Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 8, Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 8

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Keys to Family Unity”


The authors of this Sabbath School Quarterly seem to have a good grasp of some of the foundational principles that form the basis for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this week’s lesson two of those principles shine forth with clarity. The twin principles of corporate solidarity and agape, supremely revealed at the cross, form the basis for all family unity.


The key to all family unity, whether it be in the home front, the local church, or committees resides in the truth that the Son of God became part of the human race and took our human nature upon His divine nature. The incarnation is the basis for the biblical principle of corporate solidarity. The Son of God in coming in flesh, our flesh, became the new head of the human race, the second Adam. This fundamental principle in many ways underscored the messages of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner in the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference and its aftermath which received the enthusiastic endorsement of Ellen White.


“In assuming humanity, Christ took the part of every human being. He was the Head of humanity. A Being divine and human, with His long human arm He could encircle humanity, while with His divine arm He could lay hold of the throne of the Infinite. What a sight was this for Heaven to look upon! Christ, who knew not the least taint of sin or defilement, took our nature in its deteriorated condition. This was humiliation greater than finite man can comprehend. God was manifest in the flesh. He humbled Himself. What a subject for thought, for deep, earnest contemplation!” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 252).


The authors state that “through the body of Jesus Christ on the cross all humanity has been reconciled to God and to one another (Eph. 2:11-16, Col. 1:21-23).” In a similar manner on the same basis of corporate solidarity we can say that “through the body of Jesus Christ on the cross all humanity has been justified and acquitted” (Rom. 3:24; 4:5, 25; 5:10; 5:18). It is upon this principle of corporate solidarity we say that God chose, predestined, elected, and adopted all mankind in Christ.


The Son of God became us by coming “in the likeness of sinful flesh” and when He died on the cross, from a corporate point of view, the whole race of men died in Him. So even though Jews and Gentiles are still fighting like cats and dogs in Palestine and Israel, God sees both Jews and Gentiles united together as one in Christ Jesus “having created in Himself one new man from two thus making peace.”


Apart from being united with Christ all this good news will avail naught to bring about family unity whether in the home, the church, or in committees. Even an intellectual grasp of the incarnation and corporate solidarity and the reality that through the blood of the cross that Christ has reconciled all things in heaven and earth to God thus making peace—this reality will fail to bring unity apart from the abiding presence of the Spirit of Christ in the heart.


So not only Jews and Gentiles are squabbling and literally killing one another in Palestine, so Christians in the Seventh-day Adventist Church are squabbling and killing each other by character assassination over theological and philosophical issues because both groups, Jews and Gentiles on the one hand and Christians on the other, refuse to be crucified with Christ. Self will always insist on reigning supreme irrespective of the cost to the Son of God.


Only when we catch a glimpse of that agape of Christ in condescending to step down from the royalty of heaven and to become one of us and die our second death at Calvary—only when that indescribable love penetrates our very soul, our mind, and heart will unity in the family begin to prevail whether it be in the home, the church, or committees.


When the love of Christ begins to constrain us, we will acknowledge, even in situations where we believe we were not necessarily at fault, that “I was wrong, I take responsibility for difficulties that have arisen here.” The goodness of God will lead us to both personal and corporate repentance. The love of Christ will cause us to esteem the other person better than our self. The love of Christ will compel us not to criticize the other party and justify our self. The love of Christ dwelling within the heart will constrain us not to bring a reviling accusation upon our brother.


When this evidence begins to appear in our lives we will know the meaning of justification by faith because we will have peace with God having been justified by faith. Then the following saying will be brought to pass:


“What is justification by faith?—It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When they begin to praise and exalt God all the day long, then by beholding they are becoming changed into the same image. What is regeneration?—It is revealing to man what is his own real nature, that in himself he is worthless”(Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 9, p. 62; Nov. 22, 1896).

—John W. Peters


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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sabbath Scnool Insights No. 7, Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 7

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“The Royal Love Song”



This week’s lesson brings us to an all too brief study of the Song of Solomon, that beautiful description of the joys of married life, which Elder Wieland says he was ashamed to be seen reading when he was a teenager. It would appear that Satan has done a very thorough job of robbing humanity of a proper appreciation of the gift of sexuality. From the Hollywood screen to the magazine rack to the Internet, sexual perversion and abuse is flaunted, and that which should be holy and uplifting is made a demoralizing scandal. I have often thought that this is because the ability to procreate is a reflection of the image of God, which angels do not share, and it has become the special target of the enemy in his campaign to obliterate the image of God in man. In stealing this profound symbol he seeks to rob us of a proper appreciation of the foundation of the gospel (God’s agape love) and make marriage inconceivable as a symbol of the relationship between God and mankind.


