Sabbath, September 27, 2008
“Brethren, if a man beovertaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a none in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1.
Reconciliation of man to God
1. Although we were God’s enemies, what great work has He accomplished through Jesus Christ?
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Romans 5:10, 11.
“Jesus was the majesty of heaven, the beloved commander of the angels, who delighted to do His pleasure. He was one with God, ‘in the bosom of the Father’ (John 1:18), yet He thought it not a thing to be desired to be equal with God while man was lost in sin and misery. He stepped down from His throne, He left His crown and royal scepter, and clothed His divinity with humanity. He humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, that man might be exalted to a seat with Him upon His throne. In Him we have a complete offering, an infinite sacrifice, a mighty Saviour, who is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. In love He comes to reveal the Father, to reconcile man to God, to make him a new creature renewed after the image of Him who created him.” –Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 321.
2. As a natural consequence of this reconciliation, what ministry has He entrusted to us?
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
“Says the apostle: ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.’ Only as we contemplate the great plan of redemption can we have a just appreciation of the character of God. The work of creation was a manifestation of His love; but the gift of God to save the guilty and ruined race, alone reveals the infinite depths of divine tenderness and compassion. ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ While the law of God is maintained, and its justice vindicated, the sinner can be pardoned. The dearest gift that heaven itself had to bestow has been poured out that God ‘might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ By that gift men are uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin to become children of God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 739.
“What amazing love! that brought the Son of God to earth to be made sin for us, that we might be reconciled to God, and elevated to a life with Him in His mansions in glory. Oh, what is man, that such a price should be paid for his redemption!” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 211, 212.
Reconciliation between man and man
3. Since Jesus offered such a great sacrifice to reconcile the world to God, how should we treat other individuals?
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Luke 17:3, 4.
“If your brethren err, you are to forgive them. When they come to you with confession, you should not say, I do not think they are humble enough. I do not think they feel their confession. What right have you to judge them, as if you could read the heart? The word of God says, ‘If he repent, forgive him. And if he trespasses against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.’ Luke 17:3, 4.
And not only seven times, but seventy times seven–just as often as God forgives you.
“We ourselves owe everything to God’s free grace. Grace in the covenant ordained our adoption. Grace in the Saviour effected our redemption, our regeneration, and our exaltation to heirship with Christ. Let this grace be revealed to others.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 249, 250.
4. As children of God, with whom should we first seek reconciliation before appearing at the altar of God to confess our sins? Should we wait for our brother to make the first move?
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23, 24.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Matthew 18:15.
“Many are zealous in religious services, while between them and their brethren are unhappy differences which they might reconcile. God requires them to do all in their power to restore harmony. Until they do this, He cannot accept their services. The Christian’s duty in this matter is clearly pointed out.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 311.
“… If you are grieved because your neighbors or friends are doing wrong to their own hurt, if they are overtaken in fault, follow the Bible rule. ‘Tell him his fault between thee and him alone.’ As you go to the one you suppose to be in error, see that you speak in a meek and lowly spirit; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. The erring can be restored in no other way than in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and tender love. Be careful in your manner. Avoid anything in look or gesture, word or tone, that savors of pride or self-sufficiency. Guard yourself against a word or look that would exalt yourself, or place your goodness and righteousness in contrast with their failings. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt…. Let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of warmth but that of earnest love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill will, no bitterness or sourness of expression. Nothing but kindness and gentleness can flow from a heart of love…. Bear in mind that the success of reproof depends greatly upon the spirit in which it is given. Do not neglect earnest prayer….” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 52, 53.
As God forgives us
5. How should we forgive our brothers and sisters? What happens to our sins when we forgive willingly and lovingly?
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32.
“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14, 15.
“Let the tenderness and mercy that Jesus has revealed in His own precious life be an example to us of the manner in which we should treat our fellow beings…. The erring can be restored in no other way than in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and tender love.
