Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Walking in the Light: Renouncing Worldliness"

"Walking in the Light: Renouncing Worldliness"

The 1888 message was to "lighten the earth with glory," a light that would penetrate honest hearts worldwide. A "voice from heaven" would speak to every human soul, "Come out of Babylon, My people!" (Rev.18:2).

But His message was not a terrifying demand, "Do the impossible!" Instead of a do-it-yourself works trip, it was a faith-experience. Like dew falling on parched crops, the message was a gentle shower of grace which "abounded much more" than all the abounding sin the devil could invent. God was not trying to find a way to keep you out of heaven, but to get you ready to go in.

Ellen White saw that the 1888 message was "the third angel's message in verity," "new light." It was not only that Jesus pardons sin; He saves from its power and slavery. There is hope even for addicts.

It was a new look at the cross of Christ. When Christ gave His blood for the sins of the world, He redeemed the lost human race: "He, by the grace of God, [tasted] death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9). In other words, He died every person's second death, His final punishment for sin. And He did all this before we had any chance to say yes or no. Christ's sacrifice has already "delivered" him from that fear which has enslaved him through "all [his] lifetime" (vss. 14, 15).

Christ's sacrifice has reversed for all men the "condemnation" which came upon us all "in Adam." He literally saved the world from the premature suicide that sin would have brought upon us. (Rom. 5:15-18, NEB).

Here is power to motivate! We experience justification by faith, which is a change of heart. So, says Paul, "present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead." From now on, no sacrifice is too difficult to make for the One who you know has already saved you from hell itself (Rom. 6:12-14; 5:1). Such love constrains one to live for Him.

Coming into sharp focus, justification by faith is seen as much more than a legal declaration of acquittal. No one can be reconciled to God and not at the same time be reconciled to His holy law. Justification by faith makes the believing sinner become obedient to all the commandments of God (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-93). This is the secret of overcoming those many addictions that plague the sinful human race. It becomes impossible for anyone who truly believes the gospel to go on living in sin, which is transgression of the law of God.

The 1888 message revealed a new and higher motivation--a concern for the honor and vindication of Christ. Faith becomes a heart-appreciation of the great love revealed at the cross, irrespective of a desire for reward or a fear of hell. Such "faith ... worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6).

More Good News. All of us are sick spiritually and need a physician for our souls. Jesus had to undergo special training to qualify as our great High Priest. (Heb. 2:14-18).

Christ as a High Priest has come so close to us in His taking our human nature that He knows the full force of all our temptations. Whatever your temptation, however low you have fallen into sin, however terrible is your feeling of despair, however poisoned your guilt, "He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him." He is on duty 24 hours a day, and never sleeps (Heb. 12:4; 7:25). You are like the only patient this Physician has; He gives you His full-time attention.

--Robert J. Wieland

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Walking in the Light: Keeping His Commandments"

"Walking in the Light: Keeping His Commandments"

"Fellowship" with God is to "know" Him. To "know" God is to "keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3). This is not a "relationship" motivated by fear for "our eternal life or our eternal destruction." Rather, it is motivated by "the love of God" (1 John 2:5).

A "relationship" with God implies seeking God; and our initiating faith expressed through earnest prayer, going to worship, etc. (which are all good). But sinners do not initiate a relationship and "seek after God" (Psalm 10:4). The Good Shepherd has come "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).

God in Christ has legally adopted the human family. John expresses this in the words of Jesus: "Abide in me" (John 15:4, 7). John says the brethren "abideth in Him" (1 John 2:6; cf. 2:10). The race of sinners derives temporary life by virtue of Christ's death for their sins. Each individual may chose to abide in Him and so "walk" in His life; or they may chose to opt out of the family and continue their personal alienation from God by walking outside His life.

Keeping "His word" (1 John 2:5) means believing the good news of the gospel. It is "the love of God." This is "the propitiation for our sins"; not only believers' sins, "but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). This gift to the world is God's love.

Jesus chose to sacrifice His life and pay the ultimate penalty; eternal death, so that no one may ever have to experience what He went through on His cross. He paid the price of eternal separation from His Father. He permanently yielded the independent use of His divinity to the Father. He died without the hope of the resurrection. All this was to win the fellowship of human hearts to God. Such love should at least evoke a heartfelt "thank you" from human lips. That is faith.

Faith sees that Jesus loves the brethren. Jesus loves "the whole world." Jesus' delight was to do the will of His Father. His whole life is a walk in His Father's commandments. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).

