The lessons for this quarter are about the righteousness of Christ as lived out in a life of stewardship. Stewardship involves motives of the mind with resulting actions carried out in the life of believers. Stewardship is fruit from faith in Christ alone. Our love for Christ is carried out in stewardship. God gives us material blessings and the strength to acquire them. He also gives us the ability to properly use them. This is what stewardship is about. However, the desire of getting and having things may become more important than the most essential matter: eternal life.
While in this world, we are in conflict with enemy number one – selfishness. Selfishness is the sin of the world. And the world with its selfishness has invaded the church. It was in the church in the days of Christ. His chosen 12 battled with it. Christ struck at the very root of selfishness in the sacrifice of Himself for the benefit of mankind. Christ's selflessness defeated the selfishness of the world in and by His death on the cross. This defeat was a fatal blow to the prince of all selfishness – the devil.
Satan was supremely in love with himself. We learn this from Ezekiel's descriptive narrative of his fall (Ezekiel 28:12-19): "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17). He became arrogant because of his God-given beauty. His heart – his inner self with the will and mind – was bent inward to total love for himself. Because of his pride he corrupted and misused his God-given wisdom and squandered the goods given to him. He ceased to be a steward for God and became a fool. The Good News Translation (2nd ed.) puts it this way: "You were proud … and your fame made you act like a fool."
Lucifer walked on streets of gold. He wore ornaments of gold along with sparkling gems. These things became his god. He became greedy and coveted other things material. His materialism led him to covet God's position. From the god of materialism he became his own idol with supreme worship of himself. Isaiah wrote additional thoughts of his self- adulation in chapter 14 verses 13 and 14:
For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'
In this passage there are five personal pronouns ("I") and one adjective ("my") recorded. There is a total of 48 English words describing the covetous activity of Lucifer. In the Septuagint there are 30 Greek words and in the Hebrew Bible, 24 words are used. In English, Lucifer's use of personal pronouns is 1 in 8 words. In Greek, his use of personal pronouns is 1 in 5 words and in Hebrew it is 1 in 4.
Years ago, I wrote in the margin of my Bible the following idea (the source, however, I neglected to write down): The use of the terms "I", "me" and "my" used once in 26 words is normal. Used once in 12 these personal pronouns are considered abnormal and the use of them once in 7 or 8 words is indicative of a mental problem. My conclusion then and now is this: in whatever language used, in this passage, we may safely conclude that Lucifer has a severe mental problem.
Later, after Adam and Eve, in their perfect environment of Paradise, accepted the devil's lies they began to blame one another in self-defense. This love of self has been passed on to their posterity both by inheritance and by nurture. This includes all of us. Without exception. As a consequence, we are incapable of free choice for good, independently of God's marvelous grace (2 Timothy 2:26). Fortunately, His grace was manifested as soon as our original parents sinned. In the promise of Genesis 3:15 we have the assurance of supernatural grace in the battle against self and Satan. This is the enmity God promised – His grace placed between Christ and Satan and, because of Christ, between ourselves and Satan.
Not only has the world turned to materialism as its god. This idolatry has crept into God's church as well. "Selfishness, the sin of the world, has become the prevailing sin of the church. In sacrificing Himself for the good of men, Christ strikes at the root of all selfishness…." Because of what He did for us, "He expects corresponding self-denial and sacrifice on the part of those whom He came to bless and save" (5T 204).
So, the message comes to us from Jesus in the form of a warning: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
We are in danger of identifying with things the world has identified as its deity. This is the sin of which Lucifer was guilty. Because of his attachment to "mammon" Lucifer learned to hate God. He wanted to possess more and still more until he decided to take over all the properties and possessions of God. His lust was to make God subservient to himself. He wanted God to be his steward. The servant was possessed by lust for power and position. He coveted the power but not the character of God. Coveting the very materials of which he was surrounded and which he finally idolized is our danger today.
The lesson for us is this. We must be and shall be divested of selfishness by Christ "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and we shall thus grow more and more like Jesus till the crown of immortality is placed upon our brows." Manuscript 2, May 13, 1884.
Only Christ can deliver us from our self-idolatry. In the very month, of the year 1888, when the Minneapolis General Conference convened, the following message was sent:
The soul that is thus touched [by the Spirit of Christ "with its marvelous awakening power"] will never wrap itself about with self-righteousness, or a pretentious garb of holiness; but will hate its selfishness, abhor its self-love, and will seek, through Christ's righteousness, for that purity of heart which is in harmony with the law of God and the character of Christ. He will then reflect the character of Christ, the hope of glory. It will be the greatest mystery to him that Jesus should have made so great a sacrifice to redeem him. He will exclaim, with humble mien and quivering lip, "He loved me. He gave himself for me. He became poor that I, through His poverty, might be made rich. The man of sorrows did not spurn me, but poured out his inexhaustible, redeeming love that my heart might be made clean; and he has brought me back into loyalty and obedience to all his commandments. His condescension, His humiliation, His crucifixion, are the crowning miracles in the marvelous exhibition of the plan of salvation. That the just should die for the unjust, the pure for the impure, is beyond all manifestations of human love; and all this He has done to make it possible to impart to me His own righteousness, that I may keep the law I have transgressed. For this I adore Him. I will proclaim Him to all sinners. I will cry, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (Ellen White, RH October 16, 1888).
The influence of materialism is extraordinarily great. In this very time of earth's history this influence is far greater than at any other time. It is by far more than we can handle. This cupidity will swallow us and destroy us unless we experience in our lives more power than this increasing power of the world. We will need, in our lives, the super power of God of which Elder Jones spoke when he said that the message of the latter rain will be "ten times the power of '44." This is what he said: "Another testimony that has never been printed says, that this [latter rain] will come as suddenly as it did in '44 and with ten times the power." A.T. Jones, #7, GCB 1893. After reading this I searched for the source from which he cited but could not find it and so I finally decided that it was one of those apocryphal statements attributed to Mrs. White.
Then one day, while reading in the Spaulding and Magan Collection, p. 4, I read the following:
"I saw the latter rain was coming as the midnight cry, and with ten times the power."
(E. G. White, Washington, N.H. Sept. 1852).
(Revelation 17:1-6; 13).
In closing, consider this word of hope from inspiration: "If you would stand through the time of trouble, you must know Christ, and appropriate the gift of His righteousness, which He imputes to the repentant sinner." (RH Nov 22, 1892). We need to know Him, not just about Him. And we need this before the time of trouble. It takes time to get to know Christ Jesus. Do you know Him? This takes time, day after day. Are you taking the time to get to know Him? Knowing Him will acquaint us with His power that delivers from "The Influence of Materialism."