January 30 Esight, 2009

“Thus, Esau despised his birthright.”

—Genesis 25.34

A “birthright” is a right or privilege that one is entitled to at birth. I would like you to ponder a few texts this week, in light of the concept of a birthright.

Romans 5.18:

“So then, as through one transgression, there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness, there resulted justification of life to all men.”

Corinthians 15.20-22:

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive.”

Timothy 4.9-10:

“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 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.”

John 3.17:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

I believe two things are needed for a person to be saved throughout eternity. The first is a “title.” In legal terms, a title is a legal document showing the right of ownership of a particular property. In other words, something that shows ownership. That object belongs to holder of the title, and he or she has full rights and privileges to it.

This title, this ticket, this right of ownership, this gift, according to the above verses, through Jesus’ death on the cross, has been given to every man, woman, and child! They are born with it! It is their birthright by virtue of the life, death, and resurrection of their savior Jesus Christ!

The second thing is “fitness.” This must not be overlooked because, if left on our self-centered state, it doesn’t matter how much heaven belongs to you, you won’t be happy there and your birthright will be despised. Heaven’s other-centered environment would be a place of shear torment and torture. Thus, what good would a title be to something you don’t even want?

But notice how it all works! When we “believe” in the birthright God has given us outside of our doing anything to obtain it, we see past His gift, to His heart from which the gift was given. We begin to see the generous other-centered selfless love of our God! This belief in His love for us awakens in our hearts and in our other-centered love for Him. We begin to love because He first loved us. By His love for us, our love is awakened. We become transformed or converted from self-centeredness to other-centeredness, and thus, through faith in the already given birthright that we are all born with, we are changed, restored back into the image of our unselfish God.

What a truly wise and loving God we worship. I’m amazed every time I see Him.

These are some thoughts to ponder.

I wish you God’s best this week.

January 11 Esight, 2009

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus— Romans 15.5, NASB.This week, I would like to share with you the above verse as interpreted by Elder Peterson:

    May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all—Romans 15.5, The Message

What I appreciate so much about Peterson’s interpretation of this text is his definition of Christian “maturity.” The fruit of being a mature Christian is that we truly have learned to “get along” with one another. We have come to love others the way God truly loves us. Yet how is it that God wants to bring us to this “maturity?”

Two references I believe give us the only valid nuts-and-bolts answer to the question of “how.” Pay close attention to the phrases I italicize.

Ephesians 3.14-17:

    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

1 John 4.7-12:

    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us.

In both of these passages, love for one another seems to be the climax, the pinnacle of Christian maturity. And how is it that these passages say we are to come to this maturity? We come to the maturity of loving others when we truly begin to believe, on a heart level, how deeply and passionately we ourselves are loved. When we come to know the “dimensions” of God’s love for us, we come to be filled with all the “fullness” of that love by which God is defined, according to Paul. John tells us that if we don’t love, the only reason is that we don’t really know God. (This might mean that the majority of those who call themselves Christians do not even know the God they claim to be following. Did I say that out loud?)

You see, the reason that we don’t love others is that we have not yet truly encountered God’s radical generous other-centered love for us. Our religious experience has been based on externals and formalities. In other words, it is only by love that love truly is awakened. And just as everyone who loves does so as a result of coming to know God and His love, everyone who does not love does not because they have yet to truly encounter Him as He really is (i.e., God is love, I John 4:8).

Another author agrees:

    Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within—when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance (White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 384).

So much is said in this one paragraph.

    1)Love is the basis of godliness! This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    2)Whatever the profession, the litmus test is love for one another.

    3)We can’t love others by “trying” to love them.

    4)What we need is the heart-level belief in the love of Christ for us.

    5)Then, love will spring forth from us “spontaneously.” (She said it, not me! That’s an incredible concept!)

    6)Lastly, this love being expressed for one another is the completeness of Christian character. This is the goal (the restoring of man in the image of God, who is love) to which God is endeavoring to lead us all experientially.

Christian maturity, therefore, is never defined by how stringently you adhere to a list of religious dogma. It’s more dynamic. It’s more relational. It’s about how we treat one another. I don’t know where you are this week, but as I look out on the expanse of what most of Christianity has portrayed to this world, this is the kind of maturity I want God to produce in me. Come what may. My prayer for all who call themselves by His name is that through encountering what He really is, we ourselves will be transformed, changed, into that same “Love” (I John 4:8). Then we can say to the world, truly, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

I wish you God’s best this week.

January 5 Esight, 2009

“Far better not to vow in the first place…” (Ecclesiastes 5:5)Are you tired of making New Year’s resolutions only to watch them vanish like smoke as the following weeks ensue?

I’d like you to consider two very opposite things as this new year begins.

First, what does it really mean to make a promise? We human beings have such precious little follow-through that the Bible actually states it’s “better not to vow!” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Many times, promising only serves to make us feel better in the moment as we make the resolution. Doing so truly grants us nothing in the eventual outcome. We simply experience further disappointment and doubt in our own sincerity and whether or not God can accept us.

“Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you . . .” (White; Steps to Christ, p. 47)

Second, I would like you to consider a very different option this new-year. Instead of making promises, try just choosing to believe a few.

This one is one of my favorites:

“Therefore, tell Israel, ‘Message of GOD, the Master: I’m not doing this for you, Israel. I’m doing it for me, to save my character, my holy name, which you’ve blackened in every country where you’ve gone. I’m going to put my great and holy name on display, the name that has been ruined in so many countries, the name that you blackened wherever you went. Then the nations will realize who I really am, that I am GOD, when I show my holiness through you so that they can see it with their own eyes.

For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed [i.e. other-centered], not self-willed [i.e. self-centered]. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!” — Ezekiel 36.22-28, The Message

That is a pretty amazing promise concerning the kind of work God wants to do in each of us! In the Bible, there are so many promises that He makes to us about so many precious things. What we need is not greater resolve but greater faith. I want to challenge you, for the next few weeks, instead of making new year’s promises from you to God that will fade over the next few weeks into regret and remorse, go find five promises that are especially meaningful from God to you. Repeat them daily over the next few weeks and choose … to believe.

Happy New Year!