Monday’s lesson introduces the thought of the friendship between Solomon and Shulamith. It was God’s intention that the relationship between husband and wife should include all levels and aspects of love. First, a husband and wife should be friends. Considering the many ways in which they are so different, and the powerful ways in which these differences can be a distraction, friendship between male and female is an intriguing thought. Yet these differences become so minor and insignificant in comparison with the differences between God and man, that the concept of friendship with God is for most people beyond their wildest imagination. Yet this is what God desires.


In his book, The Lost Secret of the Covenant, Malcolm Smith describes the experience of a discouraged missionary who felt that God had let him down. He had won no converts in the many months that he had spent in the mission field. The meager offerings of the few believers in the region were far too small to support his family. He had spent his life’s savings and had concluded that his only option was to give up mission work and return to his former work as a businessman. But before leaving he decided that he must tell God what he thought of all that had transpired.


In a little hut isolated from his family he spent most of the morning pouring out his heart to God. When finally he was still and quiet, he “heard” the Lord “speak” to him very clearly. He said “Above all, I desire your friendship. If serving Me interrupts and disrupts our friendship, I would rather you go back to your business and continue to be My friend. Your friendship is more important to Me than all your acts of service.” The missionary dissolved into tears. He had never conceived of the thought that God desired a friendship with mankind. The idea revolutionized his entire concept of Christianity. After that encounter with God, he remained in the mission field and won many converts to Christ.


Amazing as the thought may have been to that missionary, it is the truth revealed in the Song of Solomon. “The wife declares, ‘This is my friend’” (5:16). Yet this beautiful poem is more than a description of a romantic human relationship. It is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. The apostle Paul makes this clear in Ephesians chapter five. After describing the relationship between husband and wife he concludes: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (vs. 32). If the marital relationship is a picture of what God wants in his relationship with the church, then God wants to be our friend.


This thought is reinforced in many passages of the Bible. Jesus is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Toward the end of His earthly mission, Jesus said “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). To be counted a faithful servant of God is an honor. But to be counted a “friend” of God is indeed astonishing! Yet the friendship aspect of marriage should also be a dimension of our relationship with Christ.


Marital love includes friendship, and as astonishing as the thought of friendship with God may be, marriage includes much more than this. It includes an intimate union of mind and soul and body, which human language is inadequate to describe. This aspect of marriage is also symbolic of the relationship which God desires to have with his church.


In his sermon entitled, The Freedom of True Love, Dr. Timothy Keller summarizes the Bible: In the first two chapters of Genesis you have a wedding. In the last two chapters of Revelation you have a wedding. If a book begins with a wedding and ends with a wedding it must be a love story. And the whole of the Bible can be summed up as follows; the Lord says “I loved you. And I lost you. And I am going to move heaven and earth to get you back.”


This summary is so succinct, so intriguing, so uncommon, but I thinks it is quite accurate. The Bible is a love story. It is the story of God’s amazing love for His bride. The “foolish” decision of Adam to die with his wife rather than live without her is a profound reflection of the decision of Christ to die for his bride rather than live without her. The story of Hosea pursuing his wayward wife is symbolic of God pursuing His wayward wife. The preparation of every woman for her wedding is to remind us that some day it will finally be declared that “the bride hath made herself ready” (Rev. 3:19).


Time does not allow us to explore the unspeakable heart rending agony involved in the symbols which have been chosen to represent the details of the poignant drama. Over and over God’s plea through the prophets is not merely, You are committing sins or you are breaking the law or you are rebelling against Me. No. The Divine Lover chooses to use language which speaks of inexpressible hurt and grief. He says, over and over, “you are committing adultery” (see for example Jer. 3:6, Judges 8:27, 1 Chron. 5:25, Eze. 6:16, Hosea 9:1). Yet the Song of Solomon says, “love is as strong as death” (8:6). This is a wonderful description of God’s agape.


The marriage vow, in which to people pledge to love one another “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” is only a faint reflection of God’s love. His unilateral, unconditional, inextinguishable love which was fully revealed at the cross is the very heart of the 1888 message. It is the basis of the gospel, therefore essential to a proper understanding of the gospel. It is the “seal” which must be upon the “hearts” of God’s people before He can return to claim them as His bride.


May we come to appreciate that love in all of its dimensions for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Mark Duncan


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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Upcoming Seminars




Christ the Wonderful Numberer and Revealer of Secrets


February 24, 25

(Friday evening, 7:30 – all day Sabbath)


Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church (English Group)

12408 S. Mount Vernon Ave.

Grand Terrace (near Loma Linda), California


Seminar host: Pastor Dan Belonio Jr.


