“How often the disciples’ experience is ours!” DA350

This snippet from this chapter about the calming of the storm and the demoniacs could refer to many things. Without looking at the chapter, what are the first things that come to mind? What did the disciples do that we also do? I thought of these:

a. Show boating.

b. Focusing on our fears.

c. Accusing God of disinterest in our plight.

Here’s the real deal:

“In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them help.” DA350

The experience that we have which is a repeat of the disciples experience is to try and save ourselves. There are a couple of ways I see this happening in my own life and the lives of others. The first has to do with finding a life partner. The second is career and ministry paths.  Third, we think we can survive our addictions, and somehow be fit for heaven.

1. I have my beefs with secular dating, but realize the world is blundering on with as many tools as man can invent, and shouldn’t be held to too high a standard–basically let them continue to chase the feeling. And the Christian system seems to be that we find someone who turns us on, and then ask God to bless our will? Where is our faith? At the root we don’t believe that God is romantic, or worse yet that God will chose someone we don’t like. He might even cause us to sacrifice the love we want for the good of His kingdom. In this, I will despair of self-dependence.

2. We have many ideas about work–both for money and ministry. I think I struggle with this because I view it too often as my work. Both in traveling my career path, and in ministries I like to claim ownership.  This one it seems I have failed at enough times to be rid of self-dependence, but in reality, I am His, and the work is His, the money is His, and the ministry is His. Beyond this, my weakness and incompetencies are His–and that for me is the hardest to cry out about. Strength beyond my own must be His as well. In this, I will despair of self-dependence.

3. We are all addicted. If it’s not a substance it’s status, sex, gaming, buying, religion, or other escape. Everyone is addicted to self. The idea that Christians become stronger, and graduate into professional, elite, and super Christians is hard to buck. No, we become more dependent. Rowing our own spiritual boat through this storm is the experience of the disciples that is repeated in our hearts. It’s a tricky thing. Self dies hard, especially in areas where we feel most competent. We vow to do better when we fall to the worn out and familiar sin. We adopt a new spiritual cure. We white knuckle on the oars, drop our head, and paddle harder. Jesus is there all the time. In your spiritual boat. He’s not even asleep! In this, I am learning to despair of self-dependence.

“Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 

“Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded.” DA349

“Peace, be still.”

From the string of pearls in this chapter, I was perusing my pencil markes to choose a couple which provide fodder for reflection. Now and then, one statements shines through that takes it all in: the entire colony of butterflies migrate, all the planets light up on the horizon, and calculus suddenly makes sense.  What more can be said after such a comment as this?

“It is the love of self that brings unrest.” DA344

If you feel faint and need of perspective. This chapter could be key to refocusing your heart. I pray that it is a blessing for you.

“The Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke this warning did not themselves believe the charge they brought against Him. There was not one of those dignitaries but had felt drawn toward the Savior.”  DA334

This and the resulting paragraph blew me away. The Bible revealed at time the thoughts of the Pharisees, but at times of condemnation and loathing. Many of conviction was trampled down by pride to arrive at such levels of murderous hatred. It seems now that it was the work involved in climbing over conviction that doubt became so exercised and pride so muscled.

“Men are influenced by their own words. Often under a momentary impulse, prompted by Satan, they give utterance to jealousy or evil surmising, expressing that which they do not really believe; but the expression reacts on the thoughts.” DA335

I have made focused statements concerning the lack of power of man’s words, but it is only compared with God’s word which sustains worlds and creates these same worlds by a word only. It seems that we tend to act on the words which perch in our ear, even if we speak them ourselves. Even man’s word has some power to change minds and behaviors (otherwise I would not teach).

At what point did the Pharisees fall? “Light comes to the soul through God’s word, through His servants, or by the direct agency of His Spirit; but when one ray of light is disregarded, there is a partial benumbing of the spiritual perceptions, and the second revealing of light is less clearly discerned. So the darkness increases, until it is night in the soul.” DA335

Filtering this statement through my knowledge of God, it is not as if one rejection of a divine hint will plunge your soul into darkness and doom. Some might insinuate that this is the meaning of this quote. Nonsense! The Pharisees fell upon a million counts, many of them taking concerted efforts to scramble over conviction. That is to say that even small decisions can lead to long rejections. The power of human freedom is respected by God more than life itself, and this is precisely why God desires so strongly that we would be free from sin. Satan designs to rob us from free will by bondage to sin. It is only living in Christ that free will available. Maybe that is why there is no half way with God.

