Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Discipleship: “Gender and Discipleship

The cost of discipleship is whatever “everything” means to you.

In last week’s lesson, when confronted by the rich young ruler, Jesus did not directly challenge his claim of keeping the commandments. He simply showed him that he had not given up everything to serve God. For the rich young ruler, “everything” was his great wealth. “Everything” is different for each of us.

Each of the women in this week’s lesson already knew something about Jesus before their “crisis” moment. They all decided that their valuable “everything” could be put in the dust in order for them to follow Jesus.

Christ’s mother Mary was asked to sacrifice the only thing that was worth something to a poor young woman in her society, her pure reputation. Being pregnant out of wedlock almost made her unmarriageable. If the Lord had not intervened, Joseph would have quietly divorced her. A single mother in those days had very few options, the usual being prostitution.

Mary was not pregnant when the angel came to her. There were many practical questions that could have destroyed her faith. If she had refused, heaven would have honored her wish. Instead, she chose to believe that she had been chosen to be part of that mysterious union between humanity and divinity. Had she held on to her earthly “glory” of a pure and chaste reputation, what a blessing she would have missed.

The woman with the distressing malady risked severe public embarrassment if she had been required to explain her situation to Jesus. He was constantly surrounded by crowds, so any explanation would have been for all to hear.

In Jewish society, a man was not allowed to have relations with an “unclean” woman (see Lev. 15:19-33). If this condition began before she married, she probably never did. In addition to embarrassment, she risked great anger from the crowd because whatever touched her or her garments was considered unclean for seven days. When she recognized her only hope was Christ, even fear of public embarrassment and anger was set aside.

The woman at the well had many secrets which probably confronted her in some way on a daily basis. Though she did not seek Him out, once Jesus had won her confidence, she rushed to her neighbors to tell them about Him. No longer caring about her reputation, she told everybody that Jesus knew all her secrets. Once she gave up her “everything,” she became a disciple.

Martha is the only woman cited in our lesson who received a negative but gentle comment from Jesus. She allowed her desire for a nice, well run home and life to keep her from discipleship. She was so blinded that it kept her from seeing the better choice her sister Mary had made. Martha could have rationalized that “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” but Jesus didn’t mean that. He expects us to lead reasonably clean and orderly lives, but not at the expense of discipleship. The story of Lazarus gives us the happy ending for Martha. She told Jesus, “Yes Lord, I believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who comes into the world” (John 11:27, NAS). Whatever her “everything” was, she was willing to make this strong statement of faith to the Man who challenged her need for control in her life.

Although the lesson doesn’t specifically mention Mary Magdalene, she is the one Jesus commends to Martha. Mary had nothing to lose. She was the worst there was in her society. But she had seen something no one else had. She saw and at least partially understood the cross. She saw that it was for her many sins that Jesus was going to die that horrible death. She knew she was forgiven much and she owed everything to her Lord and Master. She put up with all the scorn, disdain, and ridicule that must have been directed at her in order to be near Jesus. In the garden after He died, she risked arrest and worse from the soldiers guarding the tomb because she needed to be near Him.

Her understanding of the cross had not come without struggle. But Jesus was patient those seven times. Each time her besetting sin overcame her, Mary continued to place her faith in Jesus. She learned the lesson of “let this mind be in you that is in Christ Jesus.”

We believe we need to pray for strength to overcome temptation to gain victory over sin. But that battle has already been won: Christ has obtained the victory and He wants to give us His victory. His victory is sufficient for us; we don’t need to repeat His history. How do we accept His victory? The prayer is simple: “Lord, give me the mind of Christ. I have no strength in myself for You to add to; I need a complete re-creation of my mind and will.” Then, choose to believe He gives it to you and praise God for His unspeakable Gift!

Arlene Hill


Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Insights" on the Internet:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with subscribe in the body of the message to: <>

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lessons From Would-be Disciples

When it comes to discipleship everyone ultimately has only one decision to make; and this decision has only two options—yes or no. (To put it off is to say no.) Although God placed the entire human race in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1); though we are in Christ (in a purely judicial sense) at the time we are born, at some point in our experience, God confronts us with the question: “Will you be My disciple? There is something in your life that is going to bring you down. There is a fault or defect in your character that I need to remove—to replace with My good works of righteousness. Will you let me have it? Will you believe?”

Now what do we do?

How good are you at making excuses? “I’m busy right now.” (Are you so busy with the work of the Lord you don’t have time for the Lord of the work?) “What is wrong with ... ?” (Maybe nothing. But who is first in your life? What does God want? Do we worship God the way He wants to be worshipped? Or do we worship God in our own way, thus worshipping self?) “Well, so-and-so did such-and-such and so I have to respond accordingly.” (And who did you say is in control of your life?)

