Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“Christ's Kingdom and the Law”

Insights #13 June 28, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ's Kingdom and the Law"
For the week of June 28, 2014
Victor enjoyed giving gifts to those he loved! He put a lot of thought and effort into listening closely to what the other person liked, needed or wanted. Not only did he purchase the best possible gift, he also spent time writing a special note to the recipient, to accompany the gift. He even went so far as to wrap each gift uniquely and also found equally unique ways to present them. Victor was pleased as he saw his gifts received appreciatively and with gratitude. Sometimes the recipients, teary eyed, even embraced him, which made him feel all the more content and satisfied. Through giving such gifts, Victor expresses his love and affection.

When Victor courted Laura, he did the same with her.  They would go for walks or shopping together.  While they walked they often talked about many different topics. One day, during conversation, Laura shared things with Victor which he took as indications of what she would like as a gift. She, of course, loved the gift. But, not for the reasons Victor thought.

Months later, when they took premarital counseling, Laura was asked what she liked most about Victor. She answered, "I like that he does things with me, like shopping, going for walks, and other activities. And, he does it without rushing or just tolerating it, but to genuinely please me." Victor looked perplexed. The counselor asked Victor if he had something to say and Victor responded, "I thought you really liked my gifts. You always seemed so appreciative."  To which Laura replied, "I do like your gifts! They are very nice. But, they are always a reminder that you gave me a gift because you learned something about me while doing something with me." Victor replied, "But, you also give nice gifts." "I saw that you enjoyed giving nice gifts, so I just naturally thought you would appreciate nice gifts. I also feel loved when you do things with me," Victor added, "But not as much as when you give me nice gifts. It leaves me thinking, 'she gets me; I want to spend time with her.'" The counselor asked Laura, "What if Victor gave you gifts, without doing things with you?"  Laura face took on an expression of surprised disappointment, and she shook her head saying, "Oh no. Then it would feel like he is trying to make up for not spending time with me."

Unbeknownst to Victor and Laura they loved each other in their own love language; not their partner's love language. Had Victor given Laura gifts without doing activities with her, she would have felt unloved. If Laura had joined Victor in his activities and had not given gifts to him, he would have felt unloved as well. It would have been as if they both deposited in each other's emotional bank account with a currency worth nothing in that bank. When it came time to make a withdrawal, they would not have known their respective accounts were empty, thus, the account would be overdrawn. This overdrawn status is when silent treatments, sarcasm and arguments occur.

Could there also be something such as a spiritual bank account? The story of the young rich ruler provides an answer to that question. The rich young ruler asked, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). Jesus bade him keep the commandments. The ruler replied, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" (Matt. 19:20). Looking lovingly at the young man, Jesus pointed out to him his deficiency in keeping the divine law: he did not love his neighbor as himself. His selfish love of riches was a defect, which, if not remedied, would bar him from heaven. {CS 210.3}  Jesus invited him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me" (Matt. 19:21).  Notice that Christ told the young rich ruler, "sell what you have, give the money to the poor, and you will lay up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy."  The rich young ruler said he kept the law, yet, he was not laying up treasures in Heaven.  He was not depositing in heaven's spiritual bank account.

"When Christ showed the rich young ruler that he loved his riches more than his neighbor, the young man went away sorrowful. He chose that which would bring him personal satisfaction, recognition and prestige. He chose to cling to his idols. In similar fashion, the multitudes who had been fed by Christ in the desert place imagined that they loved God; but when He reproved them, charging them with caring more for the bread, which would perish, than for the bread of life, they became angry, and many turned away from him. Even Simon thought he loved Jesus, but when he found that a poor, sorrowful, repentant woman was esteemed more highly than himself, the shallowness of his love was proved." {ST, July 21, 1890 par. 2}

What did Christ ask the young man to do?  Love God and others above himself in his daily life.  The commandments involve following Jesus in service to the poor from an unselfish heart, but the young man loved his riches....The all-important question in the Judgment will be, Have we learned to love others with heavenly love? Not how many "works of the law" have we engaged in, but have we received His overflowing love and allowed it to spill over onto others daily. Jesus separates His people as sheep from goats on that one score of true love (Matt 25:31-46)... In John's magnificent chapter on agape-love it is revealed that He who loves God will also love his brother (1 John 4: 21).  The point is that those who truly love with a godly love will help the impoverished with an unselfish heart.  Many may help the poor, but with a selfish heart, expecting a reward or recognition from the Master.  But, Paul says 1 Corinthians 13:3, that even, "... if I shall dole out all my goods in food, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but have not love, I profit nothing." We read in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  We may deceive ourselves into thinking that we love God. But, our neglect of our fellow human being proves differently.  Ellen White states,

"Millions of people in our world are making the choice made by the young ruler. They have intelligence, but they cannot decide to be honest stewards of their Lord's goods. Many say, "I will bless and glorify myself; I will be honored as a man above his fellows." Jesus paid the price for their redemption; for their sake he became poor that they might be rich; and yet, though wholly dependent on him for all their earthly possessions, they refuse to do his will by showing love to their fellow men. They are not willing to relieve the necessities of those around them with the means which the Lord has placed in their hands for this purpose. They refuse to appropriate the Lord's capital for the benefit of others, and hold fast to their possessions. Like the ruler, they refuse the heavenly treasure, and choose that which is agreeable to themselves. By such selfishness they prove themselves unworthy of the eternal riches. They show that they are unfit for a place in the kingdom of God; if they were allowed to enter there, they would, like the great apostate, claim everything as if they had created it, and would spoil heaven by their covetousness."  {RH, December 14, 1897 par. 7} 

The young rich ruler represents those which Christ spoke of in Matthew 7 and 25.  They thought that what they did would open the gates of the Kingdom.  But, their neglect in aiding Jesus by lovingly caring for those in need closed the doors to them.  They thought they were rich, increased in goods and in need of nothing, but they were indeed wretched, poor and naked.  Christ enjoined them and He enjoins us to repent and be converted.  May the love of God fill our hearts and overflow like a fountain of water toward others.
-Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz