Friday, October 13, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #2 October 14, 2017

 
Fourth Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Controversy"
October 14, 2017
 
    The controversy in the early church was addressed especially in letters to churches in Galatia and the church in Rome. In both cases the issue was over the same principle – the conflict over righteousness by faith and righteousness by works; of justification by Christ alone or by legalism; by the power of God or by human backbone and unbending stiff-necked religion. The principle of contention, then, was as it is today: "How is a person justified?" Millennia ago Job ask the same question, "How can a man be righteous before God?" Job 9:2. The principle remains the same, but the application of the principle changes because of varying circumstances and conditions.
 
    The controversy came to a head in Paul's day because he and Barnabas taught justification by faith in Christ alone to the Gentiles, who responded extraordinarily to the preaching of this gospel. The power of God was working mightily through Paul who received and presented the message of justification directly from heaven. The enemy of God and man was alarmed. He knew that by some means he had to bring the preaching of the gospel to an end or at least to bring it to a standstill. If he could not, then his movement would plummet and eventually collapse. So, he goaded some Pharisees to resist the gospel. These were professed believers, "Pharisees who believed" (Acts 15:5). These emissaries of Satan followed Paul from place to place tearing down what he had previously built up.
 
    Their teaching was, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1. This sentiment was expressed in the first Council of the Christian Church at Jerusalem. Those Pharisees made circumcision a salvation issue. But this was "a different gospel" a perversion of "the gospel of Christ." Galatians 1:6-7. And it is evident that the doctrine of those Pharisees reached the church in Rome as well as the churches in Galatia. Those gospel perverters had some very strong Bible texts to support their false premise. We will consider two passages familiar to them. The first was Genesis 17:11-14. In its first instance circumcision was a token of Abraham's unbelief in God's promise. In the performance of this ceremony the testimony was given that the carnal nature – the flesh – must be "cut off," not as a method of salvation, but as an act of faith in God's promise that He will do for a person that which he can not do for themselves. Circumcision became a "seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had while still uncircumcised." Romans 4:11.
 
    If a person refused to be circumcised, he was to be "cut off from his people" (Genesis 17:14). This was a capital offence. This was strong evidence for the Pharisees who were peddling a works righteousness program of justification. The second passage they based their theology on is found in Exodus 4:24-26. Moses on the way back to Egypt was struck down with which appeared to be a terminal illness. Zipporah, Moses wife, knew exactly what to do. She circumcised the second boy with a stone and thus saved Moses life (vs 25). Evidently, she was very tenderhearted and was painful for her to see the firstborn child circumcised. Consequentially, she influenced Moses convincing him to not circumcise their second son. But when she saw Moses nearly dead, she immediately performed the ceremony herself.
 
    These two instances were proof texts that circumcision of the flesh was absolutely necessary for salvation. How could Paul doubt such proof texts as these? However, what the Pharisees did not understand was the fact that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial circumcision by His death. Christ was "cut off" from life! Daniel 9:26. The term "cut off" here, in Daniel, is the same term used in the case of Zipporah and in that of Abraham regarding circumcision as found in Exodus 4:25 and Genesis 17:14.   
 
    The "Pharisees that believed" ignored the real meaning of circumcision which was, a sign of salvation – a sign of justification by faith and of the new birth. Outward circumcision was to be a pictogram of the heart for both men and women. The heart was to be circumcised as illustrated by its physical counterpart in the circumcision of the flesh. As presented in Deuteronomy 30:6 and 10:16, Paul cut through the fog of false doctrine and revealed the true significance of circumcision when writing to the Roman church by stating: "…Circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter…" Romans 2:29.
 
    And further, as Paul affirmed that to be circumcised, in its true meaning, is to be crucified with Christ as brought forth in his letter to the church in Colosse: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ." Colossians 2:11.
 
    In that Jerusalem Council mentioned earlier and recorded in Acts 15, Peter came to the aid of Paul in the controversy over salvation. He did this by relating his experience of a dream sent by God to instruct him about uncircumcised Gentile believers (Acts 15:7-21). Gentiles as taught by Jews were unclean and so could not be associated with. But God disagreed with this and convinced Peter of this false doctrine.
 
    However, Peter later while under pressure abandoned his belief at Antioch because of the strong influence of those Pharisees who professed belief in Christ, but were in reality "false brethren" who turned the gospel of Christ into a false gospel. Paul was at that meeting and rigorously and publicly rebuked Peter (see Galatians 2:14-16). Paul set forth the true gospel, the only gospel, of salvation when he spoke to Peter about justification by faith.
 
    Paul stated in certain terms, you know "that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Galatians 2:16 (KJV). The following is a chiastic structure of this vital truth of the gospel as given by Paul:
 
A.  a man is not justified by the works of the law,
 
B. but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
 
  B/ even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith
of Christ,
 
    A/ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
 
    The controversy continues today. It is the same in principle, but the application has changed. The issue is still justification by the faith of Jesus, believed and made a part of the experience of the believer as the work of God for him, and by him as he believes in Christ alone for justification, This is opposed by legalists who resist this wonderful good news and in its place insist on their own merits in some fashion, using Bible proof texts, as did the "Pharisees who believed" in their works of circumcision as a means of salvation.
 
