Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr3-05

Sabbath School Insights No. 5
Quarter 3, 2005, Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Spiritual Life”
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
“Lord of Our Speech”

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same [is] a perfect man, [and] able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2. KJV).

Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against [or, admit] the truth” (James 3:13, 14, KJV).

Our speech is a thermometer of what dwells inside. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matt. 15:18, KJV, emphasis supplied).

We reveal what is inside of us by what we say and the way that we say it. It behooves us, then, to be very careful with what words we use in presenting an idea as well as our tone of voice and body language in the telling of it. Yet, this is impossible for the fallen sinful human flesh, that flesh that we are all made of, to control by itself. For any human being to control his tongue, he must find something from outside of his fallen sinful human flesh. (By the way, this is why the Lord wants us to eat. We must take in sustenance from a source outside of ourselves in order to live at all. Two or three times a day God uses this object lesson to remind us that none of us are self-sufficient.)

By taking fallen sinful human flesh (that same flesh that you and I have) and, while in that fallen sinful human flesh, completely overcoming the cravings of that flesh, Christ forged for the entire human race and everyone who calls themselves a member of that race the righteousness and change of heart that is necessary to control the tongue. Logically, then, it becomes obvious that if the tongue is ever to be controlled, it must be done by One who has proven Himself successful in every case and in every battle over control of the tongue.

“All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us” (The Desire of Ages, p. 668, emphasis supplied).
Christ has already identified with the human race and each member of it by taking upon himself our flesh and, as the second Adam, the representative of the race, has already gained the victory for you and me. Will you believe? Allow Him now to give you a new heart. Allow Him now to come in and sup with you (Rev. 3:20). Allow Him now to identify with your very thoughts and desires and blend his will with yours, so that not only your tongue, but your whole being will be wholly, completely, and entirely His--then, what comes out will also be His word and His work. Then you can know, in your own experience, what continual obedience, including control of the tongue, is all about. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
And it is not that we now carry out our own impulses in doing God’s work, but that our obedience is so fluid, so natural for God, that when obeying the impulses of god, it is as if we are carrying out our own impulses. This is the only way the human voice can be controlled. I want that kind of obedience in my life, wouldn’t you?
The key to the power of controlling the tongue is found in Genesis 1:1-5: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (KJV, emphasis supplied).

In this passage and, actually, the whole first chapter of Genesis – indeed the whole Bible is based on this one premise--that God’s word has inherent within it the power to create what it says when He says it. With that kind of power concentrated on one aspect of life, that is, speech, why not go directly to the source of that power, God Himself, who has identified Himself so closely with you and me, and let Him control our speech? Let His creative power work in you, the power of His voice. Let His voice control your voice. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 KJV, emphasis supplied).

E. J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 “messengers,” points out how powerless are our words without Him living within us: “...... the glory of God must be revealed to the whole world, in order that all may have the same opportunity of salvation. Now no one can describe to another the glory of God. No mind can comprehend it, and no words can be framed that would convey any idea of it. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork;’ but it is not by words. ‘There is no speech nor language; without these their voice is heard.’ If they depended upon articulate speech, they could not declare God’s glory. They do it only by letting the world see the glory that God has given them. We are also the workmanship of God, called out of darkness into His marvelous light, that we should show forth His excellencies. If we depend upon words alone, we shall make a failure. Our words will be powerless, if the glory of God is not revealed in our lives” (“Personal Experience for the Time,” Home Missionary, Nov., 1893; Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 199-200, new edition).

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the [old] covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:31-33, KJV, emphasis supplied).

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses” (Eze. 36:26-29, first part. KJV, emphasis supplied).

Amen. Thank you, Lord.
--Craig Barnes


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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 4, Qtr3-05

Sabbath School Insights No. 4
Quarter 3, 2005, Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Spiritual Life"
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
"Lord of Our Desires"

We are very thankful that the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly provided us with the opportunity to discuss the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation. It is the heart of the Gospel message, and was recognized as such by the 1888 "messengers," A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. It was a prominent theme in Jones' sermons at both the 1893 and the 1895 General Conference Sessions.

The Humanity of Christ Is Everything to Us
One might well ask the question: Why is the humanity which Christ assumed so important to us? Is it worth discussing; or is it just a focal point for argument? What difference does it make whether He took upon Himself the sinful flesh of Adam after the Fall or assumed the sinless flesh of Adam before the Fall?

"The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh" (The Youth's Instructor, Oct. 13, 1898).

"To believe that He is the Son of God means to believe that He is come in the flesh, human flesh, our flesh. For His name is 'God with us'" (The Glad Tidings, p. 42).

