Friday, March 09, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #10 March 10, 2018

MARCH 10, 2018
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27 (all texts NKJV unless otherwise noted)
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:19
Jesus is the rightful Steward of heaven's resources. In Him all creation exists and holds together. "He is the living center of everything." Evangelism, p. 186. Without Him we can do nothing. John 15:5.  Jesus gave Himself, and thus all of heaven's resources, in order to redeem us.  The Creator of all things took the responsibility for all humanity, and "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." Phil. 2:5, RSV.  Yet He held on to the Father by faith, the faith of Jesus.  It is this faith that the stewards of the gospel need so desperately today.
Jesus is the only One Who can teach us what we should hold and what we should release as good stewards.  His unselfish life is what informs ours.  For too long we have been holding onto, or worse yet, suppressing, the glorious truths of the gospel.  The root causes are our own self sufficiency, thinking we can do what only God can do, and our unbelief in what He has already done, which impacts what we believe He will do.  What we must have is the "fellowship of the mystery" in an experiential, practical religion.
"Christ is coming 'to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.' 2 Thess. 1:9, 10. But before He can come, His way must be prepared, so that He can dwell fully in His saints. Just as God was in Christ, so must He be in His church as a whole, and in each individual member, before Christ can be revealed to the eyes of all the world. It is only as men see God in His people, that they can fully know that there is only one God, the One who created all things. Christ, the fulness of God, must be fully formed in His people, and then will all 'See what is the stewardship of the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Eph. 3:9-11, R.V. Then will the world know that God hides Himself in man, in order that man may be glorified by His presence." {January 4, 1900 EJW, PTUK 3.5}
The sanctuary was given by God, as He said, "that I might dwell among (tavek, also translated 'in') them.  The sanctuary teaching is an illumination of what Christ was doing for humanity as well as what He is doing in humanity.
The sanctuary, rightly understood, encompasses God's universal sacrifice for the world, His justification for all men, the true humanity of Christ, the walk of faith, the life of prayer, and so much more. The message of Minneapolis was focused on these truths.
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. 
     Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. 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, 92 (1895). 
Our doctrines must not just be Christ-centered in name, but in reality - in experience.  Perhaps Christ-infused is a better term.  "The soul must be infused with the Spirit of the great Teacher if the mind would penetrate into the deep things of God." (20MR 241).  For example, we cannot rightly present the sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin as the great truth around which all others cluster until we admit our shortcoming in this area.  Historically our Adventist view has been so focused on us and our response (i.e., self-centered) that we have neglected the fact that, in Christ, God has justified, reconciled, redeemed, and given the gift of eternal life to the entire race.
We are much more motivated to share the message as good stewards and willing ambassadors when we finally believe how valuable and precious it is. Then we can properly give the message of what God accomplished through the unconditional expression of His love, while we were yet sinners and His enemies.
We have been justified by a loving God through the faith of Jesus, and we experience this justification as we agree with what He has done for us, as us, letting the reality of His faith transform and sanctify us. This is the basis of holiness. This is the essence of the final proclamation of the three angel's messages.
As Ellen White noted:
     "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity.'"--1SM 372 (1890).  
     "The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel."--6T 19 (1900). 
     "The last message of mercy to be given to the world is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them."--COL 415, 416 (1900).
~Todd Guthrie

Saturday, March 03, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #9 March 3, 2018

