Friday, March 17, 2017

INSIGHT #11 MARCH 18, 2017
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First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"Grieving and Resisting The Spirit "
March 18, 2017
 
This week's lesson is one of the most solemn of all Bible topics.
 
"The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not lie in any sudden word or deed; it is the firm, determined resistance of truth and evidence." – 1888 913.1
 
"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." – 1SM 234.6
 
Consequently, we are still here in this world. May God forgive us! We are counseled to repent. That light is still being kept "in a great degree" from the world. Why?
 
In the late 1800's, most Adventists were likely familiar with the issues pertaining to the 1888 GC session in Minneapolis. In the years following, thousands had opportunity to hear Sister Ellen White and Brothers A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner expound on these glorious gospel truths in camp meetings and schools across the land.
 
"The Lord has been calling his people. In a most marked manner he has revealed his divine presence. But the message and the messengers have not been received but despised. I longed that those who have greatly needed the message of divine love would hear Christ's knock at the door of the heart, and let the heavenly guest enter. But at the hearts of some Jesus has knocked in vain. In rejecting the message given at Minneapolis, men committed sin. They have committed far greater sin by retaining for years the same hatred against God's messengers, by rejecting the truth that the Holy Spirit has been urging home. By making light of the message given, they are making light of the word of God. Every appeal rejected, every entreated unheeded, furthers the work of heart-hardening, and places them in the seat of the scornful." – 1888 913.2
 
Is our church any closer to understanding and sharing this message today than it was then?
 
We note one significant difference between then and now. The issues are no longer commonly understood. A majority of Seventh-day Adventists today know little of our history or the reasons for the delay in Christ's return. Prayers for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are commonly heard. Few seem to realize that prayer was answered over a century ago.
 
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14.
 
A solemn responsibility rests upon those who have been blessed to hear the most precious message of Jesus and His righteousness to share with others the wonderful truths the Lord in His mercy sent nearly 130 years ago. It isn't enough to just intellectualize these truths. They need to be studied, lived, and shared! If we claim to believe in God's agape love but exhibit traits of selfishness and pride, people will not be very open to hearing what we have to share. The message of the cross draws us to the feet of Jesus, laying our glory in the dust.
 
"When the Holy Spirit works the human agent, it does not ask us in what way it shall operate. Often it moves in unexpected ways. Christ did not come as the Jews expected. . . The Jews refused to receive Christ, because He did not come in accordance with their expectations." TM 64.2
 
"This is the danger to which the church is now exposed—that the inventions of finite men shall mark out the precise way for the Holy Spirt to come. Though they would not care to acknowledge it, some have already done this. . . The Holy Spirit flatters no man, neither does it work according to the devising of any man…. It is man's place to hear and obey its voice." TM 64.3
 
"These rejecters of light cease to recognize light. Their souls are surrounded by a malarious atmosphere, and though some may not show open hostility, those who have spiritual discernment will realize the icy coldness which surrounds their souls." – 1888 914.1
 
"The Holy Spirit strives to make apparent the claims of God, but men pay heed only for a moment and turn their minds to other things. Satan catches away the seeds of truth; the gracious influence of the spirit of God is effectually resisted. Thus many are grieving away the Holy Spirit for the last time and they know it not. – PC 340.3
 
"Now the closing of probation does not make any change in the characters of men. The character of the wicked will not be different after that time from what it has been before. He that is unjust and filthy remains so, that is all. Rev. 22:11. The only difference is that at the close of probation their choice of evil is irrevocably fixed. That is what makes their probation end — they will no longer listen to the Gospel. They could be saved if they are willing to be saved. . . The reason, and the only reason, why any will be lost, is not that they are too wicked to be saved, but that they do not wish to be saved. It is not the guilt of sin, but the love of sin, that shuts men out of the Kingdom; for if men will cease to love sin, the guilt of it, however deep will be taken away." E. J. Waggoner, Gospel of Isaiah, p. 20.
 
We are living in a time when darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.
 
There is no other message that can lighten the earth with His glory than the true message of "Jesus' blood and righteousness." May God forgive our neglect of Jesus and our resistance to the Holy Spirit! The promise remains:
 
"But the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Isaiah 60:2
 
When "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations," then the end will come. Matthew 24:14.
 
When that happens, "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Isaiah 60:4. May that day come soon, for His sake.