~ Jerry Finneman 

http://www.1888msc.org/article/521/resources/sabbath-school-insights/2017-quarter-4-oct-dec/insight-2-october-14-2017

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Apostle Paul In Rome

Fourth Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Apostle Paul In Rome"
                    October 7, 2017

After spending a quarter studying Paul's letter to the Galatians, Seventh-day Adventists have the privilege of continuing the study of the gospel, this time in the book of Romans, during the fourth quarter of this year. It was the light from this book -- "The just shall live by faith" -- that pierced the mind of Martin Luther like a lightning bolt from heaven and freed him from the bondage of trying to earn his salvation. That was 500 years ago. The light of the reformation continues to shine with greater brilliance in each successive generation, and the study of the book that started it all will ignite a fire in the heart of every earnest seeker of truth.
 
Personally, I am thrilled with the opportunity before our world church to study Romans because of what the book means to me. Nearly three decades ago, friends invited my husband and I to attend a seminar on the book of Romans. The teacher, Pastor E. H. "Jack" Sequeira, was an "African bush pastor" of Indian descent who had devoted his post-conversion years in Africa to studying the gospel, especially the book of Romans. We listened with rapt attention that Sunday as Pastor Jack unfolded the gospel, chapter by chapter, beginning with Romans chapter one. By the time we got to chapter five, I felt like I had been struck by lightning! The gospel was unfolded in a way that was new and thrilling. On that day the "light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:6) shone brightly in my heart and I experienced something akin to the disciples' description of their talk with Jesus along the road to Emmaus: "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" Luke 24:32.
 
The book of Acts tells the amazing story of how God sent Philip to give a Bible study to an Ethiopian eunuch along the side of the road in the desert. When Philip met the man, he asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
 
The eunuch replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" "And He asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
 
The Bible says that Philip did just that, and "opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him." That roadside Bible study led to the eunuch's baptism, and no doubt he became a teacher of the Word upon his return to Ethiopia. (See Acts 8:26-40).
 
It is God's purpose that one should teach another. We shouldn't feel humiliated that we don't understand the Bible. We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, and the Spirit often uses other people to explain the Word. 
 
Romans is a book that many have found hard to understand. If you find yourself hungering for a deeper knowledge of the gospel, don't suffer alone! Utilize the resources with which God has blessed us to unlock the truths of the gospel.
 
Like the woman who lit a lamp to find the lost coin, Advent believers have been blessed with a divinely-inspired flashlight in which to search out the hidden gems of Scripture through the ministry and writings of Ellen White. And Sister White, in turn, urged that God had raised up two young men, Brothers
A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner to further explain the vast treasure of gospel truth centered in Christ.
 
Sabbath School Insights readers may wish to avail themselves of further study resources, such as Waggoner on Romans, a verse-by-verse exposition by E. J. Waggoner. His introduction to the book of Romans is included here in connection with our Sabbath School theme for this week:
 
"Inspiration assures us that in all of the epistles of Paul there are 'some things hard to be understood.' 2 Pet. 3:16. Perhaps this is the case with the Epistle to the Romans in a greater degree than with any other. But they are not impossible to be understood, and it is only the 'unlearned and unstable' who wrest them unto their own destruction.
 
  "Note that it is only those who wrest 'the other scriptures' to their own destruction who thus miss the point of Paul's writings. They who have a desire to understand and who read the simple promises of the Bible with profit, will not be among that number.
 
  "In beginning this study it will be an encouragement to the reader if he will remember that it is simply a letter written to the church in Rome. We can not suppose that the congregation in Rome differed from the great body of Christians in general. Of them we read that 'not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.' 1 Cor. 1:26. The truest followers of Jesus have always been among 'the common people.' So in the church in Rome there were doubtless shopkeepers, artisans, day laborers, carpenters, gardeners, etc., and many servants in the families of wealthy citizens, together with a few who might hold some position of rank. When we consider that it was confidently expected that people of this sort would understand the letter, we may be encouraged to believe that the same class of people can understand it now.
 
  "Paul's exhortation and assurance to Timothy form the best guide to the study of all his epistles, and the whole Bible as well: 'Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things.' 'God is his own interpreter.' The words of the Bible explain the Bible. This is why you should closely question the text so as to get at exactly what is said, in connection with what precedes and follows.
 
  "The notes that accompany the text in this study are designed to fix the student's attention more closely upon the word, and for the benefit of the casual reader. That the study of this epistle may be greatly blessed to those who pursue it, and that the word may become more highly esteemed by all because of the increased light that the Holy Spirit may cause to flash from it, is the earnest prayer of the writer" (from the introductory "Note to the Reader From the Author," Waggoner on Romans, E. J. Waggoner).
 
~Patti Guthrie
--

Friday, September 29, 2017

“Boasting in the Cross”

Third Quarter 2017 Sabbath
School Lesson
“Boasting in the Cross”
                                September 30, 2017

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Gal.6:14-15.
 
