July 29 Esight, 2008

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!’ Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him. (Mark 15:31-32)They were dead right! He had lived His entire life in disinterested benevolence, saving others at every step. He had always put others before Himself. And now, once again, others must come first. What His assailants did not understand is that Jesus could have saved Himself. Never was His back against the wall. What He was enduring was voluntary, of His own volition, His own free will. But in order to save others, He must not now “save Himself!” Although He could save us, and He had the power to save Himself, He could not do both.

Take a moment to meditate on the following four passages in the above context:

“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father”s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753)

Jesus felt, “Forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more . . .” (Psalm 88:5)

Yet, in the midst of feeling completely helpless to save you and I and Himself too . . .

“Jesus did not count heaven a place to be desired while we were lost.” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 417)

“He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself.” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 693)

I stand in front of this kind of self-abandonment, this kind of love and I am silenced. With tears in my eyes, my heart reaches away from my own self-centeredness, my own pursuits, and I reach out to a love like this. Could this be true? Is this really what God is like? God, do you really love me like this? Will you really love me regardless of the cost to Yourself? I feel the arguments rising, “Please God, don’t give up heaven for me, I’m not worth it.” Yet, I sense Him whispering, “I didn’t do it because you were worthy. I did it because I love you . . . and you can’t change that. Come, let me enfold you in what your heart has always been longing for.” I thank Him this week for His love for me. May your heart, dear reader, join mine in loving Him back.

I wish you God’s best this week.

July 21 Esight, 2008

For the grace of God which carries with it salvation for all men has appeared.” (Titus 2:11 DBY)Recently, we received a very good question here at Renewed Heart Ministries. I have noticed throughout the years that this question is usually asked about twice a year.

“Herb, are you saying that everyone is going to be saved?”

Let me be clear from the very beginning. No. I don’t believe that everyone will be saved. But let me be quick to add that they should be! There is no reason, not even the slightest, why every person should not be saved and in the kingdom except that they don’t want to be.

I would like to share some statements from three of my favorite authors regarding this subject:

First, the Apostle Paul:

“For the grace of God which carries with it salvation for all men has appeared.” (Titus 2:11 DBY)

“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (1 Timothy 4:10 NASB)

“In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.” (Romans 5:18 NAB)

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 NASB emphasis added)

Next, E.J. Waggoner:

“He willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Tim.2:4) And He ‘worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.’ (Eph.1:11) ‘What! do you mean to teach universal salvation?’ We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches,–that ‘the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.’ (Titus 2:11, R.V) God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession.” (The Glad Tidings, p. 23 – Original Version)

Lastly, Ellen White:

“In his sinless state, man held joyful communion with Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) But after his sin, he could no longer find joy in holiness, and he sought to hide from the presence of God. Such is still the condition of the unrenewed heart. It is not in harmony with God, and finds no joy in communion with Him. The sinner could not be happy in God’s presence; he would shrink from the companionship of holy beings. Could he be permitted to enter heaven, it would have no joy for him. The spirit of unselfish love that reigns there–every heart responding to the heart of Infinite Love–would touch no answering chord in his soul. His thoughts, his interests, his motives, would be alien to those that actuate the sinless dwellers there. He would be a discordant note in the melody of heaven. Heaven would be to him a place of torture; he would long to be hidden from Him who is its light, and the center of its joy. It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them.” (Steps to Christ, p. 17)

This final statement moves me the most. If any person is not there, it will only be because they truly did not want to be. If a person wants to be there, and by that I mean “would be happy there,” then they will be there. God has purchased, provided for, and accomplished salvation for all! He has given it to each person and has, every moment since their birth, encircled them with an atmosphere of grace and light striving to win their hearts to want the gift He has given at such high a cost to Himself. Why? Because He loves you, dear reader. The only question left to answer is, “Will there be any who love Him back?”

Why don’t you take a moment right now to stop and consider what He may be saying to you this week? Then take a moment to surrender to the length, depth, height and width of His boundless love for you.

I wish you God’s best this week.

July 13 Esight, 2008

“For I have a strong desire to see you, and to give you some grace of the spirit, so that you may be made strong.”— Romans 1:11 BBEGrace doesn’t make us soft. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us strong. It strengthens, builds up, and establishes.

The subject of God’s grace has a long and jaded history in God’s church. During the middle ages, the church of the “dark ages” made God’s grace very expensive. Penance and price were required to obtain absolution, and the assuaging of the wrath of an offended God. Then came the reformation and, although it was a step in the right direction, it wasn’t quite far enough. The reformation theorized that, in order to obtain God’s grace, we only need to repent, confess, and believe. This only proved to cheapen God’s grace. Sure it was less expensive, but it still required something from us first and thus it was stripped, robbed of its power.