~Patti Guthri
 


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Friday, March 03, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #9 March 4, 2017

First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit and The Church"
March 4, 2017
 
Throughout God's work for His people, He has had to deal with them (us) either running ahead, or falling behind.
 
At the banks of the Jordan, when God wanted to lead Israel into the promised land, they weren't ready to enter in.  Fear was their fundamental motivation, not faithfulness and love (Num. 13 & 14).  They were falling behind the Lord.  However, when they heard the consequence of their decision – that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years – they were immediately eager to run ahead of God and take Canaan – that too was a failed response.
 
At the time of Christ, His church was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah.  But when He came, they were behind again.  They didn't recognize Him when He came.  They chose Roman ruler ship over God.  "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15).
 
Lest we be tempted to believe that if we had lived in the days of our spiritual fathers, we would have done differently, we have our history in 1844 and 1888 to remind us that we too run ahead (1844), and fall behind (1888), the Lord's perfect leading.  In 1844, we felt it was time for the Lord to come, but He saw that all things weren't ready.  In 1888, as we looked hopefully and expectantly for our Messiah to come, for the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower us, when He did come, we didn't recognize Him – just like our spiritual fathers didn't recognize the Messiah when He came to them.  We were falling behind His leading.
 
We need that lesson of 1888 – to remind us – that modern human nature, our human nature, is no different than human nature 2000 years ago, and no different than the human nature of the Israelites on the shores of the Jordan.  If we had been there, would we have believed Caleb and Joshua and Moses, or would we have believed the majority report?  If we had been at Calvary, would we have been standing up and saying we were followers of Jesus and pleading with the Jewish leadership to turn from crucifying the Messiah, or would we have been with the majority saying crucify Him, or perhaps worse, would we have been running and hiding with Peter and the other disciples?
 
This is what Jesus was saying to the Jews 2000 years ago, and is saying to us today – don't say, "If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets" (Matt.23:20). Don't look back at the SDA leadership in 1888 and say, "if we'd been there, we'd have responded to A.T. Jones and E.J.Waggoner's message – I mean, they were endorsed by a prophet!"
 
The 1888 history is a reminder, a cautionary story, a piece of history that gives us insight into our corporate heart and attitude towards God and the Holy Spirit, that we today could still – again – reject the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when we encounter it today – even if we are praying for it!
 
Our lesson this week is about the Holy Spirit and the church.  The lesson reminds us repeatedly how vital the work and truth and power of the Holy Spirit is for the success of the church in carrying out God's hopes and plans for the finishing of the great controversy.  But we need to step back for a moment and ask ourselves, is it possible that our superficial conscious desire for the Holy Spirit, masks a deeper unconscious resistance to the Holy Spirit – just like the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, just like the Jews at Calvary, and just like our church fathers in Minneapolis in 1888?
 
The lesson reminds us about unity in the Spirit, about the work of the Spirit in inspiring the Bible – which is the basis for unity, about being baptized with the Spirit, etc.  These are all valid expressions of the work of the Holy Spirit.  But the idea that we could inadvertently be resisting the Holy Spirit as individuals and as a corporate body, while at the same time believing we really want Him to be poured out, is foreign to our consciousness – even while our SDA history and Bible history tell us that that is what has happened repeatedly.
 
"There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord (the Holy Spirit), not because God is not willing to bestow His blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us his blessing" (RH 3/22/87).  Notice, the problem is not a resistance or busyness or lack of concern on God's part.  The issue is a lack of preparation in us!  We are unprepared to receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit.  Our history tells us how true this statement is.
 
But we are not left without the remedy we need for our historic and collective healing.  Confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, will allow God to send us the Holy Spirit again – and this time, He will be received and appreciated unlike He has ever been before - except at Pentecost.
 
Remember, after the crucifixion, there were 50 days before Pentecost.  Those 50 days are important for us to understand.  The same "formula" that Ellen White applies in the above quote, is what the disciples went through to prepare them in heart, mind, and character, for the early rain.
 
The 50 days are divided up into two periods – the 40 days between the crucifixion and Christ's ascension, and the 10 days between His ascension and Pentecost.  The forty days were occupied in Bible study with Jesus and with each other.  "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scripture" (Lk 24:44-45).  Notice, that for those 40 days, Jesus was taking them to the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, to educate them about what His mission and kingdom were all about – what His life, death, and resurrection were meant to accomplish – way beyond their mundane concerns about freedom from Rome.
 
