Friday, January 30, 2009

“The Inspiration of the Prophets”

The “Good News” that Lesson 5 gives us immediately is that whatever “inspiration” the Lord poured upon His prophets in giving us their message, He has promised to pour upon us as in our receiving it.

It’s the work of the same Holy Spirit: He is One, whether He inspires the prophets to write or whether He inspires us to receive it, He is equally at work.

That makes Bible study become exciting!

We are connecting to a “high voltage wire” when we read thankfully what the prophet wrote in the Bible. The miracle of inspiration works two ways: (1) in the writing which the prophet does, and (2) in our “listening” when we either read it or even “hear” it read by someone else (cf. Rev. 1:1-3).

You may be young or immature in your reading of the Holy Word (or listening to it); but the Lord will “meet” you personally as you take this little step towards Him in receiving the writings of His prophets. He is overjoyed when we begin to appreciate reading or listening to what He has inspired them to write, just as a chef who has prepared a tasty dish enjoys seeing our enjoyment of it and appreciates our words of thanks for it.

(a) Get on your knees; whether you think you know how to say the right words or not, get into the “attitude” of prayer. That’s the first step.

(b) Then “wait” before the Lord, even if you do not know what words to say.

(c) But do “put away” the “world,” that is, your TV and the radio and your little electronic devices that cry for your attention. Turn them all off. You are approaching the office of the great God of heaven.

(d) Be polite enough to the Lord by giving Him your full attention; in your prayer, you will give Him full priority; no one else can intrude, and don’t ask anyone to do so. Turn it off.

(e) If you are having a “visit” with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and the One who is your personal Savior, Jesus says, “shut your door.” He explains what He means when He adds, “Go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.” He “hears in secret” (Matt. 6:6).

(f) Don’t be afraid that Satan will hear you pray and confess your sins and your weaknesses; he cannot read your thoughts or eavesdrop on your private “meetings” with the Lord. That’s because the Lord “hears in secret,” He says, which means that He guarantees you His full attention in private.

(g) Read each word which the prophets have written in the Bible as though it is addressed solely to you; through the Holy Spirit; it is!

(h) Then you will actually be participating in the grand process of divine inspiration—which works both ways in the “giving” of it and in the “receiving” of it.

You want an exciting life? You have it—“in Christ.”

—Robert J. Wieland


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Gift of Prophecy and God’s Remnant Church

God’s remnant church is identified in Revelation 12 and 14 as a church protected and as a people that keep the commandments of God because they have the faith of Jesus. To this church God has given the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10).

It was at the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis that the agape of God, again, was shown to His church by a message He sent from His heart to us. God chose the messengers to give His message to His remnant church, which was the beginning of the out-pouring of the latter rain.

The Prophetic Gift to the Remnant Church is clear regarding this message: “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers [TM], pp. 91, 92).

The Prophetic Gift to the Remnant Church is clear regarding the reception of this message: “An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235).

The Prophetic Gift to the Remnant Church is no respecter of persons: “We see here that the men in authority are not always to be obeyed, even though they may profess to be teachers of Bible doctrine. There are many today who feel indignant and aggrieved that any voice should be raised presenting ideas that differ from their own in regard to points of religious belief” (TM 69).

But They Made Light of It”:In one of His parable’s Christ likens the kingdom of heaven to a king who had bidden guests to the wedding feast in honor of the marriage of his son, and when all was prepared those whom he had invited failed to come. The description of their action is most characteristic and life like. It is applicable to all peoples in every age. “But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

Today, under our very eyes, we continually see this reenacted, in that they to whom the message of the Gospel is sent go their own ways to their farms and merchandise, regardless of the earnest invitation which the Lord of heaven himself so graciously extends to them,—and not only do they go their own ways but they make light of the invitation, criticize, doubt, misinterpret, and disbelieve, its language and its purpose; yes, go so far as to deny its authority, and yet farther, ridicule the idea of the existence of the Great King Himself.

They are, however, by far in the majority who make light of the message and the invitation. The refusal of by far the greater number is in the form of thoughtless, careless neglect. ... They forget that every copy of the myriads of Bibles distributed throughout all the world contains a record of the invitation which has been directed to them personally, and that thus it is possible for all the world to testify to the fact of the gracious bidding, and that He who declares himself unbidden only convicts himself of insolently thoughtless neglect. He has received the gracious written word of his King, but has laid it aside unread; or, if he has opened it, his eyes have glanced through it so cursorily as to have utterly failed in comprehending its purport and in perceiving its personal character. Whom, then, can they blame if when the appointed hour is past they find that they have lost a golden opportunity? Surely none but themselves.

In the hour of the realization of his great, irremediable, and eternal loss, no human soul will be able to lay the responsibility for the position in which he finds himself upon another being,—much less upon his God. “Many are called, but few are chosen,” and those who find themselves in outer darkness will only be able to accuse themselves of failing or refusing to accept the invitation of the Father, and the accompanying wedding robes of righteousness which the Son proffers to all” (E. J. Waggoner; The Present Truth, Oct. 22, 1896).