There were prospective disciples who made similar excuses to Jesus for which He responded, “Let the dead bury the dead.” And “Foxes have holes ...” For each situation there was a different response based on what the individual’s stumbling block was. Whom do you worship? What is your idol?

There is an old saying: “You are only responsible for what you can say yes or no to.” I like that because it places the responsibility for our decisions directly on the one who makes them. You and I have ultimate control of what finally happens to us. I cannot control what others do, but I can make my own decisions.

When God comes to you and says, “There is something in your life that is going to bring you down. There is a fault or defect in your character that I need to remove—to replace with My good works of righteousness. Will you let me have it?” Say YES right away. For to say “no” and to continue to say “no” will ultimately cause you to want to kill God (Mathew 26, Revelation 20). So I encourage you to say YES—and to mean it.

Let’s allow one of the 1888 messengers, A. T. Jones, to say it in the way only he can:

Well now, we have read the verses, “He gave himself for us.” He bought us. How much of us? [Congregation: “All of us.”] When was it that he did it? [Congregation: “Before the foundation of the world.”] What kind of folks were we before the foundation of the world? ... What did He buy just then? He bought us, and all there was of us. And as He bought what there was of us, He bought our sins. Isaiah describes it—wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; no soundness at all. Is that so?...

Well, now, let us carry that a little further. He gave Himself for our sins; but the same thought goes through all: He will not take our sins—although He bought them—without our permission. Look at it a little further, carrying the same thought forward. “He gave himself” for whose sins? [Congregation: “Ours.”] Whose were they? [Congregation: “Ours.”] He gave Himself for them. They being ours, to whom did He give Himself when He bought them? [Congregation: “To us.”] He gave Himself to me, for my sins? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Then the choice is forever with me as to whether I would rather have my sins than to have Him, isn’t it? [Congregation: “Yes.”] That is the living choice before me, is it? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Is that the choice before you? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Which would you rather have, your sins or Christ? [Congregation: “Christ.”] Then from this time henceforth can there be any hesitation about letting anything go that God shows is sin? Will you let it go when it is pointed out? When sin is pointed out to you, say, “I would rather have Christ than that.” And let it go [Congregation: “Amen.”] Just tell the Lord, “Lord, I make the choice now; I make the trade; I make Thee my choice; it is gone, and I have something better.” Thank the Lord! Then where in the world is the opportunity for any of us to get discouraged over our sins?

Now some of the brethren here have done that very thing. They came here free; but the Spirit of God brought up something they never saw before. The Spirit of God went deeper than it ever went before and revealed things they never saw before; and then, instead of thanking the Lord that that was so, and letting the whole wicked business go, and thanking the Lord they had ever so much more of Him than they ever had before, they began to get discouraged. They said, “Oh what am I going to do? My sins are so great.” There they let Satan cast a cloud over them, and throw them into discouragement, and they get no good out of the meetings day after day. ...

If the Lord has brought up sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that He is going down to the depths, and He will reach the bottom at last; and when He finds the last thing that is unclean or impure, that is out of harmony with His will, and brings that up, and shows that to us, and we say, “I would rather have the Lord than that,”—then the work is complete, and the seal of the living God can be fixed upon that character. ...

Which would you rather, have the completeness, the perfect fulness, of Jesus Christ, or have less than that, with some of your sins covered up that you never know of? ... And so He has got to dig down to the deep places we never dreamed of, because we cannot understand our hearts. But the Lord knows the heart. He tries the conscience. He will cleanse the heart, and bring up the last vestige of wickedness. Let Him go on, brethren; let Him keep on His searching work. And when He does bring our sins before us, let the heart say, “Lord, thou gavest Thyself for my sins; Oh, I take Thee instead of them.” They are gone, and I rejoice in the Lord. Brethren, let us be honest with the Lord, and treat Him as He wants us to. (General Conference Bulletin, 1893, pp. 403, 404; The Third Angel’s Message, pp. 119-120.)

What are we waiting for? Say “Yes” to God now, and experience the true joys of discipleship—today! They are yours already; now you can have, realize them in your experience.

Craig Barnes

Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Insights" on the Internet:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with subscribe in the body of the message to: <>

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Discipleship: “Called to Discipleship by Jesus”

What is discipleship to Jesus? It is the call of Jesus to follow Him, the Lamb of God (John 4:36); as a life-long learner, “complete” [“fully trained,” Luke 6:40]; in service for the Master [“fishers of men,” Matt. 4:19]. Discipleship, then, involves: (1) the initiating call of Jesus; (2) the Master teaching students who are open to all the truth unto perfection; (3) whether as one’s full-time profession, or as an avocation; involvement in catching souls for Christ.

