When I saw this week’s title, I instantly saw life’s front-page issue: Living Like Jesus vs Living like Lucifer!
Yep, We all have a choice, but that decision determines where we will be 5000 years from now. For instance, living like Jesus means we should love like Jesus—and that opens up a door not often seen. Probably our Lord’s greatest love act was to “give” Himself forever to the human race—and to the whole universe of onlookers—laying aside all visible aspects of divinity and to become a baby boy, born to a carpenter’s wife in a subjugated nation. Yes, one of the eternal Godhead, chose to “empty” himself of divine prerogatives in order to be forever a human being. No more being present everywhere at the same time (omnipresent); no more being all-powerful (omnipotent). No more, knowing everything at once (omniscient). I know—all this is difficult to grasp. Of course! It is unthinkable! Such an “emptying” can only be stated, not duplicated nor even imagined!
But why? Long before the creation of this world, God’s character was challenged—He could not be trusted, He was selfish. For at least one-third of the angels, they responded to Him in fear, not love. They believed that what God called love was really a farce—because if they chose not to obey, they would be wiped out. So the great, central issue was LOVE—how did God choose to tell His side of the controversy? The Godhead knew that more words would not be the answer. (More discussion rarely solves problems. More words often move everyone into a debate arena where positions become more hardened.) The controversy came to a draw, with one-third of the angels saying that God did not know what it was like to not have the freedom to make up, or challenge, some of the so-called rules. What to do? One of the Heavenly Trio “emptied Himself” (Phil 2:7, Greek) and became an angel! An archangel! Satan’s arch competitor! Face to face with God’s challenger who had offered a “better” plan to run the universe! The angels watch with their mouths wide open: What did they see? They saw one of the Godhead “emptying” himself of the prerogatives of being God. He had become one of them. They were “face to face” with God who now showed them how to “live” like their Creator! The angels discovered that He was the opposite of Lucifer! Lucifer wanted to “ascend” above all others . . . to be like God Himself. (Isaiah 14:13-14). Instead of being grateful and modest for the gifts and prerogatives that God gave him, his “heart was lifted up” and his pride “corrupted” his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:12-17). In a nutshell, one third of the heavenly angels chose Lucifer to be their leader, chose his pleasing way to run the universe, and rejected God Himself who had come to share their angelhood. It was a simple choice: Living like Lucifer or Living like Christ—a 2014 choice!
But Jesus had more to do than becoming an angel to show what God was like and how angels could also become like Him. The crisis in heaven descended to Planet Earth—to the Garden of Eden. Here, Lucifer (now Satan) continued his hellish plan to convince Adam and Eve that he could be trusted more than God, their Creator. Through his clever lies regarding the fruit, the same subtle satanic deceptions now began to flood the New Earth—even to August 16, 2014. This time Satan had a slightly different playing field (men and women, this time), men and women who could not visibly see either God or Satan. However, they did have God’s words from the “get-go” that proved to be trustworthy, the more those words were trusted. But the issues of whom to trust became very clouded during more than 4000 years of recorded history. Yes, the world was awash concerning what kind of God was running the universe. As the confusion darkened the earth as it once did heaven, God did the unthinkable—“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”(John q:14). Here again, God’s once Vice President of Communications, His closest Angel friend, was again face to face with his Archrival—now known to the universe as Jesus Christ! Here again the principles of right and wrong are on full display. Again, in such a way that no man or woman need be deceived—it was a battle that would be played out for all the universe to see: who would be vindicated and who was the liar. The issue--who could be trusted regarding the life principles that guarantied living forever or the life principles that would lead to spiritual suicide (John 3:16)?
