Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Jesus’ Unfair Advantage

It’s fascinating that Jesus was born with His will surrendered to God. He was born obedient. Hebrews 10:7 says that He said, “I have come to do your will, O God.” In other words, His only purpose for existence was to do God’s will, to be obedient to Him. He turned His will over to the Father before He left Heaven to come to Earth to be a human. (See the Thursday lesson from last week.)

Comparing Jesus Sinning to Crashing a Bike

We’re each born with a will that is turned away from God in rebellion, but Jesus was born with a will that was turned toward God. Of course, He still had a free will so He freely chose to obey God and could have chosen to turn away from God if He wanted.

But it would have taken a special effort for Jesus to turn toward sin, whereas each of us is born with a natural tendency to turn to sin. For Jesus, His life was like a man riding down the street on a bicycle who could choose to suddenly wrench the handlebars to the side and go flying off his bike, but he has his balance and has no desire to injure himself.

Jesus’ Unfair Advantage is Good News for Us

I think C.S. Lewis wrote that analogy. He also wrote that some people say Jesus had an unfair advantage, that He wasn’t on a level playing field with us. Well, Lewis writes that if you’re drowning, flailing around in some white water rapids and you can’t reach the shore under your own power and someone on the shore who is standing on a solid rock throws you a rope, you wouldn’t want to refuse their help because they have an advantage over you.

If everything were fair and equal they would be flailing in the water themselves and not be able to help you. If you’re going to be helped, you need someone who has a special advantage. It’s not about fairness.

Jesus’ Life Wasn’t a Test Run

Some people who don’t understand Christianity very well say that Jesus came to Earth to test if it were possible to live a good life. But Moses, Elijah, Joseph, and people in other cultures had already lived good lives.

The infinite, all-powerful God didn’t set aside all His powers and come to Earth and get tortured to death as an experiment! He wasn’t unsure about it; He didn’t think, “Well, this might not work out — oh, well, I’ll try it anyway.”

No. Philippians 2:8 says He only came to Earth to be obedient and to die on the Cross in order to do something new, to do more than just teach morality.

He was protected by angels. He had the Holy Spirit in His life at His conception, at the start of His ministry and throughout every single day. As we discussed before, He was perfectly obedient because He gave His will over to His Father before being born. But He was on a mission! He was doing all of it to redeem humans — you and me — not to give life a test drive.

The Danger of Treating Jesus Only as a Moral Example

If people think Jesus came to Earth just to try to live a good life, that encourages them to try to be good in their own strength without relying on God. But that’s impossible. Even just to repent of sins, we need a special act of Divine power — just to ask for forgiveness and for help! The prideful heart of a natural human doesn’t want to ask for help or to admit to being wrong.

Our repentance is not our own virtue shining through; no, it’s actually a miracle from God that is made possible through Jesus’ life. We also need His power to be born again, to be a new creation, as the Bible promises, and to keep growing every day.

So it doesn’t make sense to think that Jesus is just a guy who lived a good life and is a good example to us. No, through His blood and His grace, which are imparted to us through the Holy Spirit, we get the power to live a new type of life. His mission to Earth, His perfect obedience, was to accomplish that.

We don’t know exactly how it works — the Bible says even angels are interested in studying that mystery — but all Christians agree that it does work.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

 

Laodicea: A Plan for Life?!

What was interesting about the lesson last week was that the message to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-21 was actually about hope and encouragement. I had always assumed it was about judgement, about coming down on them hard. Jesus does say that they were lukewarm and were poor and naked and too blind even to see it. But then He gives them a prescription, a series of three ideas in symbols that they would have understood:  gold, white clothes, and eye salve. And it’s a prescription that’s still useful for us today.

Laodicea: The Surprising History

The reason those symbols were understandable to the Laodiceans is in the history of the city itself. It was destroyed in about 61 A.D. by an earthquake, and when Rome offered to help the Laodiceans rebuild, they refused. They rebuilt it themselves, saying they had plenty of wealth without Rome, thank you very much. And they actually were a center for gold coins, which they created there and sent out to other areas. They were bankers. So they used their own gold to rebuild.

Here’s the connection: in Revelation 3:17, Jesus mentions that the Laodiceans had said, “I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” And that’s exactly what the Laodiceans had said to Rome!