Speaker: Gerald L. Finneman

Sabbath School with Dan Peters and John Sheffield


Lunch and light supper will be served on Sabbath


For information: (909) 824-5046; meriheartnurse@hotmail.com


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


The Best Good News You’ve Ever Heard


April 14, 15

(Friday evening, all day Sabbath)


Lakeport Seventh-day Adventist Church

1111 Park Way

Lakeport, California


Speaker: Robert J. Wieland


For information: (707) 263-6002


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 6

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Wise Words for Families”


For close to 3000 years, these “wise words” of this Lesson in the book of Proverbs have been studied and pondered by God’s people. We are Seventh-day Adventists, people living in the “time of the end,” in the time of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, in the great Day of Atonement. If time in this sinful world were to go on another 3000 years, these words would still be “wise.” But we must look at them in the light of the “third angel’s message in verity,” to borrow Ellen White’s description of the message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” to us in the 1888 era.


The word “atonement” means reconciliation, at-one-with. Those who await the coming of the Lord on this Day of Atonement want to be reconciled with all the members of their families. This calls for some tremendous miracles! No one of us is innately more righteous than others, so the problems of family disorientation and alienation are in reality our “corporate” problems as a church. It seems awkward to pray to the Lord for “at-one-ment” with Him if bitter alienation with family members haunts our prayers.


And let us speak with compassion; those who fortunately have been spared the bitterness of separation or divorce should thank the dear Lord, and sympathize with those who have not been so fortunate. Marital discord is an extremely heavy burden to carry! When we all “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), if we are married, we shall be standing there with our spouse. Does the Lord Jesus have some special help for us during this Day of Atonement, to prepare for that tense moment?


Yes, there is, in God’s promise to “send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). If your mental image of “Elijah” is that of a specialist in chopping off heads of priests of Baal, look again. When “he” comes he will specialize in ministries of reconciliation: “He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (vs. 6). Such a work could not be successful unless there is also a turning of the hearts of husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands. This cannot be a fear work, even though the concluding clause says, “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” It gives the superficial impression of the greatest fear-driven movement in history; but it cannot be because fear never works the kind of “reconciliation” that is the subject of the great Day of Atonement. It’s “hearts” that are “turned,” and only love can do that kind of “turning.” And the only love that can work that stupendous miracle (which is greater than creation) is the love of Christ.


We conclude therefore that the coming of “Elijah” means the ministry of the experience of self being “crucified with Christ,” which in turn must mean the greatest uplifting of “Christ and Him crucified” that has ever been known on earth—and that of course will be the message of that fourth angel of Revelation 18:1-4. Then at last the “wise words for families” in the book of Proverbs will meet their ultimate in fruit-bearing.


Love, not fearful terror, will bring the “third angel’s message” home to wounded hearts.

Thank God our lesson authors discuss frankly the problems involved in the allurement of sexual attractions. Indeed, the temptation can be almost irresistible, under certain circumstances. “Almost,” because it is not irresistible. We have a Savior from that temptation, whether the temptation to sin is adultery for a married person, or fornication for one unmarried. But how can we have a Savior from sexual sin if He was never tempted by sexual temptation?


Just here is where the “dragon” who “deceiveth the whole world” has stepped in with his most successful lie: it’s the false doctrine that Jesus Himself in His incarnation took sinless human nature and therefore was never tempted sexually, and therefore cannot “succor them that are tempted” in this regard (cf. Heb. 2:9-18; 4:15). This false doctrine is Satan’s most successful ploy to bring sorrow to many human hearts.


The family is bitter wherein a husband or wife has yielded to that lure and has fallen. Suspicion and deep hatred often linger for years. Facing Christ in judgment becomes a horrendous thought. Children wonder what’s wrong, why the family isn’t happy.


It’s easy for “us” to condemn the wrongdoer; but the Savior who forgave and restored King David for his double sin of adultery and murder, still lives. The personal, private forgiveness for the guilty one is given to the one who receives it in the contrition and humility David has written about in Psalms 32 and 51; the healing for the estrangement can only be dearly acquired. It’s not a flippant, trivial gesture of pardon. But there’s where the long-promised Elijah comes in to the picture. Elijah is close to Christ, who was crucified (he ministered to Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mt 17:3). Healing for a wounded family is complementary to the deep rooted love that is in Christ’s forgiving those who murdered Him.


Forgiveness with healing in the family is not impossible; it’s just expensive. It is not too much to say that such expense becomes possible in this final Day of Atonement; expensive things that have never been possible in the past are now taking place in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The work of cleansing goes down to deeper roots than ever before.