The Jewish leaders of 2,000 years ago rejected Jesus and the message He brought. They went to any length to silence both. Our corporate sin is the same: we sully the message God sent to His church in 1888; malign the messengers that brought it; and deny the very scriptures that inform us as to the nature Christ took when born on this earth.

The Prophetic Gift to the Remnant Church warns us: “Even Seventh-day Adventists are in danger of closing their eyes to truth as it is in Jesus, because it contradicts something which they have taken for granted as truth but which the Holy Spirit teaches is not truth” (TM 70).

Daniel Peters

Friday, January 16, 2009

“Spiritual Gifts and Prophecy”

The spiritual gifts that God gives to all His followers can be overemphasized or at least easily misunderstood. Emphasis can be placed on understanding what our individual spiritual gifts are. Yet, they are generally manifested as everyday activities, although not in the sense we consider ordinary. If a person has the gift of teaching, he should teach. If the gift of preaching, he should preach. If the gift of music, he should honor God with music, etc.

There are several things we should bear in mind regarding spiritual gifts. Gifts can be original, that is, given by God at conception, or they can be acquired, which would come through diligent study or practice, and the blessing of God. They can be natural, which is part of our nature (our makeup, if you will), gifts at birth that are relatively easily developed; or they can be spiritual, specially given by the Holy Spirit at any time in our lives. Gifts can be temporary for an acute need or situation (we would have no control over this), or they can be long-term, say for a lifetime, maintained either by continued use, the lack of which will cause the gift to diminish or depart, or they can be maintained permanently by God’s constant intervention. What indicates whether these are “gifts of God” is how they are used. If we allow God to have control of them, He will use them to benefit others. If not, we are likely to (do I dare use the word “shall”) fall into the trap of false gifts, which may appear to be genuine to some, but actually draw away from God, and thus are Satanic.

Spiritual gifts may seem ordinary, but we should not place upon them ordinary importance, for they arise from our connection to God. We should expect to know at least some of the gifts that God has given to us, but we will hardly know all of them. We can know this much for sure, that if we have given our hearts to God, He has given to us at least one gift, whether we know what it is or not. There is a danger in placing too much emphasis on knowing, lest we fret about what we think we should have and believe that we don’t have; or we might run away from what we do have, and don’t want to admit that God might want to do something special in us. Let’s not place God in a box and limit His miraculous power to use us by limiting Him to only those gifts we think we have. For example, let’s listen in on Moses in Exodus 4:10-12:

“And Moses said unto theLORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORDsaid unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I theLORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (emphasis added).

In other words, “Don’t try so hard, Moses, let Me do it—in you.” Yet, if you find you have been studying to learn a new activity and it is simply not developing, maybe that is an indication that God does not want you to do that work. He possibly has found someone else whose personality may be better suited for that activity. Don’t let pride get in God’s way. The advice given in Matthew 10:14 can also apply to talents: “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”

Although God will control our thoughts and desires (if we let Him), there are diversities of gifts and different ways of doing things. God does not want us to place everyone in the same box. We all have different personalities and different ways of approaching the same goal, or even the same activity. He will work in each of us in different ways as He sees what will make our work the most effective. We should be ready to recognize the various gifts manifested in others. Let the Holy Spirit reveal to you what you need to know at any time or in any situation.

On the other hand, let’s recognize the difference between the gifts of the Spirit and the gospel itself. Although there are diversities of gifts and different ways of doing things, there is only one true gospel (Acts 1:6-9). We should be ready to discern both. “Spiritual discernment” is one of the gifts of the Spirit (the “eyesalve” of Revelation 3:18). From E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 36, 37:

“The brethren in Jerusalem showed their connection with God in that ‘they perceived the grace that was given to’ Paul. Those who are moved by the Spirit of God will always be quick to ‘perceive’ workings of the Spirit in others. The surest evidence that one knows nothing personally of the Spirit is that he cannot recognize His working. The other apostles had the Holy Spirit, and they ‘perceived’ that God had chosen Paul for a special work among the Gentiles; and, although his manner of working was different from theirs, for God had given him special gifts for his special work, they freely gave to him the right hand of fellowship ...

“Remember that there was no difference of opinion among the apostles nor in the church as to what the gospel is. There were ‘false brethren,’ it is true; but inasmuch as they were false, they were no part of the church, the body of Christ, which is the truth. Many professed Christians, sincere persons, suppose that it is almost a matter of necessity that there be differences in the church. ‘All cannot see alike,’ is the common statement. So they misread Ephesians 4:13, KJV, making it seem that God has given us gifts ‘till we all come into the unity of the faith.’ What the Word teaches is that “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,’ we all come ‘unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ There is only ‘one faith’ (verse 5), the faith of Jesus, as there is only one Lord; and those who have not that faith must necessarily be out of Christ.

“... There are, of course, different degrees of knowledge, but never any controversy between those different degrees. All truth is one.”