We need a Savior that is "nigh at hand;" one that has been touched with "the feeling of our infirmities" and is therefore able to comfort and guide us in overcoming all temptation and sin in our lives (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16). "If He comes no nearer to us than in a sinless nature, that is a long way off; because I need somebody that is nearer to me than that. I need some one to help me who knows something about sinful nature; for that is the nature I have; and such the Lord did take" (1895
General Conference Bulletin, p. 311; all GCB pagination is from the original editions).

"It was in the order of God that Christ should take upon Himself the form and nature of fallen man, that He might be made perfect through suffering, and Himself endure the strength of Satan's fierce temptations, that He might understand how to succor those who should be tempted" (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, pp. 39-40; cf. Heb. 5:7-8; 2:14-18).

"The mystery of God is not God manifest in sinless flesh. There is no mystery about God being manifest in sinless flesh; that is natural enough. Is not God Himself sinless? Is there then, any room for wonder that God could manifest Himself through or in sinless flesh?...... No, that is natural enough. But the wonder is that God can do that through and in sinful flesh. That is the mystery of God,--God manifest in sinful flesh (1895 GCB, p. 303; emphasis in original; see 1 Tim. 3:16).

The Battle for Our Mind
The flesh is corrupt and unredeemable. Our fallen, sinful flesh will never see heaven; it will be destroyed "in the twinkling of an eye" at the second coming of our Lord (1 Cor. 15:52-54). The battle is not for the flesh, but for our minds. With the mind we serve either God or Satan. We need a new mind--the mind of Christ.

Jones elaborated this point at length at the 1893 General Conference Session. Quoting Romans 8:7, he said: "Cannot God make that mind subject to His law? [Congregation: 'No.'] What is that mind? It is enmity against God....... There is the point: if it were at enmity, then it might be reconciled, because the thing that would make it at enmity would be the source of the trouble. And therefore take away the source of the trouble, then the thing that is at enmity would be reconciled. We are at
enmity; but when He takes the enmity away, we are reconciled to God. In this matter of the carnal mind though, there is nothing between it; it is the thing itself. That is the root [the carnal mind is the source of the trouble].......The only thing that can be done with it, is to destroy it, uproot it, annihilate it. Whose mind is it? [Congregation: 'Satan's.'] It is the mind of self, and that is of Satan" (1893 GCB, p. 260; all emphases in original).

The mind cannot be "converted"; we need a new mind, the mind of Christ. Without the mind of Christ in control, working enmity against our carnal desires, we will serve the flesh. Jesus must become "Lord of our desires" though our receiving a new mind--His mind.

Therefore we are enjoined to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). "He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh; not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh; but the mind was 'the mind of Christ Jesus.' Therefore it is written: 'Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus'" (1895 GCB; p. 327).

"All have been purchased with the precious blood--the life--of Christ, and all may be, if they will, free from sin and death...... We need not sin anymore! He has cut the cord of sin that bound us so that we have but to accept His salvation in order to be free from every besetting sin...... Christ has gained the complete victory over this present evil world, over 'the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life' (1 John 2:16), and our faith in Him makes His victory ours"
(The Glad Tidings, p. 61; emphasis in original).

What glorious good news! God loves us enough that He came right onto the battlefield, into the thick of the conflict against sin; fighting the battle for us and as us. We already have the victory in Him. The nature which Christ assumed at His incarnation is the foundation of our confidence in Him as our Savior. He came to "save His people from their sins." He is "God with us," "who takes away the sin of the world" (Matt. 1:21, 23; John 1:29).
--Ann Walper

[Note: Supplemental quotations on the nature which Christ assumed may be found at: under Sabbath School Insights, 3rd Quarter, Lesson #4.]

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 3-05

Sabbath School Insights No. 3
Quarter 3, 2005, Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Spiritual Life"
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
"Lord of Our Thoughts"

The great controversy between Christ and Satan is the war over the mind of mankind. In the end, mankind will be under the control of one of two lords. One is Christ Jesus, the Lord from heaven; the other is Lucifer, self-styled lord of earth. In the end, one or the other will control our thoughts.

Revelation 18:2 reveals the result to those who surrender themselves to the archenemy of Christ. Those minds will become habitations of devils. He takes his place on the throne in the carnal mind of his subjects. (Satan is the ultimate "man of sin" sitting in the temple of God which, in this verse, is the human temple of flesh.) Before this is allowed to take place, God will send His glorious gospel message to the world as is seen in verse 1. The reason for publishing these INSIGHTS is to
remember that the Lord sent the �beginning� of this final message in 1888.

