Friday, December 25, 2009

"Cities of Refuge"

"Cities of Refuge"

Refuge. The word conveys a sense of rugged impermeability. Protection. Peace. Safety. Permanence. Today, more than at any other time in earth's history, humanity longs for refuge. As Seventh-day Adventists, we have something immediate and compelling to share with those in need.

Sunday's lesson asks these two questions: "How can we protect ourselves from the negative influences that are always around us?" and "What personal choices must you, and you alone, make for yourself to help limit the negative impact of these influences on you?"

The answer to the first part of this question is that we cannot protect ourselves. But there is One who can protect us. "The story of the cities of refuge is one of the things written aforetime 'for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.' We find ourselves continually beset by enemies. This is no figure of speech, but an actual fact. Everybody knows that he possesses evil habits and traits of character that are positive enemies to him, often destroying not only his happiness here, but his hope of the world to come. And what is worse, they are stronger than we, so that we cannot successfully fight against them.

"From all these enemies, more dangerous than any earthly foes, we have a sure refuge. 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.' David wrote, 'The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.'

"This refuge is real. The walls of Shechem and Hebron did not protect a refugee from his enemy so securely as God keeps those who flee to Him from the sins that beset them.

"Try it. When the enemy presses upon you, lay hold upon the promises of God, and they will be to you a wall which no temptation can pierce. Satan himself in person cannot get through them to lay violent hands on one who is behind them. The God of heaven is infinitely more real, although invisible, than all the gods that can be seen; so His Word is a rock infinitely more real and more enduring than Gibraltar" (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, Oct. 10, 1895).

"We know the power of the resurrection of Christ only by experiencing the same power in the forgiveness of sins, and in overcoming sin. Thus we share even now in the resurrection of Christ, and that is the assurance of the future resurrection at his coming" (Waggoner, The Bible Echo, Aug. 1, 1893).

Read the immediate context of this week's memory verse (Heb. 6:17-20). Here we see that our hope is anchored in the high-priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Everything there reflects what is happening in actual fact in the hearts and minds of God's earthly children. In Revelation 3:20 our Refuge is pictured, ever knocking at the very door of our soul temple (see Selected Messages, book 1, p. 325). The faintest cry of the heart is heard by that persistent Visitor, and He will not fail to answer our invitation to come in. After all, what good is a refuge if it is far away and hard to reach? I have no refuge at all if it is not where I need it, when I need it to be there. Christ, ministering within the veil, "ever liveth to make intercession" for us (Heb. 7:25).

Thursday's lesson asks the question, "In what ways do we find the same kind of refuge and protection in Christ that those who fled to the cities of refuge found?"

A city of refuge was placed within reach of every Israelite. In the same way, faith is given to every human being (Rom. 12:3). "Since faith is the depending upon the word of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only.

"When he has made the way so plain, the justification so complete, and the peace so sure to all, and asks all people only to receive it all by simply accepting it from him, and depending upon him for it, why should not every soul on earth be thus justified, and have the peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ?" (A. T. Jones, Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 14, 1899, p. 104).

The second item on Friday's Summary of the lesson states the following: "The one guilty of killing another had no part in preparing this hiding place for him/her self." Another item on the list adds, "We had better just determine that the City of Refuge is our permanent home. We are privileged to stay there forever, hidden in Christ. To leave is to murder our Redeemer and to commit suicide. Freedom from the wages of sin is found only in Christ, the ultimate 'City of Refuge.'"

Consider the following: "Abiding with Christ is choosing only the disposition of Christ, so that he identifies his interests with yours. When you give up your own will, your own wisdom, and learn of Christ as he has invited you, then you shall find entrance into the kingdom of God. Entire, unreserved surrender he requires. Give up your life for him to order, mold, and fashion; take upon your neck his yoke; submit to be led and taught, as well as to lead and teach; learn that unless you become as a little child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Abide in him, to be and do only what he wills. These are the conditions of discipleship.

"Unless these conditions are complied with, you can not have rest. Rest is in Christ; it can not be found as something he gives apart from himself. The moment the yoke is adjusted to your neck, that moment it is found easy; and the heaviest labor in spiritual lines can be performed, the heaviest burdens can be borne, because the Lord gives the strength and the power, and he gives gladness in doing the work. Mark the points: Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart. Who is it that speaks thus?--The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory. He desires that your conception of spiritual things shall be purified from the fog of selfishness, the defilement of a crooked, coarse, unsympathetic nature. There must be the inward, higher experience. You must obtain a growth in grace by abiding in Christ.

