Tag Archives: Jesus

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)

 

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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)

Two Poisons and an Antidote

Satan got two main lies into the mind of Eve in order to get sin into our lives. The only way to discredit a perfectly loving God is through lies. (This is a reaction to the February 3 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less06.html.)

When he told Eve that they would become like gods if they ate the forbidden fruit, he implied that God was withholding something good from them, which would mean God was unloving, God was not generous, God was untrustworthy.

Then he said that Eve wouldn’t die from eating the fruit, that being separated from God doesn’t really lead to death. He wanted us to think that being separated from God is preferable.

Why do I say “being separated from God”? My understanding is that sin is the condition of being separated from God. Here’s why. The Bible says that sin is “lawlessness,” a lack of law. Well, what is the Law? It’s love. And it says that God is love. So sin is lawlessness, which is a lack of love, which is a lack of God. So sin is separation from God.

We see this in the Garden: as soon as Adam and Eve broke their promise, they experienced separation. God walked around calling to them, instead of them running to Him as usual. They were separated from their own bodies by shame. They were separated from each other by blame. They were separated from their home. That’s the state of sin: separation.

Those two lies became real in Eve’s life when she took action on them, when she actually ate the fruit. She created distrust within herself – as Adam did soon after – by acting on the idea of not trusting God.

The distrust, fear, and blame against God in our minds is like a poison that Satan put there through these two lies, separating us from God – a separation that leads to death.

Now, what type of antidote could God give us to a mental poison? Jesus on the cross gave us a mental antidote: He showed that God is loving and generous and that sin really does cause death. Even while being tortured, He prayed for forgiveness for His tormentors, and that showed God’s amazing love. He went to the Cross unresistingly, “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), showing God’s generosity.

And Jesus didn’t die of the wounds He received but rather because of the separation from God the Father: as evidence that They were being separated, right before He died, Jesus cried out that God had left Him alone. Then, the soldiers saw that He was already dead far before someone would normally die from natural causes.

Satan wants us to think that God is unloving and that separating ourselves from Him is safe. That’s the poison. But Jesus gave an antidote that goes in through our eyes and ears by the power of the Spirit when we contemplate Him.

Graham Maxwell said in his book Servants or Friends? that only a best Friend will share an unpleasant truth with you. Well, God in Jesus used His own body to show us the truth of His love so that we don’t have to be separated anymore.

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

Having Perfect Love

(This is a reaction to the January 30 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

That first passage, Matthew 5:44-48, ends with what is a major tripping point for some people: the call to be “perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” That seems like an impossible demand.

But the word “perfect” means something in this context, and not what people suspect. Right before that statement, Jesus had been preaching about loving even people who don’t love you back. He then says basically that if we love like that, we will be perfect like the Father.

And in that context, “perfect” seems to mean that we have a complete understanding of love, at least more complete than the common person. I’ve heard that the Biblical idea of perfection includes the concept of being complete and right and correct at your current level, rather than being at an end point where no more improvement is possible.

So you can be “perfect” in love, meaning that you have a complete understanding that love is really only true love when you are loving even towards people who do not love you back. But perfection doesn’t mean being some sort of flawless performer on a stage who executes every movement with amazing precision and never trips (which is what people think Jesus means by  “perfect”).

Pastor Doug Batchelor preached about this (search the Internet for “Doug Batchelor perfect christian” to find the sermon). He said that the common definition of “perfect” means that there is no possibility of improvement. Well, no one can honestly say we’re there, so it’s scary to think that God wants us to be.

He explained that the Bible many times states that it’s impossible for anyone to be righteous except for God. Jesus Himself said that no one is good except the Father. So how can He ask us to be perfect and also state that no one is good?

Well, Abraham was declared righteous (Genesis 15:6) because he trusted in God’s promise. Phillipians 2:1-8, used in today’s lesson, tells us to have the same mind of humility and love that is in Christ. Jesus Himself stated several times that we can’t do anything except through Him, as if we are branches coming off of a vine and He’s the vine.GoodSamaritan

So being perfect really is just abiding in Christ. It means learning from Him to be a servant, like the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help someone in need — to love his neighbor. Even if we make a mistake now and then, the trend of your life if you stay connected with Jesus every day will be a trend toward God.

Batchelor stated an analogy from marriage: you can’t be a faithful to a spouse 358 days per year out of 365 and think that’s enough because you only takes a week off per year. Faithfulness means every day. So with God, we are perfectly abiding in Him when we spend time with Him every single day.

You will keep growing, you will change, you will make mistakes if you’re trying new things, but you will be declared perfect, meaning “complete,” at each stage when you are connected to Jesus the sinless Man.

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