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Friday: Further Thought – Results of Stewardship — 14 Comments

  1. Today's lesson begins with the statement “Christ came to this world to reveal the love of God..." Embodied within this statement, and reflected throughout the entire 3 paragraphs quoted in today's lesson, is a foundational principle of massive significance - and I never saw or realised it until relatively recently.

    I didn't discover this principle - it's always been there - I just didn't see it until my eyes were opened to it. It is a principle that has direct and practical relevance to every aspect of my life and your life - in this life and in the life to come. And it is the principle that distinguishes the 2 groups of people mentioned in yesterday's lesson - the 'well done' versus the 'depart from me'.

    The reason I didn't see it was because I didn't understand 'love' properly. And I didn't understand love properly because I have grown up in a world where 'love' has been so misrepresented that it no longer represents the true reality.

    In order to have my eyes opened, I needed to see and understand a different concept first - the concept of beneficence. But not only did I need to see/understand the concept of beneficence, I also needed to see/understand how central and foundational beneficence is to life itself and therefore to the Kingdom of God and even to God Himself.

    Ellen White refers to this principle as the "circuit of beneficence" (DA 21.2). Beneficence means that everything that I do is for the benefit of others - as opposed to doing something for the sole benefit of myself (which, in reality, will mean that I benefit at someone else's expense). Beneficence means that I have an 'other-centred' motivation as opposed to a 'self-centred' one. And Ellen White refers to it as the circuit of beneficence because it is a 'perpetual' principle - meaning that doing everything for the benefit of others is how life is able to go on sustainably, indefinitely. It is the ONLY way it can. Ellen White spells this out in detail in the following passage:

    "There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud" (DA 20-21).

    Given that beneficence is the 'circuit' of living to give and giving to live, it is not surprising that Ellen White also states that the 'circuit of beneficence' is the principle that the angels live by, that Jesus lives by, and that it is the essence of the character of God as well as the very "law of life" itself (DA 21).

    This is what true love is - it is this circuit of beneficence. It is Agape love. It is what makes life possible - the ONLY base that makes life possible. It is THE foundational law of life in heaven, throughout the universe. It is THE foundational principle that is reflected in ALL other laws that make (eternal) life viable/possible. So it is not surprising that it is THE foundational principle of God's nature and character.

    And now for the next piece of the puzzle. The "heart". Doing a bit of digging into the Greek word for heart (kardia) reveals that when the word 'heart' is used in the New Testament, it refers to the "desire-producer" within us that "makes us tick" - meaning that it is "the source and fountain of all our desires, passions, appetites, affections, purposes, thoughts" and behaviours (HELPS word studies). The same can be said of the Old Testament Hebrew word for heart (lebab).

    This understanding of the heart as THE bottom-line source of motivation - by which we 'do' absolutely everything - matches many of the references in scripture such as Prov 4:32, Luke 6:45 and Matt 15:19. It also makes crystal clear why Jesus said that it is only the “pure in heart” who can/will see God (Matt 5:8). It also makes crystal clear why Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matt 22:36-40).

    So now we need to put the two concepts above together - beneficent heart. This is what God has and what underpins His eternal nature. This is what Jesus has. This is what the Holy Spirit has. This is what the remaining angels in heaven have. This is what the beings on unfallen worlds have. This is what Adam and Eve had at creation. Not surprisingly, this is what Lucifer lost when he became Satan. And correspondingly, this is what Adam and Eve lost in Genesis 3.

    So guess what needs to be restored within those who will once again partake of eternal life? You guessed it - a beneficent heart. So, guess what the core of salvation is? You guessed it again - the restoration of our heart back to a heart motivated by beneficence. So, guess what distinguishes the 'well done' group from the 'depart from me' group? You guessed it again. The 'well done' group have a heart of beneficence that drives everything they are and everything they do. So what does the other group have? The bible refers to it as a 'hard heart' which basically means a heart that is self-based, self-referenced - it is 'hard' and unresponsive to the needs of others and to the love of God.