The next 10 days were critical.  The knowledge of the plan of salvation which Christ had just given to them, led them to repentance, confession, humiliation, and earnest prayer.  The love of Christ constrained them to these behaviors (2Cor.5:14).  "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14).  Notice the statement below from Acts of the Apostles that expresses what the experience was that the disciples were going through in the upper room during this 10 day period, and see if it doesn't match up with the Ellen White statement above and the Scriptural references, to reveal the same "formula" for what is missing in our experience that will allow God to finally "re-send" the latter rain.
 
"As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief. As they called to remembrance the words that Christ had spoken to them before His death they understood more fully their meaning. Truths which had passed from their memory were again brought to their minds, and these they repeated to one another. They reproached themselves for their misapprehension of the Saviour. Like a procession, scene after scene of His wonderful life passed before them. As they meditated upon His pure, holy life they felt that no toil would be too hard, no sacrifice too great, if only they could bear witness in their lives to the loveliness of Christ's character. Oh, if they could but have the past three years to live over, they thought, how differently they would act. . . .they determined that, so far as possible, they would atone for their unbelief by bravely confessing Him before the world.
 
The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to meet men and in their daily intercourse to speak words that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship. They drew nearer and nearer to God, and as they did this they realized what a privilege had been theirs in being permitted to associate so closely with Christ."  AA35-37.
 
This week's lesson, makes very earnest and appropriate calls for unity in the Spirit, for fellowship in the Spirit, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  But without the preparatory steps outlined above of confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, we will continue to openly ask for but subconsciously oppose the work and outpouring of the Holy Spirit
 
Just as the disciple before the outpouring of the early rain saw the part they played in the rejection of the Messiah, so we must see the part we individually and corporately have played in the opposition to the latter rain.  Until we do this, until – under the constraining power of the love of Jesus – we personally and corporately experience humiliation for our part in the death of Jesus, repentance and confession for our part in the crucifixion, and earnest prayer to deliver us from hearts and minds that would crucify Jesus afresh, we will continue to "wait" for the outpouring that God sent us over 120 years ago.
 
I pray for myself and for you, that God will give us the gift of repentance by revealing more fully His goodness, that the opposition of our carnal hearts will be healed.  May this be your prayer for me and for our beloved church also.
 
"The Lord in His great mercy, sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. . . .This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. . . .This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure". – {TM 91.2}
 
~Bob Hunsaker

http://www.1888msc.org/article/487/resources/sabbath-school-insights/2017-quarter-1-jan-mar/insight-9-march-4-2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #8 February 25, 2017

INSIGHT #8 FEBRUARY 25, 2017
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First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit and The Gitfts of the Spirit"
February 25, 2017


As this week's lesson identifies, the fruits of the Spirit are not the same as the gifts of the spirit. All men may bear as equally and as fully as another the fruits of the Spirit, but not all men receive of the same gifts. The Spirit is "dividing to every man severally as He will" "to profit withal" (1 Cor. 12:11,7).
 
There is also a difference between talents and the gifts of the Spirit. A man may have talents, but he may not have the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are only present in an individual when the Spirit is present in that individual, because the gifts of the Spirit are the "manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:7). These gifts were given to benefit the church of God – the body of Christ. But the body of Christ "is not one member, but many" (1 Cor. 12:14). Therefore, because the gifts are "to profit withal", we see that there is an obligation upon the individual to permit the Spirit to abide in him and manifest His gifts through him.
 
That being the case, every member is personally responsible for the unity of the church, because the gifts of the Spirit are given for the "edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). All true members of the body of Christ will manifest the gift of the Spirit because "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man" (1 Cor. 12:7), "every man" being every member of the body of Christ. But they will not manifest them for selfish, self-exalting purposes, but in a way which will be to serve the good of others and to benefit the body as a whole. 
 
Connect 1 Corinthians 12:29 with Ephesians 4:11. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."
 
Notice here that the Apostle has arranged the gifts of the Spirit in an apparent "hierarchical order". While it is true that our God is a God of order, He does not despise the "small things" (Zech. 4:10). Those in responsible positions must always "let this mind be in [them] which was also in Christ Jesus" that esteemed others better than Himself (Phil. 2:3-5). "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary" (1 Cor. 12:21,22).
 