Jesus says that they are in reality poor, and that He can offer them gold refined in the fire. We’ll get to what that means.

Like a Bank of America, a Macy’s and the Mayo Clinic Rolled into One

Now, Laodicea was also a fashion center. They had lots of black sheep they used to create a renowned black, glossy wool that was turned into popular garments. People remarked on how beautiful Laodicean women were in their black clothes. And of course these latest fashions were exported to many other parts of the known world.

But Jesus states that they are actually naked and counsels them to buy white clothes from Him to cover their shame — which is more interesting once you know they were famous for black wool.

Finally, Laodicea was known for its medical training school and especially for the famous Phrygian eye salve made there. People loved that stuff, and the Laodiceans exported it all over the known world.

Jesus stated, probably with a bit of irony, that these people who had invented a famous eye salve were actually blind — meaning they were blind to their own condition and blind to important spiritual things.

Treasures No One Can Take Away

Well, the gold, clothes and eye salve that He offers are spiritual symbols. The gold refers to a faith that has grown incredibly strong through many experiences with God, a faith that no one can take away no matter what you go through, something secure from all disasters, aging, rusting — anything.

The white clothes have to do with covering anything that you’re ashamed of and just receiving from Jesus, every day, His righteousness that frees you from ever trying to earn acceptance from God and frees you from the need to struggle with guilt.

And the eye salve refers to the Holy Spirit Who can bring such powerful truth and understanding to your mind that you can detect even very subtle falsehood that is designed to mess up your life. The Spirit shows you Jesus and His perfect life and reminds you of His words. The Spirit shows you amazing opportunities to have more experiences with God — more ways to use your talents — that will make you even stronger and more joyful.

Putting Hopes and Dreams on Jesus’ Path

So Jesus offered them a mental technology — that’s how I think of it — that they could follow and that we can follow. The gold, the white clothes, and the eye salve are really a plan for life, a path. Receiving righteousness by faith every day from Jesus, walking by the Spirit, learning and experiencing and remembering more truth and wisdom that the world has ever known, and growing in a faith that will eventually be so strong that nothing can shake your confidence and security — this plan for life is very, very encouraging. What a surprise and what a difference from the judgmental ideas I usually have when reading this passage.

Now, no matter what else I do in my life, I want my accomplishments to be on this path that Jesus has laid out.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

God: Two Arms, Two Legs, and a Head?

(This is a reaction to the January 28 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

Yes, the Bible says we’re made in the image of God. But does that mean we look like Him? That doesn’t make sense in the context of the rest of the Bible. The Bible says over and over how different God is from us. He is in the midst of fire and turning wheels and eyes and beasts. David says that He is everywhere at once.

All the New Testament writers say that God is three Persons at the same time but one Being. So that doesn’t sound like He looks like us, like a guy with two legs and two arms and a head. And how could a Being who existed before time and who exists even now outside of time and space look like a human?

Now, that isn’t to say that He is a cloud, something indefinite. C.S. Lewis points out that God is actually more real than we are, more solid. He is reality itself, and He has a definite shape and form that is unique to Him. Maybe that’s why in the Old Testament He says that He has a specific name (YHWH); the name shows that He is not just a cloud of energy.

So in one sense, it seems like He could be human-shaped for all we know, but at the same time, He is a Being who is outside of our universe of shapes altogether.

Well, we know that Jesus is a human now, and He’s God. So maybe that’s what the image of God means? Maybe it’s part of it. Along with that, the Bible, especially the book of Revelation, rejoices in the fact that God will live on our planet now forever. No other race will have that privilege, and no other race will have God become one of them in the flesh.

But it also makes sense to say the image of God is in our moral and relationship qualities. We have a sense of what is right and wrong that the animals don’t have. We have a moral responsibility to take care of totally different species; animals can’t think that way in general. And we have loving relationships chosen through intelligence and will rather than animal instincts. God created humans not to live as individuals but as pairs and groups.

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

And it’s amazing that God Himself has existed as a group in all eternity outside of time. Their relationship has always been, and always will be, the Son being subordinate to the Father by loving choice and the Holy Spirit being the servant of both.

So God is not a lonely Being wishing He had some friends; no, He has always been, and always will be, in an environment of perfect harmony and love. And that type of experience is what He has for us – one of the main purposes for which He created us.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)