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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Christ’s and the Law of Moses

Christ’s and the Law of Moses

The introduction to our lesson states that the emphasis of the quarterly is the Moral Law, in other words the Ten Commandments.  But, the memory text for last week’s seems to downplay the importance of knowing these laws.  Why?  Let us read our memory text,

Romans 2:14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,

This verse says that it is possible to do the law, without knowing the law.  For the Bible student this should not come as a surprise.  As we read in Galatians 3:6, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  The word used for righteousness in Greek is the same word for justice.  So, that the righteous are just.  The just are doers of the law and they live by faith (Romans 1: 17; 2: 13).  Now, faith comes through the hearing of the Word (Romans 10: 17).  Abraham heard God’s word, Abraham believed it, therefore was reckoned a doer of the law.  Did Abraham know the Ten Commandments?  No, he did not.  Abraham knew the Gospel, but not the Ten Commandments.  These were not given more than 400 years after.  It begs the question, what Law did Abraham keep?

Even angels did not know there was a Law, until they learned it from God.  Ellen White says, 

But in heaven, service is not rendered in the spirit of legality. When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His words are re-echoed, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Psalm 40:8. {MB 109.2}

No one will deny that the angels are doers of the Law, but they were doers of the Law even when they did not know there was a law.  So then why was the Law given?  Paul says in Galatians,

Gal 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, …

Here the word added has a connotation of being spoken, declared.  The word transgression in Greek has a connotation of stepping aside the path.  So, the Law is declared because of our stepping aside the path of Christ.  This is clear in the following Ellen White’s quote,

“If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses. {PP 364.2}”

What our quarterly intends to uplift was given because the people failed to cherish God’s covenant to them.  Anytime the 10 Commandments are lifted up is a reminder that the belief in the Covenant has been abandoned.  Should we then keep the Ten Commandments or the rest of the law hidden? 

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

When I was growing up a 15 year old had to wait until he was 16 to take the driver’s license test.  Should he hate the law because he is 15?  Or, should he wait a few more months until he turns 16?  Even those who are displeased with the law will likely wait until they fulfill the requirements.  What does the Law require?

“The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can ‘be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Rom. 3:26.”—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 762

The law is a reminder that we do not believe God’s promises, that we are not keeping His covenant.  And, it is by believing the promises that we become righteous.  Since, the righteous are the doers of the Law, and love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13: 10), then it follows that by believing God’s promises that we become loving. 

Now, Jesus is very clear, He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5: 1).  However, being that Jesus is God, and therefore love, He is the fulfilling of the law.  He not only gave it or kept himself subject to it, He fulfilled it.  We need to add here that the word Law in the New Testament refers to the books of Moses.  Jesus said that these books, indeed Moses, spoke of Jesus (John 5:46).

The reason Jesus made Himself subject to the Laws, is clear on Wednesday lesson.  Although, the author of our lesson uses the story to push his own agenda.  Let’s read the passage in question,

Mat 17:24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
Mat 17:25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Mat 17:26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Mat 17:27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

This incident was a trap to discredit Jesus as much as was the incident with the adulterous woman.  Priests and prophets did not pay the tribute.  If Jesus did not pay they could accuse Jesus of being subversive.  If He paid, Jesus was saying He what the leasers were saying of Him was true.  Ellen White elaborates,

“ If Jesus had paid the tribute without a protest, He would virtually have acknowledged the justice of the claim, and would thus have denied His divinity. But while He saw good to meet the demand, He denied the claim upon which it was based. In providing for the payment of the tribute He gave evidence of His divine character. It was made manifest that He was one with God, and therefore was not under tribute as a mere subject of the kingdom.” (DA 434).

