Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Friday, June 14, 2019
“FAMILIES OF FAITH”
"FAMILIES OF FAITH"
Memory Text:Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
We are told in inspiration that we are not to lower our standards at all to meet man in his fallen condition. We are also counseled by the Apostle Paul that we are to, in some extent, to accommodate ourselves to the culture of the people we are trying to reach, if it is in areas that are not a compromise or dishonoring to God in terms of our call to holiness and to be a distinct people, separate from the world.
I recently heard an individual in an administrative capacity state that if anyone discusses any area of problem or concern in the church, they are being "critical" of the church and thus disloyal to it.
The truth is that we need to understand the "fruits" of the Gospel, as we are sanctified by faith in Christ, and experience the truth of "Christ in us, the hope of glory." The goodness of God leads to repentance. The act of Christ redeeming the race, showing His love by dying for each of us, in the true believer brings about a response of faith and appreciation, and true faith works by love and purifies the soul. If we place ourselves utterly under the control of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are led into truth, into His will, and into his wisdom for dealing with each situation, and how to reach a heart, that they might find Christ and become a part of His family and kingdom.
Thus, every act, thought, belief, if under the spirit of Christ, will be according to His will, and as importantly, His Word, for we are to live by "every word of God." I heard once that the argument of women's ordination should be decided through a study of culture, and the growing justice and fairness in the experience of women in modern society. I am not addressing the specific issue, but the mentality that culture should dictate how we resolve issues. Whatever the issue, it must be decided by the Word of God, for we are to speak to culture, preach the everlasting truths of God's Word, His morality, His ethics, His eternal truths, and not "bend with the wind from whichever way it blows." For culture to rule over Scriptures would result in the diminishing of Scripture, and in my time in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I have seen a growing need to get back to strict adherence to the Word of God. We are to LIVE by every word of God, not merely acknowledge that it is intellectually correct, and that means self-discipline, a deep immersion into the Word of God, and a deep surrender to the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 2:15 "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." We are to lighten the world with the glory of God, not be dimmed by the world. Culture is to be warned that some of its practices and ideas are bringing spiritual death. The desire to be "like" the world so as to be comfortable in it misses the essential truth that we will be called "extremists and fanatics" because we choose not to follow the world's practices, but to "Come apart, and be ye separate", and "Love not the world or the things of the world."
Joe Crews once wrote a booklet called "Creeping Compromise." As I read it, I felt that he was largely correct, that the calling we have is to holiness, practical godliness, and it begins and ends in the heart, in the total surrender to serve God in love. Donald Short's book "Cleansing of the Sanctuary" is very clear that a true Christian experience of grace, through faith in Christ, and the resultant heart change that God gives us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, results in the fruits of righteousness. We allow Christ to live out His life in us.
Paul's counsel is related to the dignity, respect, humility, and sensitivity we apply to every situation, in every culture, to seek to understand and reach the heart. It takes creativity at times. I was once in a home in Mongolia, and the woman wanted to feed me something that would have been inappropriate and unhealthy to eat. I told her that "my Physician" told me I was not to eat that, and she accepted that without being insulted. Of course, I was speaking of the Great Physician. I once was offered to drink a glass of lemonade in a village in Central India, which was made from water in the local river. I was the first Adventist ever to visit that village, and the entire village was standing around me. Would you drink it? I did, and then took a half a canister of powdered charcoal to save my life, and I did not get sick. You may have chosen differently, but my point is that we engage culture, and make decisions all the time, seeking to be faithful to God, and yet respectful to those we are serving. I once experienced Mongolian New Year, in which we travelled house to house during the day, sampling their food and exchanging small gifts. In some cases, we were the first Christians and Americans to enter some of their homes. I was later criticized for "eating between meals." If you ever do get the opportunity to do missionary work, and you will, for the US is a mission field, you will find that principles and practices interconnect with social and cultural situations in which you try to be faithful to God, but to be tactful, gentle, and to not offend as well.