This week’s lesson drills in the core issue in the Great Controversy—who should be trusted and what is the chief evidence for who is right! When Jesus settled this question in heaven (when one-third of the angels so fascinated with Lucifer’s lies that they chose to practice their way of life in following him wherever he went), two-thirds of the angels committed themselves to “empty themselves” of all desires to be Number One and the Brightest. ETC. For thirty-three years on earth Jesus of Nazareth lived out the life that would be safe to save--lives that Satan and his angels chose to reject, only to reap the harvest of self-centeredness. How did Jesus do it? (1) By living His theology, and (2) by spelling out in words how He did it. For instance, in those words that I repeat more than once, day and night: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. And you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 22:28-30). What exactly is Jesus saying about Himself that Lucifer never understood—and still resists every day of his life? It is one of the secrets of “Living Like Jesus”! Say it another way: Meekness and lowliness of heart are the simple conditions for genuine strength in all of life’s challenges. Meekness and lowliness of heart spell out love in a much deeper dimension then when we hear the word “love” in song or poetry.
Many marriages discover that “love” words and “love” actions can vanish like sunshine on a cloudy day—perhaps even into a dark night. Most people who “enjoy” sparring with others over Sabbath School Lessons aim “to be right.” Of course, our Lord wants us to be “right!” What troubles me is that Lucifer and one-third of his followers surely thought they were right! But something real wrong was going on, when they lacked meekness and lowliness of heart. SPECTRUM Sabbath school readers are a special group. Obvious, they are not homogenized. Neither were our Lord’s disciples! Wow! Try to imagine Peter and John attempting to get agreement on an OT prophecy! Or Judas spelling out his sophisticated ways of how best to get Jesus crowned King of the Jews. Must have been more than interesting!
Then Jesus often helped by giving a parable that sat every one back on the couch. At least, for maybe a day! For instance, what was God like? He is like me, He said to Thomas and Philip (John 14:5-11) And He spelled out what He meant in the Parable of the Waiting Father (Luke 15:11-32) and the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7). Along with other parables, Jesus was saying that God was not like the god of the philosophers who often pictured God as stern and severe—one who had to be appeased one way or another. In many ways, Jesus said that what He was saying God was like is another way of saying “what I am like”! “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble" (John 16:1). Wow! That is some promise! To Live like Jesus, we will “keep His words,” knowing that keeping those words will keep them from “stumbling.” “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words, and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:13). To live like Jesus, simply said, is to seek and love everyone in this wide world as our Father God does.
Here again, two more parables. That one lost sheep seems to be everyone of us, at one time or another. That sheep may have even chosen another master. And yes, that “sheep” could not have found the way back, even if it wanted to, if it were not for somebody living like Jesus. Living like Jesus, we will take the first step—to the divorcee who made some bad choices, to the son or daughter who strayed over the line, to the alcoholic or druggie, who didn’t believe that those first sips were harmful, to the homosexual, bisexual, or lesbian who feels unwanted. But that next parable—the lost coin representing those lost in their mistakes but not able to realize what they should have done differently. In fact, they stubbornly defend the “why’s” of those choices! I dare say, we all have been there and done that. Some wonderful Mom or Dad, Wife or Husband, Sweetheart or Pastor calmly, tenderly extended the hand that few others either did not know how or have the time to do. How many times did our Lord’s outstretched hand make all the difference? For instance, the outcast leper, the pain-in-the-neck demoniac, the paralyzed man at the Bethesda pool, the man blind from birth and more! What made the world change for these unnumbered rejects along life’s highways? Ah, we know!
In a way, it is scary to read our Lord’s preview of the judgment, especially when good” church members face reality: “But, but, Lord! Lord! Have we not prophesied in your name (many Bible studies, hundreds of sermons, thousands of dollars every year for wonderful literature distributed in Africa) and frankly done many wonders in your name.” And the Lord was forced to state the truth: “I never knew you (I never you as your personal Savior): Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matt 7:22-23. NKJV. Whoa! Doing “lawlessness” is another way of saying, “not doing the will of God” (7:21). Apparently, doing the will of God is another way of saying, “Living Like Jesus”--with the same, deliberate intent of “emptying” one’s self of desiring to be Number One, to be known as the “best” in one’s field, to be recognized by the listing of capital letters after one’s name, by the quiet satisfaction that he or she has enough votes to get what is wanted, etc. Living like Jesus must be something more than knowing which day is the Sabbath, how to pay an honest tithe, and be a faithful health reformer. After all, people who did all that once crucified Jesus! Living like Jesus, it seems to me, becomes a heavenly umbrella that encompasses everything I can think or do.