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First Quarter 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 1: December 30–January 5
COMMENTARY ON "The Influence of Materialism"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Since the theme for the quarter is about stewardship this commentary will begin first by focusing on a quote taken from the quarterly introduction that precedes the first lesson:
"Unfortunately, many souls will be lost because of their failure to break free from their love of the world. The ways of the world—“the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)—can all be tempered, even avoided, through the principles of stewardship lived out in our lives."
The Apostle John's theme in 1 John chapter two is about 'how to not sin':
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (1 John 2:1-3)
The Apostle John defines God's "new" commandment (verses 4-8) with this these verses:
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)
Then John says this:
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. (1 John 2:12)
The Apostle John declares that he is writing to those whose sins have been forgiven. Therefore they are not the "many souls (that) will be lost" as quoted from the introduction of this quarter's theme of stewardship. The real question is this Scripture teaching "principles of stewardship" as a way to avoid "love of the world"?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
According to these words of God brought to us by the Apostle John, 'love of the world or the things in the world' would be a good biblical definition of materialism. However, the quote taken from the quarterly introduction includes this; "unfortunately, many souls will be lost because of their failure to break free from their love of the world" with "principles of stewardship" being a way to not love the things of the world, whereas 1 John 2:15-17 simply says; "the love of the Father is not in him". Practicing rules of stewardship is a work and even good godly works cannot generate the love of the Father within a person. Instead, the love of the Father is what leads to these works within the life of a Christian.
The Apostle Paul stresses in First Corinthians 13 that you can do 'all the right things' yet not have love. Without godly love what you are doing is futile. Biblical stewardship certainly is an important part of living the 'Christian life' yet stewardship cannot produce or precede having godly love. In effect, Adventism is teaching stewardship backwards with an agenda that is not biblical.
The theme for Week One is materialism with Rom. 12:2 given as the memory text:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)
For the sake of clarity verse one has been included. Our act of spiritual worship is to present our bodies to God. Then "be transformed" coveys the idea that it is God who is the one who does the renewing of our minds, resulting in our understanding the will of God. Through God's renewing of our minds we conform to the will of God instead of being "conformed to this world". To be transformed by God is an ongoing process that defines sanctification.
The lesson assumes that materialism is a trap we fall into but can be avoided if we learn and practice good rules of stewardship whereas Scripture teaches something much different.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14)
The one and only reason many souls will be lost is because of their failure to come before the Savior of the world Jesus Christ and have their sins covered by his blood he shed at Calvary. If your sins have not been covered by his shed blood you are still in the kingdom of darkness and still a slave to the materialism of this world. With this in mind, the one and only reason you can enter into the kingdom of God is because your human spirit, which is dead because of Adam's sin, has been reborn through the indwelling of Jesus gift of the Holy Spirit, John 3:1-21, Acts 2:36-41.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
Thursday's lesson includes an Ellen G. White quote where she says; "All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ". This is a misleading statement because the desires of the heart come from our reborn spirit under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The daily lessons end on Friday by quoting Ellen G. White who says; "The enemy is buying souls today very cheap". This is false. Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. Unless you have been transferred out of his kingdom and into the kingdom of God through the blood of Christ he already owns you and has no need to buy those he already owns. This quote of her's includes nonsense because Satan has nothing of value to be "bidding for the purchase of Christ's blood....". As it says in Romans chapter eight:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom. 8:31-34)
The unconditional promises of God will be fulfilled without regards to any action or assistance on our part. The effects of materialism on our lives will not negate God from completing what he has promised he will do in our lives. However materialism is a part of our old life and certainly can hinder our new spiritual life in Christ therefore it is an issue that must be addressed in each of our lives regardless of our level of worldly wealth. Each one of us in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is encouraged to grow in sanctification by having the same attitude as the Apostle Paul where he shares that he has learned (grown in sanctification) the secret:
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:10-13)
When reading of when Jacob returned to the land of his birth we have this touching meeting with his brother Esau who had ever reason to hate him (Gen. 33):
Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it. (Gen. 33:8-11)
They both had grown through the years of their separation and could now say; "I have enough". Their love for each other surpassed their level of wealth...materialism.