According to the author of our lesson Jesus gave money to the ungodly church leaders, therefore so should we.  But, Jesus did not give money from neither Peter nor Jesus’ pocket or from the purse that Judas held (John 13: 29).  .  He sent Peter to catch a fish, open the fish’s mouth take out a coin in the mouth and give it to the tax collector.  Peter could have kept the fish to eat it.  Also, the verse tells us why Jesus gave the money, “less they be offended.”  Jesus did object to giving.  But, He gave anyway to not offend the leaders, for whom He longed that they would accept Him as their Savior.  Jesus expression “less they be offended, reminds us as Paul when He wrote, to me all things are legal, but for the sake of the weak, I refrain…”  Offending the leaders, unnecessarily, would mean to place Himself beyond a place to reveal His love for them.  Again from Ellen White,

“While Jesus made it plain that He was under no obligation to pay the tribute, He entered into no controversy with the Jews in regard to the matter; for they would have misinterpreted His words, and turned them against Him. Lest He should give offense by withholding the tribute, He did that which He could not justly be required to do. This lesson would be of great value to His disciples. Marked changes were soon to take place in their relation to the temple service, and Christ taught them not to place themselves needlessly in antagonism to established order. So far as possible, they were to avoid giving occasion for misinterpretation of their faith. While Christians are not to sacrifice one principle of truth, they should avoid controversy whenever it is possible to do so.” {DA 434} 


We are to prayerfully pick our battles.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cost of Discipleship

Cost of Discipleship


In general terms, cost is the loss or penalty incurred in gaining something.  In finance, it is the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something; such as price.  When I buy a piece of fruit the cost is what I give the merchant in exchange for the fruit.  I lose money, but I gain the fruit.  I give up A, to gain B.  This implies that the fruit is of more value than the money.

The word cost is also used to define the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.  Runners sacrifice time with loved ones, favorite foods, and amusement time - among other things - to exercise and practice their sport.   The practice of their sport - and the chance of participating in a racing event - is of more value than the things they give up.  Paul saw what runners do as a parallel to the Christian experience.  Ellen White elaborates on Paul’s idea,


In referring to these races as a figure of the Christian warfare, Paul emphasized the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race--the preliminary discipline, the abstemious diet, the necessity for temperance. "Every man that striveth for the mastery," he declared, "is temperate in all things." The runners put aside every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers, and by severe and continuous discipline trained their muscles to strength and endurance, that when the day of the contest should arrive, they might put the heaviest tax upon their powers. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interests are at stake, bring appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God! Never must he allow his attention to be diverted by amusements, luxuries, or ease. All his habits and passions must be brought under the strictest discipline. Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God's word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control. {AA 311.1}

It is obvious then that there is always something to give up.  The following verses make this point clearly.  Let us read them,

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

 

Just like there is no successful runner that gratifies inclination and refuses to obey their coach, “There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God” (MYP 154).

Now, in addition to giving up self, those who follow Christ will suffer persecution.  We read in John 15: 18 – 20,

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;

So, there is a double cost to be a disciple: what we give up and what we endure.  In order to get B I must give up A, but in order to retain B – forever - I must endure C.  So, the question is what is B, and is it worth giving up A, and enduring C, to have it.  Evidently B is Christ.  A is self, and C is the persecution and hatred we encounter as we become followers of Christ.  We see this dynamic in Paul’s experience as presented in Philippians 3: 7 – 10,

 

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

In the beginning verses of Philippians 3 Paul talks about what he gave up.  Nothing he had before – his ethnic background, his high standing in society, etc. – compared to the matchless charms of Christ.  In verses 7 and 8 Paul says he gives up everything to know Christ, and in verse 10 he says that he endures suffering and even death to continue to know Him.  We can see that Paul makes a distinction between what he gave up and what he endured.

What is not readily said is that the giving up and the enduring are related.  God designs the enduring, to help us in the giving up; and, the giving up helps us in the enduring.  Often the enduring reveals what we ought to give up. If we do not give up what the enduring reveals we should give up, we will fail to endure. Many may believe that the initial cost should be enough, perhaps too much.  Why should we endure trials?  Let us put it this way: if to receive Christ we must die to self, then the trial is to help us stay dead.  Trials teach us to trust, depend and wait on God.  Trials, rightly understood and endured, are to help us develop Christ-like character.  Ellen White says,


God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. {OFC 67.1}


What about us: Loadicea? What will it "cost" Laodicea to be in partnership with Christ our High Priest in His mission to the world? There is a difference between fulfilling the great commission,--"Go ye ... and teach [disciple] all nations,"--before 1844 and being co-laborers with the Harvester during the cleansing of the sanctuary.