    When you can appreciate the importance and significance of this, the verse in 1 Sam 16:7 takes on a whole new level of significance: why God looks on the heart. It is THE core issue. Nothing is more core than this. David understood this, which is why he asked God to create within him "clean heart" and "right spirit" (Ps 51:10) - though he was actually submitting to God's desire to do this within each of us because it is the basis of and for salvation. And this is why David was able to be called a man after God's own heart.

    Our heart motivation is THE core issue. I know this is a bold claim to make, but have a look at the hundreds of references in scripture to 'heart' through the perspective of what I have mentioned above and you will see that it actually is the core issue (especially notice the one's in the book of Isaiah in addition to those I have mentioned above).

    So am I saying what we 'do' is not important? Absolutely not - it is vitally important. But everything that we 'do' springs from the core motivation of our heart. This is why Paul said that unless our words and actions arose from a heart of beneficence (ie, Agape love), it was pointless (1 Cor 13:1-3).

    And this, I believe, helps us understand Matt 7:21-23 (referred to in question 3 of today's lesson) where people could seemingly say and do good things, yet Jesus could rightly say about them "I never knew you ... you who practice lawlessness". If beneficence is the law of life (DA 21), then a heart that is based on anything else is, in fact, lawlessness.

    • Thanks Phil. A great description of what really matters. Now, how do we get such beneficent hearts?

      From our Father (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33).

      • Our Priest gave us a definition of love that seems to say all that you said: God's Love (and hopefully our love) is willing good for someone, willing them to be good, to be holy, and doing everything we can (voluntarily sacrificing our good wants for their spiritual good) to help them choose to ask for the graces to be as holy as possible, as quickly as possible.
        That is why I believe we could all benefit from frequent reminders to pray as follows:
        To bring God's peace, share God's peace, by His means. That is the Goal. To pray for everyone. To pray the way God wants everyone to pray.
        A list of suggested prayers (pick the ones you believe you should add):
        “Dear God because we can do no good without your mercy and grace, we cannot even maintain “our” good habits except by your grace and mercy,
        2. please deign to always give me, my family, friends, enemies, everyone the graces to choose to ask for each of the following that You know we should choose to ask for:
        3. To ask for the graces needed by all to believe in you, or to continue believing in you as Creator of all things, all space and time, Infinitely All-Knowing, All-Loving, All-Powerful, with only one, single, infinite, indivisible, eternally in the present tense thought, in which You eternally think of the Name you call Yourself, all your attributes, Your entire plan for everything you will at each point of time and space for every creature with free will, willing good for them, willing them to be good, to be holy and doing everything you can to help them freely choose, of their own free will and Your grace, to be holy and
        4. To choose to ask for the graces for everyone to always seek all the questions that You want all to seek your answers to, the graces to want to pray ever more perfectly and the graces to want to know and believe all the truths that YOU want everyone to want to know and believe and the grace to understand those truths the way You want them understood, and especially believing all that you want all to believe concerning Jesus Christ and Mohammed, so that young people of all faiths can hopefully expect their friends to agree that all should pray for the graces to want to know all the truths that God wants everyone to want to know and for the graces to want to pray ever more perfectly
        5. the graces to honestly want to reject, based on Your grace, verifiable evidence and sound reasoning, all that is contrary to your Truths,
        6. Please God, because you are infinite Goodness and Mercy, and we have no real merit on our own, all “our” goodness is really only your gift of your goodness passing through us in spite of our sins of commission and omission, we cannot even be people of good will, willing good for others as we should, unless you give us the grace to do so, therefore, please God give us all the graces needed to be people of good will and also give us the sequences of questions we need to find all the truths that You want all to know and believe by your grace so that we can demonstrate our good will by being eager to share them with others,

        • Doug, you have me a little confused. ‘Our Priest’. If you had said, our High Priest, there would be no confusion. Hebrews 4:14. Yes your context is great. Basicly we are to take the words of Paul, “hold fast to our confession.”

      • Thanks Sieg.

        I agree with you that God is the one who will create a clean heart within us. But in regard to your question as to how this process actually happens, what do you believe? Does God instantaneously 'download' a new heart into us that 'overwrites' and 'erases' our old one so that it no longer exists? Or does God give us the power to progressively re-develop the tendency of our heart, using each activation of our heart as an opportunity for us to choose which tendency we will follow (and thus strengthen)? Or perhaps some other option?

