The tenth installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #22—Christian Behavior. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.
Exodus 20:4–5—“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” Something I hope we regularly keep in our frontal lobes is that the commandments do not begin with a commandment, but the reminder that God rescued the Israelites from cruel slavery in pagan Egypt. Salvation is the catalyst for a cooperative covenant relationship with Him. The chapter ends with the people knocking knees, Moses attempting to calm them down, the Lord repeating the second commandment specifically, and instructions for constructing a proper altar.
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Leviticus 11:3—“Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat.” This chapter provides a detailed list of clean (safe for our consumption) and unclean (unsafe for our consumption) animals. Land beasts must have divided hooves and, essentially, a vegetarian diet. Water creatures must have fins and scales. Bugs must have jointed legs for jumping. Regarding birds, the demarcation is diet. Simply put, don’t eat scavengers. The back portion of the chapter also covers areas of ceremonial uncleanness.
Psalm 63:3–5—“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.” If some readers question why I included this passage, I understand. My main response is that as much as details matter, the big picture matters even more. Yes, we need to make specific adjustments to our lifestyles, but healthy Christian behavior is contingent on praising God and finding satisfaction in Him. This psalm corresponds with 1 Samuel 22 and 23, when David was in the wilderness in Judah.
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Jeremiah 4:30—“And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, Although you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you make yourself beautiful.” The Lord made it clear to the Jews that their habitual disregard for His precepts would lead to their ruin. He extended to them another chance and pled with them to repent of their wicked ways. However, they continued their disobedient course and made themselves vulnerable to Babylon’s siege.
Matthew 6:33—“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When it comes to sound Christian behavior, we Adventists need to do a better job of balancing the scales of attention that we pay to all the elements. I won’t hold back; I’m convinced that there are inarguable no-nos, such as wearing earrings and bracelets, eating bacon, watching horror movies, and other similar classics. However, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving two, big thumbs down, not to any of these things, but worry. This unfits us for Edenic existence as much as the other transgressions do.
1 Corinthians 10:31—“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This verse is close to the end of the chapter, but the very end shifts gears to the importance of treating everyone with flexibility and respect for the sake of their eternal welfare. Earlier, Paul directed the Corinthians’ imaginations to the examples of the Israelites and urged them not to repeat their errors of unfaithfulness and rebellion.
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Ephesians 4:29—“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Paul discussed a multitude of matters pertaining to walking with the Lord. He charged the Ephesians to leave the old life behind and put on the new, heavenly garments. He dissuaded them from the foul patterns of the Gentiles. He even referenced the eighth commandment. His greatest thrust was the need to love and honor other people in accordance with God’s will and standard.
Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” As was customary, Paul bid adieu to the Philippian believers by delivering several exhortations. Verse 8 is the prototypical inventory check that is to shape what occupies our thoughts and time. There seems to be some interconnection among his counsels. For instance, the call to always rejoice has teeth because he was quite familiar with the agonies of life, as well as the ecstasies.
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1 Peter 3:3–4—“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” The initial section of this chapter addresses marital relationships. Peter instructed women on how to treat their husbands and men on how to treat their wives. He then stretched the parameters to include human relationships more generally. He discouraged revenge (he must have grown since his prior days of impetuousness) and promoted kindness, especially in the face of oppression, including that which occurs within the context of faithfulness to Christ.
The first passage of this survey somewhat sets the stage for how I will conclude it. There are various obstacles in the way of living lifestyles befitting Seventh-day Adventist Christians, and perhaps the most imposing obstacle is each other. Though there are times when it is appropriate to maturely discuss issues like diet, ornamentation, and entertainment, there is also plenty of evidence that our timing, tone, and other factors often render the discussions counterproductive.
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You know by now that I do not miss many opportunities to encourage everyone to exercise substantial fairness and courtesy with those who have not yet reached the same convictions we have reached. However, as much as we need to use softer, gentler brushes with each other, it is just as vital for us to use a fine-tooth comb with ourselves, and people offending us in the past is not an excuse to leave the comb in the medicine cabinet.
We in the west are not as familiar with statues of wood, stone, gold, silver, and other materials as were those in the ancient Middle East. Nevertheless, we have crafted other idols, and they are even more insidious—jewelry, fashion, food, cinema, social media, drugs, sex, bitterness, hobby horses, pride … the list can go on. God is a gentleman. If a person wants to seat something or somebody else on his or her internal throne, then He will not wedge Himself into it.
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As much as Satan delights to confuse and distract us with worldly pleasures, he always shoots the most pointed arrows in his quiver toward families. I think he wraps them with barbed wire for extra damage. Please come back soon to read part 11 of our series, which will afford some ammunition to counter the enemy’s most systematic and diabolical attack.