It will cost Laodicea everything she thinks she knows about righteousness by faith in exchange for an appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to obtain justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the at-one-ment with God. This is the "offense" of the cross.


Why is Laodicea's discipleship and devotion to Jesus lukewarm and lackluster? The True Witness diagnoses her disease which is causing Him acute nausea,--"I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).

This warning is parallel to that Christ gives those who say, "Lord, Lord, open unto us ... I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ... you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:25-28). That's an awful word--"iniquity." We instinctively pass it on to our Sunday-keeping neighbors.


What we need to realize is that devotion perfectly appropriate during the ministry of the High Priest in the Holy Apartment becomes "iniquity" when weighed against the incomparably greater scope of His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment! Christian experience perfectly acceptable in times previous to the cleansing of the sanctuary becomes "lukewarmness" in our day. To our High Priest, there is no more nauseous sin than this.


The truthful Witness testifies that Laodicea's self-understanding of righteousness by faith is pre-1844. And further, she has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. Her confession is: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." According to the Heavenly Counselor she doesn't know her spiritual condition: "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).


The True Witness addresses "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev. 3:14). "The angel" is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who have unwittingly led the church into a self-centered understanding of righteousness by faith which it proclaims to the world as its gospel commission.


We know Jesus challenges the Adventist Church regarding her message because He appeals for a correction of course. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed" (Rev. 3:18). The Savior couldn't be more clear. The "white raiment" which Laodicea lacks is obviously garments of righteousness. This clothing is "gold tried in the fire." Furthermore, the Heavenly Merchantman markets His commodity to her. She is "to buy of me gold."


The "gold" of which He speaks is faith and love. "The gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven." [Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.]


Her problem is not a deficiency of doing "much work." The "gold" we lack is not more feverish activity. That we're truly "rich" in, already. Our need is basic. In respect of the very "gold" itself, the True Witness says our treasure-box is empty.


Why "buy" it? Why doesn't He say, "Ask of Me, and I'll give it to you"? Could it be that we must surrender our false concepts of righteousness by faith in exchange for the true? These "goods" we do possess: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).


Writes the pen of inspiration: "What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge." [Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 252, 253.]


The "price" we must give up is "deception," false "spiritual knowledge." In other words we must surrender our false ideas and deceptions regarding righteousness by faith in order to "buy" the "gold."


Is our Lord trying to tell us that we don't really understand what love is, and therefore cannot have true faith? Is the "angel" of the church destitute of "such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ"?


There are two great antithetical ideas of "love." One has come from Hellenism and is the kind of "love" that the popular evangelical churches accept today. The other is completely different, and is the kind of love that can have its source only in the ministry of the true High Priest in His cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. [Early Writings, pp. 55, 56].


Christ Himself makes clear what New Testament faith is, and His view is different from that of the "popular ministry": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him ..." (John 3:16). God's love is the first thing, and until that love is revealed, there can be no "believing." As the result of His "loving" and "giving," the sinner finds it possible to "believe." Faith is a heart-experience, "heart-work" to borrow Ellen G. White's phrase, and it cannot exist until God's love is understood and appreciated.


The "believing" is not motivated by a fear of "perishing" or an acquisitive regard for "everlasting life." The primary cause of faith is "for God so loved." The results of God's love are "that He gave His only begotten Son" and "that whosoever believeth." The believing is a direct result of God's loving the world.


Thus Jesus' clear definition: Faith is a heart-appreciation of the love of God revealed at the cross. A subtle shift has occurred in the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding its understanding of righteousness by faith. An acquisitive hope of reward is set forth before the people and the world to offset the "cost" of discipleship now. Such self-centeredness is antithetical to the "gold" of Christ's righteousness. When faith and love are truly tested, it will be revealed as to what source produced the righteousness--whether it be self or Christ.


--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Commentary: The Harvest and the Harvesters

The Harvest and the Harvesters


The word harvest comes from an old English word akin to the latin word carpere – to pluck or gather.  The word carpere, in turn, comes from the greek word karpos, which means fruit.  Today it refers to the season for gathering in agricultural crops; the act or process of gathering in a crop; and a mature crop (as of grain or fruit).  The harvester would be the one who gathers the harvest.