The glory of God's good news lightens the earth. This glory is the character of Christ (His righteousness) that will shine first into the minds of His people; then through them to the whole world. Before the message of the glory of God spreads to global proportions as God designed it to do, the mind of Christ must dwell in His followers. God's righteousness resides in the mind, in the thoughts of those who believe the good news. The glory of God shines forth as beams of light from the Sun of
Righteousness to and into His people's minds, who in turn let His light radiate the earth with its glory (Mal. 4:2; 2 Cor. 4:6-7; Hos. 6:3; Isa. 60:1-3).

The LORD Our Righteousness
The three angels and the fourth angel proclaiming the Loud Cry message present Christ as Lord as well as Savior, "the LORD our righteousness" (Jer. 23:6). Christ as Lord of our thoughts means that our thinking is brought into harmony with His law of righteousness. God's people "keep" His commandments because the law is written in their hearts, minds, thoughts, and imaginations (Rev. 14:12; Psalm 119:172; Heb. 10:16).

The first angel calls us to worship the Creator (Rev. 14:7). God made mankind with the ability to imagine, to think, and to do. Man's thoughts and actions were to be reflections of His mind and actions. Although sin brought the mind of self into human nature, Christ's work of redemption delivers us from the power of selfish thinking and acting. Salvation is the creative work of God in redeeming and changing our minds (2 Cor. 5:17).

Christ controls our minds for good as we "let" His mind be in us (Phil. 2:5). We receive His mind through the word of God. Words are simply vehicles for thoughts. Jesus, as the Word of God, was/is God's thought made audible to us.

The Power of Thought
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7, KJV). The meaning of thought is the formation in the mind of an intention, an opinion, or a consideration to reflect on. It includes pondering and remembering; it is the process of exercising the powers of imagination, judgment, conception, and of inference; and it involves conceiving ideas and bringing those conceptions to reality. This mental activity can bring forth good or evil. Consider the power of thought in temptation as sin is
conceived in the mind and brought to fruition.

In James 1:13-15 we observe the process of bringing forth sin from conception to birth and finally to death: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God.......' But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own desires, and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin: and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

But temptation is not sin. Sin comes when a person gives in to the temptation--"when desire has conceived." James presents two facts about temptation. Temptation comes both from without and from within our nature. Temptation to sin is inevitable. Each of us has areas of vulnerability; thus Satan works on each individual's own area of weakness. We realize the power of temptation in the thought processes and we know we need the power of God to control our thoughts. We find this power in the grace
of God. The good news is that temptation to sin can be aborted at any time from its conception to the birthing of it as sin.

God's grace is the educator which teaches us to say �NO� to temptation. Notice how the NIV presents this in Titus 2:11-12: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age......" God's grace is always stronger than temptation, whether it arises from our desires or thoughts from within, or from without when the devil comes fishing with his
alluring bait. Christ is a complete Savior from temptations from without and from within. Under God's grace we are grateful subjects of our Lord Jesus Christ who is able to bring every thought into submission that exalts itself against Himself.

Our thoughts, and consequently our lives, are to be brought under the control of Christ as Lord. This is His work of sanctification. Sanctification comes through believing the truth as it is in Jesus (John 17:17; Eph. 4:20-24). Sanctification is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our minds through the Word of God.

Bringing Every Thought into Captivity (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cast "down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God," and to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

The Creator has given to each of us a very special gift: an extremely powerful imagination. Human imagination is the ability of visualization in the mind. Imagination is the source of human originality. Imagination makes possible the awareness of the magnificent wonders of creation and enables us to think and to invent things for the benefit of mankind.

We are to make use of this gift of God to its fullest possible extent, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We may possess a "sanctified" imagination. Our thoughts are to be brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ and our imaginations are to be �cast down.� Why is this?

The highest "thing" that exalts itself against God is the carnal mind. All idolatry begins in the mind. An idol is a false conception of the imagination that creates the mental image, first in the mind and then in metal or stone. Idolatry is simply the worship of self and always opposes the true worship of God. Everyone worships someone. If not the Creator of the universe, it is the creator of idols. Idolatry is the worship of the one who made the idol or image. Since images are the product of
an unsanctified imagination it is the mind of self that is exalted and worshipped in the place of God.

The final issue in the last battle will be for the worship of one's mind or of the worship of God. The first angel's message is a call to mankind to turn from self-worship to the worship of God.

Setting Your Mind on Christ
This has to do with Christian discipline. An example is found in the life practices of the Wesley brothers and other members of their "Holy Club." Those Oxford students devoted themselves to a rigorous search for holiness and for service to others. They were very diligent in doing such things as praying, fasting, studying the Word of God, helping the poor, and doing other charitable works. These "holy ones" were called "Methodists" by their fellow collegians in mockery of their emphasis on
devotions and methods. Those practitioners were very sincere and attempted any and every way they could think of to find God and salvation. They had not learned that salvation comes from God finding us.

