October 14 - 20
What I Am Versus What You Think I Am
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARACTER AND REPUTATION? We have all heard that a good name is a precious thing. What is a "good name"? Is a good name the same as a good character? If someone slanders our good name, does that person destroy our good character? What can we learn from the relationship between character and reputation in human experience that will enable us to understand God's concern in the great controversy? How will that understanding help us relate to the crises in our lives?
We will look for answers to these questions in the Word of God, and especially, in the book of Proverbs. As you study, remember that it is more important to do what is right than to have a good reputation.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Pride Goes Before a Fall, Part 1 (Prov. 16:18).
II. True Goodness (Prov. 25:6, 7).
III. The Value of a Good Name, Part 1 (Prov. 22:1).
IV. The Value of a Good Name, Part 2 (Prov. 30:5, 6; Prov. 14:31).
V. The Value of a Good Name, Part 3 (Mat. 3:6; Rev. 3:12).
MEMORY TEXT: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1, NKJV).
Many people talk and write about self-esteem. As evidence that we should love ourselves, Christian authors often quote Jesus' words" 'Love your neighbors as yourself'" (Matt. 19:19, NIV). It is true that when people no longer doubt their self-worth, they are more likely to love others. However, some authors suggest that personal pride is essential to success, while others regard self-respect as a humble recognition of self-worth, despite realistic awareness of one's weaknesses.
Review what self-esteem did for Lucifer. Ezek. 28:11-19.
When one's self-esteem blurs supreme love and respect for God, the result is self-idolatry. Awareness of our dependence upon the Creator for life, health, talent, wealth, and success preserves a realistic view of our own worth in relation to other created beings. Lucifer's self-esteem became unholy self-love.
What results of pride do the following verses emphasize?
|Prov. 13:10, 18|
The results of pride illustrated:
*Nebuchadnezzar responded positively to Daniel's message (Dan. 2:47). Sometime later, however, he forgot the one true God and gave himself all the credit for his prosperity. Read Daniel 4:28-33. (As a result, he suffered from insanity for seven years.)
*Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was hailed by Tyre and Sidon as a god (Acts 12:22). Read the results in Acts 12:23.
*The disciples of Jesus spent much time arguing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). This desire for self-exaltation kept them spiritually weak and disqualified them for the test of their faith during Jesus' trial and crucifixion.
|Give an example from your own experience that illustrates the truth in Proverbs 16:18.|
Explain why pride is so objectionable to God. Matt. 11:29; Prov. 6:16, 17.
"God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, . . . but however trifling this or that wrong act may seem in the eyes of men, no sin is small in the eyes of God. .. . The drunkard is despised, and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked. But these are sins that are especially offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character. . . . He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the blessings He came to give."—Steps to Christ, p. 30.
In what manner does pride often express itself? Prov. 20:6; Prov. 25:6, 7; Prov. 26:12; Luke 18:9-14.
To the majority, goodness is something that "makes you feel good." It brings you some unexpected pleasure. Or it is being kind or able to succeed in the legitimate pursuits of life.
Others believe that goodness is a cultural or societal expression of values. In some instances this is true. For example, society usually dictates the way people dress or wear their hair. To deviate from these accepted styles may mean that a person is not considered to be good.
However, in Psalm 25:8, we read the true definition of goodness. "Good and upright is the Lord. Therefore will he teach sinners in the way." Jesus said, "There is none good but one, that is God" (Matt. 19:17). God's goodness is illustrated in Jesus' life. Therefore, we must focus on Him.
What is another way in which people sometimes display pride? Prov. 31:30.
|In your attitude toward others, how do you sometimes demonstrate personal pride? How would your relationships with others improve if, by Christ's grace, you learned to be humble? If pride is blinding, how does a person come to see her or his need? What internal work are you neglecting that would prevent pride from developing and manifesting itself?|
Someone has said, "Given the choice between the name of a great company and its material assets, I would choose the name." Why? Without the name, the assets would remain at a fixed value or even depreciate, whereas the name itself could rebuild the assets lost and then gain even more.
