This week’s lesson from the “Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide”, is titled “Idols of the Soul (and Other Lessons From Jesus”. A great lesson that covers several topics emphasized by Jesus. As with all such lessons, we often think we’ve covered all that God wants to reveal to us. But if we slow down and really study (really dig), we may be surprised by what we discover.
For example, in Sunday’s lesson we study “The Greatness of Humility” and in Monday’s lesson we study “The Greatness of Forgiveness”. Of course we agree with these two titles. After-all, our Lord and Savior proclaimed such concepts, so we accept them as true. But is this enough of a reason to accept them… that God has said so? Perhaps you remember the bumper sticker that proclaimed “God said it… I believe it… and that’s all there is to it!” Seemed to say it all, didn’t it? But as with so many things, couched in this statement is a deadly germ that hides a deadly human trait. That deadly trait? To accept what we’ve been told without proper investigation and thought for ourselves. So that we are not utilizing our God-given power but have delegated it to another (even a holy other). We have been “endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator-- individuality, power to think and to do” (Education pg. 17). And God expects us to thoughtfully weigh evidence and decide for ourselves (think); and then act on what we know (do). In this way, we will know for ourselves what is true. So why do I make an issue of this and not just accept what God says? There are two reasons.
First, God the Father and God the Son often say mysterious things. And these things are meant to arouse our questioning. They are consummate teachers and give but few answers. Instead they ask questions, leading their pupils (us) to search and dig. Because they will not deprive us of the joy of discovery… and because they know we need to be convinced of things ourselves. To make-up our minds and then be people who act on those convictions. So they do not want us to take what they say at face value. Both God the Father and God the Son want us to question, form convictions … and then obey the convictions we hold. Thereby being convinced ourselves of truth.
It is to the man who is obedient to the word of the Master, that the word of the Master unfolds itself. When we take God’s word at face value, because the Master has said it, we think we have the truth of the whole matter. Yet the Lord puts His things in sub-defined suggestive shapes, yielding no satisfactory meaning to the one who just accepts it because God says so. Our full understanding is unfolded to our conscience and heart, to us personally, when we put forth personal effort to obey. Thereby, we come to know the truth for ourselves. In this way, the “new creation” advances in us in verity, and we more fully understand His words, His symbols, and His parables for ourselves. This leads us to not just know the truth, but to love the truth. God tells us to obey not for us to become expert at obeying. True obedience comes from the heart and cannot be accomplished by practice but by renewal. He tells us to obey so that we will come to know Him, appreciate Godliness and then come to Him to be made whole. Obedience is the primary way to know truth and to love truth.
Secondly is the fact that at some point in the future, Satan himself will come personating Christ and will deceive the whole world… all but the elect (see Mark 13:22). And he will present before mankind the idea that he has changed the Sabbath-day from the Seventh-day to the First-day. He may even thank us Adventist’s for being so faithful all these years for honoring the traditional Sabbath. But that, because of the crucifixion and the acknowledgement of that most pivotal act, the weekly day of commemoration and remembrance is better served by honoring the First-day of the week. And that he now expects us to believe him and take his word for this. After-all, if we hold to the idea that, “God said it… I believe it… and that’s all there is to it”, won’t we accept what “God” now says? Woe on those who have given over their God-given right, their God-given responsibility, to think and investigate and make-up their own minds. We are to be “mature…those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). We are not to give this responsibility to another. We are to choose… and God Himself will not take this from us… He guards our “individuality, power to think and to do” (quoted above). Only Satan will use such means… to dictate and expect us to believe because he says so. This is not God’s way. The bumper sticker seems right, but is dead wrong.
So back to the primary topic, why is humility and forgiveness greatness? Because God said it is? Or because there is a compelling reason... a reason that humility and forgiveness is true greatness? As we read and study Christ’s life, we see humility and forgiveness lived in the life. We see Christ say that He is meek and lowly and by yoking with Him we will find rest for our souls. We hear Christ tell us that the Father is just like Himself, like the Son, meek and lowly, too. And we believe it at first, because we “see” it in scripture. But until we act on what we believe, we really don’t believe at all. True belief consists not in mental ascension or conscious agreement alone. True belief is seen in your life as it is lived. Belief that does not reflect in your very life, the way you live, is no belief at all.
So why is humility and forgiveness true greatness? Because these are the sole attributes of our loving truthful Creator God; they are the attributes with which you and I are created, too; AND we have put them into practice ourselves (hopefully) and have seen their greatness for ourselves… and have come to love their greatness for ourselves. Thereby, we ourselves are convinced that following these principles is the only way to live. That these qualities demonstrate true greatness and 10,000 angels (Satan and his host) cannot dissuade us otherwise. We will live this way no matter what! Do you know for yourself the greatness of these Godly qualities? If not, try them, act on them, and you will be convinced.
With brotherly love,