John teaches that it is possible for sinners to "keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3). This is "the love of God perfected" (1 John 2:5). So John is teaching character perfection.

The question arises: How can sinners keep the commandments? As E. J. Waggoner has aptly commented: "Some people expect a great deal of humanity; God does not. It is not to be depended on, and therefore we are exhorted to become partakers of the divine nature. Human nature will always be imperfect, but the nature of God may take its place, and that is perfection." [1]

The answer is twofold: (1) keep "His word" (1 John 2:5); and (2) abide "in Him" (1 John 2:6).

You may chose by faith to believe the promise of "His word." All the commandments are ten gospel promises from God.

Righteousness by faith is choosing to "abide in Him." "Walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). There is no life outside of Christ. He is the personal Life-giver who forgives sin and cleanses from "all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Allow His life unhindered to move throughout your daily routine.

The Apostle Paul says of the heathen, that "they have their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18). Apart from His life there is darkness. The Holy Spirit moved David to say to God, "For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9). Since the life is the light, this is the same as saying, "In Thy life shall we see light."

How is the life of God to be obtained? The life of God is bestowed through the Holy Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39), which may be had for the asking in sincerity and faith (Luke 11:13).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] E. J. Waggoner, "Walking in the Light," The Present Truth 9, 30 (October 26, 1893), p. 467.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Walking in the Light: Turning Away from Sin"

The truth is that if you could turn yourself from sin you would not need God, and if you could turn from one sin, eventually you could turn from all sin and Christ would have died in vain.

"To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities" (Acts 3:26, NKJV).

"Each one may say if he will, 'O Lord, I am Thy servant, ... the son of Thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds' (Psalm 116:16).

"The thing is true whether we believe it or not. We are the Lord's servants, though we may stubbornly refuse to serve. He has bought us; and having bought us, He has broken every bond that hindered us from serving Him. If we but believe, we have the victory that has overcome the world (1 John 5:4; John 16:33). The message to us is that our 'warfare is ended' and our 'iniquity is pardoned' (Isaiah 40:2).

'My sin--oh, the bliss of the glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!'

"All this deliverance is 'according to the will of our God and Father.' The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). And He 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11). 'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men' (Titus 2:11, RV). God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [1]

Ever remember that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and not the power of man.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul writes that he did not come declaring the mystery of God with excellency of speech so that their faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. He only wanted to know Christ and Him crucified among them. Colossians 1:26, 27 explains that the mystery of God "is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (glory being character). Following this mystery of God to Revelation 10:5-7, we read, "in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." This is the finishing of God's character in us just before the close of probation.

Writing about the experience of the apostle Paul, Waggoner says, "1. The Gospel is a mystery. 2. It is a mystery that is made known by revelation of Jesus Christ. 3. It was not merely that Jesus Christ revealed it to him, but that he was made to know the mystery by the revelation of Jesus Christ in him. ... The conclusion therefore is that the Gospel is the revelation of Jesus Christ in men." [2]

Being crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the present mortal life that I am now living in this flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). "Even now Christ bears the sins of the world, for 'in Him all things consist.' ... Therefore, wherever sin is found, there we may be sure is the cross of Christ." [3]

"So believing in Christ, we are justified by the faith of Christ, since we have Him personally dwelling in us," by the Spirit, and "exercising His own faith." [4] His faith that never failed to keep the commandments of God and His endless life that endures in us to the end (Rev. 14:12).

"In Romans 6:6 (KJV) Paul writes, 'Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.'

"That which is destroyed is the body of sin, and it is destroyed only by this personal presence of the life of Christ. It is destroyed in order that we may be freed from its power and may no longer need to serve it. It is destroyed for everybody, for Christ in His own flesh has abolished 'the enmity,' the sinner's carnal mind. Our sins, our weaknesses, were upon Him. For every soul the victory has been gained, and the enemy has been disarmed. We have only to accept the victory, which Christ has won. The victory over all sin is already a reality." [5]

"The offense of the cross is that the cross is a confession of human frailty and sin and of inability to do any good thing. To take the cross of Christ means to depend solely on Him for everything, and this is the abasement of all human pride. Men love to fancy themselves independent. But let the cross be preached, let it be made known that in man dwells no good thing and that all must be received as a gift, and straightway somebody is offended." [6]

The flesh cannot be converted. It must be crucified. --Daniel Peters
[1] The Glad Tidings, Ellet J. Waggoner, edited by Robert J. Wieland, pp. 13, 14 (Pacific Press Publishing Assn.; Glad Tidings Publishers).
[2] The Everlasting Covenant, Ellet J. Waggoner, pp. 18, 19 (Glad Tidings Publishers ed.).
[3] The Glad Tidings, p. 44.
[4] Ibid., p. 42.
[5] Ibid., p. 43.
[6] Ibid., p. 113.