What value did Solomon place on "a good name"? Prov. 22:1.
What is a good name? Hebrew poetry is known for parallelism and pun, or its play on words, rather than for rhyme. In parallelism, a statement is made twice but expressed differently the second time. Besides adding interest, comparison of the parallel phrases achieves a deeper understanding of the subject. For instance, in Proverbs 22:1, "great riches" is echoed in "silver and gold," and "a good name" finds its counterpart in "loving favor." Solomon was not referring to a business deal. He was extolling the excellence of a good character.
In Bible times, a name was more than a mere title or identification. It represented reputation or character. It often told who you were, what you were like, what you had done, and even what you might become. (See Gen. 16:11; Gen. 17:5, 15; Gen. 32:28.) Some family names today reflect this:
Mr. Cooper made barrels, while Mr. Fuller washed clothes. Smith made the anvil ring in the blacksmith shop and fashioned useful implements, and, of course, Johnson was the son of John.
"The Hebrews, like other ancient Near Eastern peoples, attached great significance to personal names. Their names had a literal meaning sometimes symbolic of the character and personality of the one it designated, and sometimes reflecting the moods or feelings of the one giving the name....
"Perhaps the most popular type of name among the Israelites was one that contained some reference to the true God. Such a name was often a pious declaration of faith."—SDA Bible Dictionary, article, "Name."
So we find Joel—"Yahweh is God," Elijah—"Yahweh is my God," Nathanael—"God has given," and Ishmael—"God hears."
This also is why the third commandment (Exod. 20:7) directs us to revere God's name. His name symbolizes His infinitely holy character (Exod. 34:5-7), so when we misuse His name, we depreciate His character. Using the Lord's name carelessly or as an exclamation demonstrates a lack of love and respect for Him, as well as a lack of trust in Him.
|Why should the church as a corporate body have a good name? Explain why the actions of individual members are important in establishing a good name for the church?|
Yesterday we ended our daily study by learning about the importance of God's name and the need to respect it. Because His name symbolizes His holy character, we show disrespect for His name when we misuse it (Exod. 20:7). The third "commandment not only prohibits false oaths and common swearing, but it forbids us to use the name of God in a light or careless manner, without regard to its awful significance. By the thoughtless mention of God in common conversation, by appeals to Him in trivial matters, and by the frequent and thoughtless repetition of His name, we dishonor Him."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 306, 307.
In what other ways can we take God's name in vain? Prov. 30:5, 6; Prov. 14:31.
When you become a Christian, you take Christ's name. "God sends you into the world as His representative. In every act of life, you are to make manifest the name of God. . . . You cannot hallow His name, you cannot represent Him to the world, unless in life and character you represent the very life and character of God. This you can do only through the acceptance of the grace and righteousness of Christ.
"It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world."—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 107, 137.
"The misuse of the divine name was especially heinous among people who believed that the name was an essential part of the personality. The very naming of the name invoked the power of the whole person of whom the name was a part."—The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 1, p. 983. (See yesterday's study.)
We do not use the names of people we love and respect to curse with. By instructing us not to take His name in vain, God is telling us how worthy He really is of our admiration and love.
If we break this commandment, we are letting others know that we do not really think highly of God. The way we spend our money tells others what we consider to be important. Likewise, the words we use tell others whether or not we truly believe God is worthy of our praise.
|John the revelator saw "the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads" (Rev. 14:1, NIV; see also Rev. 22:4). Explain the significance that the name of God and Christ is written on the foreheads of the redeemed.|
What statement does God make regarding His character? Mal. 3:6; see also Heb. 13:8; James 1:17.
God's character is what He is, demonstrated by how He thinks and acts toward those He created. His perfect character is changeless. As a transcript of His character, His law also is perfect. To alter any feature of His character or His law would damage it. This He will not do, nor can anyone else do.
God's reputation is an entirely different matter. By misrepresenting His character, Lucifer gave God a bad reputation. Stirred by jealousy, he charged God with being arbitrary, harsh, unfair, and untruthful. He argued that if he were in control, things would be different.
