Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness"

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness"

The rewards promised to the faithful defy description: the crown of everlasting life, entrance into the joy of the Lord, and other blessings so great we cannot even imagine them (see Revelation 2:10, Matthew 25:21 & 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Defining the word Faithfulness:

 Psalm 40:10. "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation."
 Isaiah 11:5 "And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins."
 Psalm 143:1 "O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness."

Taking license from the passages above, and from the 1888 Messengers themselves, we will hereafter use the words faithfulness and righteousness interchangeably.
Alas, we look into our hearts and see that there is "no good thing" (Romans 7:18). If we recognize our true condition, Romans 7:24 will be our heart‟ cry: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" With Paul, we can thank God for passages such as Lamentations 3:22-23: "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."

Revelation 19:11 lists "Faithful" as one of Christ‟ names. The good news is that, wretched though we are, we may choose to make the Lord our "portion" (See Lamentations 3:24). When we are "hid with Christ in God" then His faithfulness is our own. So long as we remain hidden there – dead to self and alive in Him, there is no condemnation (see Colossians 3:1-4).

Many fail of possessing that "goodly portion" for the same reason that Israel failed of fully occupying the land of Canaan. Many giants "great and tall" have occupied the territory of our hearts, and we have not the strength or courage to chase them 2

The priests and rulers rejected Christ because they knew that letting Him into their hearts would change them into His image. They did not desire to become humble and self-sacrificing. His very presence made them see the contrast between their pride and selfishness and His pure, selfless love. They recognized that someone had to die. They chose to keep their pride and kill their Savior. Consider the implications of this choice:

1. They could "let" the mind of Christ to come into them – the mind which "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (see Philippians 2:5).

2. They could resist that humility and love, thus leaving their hearts un-protected from the unscrupulous "prince of darkness" whose purpose is to destroy Christ and all that reflect His faithfulness. They wanted a Messiah that would save them on their own terms. Has that also been our heart‟ desire? "[W]e are often led to seek Jesus by the desire for some earthly good; and upon the granting of our request we rest our confidence in His love. The Saviour longs to give us a greater blessing than we ask; and He delays the answer to our request that He may show us the evil of our own hearts, and our deep need of His grace. He desires us to renounce the selfishness that leads us to seek Him. Confessing our helplessness and bitter need, we are to trust ourselves wholly to His love" (Desire of Ages page 200). "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). We need not wonder what that way of escape might be, for Jesus says, "I am the way" (John 14:6).

We are told to seek Him, and find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). How far must we search in order to find the One who is the "way"? He is standing right at the door of our hearts (see Revelation 3:20). There He knocks – persistently, patiently. We have come full circle, back to Philippians 2:5. We have only to open the door of our hearts to Jesus, and let this mind of His come in and "be" in us. Then the "Author and Finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) will make us faithful, or "sanctify you wholly" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Thursday‟ lesson states that the question is not, "„will God be Faithful?‟but "Will I allow Him to be faithful in me until the end?‟

A. T. Jones answers, "[W]e need the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to keep us faithful. And shall we wait for persecution to scatter us abroad, in order to preach the word? God forbid! Let us go by genuine faith, and in the faithfulness of Jesus, who came voluntarily when God called (November 11, 1893 ATJ, HOMI 222.2).

"As sons in God's house we are to exercise the same faithfulness that Christ did, and this we can do because He gives us His own faith. „The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.‟Gal. ii. 20. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith, exercises His own faith, by which He kept the Father's commandments, and abode in His love; so that it can be said: „Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.‟Rev. xiv. 12. This faith alone overcomes the world. (September 30, 1897 EJW, PTUK 612.7)

" God's presence gives life to the throne on which He sits, and to the soul in which He dwells. Departure from Him means certain death. Wherefore take heed, and keep the faith" (October 21, 1897 EJW, PTUK 659.35).

Revelation 2:10 says, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." It seems clear that those who persist in keeping the heart‟ door open to the knocking Christ of Revelation 3:20 will have within them that steadfast faithfulness. "When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own" (COL 69.1)

E. J. Waggoner summarizes our study on faithfulness thus: "[T]he faith of Christ must bring the righteousness of God, because the possession of that faith is the possession of the Lord himself. This faith is dealt to every man, even as Christ gave himself to every man. Do you ask what then can prevent every man from being saved? The answer is, Nothing, except the fact that all men will not keep the faith. If all would keep all that God gives them, all would be saved" (January 16, 1896 EJW, SITI 36.5).