Who does Jesus call to follow Him? “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called” (Rom. 8:30). Who did He predestinate? “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate” (vs. 29). Who did He foreknow? We are shut up to the conclusion that He foreknew everyone. So every last soul who has ever set foot on earth was foreknown by Jesus and predestinated to be called by name to His service.

How does Jesus fully train them in Christian perfection; “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (vs. 29)? “Whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (vs. 30). Here is wonderful truth not fully recovered since the time the Apostle Paul penned these words.

Everyone is called by Jesus. Likewise everyone is justified by Jesus. In an objective sense, Christ’s death is an act so extravagantly comprehensive, that it encircles the globe, so that God is able to treat everyone as pardoned for their sin. This wonderful gift is wrapped in the person of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is literally given by God to every individual.

How does justification bring Christian perfection? “And whom He justified, them He also glorified” (vss. 29, 30). This gift of legal justification, if unhindered by the recipient, effects the fruitage of sanctifying power in the life, and is revealed in ultimate glorification at the Lord’s appearing. All of this is God’s predestination for every soul. Though the wicked are mercifully granted temporary pardon for a brief lifetime, by their choice of frustrating the grace of God, they unhappily never experience the benefits: the forgiveness of their sins, and its unleashed power in their lives.

How may this wonderful message about Jesus enable Him to use us as fishers of men? Just as Andrew, the former disciple of John the Baptist, followed “the Lamb of God,” and subsequently found his brother Peter (John 1:40); likewise, we have been given a vision of Jesus Christ that is inclusive of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. His love is so extravagant that it embraces every soul with an atmosphere of His grace. We are just an after fragrance that comes along providing an additional incentive for that soul to follow Jesus.

Have you been given a revelation of Jesus Christ? Most certainly. In the unique circumstances in which you are located, Jesus has called you, and given you a vision of Himself crucified for you.

A young woman’s testimony is to the effect that at a critical time in her life, when her mother was terminally ill, Jesus showed Himself to her in a vision. She saw Jesus standing before her extending His hand and speaking to her in her own language and specific dialect. To her this was an invitation to never pull her hand away from the Saviour, but to ever let Him lead in her life. This commissioning for service by the nail-pierced hands of the Saviour, is as much an ordination of the unseen hands as any formal laying on of hands at an ordination service of an elder or pastor in the church.

You do not need to have such a visible manifestation of the call of Jesus to service. You have something equally as authoritative for your call to discipleship. Jesus says to you, “Go ye therefore. ... I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19, 20). That’s exactly where you are right now, “the end of the world.” You are ordained by the unseen, nail-pierced hands of Jesus.

Paul E. Penno


Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Insights" on the Internet:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with subscribe in the body of the message to: <>

Friday, January 11, 2008

Discipleship: “Discipleship Then and Now”

Our Lesson 2 asks a pertinent question: “If someone were to come up to you (as these Greeks came to Philip [John 12:20-22], and say, ‘We wish to see Jesus,’), what would you answer?”

If you are like I am, you would be delighted for someone to ask you for literature or for Bible studies about the Sabbath or the other doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists. Delighted, because our experience is this: “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” and only few seem to desire to know the truths of the third angel’s message (cf. Matt. 7:13).

But in reality many don’t know how to ask for help, even though they desperately want it.

The Holy Spirit is alive and He is working! But we are not well aware of what’s happening. The Lord is closer to us than we think.

Here’s a promise to make all of us happy: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. [The “bread” symbolizes truth you are sharing with people]. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight [that is, be lavish in your generosity in scattering the message!]; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. ... Thou knowest not what is the way of the [Holy] Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child [you don’t know how the Holy Spirit woos that heart to the Savior]: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good” (Eccl. 11:1-6).

That promise is sure and certain: some of the “missionary work” you do will bear fruit! If you persevere, more of course will, but there will be a de fault reward that cannot fail in the end.

Our joy in being “disciples” of Jesus is the thrill of doing as He does, and what He does is win souls. Nothing else but soul winning is worthy of our life-time and life-energy. Someone who builds a house takes great delight in living in it the rest of his life; winning souls to our Master is the “house” we devote our life to, and what a future to enjoy for eternity!

Our lesson includes two fascinating statements of Jesus, our “Master Teacher”: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). If it takes your whole lifetime to understand what Jesus is actually saying here, it will be worth while. It sounds like wild exaggeration—but it does sound like Jesus. “The keys of heaven”? Don’t say you can’t understand Him; the sky’s the limit in His promises to bless your soul-winning for Him! Hang on and let Him instruct you and bring it to pass.

The other fantastic promise Jesus gives us in this lesson is this: “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (18:18). Of course that is said to the church; but the Lord Jesus seems to be willing to abandon His throne for us to come sit in it in His place!

