Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "Seeing the Goldsmith's Face"

The concept of seeing the Goldsmith’s face is a serious thought. If we see His face, we are going to have to enter through the veil into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, because that is where the Goldsmith is.

Hebrews 6:13-18: “When God made promise to Abraham, ... after he had patiently en-dured, he obtained the promise. ... God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

So, you see, the way into the sanctuary is going to involve the perfection of God’s peo-ple, having our evil conscience sprinkled, washed. Entering into the Most Holy Place is a spiritual experience as we are washed with the blood and the water of Jesus. This way into the Most Holy was consecrated by Jesus by living His perfect life in His flesh, that is, the fallen sinful human flesh that He took.

The experience of Jacob gives us a clue as to how this “entering” happens.

Genesis 32:24-26: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. ... And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And He said unto him, ... Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”

Do we cling to Christ until we have received the blessing? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to show us our worst case—to show us things about ourselves we might otherwise not want to know? The job of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and to bring us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Will we let Him do that? By wrestling with God until we receive the blessing, we allow the “oil” of the Holy Spirit to bring us to the experience of the perfec-tion He has given us through His consecration—His righteous character—as He understands it, not as we understand perfection. A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 “messengers,” says it best:

“In His coming in the flesh—having been made in all things like unto us and having been tempted in all points like as we are—He has identified Himself with every human soul just where that soul is. And from the place where every human soul is, He has consecrated for that soul a new and living way through all the vicissitudes and experiences of a whole lifetime, and even through death and the tomb, into the holiest of all at the right hand of God for evermore.

“O that consecrated way! Consecrated by His temptations and sufferings, by His prayers and tears, by His holy living and sacrificial dying, by His triumphant resurrection and glorious ascension, and by His triumphal entry into the holiest of all, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens!

“And this ‘way’ He has consecrated for us. He, having become one of us, has made this way our way; it belongs to us. He has endowed every soul with divine right to walk in this consecrated way, and by His having done it Himself in the flesh—in our flesh—He has made it possible, yea, He has given actual assurance, that every human soul can walk in that way, in all that that way is and by it enter fully and freely into the holiest of all. ...

“Perfection , ... of character, is the Christian goal. ... . Christ attained it in human flesh in this world and thus made and consecrated a way by which, in Him, every believer can attain it. He, having attained it, has become our great High Priest, by His priestly minis-try in the true sanctuary to enable us to attain.

“‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.’ And ‘Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised’” (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 82-84).

And the results of the refiner’s fire?
“The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display. The declaration in His intercessory prayer, that the Father’s love is as great toward us as toward Himself, the only-begotten Son, and that we shall be with Him where He is, forever one with Christ and the Father, is a marvel to the heavenly host, and it is their great joy. The gift of His Holy Spirit, rich, full, and abundant, is to be to His church as an encompassing wall of fire, which the powers of hell shall not prevail against. In their untainted purity and spotless perfection, Christ looks upon His people as the reward of all His suffering, His humiliation, and His love, and the supplement of His glory—Christ the great center from which radiates all glory. ‘Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb’” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 18; emphasis supplied.

Fasten your seatbelts! We’re in for quite a ride (Matt 5:48). A blessed one.

—Craig Barnes

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 4 now in MP3 format. Listen as a podcast at Listen as a stream at pluggd.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "The Birdcage"

The memory text, 1 Peter 1:6 plus verse 7, says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire ... .” According to Revelation 3:18, this gold tried in the fire is faith and the church of Laodicea is counseled to buy it. It is a must. This week’s lesson explores our unavoidable experience with trials and how we should relate to them. God often leads His children into trials and the lesson gives us a number of examples. We will draw four practical points from these examples.

1. God’s people will face trials meant to teach spiritual realities and truths about God, who is Immanuel, “God with us.”

The children of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land but it wasn’t a straight shot. There would be trials along the way. Their first trial was the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit; next came the dry, hot wilderness of Shur, three days without drinkable water only “Marah” water. Then according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed and camped at Rephidim, and again no water. This time they accused Moses of trying to kill them and their livestock.

