July 30 Esight, 2009

Mrs. E. G. WhiteHuman beings belong to one great family,–the family of God. The Creator designed that they should respect and love one another, ever manifesting a pure, unselfish interest in one another’s welfare. But Satan’s aim has been to lead men to self first; and yielding themselves to his control, they have developed a selfishness that has filled the world with misery and strife, setting human beings at variance with one another. Selfishness is the essence of depravity, and because human beings have yielded to its power, the opposite of allegiance to God is seen in the world today. Nations, families, and individuals are filled with a desire to make self a center. Man longs to rule over his fellow men. Separating himself in his egotism from God and his fellow beings, he follows his unrestrained inclinations. He acts as if the good of others depended on their subjection to his supremacy.

Selfishness has brought discord into the church, filling it with unholy ambition. If Christians are sanctified through a belief in God’s Word, why do they so often speak words that would bruise the hearts of others? Why do they acknowledge no law but the law of selfishness? Under the baleful influence of selfishness, men have lost the sense of what it means to love one another with a Christlike love.

Love for Christ unites man to his fellow man in unselfish interest. This is the science of benevolence. He whose heart is filled with the love that centers in God, realizes that he must deal justly and tenderly with his fellow beings because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Supreme love for God leads us to seek the highest good of humanity.

Selfishness destroys Christlikeness filling man with self-love. It leads to continual departure from righteousness. Christ says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But self-love is blind to the perfection which God requires.

How great the love of God is! God made the world to enlarge heaven. He desired a larger family. And before man was created, God and Christ entered into a covenant that if he fell from his allegiance, Christ would bear the penalty of transgression. Man fell, but he was not left to the power of the destroyer. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” To the Redeemer was given all power to impart to fallen human beings for their benefit and blessing.

While on this earth, the Saviour was sorely tried. He was tempted in all points like as we are. He poured out his soul with strong crying and tears as he looked upon the backslidden condition of the people he had brought out of bondage. He saw them full of pride and self-exaltation, full of selfishness and covetousness. All this he must labor to overcome. He must live among them the life that God requires all his children to live. He must stand free from the slightest taint of impurity. Not in the least particular must he deviate from the principles of righteousness.

The gulf made by sin has been bridged. All may come boldly to the throne of grace, seeking help in every time of need. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He took the place of the sinner, that he might present the repentant sinner to the Father, saying, “Lay his guilt on me. I have espoused his cause.” Holding out his hands, bearing the marks of his crucifixion, the Saviour says, “I have graven that sinner upon the palms of my hands. No longer look upon him as guilty. Let him stand before thee guiltless; for I have borne his iniquity.” At the cross, justice and mercy met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. God bowed his head in recognition of the completeness of the offering made for sin, and said, “It is enough.”

As we contemplate the great love of God, shall not our hearts be subdued and softened, yea, broken? Shall we not be filled with patience, long-suffering, and love? Shall we not die to self?

Christ came to this world to reveal the love of God. His followers are to continue the work which he began. Let us strive to help and strengthen one another. Seeking the good of others is the way in which true happiness can be found. Man does not work against his own interest by loving God and his fellow men. The more unselfish his spirit, the happier he is, because he is fulfilling God’s purpose for him. The breath of God is breathed through him, filling him with gladness. To him life is a sacred trust, precious in his sight because given by God to be spent in ministering to others.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. . . . If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath not seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God loves his brother also.”

Review and Herald, June 25, 1908

July 27 Esight, 2009

Matthew 5:45

So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Luke 6:35

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.I remember being fourteen and reading the following verse for the very first time:

So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image (Revelation 16:2).

I had just completed a series of Bible studies and had one burning conviction:

I had better do what God asks of me, or I’m going to get the plagues! So it was a no-brainer. Yet it was at this point that I entered into a very dark era of my journey with God. He became someone I truly feared. And although this fear did keep me from a lot of self-destruction during those first few years, what I did not understand then was that “[t]he fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, emphasis added). What God wanted for me is something much deeper, more fulfilling, more resonating. God had made me for love, and “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18).