“Those who, since the Minneapolis meeting, have had the privilege of listening to the words spoken by the messengers of God, . . . have had the invitation, Come, for all things are now ready. Come to the supper prepared for you." Light, heaven's light, has been shining. The trumpet has given a certain sound. . . . The light has been shining upon justification by faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ. . . . These are our themes,--Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ our intercessor before God;” {1888 1455.2}.
 
E. J. Waggoner – The Glad Tidings:
 
Why glory in the cross? Because by the cross the world is crucified to us and we to the world.
The letter ends where it begins, with deliverance from "this present evil world." It is the cross
alone that accomplishes the deliverance. The cross is the symbol of humiliation.
Therefore we glory in it.
 
God Revealed in the Cross
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches." Jeremiah 9:23
 
Why should not the wise man glory in his wisdom? Because so far as it is his own wisdom it is foolishness. "The wisdom of this world is folly with God." 1 Corinthians 3:19. No man has any wisdom in which to glory, for his own wisdom is foolishness. Wisdom, which God gives, is something to cause humility instead of pride.
 
What about might? "All flesh is grass." Isaiah 40:6. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Psalm 39:5, KJV. "Men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter then vanity." But "power belongs unto God." Psalm 62:9, 11, KJV
 
As to riches, they are "uncertain." 1 Timothy 6:17. Man "heaps up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them." Psalm 39:6, KJV. "Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." Proverbs 23:5, KJV. Only in Christ are found unsearchable and abiding riches.
 
Man therefore has absolutely nothing in which to boast. What is there left of a man when he has nothing that can be called wealth, no wisdom whatever, and absolutely no strength? Everything that man is or has comes from the Lord. Therefore he that glories is to glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:31
 
Now put this text with Galatians 6:14. The same Spirit inspired them both, so there is no contradiction. One text says that we are to glory only in the knowledge of the Lord. The other says that there is nothing in which to glory save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The conclusion, therefore, is that in the cross we find the knowledge of God. To know God is eternal life, and there is no life for mankind except through the cross of Christ. So again we see most clearly that all that may be known of God is revealed in the cross. Aside from the cross, there is no knowledge of God.
 
This shows us again that the cross is seen in all creation. The everlasting power and divinity of God, all that may be known of Him, are seen in the things that He has made. Out of weakness God brings strength. He saves men by death, so that even the dead may rest in hope. No man can be so poor, so weak and sinful, so degraded and despised, that he may not glory in the cross. The cross takes him just where he is, for it is the symbol of shame and degradation. It reveals the power of God in him, and herein is ground for everlasting glory.
 
The Cross Crucifies
The cross cuts us off from the world. Glory! For then it unites us to God, because the friendship of the world is enmity with God. "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4. Through His cross Christ has destroyed the enmity. Ephesians 2:15, 16. "And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:17. Then let the world pass away.
 
Jesus said, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." John 12:32. This He said signifying what death He should die, namely, the death of the cross. "He humbled Himself" to death, "even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name." Philippians 2:8, 9
 
It was through death that He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. It was the cross that lifted Him up from earth to heaven. Therefore it is the cross alone that brings us glory, and so it is the only thing in which to glory. The cross, which means derision and shame from the world, lifts us away from this world and sets us with Christ in the heavenly places. The power by which it does this is "the power that worketh in us," the power that works in and upholds all things in the universe.
 
Salvation does not come from man, whatever his state or condition, or whatever he may do. In an uncircumcised state he is lost. If he be circumcised, he is no nearer salvation. Only the cross has power to save. The only thing that is of any value is a new creature, or, as indicated in the Revised Standard Version, "a new creation," and it is only through death that we become joined to Him. See Romans 6:3.
 
"Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling."

The cross makes a new creation. Here again we see a reason for glorying in it. When the new creation came from the hand of God in the beginning, "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Job 38:7
 
The Sign of the Cross
Put together all the texts that we have read: (1) The cross of Christ is the only thing in which to glory, (2) whoever glories must glory only in the knowledge of God, (3) God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, so that none might glory save in Him, and (4) God is revealed in the things that He has made. Creation, which manifests God's power, also presents the cross, because the cross of Christ is the power of God and God is made known by it.
What have we? This: That the power it took to create the world and all things that are in it, the power that keeps all things in existence, is the power that saves those who trust in it. This is the power of the cross.
 
So the power of the cross, by which alone salvation comes, is the power that creates and continues to work in all creation.
 
But when God creates a thing it is "very good." So in Christ, in His cross, there is "a new creation." We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10. It is in the cross that this new creation is wrought, for its power is the power by which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is the power that keeps the earth from utter destruction under the curse; the power, which brings about the changing seasons, seedtime and harvest, and that, will at last renew the face of the earth. "It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
 
The cross conveys to us the knowledge of God because it shows us His power as Creator. Through the cross we are crucified to the world and the world to us. The cross sanctifies us. Sanctification is the work of God, not of man. Only His divine power can accomplish the great work. In the beginning God sanctified the Sabbath as the crown of His creative work, the evidence that His work was finished, the seal of perfection.
 