When you pray for a loved one or friend who, as we say, is “out of the ark of safety,” pray with that intensity of soul. You have been officially appointed of heaven to bring that person into the kingdom.

But of course, you are a “servant” of the Master; you submit to Him, you are His “disciple,” that is, you employ no arrogance, no force, only humility “in Christ.” Your prayer requires your 100 percent devotion to Jesus and His ways of doing things.

Note the section about the disciples at first not being totally 24/7 devoted to the work of Jesus (The Desire of Ages, pp. 246-249): can you imagine the time coming as we approach the final events when the earth will be lightened with the glory of the final message, when you will be drawn into 24/7 service for Jesus?

As you conclude your study of this lesson (Thursday), think how wonderful it will be when again “the Lord works with us” and “confirms His word by the signs that accompany it.” Note how that was precisely what the Lord wanted to do with us after the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference; He wanted that message to swell to lighten the earth with glory! He wanted to give the brethren and sisters in 1888 the gift of the Holy Spirit as He gave the gift to the apostles after Pentecost (see Selected Messages, Book One, pp. 234, 235).

But, there’s no need to waste time crying over spilt milk; let’s make wrongs right and let’s repent by the only sensible way: give the 1888 message both to the church and to the world—now.

That is what the manuscript “1888 Re-examined” pleaded in 1950 should be done.

That is what the 1888 Message Study Committee today pleads should be done—now, before any more decades have to go by.

—Robert J. Wieland


Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Insights" on the Internet:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with subscribe in the body of the message to: <>

Thursday, January 03, 2008

An Overview of Discipleship

The purpose of these weekly INSIGHTS produced by members of the 1888 Message Study Committee is a special one: to inquire how the “most precious” message which “the Lord in His great mercy sent” us 120 years ago sheds light on our current lesson topics.

We read in Genesis 6:3 that the Lord decided to grant 120 years of probation to the people before the Flood of Noah; this New Year brings us to the same 120 year span since that “most precious message” was “sent” to us “in His great mercy” in 1888, yet was “in a great degree kept away” from our people and from the world.

This is not to say that there is a correlation in the time periods; we do not know. But we mention this fact only because we should feel deeply a concern for this lapse of a long time that this gift from heaven has been seriously neglected. God is infinite; but His patience is not infinite.

We all know that a “disciple” is someone who follows a teacher.

Therefore the ultimate lesson in “discipleship” is the one that the “144,000” teach us: these are they who “stand on the mount Zion, ... having the Father’s name written on their foreheads, ... and who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:1, 4). “Mt. Zion” is the church, the same as the “remnant church” of 12:17. For “the Lamb “ to “stand on Mt. Zion” therefore is Christ and His people to be fully reconciled; the sacrifice of Christ will at last be fully vindicated in these people.

Through Christ’s ministry in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, He ministers to His last-days people the “atonement” in this final time of the High Priestly ministry; every buried root of enmity against God or alienation from Him (see Rom. 8:7) will have been cleansed from their hearts; His people are at last “at one” with Him. This is the meaning of the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, “Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

The sanctuary in heaven cannot be “cleansed” until first of all the hearts of His people on earth are “cleansed.” Thus the story of the 144,000 is the story of final victory over sin—a victory accomplished only by faith, not by works.

And here is where the message of Christ’s righteousness comes into sharp focus: sanctification is accomplished in the hearts of believers by the ministry of truth. “Sanctify them [Thy people] through Thy Word; Thy word is truth,” Jesus Himself prayed (John 17:17, KJV). This is what the 144,000 have heartily submitted to. The slightest hint from the Holy Spirit that something in the life is in opposition to that “truth of God,” and the believer gladly gives it up. Like a healthy heart beating and pumping blood throughout the healthy body, so the Holy Spirit is working throughout the remnant church; God’s people waste no time or energy fighting the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is none of that “1888 spirit” that constantly opposes the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The 144,000 come to the place where it can be honestly said of them, “These are they who follow the crucified Christ [the Lamb] wherever He goes.”

Will it be this generation who open their hearts to this leading of the Holy Spirit?

One brief example must be mentioned: health reform is part of the message that the Lord sends in this great antitypical Day of Atonement. Slavery to appetite is part of an addiction that the 144,000 overcome as they follow the Lamb wherever He leads. Now in this “time of the end” (Dan. 12:4; 11:35) all such slaveries to worldly custom and to self are overcome. But it’s not you that do the “work”! The Lord leads you, and you follow Him; you have no righteousness of your own. You “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5-8). There is no fanaticism; there is simple surrender of self to the Lord, “constrained” by His love (agape).

During these special three months of Sabbath School study, choose to let the Holy Spirit be your weekly Teacher. Stay close to the Bible—that’s where He will be teaching. Plead with the Lord to teach you balanced, solid truth. He will!

—Robert J. Wieland