Friday, November 21, 2014

The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom

Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"
For the week of November 22, 2014

James is a valuable book of the Bible.  Yet, for many, including myself, it has been a rather difficult book to understand and appreciate.  I understand and relate to Martin Luther, who also had great difficulty with the book of James and referred to it as an "epistle of straw."  He later changed his views of the book.  I too had to go through a change of views regarding James.  His counsel is much needed by the last generation of believers, the group that will compose the remnant of the seed of the woman.

Our lesson this week draws valuable insight from James.  Though the passage from which our memory text is taken does have the potential for misunderstanding.  The lesson author has done us a service by taking the text from the NASB translation where it reads:  "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:10, NASB).  The familiar KJV translation of this text reads, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord."  And I suppose that rendering has the same meaning, yet it is a little easier to overlook.  The NASB demands that we pause and consider what is being communicated.

We are always in the sight of the Lord.  The Holy Spirit, Who is God, is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7 – 10).  Thus, though we may, at times, completely fail to realize or take cognizance of the fact that we are also in the presence of the Lord.  Upon first reading the words, "Humble yourselves . . ." one may be tempted to have a negative reaction.  We may ask questions like, "What kind of legalism is this?"  "I can't humble myself."  After all, this is a call to crucify the flesh, with its passions and desires.  And no one can crucify themselves.  If is physically impossible.  And the spiritual reality is just as impossible as the analogous physical reality.  This is a task that requires outside help.  Thus, at first glance, one might be tempted to label this call in the epistle of James to "humble" ourselves as a species of legalism.  But would that be an accurate assessment?

The text says, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord."  As already observed, we are, whether we realize it or not, always in God's presence.  There is certainly sufficient reason for us to walk humbly before the Lord.  Yet, how many fail to understand or realize this reasoning.  God is so awesome if we really understand something of His character, He is so gracious, so tender, so compassionate, so loving, and long suffering, He is so good, if we could realize even 1/10 of 1% of His goodness to us, we would be stunned, overwhelmed, gobsmacked, dumbfounded.   Yet, we often fail to realize or comprehend these great, yea even awesome, realities, because we fail to cherish the gift of faith.

When I use the term faith, I do not speak of "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).  That definition can be difficult to perceive, process, and appreciate.  I speak of that faith which Mary displayed (Luke 7:50) when she came to Jesus with an alabaster box of ointment, very costly, very precious, and she poured it all out in grateful appreciation for what Jesus had become to her.  If we appreciated the goodness of the Lord, if we appreciated His grace, His compassion, His mercy, long suffering, and tender love, we would be moved to walked humbly before Him.

In other words, genuine humility is a natural byproduct of genuine faith.  Now, I realize that the Bible says, "God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3, NKJV).  Yet, this announcement does not prove that all human beings have faith.  The Bible is quite explicit in declaring of us "not all have faith" (2 Thess. 3:2).  So evidently not all "keep . . . the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12), which is freely given to all.  There are a number of things that we could do to destroy our faith.  We could deliberately, knowingly, presumptuously, walk contrary to the convicting promptings of the Holy Spirit and step by step destroy our faith.  We can, like Pharaoh of old, sin and sin again, deliberately hardening our hearts until the voice of the Spirit is no longer heard because we have committed blasphemy against Him. 

Yet, there must be some who will keep the faith.  This means there must someday be a group of people presented who will cherish the faith which has been given to them.  There must be a people who will live up to all the light that they have and thereby become the recipients of even greater light.  There must be a people who will exercise their faith during the dark days.  There must be a people who will keep the faith, in the face of discouraging circumstances, annoying trials, perplexing difficulties, disturbing, disconcerting, mind boggling disappointments.  There must be a people who will not fail or be discouraged though severely tried.  When they do not understand or even fathom what is happening to them, there must be a people who are motivated to say as Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15).  They appreciate so deeply the great love and everlasting mercy of God that, come what may, they will honor His name at every step, counting these earthly trials a very small matter in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.  There must be a people who will count the most severe tests and trials that Satan can devise as but "a light affliction" enduring for "but a moment," in comparison with the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

There must be a people who have seen the cross of Christ, not the wooden instrument of execution, not the cruel techniques of human physical and psychological torture, not the intense burden of earthly agony inflicted by a pagan system's criminal justice, but the greater agony, the heartache, and literal soul trauma so intense and so supremely severe, that it crushed out the life of the Son of God, while "His physical pain was hardly felt" (DA753).  When there are a people whose eyes have truly seen the glory of the Lord blazing fourth from a hill called Calvary, then the heart of our divine Saviour will "be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11) and the end of all things shall come.

These are the people who will not need to be told to humble themselves.  These are the people who will not need to be enticed with promises of celestial pleasures and exquisite heavenly delights.  These are a people who will not be motivated by the prospect of celestial space flight, or the pleasure of designing and building their own homes in a new and beautiful earth.  These people will not even consider the threatening of eternally burning inextinguishable fires.  These people will be a group of people who cannot be stopped, cannot be dissuaded, cannot be discouraged, sidetracked, or detoured from a resolute, unchangeable, irrevocable, decision to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  That path will lead them through the deep waters.  Yet they will know that the waters shall not overflow them.  And it will lead them through the fire.  Yet they know that they will not be burned.  For they know and are confident that the Lord is with them for they have understood that they are precious in His sight.

It is this confidence and knowledge that will truly humble them in the presence of the Lord.  And they shall be His when He shall make up his jewels (Mal. 317).
-Mark Duncan

Raul Diaz