In Matthew 13: 18 – 23, Jesus declares the parable of the tares and the field.  Briefly, the land owner sows good seed in the field, but shortly, thereafter, tares appear also.  The field workers asked their master whether to gather the tares and throw them away.  The master replies that they should wait until the harvest, lest when they pull the tare they pull the wheat also.  In Matthew 13: 39 Jesus says that “… the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”  The implication is that at the end of the world spiritual fruit will be mature enough to gather.  The word harvest in the New testament most time refers to the end time.  Other examples are in verses Revelation 14: 15 and Matthew 4:29. 

 

In this parable what is being harvested is people: those who perfectly reflect the character of Christ; these are the good seed in this parable.  The tares are those who have rejected Christ by choosing the enemy’s way.  Just like a barren tree is distinguishable from a fruitful one in the season for harvest, people’s character will reveal clearly whom they have chosen in the end of the world. 

 

Another parable in the same chapter tells us what makes the difference between these two groups.  In Matthew 13: 3 – 9, we read that a sower spreads around seed in the season for sowing.  But, the seed falls in different kinds of soil, thus what happens to the seed in the end has to do with the soil.  We read in Matthew 18 – 23 Jesus’ explanation of the parable,

 

Mat 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

Mat 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

Mat 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

Mat 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Mat 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mat 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

 

Every single person that professes Christianity falls into one of the four categories.  Every one of us chooses which soil to be.  Remember, the harvest season begins when the harvest – the crop – is ready.  If the angels are not gathering us to go to heaven, we have not borne fruit mature enough to begin the harvest.  We have not borne fruit because, as a group, Christians have not chosen to be good ground.  This means that they have chosen not to abide in Christ.   Let us read from John 15,

 

Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Joh 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

 

The branch is so connected to the vine that it is essentially an extension of the vine.  In fact, the branch grows out of the vine.  It is the branch however that bears leaves, flowers, and fruit.  Many people may not know a tree by its bark or leaves.  But, many will recognize the fruit.  If we continue to read this chapter we will find what the fruit is.  Let us read verses 9 through 13,

 

Joh 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

 

Christ makes an obvious connection between loving an abiding.  Those who abide keep the commandment (the Greek word for commandment is in singular). What is the commandment: to lay down your life.  The commandment is to live a life serving others as Christ lived His life serving others.  This can only be done by abiding in Christ.  It can only be done by hearing or receiving His words, understanding them and believing them. 

 

There will be those who may look pious but are not.  They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5).  Christ said in Matthew 7,

 

Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

Whatever they did it was not in Christ’s name.  But, they were professedly Christians.  How can this be?  Were not the priests and Pharisees and Christ’s day professedly God’s people? Yet, they rejected the Son of God, persecuted Him and finally crucified Him.  And, in the name of keeping the Sabbath Holy, they wanted to make sure the crucified were dead and buried before the Sabbath hours.  Reportedly, during the Rwandan massacre many Seventh Day Adventists that were involved in the killings were instructed by the leaders not to kill in the Sabbath hours.  By the fruit you will know them.  They preach God is love, but turn around and describe God as a punitive and penalizing God.  They give people the wrong picture of God.  They, in great measure, keep people away from entering Heaven by keeping people in darkness about the true nature of God.  Thus they hide the keys to enter the door to heaven from people.  Also, notice they do not know they are doing it. 

 

The point is that the fruit tells us whether you are a disciple or not.  We read in Matthew 25 about those who are truly His disciples,

 

Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Mat 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Mat 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Mat 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

Mat 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Mat 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

 

It is, then, in loving service to others that the fruit is revealed.  