“Those who accept Christ as their personal Saviour are not left as orphans, to bear the trials of life alone. … Christ loves the heavenly beings that surround His throne; but what shall account for the great love wherewith He has loved us? We cannot understand it, but we can know it true in our own experience.” DA339

It’s not for lack of words, but lack of capacity to express joy that a description of God’s love alludes us. Thankfully, though we may not be able to describe His love, we can sail through scenes of love and take these sight into our hearts. If you are not experiencing of God’s love, I urge you to come back around. Look for it in His word and the world around you.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn. 1:1,2). The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Jn. 1:14). He chose to give us birth through the word of truth. (James 1:18).  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 Jn. 1:1,2). He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. (Rev. 19:13). Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17).

Without acceptable religious training, and sight unseen, the Centurion believed that Jesus could speak life into existence. The difference between God’s Word and man’s word he comprehended through the Holy Spirit–a reality that the disciples were only beginning to comprehend. Later they would write in truth of the Word of power, echoing what they may first have seen modeled by a pagan general.

And without presumption, the Centurion did not seem to need to humble himself to come to Jesus. Rather he came because he was a humble man. Before the servant became sick, a miracle had already taken place in his master’s heart.

“His heart had been touched by the grace of Christ. He saw his own unworthiness; yet he feared not to ask help. He trusted not to his own goodness; his argument was his great need.” DA326

The next lesson on the powerful Word of God was on the road to Nain.

“His heart, that loved and pitied, is a heart of unchangeable tenderness. His word, that called the dead to life, is no less efficacious now than when spoken to the young man of Nain. … That power is not diminished by the lapse of years, nor exhausted by the ceaseless activity of His overflowing grace. To all who believed on Him He is still a living Saviour.” 

Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them live. He cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ’s word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead.” Eph. 5:14. That word is eternal life.” DA329

I don’t believe the Centurion’s perspective to be a mere insight into faith. His understanding is as centered on spiritual reality as can be; that without this same differentiation between God’s Word and man’s word our understanding will have gaps that looks like presumption in times of blessing, and will keep us trying to manufacture a feeling in trying times.

Truly, “man does not live by bread alone, but by ever word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

You already know I like challenging passages as well as inspiring ones. This chapter has both, but it certainly leans toward challenging. Consider these:

“By every sin Jesus is wounded afresh; and as we look upon Him whom we have pierced, we mourn for the sins that have brought anguish upon Him.” DA309

“The ways of the Lord are obscure to him who desires to see things in a light pleasing to himself.” DA310

“Every impure thought defiles the soul, impairs the moral sense, and tends to obliterate the impressions of the Holy Spirit. It dims the spiritual vision, so that men cannot behold God. The Lord may and does forgive the repenting sinner; but though forgiven, the soul is marred. All impurity of speech or of thought must be shunned by him who would have clear discernment of spiritual truth.” DA312.

“Selfishness prevents us from beholding God.” DA312

“True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. If we wish to direct others in the path of righteousness, the principles of righteousness must be enshrined in our own hearts.” DA314

“Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ.” DA316

“The ideal of the Christian character is Christlikeness. As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be perfect in their lives.” DA319

“We cannot serve  God with a divided heart. … To be wavering and halfhearted in allegiance to truth is to choose the darkness of error and satanic delusion.” DA321

“And only those who live the life of Christ are His co-workers. If one sin is cherished in the soul, or one wrong practice retained in the life, the whole being is contaminated. The man becomes an instrument of unrighteousness.” DA321

Are all my nightmares of legalistic religion coming true? No wonder folks are turned off by Ellen White, when passages like these give ammunition to those in our Church who would control their own behavior and the behaviors of others, but lack the Spirit of Christ. But which of these statements would you contend to be false? That God (being in essence Love) is hurt by sin? That self-worship blinds us to God worship? That sin numbs our brains and our hearts to spiritual truth? That we must have received righteousness from Christ is we are to lead others to His righteousness? That if we break the law of God we have gone against the government of Christ? That Christ can save us from our imperfections? Or that God allows the freedom to choose Satan’s spirit rather than the Holy Spirit? Maybe asking which statement is false is the wrong question. Would it be better to ask which statement is irreconcilable with the kingdom of heaven? That’s the problem I have with ever burning hell. It doesn’t fit what I know of God or his Word. But do these blunt quotes fit with the kingdom of God, even if they don’t cause us to feel good? Remember that Jesus in the sermon on the mount seemed to teach contradictions to the religion of the day. His words were no less challenging.