Therefore He says, "Moreover I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them." Ezekiel 20:12So we see that the Sabbath, the seventh day, is the true sign of the cross. It is the memorial of creation, and redemption is creation, creation through the cross. In the cross we find the complete and perfect works of God and we are clothed with them.
 
Crucified with Christ means the utter giving up of self, acknowledging that we are nothing, and trusting absolutely in Christ. In Him we rest. In Him we find Sabbath. The cross takes us back to the beginning into "that which was from the beginning." The resting upon the seventh day of the week is but the sign of the fact that in the perfect work of God, as seen in creation, in the cross, we find rest from sin.
 
The cross means death, but it also means the entrance into life. There is healing in Christ's wounds, blessing in the curse that He bore, life in the death that He suffered. Who dare say that he trusts Christ for everlasting life if he dare not trust Him for a few years or months or days of life in this world?
 
Now say once more, and say it from the heart: "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." If you can say that in truth, you will find tribulations and afflictions so easy that you can glory in them.
 
It is by the cross that everything is sustained. "In Him all things hold together," and He does not exist in any other form than that of the crucified One. But for the cross there would be universal death. Not a man could breathe, not a plant could grow, and not a ray of light could shine from heaven if it were not for the cross.
 
Now "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork." Psalm 19:1, KJV. They are some of the things that God has made. No pen can describe and no artist's brush can depict the wondrous glory of the heaven.
 
Yet that glory is but the glory of the cross of Christ. This follows from the facts already learned, that the power of God is seen in the things that are made, and that the cross is the power of God.
 
~Bob Hunsaker

Thursday, September 21, 2017

INSIGHT #13 SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

INSIGHT #13 SEPTEMBER 23, 2017
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Third Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Gospel and the Church"
September 23, 2017
 



 
I am thrilled to present this lesson, as I have studied the implications of this section, in terms of how we deal with people, but also, in a much larger context, in terms of the Laodicean problem, the growing critical spirit of the "superficial, conservative class", the separationist movement, and the ultimate destiny of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, seen clearly in the concept of Corporate Repentance and the prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9. Some of the counsel I will present will surprise people, but it is needed, necessary, and a corrective to the false concept that exists within the truth of the need to "rebuke sin". Many have tragically felt that as long as they are "faithful" in pointing out the sins of "Israel", they have met God's requirements, and nothing could be further from the truth. I pray you will read this section as though your eternal life is at stake, for it is. If you do not understand and experience the true fruit of righteousness by faith, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God and most clearly seen in how we treat those for whom Jesus died, we will have missed God's desire for our lives. We are to "speak the truth in love." What many do not understand is what love requires in order for us to really be "faithful" in dealing with people and the sin problem. We have been given a "Ministry of Reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5) and it is to be the expression, in the life, of the love by which Christ died for us. How did Jesus treat people? How did He treat a hard hearted Israel? What is His hope, still, for Laodicea? Corporate repentance is vital. The last deception to Christ was "save yourself." The last deception to people is to attempt to "save themselves" by seeking justification, subtly, by criticizing others, and as the church "appears about to fall", it will be a very powerful temptation. "Thank God I am not like other men." There is a time for dealing with sin, but there is a spirit, in us, that must exist if we are ever to fulfill that calling. Galatians 6:1-3 is CRUCIAL for every Adventist, every Christian, to understand. 
 
I openly admit that this lesson is VERY long, but please read all of it. I have gone beyond the lesson, for a reason. It may mean your eternal salvation. The only way any of us is going to heaven, is if we never forget that we are the chief of sinners, for our sins crucified Christ. 
 
Restoring the Fallen (Sunday, Sept. 7)
 
Gal 6:1, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." 
 
Gal 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
 
Let us study, seriously, the import of these verses. They include several factors.
 
A man is overtaken in a fault. This does not refer to overt rebellion, but to a fault, mistake. The reality is, however, that we cannot read the heart and need to be extremely careful not to judge that a sin is overt rebellion, for we are told to "judge nothing before the time", and to make our life pursuit to reclaim people, regardless of their degree of involvement in sin. 
You are to be, first, spiritual. This implies that you are walking in the spirit, not in the flesh. You have prayed for God's guidance and spiritual strength. You have taken the plank first, out of your own eye, and you are following Bible principles, not your own flesh, or desires to "save yourself" by your "rebuking", in order to do God's will.
Your motive is to "restore" the individual, not merely to rebuke them, not merely to judge them, not merely to "fulfill" your responsibility so the "blood does not fall on your head" as Ezekiel says. Many are more concerned about avoiding contamination from exposure to sin, than they are about influencing the other or "contaminating" them through righteousness, love, humility, and spirituality. We cannot help others until we are totally secure in our own salvation. I am not talking about presumption or recklessness.
The entire experience is in the spirit of meekness, or humility, meaning you recognize that you, too, are the "chief of sinners" and in need of a Savior yourself, regardless of your level of spiritual maturity. You are not a Pharisee saying, "Thank God I am not like other men", but instead, cognizant that you are a sinner, too, in need of the mercy of God.
You are aware that you too could fall as the other person has. 
The "Law of Christ" means to "bear the burdens" of those in sin. Jesus came close to sinners, at all risk to Himself. 
 