--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Discipling Spiritual Leaders

Discipling Spiritual Leaders


We have determined that the word disciple in the context of the lesson means learner and follower of Christ.  What is Spiritual?  Anything not of the flesh.  What is a leader?  According to the dictionary it is someone that goes ahead of anyone else; a guide or conductor.  The word leader comes from and old English words that means to go.  This would imply that a leader goes ahead.  A leader knows where he taking everyone else.  Thus a spiritual leader is one that not only is a spiritual model, he has been led to Christ and follows Him.  They can say as Paul says,

1Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Paul was qualified to lead by his inclination to follow.  By this definition a spiritual leader is a disciple.  The word discipling is used in the lesson as making disciples.  You cannot make something into something it already is.  So, the title is misleading.  The idea seems to be to make leaders out of followers.  The best leaders identify with their followers.  Hence, the best leaders are followers themselves. 

Christ identified with us.  Paul says in Hebrews 4:15,

 

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

 

This high Priest, of course is Jesus, whom God sent “…in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…” (Romans 8:3).   If Jesus as our leader identified with us, then we as leaders should identify with those that follow us.  A leader that fails to empathize with his followers is not spiritual.  And, unfortunately, the church is full of those.  This has been the case historically.  Let us read the next quote how this point is brought out by contrasting the Apostles with the leaders in Christ time,

 

The work of Jesus was to reveal the character of the Father, and to unfold the truth which He Himself had spoken through prophets and apostles; but there was found no place for the truth in those wise and prudent men. Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, had to pass by the self-righteous Pharisees, and take his disciples from unlearned fishers and men of humble rank. These who had never been to the rabbis, who had never sat in the schools of the prophets, who had not been members of the Sanhedrin, whose hearts were not bound about with their own ideas,--these He took and educated for His own use. He could make them as new bottles for the new wine of His kingdom. These were the babes to whom the Father could reveal spiritual things; but the priests and rulers, the scribes and Pharisees, who claimed to be the depositaries of knowledge, could give no room for the principles of Christianity, afterward taught by the apostles of Christ. The chain of truth, link after link, was given to those who realized their own ignorance, and were willing to learn of the great Teacher. {5BC 1088.9}

 

The Priests, the Pharisees, and other leading men looked down on the people and have stripped them of any hope for salvation.  Christ undid that.  So, Christ had to choose men who would be willing to be transformed to His likeness. The leaders of the established church in Jesus’ time would not allow Christ to disciple them.  This held the people back in accepting Jesus.  Ellen White states,

 

The interest of the people in Christ and His work had steadily increased. They were charmed with His teaching, but they were also greatly perplexed. They had respected the priests and rabbis for their intelligence and apparent piety. In all religious matters they had ever yielded implicit obedience to their authority. Yet they now saw these men trying to cast discredit upon Jesus, a teacher whose virtue and knowledge shone forth the brighter from every assault. They looked upon the lowering countenances of the priests and elders, and there saw discomfiture and confusion. They marveled that the rulers would not believe on Jesus, when His teachings were so plain and simple. They themselves knew not what course to take. With eager anxiety they watched the movements of those whose counsel they had always followed. {DA 611}

 

This hold that the leaders had on the masses had to be undone.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).  Ellen White illustrates how this was done,

 

After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were so filled with love for Him and for those for whom He died, that hearts were melted by the words they spoke and the prayers they offered. They spoke in the power of the Spirit; and under the influence of that power, thousands were converted.

As Christ's representatives the apostles were to make a decided impression on the world. The fact that they were humble men would not diminish their influence, but increase it; for the minds of their hearers would be carried from them to the Saviour, who, though unseen, was still working with them. The wonderful teaching of the apostles, their words of courage and trust, would assure all that it was not in their own power that they worked, but in the power of Christ. Humbling themselves, they would declare that He whom the Jews had crucified was the Prince of life, the Son of the living God, and that in His name they did the works that He had done (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 21-24).

 

How effective was the work of the apostles?  Many of the leading men who once rejected Christ joined the ranks of believers (Acts 6: 7).  But, the Lord spoke of also of a latter rain.  Ellen White speaks of that day by saying that as a farmer's crops need rain if the harvest is to come, so the Latter Rain is to ripen the "grain" and prepare "for the sickle." This is "the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul ... that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 506).  Used by the Holy Spirit humble brethren will preach the Gospel in word and deed; in truth and Spirit.  Among those converted will be leaders who before – albeit unknowingly - rejected Christ. Christ exalted – lifted up – in the believer will draw others to Him.  


--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com