After reading this chapter I felt lousy and exceedingly sinful. Sin is always worse than my comprehension of it. And as much as I would like to feel good and to be lifted by inspiration all the time, I’m not willing to discount statements that humble me enough to reach beyond myself for help. However, the depravity of sin should not retain our focus. That is the difference between legalism and conversion. The legalistic Christian points at his brother “the sinner.” And the converted brother agrees. Realizing we are sinners is part of the gospel! Jesus has made a way for salvation, but He does so because we so badly need it. As George Gainer says, “The good news is bad news is good news.”

Ellen White knew the stark reality of being given over to death that new life may be born. I must return to my initial position that defines my life in Christ–not that I should sin to prove God’s grace–but I want never to buy into the lie that Christian become super Christians. We simply become more dependent. And what He wills for us is transformation into His character through death of our own nature. He doesn’t use another system because no other system works. If I were to come to these hard quotes with my own righteousness in hand, they might break me and make us bitter towards God. Worse yet, I might feel that I have to change myself. But the truth is, I do have to change, and such is the nature of the righteousness of God. There are plenty of quotes in this chapter, that upon revealing our weakness, point us properly to the source of strength, but I think Paul sums the message.

“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” I Cor. 5:21

Week 7: Kinda

March 4, 2007

As you may have noticed, “Week 6” lasted 14 days. I’m guessing that these next five chapter will be slow in coming also as I have Exam 3 on Tuesday and my comprehensive final a week later. I also noticed that the chapters and my posts have been longer. I would be pleased to share the writing, and you might also remind me because time is rushing by in torrents these days. Thanks for sharing in this reading, and I hope you are blessed as much as I have by the Desire of Ages.

Are you closer to Christ?

This week:

The Sermon on the Mount
The Centurion
Who Are My Brethren?
The Invitation
“Peace, Be Still.”

There was a poster in the old Eaton town hall of Uncle Sam pointing right at me. “Uncle Sam Wants You!” it said. I must have been old enough to read, but young enough to feel dwarfed and impressed. He scared me, and there was an ominous sneer about him. I picture some Adventists feeling toward God as I did under that poster. God does want me to partner with Him, but if first I fully understand that God is Love beyond human love, and that he wants me to respond beyond duty and patriotism, then there is joy in this partnership.

This chapter is humanizing to Jesus and the disciples. I was at once encouraged and discouraged by the 12’s humanity and weakness. That the instruction of Jesus can drive apart or together those who claim Him. There are some key passages that are instructive for us as followers and ministers together.

“The Savior loved them all, but John’s was the most receptive spirit. He was younger than the others, and with more of the child’s confiding trust he opened his heart to Jesus. Thus he came more into sympathy with Christ, and through him the Saviour’s deepest spiritual teaching was communicated to His people.” DA299

Oh to come into sympathy with Christ! I often wonder when I read, how might I have related to Jesus if I had been there; so I treasure John’s response. Do you think we can respond today in the same way?

“Judas believed Jesus to be the Messiah; and by joining the apostles, he hoped to secure a high position in the new kingdom. This hope Jesus designed to cut off…” DA300

Jesus used a statement of his own poverty to try to dissuade Judas who had “urged his presence among them.”

“Judas had the same opportunities as had the other disciples. He listened to the same precious lessons. But the practice of the truth, which Christ required, was at variance with the desires and purposes of Judas, and he would not yield his ideas in order to received wisdom from Heaven.” DA301

I have no doubt that Judas considered his own ideas concerning the kingdom of God to be inspired of God. What ideas do we have that we need cut down? Yet, Jesus dealt kindly with him.

“How tenderly the Saviour dealt with him who was to be His betrayer!” DA301

Two closing thoughts that are key in our own calling. Realities of ministry in partnership with Christ.