"The church of Christ on earth will be imperfect, but God does not destroy His church because of its imperfection. There have been and will be those who are filled with zeal not according to knowledge, who would purify the church, and uproot the tares from the midst of the wheat. But Christ has given special light as to how to deal with those who are erring, and with those who are unconverted in the church. There is to be no spasmodic, zealous, hasty action taken by church members in cutting off those they may think defective in character. Tares will appear among the wheat; but it would do more harm to weed out the tares, unless in God's appointed way, than to leave them alone. There are two opposing influences continually exerted on the members of the church. One influence is working for the purification of the church, and the other for the corrupting of the people of God." {TM 46.1}
 
Certainly, as the degree of sin and rebellion worsens, one must pray for the strength of response that will communicate the level of danger and concern. Jesus called the Pharisees "vipers and hypocrites", but we are told that He had "tears in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes." 
 
"Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.He wept over Jerusalem, the city He loved, that refused to receive Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They rejected Him, the Saviour, but He regarded them with pitying tenderness, and sorrow so deep that it broke His heart. Every soul was precious in His eyes. While He always bore Himself with divine dignity, He bowed with tenderest regard to every member of the family of God. In all men He saw fallen souls whom it was His mission to save." {DA 353.1}
 
Today, often, we have people viciously denouncing the church for its sins and failures, separating from them because they are "Babylon", and justifying it because of Jesus' rebukes, and a complete misuse of Ezekiel 9 and Isaiah 58. The word Pharisee means "one who separates." We are told that the "sinners in Zion will be sifted OUT." Yet some want to claim that Zion only refers to the separated ones, having judged that the organization is already totally in apostasy and cannot be redeemed. Who has the right to play God? That isn't "discernment", for we were never given the authority to make such a judgment, and Ellen G. White is clear that the SDA church will NEVER be Babylon, for Babylon consists of believing in Sunday Sacredness and the Immortality of the Soul. We can discern that something is not in harmony with the Word of God, with the counsel given, but when one makes decisions as some do, to judge and separate, they are no longer following the Word of God. The Call to "come out of her, my people" is a call for people to leave the final satanic coalition with its errors and deceptive spiritualism, not to judge God's remnant movement, for we have light that God will "cleanse the camp of its moral defilement."
 
God's final plan for His church is based on the story of Achan, not the story of the first century, or the reformation. It is a cleansing and removing from the church those who are not walking with God, not a call to judge and separate from it. Our counsel recognizes both the "visible" and "invisible" church, and while the invisible church consists of the faithful ones, there is a visible church raised by God to work for the evangelization of the world. That church will appear "about to fall", but it will not. The shaking and cleansing of the church will accomplish God's goal, and it will remain until the end, obviously in greatly altered form, to stand for God "though the heavens fall." To 'stand for the truth, when there are few with us." 
 
Jesus left a "good place", to go to a "bad place" and risk eternal loss, to take the Second death for every human being, to redeem the race and ultimately save those who believe in the Unspeakable Gift of Christ.
 
Many leave the "bad place" or the church, to go to a "good place", to, if they are honest, "save themselves." What was the final temptation to Christ? To "come down" from the cross, and "save" Himself. What was the test for Peter? "Are you one of them?" If we are toconsider others as more important than ourselves, Philippians 2, how can we abandon people we have judged worse than ourselves, when we also deserve death. Faithfulness to the "message" is vital, for we want to show our loyalty to Christ, but if the message ultimately is to "perfect" our characters in Christlikeness, what was Christ like? Did He abandon sinners, or did He die for them? Jesus came to heal. We should make all our efforts to reclaim the lost. We also need to remember to keep our eyes on Christ, not on the apostasy, and, by the way, to abandon sinners is the worst form of apostasy.
 
"Many fix their eyes upon the terrible wickedness existing around them, the apostasy and weakness on every side, and they talk of these things until their hearts are filled with sadness and doubt. They keep uppermost before the mind the masterly working of the arch deceiver and dwell upon the discouraging features of their experience, while they seem to lose sight of the heavenly Father's power and His matchless love." {5T 740.2} 2 Cor. 3:18. By beholding, we become changed. God looks at people, not as they are, but as they might be, transformed by His grace.
 
In the book Steps to Christ, we are told that Satan has four strategies to get our eyes off Christ, and it is his "constant' effort to do so. They include looking to the "faults of others." I have met those who can list all the sins of the church, in history, and at the present time. But when it is suggested that they may also have defects, they refuse to listen to such counsel, for that would place them on the same level as those they are judging and condemning, and destroy their self-righteousness. 
 
The Laodicean problem is not simply sin. It is, in its essence, self-righteousness. How does such a person behave? They elevate their own spiritual experience, and point out the sins and defects of others, individuals, or the corporate church. There is counsel about dealing faithfully with sin, but when one is truly confronted with the reality of what has been revealed, it will prove to be a shocker to many.
 