"As these things were spoken, I saw that some turned sadly away, and mingled with the scoffers; others with tears, all broken in heart, were making confessions to those whom they had bruised and wounded. They did not think of maintaining their own dignity, but asked at every step, 'What must I do to be saved?' The answer was, 'Repent, and be converted, that your sins may go beforehand to judgment, and be blotted out'" (Jones, op. cit.).

"We have done mischief. We have sinned. What are the wages of sin? Death. Then who is after us? Death. Who had the power of death? Satan. Then who is after us? Satan. And we fled for refuge to lay hold on that hope set before us. Where is that hope? In Christ. Who is our refuge? Christ. Who is our city of refuge? … Now then, when we are in Christ, our refuge, can Satan touch us? He cannot. How do you know? It says so. Suppose we go out before the priesthood closes, what then? Satan can, and he will smite us, and our blood will be on our head. If we go out before the priesthood closes, we have no protection and he will take us. If that man would remain in the city ten or fifteen years he would have grown strong enough to meet his enemy, wouldn't he? He would have got experience there, and therefore he could say, 'I am strong enough now I am not afraid of any enemy; now I can go out. I can go out now, I am all right. That other fellow has gone away now and forgotten all about this.' But he is not able to meet the enemy, is he? Where is he able alone to meet the enemy? In the city. And in the city he does not have to meet him at all, does he? The walls of the city meet the enemy. That shield of faith that quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked--that shield of faith which is Jesus Christ, is the walls of our city of refuge, and the fiery darts of the enemy cannot get past it at all.

"Well then our strength and our safety forever, is only inside of our refuge, isn't it? And then when the priesthood closes, we can go everywhere in this universe--but not outside of Christ. Then we can go everywhere, and can the enemy do us any damage? No, sir. Let us stay in the City, brethren; let us stay in the refuge to which we have fled, where our safety is. And when we are there haven't we the victory? Yes, sir. In Him we have the victory. We can meet the temptation then with joy. Why, we have the victory before we meet temptation, haven't we? Then cannot we be glad? Wouldn't you rather have a battle when you know you have a victory before you start in, than to have no battle at all? Then let us do some of that kind of fighting. Come on, what is the use of being afraid? The victory is ours" (Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, Feb. 9, 1893, p. 205).


Saturday, December 19, 2009

"The Second Generation: Admonitions"

"The Second Generation: Admonitions"

Sabbath Afternoon: The questions posed in the last paragraph are especially appropriate for those of us who attempt to study the "most precious [1888] message." We recognize that some of our forefathers made some bad mistakes. Are we ready to "take up the mantle" now given to us? Are we ready to cross over Jordan and posses the Promised Land?

Sunday: The land (wealth) was generously provided by God and fairly divided among the families. The lesson for me is: Am I sharing the wealth God has so generously provided for me? Am I witnessing the gospel I have been privileged to receive?

The principle of gender equality is significant in the world's culture of that time. The fact that it was established as a statute speaks to our day. We especially as a people claim to be Abraham's true descendants. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).

The 1888 message certainly promotes true liberty in all areas.

Monday: The gospel principle of biblical solidarity is brought to light in this section. "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him" (Heb. 7:9, 10; see also Gen. 17:8). "And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23; see also Rom. 9:10-12).

A number of nations were poised on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Abraham's descendants through Ishmael, Isaac, and Keturah were there as well as the descendants of Jacob, Esau, and Lot. We can see the all-inclusive nature of the gospel invitation. Any of these nations could have acknowledged the God of Abraham and joined with Israel in inheriting the Promised Land.

Tuesday: "The Sacrificial System Reaffirmed" the extreme high cost of our salvation in the shed blood of Jesus and its eternal efficacy. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). God, through His Son loved us, died for us, and reconciled us when we were without strength, ungodly, sinners, and His enemies.

Romans 5 also tells us that through Jesus Christ we have received the gift of grace. In addition, we have received the free gift of justification. But it does not stop there. It goes on to say: when we receive the "abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, [we] shall reign [with] in Jesus Christ." Verse 18 emphasizes the universality of God's love by saying: "by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

As a bonus, verse 19 assures us that we will experience the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Wednesday: This section opens the door to a discussion of the core gospel teaching of God's Everlasting Covenant or Promise. It also brings along a teaching of the "Old Covenant." I want to share an Ellen White quotation here just in case some have not seen it. "Night before last I was shown that evidences in regard to the covenants were clear and convincing. Yourself, Brother Dan Jones, Brother Porter, and others are spending your investigative powers for naught to produce a position on the covenants to vary from the position that Brother [E. J.] Waggoner has presented. …You have turned from plain light because you were afraid that the law question in Galatians would have to be accepted" (Letter 59, to Uriah Smith, March 8, 1890; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 604).

