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First Quarter 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 3: January 13–19
COMMENTARY ON "GOD OR MAMMON"
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).
This week’s lesson sets up a contrast between serving God and serving money. It assumes that a person may decide whether his will give his best attention to possessions and wealth or to God. As is always the case in the Sabbath School lessons, the assumption is that the readers are “believers” and have these decisions freely available to them.
In fact, belief in Adventism does not make a person a believer. According to Scripture, we are asked to believe in the Lord Jesus. Jesus Himself said that work of God is to “believe in Him whom He [the Father] sent” (Jn 6:29). Apart from realizing who Jesus is and who we actually are, apart from submitting to Him and confessing our sin and our need of a Savior and receiving His sacrifice as the payment for our sin and His resurrection as the guarantee of our eternal spiritual life, our reconciliation with God, there is no ability to truly worship God. We cannot make a “choice” as to what we will honor unless we know Jesus.
Saturday’s lesson introduced this topic and used the memory text Philippians 2:9–11:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This text was followed by an exposition of the choice to serve God or money, and ended with this sentence: “What should make our decision so much easier is focusing on who God is, what He has done for us, and what we owe Him.”
By introducing the week’s lesson with this reasoning and text, the author has misused Paul’s statement and has trivialized it. In context, Paul is declaring the supremacy of Christ and is stating—not asking or commanding—that all humanity and angelic creatures will bow before Jesus Christ the Lord! the lesson uses this text as a moralistic reminder that the reader is to bow the knee before God and stop focusing on his money.
Adventism makes much of stewardship and money, commanding its members not to love their money, as a way of subtly guilting them into giving more to the “church”. They are developing a case for the reader to believe he or she is worshiping God by giving his or her money to “the work”.
Sunday’s lesson makes the point that Christ has created the material world, that “even after the ravages of sin, we still can see the inherent goodness in so much of it.”
Adventism’s worldview blames Satan for the decay and perversion in creation. Satan and sin are the causes of thorns, thistles, decay, and all things corrupt. The Bible, however, does not give that power to Satan. God is responsible for the decay of creation. Romans 8:20–23 says,
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
God is the One who bound creation to decay. All of creation is waiting for our glorification when the Lord Jesus returns. It is not Satan who ruined the world. Adam and Eve are responsible for their own sin, and God bound creation to decay. He limited it along with the limitation of mankind. Satan does not have that power.
Moreover, Romans 1:18–20 tells us what creation reveals, even in its bound-to-decay-state:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Adventism speaks of nature as “God’s second book” and claims that we learn eternal truth from it as we do from the Bible. The lesson speaks of the earth revealing God’s goodness and of being for our enjoyment and benefit. The lesson warns against perverting the material world and seeing it as an end in itself.
Scripture, however, speaks of Creation revealing not material benefits for mankind but of revealing God’s INVISIBLE attributes, His incommunicable attributes which He does not share with His creatures: His “eternal power” and His “divine nature”. Even this bound creation reveals God’s sovereignty over all creation, including humans and angels.
In the context of this lesson, Christ is the Creator of all things, but He’s not to be seen as the giver of accoutrements for our ease and pleasure. He created all creation, including us, as revelations of His eternal power and divine nature—His supremacy over every other thing ANYWHERE. He is God. We are not to look at nature and feel sentimental gratitude for the lovely provisions God has made as revelations of His goodness. Rather, we are to look at nature and see a God whose power is so great it should be feared unless one bows in submission to Him.
Nature doesn’t make God accessible; rather, nature’s purpose is to reveal that He is sovereign, and we must honor Him. Accessibility to God is not possible through honoring creation; it’s only possible by honoring the Son who created all things.
God bound creation to decay, and we must honor that God who is greater than all He made.
Monday’s lesson tries to explain that the Son of God who is also the Son of Man came to reveal “our heavenly Father’s true character.” We don’t have to fear Him; He is not cold and distant. Rather we have to focus on keeping a right relationship between ourselves and the material things of the world.
The crux of this day’s lesson is revealed when it states, “Satan however, has tried to separate humans from God. He has tried to depersonalize Him, characterizing Him as someone who doesn’t care about us.”
The Bible never implies that Satan separates us from God. In fact, Satan is never blamed for our sin. We are fully responsible for our own sin. 1 Corinthians 15:22 states that in Adam all die. Ephesians 2:1–3 explains that we are ALL born dead in sin, subject to the prince of the power of the air, by nature children of wrath.