Nonetheless, it was a beginning. I had decided to follow God, based strictly on how He would treat me if I didn’t. (And the plagues sound really painful, honestly!) But two years later, I would have a life-changing encounter with the heart of God. My picture of Him would be radically transformed. It was 6 a.m., and my nose was in a book about God; but honestly, I was following Him only for the motive of self-preservation, to escape punishment. But what I experienced that morning would forever change my life. I saw for the first time, the heart of God. I encountered His love for me, for the very first time, and I was left on my knees in tears. Just me, by myself, alone with the heart of Infinite Love.

What I saw that morning, in short, is the God Jesus spoke about in Luke 6—a God, who, if I were His enemy, would simply respond by loving me. If I hated Him, He would simply respond by doing good to me. If I were to curse Him, He would simply respond by blessing me. And if I misused and mistreated Him, He’d simply intercede for me even more (see Luke 6:27, 28).

You see, up to this point I had been following God because of how He would treat me if I didn’t. But at that point, something changed, and I began to follow God that morning because of how He’d treat me if I didn’t.

Yes, I know those are the same phrases, but they mean two totally different things. Today, we find two types of Christians. (And you can tell the difference by how they treat others around them.) Two different pictures of God are in the church today, producing a coexistent growth of both wheat and tares. Both are very religious and morally abiding, but one is following God for how He’ll treat them if they don’t, and the other is doing the same, but with an entirely different understanding what that treatment would be.

So this week, I ask you, what is your picture of God? When you read the question, “How will God treat you if you don’t follow Him?” your response reveals the depth of the motive that moves you to follow. But, in all transparency, if God is the type of being who loves His enemies, and I mean truly loves, then a God like that is worthy of my heart, even if there is nothing in it for me.

I wish you God’s best this week.

July 12 Esight, 2009

I find myself running on two hours of sleep this morning, having just gotten off an international flight where I will be spending the next ten days sharing the precious Gospel of our Heavenly Father’s love. In the early morning sunrise, I want to pause and simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you to all those who partner with Renewed Heart Ministries in changing lives for both time and eternity. We are all trying to make means stretch right now, and ministry is no exception. At this time especially, you are choosing to support this ministry. And I want to thank you.

There is no greater message to be sounded from any “roof top” than the truth about the loving character of our Heavenly Father as seen through the lens of our Adventist beliefs. I want to share a quotation that is especially meaningful to me this morning as I wipe the sleep from my eyes and stretch my neck from the knot the economy seat has once again left from last night’s upright slumber.

“Christ came to this world to reveal the love of God. His followers are to continue the work which He began. Let us strive to help strengthen one another. Seeking the good of others is the way in which true happiness can be found. Man does not work against his own interest by loving God and his fellow men. The more unselfish his spirit, the happier he is, because he is fulfilling God’s purpose for him. The breath of God is breathed through him, filling him with gladness. To him life is a sacred trust, precious in his sight, given by God to be spent in ministering to others.”

(E. G. White, Review and Herald, June 25, 1908)

This morning it is pressed upon my soul in clarity: we are finishing the very work Jesus began. We really are. You and I, together. The very breath of God is breathing through us with each expression of kindness, each extended touch of compassion and each other-centered act of Love. The truth about God is being sounded far and near. Not only are we so infinitely loved, but it is the highest joy attainable to allow ourselves to be conduits of the love, not just recipients, and to reach out and live a life for something greater than ourselves, to live the life of other-centeredness. To live the life of Love and be willing to spend and be spent for the benefit of others. Life is not out to GET you; life is out to GIVE you. So this week, let’s let God breathe through us anew. Go out and find something or someone you can give yourself to or for. For truly, not only is the gospel of our God’s love spread in this way, but it is one of the means through which we encounter, once again, the echoes of Eden, the kind of love that you and I were made for.