1. “All the disciples had serious faults when Jesus called them to His service.” DA302.

2. “Christ is the great center, and they would approach one another just in proportion as they approached the center.” DA303.

Chapter 29: The Sabbath

March 4, 2007

“God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ.” DA289.

Spiritual things are incomprehensible to man’s natural mind.  But who of us have thought that the Sabbath applies to this rule? We may sense that there is more to an idea then our mind can wrap around, but that a man cannot even keep the Sabbath without being made holy himself is a staggering realization.

This means I may break the Sabbath even with the most careful observation. I feel a bit trapped because I certainly don’t feel holy, and it’s easier to regulate behavior than to die to self. Surely this is a hard teaching, but I am strongly suspecting that it is quite right. It would make sense why I have been so challenged to figure out what it means that God made the Sabbath holy. Understanding this is wrapped up in my continued conversion, and so every scrap of knowledge about the Sabbath as it stands in history, the present, and future is confined to my own change. This is also exciting because I know that the Sabbath will grow beyond my knowledge of the facts of God’s law even as His law is written on my heart. I wish He would just put it too me as per my request. I wish my brain could fit more Calculus each day. I wish I were not so impatient!

Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.” DA294

I am excited to receive the Sabbath, and so glad that holiness is possible–not as the pharisees taught–but as God gives through rebirth of a heart after His own heart. Truly Jesus died for our sins and lived for our holiness. May we rest in that reality daily and not forget the memorial of creation and re-creation every week on Sabbath. I trust that this Word can become flesh again in me.

Chapter 28: Levi-Matthew

March 4, 2007

I like challenging passages; ones that I am tempted to dodge, dismiss, or rationalize. Passages like this keep me honest, which I value.

“So every soul is tested as to whether the desire for temporal good or for fellowship with Christ is strongest.”  DA278.

Temporal good. Not temporal immorality or greed or self-exalting status. Even good things can pulls stronger than Christ due to our shortsighted nature. And this happens all the time with Christians; we desire Christ because of His blessings, and what is wrong with that? I’m struck by how much of my church and my prayer is about receiving blessings from God–be it forgiveness, peace, faith, freedom from condemnation, fulfilling relationships, financial security, or purposeful life. We need to know that these things are given, and we are attracted to Christ because of what He can do for us, but our feeling good is not God’s highest priority. He longs that our desires are always in the right order. Remaining in contact with Jesus requires that our previous desires are completely replaced by divine desires. “How can this be?” (Nicodemus). But Jesus did it with Matthew, and I have to believe that the same change is being effected in me–even if I’m slow on the uptake.

How did it happen for Matthew? What can we learn from him to be set up for the same change? I think one of the keys is here:

“He was accustomed to the exclusiveness of the rabbis and had no thought that this Great Teacher would notice him.” DA277

Matthew had thought one way about God’s system, and Christ shattered his thinking. We need the same shattering of our own thoughts that Christ effected in Matthew. It may not be at the same point–we tend to think we are more deserving of Christ’s attention than Matthew was–but on every point, spiritual life runs on a different system then every worldly realty. We believe in rewards and consequences, individuality, that every question has answers. These things can’t be reconciled with spiritual truth.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ metaphor of the new cloth sewn on old garments. It was not God’s purpose that John the Baptist modify his teaching to fit teachings of the Jews. Such was the misunderstanding of John’s disciples.  Neither had Jesus come to clean up Jewish teaching. The lesson extends to us: Jesus has not come to fix our natures. All that matters is a new creation. (Realize that death is required–this is serious transformation). Shriveled hearts must be remade, not remodeled. Again, by man’s system we would try to make a better Christian. But all that counts is a changed Christian.

“Their hearts had become contracted, like the dried-up wine skins to which He had compared them. While they remained satisfied with a legal religion, it was impossible for them to become the depositories of the living truth of heaven.” 

Are you a depository of the living truth of heaven? I want to be, but I realize self dies hard. I have asked it that it be put to death, and I believe God is taking me there. I also see that the extent of my change strongly correlates to intentional Scripture study. How else might God change our thinking if we have limited contact with His thinking?

God bless your relationship with Jesus this week.