Space limitations will not allow a detailed study of the Covenant Question here in this Insight. There has been a lot of material written by highly qualified writers. I recommend you to those sources. It is my opinion that one must start their study by investigating what E. J. Waggoner has written, and then go on from there.

I will remind you of this: God's Everlasting Covenant is His Promise. His word will come to pass because it has creative power in it. The Old Covenant is based on man's word or promise. Keep this in mind and don't make promises you know you cannot keep. If you make a mistake, go on your knees and God will forgive you just like He did the people in our lesson study.

Thursday: Perhaps there is a lesson for those who feel they know and have accepted that "most precious message" given in 1888. We have an obligation to go to the forefront of the "battle" to spread the gospel to the world.

Friday: Again this speaks to the heart of the controversy surrounding the 1888 message in the 21st century. We must not forget our history because we are repeating it. In addition there is a concerted effort to re-write our history by (so called) historians.

May God bless each of us as we stand on the border of the "Promised Land!"

--J. B. Jablonski

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Immorality on the Border"

"Immorality on the Border"

In our denominational history the 1888 rejection of Christ and His Holy Spirit as the beginning of the latter rain can be likened to the rebellion of ancient Israel when the twelve spies returned from their search of the "goodly land." Ten of the spies denied that they could conquer the land, which was in essence denying God's covenant promise to Abraham. Their failure to comprehend the full depth of the covenant promise and their lack of faith in God caused them to magnify every conceived obstacle. Only two men stood before the entire congregation and proclaimed "we are well able to overcome it" and enter the Promised Land by faith in God's power alone (Num. 13:30). This rebellion among the people included the rejection of the prophet who stood with Caleb and Joshua (Num. 14:1-5).

At Minneapolis in 1888, there were two men and a prophet who proclaimed "we are well able" to proceed to the heavenly Canaan through faith in Christ's righteousness and His power over all sin. The majority spurned this good news, rejected the message, the messengers, and the prophet who supported them. In so doing the leaders of the church also rejected Christ who delegated those two messengers and gave them the message they were proclaiming (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1353; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 90-91, 96-98). Thus, because of unbelief what should have been "a quick work" has resulted in more than a century of wandering in the wilderness (Review and Herald, Oct. 6, 1896; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 450; vol. 5, p. 217; vol. 9, p. 29).

Following promptly on the heels of the rejection of the Spirit of Prophecy and the message of Christ and His righteousness in the context of the everlasting covenant, we find a plunge into pantheism. J. H. Kellogg influenced many of the leadership to accept a false concept of the very character and essential being of God. The pantheism openly promoted by Kellogg beginning at the 1897 General Conference Session, and especially in his book The Living Temple, is no different than the ancient Canaanite religion that caused Israel to stumble on the very borders of the Promised Land. Opening the door to spiritualism this "alpha of heresies" paved the way for our deepening confusion regarding the Gospel of righteousness by faith that would ensue over the next half century. "In the 1950s we borrowed and endorsed the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones's concepts of 'righteousness by faith.'" E. Stanley Jones preached a "deficient Christ" who could be augmented through the acceptance of supposed "truth" found in all religions, including Eastern mystical pantheism. Highly refined spiritualism was being offered to the church, but it is a terrible counterfeit species of righteousness by faith that destroys confidence in God. Through theological compromise Baal was usurping the place of Jehovah, and we didn't even notice (see Knocking at the Door, p. 83; Faith on Trial, chap. 1; Baal Worship and the Long Delay).

In the midst of this theological confusion on July 11, 1950, God again sent two messengers to the leadership of the church with a plea to recover the message of Christ and His righteousness as A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented it during the years 1888 through 1896. Elders Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short attended the General Conference Session that year as delegates from Africa, where they were serving as missionaries. Impressed by the call from Elder L. K. Dickson for the church to correct our course, and "make a right turn at this session where we took a wrong turn in 1888," these two young missionaries wrote a letter to the General Conference Committee that resulted in nearly 60 years of debate. Key points in this letter included the observation that the spiritualistic sophistries introduced by Kellogg, and the highly refined spiritualism and false "Holy Spirit" promoted by E. Stanley Jones, had deceived the people of God into departing into Baal worship even while hovering on the very brink of the heavenly Canaan.