        • Phil, what I have come to understand from God's Word concerning HOW a new heart is received can be seen in the creation of this world, which reveals the falsity of the evolutionist's idea of a self-created world. Can't be done. So just as justification is received by the repentant sinner through faith, sanctification is also received through faith. So isn't the vital question found to be; "how is faith demonstrated"?

          As in all questions generated from our study of the Bible, the answers will also be found there.

          Faith is shown to be an action based on understanding specific evidence, and this means that faith can be seen(Mark 2:5). In sinners, confession("to be in agreement" with the convicting evidence) is exercising faith, which leads to the action of repentance, also an act of faith. Choices based on understanding God's will are also exercises of faith(changes made in diet, entertainment, use of time...endless list). All of these convictions are brought through an entrance of God's word into the "heart" that you describe in similar fashion as the Wise man describes the heart, as the "principle thing" from which "issues of life" come forth. For the soul being sanctified, it is through the Word of God and power of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this, but never without our consent and cooperation, which are actions of faith based on the "exceeding great and precious promises of God" which allows us to "become partakers of the divine nature"(2 Pe 1:4). As Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth", which means the "exceeding great and precious promises" are TRUE!

          So it would seem that this whole journey from sinner to saint begins with God's Word which is responded to in faith as seen in actions of response to the convictions brought. I have concluded that the Word of God must be our starting point every day, followed by honesty on our part which will bring forth the "actions" of faith in response.

          Perhaps a long-winded reply to your question of "how".

          Doesn't this give clearness to "saved by grace through faith"? Doesn't it reveal the only thing we can "do well" in receiving the grace of God in Christ by exercising faith? Meek and lowly of heart is the only safe posture for sinners, since the alternative of pride goes before destruction. This "clean heart and right spirit" must be created in me by One who is a Creator, since like the leopard and his spots, I can't change a thing by myself.

        • "But in regard to your question as to how this process actually happens, what do you believe? Does God instantaneously 'download' a new heart into us that 'overwrites' and 'erases' our old one so that it no longer exists?"

          It was a rhetorical question. God has a thousand ways to change hearts and if He wants to do so instantaneously, He will (1 Samuel 10:9). If, as in the case of Peter, God wishes to produce a new heart more slowly, then so it will be. In any case, God continues to give us choices, one of which is to rebel after receiving a new heart at which point we get our old one back (1 Samuel 15:26).

          I believe "our" part is ongoing humble surrender to Him but that too is a gift since without Him, we literally can do nothing (John 15:5).

          • Thanks Sieg for your elaboration.

            No, not a rhetorical question - hence the opening of the door to other options. Just trying to reduce the risk of misunderstanding what I was asking. I genuinely do want to know a person's point of view clearly and would rather ask than assume.

            Thanks again.

  2. Matthew 7
    Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    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

    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?

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

    Not everyone professing Christ is genuinely saved. Even the outward verbal acknowledgment of His stewardship or lordship is in itself not enough to save the unbeliever apart from true repentance and faith.

    A genuinely saved person is one
    that doeth the will of my Father,

  3. Are we not judging others here by looking at what others are doing? I have a problem with being seen as a perfectionist. But all I was doing I thought was just being a good steward to God and glorify His name in whatever I do. Apparently from reading from the above comments, I am lacking a beneficent heart. What should I do?

    • There is nothing wrong with looking at what others are doing. It is when we become judgemental about their actions that the issues arise. Now I need to be careful what I say here because it is easy to read the wrong connotation. There are times when we need to point out someone's errors, but we should remember that compassion should overrule condemnation. The big idea that we should take away from the story of the "woman taken in adultery" is that Jesus told her that he did not condemn her and he invited her to sin no more. That is what I think a beneficent heart does: compassion overrules condemnation.

  4. Question 4: Answer: The level of my church’s influence is what we collectively make it. Is our goal collectively the salvation of souls? Are we rejoicing in the communion with saints(all of our church’s members)? Do we in association with one another, reveal the love that Christ had enjoined upon us. By unselfish words and deeds do we strive to kindle this love in other hearts? If we answer yes, then our church has an influence in our community.


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