Greetings MOL Family!
Thank you for joining us for part 2 of this very significant study…
That All May See The Beauty
I would like to make a few suggestions of what we can do to get clear away from Isaiah 65, and the Pharisee of Luke 18, which we studied in our last lesson. The first, friends, is to renounce our own righteousness, which is self-righteousness. Give it up! All our righteousness are as what? Filthy rags, and they are. Our best efforts are shot through with selfish motives.
All we need to do to recognize that is to come to the cross, not merely at the beginning of the Christian life, but day by day. Every day, our repentance is to deepen. Every day, our sense of shame, our feeling of loathing over our own selfish, human nature, is to deepen. That’s the only way to pray the prayer of the Publican. Unless we have that experience, to merely repeat what he said would be a mockery. Looking at Jesus, we discern the sinfulness of self, measured not so much by outward acts as the hidden motives of the soul.
Here is something else that will help us to avoid this attitude that Isaiah speaks about. We are to seek, for Jesus’ sake, to keep as close to the people as possible, instead of seeing how far away we can get:
Those who advocate unpopular truth should be most consistent in their lives, and should be extremely careful to shun everything like extremes. They should not labor to see how far they can take their position from other men; but, otherwise, to see how near they can come to those whom they wish to reform, that they may help them to the position which they themselves so highly prize. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 2, pg. 377
Strange as it may seem, Jesus was criticized often for not being strict enough. Who criticized Him? The Pharisees. The very ones that He was describing here. There were men in Jesus’ day who thought that they were stricter than Jesus. And they were, measured by their standards. Why wasn’t Jesus as strict as they claimed to be?
He got as near to the people as He could, friends, just as near as He could. We will do well to follow His example. That will keep us out of certain kinds of extremes. Take this, from Counsels on Diet and Foods:
If you err, let it not be in getting as far from the people as possible, for then you cut the thread of your influence and can do them no good. Better err on the side of the people than altogether away from them, for there is hope in that case that you can carry the people with you, but there is no need of error on either side. – Counsels on Diet and Foods, pg. 211
Don’t forget that last statement. But don’t forget the first one, either. If we err, we had better err on which side? The side of the people. But we do not need to err on either side. But if there is doubt, lean on which side? The side of the people. But if you will read the rest of that passage, which goes on over to the next page, you will find that the servant of the Lord says that there are people who are naturally inclined to accept anything that bears the features of rigorous reform. It mentions some specific details. It would be well to read it. It warns us about them. No, our business is not to hold people away from us, but to do what? Draw them, for Jesus’ sake.
With that must come a willingness to be taught, a humble attitude. In Volume 4, pages 256-257, is a letter addressed to “Dear Brother M.” I don’t know his name, but I found some things in here which helped me. Oh, I trust that if there is any other Brother M’s or Sister M’s reading this lesson, that they will get this message:
You have a very selfish disposition. … You frequently take extremely singular and fanciful views of the Scriptures. … Not possessing a teachable spirit, you will be in constant danger of making trouble in the church. … That which makes your case alarming is that you think you know these things better than your brethren, and you are very difficult to be approached. You have a self-righteous, pharisaical spirit, which would say: ‘Stand off, come not near me, for I am holier than thou’. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pgs. 256-257
There it is. What did he need to get cured of that? Why, he needed to listen to his brethren. But he knew that he knew things better than they did, so what was the use of listening to them? So he couldn’t get help, unless he listened to the prophet, as she tried to help him on that very point. But you know, I think one of the biggest things in making people feel that we have that aloof, holier-than-thou attitude, is simply a matter of manners.
In Testimonies to Ministers, I read:
Those who indulge in sharp, overbearing words, are really saying: I am holier than thou. Do you not see my exalted position? – Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 356
I got quite an object lesson from the rain, one day. We were sitting at the table, and the rain was coming down and I noticed a few hailstones. I got to thinking, what is the difference in the material that’s in hail and that’s in rain? Why, there is no difference at all; it is just in its temperature.
You take that water and let it come out of the clouds the way it ought to, and it waters the earth and brings life. But just let it get frozen and then come down, and then what? Oh, it destroys. Oh, friends, water here will represent truth. And if we want it to bring life, it must be rain, not frozen.
Turn to Deuteronomy the 32nd chapter and the 2nd verse. Oh, I was just thrilled when I thought of this text, and I know you all will be. This is one of the beautiful texts in the beautiful way. See if you don’t agree with me that this is beautiful truth expressed in beautiful figures. Keep in mind that the word doctrine means ‘teaching’. Moses speaking by inspiration says:
My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. – Deuteronomy 32:2
Not hail, but rain. There is a statement over here, in Adventist Home, written to a father, about the way he talked to his wife and children:
My brother, your overbearing words hurt. …. Your words are often as a desolating hail which breaks down tender plants. It is impossible to estimate the harm thus done. – Adventist Home, pg. 439
And then, speaking of the way to deal with his children, the Lord’s messenger says:
A hard, cold command will do them no good.”– Ibid., pg. 440
That doesn’t mean not to have any commands. The water is all right, but it must not be what? Frozen. For if it is frozen, it’s hard, isn’t it? Isn’t all water that’s frozen hard? Yes. It does damage. Oh, what a shame to take the sweet, beautiful truth of God in these reforms – whether it is Sabbath reform or tithe, dress reform, health reform, amusements, recreation, educational reform, or any other reform – and freeze it, and then pound it home, cold and hard. What will it do? Oh, it will break. It will destroy. God keep us from it, friends.
I am sorry that I have ever done it once in my life, friends. And many a time, as I think about it now, the words should have been warm instead of frozen. But we are so inclined to think if we can make things hard enough, they will penetrate. But there is an armor plate that can even keep off these hailstones. God help us that our speech may be as the rain, the gentle rain.
But now let us go a little farther with that rain. Do you know the difference between the gentle and the hard rain? The main difference is, there is more of it. You know, our poor human hearts are in danger of feeling that the more truth we crowd in, the more good we will do.
Ah, friends, how can the land take in the most rain? By a deluge all at once, or by gentle rain and dew from time to time? A word to the wise is sufficient. In teaching the beautiful way, let’s use the beautiful way to do it. What do you say? Let us not seek to tell people all about the mark of the beast the first or even the second time we see them. No, no. And let us, in presenting these beautiful reforms, lead people on, step by step, as they are able to bear it. This is the beautiful way. Oh, that all may see the beauty, the beauty of it.
And never cause people to feel that they are being held off. Don’t forget, the devil will tempt them to accuse. Don’t forget, friends, if you study Isaiah 65:1-5, the people who say this – “Stand afar off, I am holier than thou” – they are not necessarily strict health reformers. If you look at those verses, you will find that some of them were eating swine’s flesh.
So being a health reformer doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a Pharisee. And having a holier- than-thou attitude doesn’t necessarily keep people from eating all manner of abominations. Some of the most critical, self-righteous speeches come from those who do what they like, but who are very hard on brethren who have different ideas. No. Pharseeism and strictness are not necessarily parallel.
We need a righteousness which is like Jesus, which comes from Him and leads to Him. That will never lead us into indulgent sinning. Neither will it lead us to a self-righteousness which hurts others.
May the Lord teach us the beautiful way of helping others to see His beautiful way!
Next week, we will be studying the importance of beauty in its natural –versus artificial– way. Don’t forget to invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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- Country Living
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- The Christian Home
- Child Guidance
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- The School of Health
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.