work. You could eat a complete meal just by picking and eating what was growing in the garden spontaneously. They could play with all the animals, and they had each other for companionship. People who understand something about God might even include the fact that Adam and Eve had access to Him face to face. They were unified with the entire universe by being connected to and in communication with the Creator of all things. When they chose to rebel, the resulting disunity separated them from this precious unity with God. The entire plan of salvation is God's effort to deal with the consequences of their choice to fracture the union.
In His prayer recorded in John 17:22, 23 Jesus prayed, "I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me" (New International Version).
What a phenomenal concept, that we, in Christ, are loved just like the Father loves the Son. The Godhead consists of three separate beings, but they function in complete unity because the love they have for each other is perfect agape. There is no selfishness in this love, and it suggests that as unified equals, they don't exercise dominance over each other.
Created beings, especially fallen ones cannot relate to such a concept of love, because our concept of love is centered around ourselves. When choosing a spouse, we tell ourselves we want the "best" when we really mean the best looking, the best family, best earning potential, or some other egocentric criteria.
When we speak of unity in the church, we define that as a majority believing the same, but complete unity is generally considered impossible. In order to be unified like Christ described in His prayer, is God going to change us from having free will to automatons, facelessly agreeing to everything He says? No, agape cannot do that, because love only exists when there is no force. No one can force another to genuinely love them. By exercising dominance through force, a person may fake love, but it is for survival, not out of genuine love.
The 1888 message teaches a unique perspective in its special emphasis on the concept of agape as unconditional love. Jesus loved Peter, but when He warned him that Peter would deny Him, Peter let pride take over which led him to essentially tell Jesus He was wrong. Jesus loved him anyway. Judas, also because of his pride, would reject the love that Jesus had for him. Since "on Him was laid the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6), Jesus took Judas's sins to the cross and died his second death, which is the wages of sin. "He tasted death for every man" (Heb. 2:9).
This may sound too good to be true, leading some to ask, "'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' ... We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--that 'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.' Titus 2:11, RV. God has wrought out salvation for every man, andhas given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [2]
But the lesson's intriguing question remains: What can the church do to help people regain some of what was lost after the tragic fall of our first parents in Eden? The title of our lesson is "Restoring Dominion," but what did God give human beings dominion over?
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" (Gen 1:26, King James Version). We were not given "dominion" over other humans, just the flora, fauna, and the earth. Paul confirmed this when he said "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand" (2 Cor. 1:24).
The parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9) suggests there are different categories of people, even in the church. Too many are content with "crowd religion," happy to hear an entertaining sermon once or twice a month, but letting nothing go deeper. Those people are represented by the seed that falls on ground and never actually takes root. The "stony ground" people initially receive the Word with joy, but fail to hang on to their faith when trials come. People stay in the church for many reasons, but we need to check ourselves on any kind of pride, even denominational pride.
The slumbering church, content with "crowd" or "stony ground" religion, cannot learn non-selfish love without waking up to accept the message to Laodicea by the True Witness (see Revelation 3). We need to agree with His assessment of our blind condition and take His advice that we need eye salve to exchange our self-righteousness for His clean and white linen character.
Without that recognition and repentance, we should understand that dominion can be a dangerous thing in people who are not ruled by a non-selfish love. For the church to be able to properly show the world a restoration of Edenic dominion, it needs to experience the unity of God's agape before it can be entrusted with dominion. The more the church unites under the umbrella of that love, the more she shows the world that it is the only basis of unity. Any thought of restoring dominion is best directed at restoring dominion over ourselves, which we lost at the fall.
It is the True Witness's evaluation of the Laodicean Church that she considers herself "rich and increased with goods and hath need of nothing." This self-righteousness and self-perceived doctrinal purity is the cause of her "lukewarmness" and legalism. Her self-love is exposed as in need of God's agape. Hence, Christ's call for her to repent. In other words, exchange her ideas of righteousness by faith for His righteous self-sacrificing Divine love demonstrated on the cross. The 1888 message has always been one of joy and hope that would result in the repentance that the Bride of Christ must have in order to be made ready for the second coming.
Ellen White challenges us: "The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for a renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King's highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the pentecostal energy. This will come; for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power." [3] Pray that this happens soon.
--Arlene Hill
[1] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 14.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 13, 14 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[3] Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 307, 308.
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Raul Diaz