"God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). An individual does not receive any particular gift through any merit of their own. They are the gifts of the "Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29). He distributes the gifts "as He will" (1 Cor. 12:11), i.e. according to what He sees best for the accomplishment of God's purposes. It has nothing to do with one individual being more "special" than another. The bestowal of one gift, or more, is the bestowal of a sacred responsibility and not to be taken lightly, and neither is it to be used according to our own will.
 
Considering that the gifts of the Spirit are given to the members of the church for the "edifying of itself in love", and that love "vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up... seeketh not her own" (Eph 4:16; 1 Cor. 13:4,5), then we can see that the true gifts of the Holy Spirit can never be used for self-exaltation. For it is "the same God that worketh all in all" and that God that works in all is "love" (1 Cor. 12:6; 1 John 4:8).
 
And "this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3). When the gifts of the Spirit are truly appreciated as God intends, and exercisedas God intends, then Christ can present "to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but... holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
 
To this end, then, should the ministry be of every member of the body: "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." While the members themselves remain unsanctified, the church itself will never be sanctified. Therefore, there is a grand obligation upon all teachers, pastors and evangelists to ensure that they themselves follow the counsel of their own Prophet and aquaint themselves with the message that "invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91).
 
What unites a church is unity of truth. Presently we are "children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14). Now, more than ever, should we speak "the truth in love" that we all "may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph 4:15).
 
But what is the truth? Jesus is "the truth" (John 14:6). Can we say with Apostle Paul, "We see Jesus" (Heb. 2:9)? or need we say with the Greeks, "We wouldsee Jesus," (John 12:21) because we have not seen Him? Do we see Jesus in the church today, or do we see confusion? What is it that we hear? The words of John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world"? or, "Lo, here is Christ," and another "Lo, there is Christ" and "Behold, He is in the desert"!? But what saith the voice of God in our generations?
 
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91, emphasis supplied).
 
Unity comes through the truth – the truth as it is in Jesus, for He is "the truth". And it is the Spirit that will "guide us into all truth" (John 16:13); therefore, He will guide us into Christ! When Jesus "ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:8). These gifts are the gifts of His Spirit: "unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7). To what measure has Christ been given to every one of us? "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). What then are the gifts of the Spirit? The manifestations of Jesus Christ, who has been given unto us, for "[the Spirit] shall receive of mine and show it unto you" (John 16:14,15).
 
Therefore, only as we receive Christ can we truly receive the gifts of the Spirit. Only as Christ and His own righteousness (right-doing) is manifested in us will the gifts of the Spirit be manifested in us, for it is God that "worketh all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:6). And only when we have received Christ in His fulness will we reach the full potential of the manifestation of the gift individually imparted to us; and therefore only when we as individual members of the body have received Christ in His fulness, which is "all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19) – "for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead boldily" (Col. 2:9) – only then will we all come "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). In other words, only when God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and every single thing which pertains to them as members of the Godhead, are abiding in each one of us individually and we in them, and they are manifesting themselves in our lives, then and only then, will "the whole body [be] fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth" (Eph. 4:16), because the purpose of God is that the church is to be nothing less than the "fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph 1:23).
 
Think of this. Our beloved church might be the "fulness of Him that filleth all in all". What does this mean? It means the centre of the universe. The centre of dominion, of glory, of power. Not of man, but of God Himself. This is why God will bring heaven down to earth and dwell with us here forever. Because he has given us everything. We were lost in sin. Like Adam, we would run away from Him and so He did everything to convince us of His love – He gave us everything. He packaged Himself and all that pertains to Him into His Son and then sent Him to this earth to become perfectly united with the human race; thus uniting Himself and all that pertains to Him to the human race. Everything is in Christ, and if we are in Christ, then we have everything – "everything" in God's definition of the word.
 
Can you understand this? No? Then get off your comfortable pew and study the Bible for yourself, and then you will be able to contribute your part to the body of Christ. What part, you say? Nothing less than the fulness of God Himself. Do you have that to contribute? No? Then you had better get your priorities in life right and find Jesus Christ and hide in Him; because that is the only place you will ever find it and the only way you will ever contribute to your church's prosperity. And don't think your minister can supply what you don't provide.

