Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Son of God Among Us

Jesus is the Son of God. He is among us. This means that He is God, revealed to man. The term “Son of God” is an analogy that describes the connection between Himself and God the Father. It indicates origin, a close association and identification. It describes the link within the Godhead. It expresses an intimate relationship between the two: God the Father, and God the Son—Jesus the Messiah. Christ is the image of God to mankind. God—omnipotent revealed Himself to mankind, in Christ.

The meaning of the term “the Son of God” is that He is of the same nature as God. God the Father is not God the Son and God the Son is not God the Father. They are distinct persons with distinct centers of consciousness. The Father and the Son are one God not two Gods, one essence, one divine nature. From all eternity, without any beginning, the Father has always had a perfect image of himself and a divine reflection or radiance equal to himself in the Son.

In Christ, the invisible God is revealed. Jesus was with the Father before the world was created. Christ, as God the Son, is the Creator of all things. God in all His fullness, dwelt in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 1:13-20).

Jesus called Himself the “Son of God” (John 3:16-18). Gabriel testified to this in his instructions to Mary (Luke 1:35). The disciples identified Jesus as the Son of God (Matt. 16:15, 16; John 1:1, 34; 11:27; Rom. 1:3; Phil. 2:5-11), as well as devils and the Roman centurion (Matt. 8:29; 27:54). Further, Jesus identified Himself as God revealed in the flesh (John 8:58).

While angels, prophets, and nature can reveal to us something about God, God alone can reveal God. It takes God to reveal Himself to mankind. The eternal Revealer revealed Himself to man by clothing His self-expression in human form as Jesus the Messiah. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

And what is a word? It is simply the expression of a thought. Perhaps you have used or have heard the following: “I am going to give him/her a piece of my mind!” How is this done? By speaking. Jesus is God’s thought made audible and visible. This is the testimony of the Gospels—God’s eternal self-expression, His Word, His Son, has entered human form as Jesus the Messiah.

Today the tendency of most of mankind is the desire for dramatic experiences for evidences of Jesus as the Son of God. This tendency is to bypass the fact that God revealed Himself in the Son of God in a town of public disgrace in Palestine, in the home of a simple carpenter, in ordinary human flesh as revealed in Scripture. This was God among us. This is “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).

Elder E. J. Waggoner had this to say about “God with us”: “What could be weaker than a helpless babe, made still more helpless by being bound in swaddling clothes? Yet that represented the measure of the power which he had in himself when he performed the mightiest miracles. Faint with fasting, he resisted the temptations of the devil; and by the same power he cast out devils. He said, ‘I can of Mine own self do nothing;’ it was ‘the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ dwelling in him, and not his human flesh, that did the works. His name is ‘God with us,’ and he is ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever;’ and therefore the weakness of our flesh is no bar to the manifestation of his strength in us. The power that does ‘exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think’ is ‘the power that worketh in us.’ Eph. 3:20’” (“The Manger and the Cross,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 6, 1903).

Although Jesus limited Himself as a man, He is not a mere man or a high-ranking angel in human form. He is truly God as well as truly man. The Sonship of Christ is revealed in this: He was revealed as God in the flesh, and yet submitted to God the Father. The prime duty of a son is to honor and obey his father, to serve him freely and fully. Jesus as God the Son served God the Father not out of compulsion but because of His unity with the Father, served out of love.

The title of our lesson this week “The Son of God Among Us” points to the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah: “Immanuel” (Isa. 7:13, 14), the “Mighty God, Everlasting Father” (9:6, 7) which are fulfilled in Jesus. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).

Elder A. T. Jones connected “God with us” and the third angel’s message: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. ‘His name shall be called Immanuel’—that is, ‘God with us.’ Now then, He wants that garment [Christ’s righteousness] to be ours, but does not want us to forget who is the weaver. It is not ourselves, but it is He who is with us. It was God in Christ. Christ is to be in us, just as God was in Him, and His character is to be in us, just as God was in Him, and His character is to be woven and transformed into us through these sufferings and temptations and trials which we meet. And God is the weaver, but not without us. It is the cooperation of the divine and the human—the mystery of God in you and me—the same mystery that was in the gospel and that is the third angel’s message. This is the word of the Wonderful Counselor” (1893 General Conference Bulletin –The Third Angels Message, No. 10).

