Thursday, September 05, 2013

“Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change”

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change”
For the week of Sept. 7, 2013

Our lesson this week is about the continual transformation that must take place in our lives. Each day of the week’s lesson illustrates renovating grace in the lives of the first disciples of Christ. These are examples of what God’s grace will do in those who are faulty, but “willing to be made willing. Not only is God’s grace a justifying grace (Rom 3:24), it is also His power working within us to change us and to grow us more and more into the likeness of Christ. Grace is always greater and stronger than our sinful nature and our sin (Rom 5:20). If it were not so, it would be impossible for us to change or to grow.

Growth and change does not involve our promises and pledges, for these are ropes of sand. Continual faith and the willingness to cooperate with God that is key to constant transformation. Our cooperation does not depend on our spiritual “back bone” or, in other words, our will power. However, cooperation does involve the power of the will. The strength of the will is in choosing. The power comes from surrendering the will to God’s will. This is where the battle of every believer (and of every unbeliever) is won or lost. Grace, faith and surrender of the will to God are the deciding factors in reformation, in change and growth.

Reform is not always easy. In fact “history has proved that it is easier to destroy the world than to reform it.” But reform is much easier when we are dead to self: “Why is it so hard to lead a self-denying, humble life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. It is easy living after we are dead.” 

So we must not “conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. It is true that Satan's path is made to appear attractive, but it is all a deception; in the way of evil there are bitter remorse and cankering care.” 

    A.T. Jones put it this way:  “It can never be repeated too often that under the reign of grace it is just as easy to do right as under the reign of sin it is easy to do wrong. This must be so, for if there is not more power in grace than there is in sin, then there can be no salvation from sin.  … Salvation from sin certainly depends upon there being more power in grace than there is in sin....”

   What we “need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.”

    As soon as the will is submitted to Jesus, He immediately takes control of any situation in which we find ourselves. In writing to a young man who went back into his habits of sinning, Mrs White penned:
   “It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this, God will immediately take possession and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ, and even your thoughts will be subject to Him.”

   And she also recorded: “God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the powers and faculties given to man. Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are "willing to be made willing," the Saviour will accomplish this for us, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.”

    We observe this in the experiences of Christ’s disciples. With the exception of one, all the apostles experienced the surrender of their wills to the will of God. This was not without incident. They were selfish and proud. James and John, the “sons of thunder,” became apostles of love. Doubting Thomas became a heart-felt believer. The denying Peter became a most self-sacrificing apostle. Even the brothers of Jesus “did not believe in Him” (John 7:5), but they too were changed into believers and grew in grace (Acts 1:14).  What made the change in all of these? It was the cross of Christ. Notice the following thought:

     “The cross stands alone, a great center in the world. It does not find friends, but it makes them. It creates its own agencies. Christ proposes that men shall become laborers together with God. He makes human beings His instrumentalities for drawing all men unto Himself. A divine agency is sufficient only through its operation on human hearts with its transforming power, making men colaborers with God”

    In closing, the foundation of all reformation is always based on the cross. This is always true.  When a person is “willing to be made willing” change and growth will occur. Christ then is permitted to work within us and we will work out what He works in. (Phil 2:13, 12). 

-Jerry Finneman

 Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 26, 1890.
 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 131.
 Thoughts From The Mount of Blessing,  p. 139.
 A.T. Jones, Review and Herald, Sept 1, 1889.
 White, Steps to Christ p. 47.
 White, Testimonies for the Church vol. 5, p. 514.
 White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 482, 483; see also The Mount of Blessings, pp. 142, 143.
 Review and Herald. Sept. 29, 1891.