Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 3-05

Sabbath School Insights No. 3
Quarter 3, 2005, Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Spiritual Life"
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
"Lord of Our Thoughts"

The great controversy between Christ and Satan is the war over the mind of mankind. In the end, mankind will be under the control of one of two lords. One is Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven; the other is Lucifer, self-styled lord of earth. In the end, one or the other will control our thoughts.

Revelation 18:2 reveals the result to those who surrender themselves to the archenemy of Christ. Those minds will become habitations of devils. He takes his place on the throne in the carnal mind of his subjects. (Satan is the ultimate "man of sin" sitting in the temple of God which, in this verse, is the human temple of flesh.) Before this is allowed to take place, God will send His glorious gospel message to the world as is seen in verse 1. The reason for publishing these INSIGHTS is to
remember that the Lord sent the �beginning� of this final message in 1888.

The glory of God's good news lightens the earth. This glory is the character of Christ (His righteousness) that will shine first into the minds of His people; then through them to the whole world. Before the message of the glory of God spreads to global proportions as God designed it to do, the mind of Christ must dwell in His followers. God's righteousness resides in the mind, in the thoughts of those who believe the good news. The glory of God shines forth as beams of light from the Sun of
Righteousness to and into His people's minds, who in turn let His light radiate the earth with its glory (Mal. 4:2; 2 Cor. 4:6-7; Hos. 6:3; Isa. 60:1-3).

The LORD Our Righteousness
The three angels and the fourth angel proclaiming the Loud Cry message present Christ as Lord as well as Savior, "the LORD our righteousness" (Jer. 23:6). Christ as Lord of our thoughts means that our thinking is brought into harmony with His law of righteousness. God's people "keep" His commandments because the law is written in their hearts, minds, thoughts, and imaginations (Rev. 14:12; Psalm 119:172; Heb. 10:16).

The first angel calls us to worship the Creator (Rev. 14:7). God made mankind with the ability to imagine, to think, and to do. Man's thoughts and actions were to be reflections of His mind and actions. Although sin brought the mind of self into human nature, Christ's work of redemption delivers us from the power of selfish thinking and acting. Salvation is the creative work of God in redeeming and changing our minds (2 Cor. 5:17).

Christ controls our minds for good as we "let" His mind be in us (Phil. 2:5). We receive His mind through the word of God. Words are simply vehicles for thoughts. Jesus, as the Word of God, was/is God's thought made audible to us.

The Power of Thought
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7, KJV). The meaning of thought is the formation in the mind of an intention, an opinion, or a consideration to reflect on. It includes pondering and remembering; it is the process of exercising the powers of imagination, judgment, conception, and of inference; and it involves conceiving ideas and bringing those conceptions to reality. This mental activity can bring forth good or evil. Consider the power of thought in temptation as sin is
conceived in the mind and brought to fruition.

In James 1:13-15 we observe the process of bringing forth sin from conception to birth and finally to death: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God.......' But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own desires, and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin: and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

But temptation is not sin. Sin comes when a person gives in to the temptation--"when desire has conceived." James presents two facts about temptation. Temptation comes both from without and from within our nature. Temptation to sin is inevitable. Each of us has areas of vulnerability; thus Satan works on each individual's own area of weakness. We realize the power of temptation in the thought processes and we know we need the power of God to control our thoughts. We find this power in the grace
of God. The good news is that temptation to sin can be aborted at any time from its conception to the birthing of it as sin.

God's grace is the educator which teaches us to say �NO� to temptation. Notice how the NIV presents this in Titus 2:11-12: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age......" God's grace is always stronger than temptation, whether it arises from our desires or thoughts from within, or from without when the devil comes fishing with his
alluring bait. Christ is a complete Savior from temptations from without and from within. Under God's grace we are grateful subjects of our Lord Jesus Christ who is able to bring every thought into submission that exalts itself against Himself.

Our thoughts, and consequently our lives, are to be brought under the control of Christ as Lord. This is His work of sanctification. Sanctification comes through believing the truth as it is in Jesus (John 17:17; Eph. 4:20-24). Sanctification is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our minds through the Word of God.

Bringing Every Thought into Captivity (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cast "down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God," and to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

The Creator has given to each of us a very special gift: an extremely powerful imagination. Human imagination is the ability of visualization in the mind. Imagination is the source of human originality. Imagination makes possible the awareness of the magnificent wonders of creation and enables us to think and to invent things for the benefit of mankind.

We are to make use of this gift of God to its fullest possible extent, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We may possess a "sanctified" imagination. Our thoughts are to be brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ and our imaginations are to be �cast down.� Why is this?

The highest "thing" that exalts itself against God is the carnal mind. All idolatry begins in the mind. An idol is a false conception of the imagination that creates the mental image, first in the mind and then in metal or stone. Idolatry is simply the worship of self and always opposes the true worship of God. Everyone worships someone. If not the Creator of the universe, it is the creator of idols. Idolatry is the worship of the one who made the idol or image. Since images are the product of
an unsanctified imagination it is the mind of self that is exalted and worshipped in the place of God.

The final issue in the last battle will be for the worship of one's mind or of the worship of God. The first angel's message is a call to mankind to turn from self-worship to the worship of God.

Setting Your Mind on Christ
This has to do with Christian discipline. An example is found in the life practices of the Wesley brothers and other members of their "Holy Club." Those Oxford students devoted themselves to a rigorous search for holiness and for service to others. They were very diligent in doing such things as praying, fasting, studying the Word of God, helping the poor, and doing other charitable works. These "holy ones" were called "Methodists" by their fellow collegians in mockery of their emphasis on
devotions and methods. Those practitioners were very sincere and attempted any and every way they could think of to find God and salvation. They had not learned that salvation comes from God finding us.

After Wesley was converted, he continued in his "methods," not in order to be sanctified and saved, but to get to know God better. After his conversion they were no longer the "root," but the "fruit" of his Christian experience. He learned to study, pray, meditate, and witness, whether he felt like it or not.

Self both detracts and is easily distracted from setting the mind on things above. But if we are risen with Christ, experientially, we will seek those things which are above, and we will think of Him; our affections will be fixed on Christ who sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). A sanctified imagination results from the study of Christ.

"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross" (The
Desire of Ages, p. 83).

From this deepening experience an influence will cover the earth which will be the fulfillment of that �beginning� in 1888, and the inhabitants of this world will know that Christ is the Lord of our thoughts. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah: "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness" (Jer. 33:16).

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