Friday, November 23, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "Seeing the Invisible"

Moses discovered the secret of overcoming. The temptations and pleasures of this life lost their grip on him. Our memory verse explains his secret thus: “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).

Can we possess such faith and see what he saw? “The knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired. … There can be no perfection of Christian character without that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul” (Review and Herald, Oct. 18, 1898). Faith is not nebulous. It is “substance” (Heb 11:1). A. T. Jones defines it simply: “Faith is the expecting the word of God to do what it says and the depending upon that word to do what it says” (ibid., Dec. 27, 1898).

Since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), we may expect this Word to increase our faith as we consider what it was that Moses “saw.” Some frequently ignored points in the story of the woman caught in adultery may serve to open our eyes anew to the character of Him Who is invisible; her story illustrates our seeing the “invisible” (John 8:1-11).

Behold infinite Purity, standing in the temple, face to face, not only with the guilty, terror-stricken woman, but also with all the ugliness Satan could inspire in the hearts of those rebellious rulers!

In refusing to condemn the woman, Christ is not minimizing the heinousness of her sin, for “our God is a consuming fire” to sin wherever it may be found (The Faith I Live By, p. 176). Standing as the “Enmity” which interposes between the woman (the church) and her sin was already beginning to crush out our Savior’s life. He could see just what it was going to cost Him immediately, and also eternally, to set her free. By saying, “Neither do I condemn thee,” He confirmed His covenant to bear the death penalty for her sin so that she could go free. All He asked of her, as she tried to comprehend her new freedom, was that she would keep this precious gift He had given her. In saying, “Go and sin no more,” He was empowering her to stop identifying with sin so that she need not earn back the wages of sin. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1).

The temple—the sanctuary—is a representation of Christ Who is the “Way” to the Father. The sanctuary services depict His plan of salvation. Everything from the great cornerstone to the veil between the two apartments represents Him who is “invisible.”

In the eyes of the murderous mob of angry scribes and Pharisees Jesus sees a seething hatred which is all focused on Him. The woman’s entire value in their eyes lies in their ability to exploit her weakness in their quest for Christ’s destruction.

Standing there within the temple (The Ministry of Healing, p. 86) of which every part is a type of Himself, Jesus stoops to the marble pavement that represents His own body, and begins to write the sins of His questioners in the dust. In writing their sins on the temple’s marble floor He is, in type, writing them upon Himself. He is transferring to Himself the guilt for each of their sins, including the murderous hatred burning in their eyes at that very moment.

Totally missing the point, the woman’s accusers saw only potential exposure in the writing. They did not stay around long enough for Jesus to finish writing, so they did not hear the words, “Neither do I condemn thee.” In their haste, they missed the fact that He kept on writing, not because He wanted to impress them with how bad they were, but because He wanted to free them from the heavy, death-dealing burden of guilt. He wanted them to see that all their past sins were now registered against Him. He wanted them to see “the invisible” things of eternal importance.

He wanted them to see that while He came to condemn sin, He came to save the sinners (John 3:17). But, like Israel at Sinai, they would not stay around long enough to really know Him.

Had the accusers stayed near Jesus they would have heard the same words Christ addressed to the woman. They might not have appreciated their freedom as much as did the woman at that time, but the scenes of the crucifixion would soon have demonstrated to them just how heinous their sins really were. In Christ’s death they would have seen the depths of the pit from which they were rescued. Broken-hearted love for their Savior could then have forever cured them of the love of sin.

Oh that our lives might represent this Christ to sinners! Then, with Moses, they will see that no earthly pleasure or prize could hold a candle to the love of God for them! He has written all of your sins, and all of mine, on His own heart, and carried them with Him into the second death. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). Today we hear that Word which spoke the worlds into existence saying, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Let us exercise the faith of Jesus which consists in surrendering to, and depending upon this Word to accomplish the freedom from sin which the Word commands.

Seeing the true Christ as He really is removes every excuse for shame and despair. At the same time, it removes every excuse for sinning. Further, it cures even the desire to sin, for it makes us fall in love with the One whom sin still wounds. In this vision of Jesus we have the one and only motivation strong enough to put perfect enmity between us and sin in all its guises. With Moses we may then endure as seeing Him who is invisible!

—Helene Thomas

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 8 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast click here. To stream click here.