Chapter 5 ~ “OF ALL THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED…”
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                                                                             Chapter 5

                                     “OF ALL THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED…”

 

I have chosen this quote (and subject) as the avenue by which to begin looking at this all-important question of whether or not many conservative Seventh-day Adventists have in fact accepted “another Jesus.” The title of this chapter, as many of you probably recognize, is taken from the chapter in Desire of Ages—The Temptation:

“Of all the lessons to be learned from our Lord’s first great temptation none is more important than that bearing upon the control of the appetites and passions.”  {Desire of Ages 122}

 I want to spend a few minutes on the subject of appetite, which will lead into the subject of passions. This, ultimately, will lead into the subject of the book.

Appetite is one of those areas where the Spirit of Prophecy comes down to the minutiae of life. Not many things come closer to home than this one. And as Ellen White informs us, none are more important.

Being somewhat simplistic, there are generally two ways that people tend to view the health message: a burden or a blessing. Not surprisingly, the Spirit of Prophecy has a word for both:

Those who look upon it as a burden

“When the requirements of God are accounted a burden because they cut across human inclination, we may know that the life is not a Christian life.”  {Christ’s Object Lessons 97} (This quote gives cause for some real heart searching; and not just on the subject of appetite.)       

Those who look upon it as a blessing

“Lead them to study that marvelous organism, the human system, and the laws by which it is governed. Those who perceive the evidences of God’s love, who understand something of the wisdom and beneficence of His laws, and the results of obedience, will come to regard their duties and obligations from an altogether different point of view. Instead of looking upon an observance of the laws of health as a matter of sacrifice or self-denial, they will regard it, as it really is, as an inestimable blessing.”  {Counsels on Diet and Foods 457, 458}

 Much could be brought out in regard to the importance of controlling the appetite, but since appetite is not really the subject of this book I will only share three quotes:

 “Here is a work before you which will come closer and be more trying than anything which has yet been brought to bear upon you…You are stumbling over the very blessing which heaven has placed in your path to make progress less difficult. Satan presents this before you in the most objectionable light, that you may combat that which would prove the greatest benefit to you, which would be for your physical and spiritual health.”  {Counsel on Diet and Foods 39}

 “The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan.”  {3 Testimonies 491, 492}

I would like to use this last quote as the connecting link between appetite and passion:

 “A close sympathy exists between the physical and the moral nature. Any habit which does not promote health degrades the higher and nobler faculties…Indulgence of appetite strengthens the animal propensities, giving them the ascendancy over the mental and spiritual powers.”  {Sanctified Life 25}

 “Indulgence of appetite strengthens the animal propensities.”
I would like to stop here and share something from my own experience. My wife and I have owned a health food store for almost ten years. Over those years we have held many cooking classes. Between the store and the cooking classes we (especially my wife) have met and talked with scores of people. One thing is absolutely certain: by a huge majority women are far more willing to give up their meat than men. We, as Seventh-day Adventists, should understand that meat eating and being carnal go hand-in-hand. Anyone who has been alive for any length of time should also know that as a rule men are more carnal than women. All of which leads me to what is a delicate but necessary statement.

My wife and I have discussed this subject, though not usually from this starting point, with many people. As with the number of women that are willing to give up meat eating, in comparison to men; similarly, we have found that women are generally far more likely to see the truth on this subject than men are. What I would like to say now, because of that, and I hope to say it in the most God fearing, solemn way I possibly can: all of you men who may initially be convinced that I am mistaken, please allow me to ask you to be willing to listen to the input of some woman (or women) that you have reason to believe is truly modest and spiritual; hopefully someone like your wife, or your sister, or your mother, or even your adult daughter. I also want to say, that if it is someone outside of your immediate family it should be done with the utmost propriety. We live in a very immoral and improper world, and Seventh-day Adventists need to set the highest example in this regard.

Let me say before starting, this whole subject covers a much broader area than where I am going to begin; actually, it is intimately connected with every aspect of life. I only wanted to begin in this way hoping that it would expose this deception in its clearest and most hideous form.