In Thursday’s section of this week’s lesson there is reference to Matthew 23:37 where Matthew records the Son of God lamenting for Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing!”

This lament is on-going until the end of the world. What happen to Jerusalem typifies our own day. The metaphor of a mother hen protecting her little ones revealed that a predator was about to fall upon the Jewish state of which nothing could prevent except their conversion to God through the Son of God as He proclaimed throughout the land the good news of reconciliation. Refusal of His salvation left them at the mercy of the Roman eagle which came and destroyed them.

Today’s message of Rev. 18:1-4 is another of the same kind that the Son of God gave when He was among us. Only those who receive His message of the “Loud Cry” to “come out of her (Babylon)” by coming to Him will be safe from the eagle predator of the last days.

The letter to the Galatians gives the foundation of our hope in these last days: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son ... to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4-5). The Father sent His one and only unique divine Son to redeem you and me. Galatians 2:20 says that we are to “live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.” Jesus is “The Son of God Among Us” even “God with us.”

This is the end-time message of the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6). The truth of the everlasting gospel is that the Son of God is among us, as one of us and He is one with the Father (John 17). The Son of God among us is our redemption, our safety, our haven of rest.

—Gerald L. Finneman


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Friday, July 18, 2008

John the Baptist: Preparing the Way for Jesus

Preparing the Way for Jesus: The lesson’s author has selected a Scripture of warning for us, which speaks as to why we as a people have been experiencing a delay in the return of Jesus. Colossians 2.8: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the base principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

It is clear that Paul is concerned about what the Colossians believed, because what one believes makes all the difference in the world!

Starts with a Special Calling: God called this Church and gave it a distinct and special message, Revelation 14:6-12, to prepare the way for Jesus to return. This message was to be proclaimed in the Spirit of Elijah and was to be seen demonstrated in the lives of the entire congregation. In the beginning, study was prayerfully given to seek what the Scriptures taught so as not to be deceived by tradition or the philosophy of men. God in His great mercy gave the Spirit of Prophecy to the Church to guide and to protect it.

Soon it was discovered that we were the Laodicean church and God had addressed a special message to the leaders of this church so that they might encourage the congregation to stay focused while giving the three angels’ messages to the world. God well understood the need for His chosen leaders to be “hot,” for then the people would also be hot and if the leaders became “lukewarm” the entire church would become lukewarm. There is always a direct cause and effect.

The Holy Spirit Prepares Us: 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The Spirit of God brings all of Christ in His fullness to each believer and Christ then dwells in the soul temple by the Holy Spirit. This was declared to be “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:26, 27).

This glory we know to be the character of Christ (see John 17:17-24). “To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. The Christian is one in whom the life and character of Christ are reproduced.” (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth: Sept. 5, 1895).

Ellen White is also clear: “It is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which Jesus said he would send into the world, that changes our character into the image of Christ; and when this is accomplished, we reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord. That is, the character of the one who thus beholds Christ is so like his, that one looking at his sees Christ's own character shining out as from a mirror” (Review and Herald, April 28, 1891).

Our Changed Life and Behavior: It is a historical fact that in 1844 Christ entered upon His work in the Most Holy place as our High Priest (see Heb. 8”1, 2). We call this work the cleansing of the sanctuary, when the High Priest cleans the sanctuary prior to His returning to earth as King.

In order to cleanse the heavenly sanctuary, the sins of His people must be stopped at their source. Colossians 1:26, 27 states that it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The mystery then becomes how Christ, our Great High Priest, is in us, cleansing us, the temple of God (see 1 Cor. 3:16).

Waggoner states: “We have seen that Christ, the Word who is God, is inseparable from the written Word. If we believe the Scriptures, Christ dwells in the heart by faith. The mystery of God made flesh is to be repeated in us. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), is the mystery of the Gospel.” (The Present Truth, Dec. 19, 1895)[see note below]

The Elijah Message and the Return of Jesus: In 1888 God, in His great mercy, gave a clear message directly from His throne through the Holy Spirit, through Waggoner and Jones, to the General Conference in session in Minneapolis. This message was to finish the work of the gospel by preparing a people to be ready to welcome His return!

Regarding the mystery wherein Christ our High Priest is cleansing our sanctuary, John the revelator writes, “In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Rev.10:7). The hearts of God's people will be cleansed BEFORE Christ's second coming, in other words, in the work of cleansing the sanctuary.