In order to reveal the true nature of Satan's work, God must both allow sin to fully develop, and He must demonstrate His own character in contrast to that of Satan. The controversy begun in heaven continues here on earth. God gives each of us the freedom to choose whose character our lives will demonstrate-God's or Satan's. Although personal redemption is an aspect, the plan of salvation involves so much more. God wants to do more than just proclaim us righteous (forgive our past sin). He also wants to make us righteous (restore us). Through the grace and power that Jesus bought for us at Calvary, we can live out His character. Then, even though others may give us a bad reputation, they can never give us a bad character.
In heaven, what will symbolize our experience as Christians? Isa. 62:2; .
A young groom gave his bride a new name on their wedding day- his name. For a wedding present, he gave her a small white stone inscribed with her new name. After more than twenty years, that white stone is still a treasure, for the writing on it symbolizes an experience. Everyone who knows her, knows her name. But no one else knows the precious and multi-faceted friendship the white stone symbolizes. The bride is still honored to carry her husband's name as her own and is committed to honoring him in the way she lives it.
Each overcomer, through Christ's grace, will be growing in such a unique, personal relationship.
FURTHER STUDY: What does Hebrews 11:1-34 teach us about developing a character worthy of a Christian?
Read Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 86, 173; Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pp. 61-63.
"Banish no longer your self-respect; for I have bought you with the price of My own blood."—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 520.
"Real greatness can dispense with outward show."—The Desire of Ages, p. 242.
"A great name among men is as letters traced in sand, but a spotless character will endure to eternity. God gives you intelligence and a reasoning mind, whereby you may grasp His promises; and Jesus is ready to help you in forming a strong, symmetrical character. Those who possess such a character need never become discouraged because they have not success in worldly affairs. They 'are the light of the world.' Satan cannot destroy or make of none effect the light that shines forth from them."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 579.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by answering the questions in Sabbath's introduction.
A good name is a priceless treasure. It increases the effectiveness of our witness. Reputation is easily destroyed by gossip or slander, but slander does not have to destroy character. The slander of God's character by the evil one and those who follow him has in no way changed His perfect purity and infinitely loving disposition. Who you really are is more important than another person's opinion about you.
The land in Latvia lies flat and fertile. Farmland and forest surround small clusters of homes. Life in these villages has changed little over the years. Most people farm or work in nearby textile mills, much as their parents did. And most people die in the faith into which they were born.
During Communist times the few Adventists who lived in such villages had no ordained pastor. They worshiped quietly in their homes. The young leader of one such group had a zeal for sharing his faith with others. He could never hope to study theology in a seminary, but he studied his Bible and became an active soul winner.
Word of this young man's evangelistic efforts spread, and eventually the government learned of his religious activities. They tried to quiet him through threats, but that did not work. Finally the government sent him to live and work in the forest. His job was to gather pitch to be used in the manufacture of plastics and chemicals. This assignment, the officials felt, would keep him from causing trouble for them, and since few people lived in the forest, he would have few people to influence.
But the man found that his new job did not require him to work long hours. He had even more time to visit people and share his faith. After work he rode his motorcycle into the surrounding villages, where he shared the Bible with anyone who would listen.
For years the young man worked in the forest, gathering pitch by day and visiting people at night. He traveled to every village in the region, sharing his love for Christ and studying the Bible with anyone who was interested. He organized home worship groups and encouraged the believers. Some groups had only a few members, but others had 30 or 40 members. And because he faithfully gathered his quota of pitch in the forest and limited his visitation to the small villages, the government officials seldom bothered him.
When Communism in Latvia fell and people were again free to worship publicly, these small groups of Adventists sponsored Bible seminars and evangelistic meetings, inviting their neighbors and family members. A large number of people were baptized, primarily because of the quiet work of the preacher who lived in the forest.
Andrejs Arinsh is Sabbath School and personal ministries director in the Baltic Union Conference.
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