I wish you God’s best this week.

July 5 Esight, 2009

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. (BBE Romans 1:11)Grace doesn’t make us soft—it makes us strong; it strengthens, builds up, and establishes us.

I remember one time a dear saint came to me after one of my presentations and, with great concern, said emphatically, “Herb, I appreciated your passion, but you must be careful. Please don’t make God out to be too good!” When I questioned what was meant by this, the concern boiled down simply to this: if we focus too much on God’s grace, loose living will be the result.

I can appreciate this concern. But it comes from a long history, not of focusing too much on God’s grace, but of not truly understanding and focusing on God’s grace clearly enough.

Let me explain.

The Christianity of the Middle Ages, honestly, was just flat-out awful. When those whom Christ called “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) came to power, history refers to that time as the Dark Ages. God’s grace, during this era, was expensive. God’s grace was obtained only by human effort, ways that included, but weren’t limited to, even self-inflicted physical abuse and sometimes literally paying money for it. (God’s grace was turned into a gross fundraiser for the church.) Thus, grace was expensive.

Then came the reformation. (And please forgive me.) But the reformation did not always produce good fruit, either! Although the reformation included steps in a good direction, those steps did not go far enough. The cry of the reformation was simply that God’s grace was not that difficult to obtain. All you had to was “repent” or “believe” or “say a sinner’s prayer.” But honestly, this simply made God’s grace less expensive. It still left God’s grace as something to be obtained by human effort; it just required a lot less effort. Therefore, God’s grace became cheaper, or simply cheap.

The temptation of many today (like the dear sister that I mentioned above) is to take God’s grace away from the abuses of the reformation and move it backwards toward the Dark Ages and make it expensive again. Some very honest souls believe that this will make God’s grace more appreciated. But this is the exact OPPOSITE of what is needed. The reformation wasn’t the wrong direction; it was simply that the good news of God’s grace wasn’t taken far enough.

God’s grace is neither expensive nor cheap. It’s Free!! And when a soul truly understands all of the love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, favor (and, dare I say, even justification) that exists in the heart of God before you repent, before you believe, before you ask or receive, only then will the human heart be filled with deep appreciation and gratitude. Only then will God become our only concern. Only then will the gross, egocentric concern with gaining heaven or escaping hell be replaced with “no longer living for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). Only then will conversion from egocentricity, even in our religion, to other-centered love truly take place in the human heart.

We must see the grace of God for what it is! Before you even desire God in your heart you are already in the heart of God. Contrary to the popular hymn, before you even take “one step toward the Savior, my friend” his arms are already “open wide!”

This understanding will not lead to loose living. Truly, this prevenient love in the heart of our God is the only power that can really change the self-centeredness so deeply rooted in each of our hearts.

The plants and flowers grow not by their own care or anxiety or effort, but by receiving that which God has furnished for their life. The child cannot, by any anxiety or power of its own, add to its stature. No more can you, by anxiety or effort of yourself, secure spiritual growth. The plant and the child grow by receiving from their surroundings that which ministers to their life—air, sunshine, and food. What these gifts of nature are to animal and plant, such is Christ to those who trust in Him. He is their “everlasting light,” “a sun and shield” (Isaiah 60:19; Psalm 84:11). He shall be as “the dew unto Israel”; “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass” (Hosea 14:5; Psalm 72:6). He is the living water, “the Bread of God . . . which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33).

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 into the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.

As the flower turns to the sun so that the bright beams may aid in perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so should we turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven’s light may shine upon us, that our character may be developed into the likeness of Christ (White, Steps to Christ, pp. 67, 68)

God’s grace is already encircling you, dear reader, as real as the air you breathe. I guess the real question is not how to obtain it then, but rather, will you simply open your lungs and breathe? BREATHE! And watch the transformation that miraculously happens.

I wish you God’s best this week.