Friday, July 03, 2009

"Jesus and the Johannine Letters"

The Beloved John, The Loving Disciple

John's pastoral love for the believers is not sentimental self-seeking love, but a sincere concern for the children of God, whom he considers his own. John's love is demonstrated in his concern to correct errors that have come into the church.

The Heresy of Docetism
The teachers of this heresy had left the church, but their influence lingered. Docetism denies the reality of the incarnation and teaches that Christ only appeared to have a human body. John, probably the last living disciple, is in a unique position to refute this idea. He wastes no time, for in the first verse of the first epistle he states, "we have heard," "we have seen" and "our hands have handled." He establishes that he is a competent witness to the reality of Jesus Christ. Ellen White tells us John lived to be nearly one hundred years old (Selected Messages, book 2, p. 223). We can take comfort that God loves His faithful servants their entire lives, and uses them to share a special witness even when they are aged. We should not ignore them or their testimony.

The Heresy of Sinlessness
John uses three "If we say" hypotheticals to soften his warnings against what must have been folks in the church claiming they had stopped sinning. John calls them liars, but does not say they are sinning. There will come a time when there will be a people who stand fully cleansed and sealed, but that is not their message. They do not know their true condition, but are used by God to demonstrate to the universe that Satan is the liar when he claims God cannot dwell in His people to give them righteous characters.

"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." This statement in 1 John 2:4 is similar to John 14:15: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." In both, John is emphasizing that the actions stem from heartfelt love. It does not follow that if we outwardly keep His commandments, without surrendering the heart, that it will result in knowing or loving Him.

Warning of the Antichrist
The word "antichrist" is used only four times, all in John's epistles. Paul and Peter allude to apostasy or hypocrisy from within, which we understand to refer to antichrist (Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:1, 2; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4) Paul describes the "man of sin" as he "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God. ... (2 Thess. 2:3-4). In his epistles, John adds that the antichrist denies that Christ came in the flesh (2 John 7).

While we use the term antichrist to describe individuals and organizations who are worthy of the term, it is also possible that we avoid personal responsibility by doing so. If we are depending on our own efforts rather than accepting the righteousness of God to be assured of salvation, we will never have the confidence to keep the sign of loyalty to God, His Sabbath, come what may. One who denies that Christ came in the flesh when He came to earth, may also deny that He can come into human flesh today. If we insist that we can contribute to our own righteousness, we are attempting to preempt the role that only God can fill through His Son. It is only by accepting the mind of Christ that we receive that robe "without a thread of human devising."How is this done?

"... in order to have the righteousness of God--which is the latter rain, which is the preparation for the loud cry--we must have the mind of Christ only; ... This is precisely the advice that is given to us in the Scriptures: 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.' Phil. 2:5, 6. ... Now what mind is in us to start with? The mind of self. What does that mind do? It exalts self. ... Therefore as we have a [self centered] mind to start with, and must have another than that, while that other empties of self the one in whom it is, does it not follow inevitably that that mind which we have to start with, is a mind only of self? (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, #12, p. 257).

Satan's difficulty began when he looked at himself and allowed pride to work its destructive process.

"... he began to give himself credit for what he was ... He would be in the place of Christ; and anyone who puts himself in the place of Christ puts himself in the place of God, because God is in Christ" (ibid.).

If we cannot have the righteousness of God without having the mind of Christ, we must replace the self-centered mind we have naturally with the mind of Christ. How can we accomplish this?

"The word of God must be interwoven with the living character of those who believe it. The only vital faith is that faith which receives and assimilates the truth till it is a part of the being, and the motive power of the life and action. ... The followers of Christ must be partakers of His experience. They must assimilate the word of God. They must be changed into its likeness by the power of Christ, and reflect the divine attributes. ... This is genuine sanctification" (Signs of the Times, April 13, 1888).

"By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God's commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312).

As we study this quarter's lessons based on John's epistles, may we all, like the noble Bereans, search the scriptures for ourselves, so we assimilate the truth till it is a part of our being. Only when we deny any confidence in self will we have the assurance that no one can take away our faith.
--Arlene Hill