God will have a people prepared to stand without a Mediator prior to the close of probation. A mediator is only needed where sin is found. These people are ready because they have kept pace with advancing light—allowing self to be crucified with Christ and by allowing Him to cleanse them by stopping sin at its source.

About the Traditions of Men: It is a popular tradition to teach contrary to the revelations of the Spirit of Prophecy, that the 1888 message, sent by God, was already accepted. This is empty deceit, according to the traditions of man, and not according to Christ.

Many thanks to the author of this lesson for warning us of the danger by pointing us to the Scripture: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through ... empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, ... and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

—Daniel Peters


To read Waggoner’s complete article, “The Word Made Flesh,” or download it in PDF format.


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Friday, July 11, 2008

All Things to All Men: Paul Preaches to the World

In preaching the gospel, it quickly becomes apparent that throughout the world (or even in our own neighborhood) there are different issues for different people, and it becomes expedient to adapt the approach we might use. The Holy Spirit does that. He comes to each of us and speaks to our hearts: “There is something in your life that is hurting you; a fault or a defect that I would like to take away. Will you let me have it?” By saying “yes” we let Him remove our sin. For each of us that can be a different sin, for we each have pet ideas about life and character development—a result of our own life choices. By saying “no,” God backs away, gives us some space, and then returns to challenge us again on the same point, but maybe from a different angle. On each point, as we say “yes,” and God removes the sin from our lives, He can eventually move to the last issue. When we say “yes” to that, He has cleansed the last thing and we are free. Either way, whether we say “yes” or “no,” God varies His approach so that He might meet our individual needs.

As He uses us to work with others, and as we ask the Holy Spirit to give us words to speak that will encourage others, He will show us what to say, whether we understand what we are saying or not—regardless of whether we know the true issues of the heart of the one (or ones) we are talking to. God will vary even what we say to others.

As we learn about people and can have a little understanding of individual needs, is it possible to vary the approach we take with the 1888 message, the third angel’s message that is to go to the whole world? I have a few suggestions—these are at best simplistic, for no one can anticipate every need. Different individuals may be likely to hold on to specific aspects of the most precious message, and the following may be starting points in discussions with them, bearing in mind that all of these point to, and eventually should cause us to focus on the cross—agape! (1 Cor. 2:2).

  • For scientists, particularly biologists and geologists: God’s word has inherently within it the power to create what it says. This obviously affects the creation story, but it also will affect anyone who is struggling with an understanding of the manner in which God deals with their own sin and ever deepening repentance. It forms the basis of faith (Genesis 1—God spoke and it was; Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333; A. T. Jones, Lessons on Faith, p. 18).
  • For teachers and students: The three “P”s. God has already (past tense) saved us from the Penalty of sin at the cross. God is (present tense) saving us today from the Power of sin when we believe. God will (future tense) save us from the Presence of sin when He comes to take us home. This affects the way we interpret what we read in our studies for the writers use different tenses.
  • For voters and politicians: Jesus Christ is the representative of the human race—the second Adam. What He did, He did as the human race. He completely reversed what the first Adam did, and more (Rom. 11:16—firstfruits; Gen. 2:7—breath of lives in Adam; Gen. 25:23—two nations in Rebecca; Heb.7:9, 10—paid tithes in Abraham; Eph. 1:3, 4—all spiritual blessings in Christ; 1 Cor. 15:19-23—Christ is the firstfruits; Acts 17:24-26—one blood; The Desire of Ages, pp. 112, 113, and Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 19, 20—Christ is our representative; Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 326; E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 11-13).
  • For accountants, trust agents, real estate agents, and business in general: Title vs. Possession. God gave us all things—and He gave us all things by inheritance. He set up a trust fund for each of us before the foundation of the world. We begin to receive the possession of these things when we believe (see Eph. 1-3; 1 Tim. 4:9, 10; Eph. 2:4-6, 9-10; 1 Peter 1:3, 4; Eph. 3:2, 17—the dispensing of the grace of God and the dwelling of Christ in the heart by faith; Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 326, 327; E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 11, 12).
  • Again, for attorneys especially (the Bible is full of legal concepts): God Is on Trial. God is the Defendant and Judge, Satan is the Plaintiff, we are God’s Witnesses, and the whole universe is the Jury. The work of the judge is to represent and deliver the defendant (Psalm 76:8, 9; Judges 2:16; 1 Sam. 24:15; 1 John 4:17; Rev. 14:6, 7—God is on trial; Luke 18:8—the investigative judgment search for witnesses; Rev. 14:1-7; 7:1-17—the subpoena of the witnesses; Isa. 43:8-14—the trial (Who God is!); Isa. 14:12-14—the claim of the plaintiff; Job 1:6-12—the cross-examination of a witness by the plaintiff (trials).
    1. E. J. Waggoner, General Conference Bulletin, 1891, No. 3, p. 1: “God is Himself on trial before the universe and Satan and evil men have always charged Him with being unjust and arbitrary, but in the judgment all the universe will say, ‘Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.’”
    2. A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, No. 23, p. 448: “He came into the world to demonstrate the unrighteousness of that argument that Satan was presenting in the courts of God, as the prosecuting attorney from this country. That is the thought; it is legal all the way through. ... And He conquered and thus became by right the head of this dominion again and of all who will be redeemed from it and of the redemption of the dominion itself. ... And now that word also in the Greek which says that the accuser of our brethren ‘is cast down,’ conveys the idea of a prosecuting attorney who comes into court but he has no case any more. He is repudiated. He has no place for argument. Why? Because now we have an Advocate in the court, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
  • For architects, builders, and contractors: The earthly sanctuary illustrates the heavenly, and was built after the pattern of the heavenly (Ex. 25:8, 9; Heb. 9:9; A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way, pp. 81, 82).
  • For all of us, especially pastors: God’s forgiveness is redemptive. God not only pardons our sin, but He removes the sin and the guilt. He did this on the cross and He is doing this now as His office work in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, cleansing the sanctuary of the sins of the people, thus preparing a people for His vindication in His trial and for His coming to receive His inheritance. I encourage all to let God give us a part in this glorious work.
—Craig Barnes

