We have gathered here today because we believe in the salvation offered through our Lord Jesus Christ. God made man and He made him upright, but he sought out many inventions (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Adam and Eve, without serious forethought, determined that it might be possible to improve on the government God had set up. The result, of course, was suffering on an unprecedented scale.
Into our mess steps Jesus. God wants us to be holy, healthy, and happy. He wants to redeem us, buy us back, recover us from the desperate situation we are in.
We say that we have gathered here to remember Him until He returns. Is it true? If we love Him, will we not desire to know more about Him? Will we not find ourselves drawn to the truths He proclaimed, that He lived, that He explained and preserved for us in His Word?
This is a communion service. On such occasions especially, we want to keep our focus on Christ, on hope. A year is now past. Spiritual opportunities have come, and gone. We should be closer to the kingdom that 365 days ago.
The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Here, there are special opportunities for spiritual growth. Not only Sabbath School, and the main worship service, but also Prayer Meeting, and other opportunities for service. I hope that all of your who are able are taking advantage of these opportunities. Every member of the church, unless circumstances especially prevent it, should be present at Sabbath School, the Divine Service, and Prayer Meeting. Perhaps in the new year many of us can do better.
However, even that kind of commitment only takes up a limited part of the week. We all recognize that our natures are disordered, that we have in time past cultivated self-indulgent tendencies. Let’s not be coy. We have bent natures to start with, and beside that, we have chosen to be sinners.
We have so much repenting to do, a lot of unlearning to do, and a great deal of reforming. The question then is, What can I do to facilitate repenting, unlearning, reforming? And praise be to God, there is an easy to understand answer. It is found, interestingly, in the incarnation itself.
Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-3). The process of the incarnation was, (1) God set up the situation, (2) He sought those who could cooperate with Him (Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary), and (3) then, in the fullness of the time, Jesus Himself left heaven behind. Trusting all to the Father, He, one might say, left Himself behind. In a mystery that perhaps we will never understand well, He set aside His infinity, His all-knowingness, His ability to be everywhere present, His supreme power, and more. His very person was transferred into human flesh. What He was as a person was unspeakably reduced, and found a tiny, tiny, home in the womb of Mary.
The baby who was born (in October, not December), did not remember the formulas for nuclear fusion that drive the conversion of hydrogen to helium in stars; He had left aside knowledge of all the galaxies; He no longer knew the Hebrew language; His ability to describe the physical features of Lucifer was gone; His knowledge of Scripture was blank. In humanity, He was utterly helpless and dependent. He did not even know who He was or what He was. And yet, He was Immanuel, God with us, God in human flesh, the Word made flesh. Or, we may say, He was the living example of Word into flesh.
Hard to believe? Here are few examples:
He had to be taught again that which He had taught Israel. “His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee (The Desire of Ages, p. 70).
The Scriptures of the Old Testament were His constant study, and the words, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ were ever upon His lips (The Desire of Ages, p. 84).
Jesus gained knowledge as we may do... (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 442).
Jesus gained knowledge very simply. As a child He learned the Scriptures at His mother’s knee. As He advanced in years, and was Himself able to read, He acquired it by reading the Scriptures Himself.
Jesus’ flesh was broken for you. His life was lived so that a representation of it could be recorded in the Scriptures you hold. Does that make it just a bit more precious to you?
Today, we have something for you. Something that can change your life. It is not a magic pill. It will take more time than it takes to take vitamins every day. But not a great deal more. We are going to put into your hands—this communion service—a year-long Bible-reading plan. Some of you, in 2008, will perhaps for the first time, successfully read through your Bibles. And if you don’t, you will not be able to blame it on the church.
But first consider this fully charged single paragraph from the writings of Ellen G. White.
No man, woman, or youth can attain to Christian perfection and neglect the study of the word of God. By carefully and closely searching his word we shall obey the injunction of Christ, ‘Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.’ This search enables the student to closely observe the divine Model, for they testify of Christ. The Pattern must be inspected often and closely in order to imitate it. As one becomes acquainted with the history of the Redeemer, he discovers in himself defects of character; his unlikeness to Christ is so great that he sees he cannot be a follower without a very great change in his life. Still he studies, with a desire to be like his great Exemplar; he catches the looks, the spirit, of his beloved Master; by beholding he becomes changed. ‘Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.’ It is not in looking away from him, and in losing sight of him, that we imitate the life of Jesus; but in dwelling upon and talking of him, and seeking to refine the taste and elevate the character; seeking to approach through earnest, persevering effort, through faith and love, the perfect Pattern. The attention being fixed upon Christ, his image, pure and spotless, becomes enshrined in the heart as ‘the chief among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely.’ Even unconsciously we imitate that with which we are familiar. By having a knowledge of Christ, his words, his habits, his lessons of instruction, and by borrowing the virtues of the character which we have so closely studied, we become imbued with the spirit of the Master which we have so much admired (The Review and Herald, November 28, 1878).