Trials! But God was leading them so He parted the Red Sea for them, then He showed them a “tree” (interesting) which when it was cast into the waters made them sweet. Then at Rephidim, Exodus17:6 tells us that God instructed Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall smite the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst.” Isaiah declares, “... yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, but he was wounded for our transgressions, ... the chastisement for our peace was upon Him” (Isa. 53:4, 5).

Paul says, “For they all drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). God did not cause the trials but He led them into the trials and taught them powerful truths about Himself and about their salvation. There are other examples in Scripture of God leading His people to important positions, often by way of trial. God had a grand purpose for Daniel, but it came by way of Babylonian captivity and the lions’ den. Daniel learned that God is love and that He will never leave us or forsake us.

He had a faith that would endure to the end and it was a witness, a testimony to King Darius. So much so that King Darius proclaimed, “For He is the living God, and steadfast forever” (Dan. 6:26). Joseph rose to fame and was able to provide for his family in Egypt during a terrible time of famine, but it came by way of a pit dug for him by his brothers in which he was left to die. Add Potiphar’s wife and we have compounded trials. Joseph discovered what David learned. Sin is against God and it profanes His Holy name (character) “among the nations” wherever we go. Trial endured in God’s strength leads to a testimony!

2. Make sure God has led. How do we know that God has led us? Ask a simple question. Was God leading me yesterday?

The greatest Person who ever lived endured the greatest of trials. He overcame His temptation to question God’s leading by knowing the answer to that simple question, was God leading me yesterday? Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.” He was not acting; He had a total melt down.

But assurance came in knowing that God had led Him “yesterday.” Psalm 22:9-11: “But you are He who took Me out of the womb: You made Me trust when I was on My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother’s womb You have been My God. Be not far from Me for trouble is near; for there is none to help.” Even His beloved disciples left Him, but His faith which was tested in the fire grabbed hold, and in verse 21 He exclaims, “You have answered Me.”

Reviewing His history gave Him necessary saving faith that embraced all mankind. If we know for certain that God has led us we can endure and even embrace our trials. It gives us a guarantee of hope.

3. Know the voice of God.

We are human—how can we know the voice of God? The same way Jesus did. We learn to hear His voice in our closet with Him, in the daily quiet times in His Word. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah ran for his life when Jezebel threatened to kill him. He ran into a cave and prayed for the Lord to take his life. He had gone from the Mount of joy (Carmel) to the valley of despair (the cave). How does he get back to the mount of joy? God starts to provide for him in the cave and then talks to him, and Elijah recognizes it is Yahweh.

The faithful, covenant-keeping God instructs him to “Go out, and stand before the Lord.” First there was a strong wind that ripped the mountain in pieces but, God wasn’t in that display, powerful as it was. Next there was an earthquake, then a fire, but God was in neither. Finally there was a delicate whispering voice and God was there. Elijah recognized the voice for he had spent much time with Him.

4. Learn to praise God in the midst of the storm.

After the Red Sea crossing in Exodus 15 Moses and the children of Israel sang the song of Moses, expressing praises to God for how He had led them. The praises were offered after the trial was over—they were safe on dry land and the Egyptians were cast into the sea.

This was a marvelous deliverance God performed, but in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we have a wonderful story in the history of Israel. The Moabites, the Ammonites, and others came to battle against King Jehoshaphat, who “set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” He recounted to God the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple that should any calamity befall Israel they would cry out to Him from the temple and He would hear and save.

God told him not to be afraid “the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle, just position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” The next day Jehoshaphat went out early with the people and he addressed them saying, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established” (vs. 20). He then appointed those who would sing and praise the Lord and they went out ahead of the army praising God for a victory that had not yet happened!

The trial was still ahead of them. What takes more faith, singing the song of deliverance for past triumphs or singing the songs of praise for victory that has not yet come? Habakuk 3:17-19 says, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” In Psalm 22 Jesus teaches us that we sing the song of faith, knowing the God who holds us in the palm of His hands.

1 Peter 1:6-9: “In this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious that gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ ... receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” May God bless us as we study this week.