MARCH 3, 2018
As we study our lesson this week it is important to note that an offering is typically made on a voluntary basis.  However, there can still be a variety of motivations for providing an offering.  These could include such reasons as: 1) because it's expected 2) others are doing it 3) it's the "right thing to do"4) a future benefit is expected and so on.  Our focus, however is on offerings motivated by gratitude.
This now raises up another question.  Our gratitude suggests that there is, in fact, something and/or someone that we are grateful for.  Thus, an offering of gratitude is made as a response to that action or person.  It could be something as simple as a tip provided for a decent haircut.  Here, however, our offerings of gratitude should be a response to God's love.
It follows, therefore, that the size of our offerings, whether it is our resources, time, or anything else that we possess will be in direct proportion to the extent of our gratefulness. It will be our picture of God's love and His impact on our lives that will make all the difference!
God's word has been given to us so that we can truly have a more complete understanding of who God is, His character and the infinite unselfish love and complete sacrifice He has made for the entire human race as exemplified in the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son, our Savior.
As we look at scripture, we see God's love revealed to us everywhere we look and the more we study, the more we see of the depth and breadth of this incredible, undeserved agape love for you and for me.
While we study this week's lesson, now would be a good time to go back and revisit some of your favorite scripture texts revealing God's love in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are just a few of our favorites:
1 John 4:8-10; "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
God's love is not just an attribute of His character, it is who and what He is, and His very existence is based upon His love!  All other aspects of His character flow from that undying love—His mercy, forgiveness, justice, compassion, kindness, unselfishness, patience, longsuffering, etc. It was His infinite love that resulted in the infinite sacrifice of His son that brought the free gift of salvation to our lost human race!
Jeremiah 31:3-4:  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness, I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt,"
Think about it!  These verses tell us that God has loved you and me from the very beginning, before we were conceived, and will always love us—forever, whether or not we choose to be with Him for eternity.  They also contain His promise of our re-creation in His image—we will be rebuilt!
Of course, there are many others:  John 3:16-17; Gal. 2:20; Romans 5: 5,8; the list goes on so please add your own. It can be a list that is always there for you as a reminder of God's love and sacrifice.
God's love was a predominant theme of Ellen White's writings as well, so here are some favorite quotes that we hope you enjoy:
"For the world Christ's sacrifice was made. 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son' John 3:16.  It is through that one gift that every other is imparted to men.  Daily the whole world receives blessings from God.  Every drop of rain, every ray of light shed on our unthankful race, every leaf and flower and fruit, testifies to God's long forbearance and His great love." (COL 301,302).
"But not to any class is Christ's love restricted.  He identifies Himself with every child of humanity.  That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family.  He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam.  His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them.  They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints.  The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ's love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him." (DA 638)
As we continue to look at our gratitude in response to God's love, we are reminded that God's love, as reflected in His character and His infinite sacrifice is a central theme of the most precious message given to us through Elders Waggoner and Jones.  It is the message that God's last day church is to share with the world…the everlasting gospel in it's fullness!  EGW brings this to our attention in the following statement (TM: pgs.91/92):
"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 Savior, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.  Many had lost sight of Jesus.  They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family….. 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."
A.T. Jones, for example, has blessed us with the following quote:
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." The kingdom is not to be gained by our efforts. It is to be given to them that "fear not." Let your mind dwell in prayerful meditation upon the infinite love of God toward you in Christ Jesus. Think of the exceeding great and precious promises, of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in you, of the holy angels that are encamped about you; think of all these blessings and "fear not." Fear not the want of temporal good. He who feeds the ravens, the sparrows, and the beasts, will feed you. "The Lord will provide," is a motto which you may write on every necessary want in life. Fear not the power of Satan. Greater is He that is for you than all that are against you. The mighty God fights our battles; then why should we fear? Fear not that the Lord will forsake you. His love is an everlasting love. He is married to you in Christ. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Having loved you, He will love you "to the end." {August 16, 1898 ATJ, ARSH 524.24}
E.J. Waggoner also points us to God's incredible love as a central theme.  The following statement is one example:
"The fact is that nothing but the love of God can turn a man away from sin. The world was in sin, and God manifested to them His infinite love, in order that they might be able to cease from sin. The fact that some will despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, does not cause Him to withdraw His love, and should not prevent us from dwelling upon it, for the encouragement of any who may want to do God's will. {July 27, 1893 EJW, PTUK 258.6}
But it is not alone by what God requires of us that we may learn what He is anxious to do for us. The death of the Son of God is the pledge of God's infinite love for us, and of His inconceivable desire to cleanse us from sin by the application of His healing forgiveness. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Rom. 8:32. The gift of Christ comprises everything. And trusting in that unspeakable gift, the humblest and most debased sinner may look up from the midst of his sore temptations, and confidently say: - {July 27, 1893 EJW,PTUK 258.7}
"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 8:37-39. {July 27, 1893 EJW, PTUK 258.8}
God's love is surely the reason for our gratitude.  It changes hearts, it changes lives, and it brings with it the free gift of eternal salvation.  As we look at Tuesday's lesson, we see the story of Mary Magdalene, one whose life was truly changed by God's love to the point that Christ Himself says: "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken as a memorial to her." Mark 14: 9.
Mary had been a woman with no hope, dragged down to the depths of despair by a life of sin and exploitation, possessed by seven demons, and in need of a Savior as we all are.  In Christ, she saw hope, His infinite agape love and finally His forgiveness!  Her faith in her Redeemer was a genuine faith that changed her heart and her life and Jesus, Himself, said to her: "Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace."  Luke: 7:50.
Mary's story is particularly important to us in these last days. Mary followed Jesus wherever He went, her "new" life in Christ reflected His character, and as Jesus said "she did all that she could."  Mary was "all in" for Christ and her belief and faith was an encouragement to Jesus as He was dying for all of us on the cross.
Similarly, in the last days, there will be a group of people, the ''144,000", that "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth .…..In their mouth is found no guile: for they are without fault" Rev. 14: 4,5. Also, "they keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus" Rev. 14:12.
Mary's story is there to inspire us that as we respond to God's infinite agape love and sacrifice, and allow Him to change our hearts and lives, we too may have a genuine faith.  Then, in Christ, and covered by His Righteousness, He will provide us with the strength and power we need for whatever may await us in the troubled times ahead.  Now, there is a reason for gratitude.
Mary Magdalene felt hopeless and useless until Jesus helped her to see how much she was loved by God.  She was important to Jesus and as a lesson for us today.  You and I are just as important to Him today, as He waits for His bride to be ready for the Second Coming.  May we look forward to His soon return with eager anticipation with an attitude of gratitude for what He has already done for us through His love and sacrifice.
Blessings, as you study the lesson this week.
~John and Monica Campbell

