Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“Living Like Christ”

Insights #7 August16, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Living Like Christ"
For the week of August 16, 2014

The memory text for this week is Jn.13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  As the lesson rightly points out, this "commandment" was not something new in the New Testament, but goes all the back to the five books of Moses.  "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev.19:18), and "Love (the stranger) as yourself" (Lev.19:34).
However, if we go even further back in time, we note that relating to "others" with love, has its origin in the heart of God from eternity past before any other beings were created.  In Jn.17:24, Jesus remembers the love of the Father for Him back in eternity past – before the foundations (creation) of the world (cosmos in Greek).  "for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."
God didn't begin to engage in the attitude of loving, giving, and self-sacrifice with the beginning of creation in this world or in the universe at large.  God has always engaged in loving, giving, and self-sacrifice, because it is the fundamental reality of His nature and being.
Sadly, while our message for the world is the love of God in Jesus Christ, we have become known more for our promotion of law-keeping and obedience.  We are reminded that, "Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel's message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. It is at the cross of Christ that mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other. The sinner must be led to look to Calvary; with the simple faith of a little child he must trust in the merits of the Saviour, accepting His righteousness, believing in His mercy."  {GW 156.2}
Satan has done a tremendous job both through our own failures and wrong emphases, as well as causing others to misunderstand our message, in making us appear and too often in actuality become, the promoters of obedience to the exclusion of the goodness and love of God in Christ.  How often in "living like Christ," we have ended up living with a hyper-focus on mere behavioral conformity.
A.T.Jones clarified this for us in an article in the American Sentinel where he makes the point that contemporary evangelical Christianity actually has the legalistic focus in trying to control society's behavior through legislation and not through the love of Christ.  To "live like Christ" is to work to change the heart through a revelation of the goodness of God, which leads to repentance, rather than a mere behavioral conformity legislated to give an appearance of righteousness.
"'MORE law, more law,' is the cry (that) comes from the conventions of the religious societies of the land, as they consider the threatening evils in civil government and in society. . . .

"All this they do as professors of the Christian religion. They do it in the name of Jesus Christ. But is this what Jesus would have them do? Is this the fulfilling of the mission of Christ to the earth? This is a vital question, and should be carefully considered by Christians before taking action as has been taken by these societies.

"Did Jesus Christ come to the world to condemn the world, or to add condemnation to that already upon the world?—No; he expressly declared that he came not to condemn the world, but to save the world. The world is condemned already; it is overwhelmingly condemned by its sin, and unless it can escape from the condemnation, it must perish. The mission of Christ was to provide this way of escape from condemnation, and the mission of Christians is to point the people to this way of escape.

"The law of God condemns the world. Every law condemns the transgressor; and that is all it can do for him. The more law, therefore, the more condemnation. The people of the world are already overwhelmingly condemned by their sin, and now professed Christians want to keep upon all this the condemnation of new laws. . . . They want new and more stringent legislation, to make the world better! But legislation has no power to save, but only to condemn." {August 10, 1899 ATJ, AMS 485.4}

Jesus Christ came to save the world, but made no effort to secure legislation. He did however give a "new commandment," and what was it?—"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." John 13:34. This is the only new law that can properly be advocated in the name of Christ.

"In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus Christ announced his mission to the world in these words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised.' The gospel message is a message not of repression, but of liberty. This and this only is the message of Christians to the world to-day." {August 10, 1899 ATJ, AMS 485.6}

May we as Christian Seventh-day Adventists, daily understand and pursue the experience that to live as Christ lived is to live in an attitude to giving.  The world's picture of Christianity is one of restriction and bondage, may we reveal to them in our loving and giving that Christianity is the religion not of legislation and restriction, but of liberty from sin – not in mere behavioral conformity, but liberty from the allure and attraction to sin.  The true freedom that Christ had to love without concern for Himself.
-Bob Hunsaker