Open sin, without repentance is to be dealt with through church discipline, following the steps laid out, and done in the right spirit. In the "right spirit" would incredibly humble many, if they are honest in their relationship to the character of Christ. 
 
Beware of Temptation Monday, Sept. 18); Bearing Burden (Tuesday, Sept. 19); The Law of Christ (Wednesday, Sept. 20)
 
We are also warned against Spiritual Pride. The issue for Laodicea is that of self-righteousness and pride in one's standing, AND total deception that one is in that condition. Human nature is pharisaical, so that every one of us struggles with pride and self-righteousness on a daily basis.
 
"Self-righteousness is not the wedding-garment. The message to the Laodicean Church reveals our condition as a people." {RH, Dec. 15, 1904}
 
Gal 6:3, "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."
 
The only answer is corporate repentance, and it is clearly seen in Daniel 9.
 
Daniel prayed, "WE have sinned." If the Book of Daniel is for the "time of the end", then the answer to create true "unity" in the church is to experience, including on a corporate level, as is witnessed in Joel 2, a unified confession that we have sinned, not THEY have. 
 
When we restore people, we are to avoid the feeling that we are spiritually superior to them, for the truth is, somewhere in their character, they may be superior to you. Our recalling our standing outside of Christ can keep us from falling into the sin of self-righteousness, and it also can give us greater sympathy for others who make mistakes. It can even give us a right attitude to those totally lost. What is God's attitude towards those ultimately lost? Jesus wept over Jerusalem. In many that form home churches and independent ministries, because of the "apostasy" of the church, I see no tears. 
 
Dan 10:8, "Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength."
 
When people truly see themselves in the reality of Christ's perfection, their "comeliness" will be turned into corruption. This verse in Daniel is the key to the experience God is calling us to in the last generation, to truly "see" ourselves, and then, to look to Christ, to His "matchless charms" to be humbled, and yet hopeful, as He promises to "cleanse us of all unrighteousness." 
 
People desire to be like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. in being used by God to rebuke an apostate people. I ask you, did Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, EVER leave a sinful church? In some cases, such as in the case of the early church, or the reformers, death threats drove them out, but they never, on their own, made the decision that they should leave. Jesus cast sentence on Israel, and He alone can make such decisions. 
 
People will cite Isaiah 58:1. "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their sins." Yet, they miss vs. 13, which says to put away the "pointing finger." More importantly, many quote Ezekiel 9, where we are to "sigh and cry" for all the abominations in the church. Yet, we are clearly told, that unless we cry for the sins of the church, AND OUR OWN SINS, we will be left without the Seal of God. 
 
The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God." {RH January 11, 1887, par. 11}
 
People often "see nothing defective in themselves, but find very much to despise in others." {RH, June 15, 1897}
 
The next quote will stun you. 
 
"When a person comes to a minister or to men in positions of trust with complaints against a brother or a sister, let the minister ask, "Have you complied with the rules our Savior has given?" And if he has failed to carry out any particular of this instruction, do not listen to a word of his complaint. In the name and Spirit of Jesus, refuse to take up a report against your brother or your sister in the faith. IF MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH GO CONTRARY TO THESE RULES, THEY MAKE THEMSELVES SUBJECTS FOR CHURCH DISCIPLINE, AND SHOULD BE UNDER THE CENSURE OF THE CHURCH." {RH, April 16, 1895 par. 9}
 
The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was given for the benefit of those who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." This spirit is the hidden rock upon which thousands are wrecking their hopes of Heaven; and the Savior here shows how offensive it is in the sight of God. Many are self-deceived, filled with spiritual pride and vanity. They do not see the enormity of sin, and go on parading their own virtues, those of poor, fallen humanity, before the Majesty of Heaven, whose eyes read the intents and purposes of the heart, and see disobedience and grave defects of character in these who extol self and claim superior goodness. {ST February 26, 1885, par. 1}
 
"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." This is our work. "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." 2 Corinthians 13:5. {DA 314.1}
 
"Let both wheat and tares grow together until the harvest. Then it is ANGELS that do the work of separation." The Remnant Church, p. 53. Let the angel's do their work, and do not prematurely separate yourself, through a judgment that you were never called to make.
 
"No advice or sanction is given in the Word of God to those who believe the third angel's message to lead them to suppose that they can draw apart. This you may settle with yourselves forever. It is the devising of unsanctified minds that would encourage a state of disunion….There must be no separating in this great testing time." {3SM 21.2}
 
The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ. {2SM 380.2}
 
"He who expects to enlighten a deceived people must come near to them and labor for them in love. He MUST become a center of Holy influence."
 
In the advocacy of the truth the bitterest opponents should be treated with respect and deference. Some will not respond to our efforts…others, EVEN THOSE WHOM WE SUPPOSE TO HAVE PASSED THE BOUNDARY OF GOD'S MERCY, WILL BE WON TO CHRIST." {Ibid, p. 121}
 
And the quote which should drive every one of us to our knees, and weep at the reality of how short we have come in our treatment of sinners.
 
Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self-dignity, and even lay down your life in order to save an erring brother, have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help your brother. Then you can approach him and touch his heart. No one has ever reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction. {MB 128.3}
 
What beauty of character shone forth in the daily life of Christ! He is to be our pattern. There is a great work to be done in fashioning the character after the divine similitude. The grace of Christ must mold the entire being, and its triumph will not be complete until the heavenly universe shall witness habitual tenderness of feeling, Christlike love, and holy deeds in the deportment of the children of God. {AG 235.2}
 
"If a person is in error, be the more KIND to Him. If you are not courteous, you may drive him away from Christ. Let every word you speak, even the tone of your voice, express your interest in, and sympathy for, the souls that are in peril. If you are harsh, denunciatory, and impatient with them, you are doing the work of the enemy. They will think their own way is right." {TM 150.3; 7MR #449, p. 28}
 
I am compelled to deal plainly and rebuke sin, and then I have it in my heart, placed there by the Spirit of Christ to labor in faith, in tender sympathy, and compassion for the erring. I will NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE." 
 
We need good heart religion that we shall not only reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine, but we shall (also, my addition) take the erring in our arms of faith and bear them to the cross of Christ. We must bring them in contact with the sin pardoning Savior."
 
The Day of Atonement is a time to primarily afflict our souls, in deep heart felt conviction of sin and a desire to receive the gift of surrender and repentance. It is not a time to primarily be pointing the finger at the faults of others. "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Yes, faithfully reprove sin, but do so in the Spirit and Motive of Christ.
 
The Law of Christ
 
The Law of Christ is the principle of coming close to sinners, sympathizing with them, loving them AS Jesus loved us, and always loves us, being willing to even lay down our lives to see them saved. The Law of Christ does not replace the Law of God, as some SDA critics contend. The Law of Christ is the fullest exposition of the Law of God, and anyway, Christ is God. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. Love summarizes the Ten Commandments. All Bible principles are founded on love. If we have not love, we have nothing. We labor, then, at a terrible loss. The Bible says to consider the other as more important than ourselves. How can we leave people for whom Jesus died? The Call to come out of Babylon, misapplied anyway, is necessary when people have made their decisions, and God knows the heart, and we do not, and cannot. The cleansing of the camp is God's work, based on His judgment, not ours. {Ibid, p. 29}
 
What truly is the "Omega" of Apostasy? 
 
Many feel it deals with an issue, and for many, the issue of the "Trinity". They think that since Kellogg and pantheism was the alpha, a similar issue regarding the personality of God will be the Omega. However, Ellen G. White says that for "many" reasons, people will leave us, not merely one. {6T 400.3} The real reason, simply put, is unresolved self-righteousness.
 
"… there will be apostasies among us that will startle you" {Letter 51, 1887}
 
"Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness." {5T 81}
 
"There will be a separating from us of those who have not appreciated the light nor walked in it." {Letter 46, 1887}
 
But many say, "But, we aren't leaving the "church" or the "message", we are merely leaving an apostate organization."
 
I tell you, my brethren, the Lord has an organized body through whom He will work. . . . When anyone is drawing apart from the organized body of God's commandment-keeping people, when he begins to weigh the church in his human scales and begins to pronounce judgement against them, then you may know that God is not leading him. He is on the wrong track.--3SM 17, 18 (1893).
 
Such an attitude is the height of judgmentalism, elitism, self-righteousness, and a total misunderstanding of the character of Christ, who risked "eternal loss" to save others. Also, God raised up this organization, and as we are going to see, there is going to be a great reformation in the SDA church, AFTER the shaking. To leave prematurely is to miss being a part of that event.
 
The Omega of Apostasy is the warning of large scale apostasies from the church, just as Kellogg and his friends apostasied at the time of the alpha. 
 
As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us." {6T 400} There is MORE than ONE reason why people go out.
 
The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances.The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. {5T 463.2}
 
No advice or sanction is given in the Word of God to those who believe the third angel's message to lead them to suppose that they can draw apart. This you may settle with yourselves forever. It is the devising of unsanctified minds that would encourage a state of disunion. The sophistry of men may appear right in their own eyes, but it is not truth and righteousness. {3SM 21.2}
 
Not having received the love of the truth, they will be taken in the delusions of the enemy; they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and will depart from the faith. But, on the other hand, when the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd's voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together and present to the enemy a united front. In view of the common peril, strife for supremacy will cease; there will be no disputing as to who shall be accounted greatest. The testimony of one and all will be: "I cleave unto Christ; I rejoice in Him as my personal Saviour." {6T 400.3}
 
People are correct that there are serious issues in the church. Ellen G. White recognized it many years ago.
 
We must as a people arouse and cleanse the camp of Israel. Licentiousness, unlawful intimacy, and unholy practices are coming in among us in a large degree; We are in danger of becoming a sister to fallen Babylon, of allowing our churches to become corrupted, and filled with every foul spirit, a cage for every unclean and hateful bird; and will we be clear unless we make decided movements to cure the existing evil? {21MR 380.1}
 
But, we are also given a promise, which many do not recognize, nor quote.
There are always found in the church vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. But the Lord will manifest Himself, and will cleanse the chaff from the wheat. He will make the church an honor to His name. {Lt190-1899.25}
 
Do we wish to be a part of the cleansing of the church, or to merely judge it?
 