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Friday, July 04, 2008

For Such a Time as This: The Apostle Paul

Our Lesson Book (Sabbath School Quarterly) for the third quarter is entitled “God’s Great Missionaries.” It’s a study of the lives of people like John the Baptist, the Apostle John, the Apostle Peter, the prophet Daniel, and others.

Truly these men (and women, just as deserving) were indeed “faithful” to the Lord. Their life stories are a great encouragement to us today.

However, the Lord Himself never called any of them “great.”

In fact, take Moses for example, the “servant of the Lord”: the Lord never called him “great.” The Lord honored him highly for his fidelity; but the Lord never said a word that would encourage Moses to become proud of himself.

In fact, in all these stories of so-called “Great Missionaries,” the Lord seems to take their fidelity for granted; for them to be “faithful” is just duty.

Jesus explains this principle in Luke 17: “When you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, ‘We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty’” (vss. 9, 10, NEB). In other words, we should say, “We do not deserve to be called ‘great.’”

Does this sound like the Lord does not appreciate our faithful service? No! When at last He says to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant: ... Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”(Matt. 25:21), you will feel that He is praising you to the skies! (And that is true!).

But the Lord considers that all your faithfulness, all your hard work and self-sacrifice, is just the proper response of any honest heart to the “much more abounding grace” of the Lord Jesus; no big deal. ...

The Lord went to hell to save your soul; for you to respond by giving Him your heart, your life, your all, is no big deal to get proud over; it’s just the proper response of any believing heart to the cross of Christ!

This is explained clearly in 2 Corinthians 5: “The love of Christ constraineth us” (vs. 14). Paul says he knows some people will think he is crazy; here he is pouring his very life out in unselfish service for Christ, and still doing so long after “retirement age.”

Why doesn’t he get himself a nice little villa near the Mediterranean Sea, and rest from his long life of grueling service? We have lots of retired pastors and teachers, today; but Paul could not “retire” because that love (agape) of Christ kept tugging at his heart; was he a better man than we are?

No; he had simply seen something that day when he was on his way to Damascus to try to destroy the church of Christ—he saw Jesus, and Jesus spoke to him and said “it is hard for thee to kick against the goads.”

Paul never forgot that!

We can still let self be crucified when we “retire,” and although we may grow some roses, etc., we can keep ourselves dedicated to the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is giving you and me individually, personally, our own little “vision” of that love [agape] of Christ. The final movement is coming suddenly; let us be ready to welcome the Lord’s leading.

—Robert J. Wieland

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