—Lyndi Schwartz

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 3 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to Wolf's Oath Audio To listen as a stream go to

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "The Crucibles That Come"

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (Rev. 3:19).

We humans have trouble associating the concepts of “rebuke and chasten” with love. Yet, that is what the Lord tells Laodicea after He explains their true condition. If we saw a human parent tolerating misbehavior in their child, we might conclude they don’t really love the child. When trials come to believers that test their faith, it is easy to wonder why God is allowing the terrible thing. Our lesson used the example of Job to show how wrong it is for us to put everything good in the “God box” and everything bad in the “Satan box.”

The definition of a crucible is important to understanding this quarter’s lessons. It includes a vessel used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. It is easy to apply the concept to the Christian experience. One of the blessings of the 1888 message is how much our Savior understands our suffering because He has come so near to us. Without a true understanding of the nature Christ assumed at the incarnation, we will always doubt that God can sympathize with the struggles of living in sinful flesh. Since we know that He was tempted “in all points like as we are,” in the same sinful flesh (yet never sinned), He is intimately aware of our needs. Therefore we can believe He will provide the help we need to overcome.

The Christian experience is that of the crucible. It is the only thing Christian believers can expect from this earthly life. Satan will never leave believers alone because he, unlike God, cannot see the future. He doesn’t know if a particular believer “stony ground” or good soil. In the parable of the Sower, Luke tells us that Satan took away the seed that fell by the wayside, even though the Word was heard and in the heart. This alerts us that if we aren’t being challenged in our Christian walk, we need to ask God to show us where we have become complacent. We cannot fight the devil; only being “rooted and grounded” in God’s agape will keep us safe from that “roaring lion.”

We misunderstand God if we think that suffering is random and without meaning. God knows exactly when we need challenges that strengthen our confidence in a personal and sympathetic High Priest who can intercede between our weakness and a holy God. Like Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels, which represent the interplay of human events, God is guiding the events and experiences in even unbelievers’ lives to bring us to a better understanding of Himself. The cliché that there are no atheists in foxholes is misunderstood if we think falling into the foxhole was a random event for the atheist. Some may resent this concept, seeing God as a manipulator. But God’s goal is always to present the choice of accepting His incredible Gift of salvation as attractive, advantageous, and appealing.

Hearing the siren of an ambulance is an opportunity to pray for the people involved. A full code ambulance or Life Flight helicopter ride is almost always a life-changing event for the patient and his or her family. To ask God to heal the patient is too simplistic, for that may not be in their best interest. To ask God to use the experience to bring all involved closer to Him and that He may be glorified is always in God’s will. It is also acknowledgement and acceptance that God wants and knows what is best in the situation. Occasionally, people refer to a healing as God answering prayer. We must mature to the point that we can say that no matter the outcome, He has answered our prayer. That we can’t prove by human devices whether it was God or fate really depends on the choice to believe in a benevolent and interested God who is willing to Shepherd us in all circumstances. Believers know there is no such thing as fate or luck with God.

The crucible process also includes learning from our and others’ mistakes. E. J. Waggoner uses the story of Jericho and Ai to illustrate how easily trial and triumph can be misunderstood. “A man is never in greater danger than when he has just achieved some great success, or gained a great victory. If he is not very much on his guard, his joyous song of thanksgiving will have a chorus of vainglorious self-congratulation. Beginning with recognition of God’s power, and praise and thanksgiving for it, man insensibly puts himself in the place of God, and assumes that his own wisdom and strength brought him the success and the victory. Thus he exposes himself to attack when he is sure to be overcome, since he has separated from the source of power. Only in the Lord Jehovah is there everlasting strength” (The Everlasting Covenant, p. 261; Glad Tidings ed.).

God never leads us into temptation, including the temptation to depend on ourselves. “When the men said that but few of the people were needed for the capture of Ai, they assumed that it was their military skill that was to secure the land for them. But that was a grievous error. God had promised to give them the land, and it could not be obtained except as a gift” (ibid, p. 263).

