Monday, March 25, 2013

“Creation, Again”

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Creation, Again”
For the week of March 30, 2013

Creation: Again

Bill was a man on a mission. As an entrepreneur in a network marketing business franchise, he was involved in every aspect of the business, which meant not only sales, but attendance at numerous meetings and training sessions.  Although initially Bill barely broke even, he worked hard, and was quite pleased with the financial outlook of his company. One consistent factor Bill noticed as his business grew was that without fail, almost all of the successful entrepreneurs he met had good people skills.  Yes, they were good salesmen, but they lived by a principle which said, “Products do not move people, people move products;” In other words, people are moved by other people. It is disinterested service which is the by product of agape that has power. (The power of Influence)

Determined to make his business work, Bill abided by this theory, but he wasn’t quite sold on it. Over time however, Bill began to notice that when he frequented restaurants, retail shops, hardware stores, and even supply houses, this principle was in effect. There was an observable pattern. The establishments, whose staff treated guests and customers well, were more likely to be financially stable, and even profitable; while the businesses where service was subpar were eventually closed or bought out by other companies.

Almost everywhere Bill went he observed the same pattern. Curious, he began looking for it. And he found it in operation even in the churches he attended. The churches where the brethren felt welcomed and loved were full. In contrast, the churches where the brethren were treated indifferently, unfairly or inequitably were empty.  Although the empty churches had many names listed on their roster, as well as a steady stream of visitors, neither the visitors nor many of the members returned. 

When Bill asked friends from a church who lacked members why they thought the number of attendees was so low, they responded, “We don’t know, but we’ve done everything we could do.” “We conducted surveys, and acted on the information given” “We changed our worship program and style format, added programs and seminars that people said they wanted, we even refurbished our building, but very few have stayed. We can’t figure out what went wrong.”

Perplexed, Bill thought, “These people have had a poor return on their investment; don’t they know people move people?” And the more he pondered this idea, the more he thought, “It’s not really that people move people, it’s thoughtful, kind, considerate and caring (loving) attitudes, demonstrated in efficient service, that move people – they want more.”

Many church members who are looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth think that their church should be a serving church.  They believe that this is the way Jesus lived, and so should their organization. But it was Jesus’ character of love, which led Him to “seek and save” the lost. His loving service was aligned with this mission. His service to others was a byproduct of the Love (Agape) which was His essence.

In scripture, God has given us descriptions of what life will be like in the new heavens, and the new earth. Thus, in Revelation 21, we read that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  Because there shall be no more curse, prey and predator will graze together in the countryside of the New Jerusalem, with its streets paved with pure gold, its foundations made of precious stones, and its gates made of pearl. 

The city itself is unlike any we will have ever seen, not only because of the building materials, but because there will be no sun, and yet no lamps nor other artificial light needed. As we can see in Revelation 22:3-5, there will not even be night, for the Lord God is Himself the light. His throne and the Lamb’s throne will be within the city, and His governors will have been His servants on earth. Having seen Him here in the person of His Son, in the Word, these servants shall at last see Him face to face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. In other words, because they have seen and known Him here in the form of His character, they have been transformed into His likeness. Consequently, they shall be His reflection in the Kingdom, for they are truly His children, His rightful heirs. 

Many, through the centuries have wondered who will be there, who will ‘get’ to inhabit such a kingdom. ‘It seems so hard’, they say, implying that it is too difficult to live a life ‘fit’ for Heaven. They think you have to give up too much and wonder who can actually ‘make’ it.

To provide evidence for their concerns, those who believe this way use the text Matthew 7:14 which says, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it.” Still others say that the prostitutes and thieves will make it into the kingdom first. Yet scripture says, “that nothing that defiles, or makes a lie, no whoremongers, or adulterers will be there (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:1-5; Rev. 21:7, 8). Still others say only those who are ‘overcomers’ will make it. But, who are they, and what do they overcome? After all, the thief on the cross is perceived as someone who did nothing. Therefore, what is the true answer? Who is right?

Well, if we look at sin, not as specific acts or ungodly actions, or thoughts, but as a condition, which has symptoms that cluster around the self; self-will, self-promotion, self-exaltation, self-preoccupation, self-preservation, self-centeredness, self-ishness-- our perspective will change. When Adam and Eve sinned, they could no longer bequeath Agape to their progeny (us). Instead, we inherited from them an inordinate focus on self. Those who inhabit the kingdom of God, are not lovers of self, but lovers of God, and they love others as He has loved them (John 13:14, 15).

Voluntarily, they lay down their lives in service to others, as directed by the Holy Spirit. They keep neither their hearts and minds, nor their finances in reserve for themselves, because of the gratitude and love they have for the Saviour.  In humble submission, and belief, they yield up their rights. Consequently their thoughts, feelings, and actions spring forth from the disinterested motive of agape love, which is the essence of the Holy Spirit who actuates them.                                      
-Raul Diaz