Friday, February 23, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #8 February 24, 2018

FEBRUARY 24, 2018
This week's lesson reminded me of the rebuke of Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23.  "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."  This passage highlights the nature of the outworking of true faith in Christ.  Jesus was clearly emphasizing that while the scribes and Pharisees appeared to be scrupulous about the letter of the law, they were clearly deficient in keeping the spirit of the law and therefore not keeping the law at all. Jesus does not condemn their return of tithe but points out that the "weightier matters of the law" were being forgotten, namely "justice and mercy and faith" without which their faithful return of tithe would avail nothing. 
The lesson also makes the point that participation depends on commitment.  This is one of the most important aspects of tithing.  The affect of our investment in anything or anyone is to increase our attachment and identification with the person or the cause.  In Matthew 6, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, "For where your treasure is there will your heart be also".  To the extent that we are invested in the things of this world our affections can be drawn away from Christ.  Just as in a marriage, it is the time and attention and cultivation of the relationship which serves to prioritize one's spouse above all other relationships and commitments.  The lesson points out that most Christians give very little to support the cause of God.  This reflects a failure to understand how infinitely Christ has given to us and the purpose of giving.  Our giving is a barometer of our faith in God.  While God has promised to bless us as we give, the purpose for our giving is not for what we will receive in return or to avoid the consequences of not giving.  The true spirit of tithing is gratitude.  The lesson points out that we are "double blessed" in our giving in that we ourselves will receive a blessing but more importantly we are blessing others.  Acts 20:35 says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Certainly one of the greatest blessings of tithing is that it teaches us the lesson of trust in God.  This is of paramount importance since we understand that the individual appropriation of the gift of salvation at an experiential level is received by faith.  There is scarcely any other area of our lives that touches us at a more practical level and demonstrates the reality of our religious experience than how we handle money. Systematic giving provides an opportunity for us to be constantly exercising our faith and observing how God works.  The apostle Paul ministered to many churches and his sacrificial love for the people and devotion to God led him to refuse wages he rightfully deserved if it would be a stumblingblock to the members of the church.
Under Thursdays outline the lesson touches on the most important subject of all in addressing tithing in relation to salvation by faith.  The point is emphasized that tithing does not in any way contribute to our salvation or merit or earn anything for the believer in the plan of redemption. The idea of deserving or meriting anything suggests we are saved by works which is clearly contrary to scripture. The lesson references Romans 3:19-24 which says "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified".  What may be missed in a hasty reading of verse 23 and 24 is that the same subject "all have sinned" continues in the phrase "being justified freely by His grace".  In other words, the apostle Paul is pointing out the fact that the grace of God has benefited both believer and unbeliever alike.  The lesson also references Romans 4:5 which says, "God justifies the ungodly".  This is a further demonstration that there is no credit to the believer in tithing anymore than any other works which may be done.  Our giving does reveal our attitude and reminds us that we belong to God and that He has freely given us all that we enjoy in this life and has placed in our hands the gift of eternal life to come.  The lesson ends with the beautiful statement that "every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of existence comes from the Lord."  This sentiment is echoed in Desire of Ages page 660: "To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring."
~Michael Duncan

