Monday, October 3, 2011


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for October 8, 2011

“Redirect” is one of those words, which in the last twenty years or so, has become very important in the education / behavior management fields.  At some point, we stopped telling individuals who were behaving badly to “Stop it!” and began “redirecting them to more appropriate behaviors” by reviewing consequences and offering choices.

Having said that, I’d have to say that Saul’s Damascus Road experience has to be history’s biggest redirect.  Although it was dramatic and sudden, the follow up must have been truly difficult.  It’s one thing to change someone’s mind, but changing his (or her) behavior is a much tougher thing.  And for Paul, he had the added struggle of convincing others that he had really changed – not a simple task by any means!  Imagine his first meeting with the original disciples…I’d be interested to know what happened, wouldn’t you?  I mean, Stephen was one of their friends!

Do you think Paul explained that he was converted; Ananias said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it;” and then they had a big group hug?  I’m thinking not so much.

I’m thinking the process of gaining the trust of the disciples and other early Christians happened pretty gradually.

You can tell the process wasn’t complete yet when Paul wrote to the Galatians.  Somebody or somebodies in Galatia were sniping at Paul and whether or not he had the authorization to be included in the early Christian cadre of church leaders. 
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
“Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’  And they praised God because of me.”  Galatians 1:11-24
You can kind of tell Paul’s had to explain all this before.  He ends up doing some redirecting of his own.  Paul has to show the Galatian church that they are letting their mistrust of him lead them to reject the truth of the gospel just because it came from him.

Do we ever do that same thing?  Do we reject what a certain preacher says because we’ve heard that he used to belong to another religion?  Do we ignore everything Ellen White says because someone in our past has used her wisdom to punish us?  Are we quick to discount good information because we dislike the source?  You know, the enemy works hard and constantly to distract us from the truth, and he will use any trick to make sure we aren’t aware we’re being led astray.
“In his book Tempted and Tried Russell Moore recounts an NPR program about a scientist named Temple Grandin who is researching new ways to gently kill cows. It's an important issue because if the animals experience high stress levels prior to death, hormones get released that lower the meat quality. Thus, Grandin has been exploring how to keep the cattle calm as they are being led to slaughter.
“Grandin's research has led to one simple insight: novelty distresses cows. The key is to keep everything in their lives feeling and looking as normal and natural as possible. Russell Moore summarizes Grandin's techniques for gently killing the cows:
“Workers shouldn't yell at the cows, [Grandin] said, and they should never use cattle prods, because they are counter-productive and unneeded. If you just keep the cows contented and comfortable, they'll go wherever they're led. Don't surprise them, don't unnerve them, and above all, don't hurt them (well, at least until you slit their throats at the end).
“Along the way, [Grandin] devised a new technology that has revolutionized the ways of the big slaughter operations. In this system the cows aren't prodded off the truck but are led, in silence, onto a ramp. They go through a ‘squeeze chute,’ a gentle pressure device that mimics a mother's nuzzling touch. The cattle continue down the ramp onto a smoothly curving path. There are no sudden turns. The cows experience the sensation of going home, the same kind of way they've traveled many times before.
“As they mosey along the path, they don't even notice when their hooves are no longer touching the ground. A conveyor belt slightly lifts them gently upward, and then … a blunt instrument levels a surgical strike right between the eyes. They're transitioned from livestock to meat, and they're never aware enough to be alarmed by any of it. The pioneer of this technology commends it to the slaughterhouses and affectionately gives it a nickname. [Grandin] calls it ‘the stairway to heaven.’”[1]
Okay, does anybody else find that absolutely terrifying? Are we so distracted from our relationship with Jesus that we don’t realize we’re being herded in the opposite direction?  We’ve forgotten about grace and have long ago allowed ourselves to be convinced that we can earn our way into heaven.
“To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life is still as pleasing to the unrenewed nature as it was in the days of these Jewish teachers. Today, as then, there are false spiritual guides, to whose doctrines many listen eagerly. It is Satan’s studied effort to divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and  obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professing Christians, under pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt on the moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth fearlessly to expose their errors.”[2]
We have been redirected…now we have to choose – grace or works.

[1] Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried (Crossway, 2011), pp. 25-26
[2] E.G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 387

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