Thursday, March 06, 2008

Discipleship Under Pressure

This week’s lesson asks some powerful questions under “The Week at a Glance” section. “What warning should we take away from the disciples’ bid for political power? What lessons does Judas have for us? What was behind James’s and John’s willingness to destroy those who rejected Jesus?”

These questions strike at the root of the sin problem that resides in each of our hearts. Each of these questions, at their root, deal with the same problem: self-exaltation. Using force or the power of position, whether political or religious, through manipulation of individuals and situations to achieve one’s own design or to support one’s personal opinion is the very heart of Lucifer’s problem (see Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 35-41).

By becoming slave to a single vice, a cherished sin, Judas gave himself into slavery to Satan, and imbibed Satan’s character. Judas “felt he could retain his own judgment and opinions” and thus he opened his heart to unbelief, “and the enemy supplied thoughts of questioning and rebellion” (The Desire of Ages, pp. 717-718). Just as Lucifer did in heaven, Judas desired a high position in the kingdom of Christ (as he understood that kingdom), so he espoused the cause of Christ, but without surrendering his heart to the Savior. Such dichotomy of thinking bears the fruit of destruction. “A spirit contrary to the Spirit of Christ would deny Him, whatever the profession” (ibid., p. 357). A serious lesson for us as we face end-time delusions.

As Christ’s teachings became more pointed regarding His divine mission to die for the sins of the whole world (e.g., see John 6:22-60), Judas designed plots through which he hoped to bring about his goal, molding the work to his own agenda. “He introduced controversies and misleading sentiments, repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ.” Attempting to support his position and confuse the mind of the disciples, he brought out “texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was presenting” (ibid., p. 719).

Christ was fully aware of all that was taking place around Him. He well knew that Satan was using Judas to influence the other disciples in a negative manner, working contrary to the clear truth He was teaching. Despite this terrible sin against Him, the love of God went out to Judas seeking to draw him into the fold. But Judas would not yield his preconceived opinions and surrender his heart to the Master. The betrayal of Jesus was one of the most horrendous of all sins, yet Jesus died to save Judas just as He died to save you and me from our sins.

In reality, there is not one sin greater or lesser than another. All sin—large or small, venial or mortal, “little white lies” or black-hearted deception—all caused the death of Christ. All our sins have filled the heavenly sanctuary with corruption so atrocious and contemptible that only the blood of the Son of God can cleanse the defilement.

However, the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary must have a beginning here on earth. There must be an end of self-exaltation among God’s people. A properly motivated desire to submit our wills to Christ will at last be manifested in all who claim to be Christ’s disciples, before He can complete His work as our High Priest.

“The cleansing of the [typical] sanctuary, as to the sanctuary itself, was the taking out of and away from the sanctuary all the transgression of the people which, by the service of the priests, had been taken into the sanctuary during the service of the year. And this stream must be stopped at its fountain in the hearts and lives of the worshipers, before the sanctuary itself could possibly be cleansed.

“Therefore the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people. That which was preliminary and essential to the cleansing of the sanctuary itself, to the finishing of the transgression and bringing in everlasting righteousness, there [in the typical sanctuary], was the finishing of transgression, and the making an end of sins, and making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness [cf. Dan. 9:24] in the heart and life of each one of the people themselves” (A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, p. 120, Glad Tidings Publishers ed.).

This is the final work of our High Priest in the antitypical Day of Atonement—the cleansing of the hearts of the people.

What is the answer to the three pressing questions mentioned at the opening of our lesson? Only one thing: “Not I, but Christ.” Christ’s longing desire is to cure our “I” disease and purge us of all desire for self-exaltation, for seeking power and position over others, for demanding our own way. Paul tells us: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This is true discipleship.

E. J. Waggoner remarked: “Here is the secret of strength. It is Christ, the Son of God, the One to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, Who does the work. If He lives in the heart to do the work, is it boasting to say that continual victories may be gained? Yes, it is boasting; but it is boasting in the Lord, and that is allowable” (Signs of the Times, March 25, 1889).

Earthly armies gained the victory over their enemies by believing that their leaders were invincible. “Well, our Captain is the Lord of hosts. He has met the chiefest foe of all and has vanquished him singlehanded. Those who follow Him invariably go forth conquering and to conquer. Oh, that those who profess to be His followers would put their trust in Him, and then, by repeated victories that they would gain, they would show forth the praises of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light!” (ibid.).

The true calling of discipleship is to “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (Rev. 14:4); by faith following Him onward to victory over all sin. Following the Lamb, God’s people not only gain victory over sin in their personal lives, but God is vindicated against the claims Satan first uttered in heaven, that God is unjust and His law impossible to keep. As true disciples of Christ, we have a critical part to play in the final events of earth’s history. Through the faith of Christ, that “gold” which has already been “tried in the fire” (Rev. 3:18), of which He has given to every individual a measure (Rom. 12:3), we may stand firm and true through all trials and persecutions.

Ann Walper


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