After Wesley was converted, he continued in his "methods," not in order to be sanctified and saved, but to get to know God better. After his conversion they were no longer the "root," but the "fruit" of his Christian experience. He learned to study, pray, meditate, and witness, whether he felt like it or not.

Self both detracts and is easily distracted from setting the mind on things above. But if we are risen with Christ, experientially, we will seek those things which are above, and we will think of Him; our affections will be fixed on Christ who sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). A sanctified imagination results from the study of Christ.

"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross" (The
Desire of Ages, p. 83).

From this deepening experience an influence will cover the earth which will be the fulfillment of that �beginning� in 1888, and the inhabitants of this world will know that Christ is the Lord of our thoughts. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah: "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness" (Jer. 33:16).

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 2, Qtr 3-05

Sabbath School Insights No. 2
Quarter 3, 2005, Adult Sabbath School Lessons
�The Spiritual Life�
(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

�Lord of Our Priorities�

�But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you� (Matt. 6:33). The Quarterly�s memory verse is an ideal springboard for this week�s theme: �Lord of Our Priorities.�

As Christ spoke these words at the close of the Sermon on the Mount, the kingdom of God was standing in the very midst of the people. The righteousness of God was standing in the very presence of the rabbis, scribes, and Pharisees. The people were beholding, in the person of Jesus Christ, the rectification of what had gone wrong with mankind at the Fall. The loss of the image of God in humanity was rectified by God manifest in the flesh. The righteousness of God was being manifestly displayed
through the faith of Jesus Christ. God was setting right (rectifying) that which had gone wrong with the universe, while at the same time vindicating Himself through the faith of Jesus which culminated at the cross.

But the culmination of God�s vindication awaits the fulfillment of imperative among His disciples: �Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.�

The grandest opportunity of the ages for making Christ the Lord of our priorities was presented to His church at the Minneapolis General Conference in 1888 and in the decade following. �Christ, our righteousness� became the central theme during that decade of the preaching by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, which was complemented and endorsed by Ellen White�s own preaching and testimonies.

The motivation for putting Christ �first on our agenda� by doing what He says in obedience to His Word, and the motivation for making Christ �first in your day� in prayer and meditation on His Word, can only come from appreciating and comprehending the righteousness of God made manifest through the faith of Jesus Christ.

It was this message of God�s righteousness that proclaimed that God could be just while at the same time justifying the one who would be willing to live by virtue of the faith of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:26). In fact God justified (vindicated) Himself through the faith of Jesus Christ, and at the same time redeemed the sinner, especially those sinners who believe. [The vindication of God from the charges of Satan is the primary focus of the plan of redemption; the salvation of man is an ancillary
benefit of that plan.] Christ tasted death for all men and redeemed all from the curse of the law. The ransom was paid which was demanded by the law by Christ�s own blood and the emancipation papers were signed in crimson red for all.

God�s purpose in redeeming mankind is the origin of all grace. We all stand in that grace, believer and unbeliever, and have access into that same grace by faith, thereby receiving power for a transformed life. It is that same grace that bestows the gift of eternal life upon both the believer and unbeliever. Eternal life resides in God�s Son and the His Son has been given to the world, thereby conveying the gift of eternal life to the world. We read, �This is the testimony: that God has given
us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life� (1 John 5:11-12). So the question that God puts to the world is: �What are you going to do with the gift--the gift of my Son?�

Tuesday�s lesson points to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who day-by-day surrendered His will to His Father�s will. The crux issue in how God saved the world revolves around the nature of Christ. Did Jesus take the nature of unfallen Adam or the nature of Adam after the Fall? The self-centered will we all inherit from Adam�s Fall is the essence of the fallen nature of man. Being separated from God, we all yield to that nature and go our own way opposed to God�s way. The Bible describes
this predicament of our fallen self-centered nature as the �law of sin in my members� in Romans 7. Christ inherited this same problem being born of fallen woman, who was miraculously impregnated with �spermatos� composed of fallen DNA. The law of sin dwelt within the members of Christ�s humanity. But that humanity began life and ended its record with a sanctified will. Yes, He was not exactly like us. His inherent divinity qualified Him to be united from conception with the divine power of His
Father. We may begin life anew united with divinity through intimate union with Christ, our Righteousness.

This message was proclaimed in clear and distinct tones in the 1888 message, which was intended to induce people to make Christ the Lord of their priorities. The message of righteousness by faith in the context of Heavenly Day of Atonement, with the cleansing of the sanctuary and the hour of God�s judgment, was the beginning of the latter rain which was quenched and resisted in large measure by the leading brethren at that time. But the promise remains: �the sanctuary shall be cleansed.� This
was the beginning of the message that is to �lighten the earth with glory� and that will in its full development prepare a people for translation.

--- John W. Peters

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