When we see a concerning condition in the church, in other peoples lives, or even ourselves, we are often tempted to resort to a “get it right” approach. A Pep talk ensues which seeks to motivate us to reach the standard that we are ever lifting higher. But Paul’s thought here is quite different. He desired to share grace in order to strengthen and build up the church.

What few have realized is that the answer to expensive grace and to failing morality is not to make grace less expensive. In other words, the solution is to reveal God’s grace as neither expensive nor cheap . . . it’s FREE!

“In the matchless gift of His son, God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live, and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.” (E. G. White, God’s Amazing Grace p. 238)

Before you did anything, and even if you never do anything, God has already poured out heaven for you. He has encircled you, every moment of your life, with an atmosphere of Grace that is as real as the air you are breathing. Watch closely how this affects our hearts as compared to our previous two prospects.

When God’s grace is dependent on something we do first, all we are left with is the satisfaction that we’ve met all of the requirements and that our carcass will get to live for eternity. We are left with an ever present, low rumbling of uncertainty in our core that suggests we still may not have truly done enough.

On the contrary, when we realize what God’s grace really is, that we have done nothing to be made worthy of it, and grasp that it has always been surrounding us “freely,” something happens in the human heart. Love awakens love. We cease to be concerned with if we “make it.” We cease to matter. Our only concern becomes wanting to know how to genuinely say “thank you” to this God whose love we have underestimated. There is assurance, but even greater still, there is a change in our center. We begin to enter into the philanthropic nature of God rather than our egocentric concern of our own affairs. We begin to be obsessed with only one desire, one focus: What can I do to show Him how much I appreciate Him? What can I do to love Him the way He loves me? Our focus shifts from trying to do enough to be saved, to realizing that what we do never seems to be enough to truly say “thank you.” And that, my friend, is conversion. “He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

God’s grace truly is amazing, if you can see it.

“For the grace of God has come, giving salvation to all men.” Titus 2:11 BBE

“God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession.” (E.J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 23)

The condition of the church today is not a reflection of the loose culture in which we live, but the result of a century of gazes fixed on the law rather than the life changing, matchless grace of our altruistic, benevolent God.

Consider.

I wish you God’s best this week!

July 9 Esight, 2008

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”—Hebrews 5:12Recently, I had the privilege of spending the evening with an old friend. As these moments often do, the topic turned, at one point, to the subject of God. My friend is not what you would call religious, but very deep. There were three areas around which my friend was troubled.

First, the subject which plagues all but the shallow: IF God is good, why so much suffering? Then, the subject drifted into God’s wrath or anger, and, finally, why Jesus had to die. It is amazing to me how many of us think we have it all figured out, myself included. As I listened to the questions that were plaguing my friend, I was struck with how profound human minds and hearts, which take time to simply be honest, can be. I must admit that this was not a discussion where we arrived at too many solid conclusions, but what we both walked away with was the overwhelming conviction of three things.

First, our religious conditioning has left us ill-equipped to truly understand and know God’s heart.

Second, we both felt that, in our crying out to God and telling him “I don’t understand,” God was whispering back, “That’s right. You don’t. But you will. I am not like you. And you really don’t know me as well as I’d like. But we are not done yet.”

And lastly, this is the stuff eternity will be made of. We will be pondering complexities of the love with which we are loved everyday throughout forever. This is the “deep” Paul referred to. (see Ephesians 3:14-19). This is the “solid” food that nourishes the starving soul of humanity.

I used to think of the subject of God’s love as the fluff. You know, the down in the comforter kind of stuff that’s soft and keeps you warm. But Paul did not look at God’s love so lightly. Carefully consider the words here in Hebrews:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 5:12 – 6:2)

Did you catch what the milk really is? That Jesus was the Messiah, repentance, faith, externalities, and doctrines such as the resurrection and the judgment. Don’t misunderstand me. These are not bad, just “elementary.” Once you’ve got ‘em, you’ve got ‘em. It’s time to move on! Let God take you deeper into the subjects which surround His character, His love, and the contradiction between Himself and us. Get to Know Him as He truly is. This is that which challenges the sharpest minds, satisfies the deepest longings of ones heart, and, with arms wide open, welcomes a lost soul HOME.

With the aim of beginning that journey today will you, along with me, give God permission to begin eternity now? He is right. We don’t understand . . . yet. We are looking through a “glass dimly lit.” But one day soon we will see. We will know as we are known. One subject will swallow up every other: the unabashed love of a God, though unrequited, for a world embracing every heart-ache. His is a love which, for time and eternity, will be proven . . . unequalled.

I wish you God’s best this week!