I want to share two quotes before beginning. They contain extremely important principles that need to be kept in mind as we examine this subject:

 “We are to look to the man Christ Jesus…He is the pattern man. His experience is the measure of the experi- ence that we are to gain.”  {7 Bible Commentary 970}

 “Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth.”  {Great Controversy 555}

 Finally, the long awaited moment.

I want to combine two very short Bible texts. Both share the word “tempted.” (Chapter nine will be devoted to taking a closer look at what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy teach in regard to temptation and exactly what it means to be tempted.) The all-important questions are: does text #2 shed light on, and help us to better understand, text #1? Or: does combining text #2 with text #1 put the character and life of Christ in an all-together perverted light?

 Text #1—“He was in all points tempted like as we are.”  {Hebrews 4:15}

 Text #2—“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust.”  {James 1:14}

 For the remainder of this chapter I would like just to begin examining which of those two questions correctly describes the relationship of text #2 to text #1. Then I would like to stop and try to lay some kind of a foundation for this whole subject. My aim is to try to keep this as short and as simple as possible.

Let me say before going on, hopefully many of you instantly see how horrible it is to apply text #2 to the experience of Christ; and therefore you may naturally be inclined to think: “This is no powerful deception that is going to fool many dedicated Seventh-day Adventists.” Let me repeat what I said a few paragraphs back: what we are looking at right now is this teaching in its clearest and most hideous form. I assure you, it is usually presented in a much more subtle, and therefore, much less recognizable form. Along with that, it is oftentimes presented more in relation to our own experience than to Christ’s, which also causes it to be much more likely to be accepted. I will be looking at this teaching in its broader form in a latter chapter.

In the Bible the word lust is often used in a much broader sense than just sexual desire (which I will also be spending more time on later), but there can be no denying that improper sexual desire is one of its primary meanings. And if ever there was a time when God’s people needed to rightly understand this subject of lust, and even more importantly, be right in their hearts and souls concerning it, now is that time:

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  {Matthew 5:8}

 “A terrible picture of the condition of the world has been presented before me. Immorality abounds everywhere. Licentiousness is the special sin of this age. Never did vice lift its deformed head with such boldness as now.”  {2 Testimonies 346}

 Those last words, though written over a hundred years ago, were never truer. Society continues to sink lower and lower, while at the same time human nature continues to grow weaker and weaker. This subject alone is a perfect example of why Ellen White said: “I am astonished at the mercy of God and His care for His people in giving them so many warnings, pointing out their dangers”:

 “The Israelites, who could not be overcome by the arms or by the enchantments of Midian, fell a prey to her harlots. Such is the power that woman, enlisted in the service of Satan, has exerted to entrap and destroy souls. “She hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.” Proverbs 7:26. It was thus that the children of Seth were seduced from their integrity, and the holy seed became corrupt. It was thus that Joseph was tempted. Thus Samson betrayed his strength, the defense of Israel, into the hands of the Philistines. Here David stumbled. And Solomon, the wisest of kings, who had thrice been called the beloved of his God, became a slave of passion, and sacrificed his integrity to the same bewitching power.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:11, 12. Satan well knows the material with which he has to deal in the human heart. He knows—for he has studied with fiendish intensity for thousands of years—the points most easily assailed in every character; and through successive generations he has wrought to overthrow the strongest men, princes in Israel, by the same temptations that were so successful at Baalpeor. All along through the ages there are strewn wrecks of character that have been stranded upon the rocks of sensual indulgence. As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land. He lays his snares for every soul.”  {Patriarchs and Prophets 457}

 Did Christ face this temptation?

 “Those who have decided to obey the commandments of God will understand by experience that they have adversaries who are controlled by a power from beneath. Such adversaries beset Christ at every step, how constantly and determinedly no human being can ever know.”  {Christ’s Object Lessons 170}

 “Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth…His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness…He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus.”  {Desire of Ages 71}

There can be only one answer to that question: Yes, Christ most certainly did face this temptation. Which brings us back to the all-important questions: Does text #2—“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust,” shed light on, and help us to better understand text #1—“He was in all points tempted like as we are”? Or: Does combining text #2 with text #1 put the character and life of Christ in an all-together perverted light?

