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Insight #11 September 10, 2016
Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Jesus Bade Them, "Follow Me"
September 10, 2016
Our lesson this week is the goal toward which the steps in previous lessons have been leading. They all comprise the gospel story and its desired outcome. Here's its overview.
"The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago--a revelation of Christ. A great work of reform is demanded, and it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished.
"Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'"  (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143)
Did you notice the highlights? "Revelation--Reform--Restoration," then "Christ's method"!
The revelation encompasses Jesus' mingling, sympathizing, and ministering. He was revealed by those actions. This was the work of "the grace of Christ." As Paul wrote, "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:14). His love led Him to come to us, wrap His divinity with our fallen humanity, and walk with us, as us, but united with divinity and dependent on the divinity outside of Himself. In this union and dependency He denied Himself, took up His cross daily (Luke 9:23), did nothing of Himself (John 8:28), and lived to bless others (Acts 10:38), treating them with faith and love.
This dynamic of "faith and love" revealed a "grace" that "was exceeding abundant," flowing from Him. The source was and "is in Christ Jesus." And this grace "hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11 ASV). This universal grace "made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ" has "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). All are alive because of it. Everything good anyone has is through it.
And those who responded in kind to this faith and love are those of whom it could be said, He "won their confidence." A. T. Jones described it this way:
"...It is God's confidence in us that is all the ground of our confidence in him.... This fairly reckless confidence in us did actually win us from alienation and enmity to confidence in him. This is the only thing that ever did or that ever could so win us. Thus his confidence in us is all the ground of our confidence in him." (A.T. Jones, "Editorial," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Volume 75, Number 1, 1898, p. 8.)
It is only those who have responded to His faith with faith that He can bid, "Follow Me." Only when you have experienced and grasped, at least in a beginning way, the workings of His faith and love can you follow Him in it. But this command is more than an invitation. Like each command and promise, it is itself an expression of faith, conveying to us His vision and plan, enwrapping His power. It is the same power that created the world. When expressed to a creature endowed with volitional power, it is the word of faith, able to accomplish what it states, and awaiting only the freely given, positive response.
Have you seen His faith and love? Have you responded to His call? Are your eyes fixed on Him? Only with the revelation of a continual looking at Him can you experience the reform and restoration that will enable you to follow Him truly into the future. How often our following Him is hindered by taking our eyes off of Him.
Recall His words bidding His first disciples. To Simon Peter and Andrew He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19). They heard His words, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matthew 6:22). To Matthew, He repeated the bidding, "Follow me." (Matthew 9:9). They left all to follow Him who had left all but the love of His Father to reach us--to mingle with us, sympathize with us, and minister to our needs caused by sin. But had they left all? Were their eyes single to His glory? Or had their vision of glory been tainted and dimmed with selfishness?
Jesus' daily denial of self was taking Him to Calvary. But when He began to show "unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew 16:21), Peter, surely speaking for them all, not only refused to follow Him there, but actively, physically attempted to prevent Jesus from going there, in words of rebuke that tempted Him to selfishness. "Be kind to thyself, sir; this shall not be to thee." (Matthew 16:22, Young's Literal Translation). Jesus returned the rebuke in cutting words that revealed the duplicitous focus of Peter's eyes, and the satanic source of such confusion (Mark 8:32, 33)--words love must speak when the condition is fatal.
Jesus immediately repeated His initial bidding to these men, now couched in explicit unselfishness. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23). Do we struggle following Him daily as much as these men did? Where are our eyes focused? The year before Minneapolis, Ellen White wrote to A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, "If the eye was single to God's glory, what a flood of heavenly light would pour upon the soul." (Ellen White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 26). In the "flood of light" that followed in "the precious subject of faith and the righteousness of Christ" (Ibid, p. 291; see also pp. 1105, 1139, 1646), how well did we walk with an "eye ... single"?
But let's return to the early disciples, as they were immersed in the lessons we have yet to learn. It appears just nine days after Jesus renewed His bidding to "follow Me," the spiritual adultery of their eyes was again revealed. "Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest." (Luke 9:46). What arose then did not begin then. It appears that when they "left all" to follow His bidding, they brought some baggage along.
Don't we all? Who of us know at the first what it really means to follow Him? We are just beginning the walk of faith and love. These must be tested, and we must see that we are indeed "poor"--we have in ourselves none of this "gold tried in the fire" (Revelation 3:18). But He has an infinite supply, and that is the purpose of following Him--to see our need, and receive from Him; to see how much He has given, and plead for more, so we can give as He has.
Let's fast-forward some days to the upper room and the Lord's Supper. They had actually followed Him to Jerusalem! Calvary loomed. In an astounding act of unselfishness, He had washed their feet, but not without resistance, and not with complete effectiveness in what it revealed and represented. He had given them the emblems of the New Covenant that spoke eloquently of His enormous faith and love. We tend to focus on Judas' problem in these amazing hours, but Luke reveals again the plague spot of them all. "There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest." (Luke 23:24). The word "strife" implies more than one slip into their old mode of life. The word is philoneikia--a "love of strife."
God help us! To follow Jesus with an eye single to God's glory, and not our own, confronts a human problem not limited to these men of old. G. I. Butler in 1888 was told, "You have a large amount of self that is holding you away from God." (Ellen White, Ibid., p. 194). In reflecting on the years following Dr. J. H. Kellogg's conversion after the meeting at Minneapolis, Ellen White lamented:
"God does not endorse the efforts put forth by different ones to make the work of Dr. Kellogg as hard as possible, in order to build themselves up. God gave the light on health reform, and those who rejected it rejected God. One and another who knew better said that it all came from Dr. Kellogg, and they made war upon him. This had a bad influence on the doctor. He put on the coat of irritation and retaliation. God did not want him to stand in the position of warfare, and He does not want you to stand there." (Ellen White, General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903 paragraphs 19 & 24). This was philoneikia all over again! Only the devil wins in such situations.
The disciples at the upper room and Gethsemane revealed the fruit of fighting the wrong war. The following of Jesus ceased as Judas departed forever (John 13:30), and the rest later "all forsook him, and fled" (Mark 14:50).
The restoration of following Jesus (remember that last "R" mentioned in the quote at the first) awaited a further revelation and reform. The revelation was of Jesus on the cross, which destroyed all their selfish plans, and of the Bible by the resurrected Jesus, which sealed (along with Judas' suicide) the futility of vainglory, as Jesus painstakingly outlined what "follow Me" looked like in unselfish giving--"Ought not Christ [the Messiah] to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? ... Thus it behoved Christ [the Messiah] to suffer" (Luke 23:26, 46). The reform was engaged as they began really to embrace the revelation, which brought great joy and unity, preparatory to the Spirit's outpouring (Luke 24:52; Acts 1:14; 2:1, 2).
So to us today, Jesus does not remotely say, "Follow me." He comes close to make the call. In this journeying metaphor He comes alongside, then says, "Leave your path" ("deny yourself" "take up your cross") and, "Come with Me" ("follow me"). In the dwelling metaphor He comes to our door, and knocks, knocks, knocks. In His knocking, He is saying, "Let Me in. We can then have fellowship. You can get to know Me better, and your dwelling will open to others. You will find the joy of hospitality, of going out, finding others, and inviting them to come fellowship with you and Me."
Let's not run ahead of Him, nor lag behind. Let's follow Him. There is true joy only there. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." (John 15:11).

~~Fred Bischoff