Flipping back to our present study we find that the children of Israel were at ease, parked on the eastern shore of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land. All their enemies had been subdued and perhaps they were feeling a trifle smug (even Laodicean?). Balaam's curse had proven to be a blessing, and they now viewed the man (mistakenly) as a prophet of the true God of heaven--an erroneous opinion that Balaam promptly used to an evil end. Having failed to curse Israel, Balaam switched tactics and under the guise of friendship and goodwill, he threw an enormous party on Mount Peor. Enticing as many of the Israelite leaders as he could to attend this festival, Balaam charmed God's people through sensuous pagan music, visually stimulating religious pageantry, and the allure of sexual fantasy. "Passion had full sway; and having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to idols" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 454). Israel committed spiritual adultery within sight of the Promised Land when they should have been taking possession of the precious promise of God's everlasting covenant. Some of the brightest lights went out in this apostasy (see Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 80-81). Moses warned ancient Israel (and us) to not make any covenants with the unbelievers, "for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Him above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:1-11). Be aware, what Satan cannot accomplish by direct frontal attack he will achieve through beguiling subterfuge. Since the fall of our first parents compromise with error in the name of improvement, unity, or increased knowledge has always been Satan's method.

During the mid-1950s and concurrent with the confusion over who God is and what constitutes righteousness by faith, Satan brought yet another challenge to the leadership of the church. Beginning in the spring of 1955 and continuing until the summer of 1956, a series of conferences took place between the leadership of our church and two Evangelicals, Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter R. Martin. Barnhouse was editor of Eternity magazine, theology consultant for Billy Graham, and author of an article which discussed the challenge for people from various theological positions to understand one another. Martin was a Southern Baptist minister, consulting editor for Eternity, and author working on a manuscript he hoped would define the aberrant theological views of several major cults in America. His intention was to include in this work the Seventh-day Adventist Church primarily because we held certain "heretical views" such as Christ taking upon His sinless nature the fallen nature of Adam at the Incarnation*; Christ's on-going ministry in the heavenly sanctuary since A.D. 31, and Christ's work since 1844 in cleansing the hearts of His people (see The Consecrated Way, pp. 119-121); the investigative judgment; Sabbath as the seal of God; and the mark of the beast (to mention only a few points of contention).

According to Mr. Martin, the main thing which hindered our acceptance into the Evangelical fold were certain "divergent teachings" in the older Adventist literature. Because of our expressed "eager desire to join" with the Evangelicals, Martin hoped that once these divergent views were pointed out to the leadership of the church, the aberrancies would be remedied through editorial control and harmonization with the Evangelical theological position. Fear of exposure as an heretical cult caused modern Israel to take yet another left-hand turn which resulted in serious compromise on certain fundamental doctrines of the church that make us distinctive from all other religions on earth. We were now retreating toward Egypt (for applicable counsel see Testimonies vol. 5, pp. 217-218). M.L. Andreasen stated plainly that "The present conflict within the denomination is not one of semantics, as some have insisted. It is a question of our denominational existence."

How did God solve the apostasy at Baal-peor? Leaders of the people who were foremost in the apostasy were ordered executed and their bodies hung up as a testimony that God's justice would be swift and sure. The execution followed corporate repentance and involved a corporate action on the part of the whole camp. Those repenting for the sins committed on Mount Peor were not the ones who rebelled against God; the rebels were killed. Spiritual adultery will not be tolerated, but will receive just recompense. Our success and prosperity depends on our remaining a separate and distinct people. We are a movement specially called by God in direct fulfillment of prophecy to carry the message of Christ and His righteousness to a world living under fatal deception and dying in sin. But Satan has been quite successful thus far in frustrating the purposes of God for His "peculiar people" and the world at large. Taylor G. Bunch stated that "1888 is not only an important date in the history of the Advent movement because of the message that began at this time, but also because it marked the beginning of Satan's greatest efforts to strengthen his positions and thwart the purpose of God through His people." Compromise of God's truth for the sake of "unity" has no place in this final war. "The enmity of Satan against good will be manifested more and more as he brings his forces into activity in his last work of rebellion; and every soul that is not fully surrendered to God, and kept by divine power, will form an alliance with Satan against heaven, and join in battle against the Ruler of the universe." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 465).

--Ann Walper

*It should be noted here that the editions of Bible Readings for the Home Circle published after 1888 and before the 1950s contained a succinct description of the nature which Christ assumed, that was written by E. J. Waggoner. In the editions published after the meetings with Barnhouse and Martin, those notes were rewritten to expunge any mention of the fallen nature.