Culture reflects both the results of our fallen condition, and the continual work of the Holy Spirit. There are beliefs and practices which are not out of harmony with God's principles, and those we can support without compromise. In addition, Satan mixes truth with error, so that we have to be very wise and discerning. We also have to put the salvation of a soul above other issues on occasion. I once knew a woman who came to church, after being absent for 8 years. She brought a chocolate cake with her to share, and to celebrate her return. Someone took her aside and told her we "don't eat sugary deserts in this church, as we believe in the health message." The woman has never come back to church, in over ten years. This is obedience run amok, to the point of extremism, and insensitivity to the real issues. I fully believe in the health message, and I have my Doctoral degree in naturopathy, but I would have eaten a piece of that cake, and hugged the woman and told her how happy I was she had come back. There are boundaries. I would not have eaten meat, if she had brought that. She would have found out that there are issues with white refined sugar, etc. later on. If you disagree, please read a paper on the internet entitled "146 reasons not to eat sugar", which presents all the medical research on the subject. Educate, rather than admonish, is good counsel. We must do away with the "cookie cutter" approach, in which everyone has to look, eat, dress, talk, worship exactly the same. It is not reality, and from a Biblical perspective, it is wrong. Certain ministries, for example, feel they have a "reputation" to maintain, but if the reputation becomes that of wounding a heart, I would suggest the priorities need to change a bit. Love the sinner, and hate the sin, is a difficult attainment, which takes a great deal of prayer.
In these examples, we may differ in how we would respond, but I hope and pray that we would all agree that the human being's salvation is more important than anything else, and thus our constant need is to seek to apply Biblical principles in the effort towards restoration and healing of the human soul.
I and my wife have been to 6 continents, and what I have learned is very simple. We all are more alike than different, we all have a sinful nature, we all have a Savior, and His work transcends culture, to the Heavenly culture, for we are to live like citizens of Heaven.
How we affect change is vital to our understanding of Christian conduct. Control, abuse, manipulation, misuse of power in the attempt to "make" people conform is not Christlike, but is the precursor to the eventual receiving of the Mark of the Beast. We need to learn patience, acceptance, understanding, and great wisdom. The reality is, as well, that people, cultures, etc. change. For example, many of you have heard or participated in discussions of whether or not women should wear pants, because the Bible says men and women are to dress different from each other. I then ask the question. Men are now wearing earrings, and in some cultures, including our own, men are beginning to wear dresses. How do you then respond? When I saw the Tomb of David in Jerusalem, I put on the small cap that they requested we wear, to show respect for their beliefs, as I did not feel that "identified" with their beliefs, or compromised my own. If we are ever going to fully evangelize the world for Christ, we must develop the mindset that can enter into their experience, understand them, without dishonoring Christ. Love overlooks a multitude of sins.
I am seeing the SDA church changing, and in terms of methods, approaches, etc. that is very positive. The eternal values and principles do not change. For example, we are to allow a flexibility in worship styles, up to a point, but to know where the boundaries are, and what does not honor God through an appeal to the flesh or to emotionalism. Dress, recreation, entertainment changes, yet we are to "guard carefully the avenues to our soul." The danger is the loss of values, as a new generation of SDAs takes over for previous ones. We have done very well in our growing expression and understanding of grace, love, and the forgiveness of sins. I believe we have subtly lost the sense that God is Holy. Sin still hurts us, love of the world still hurts us, self and materialism still hurts us, and definitely a failure to grasp true Christianity and the true fruit of the Spirit hurts us. The answer is to have the mind of Christ, and He will give balance, perspective, discernment, wisdom, and deep compassionate love.
I ask you a challenging question. If the entire church went one direction, and right was in the other direction, which path would you take? Two paths in the woods diverged, and I…………………………. May God bless you to understand the need for constant dependence on, and guidance from Christ. The Greatest of These IS Love.