Again, what must ever be kept in mind in connection with this is:

“He is the pattern man. His experience is the measure of the experience that we are to gain.”   {7 Bible Commentary 970} 

“Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth.”  {Great Controversy 555}

 Let me begin answering the question: Can the words, “drawn away of his own lust,” be correctly applied to the experience of Christ?

“The prince of this world cometh,” said Jesus, “and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan’s sophistry.”  {Desire of Ages 123}

 Can those words, “nothing that responded,” be made to harmonize with those words, “drawn away?”

 “lust…[this] sinful emotion”  {1 Selected Messages 217}

 In this particular quote we are told that lust is a “sinful emotion.” I cannot see how anyone could possibly believe that Christ, even for one second, had a sinful emotion. (I would encourage you to read that quote in its entirety.)

 “Never lived there another who so hated evil.”  {Education 79}

 “Never before had there been a being upon the earth who hated sin with so perfect a hatred as did Christ.”  {1 Selected Messages 254}

 How could someone lust after something they have a perfect hatred for? Try to think of just one thing in this entire world that you have a perfect hatred for. Do you find yourself lusting after it?

I came across this next quote during family worship this morning:

 “The youth may have principles so firm that the most powerful temptations of Satan will not draw them away from their allegiance.”  {3 Testimonies 472}

 If it is true (which of course it is) that “the youth may have principles so firm that Satan’s most powerful temptations will not draw them away,” then it is absolutely horrible to teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, when tempted, was drawn away.

This next quote is Ellen White’s in-depth look at the story of the woman that was caught in adultery (actually, she was lead into adultery by the Pharisees). She was then brought to Christ by those same Pharisees in an attempt to trap Him:

 “Jesus looked for a moment upon the scene—the trembling victim in her shame, the hard-faced dignitaries, devoid of even human pity. His spirit of stainless purity shrank from the spectacle…He stooped, and fixing His eyes upon the ground, began to write in the dust…There, traced before them, were the guilty secrets of their own lives…The accusers had been defeated. Now, their robe of pretended holiness torn from them, they stood, guilty and condemned, in the presence of Infinite Purity.”  {Desire of Ages 461, 462}

 In the midst of her account of the story, which has much more detail than I have included here, Ellen White makes, among others, two statements in reference to Christ:

 “His spirit of stainless purity shrank from the spectacle.”

 “…they stood, guilty and condemned, in the presence of Infinite Purity.”

Infinite Purity and lust; putting those two things together in the person of Christ seems about as unthinkable as putting light and darkness together:

 “Christ is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  {Review & Herald, April 7, 1904} 

 (Interestingly, Ellen White uses the exact same term to describe Christ—’Infinite Purity’—on page 37 of Desire of Ages; only this time it was before His incarnation.)

I would like to stop briefly and spend a little time (three short chapters) pointing out a few things in connection with this subject that I believe deserve some consideration.

As I close this chapter I do so with the realization that there are probably many of you out there that are still convinced that I am mistaken in my understanding of this subject of lust and temptation and James 1:14. To you I say, please read this final quote prayerfully and with an open mind. Please, ask God for the courage and humility to admit that you are wrong (the quote leaves room for only one conclusion). Also pray that you will truly see what a tremendous bearing our understanding of this text has on our entire Christian experience.

The brackets, and the words within the brackets, are not mine, but Ellen White’s:

“The rebellious purpose formed in the heart needs not expression by word or act to consummate the sin, and bring the soul into condemnation. The unlawful word or deed is but the fruition of the evil which has taken root in the heart; the outward evidence that temptation has prevailed, and hell has triumphed. Says the apostle, ‘Every man is tempted [that is, enters into temptation] when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.’”  {Signs of the Times, March 9, 1882}