Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
"The Holy Spirit: Working Behind The Scenes"
INSIGHT #2 JANUARY 14, 2017
First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit: Working Behind The Scenes"
January 14, 2017
A few weeks ago while waiting at a gate to catch a flight in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I observed a well-dressed man seated on an extra high leather chair. Everything about the construction of this large wood-framed chair and the steps up to it bespoke prominence and importance. At its base a humble-looking man wearing a simple smock and worn pants bent over the man's feet, polishing the shoes of the man in the chair. The question, "Where is Jesus in this scene?" pressed upon my mind.
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth," "humbled Himself" Is. 40:31, Phil. 2:8. It struck me that the shoe-shine man was doing the work of Jesus, "who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" Matt. 25:44 and Mark 10:45.
Jesus came to reveal the Father. The Holy Spirit's purpose, in turn, is to lift up Jesus. And in keeping with the self-effacing character of God, the Holy Spirit Himself is humble. He does not seek the limelight, which is why we read so little of His work in the Bible compared with that of the Father and the Son.
This is contrary to how we naturally think. We like to be noticed, praised, admired, and flattered; not so with the Holy Spirit.
This week's Sabbath School lesson states: "Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks not of Himself, but of Jesus. His work consists in elevating the redemptive work of Jesus. He keeps Himself in the background and puts the floodlight on Jesus."
And again, "This is highly significant. Any emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit that detracts from the Person and work of Jesus Christ is not from the Holy Spirit. As important as the Holy Spirit is for our spiritual life, He should never take the place that is due in our thinking and for our salvation only to Jesus Christ. Wherever Jesus is exalted, the Holy Spirit is at work."
Jesus said, "When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, . . . He will testify of Me" John 15:26.
The Holy Spirit's work has always been to testify of Jesus. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth." 2 Cor. 4:6, 1 Jn. 5:6.
When God said, "Let there be light," the Spirit was there to reveal Jesus who "[had] created these things, who [brought] out their host by number" Is. 40:26.
When God breathed life into Adam, man became a holy habitation of the Holy Spirit. ("Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Cor. 3:16). He was placed in a sacred home (Eden).
Would this new order of being bear witness to the self-sacrificing nature of the character of God? Adam was created in the very image of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he desired nothing but to do God's will.
Lucifer had introduced a new spirit into the heavenly courts that was opposite of the character of God. Instead of utilizing his gifts for service, his heart became lifted up. He became proud and came to feel that he deserved to be ruler of the universe. He wanted to "ascend above the heights of the clouds," to "be like the Most High" Is. 14:14. He wanted to make a name for himself.
In yielding to Satan's temptation, Adam imbibed of this counterfeit spirit, thereby expelling the Holy Spirit from his soul temple. The glory of God departed and since we were all "in Adam", self took its place on the throne of the heart of every son and daughter of Adam since. Henceforth, "the natural man [would no longer] receive the things of the Spirit of God," though but a short time before he had fully reflected God's image, "for they [had become] foolishness to him; nor [would] he know them, because they [were] spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14. Reflective of Adam's new spiritual state, he was cast out of his sanctuary home. No longer would God commune with His new family face to face as he had heretofore.
The Holy Spirit would provide the promised enmity against the deceiver in His work of revealing Jesus following the entrance of sin. In astonishment the onlooking universe listened as Jesus laid bare the "mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom] which God ordained before the world unto our glory," (2 Cor. 2:7) to our first parents: the Creator would become the Savior. He who had breathed the breath of lives into Adam would give his life to the world again as He breathed his last on the cross.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor. 5:21.
The restoration of the divine image in the soul of fallen man would call forth every resource of heaven. It would precipitate an outflowing of love to an evil and thankless race of beings that would astonish the angels, fallen and unfallen alike.
Jesus would reach across the abyss to rescue the fallen race by becoming one of His own creation. From the moment of conception, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. The body He took was not like the body He had prepared for Adam in his sinless state. The flesh that Jesus took was weakened by 4,000 years of sin.
Christ was made to be as weak as the weakest sinner on earth in order to be the Savior of all men. There was no depth to which His love would not reach to save us. In order that we might overcome even as He overcame, Christ crucified the flesh and its sinful desires. "Not my will, but Thine be done," was His prayer. By surrendering His life to the Spirit's leading each day, He obtained complete victory over sin and the grave, and He imparts to us this gift of the indwelling Spirit enabling us to live even as He did in this world.
In the wilderness, the erection of the earthly tabernacle served to illustrate God's desire for His dwelling place in the heart of man to be restored: "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell among them." Ex. 25:8. Here the Holy Spirit was at work, not simply in guiding the physical details of the construction, but in pointing to Jesus. All aspects of the sanctuary pointed to His saving ministry, and it was the Holy Spirit's work to bring this message home to each heart.
After 6,000 years of sin, some have grown weary of waiting for Jesus to come and restoring us to our original Eden home. Many people vainly seek what pleasure they can from this present world, not seeing the world to come through the eyes of faith nor recognizing the gift of salvation made in their behalf. Many have sought to silence the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit which points us to Jesus and away from ourselves.
Humanity naturally desires to either suppress the quiet voice of the Spirit through a sensory experience or to shut out the voice entirely through purposeful silence, or both.
While to all appearances the world is without faith, we know that there are people everywhere who are listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Their lives give evidence of this work as they are transformed into the image of Jesus.
Nearly 130 years ago the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer, began. This inauspicious beginning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not accompanied by fits of spiritual ecstasy or dramatic miracles, but by the lifting up of Jesus on the cross. Though unheard of by many, neglected by others, and despised by some, this most precious is still "the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" (1SM, p. 363).
The Holy Spirit still has much to teach us about Jesus. From the pages of the 1893 GC Bulletin we read : "When that message of God's righteousness--the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, God's right doing--when that is received and is allowed to be carried on, and is held by his people, what does that mean about the work of God on earth?--It will be but a short time until the whole thing is done . . . " (A.T. Jones, p. 243).
Our neighbor is a civil engineer. One of the jobs he recently undertook was to construct a new interstate bridge near where we live. It took several years to complete that bridge. Now his company is removing the old bridge, section by section. After removing the concrete, he describes how the next task is to weaken the steel structure. The last step is to plant dynamite throughout the remaining steel frame. In one day (which happens to be today when I am writing this), the dynamite will explode, blowing up and collapsing the whole remaining structure. Every bit of steel will be removed and the old bridge will be as though it had never been.
In our world today, the Holy Spirit has lit small lamps burning with the love of Jesus in the hearts of people all over the globe. Warmed by the message of Jesus Christ our righteousness they respond as do the disciples of old: "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" (Lk. 24:32)
We cannot see this work, because it is internal, but we can know by faith that the work is taking place. In the future, as "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus" deepens and matures, in an instant, like fire through the stubble, the earth will be lightened with the glory of God. The old Babylonian way of salvation via self will collapse, and the redeemed will "make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low" Isaiah 40:4. That highway leads us back to our Eden home, where God's tabernacle will once again be "with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people" (Rev. 21:3.
Such is the work the Holy Spirit will accomplish in these last days, and throughout eternity that still, small voice will continue to unfold new revelations of Jesus. "They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" Rev. 22:4.