“In all your transactions with your fellow men never forget that you are dealing with God’s property. Be kind; be pitiful; be courteous. Respect God’s purchased possession. Treat one another with tenderness and courtesy.
“If you have enmity, suspicion, envy, and jealousy in your hearts, you have a work to do to make these things right. Confess your sins; come into harmony with your brethren. Speak well of them. Throw out no unfavorable hints, no suggestions that will awaken distrust in the minds of others. Guard their reputation as sacredly as you would have them guard yours; love them as you would be loved of Jesus.” –My Life Today, p. 235.
6. Will we able to bring a true message of reconciliation to the world if we are not reconciled to our brothers or sisters?
“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Luke 6:42.
“He who is guilty of wrong is the first to suspect wrong. By condemning another he is trying to conceal or excuse the evil of his own heart….
“Jesus bids the accuser first cast the beam out of his own eye, renounce his censorious spirit, confess and forsake his own sin, before trying to correct others. For ‘a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’ Luke 6:43. This accusing spirit which you indulge is evil fruit, and shows that the tree is evil….
“You must be good before you can do good. You cannot exert an influence that will transform others until your own heart has been humbled and refined and made tender by the grace of Christ. When this change has been wrought in you, it will be as natural for you to live to bless others as it is for the rosebush to yield its fragrant bloom or the vine its purple clusters.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 126-128.
7. What level of harmony was achieved by the apostolic church in Jerusalem? What was a daily blessed occurrence for them?
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. ” Acts 2:42, 46, 47.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Ephesians 4:1-4.
“The apostle exhorts his brethren to manifest in their lives the power of the truth which he had presented to them. By meekness and gentleness, forbearance and love, they were to exemplify the character of Christ and the blessings of His salvation. There is but one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith. As members of the body of Christ all believers are animated by the same spirit and the same hope. Divisions in the church dishonor the religion of Christ before the world and give occasion to the enemies of truth to justify their course. Paul’s instructions were not written alone for the church in his day. God designed that they should be sent down to us. What are we doing to preserve unity in the bonds of peace?
“When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early church, the brethren loved one another…. Those primitive Christians were few in numbers, without wealth or honor, yet they exerted a mighty influence. The light of the world shone out from them. They were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and their doctrines were known. For this cause they were hated by the wicked and persecuted even unto death.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 239, 240.
8. What is necessary to attain to that brotherly communion that characterized the apostolic church?
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7.
“Christ and His word are in perfect harmony. Received and obeyed, they open a sure path for the feet of all who are willing to walk in the light as Christ is in the light. If the people of God would appreciate His word, we should have a heaven in the church here below.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 193.
“The Lord has given us in His word definite, unmistakable instructions, by obedience to which we may preserve union and harmony in the church. Brethren and sisters, are you giving heed to these inspired injunctions? Are you Bible readers and doers of the word? Are you striving to fulfill the prayer of Christ that His followers might be one? ‘The God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God.’ ‘Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 248.
An object lesson
Struck, wounded, and ready to forgive
One day a man threw a rock at a dog to drive it away, but the result was rather unusual. The rock hit its target and injured the poor animal’s paw. But what was the dog’s reaction? Instead of running away, the dog limped to the man and licked the hand that had thrown the rock.
Seeing the dog’s reaction, the man understood the words of Jesus and said: “This dog has preached to me a sermon as no preacher has ever done. In no human being have I found such a willingness to forgive one’s enemy.”
In Jesus’ time, those who were wronged reacted by giving a light blow on the cheek of their adversary with the left hand, thus expressing their contempt. For the recipient of the blow the gesture was more offensive than painful. What a surprise it must have been for them to hear Jesus say, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Jesus wanted to teach them not to be vengeful but to show a loving spirit to forgive and to return good for evil.
Yes, the modern world also needs to see in every human being the image of the Redeemer. We should be a people who work for peace. We should always show a heart willing to forgive even those who are unreasonable and provocative. Do we give proof by a calm, peaceful spirit that Jesus lives in us?