Our Lesson touches on the ministry of humor, which is a part of the Holy Spirit’s healing. Nor frivolity, no; it’s healthiness that comes with the gift of forgiveness and heart-cleansing. That elusive “merry heart” may seem impossible to realize; the wounds occasioned by infidelity are too deep and painful, scars are slow to heal. But be patient; above all, be believing in the goodness of the Lord. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4). Only the Christ who drank the bitter cup to its dregs while on His cross. He can work miracles. But when He’s done, you won’t be praising your psychoanalyst; you’ll be praising Him.


Finally, thanks to the author of Psalm 31 for the portrait of the happiest woman in the world. If you been blest to have such a woman for your mother or your wife—praise God from whom all blessings flow!


(Friday’s page speaks of “support groups” being helpful. Let the Lord lead you to one. Don’t push Him. When they descend to become mutual tale-bearing clubs wherein they share salacious talk about sexual adventures, they become very dangerous).

Robert J. Wieland


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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 5 Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 5

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Disciples Making Disciples”


In thinking about disciples making disciples, it occurs to me that it is impossible to make true disciples of Christ because of what Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), and so we tend to think that we understand more than we really do and we like to act on our own understanding and in our own strength.


However, there is good news! I am so glad that before Christ told us to teach all nations He told us the power by which it was going to be accomplished. Sunday’s lesson brings out Mathew 28:18, 19: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (emphasis supplied). This is so much power, that not even Satan has any power over us as long as we allow God’s power to control our lives. That is awesome power!


If we are going to teach all men, making disciples of them, it only stands to reason that what we teach is vitally important. So why not give this subject some thought? What shall we teach? If God will use His people to teach all nations, starting with our own children, what do you suppose He would want us to teach? Sunday’s lesson also cites John 8:31 and 32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Why not teach our children the truth? What better place to find truth than in the Bible? So let’s review some references:


1. First, I like 1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world”(NIV). And 1 Timothy 4:9, 10, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (NIV).


a. Tell them, if you are members of the world, then Christ died for your sins and you have a savior, which means you have already been given salvation. If you keep it and do not throw it away, and believe with all your heart, claiming God’s promises to you, your salvation will be special, for it will result in actual, literal, good works of God, for God will hold your heart with a hand that will never let go. God has given you a great gift at an expensive price. Cherish the gift!—and appreciate the price paid for it.


b. E. J. Waggoner* writes: “All this deliverance is ‘according to the will of our God and Father.’ The will of God is our sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4. And He ‘accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will.’ Ephesians 1:11. ‘Do you mean to teach universal salvation?’ someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the word of God teaches—that ‘the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.’ Titus 2:11, RV. God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession” (The Glad Tidings, pp. 13, 14). Let’s cherish the gift!


2. And then there is Jeremiah 31:31-33, “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 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.”


a. Teach them that God will write His law in their hearts, if they will let Him. And when they let God write His laws in their hearts, His character will dwell in them and control their thoughts and desires. In fact, Christ will so identify Himself with us that doing His will will not be a gruesome burden, but rather, a pleasure—and our highest delight!


b. Again, E. J. Waggoner, “Do not forget as we proceed that the covenant and the promise are the same thing, and that it conveys land, even the whole earth made new, to Abraham and his children. Remember also that since only righteousness will dwell in the new heavens and the new earth, the promise includes the making righteous of all who believe. This is done in Christ, in whom the promise is confirmed” (Ibid., p. 72).


3. Finally, Romans 8:3,4: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [notice, it says that the flesh was weak]. God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”


a. Christ came looking for us—and He found us! That means that we don’t have to go looking for Him, as if He was the One who was lost. (That takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?) And when He found us, He did identify with us. In fact, He identified with us so closely, that He took the same flesh that you and I have. And in that fallen sinful human flesh that had degenerated after 4000 years, and as our Representative, forged out that life of righteousness promised to us in His new covenant—as our heritage. [Please see, The Desire of Ages, pp. 25, 49.]


b. No one could have said it better than A. T. Jones,* “And this must He do to redeem lost mankind. For Him to be separated a single degree, or a shadow of a single degree, in any sense, from the nature of those He came to redeem, would be only to miss everything. Therefore, as He was made ‘under the law,’ because they are under the law whom He would redeem; and as He was made a curse, because they are under the curse whom He would redeem; and as He was made sin, because they are sinners, ‘sold under sin,’ whom He would redeem,—precisely so He must be made flesh, and ‘the same’ flesh and blood, because they are flesh and blood whom He would redeem; and must be ‘made of a woman,’ because sin was in the world first by and in the woman. Consequently, it is true, without any sort of exception, that ‘in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren.’ Heb. 2:17.” The Consecrated Way, pp. 34, 35 (27, 28).


And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” What more could God have done?


Craig Barnes

* One of the 1888 “messengers.”



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