The defeat at Ai was by human standards a minor defeat, only 36 men were lost. But with the inhabitants of Canaan watching them, they misrepresented Jehovah and His power. Our defeats produce the same results. Not only are we in danger of discouragement, we misrepresent God to others. The mature Christian must be more concerned for God’s reputation than his own.

Another important concept is how to understand trials and suffering in those around us. Like Job’s friends, we wonder what they did to deserve their “punishment.” It is more beneficial to ask, “What am I supposed to learn from my neighbor’s suffering?” There are many examples where friends or family members have suffered injury or difficulty, and those watching their faith grow stronger have been led to the Lord. What a blessing that suffering turned out to be.

Many believers think it is burdensome but inevitable that spiritual trials will come, and we should bear them by the grace of God. Few think they are beneficial and we should ask for them. If we understand that the 1888 message prepares a people to give the message that lightens the earth with glory, the process is just that. The week before the Day of Atonement was a time when the believing Israelite asked God to show him his deep and hidden sins. Many sins came to mind through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but it is just as likely that events happened to test the person’s willingness to accept the illumination, confess it, and ask for forgiveness and victory. God is eager to not only forgive, but cleanse, and write His law on our hearts.

What a wonderful perspective a true understanding of the Gospel gives us. May we all be grateful for the Lord’s rebuking and chastening.

—Arlene Hill

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 2now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to To listen as a stream go to

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "The Shepherd's Crucible"

Welcome to a new Quarter of well-written Sabbath School Lessons! They are on a topic of practical day-to-day godliness: how to understand “despair, betrayal, disappointment, loss, injustice, and abuse.” The closer we come in the stream of time to the last-days’ events of “the great controversy between Christ and Satan,” the more critical will be our need to learn how to endure these tests of faith.

The “insight” of the 1888 message to Lesson One about the 23rd Psalm can be the parallels between the Shepherd’s Psalm and the New Covenant promises the Lord made to Abraham and his descendants (which we are, by faith).

The major contribution which “a most precious message” in 1888 made to Seventh-day Adventist understanding of righteousness by faith was the New Covenant. Let us note these parallels side by side. Remember that the promises He made to Abraham are made to us:

The 23rd PsalmThe Promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 3)
“I shall not want”“A land that I will show you”
“Makes me lie down in green pastures”“I will make you a great nation”
“Leads me beside still waters”“I will bless you” (make you happy, GNB)
“He restores my soul”“I will make your name great.”
“Leads me in the paths of righteousness”“You shall be a blessing” (make others happy)
“I will fear no evil”“I will curse those who curse you”
“Your rod and staff comfort me”“I will bless those who bless you”
“My cup runs over”“In you all families of the earth be blessed”

The message that the Lord in His great mercy sent to us in 1888 was intended to lighten the earth with glory,” that is, it was the “beginning” of the glorious Loud Cry of Revelation 18:1-4. Not only did “God so love the world” (past tense) that He gave His only Son; He still loves this dark world lost in sin. He still loves all the multitudes who are bewildered and confused and alienated from God. The essence of the 1888 message was, “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). It was not a fear-oriented harsh demand, but “a revelation of the love of God.” We as a people needed to realize that as the sun goes down for the last time, the message the world must hear is that message of “Christ and Him crucified.” When Ellen White wrote these words, she remembered the 1888 message:

“‘Behold, the Lord will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.’ ... Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 415).

To know nothing except “Christ and Him crucified” is not an off-balance obsession; it’s the message that hungry-hearted honest people all over the world are longing to grasp. We can see as we review the history of the 1888 message how the message even then moved the lay people who heard it, even the non-Adventists who heard A. T. Jones proclaim it. If every Adventist church had been a place where people would hear only “Christ and Him crucified” (to borrow Paul’s statement), the Holy Spirit could have inspired people to come, and the message would have spread.

This new Quarter of lessons will direct us to see how all our trials and mishaps and disappointments are one means the Lord uses to remind us that He loves us individually, personally, intimately; if we will but believe that, we shall be prepared to look into His eyes with joy when we see Him coming in the clouds of heaven.

—Robert J. Wieland

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 1 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to To listen as a stream go to