Chapter 31: The Sermon on the Mount

March 10, 2007

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

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2 Responses to “Chapter 31: The Sermon on the Mount”

  1. Aunt Ruth said

    For some reason I am having a hard time GOING to sleep, instead of staying asleep tonight. So on to Renee’s Ruminations and Seth’s Blogs – and balancing my checkbook!

    I appreciate and enjoy reading your thoughts. You have a great mind and a special heart.

    Am reading a wonderful book by Ty Gibson (remember him and Clifford Goldstein in the hotel lobby last September?) The book is called “Endless Falling in Love”. None of the thoughts you expressed and EGW expressed in the chapter you are referring to today can be appropriately understood, I don’t think, without the filter of God’s love, understanding his heart.

    So many great quotes in Ty’s book, but here are a couple: “By creating free moral agents, God opened up His own future and the future of His universe to be shaped (Wow! That’s heavy! AR) by the potentially capricious decisions of others beside Himself; God made Himself willingly accountable to others who could…cause Him infinite suffering and even infinate loss.”

    “The Fall was not a divinely ordained inevitability, but merely a human possibility that God hoped never to face.”

    “Even a dim realization of this truth (i.e. the risk God took in creating free beings) makes me want to flee away in humility, and at the same time run into His embrace with adoring love and worship.”

    On those warm and awesome thoughts, I leave you to the love of the Father, the fellowship of the Spirit and the brotherhood of Jesus!

    Sleep well my friend — and nephew!! 🙂

    AR

  2. wallygoots said

    Those are some amazing realities in those quotes. Sounds like a great book! And I must say, I completely agree that we should review hard quotes from Ellen White and Scripture while firmly clutching the knowledge and memory that God is Love–even in a world that has acted out against the universal rule of His character.

    Thanks Aunt Ruth for the very balancing perspective and I love the quotes.

    Seth

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