In fact, the Bible is clear that our sin, not Satan, is what separates us from God:
Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Our sin, not Satan, separates us from God. Furthermore, our sin is not Satan’s responsibility. We cannot blame Him for the fact that we sin. Adam and Eve sinned because they chose to sin. Satan did not blind their eyes.
Because we are born dead in sin and condemned UNTIL we believe in the Lord Jesus and His finished work (Jn. 3:18), awe cannot choose to honor Jesus over materialism. When our hearts are spiritually dead, we have no ability to choose truthWe can only choose to let go of our love of our possessions AFTER we are born again.
Tuesday’s lesson is entitled, Christ, the Redeemer. The first sentence of paragraph two, however, reveals the skew that makes everything in this discussion go “off track”. “God’s love for us,” the author says, “set in motion the plan of redemption” when we “became debtors to divine justice.”
The Bible reveals, in contrast to Adventist doctrine, that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not Plan B. They were God’s plan before creation.
Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Christ did not ask the Father’s permission to become our redeemer. He was the slain Lamb before He ever created.
The lesson says that Christ as the Redeemer “reveals [God’s] perspective toward humanity and especially how He values a relationship with us.”
The lesson’s assumed position that God would do ANYTHING for poor humanity is not what Scripture teaches. Yes, God sent Jesus because He “so loved the world”. Yet Adventism paints a picture of a god who exercises his supernatural power to rescue and care for us. In fact, He is unapproachable and impassable and unassailable, yet He sent His Son to redeem us from a fate of our own making. He did not save us because He needed us or missed us. He saved us because He loved us. He is not a needy God whose feelings are hurt and changed by our desires.
Rather, He loves us and saved us for reasons we can’t begin to understand, and our salvation is all OF Him and all FOR Him, and for His glory. It’s not for our betterment; it’s for His glory. The sovereign God doesn’t seek to enter our lives; He draws us to Himself and brings us into His life.
Today’s lesson reveals the Adventist great controversy paradigm in the last paragraph. It says that the powerful God with “all that He possesses,” has a competitor. Satan. Moreover it says that God “has to ‘compete’ for human love and affection. Maybe that’s why He says that He is a ‘jealous’ God (Exod. 34:14). God created humans to be free, which means we have the option to serve Him or to serve thing else.”
This description is opposed to the Bible’s statements about mankind. God competes with NO ONE for ANYTHING. Satan is not a power in the universe that opposes God and fights for us. God is OUTSIDE creation, and Satan is a created being, just like we are. He is evil, and He is only a subset of creation. He is not a universal power opposing who has equal access to us to manipulate us for loyalty.
We are born bound in sin and dead in sin by Adam’s choice and God’s decree (Eph. 2:1-3 and Romans 3:9-17). We have NO ability to choose God because we are DEAD. We must be brought to life in order to believe and be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:4–10). Adventism, however, does not teach that man is born completely dead in sin and without the ability to serve or choose God. It teaches that we can and must choose God or Satan.
This belief skews reality. God reveals to us that we need a Savior, and He awakens faith in us to believe. Once we have believed, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13-14).
God has NO competitor!
Thursday’s lesson argues that God is the owner of all things, that we really don’t own anything. Then the lesson ends with the question, “What should that tell you about how you should relate to the things in your possession?”
This lesson is a purely human argument that discounts biblical truth. Ownership and possession are not even “issues” when one is born again. Reality look completely different when transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Beloved Son through believing in the Lord Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of past, present, and future sins for all who believe.
When one is alive in Christ, possessions “look” different. It becomes very clear, confirms by the Holy Spirit and God’s word, that everything one has is by the provision of the Lord, and His provisions for us are for the spread of the gospel of the Kingdom.
Moreover, the gospel of the Kingdom has nothing to do with Adventism, and the Kingdom is not an Adventist reality.
The manipulation of discussing that everyone need to decide how they relate to their things comes out of an objective for members to feel obligated to support Adventism.
True ownership IS the Lord’s, but He owns even all humans. We will not grow closer to God by giving up our things. We grow closer to God by being born again and being indwelt by His Spirit.
Finally, the lesson ends with a focus on environmentalism. Because the earth is God’s creation, we are supposed to be focussed on being environmentally sound. Again, when one is born again and sees that the Bible teaches that Jesus will set up His kingdom on this earth, it becomes clear that the Lord is redeeming even our relationship to the physical world. If we know Jesus, what we have is automatically understood to be first of all, HIs.
All that we have is the Lord’s, and He has promised that when we seek the kingdom of heaven first, He will add to our account all that we need in Jesus to live and eat and wear (Mt. 6:25-34). He is completely faithful.