God has two methods in the Bible for dealing with the sins of a body of people.
 
Come out of Her, my people.
 
But, the one chosen at the end of time is different. It is modeled on the story of Achan. God will "cleanse the camp of its moral defilement." "The sinners in Zion will be sifted OUT." God "will make the church an honor to His name."
 
"When anyone is drawing apart from the organized body of God's commandment keeping people, when he begins to weigh the church in his human scales and begins to pronounce judgment against them, then you may know that God is not leading him. He is on the wrong track." {3SM 18}
 
"You draw apart from your brethren because they do not speak and act in a way that is pleasing to you, when in the sight of God your course is more displeasing than theirs. You do not seek to establish the unity which Christ desires, should exist among brethren." {RH, April 16, 1895 par. 7}
 
"At times, with burning earnestness and words of terrible severity, Christ denounced the abominations….in the church and in the world. He would not allow the people to be deceived by false claims to righteousness and security." {Battle Creek Letters, p. 111}
 
Please note: The words were earnest, and severe. The tone was not harsh, critical, or self-righteous. He, again, had "tears" in His voice, and in His heart.
 
Reformation and rebellion can look very similar. 
 
Faithfully rebuking sin, and a critical spirit, can look very similar.
 
You will know them by their love, in motive, method, spirit, effort, patience, long suffering, bearing the burden of the other, tactfulness, etc.
 
Thus, Friday, Sowing and Reaping. If we sow to the flesh, to self-righteousness, we will bear a bitter fruit, of a character that has the Mark of the Beast, which is the character of Satan, the "accuser of the brethren." To love the sinner, and to hate the sin, is a difficult attainment. To hate and reprove sin, and at the same time to show pity and tenderness for the sinner, is a difficult attainment.
 
To hate and reprove sin, and at the same time to manifest pity and tenderness for the sinner, is a difficult attainment. The more earnest our own efforts to attain to holiness of heart and life, the more acute will be our perception of sin and the more decided our disapproval of any deviation from the right. We must guard against undue severity toward the wrongdoer, but we must also be careful not to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. There is need of showing Christlike patience and love for the erring one, but there is also danger of showing so great toleration for his error that he will look upon himself as undeserving of reproof.... {CC 347.4}
 
When anyone arises, either among us or outside of us, who is burdened with a message which declares that the people of God are numbered with Babylon, and claims that the loud cry is a call to come out of her, you may know that he is not bearing the message of truth. Receive him not, nor bid him Godspeed; for God has not spoken by him, neither has He given a message to him, but he has run before he was sent. {TM 41.1}
 
The Lord has not given you a message to call the Seventh-day Adventists Babylon, and to call the people of God to come out of her. All the reasons you may present cannot have weight with me on this subject, because the Lord has given me decided light that is opposed to such a message. . . . {LDE 51.2} 
 
I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time.—Letter 54, 1908 (January 21, 1908.). {2SM 397.3}
 
A Reformatory Movement
 
In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost. Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest.
 
On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence. Great blessings were received by the true and humble people of God. I heard voices of thanksgiving and praise, and there seemed to be a reformation such as we witnessed in 1844. {9T 126.1}
 
If God promises to cleanse the church, and a great reformation is coming, then it is obviously not Babylon, nor totally apostate, and the judgments of some are therefore horribly wrong and reflective of the very problem they condemn - Laodicea. The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. At that time the gold will be separated from the dross.... Many a star that we have admired for its brilliance will then go out in darkness. Those who have assumed the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ's righteousness, will then appear in the shame of their own nakedness. {PK 188.1; ChS 157.2}
 
The test for Adventists will be over the Gospel, Law, and the Sabbath. At that time of testing, the true heart and character of every person will then be revealed. False tests such as the 2520 day prophecy, the Trinity, etc. are being thrust on our people. But God describes His people as "keeping the commandments of God" and having "The Faith of Jesus." Jesus was obedient, even unto death. He did not abandon those in apostasy, even after He proclaimed them "desolate." He still gave them probationary time, to the end of the 490 year prophecy, to repent. God is far more longsuffering than we are. 

There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property, and even of life itself, to defend the law of God, which is made void by the laws of men. {5T 712.3}
 
We need:
 
To be converted to the Gospel of Christ and by the Gospel of Christ
A disciplined focus on Christ
A commitment to the development of a Christ like character, reflecting tenderness, gentleness, consistency of compassion and sacrificial love
A loyalty to Christ that will endure the shaking, and the persecution of the world
A right attitude towards authority and the organized church that God has raised up
Patience during the shaking as God cleanses His camp
A faithfulness to deal with sin, in a right spirit and motive, when necessary, but leaving judgment to God
A deep love for souls, and a God like view of them
 
"One theme will swallow up every other theme – Christ Our Righteousness."
 
~Pastor Thomas Cusack
 RR
Raul Diaz