Friday, February 09, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #6 February 10, 2018

First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #6
"The Marks of a Steward"
February 10, 2018

Stewards of Service
The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Ellen White stresses the importance of this by telling us to study the lessons in nature. She says in Our High Calling, page 253: "Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, and of His laws that govern nature and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth." Let's take a tree as an example. A mature tree uses precious earthly resources: it occupies space, utilizes air (Carbon dioxide which we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree exhales, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, are not only tasty, but are good for our health. While trees cannot consume their byproducts (fruit), we can. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as its leaves and its wood. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then trees do from us. Apparently, all of the resources that trees use end up benefiting mankind as well as the animals.  Based on this observation we could say, that if trees were stewards, they would likely manage God's resources better than we.
Our analogy of the tree is really about stewardship and serving others. When a steward is filled with the faith of God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves, our plans, our concerns. When we give to others or do for them, often it is because we expect the service to redound beneficially to us. Often, we anticipate a tangible return such as money or other favors - tickets, a meal, a gift certificate, etc. Other times we derive an intangible return, such as favorable appreciation by others. Not infrequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear; hoping to be relieved from condemnation. Thus, we misuse Gods resources for our benefit even though we claim using these to serve others. 
A true Christian at whatever level is a Steward who operates by faith. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will yield fruit (Galatians 5:22-25).  The Spirit of God that dwells in him springs forth this fruit because the fruit is the character of God Himself. 
Therefore, service is not proffered by guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or even peace. The service of a true Christian, in whom the Spirit dwells, is motivated by Agape - God's unconditional love - and the driving force is gratitude. A faithful follower of Christ gives and serves freely, for he has received freely (Matthew 10:8).
Typically, we do not equate stewardship with the selfless serving of others. But, a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, identifying with the Master and doing as the Master wishes. What is it that the Master desires "But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the parable of the sheep and goats from Matthew 25 will illustrate the meaning further. Although the passage is lengthy, reading will refresh our memory. Matthew 25: 31-46 reads--
Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
Matthew 25:32 And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Matthew 25:33 And He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
Matthew 25:38 When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
Matthew 25:39 Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Matthew 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink:
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?
Matthew 25:45 Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Faithful stewards are sheep who identify with their Lord and unknowingly serve Him by helping those in need.   Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain.  What is the motivating difference between the two? It is Agape – God's unconditional love. The sheep possess the type of love that the Father possesses.  This love which is His essence is that which led Him to give to all human beings "…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This love caused Jesus to weep because of the harm Sin had done to His creation (John 11:35). This is the same love that will be found in us as we permit the Holy Spirit to have His way with us (Romans 5:5). Christ Himself has said that by this all men will know that ye are my disciples (John 13: 34 – 35).  Today, while it's day, will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward that you may serve others as He wishes?
~Raul Diaz