~Camron and Heladia Schofield

http://www.1888msc.org/article/486/resources/sabbath-school-insights/2017-quarter-1-jan-mar/insight-8-february-25-2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

"The Holy Spirit and The Fruit of the Spirit"

.INSIGHT #7 FEBRUARY 18, 2017
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First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit and The Fruit of the Spirit"
February 18, 2017

 
This lesson provides a wonderful opportunity to study God's agape love. To start with, we know that God is love  (1 John 4:8, 16). Thus, God's agape love is not just an aspect of His character but represents who He is completely and all other facets of His character including forgiveness, justice, and mercy, flow from His agape love.

Notice in our memory text (Gal. 5:22, 23) that the fruit of the Spirit is in the singular. God's agape love is the first fruit of the Spirit and becomes the basis for all the other fruits of the Spirit. All fruits are simply ramifications of God's agape love in our lives.
 
We see in Sunday's lesson that the fruit of the Spirit is not something we achieve by human effort. Looking at John 15:1-11, we see that it is not a works program. Verses 4 and 5 tell us that "no branch can bear fruit by itself" and "apart from me you can do nothing". We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit for that is the work of the Spirit. We are told in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit as counsellor will teach us all things and remind us of everything that Jesus has said and done—His birth, life, death and resurrection. In other words, He is there to point us to Christ and His sacrifice so that we may believe that we have been given the free gift of salvation and through our faith response abide in Christ. Jesus promises us in verse 4 that when we abide in Him (by faith), He will abide in us thus allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives thereby strengthening the branches' (believers') connection with the vine. Abiding in Christ, the less we will see of self and the more we will see of Christ so that He is able through the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives from God's agape love. The fruit is proof of our new birth in Christ, that the Holy Spirit is working in us and through faith (the faith of Jesus) we have come to know God.
 
God's agape love is the opposite of human love. Our human love is self-centered and seeks reciprocity/response and is thus conditional whereas agape is selfless and unconditional. We see in Romans 5:6- 8 that "Christ died for the ungodly" and that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". Thus God takes the initiative, loved us when we were sinners and with Christ dying the second death as us/for us saved humanity. Another contrast is that human love is changeable whereas God's love is changeless. Scripture reminds us of this repeatedly, for example:
 
  1. Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love."
  2. Several texts (including 1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalms 107:1, Jeremiah 33:11) show us "His love endures forever".
  3. 1 Corinthians 13:8 "Agape never fails"
It is through Christ's righteousness and by faith (the faith of Jesus) that we abide in Christ and are able to receive agape as the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus agape is also the fruit of genuine righteousness by faith. Faith and agape are inseparable which is made clear in God's word such as the following texts:
 
  1. Galatians 5:6 – "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (agape)."
  2. Ephesians 1:15 – "I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints."
  3. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
  4. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – "because that your faith groweth exceedingly and the agape of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth."
The primary purpose of the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, God's agape love, is to reflect His character in our lives. All the other fruits become evidence of this. The agape reproduced in us through the Holy Spirit is the essence of Christianity. As we are told in Colossians 3:14 "and above all these things put on agape, which is the bond of perfection." Covered by Christ's robe of righteousness, God's last day people will reflect the unconditional love of God. As we see in Matthew 5:44, only then can we love without discrimination including those who hate and persecute us. This extends to forgiveness as shown in Colossians 3:13 for we are to forgive even as Christ has forgiven us not because we deserved it but because of His unconditional agape love for each and every one of us. As we are told in Ephesians 5:32 "Be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Thus, a willingness to forgive is evidence of God's agape love working in our lives through the Holy Spirit. This can only come from God because our sinful human nature tells us that we have been hurt, wronged, deceived and that forgiveness of the other party is not deserved—but neither do we deserve the forgiveness Christ has already bestowed upon us and that in a nutshell for me encapsulates the beauty of God's unconditional agape love. Because when we do forgive, we are able to experience the freedom, peace and joy that God is wanting to share with us and are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives so we may reflect the character of Christ.
 
God's agape love is a central theme in the most precious message given to us in 1888 by Waggoner and Jones. It is when we see the depths of His love and the sacrifice on the cross that hearts and lives are changed. When we abide in Christ, agape will unite Christians together (Col. 2:2). The greatest evidence of the third angel's message at work in our lives is love toward each other. As John 13:34 and 35 says "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." As we see in 2 Corinthians 5, "The love of Christ compels us (vs. 14) and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new (vs. 17). Then we are able to say (Gal. 2:20) – "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."
 
May all of us echo Paul's words and allow the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in our lives reflecting God's agape love.
 
~ John and Monica Campbell


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