Insights #3 July 19, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Holy Spirit"
For the week of July 19, 2014
"The Holy Spirit"
For the week of July 19, 2014
"When about to leave His disciples, Christ was in search of the greatest comfort He could give them. He promised them the Holy Spirit-- the Comforter--to combine with man's human effort. What promise is less experienced, less fulfilled to the church, than the promise of the Holy Spirit? When this blessing, which would bring all blessings in its train, is dropped out, the sure result is spiritual drought. This is the reproach that meets the sermonizer. The church must arise and no longer be content with the meager dew." (EGW 1888 Materials, p. 435.1; "The Need of a True Concept of Righteousness by Faith," Denver, Colorado, September 13, 1889)
In these words given to the ministers at the Colorado Camp Meeting the summer after the Minneapolis General Conference Session, Ellen White addressed the promise of the Holy Spirit, for our day. Do we sense our need of "the greatest comfort [Jesus] could give"? Why would we allow "this blessing" to be "dropped out"? Why do we accept "spiritual drought" and "meager dew"? Indeed, "this blessing" will "bring all blessings in its train"! But we must view this promise as did the disciples on that Pentecost day. "All blessings" are not to feed our ego. They are not things to help us in our self-centered contention to discover "who is the greatest." It is our self-focus that blinds us to our own need of Him. Like the disciples did (Judas excepted), we must embrace the cross, and let it destroy those selfish plans. Then "the Blessing of Abraham"--"the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14)--will empower us to be a blessing to others in need, to bless others unselfishly as God has blessed us.
The mysterious nature of this Divine Being need not puzzle us, for we are not called to understand the nature of His being, other than the simple evidence we are given--He "is as much a person as God is a person"; He "has a personality"; He "must also be a divine person"; and He is one of the three "eternal heavenly dignitaries" (Evangelism, pp. 616, 617). Indeed, this gift, "this blessing," is none other than "the third Person of the Godhead" (The Desire of Ages, p. 671.2). But in contrast to trying to grasp the nature of His being, we must study in depth the nature of His character, for it is vitally important.
The humility of this Being has confused us as much as the humility of the Son of God confused those to whom He came. We must not confuse the humility of His character with the exalted nature of His being. Jesus promised His church Someone to take His place. Just as Jesus was "meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29), so the fruit of the Spirit's presence will include "meekness" (Galatians 5:23). The Spirit will testify of Jesus (John 15:26)--His righteousness, His faith and love.
"The truth" Jesus was born to "bear witness" to (John 18:37) was the truth about the Father--His character of unselfish love. Jesus embodied that (John 14:6, 9). He was here on a mission to reveal the humble glory, the simple beauty of unselfishness--the driving character quality in which the Godhead had fellowshipped from eternity (see John 3:11; 1:18; 1 John 1:2, 3). When Jesus left this earth, His replacement would continue the witness. He is "the Spirit of the truth" who in the unselfishness of Their character, does "not speak of Himself" but will, if we receive "the love of the truth," guide us "into all the truth." (John 16:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; the definite article--"the"--is in each verse as quoted, "the truth").
As a human Jesus was born "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3; like us), but was conceived through the Spirit (Luke 1:35; unlike us). He would ever be dependent here as a human on the presence of the Spirit (John 3:34; 1:32). Thus He would not live by His own divine nature, but "by the Father" (John 6:57). In fact, He confessed in His identity with our human and sinful condition, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30; see 5:19). This is the same verb He used in telling His disciples, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). This dependence on the Spirit led Him in an amazing ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing (Matthew 4:23). He was "the pattern Man, the great Medical Missionary--an example for all who should come after." (Medical Ministry, p. 20.1).
His unselfishness and humility led Him to indentify with us in our human inability. And the Spirit brings the same character qualities to us, to identify with others, to empower us as He did Jesus, for unselfish service, to teach us what "the truth" of God's character looks like in real life, not just in Bible teachings, but in what we could call "applied theology"--the challenges of representing God in the issues of every day life. We "can do nothing" in those areas of need without the Spirit's help. And He wants to help us more than we sense our need of Him.
The proving ground is learning as Paul did, how to deal with "sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17, 20). The only answer we have is the one Paul found, for each of us to have a mind transformed to "delight in the law of God" (Rom. 7:22, 23; compare 8:26, 27), and for the Spirit to "dwell in" us (8:9, 11; same verb as chapter 7) to enable us to handle that part of us that has not been changed, and won't be until "the redemption of our body" (8:23). As we experience that freedom from "the law of sin and death" through the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (8:2), we are enabled to assist others to see how to find the same liberty.
This must have been the core of the process of transformation the disciples experienced that led them through the events of Luke 24 to the condition of being, finally, "with one accord" (Acts 1:14, 2:1). And the results, the corollary event from the throne of God Himself, was an outpouring of the Spirit in supernatural power for witness (Acts 2:2-4, 33). Jesus, not self, was exalted (2:22-36).
Adventism has been stuck somewhere between Luke 22 and Luke 24, in the movement from the beginning of the antitypical Day of Atonement, toward the realization of the Latter Rain. (See Early Writings, p. 271.2; 1888 Materials, p. 27.1; Pamphlet #2 PH002, p. 25.2.) For some 125 years God has been waiting, in His long-suffering, for us accept the ministry of Jesus from the Most Holy Place, sending a message that alone will bring us to "one accord." What is our need? It was graphically described 118 years ago almost to the day of this Sabbath lesson, in an article entitled, of all things, "Why the Lord Waits." Let's read it on our knees.
"Every truly converted soul will be intensely desirous to bring others from the darkness of error into the marvelous light of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The great outpouring of the Spirit of God, which lightens the whole earth with his glory, will not come until we have an enlightened people, that know by experience what it means to be laborers together with God. When we have entire, whole-hearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of his Spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with God. God cannot pour out his Spirit when selfishness and self-indulgence are so manifest; when a spirit prevails that, if put into words, would express that answer of Cain,--'Am I my brother's keeper?' If the truth for this time, if the signs that are thickening on every hand, that testify that the end of all things is at hand, are not-sufficient to arouse the sleeping energy of those who profess to know the truth, then darkness proportionate to the light which has been shining will overtake these souls. There is not the semblance of an excuse for their indifference that they will be able to present to God in the great day of final reckoning. There will be no reason to offer as to why they did not live and walk and work in the light of the sacred truth of the word of God, and thus reveal to a sin-darkened world, through their conduct, their sympathy, and their zeal, that the power and reality of the gospel could not be controverted." (Review and Herald, July 21, 1896 par. 2)
When this "outpouring of his Spirit without measure" comes, after the above-described prerequisites that stops grieving away this heavenly Guest (EGW 1888 Materials, p. 695.6), "the meager dew" will turn into a "tidal wave" on an unprecedented scale (see Selected Messages, Vol. 3, p. 160.6). Let us welcome the preparation!
- Fred Bischoff