A read of this paragraph shows why there is a disconnect between one group of Adventists and another. To one group, the concept of “Christian perfection” sounds radical and unattainable. Their ideas about what the phrase means prevent them from seeing the matter as do another group of Adventists. If you read the whole paragraph, you see that it simply means to “imitate,” “be like,” “approach... the perfect pattern.” White uses the word “imitate” three times in this single paragraph.
And how do we imitate Jesus? By ourselves seeking the movement of word into flesh: God&rdsquo;s Word. We dare not neglect the study of God’s Word. She calls this urging to study an “injunction”—a word used to describe an authoritative warning or order. And surely we have no less than an authoritative warning or order from God to study His Word. But we should in no way consider this a harsh or belligerent step toward us on God’s part. It is no more harsh than setting a delicious, nutritious mango-banana smoothy before a starving person. He longs to nourish us, feed us with good things.
Isn’t it true what she says? We must closely observe the divine model. It needs to be inspected often; it must be inspected closely. We ask, how can he model of Jesus be inspected often and closely unless one is in His Bible often and closely?
There is a truth here. Seeing Jesus we move towards seeing ourselves more clearly. The more we see of Jesus, the more we will begin to see in ourselves the necessity of great change. The more we will discover in ourselves an increase of desire to be like Jesus.
The saying is true: by beholding we are changed. If we behold bombings, we will be changed. If we behold virtual violence, murder portrayed on the television screen between potato chip commercials, we will be changed. If we see illicit sexuality on the DVD, we will think a bit more lightly about it. By increasing familiarity, all of these things become more commonplace, more accepted, more a part of the environment, the expectation of our life.
Here is found one of the great motivations for separation from the world. The closer you are to the dump, the more you get used to the smell. The closer we are to the world, the more we get used to its odor. The more familiar we are with sin, the less intensity we will have when we consider its sinfulness. What we see is what we become familiar with, what we copy.
This helps us understand why we should dwell upon the life of Jesus and talk to each other of Him. As far as tastes, go, the paragraph we read is right again: refining our tastes and elevating our character is not something that will ever happen randomly. No. What must truly happen is that we must experience Word into flesh in ourselves. We need to be reading, praying, pressing in the promises. Then we will begin to act like Jesus, who did the same and who also trusted in the promises.
We should study the thoughts of God, the life of Christ, until what He is becomes enshrined in what we are. Did you hear what she wrote? “Even unconsciously we imitate that with which we are familiar.” If we are more familiar with the tragedies on the news this past week than the charms of Jesus in the Bible this past week, then what shall we unconsciously imitate? We need Word into flesh; we already have too much of flesh into flesh.
Yes, we should be studying the Bible, intentionally placing into our mind the Word of God and the lessons of God daily. How else shall we obtain a knowledge of Christ, of His words, His habits, His lessons of instruction? We need the Bible. The wonderful thing is, we each have the Bible. But it may be that we are not reading it, listening to it, thinking of it, meditating upon it, enough.
Did you catch that last line in the quotation?
By having a knowledge of Christ, his words, his habits, his lessons of instruction, and by borrowing the virtues of the character which we have so closely studied, we become imbued with the spirit of the Master which we have so much admired.
That word “imbued” is interesting. It comes from the French language and means to moisten. As a towel immersed in water is imbued with water, saturated through and through, our minds, immersed in Scripture will be imbued, moistened with the instruction of God, the life of Jesus, the moral image of humanity. When we immerse into the Word, the Word will imbue our flesh. We become living character portrayals of Jesus. Yes, our reflection of the original will be flawed, imperfect, incomplete. But that is not our concern. Our concern is, very simply, to live the Christ life in this world. We will be changed, our children will be changed, our neighbors and co-workers will be confronted with something not explainable on any other grounds than that something beyond has become a part of us.
In conclusion, if we love Him we will act like Him. If we love Him we will do what it takes to act like Him. Let us be in the Bible, every day in 2008, and read it through from front to back. At least. He gave so much for us. We meet to remember Him until He returns. Let us then copy Him. Let us experience Word into flesh.
Mentone CA SDA 2007-11-03