Friday, January 19, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #3 January 20, 2018

First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #3
"God or Mammon"
January 20, 2018
The title of the quarterly for this new lesson of 2018 is exactly correct – "Stewardship:  Motives of the Heart".  You could put anything for the first word – obedience, sacrifice, worship, music, recreation, theology, lifestyle, Sabbath, etc. - and then follow it with "motives of the heart", and it would be a right reflection of what God is hoping will be the reason that we are engaged with His Kingdom.  What is in our heart when it comes to ANYTHING in Christian experience?
The religion of obligation, the religion of fear or reward, the religion of "ought to" or "should", the religion of trying harder, the religion of emotionalism – all produce religious experiences outside the religion that comes from an intelligent, faith-filled, heartwarming, understanding discernment of what God's kingdom is meant to be composed of.
God is looking for individuals who value His principles so highly, who respect what He stands for so much, and value Him so highly for the love and freedom and independence that He has bestowed on them, that to break with His eternal ideals of love and freedom, which are the basis of His character and thus His kingdom, that they would never, ever, turn to align themselves with self and selfishness.
Unfortunately, it is common in religious life to default back to the motives that aren't from a heart of appreciation and understanding.  The religion of fear and reward have been hard-wired into our spiritual DNA – and sometimes it comes out.  On Sabbath afternoon's lesson this week, after sharing God's "perspective on excessive obsession with money", the author states that Christ's words to the wealthy fool of Luke 12 "should put the fear of God in us all".  In the next paragraph we are reminded, not that true stewardship is a "motive of the heart", but that we will all one day have to give an account to God – true.
I wonder however, does God want us to be faithful stewards because we have to give Him and account – and thus we should have the fear of God in us all?  Or, does God want us to be faithful stewards because we honestly and truly care about His bride – the church?  Does God want us to be faithful stewards because of rewards received and punishments averted, or because we see the beauty and practicality of the stewardship and financial principles of God's kingdom?
"It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him."  {DA 480.3}
What?  Be a Christian with no thought for the reward we'll get or the punishment averted?  Why else be a Christian – or a faithful steward – if not to get rewarded or avoid punishment?
"The sight of (Jesus) attracts"?  "Love awakens in the heart"?  We hear His voice and we follow Him – just because He's beautiful and attractive?  We behold His matchless love and we say we want to live by those principles – to do what's right because it is right?  Is that what true, mature, meat not milk, grown-up Christianity actually looks like?  Can we conceive of a whole corporate church body that do the God thing not with any hint of fear or reward motives, but because they love God and love His principles – what a beautiful picture!
As Pastor Robert Wieland used to illustrate – the flower girl goes to the wedding because she wants to eat the wedding cake (the reward!).  But the bride is at the wedding because she loves, respects, and honors the groom!  Which is it for us?  Which is it for us as individuals – and for us as an Adventist church?  Are we Seventh-day Adventist Christians because we feel that gives us the best chance of getting our slice of the heavenly "cake"?  Or, are we Seventh-day Adventist Christians because the truths and doctrines of Adventism have given us incredible insights and understandings about the beauty and attractiveness and "rightness" of God and His principles?
I want to encourage you.  I want to encourage myself.  I want to encourage us as a church.  Jesus is attractive.  Jesus is beautiful.  Jesus is the exact and perfect revelation of the beauty and attractiveness of God.  Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.  And in looking at Him, the motives of reward and fear will grow strangely dim, in the light of Jesus' glory and grace.
Stewardship – whatever it is - may it be motivated by a heart appreciation of the love of God as manifested in Jesus' life and death.  As we continue our study this quarter, never forget, it's the goodness (good news, gospel) of God that leads to repentance – and true stewardship.
~Bob Hunsaker