Baal Worship and the Long Delay, Donald K. Short.
Faith on Trial, Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short.
The Knocking at the Door, R. J. Wieland.
1888 Re-Examined, R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short.
An Explicit Confession Due the Church, R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short.
Exodus and the Advent Movement in Type and Antitype, Taylor G. Bunch.
Letters to the Churches, M. L. Andreasen (Leaves of Autumn Books).
The M. L. Andreasen File (compilation by Laymen Ministry News).
Christianity Today, Feb. 5, 1990, “The Recent Truth About Seventh-day Adventism,” Kenneth Samples.
Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin.
The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists, Walter Martin

Thursday, December 03, 2009

"The 'Madness' of the Prophet"

"The 'Madness' of the Prophet"

Our lesson this week refers to the "madness" of Balaam. It is appropriate that the word "madness" is in quotes. From a worldly standpoint, he was not mad in the sense of angry or insane, he was clever and shrewd.

Though not an Israelite, God favored Balaam with direct communication. Balaam probably earned or enhanced his income by his reputation as a prophet. He must have seemed a pretty smooth operator, at least until his untimely death. Technically, he complied with God's instruction not to curse Israel. His pious protestations that he could only speak the word of God resulted in Balak upping the ante, thinking Balaam was stalling for more money.

If Balaam was truly loyal to God, he could have assured Balak that God had told Moses not to bother Moab or Ammon, both relatives of Israel through Lot's daughters. But, greed was taking over.

The miraculous experience with his donkey makes it incredulous that Balaam continued his journey to the Moabite king. But, the promise of wealth was too much. What a show he made, seven altars, seven sacrifices, the retreat to a "high" place to communicate directly with God. All was calculated to impress the watching Moabites, though it might have been more of a ploy for time. Balaam must have been hoping to concoct a curse that was acceptable to both sides, just tough enough to impress Balak, but vague enough to get around God's instruction. How silly to think God can be fooled.

Given the many remarkable aspects of this story, the most curious is the gullibility of the Israelites. Balaam suggested that the Moabites begin a campaign to entice Israel into idolatry to their gods, Baal and Ashtaroth. Why Israel fell for this is beyond comprehension. It must be remembered that Moses wrote the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, where this story is recorded. He was alive during this episode. He must have reminded Israel that God had promised to deliver the land to them, so concern about animosity from the locals was unfounded. The golden calf debacle was fixed in their recent history. They should have understood the dangers of idolatry. Why did they fall for a clumsy counterfeit?

The answers must be blamed on both Israel and Balaam. Balaam was the worst kind of deceiver. Posing as a pious man of God, he had authority to bring Israel what we might term "new light." The implication is that they were being exclusive in accepting only that light which came from God's messengers. Just imagine the arguments: "We need to mix with Moab, to make friends in the name of 'friendship evangelism.'" "We need to dialogue with them, hear their understanding of various doctrinal points, exchange thought papers even on clear points of theology, just in case they have light for us. After all, Balaam does receive communication from our God." "We need to minimize the more controversial aspects of our faith, avoid hot button words." Poor Moses, at the end of his career and life, his job just got harder.

Why was Israel so receptive to the ploys of the Moabites? Could it be that they were slightly embarrassed at being such a "peculiar" people? After all, no one else believed as they did. What harm is there in just opening a dialogue? Even though God had tenderly cared for them, working miracle after miracle for years, they kept remembering the "good old days;" familiar things, not to them, but to their parents in Egypt. They were "worshipping" their own ideas, not the direct instructions from God. This is why Jude 11 connects Balaam with Cain and Korah. Suffering from greed, idolatry, and pride, no wonder they refused the warnings of Moses.

This spirit is still present. We have only to look at the history of our church and the special message God gave to us through Jones and Waggoner. As they were publishing their articles in the Signs of the Times in the 1880's,opposition was being published in the Review and Herald. By the time of the General Conference session in 1888, many minds were probably closed, even when the acknowledged servant of the Lord urged acceptance.

Truth is always a two edged sword, it cuts both ways. There will always be opposition by some to the truth when it flies in the face of their experience.

"Here is where we have met the greatest difficulties in religious matters. The plainest facts may be presented, the clearest truths, sustained by the word of God, may be brought before the mind; but the ear and the heart are closed, and the all-convincing argument is, 'my experience.' Some will say, 'The Lord has blessed me in believing and doing as I have; therefore I cannot be in error.' 'My experience' is clung to, and the most elevating, sanctifying truths of the Bible are rejected" (The Bible Echo, Dec. 19, 1904).

Those of us privileged to hear and study this "most precious message" naturally want to share it as much as possible. When the message is presented to folks who have a different experience, there can be disapproval, opposition, and, frequently, advice on how to present "the message" in a more palatable manner. While the Lord will always give kind and gracious ways to present the truth, we can never become inadvertent Balaams by distorting, omitting, or watering down truth to garner favor and gain. We may not be satisfied with what we see as lack of progress in spreading the truth, but that is not our problem. We are to preach the Word, the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to hearts.

--Arlene Hill