Do not hesitate to let God give you His gifts. Do not try to presume that we already have all the gifts God will give us. Do not think that you don’t have any gifts, or that you need more than what you do have. Don’t try to run ahead of God on this issue. We may not understand our gifts. They may be temporary, or they may be permanent. We may be aware of them, or we may not. We even may feel that God is placing us out on a limb. But do trust God that He will not place you on a limb so you will fall off and embarrass Him. He is very capable of holding you with a hand that will never let go. Just look at Moses. Even Jesus Himself said, in John 5:30, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” —Craig Barnes

Friday, January 09, 2009

“The Prophetic Gift”

The test of a true prophet is whether they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ whom God promised in His everlasting covenant. Prophets who lived in the old dispensation preached the same good news to sinners who needed salvation, as did prophets living in the new dispensation. The old and the new dispensations are a better designation for the Old Testament and the New Testament in that the word “testament” has the sense of a “will” that necessitates the death of a testator in order for it to go into effect. However, that is not the nature of God’s everlasting covenant, for it was effective for sinners throughout the old dispensation even though Christ had not yet died. The old dispensation then designates the times before Christ’s incarnate mission to earth and the new dispensation designates the times at and following His earthly ministry.

In the Book of Genesis Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), and understood God’s “everlasting covenant” (Gen. 9:16). God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and “preached before the gospel unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8), commissioning him to proclaim “the everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7).

By faith Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the patriarchs (Heb. 11:20-22), believed in God’s promised Seed who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). They understood the “better promises” (Heb. 8:6) of the new covenant which are the forgiveness of sins and the writing of God’s law upon hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10, 12; Gen. 15:6).

The greatest prophet of the old dispensation, Moses, believed God’s new covenant. When he was called up into Mount Sinai before the presence of Jehovah, he reverently ventured on holy ground trusting in His Saviour from sin. Moses wrote the gospel of the everlasting covenant in the five books that compose the Pentateuch.

In his youth Samuel was called by God to the prophetic ministry in the temple precincts where was the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 3:3). We read in Isaiah a delightful description of the covenant, which God gave to King David in which he connects mercy with the everlasting covenant. “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (Isa. 55:3, 4). The sure mercies of David are the blessings which are assured to us through Christ, the Son of David.

Daniel prophesied that the Messiah “shall confirm the covenant” (Dan. 9:27). Ezekiel envisioned David as prince in the midst of his people and promised that God would be with His people forever,—“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them” (Eze. 37:25, 26). Jeremiah prophesied of the atonement made complete between God and His people on the basis of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).

At the Lord’s Supper Jesus, the prophet, gave the cup of blessing to His disciples by promising “this is my blood of the new testament” (Matt. 26:28). The apostle Paul, who bore the prophetic office, wrote: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made” (Gal. 3:16), thus defining the everlasting covenant as God’s promise to Christ. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

The servant of the Lord in these last days proclaimed the everlasting covenant with her endorsement of two messengers bearing “heavenly credentials” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 545). “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. The uplifted Saviour is to appear in His efficacious work as the Lamb slain, sitting upon the throne, to dispense the priceless covenant blessings” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92; emphasis supplied).

The sign of a true prophet is the proclamation of the everlasting covenant of salvation from sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross, which He ministers as high priest in the heavenly sanctuary.

Paul E. Penno

Friday, January 02, 2009

“Heaven’s Means of Communication”

There are now fifteen million Seventh-day Adventists around the world who this new quarter are giving special study to the Gift of Prophecy, as it has been manifested to us as a people in our history.

We are all descendants of our fallen father, Adam, so that we already have his nature; “our beloved brother Paul” (as Peter speaks of him, 2 Peter 3:15) says that our carnal mind is “enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). That doesn’t sound like good news, does it?

Much as we wish it were otherwise, that “carnal mind” has demonstrated itself in our history as a people; now we are on the stage: what we are and what we say today will have a profound effect on the church in the time the Lord allows us to have as our future between now and His second coming.

But it is good news for us to recognize and confess the truth!

The Spirit of Prophecy is also described in Scripture as “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17); if He were physically present with us today, His message to us would be what we have in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. If we had the news that Jesus personally was speaking in our church this coming Sabbath for the worship hour, we would all flock to hear Him; but He is already speaking to us in the writings which we know as “the Spirit of Prophecy.”

Since Paul is correct when he says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” and we all have it, we must recognize that our natural mind is “enmity” against the Spirit of Prophecy. Therefore, David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 is an appropriate prayer for us to offer when we begin to read the writings of the Lord’s servant, Ellen G. White: “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. ... Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto Thee” (vss. 11-13).

Let us remember, that it is only with a broken, melted heart, that we can teach or preach or talk in such a way that “sinners are converted.” Your Sabbath School class will know what are your personal qualifications for teaching a lesson: do you glorify self, or the Lord Jesus?

Ellen White demonstrated the prophetic gift in her life and in her writing of her 25 million words; if you are a Sabbath School teacher, take courage, because the Lord who inspired her hears your fervent, melted heart’s prayer for a portion of His “much more abounding grace” to teach the Lessons for this new Quarter. That “grace” is given freely to everyone who appreciates it.

Come “boldly” unto the throne of grace and ask for it (Heb. 4:16). It takes humility for sinners like me to come!

Robert J. Wieland