Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The passages in 1 John 3 and 4 presented for our study this week are a commentary on the words of Jesus found in Mark 12:29-31. I cannot improve on this exposition by the "Beloved Apostle." I recommend that each of you my dear readers read these verses over and over and meditate on them! However, I will try to emphasize some gospel issues that strike me as important.
Both the title and content of the lesson encourage us to love our "brothers and sisters." According to Acts 17:26 all men and women were "made of one blood." God finished His creation on the sixth day when he created Adam and Eve. That means God created all of us "in Adam." We can only conclude that everyone in the world is our brother and sister. This admonition is to love everyone with special emphasis on loving our brothers and sisters who have joined with us in forming the church which is to be the "bride of Christ." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).
The last two sentences in the note in Sunday's section of the lesson present what just might be the most profound truth of Scripture. (Abbreviated, it reads: "... only as we understand what happened at the cross ... can we come to love God as we should.") We can never fully experience justification by faith unless we can "see" and have "deep heartfelt appreciation" for the cross of Christ. When the disciples finally "saw it" they were never the same and they turned the "world upside down." According to the record in the book of Acts, the early church members gave everything to the church and each other with a pure motive of love. Because we are deceived by our own Laodicean condition, we are not seeing the cross of Christ and are not filled with God's love.
Monday's lesson asks us to define love. My concordance indicates that John is consistently using the Greek word agape (both noun and verb forms) in these passages. This is God's unconditional love as opposed to human love. God's love is best defined by the cross of Christ. This Divine love is self-sacrificing, and Paul wrote about it in Philippians 2:5-8. Note, he says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." If we experience the "mind of Christ" while walking in the Spirit, we will be filled with God's love and it will flow to all of our brothers and sisters. The notes on this page contain helpful material for our study.
Tuesday's lesson speaks of faith and assurance of salvation. We must always remember that the place Jesus prepared for us is sure and secure in heaven (John 14:1-3). It is guarded by heavenly guards. Satan cannot get at it and no one will steal or destroy it. However, our faith is, "in us." It is constantly under attack by Satan and his agents. When we are tired after a hard day, our faith can become weak. We might even feel lost. The reality exists; we are still sinners living in a sinful world.
We should always look to the source of our salvation. We are saved by the grace of God. His act of grace motivated by love provided that place for us in heaven. As we accept that gift of grace, God's love flows into our hearts (Rom. 5:1-5). "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).
It all boils down to a test of faith. All Jesus asks of stewards is that they be faithful. He said, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? "(Luke 18:8). The lesson note says: "Being grounded in His love drives away all fear." On Monday, the author used the expression "abide in love." Jesus Christ is love. Expressions like "abide in love," understood in the context of John 15 where Jesus introduced the "in Christ" concept, are powerful in grounding our assurance of salvation.
The Ellen G. White quotation at the bottom of the page is based on Zechariah 3. Joshua represents us. Like him, we stand in filthy rags. In fact Revelation 3 states we stand naked. Notice how Jesus rebukes Satan and clothes us with His robe of righteousness. Please take the time to read that chapter and enjoy the assurance of salvation that passage gives.
Jesus presented the summary of the Ten Commandments as two great commandments. As Wednesday's lesson heading states, that is love in practice. Our love for our brothers and sisters is measured by our self-sacrificing service for them. Not just service but self-sacrificing service is God's love in action. Jesus gave us the example when He walked the dusty paths of this earth.
This passage makes it very clear that we cannot love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters. The quarterly asks: "Which command is harder to follow?" The fact is, it is impossible to love God if we do not love our brothers and sisters in self-sacrificing service. I would add the question: "Where is it most important to practice this Godlike love?" The answer is: "at home." The breakdown of the family unit is a very serious problem in the world and in the church.
Thursday's lesson presents "Love and the Commandments." "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).
"As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 333).
Jesus Christ's "command" to love is a promise that in and through Him we can have that experience. What more can I say?
--J. B. Jablonski
Friday, August 14, 2009
This week we take a look at sin and how God dealt with it. Just as in John's day when he wrote this letter, there abounds many false teachings concerning sin and overcoming sin. A major chafe is the matter of our "relationship" with Jesus. In Sunday's lesson the Quarterly correctly states that "The new birth is His [God's] work, not ours," but then throws the truth into a tailspin by stating that "we do not need to worry about our status as children of God as long as we maintain our relationship with Him." This shift places all the weight of the burden upon my shoulders, and legalism or antinomianism is often the result as I being to depend upon myself to meet the requirements of God.
Two points to consider here. Number one: as God's creatures, we always have a relationship to Him, no matter what, whether we're sinners or overcomers. Even Satan and his fallen angels have a "relationship" with God. Granted, it isn't a very good one, but they nonetheless have a "relationship" with their Creator. Point two: Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30). This is an appropriate metaphor. The ox yoke is purposely made with one bow larger than the other, and farmer puts his strongest ox on the side that will bear the heaviest weight. The weaker ox goes into the small bow, and his burden is lighter because his stronger brother is pulling more of the load. How does the weaker ox maintain his "relationship" with his stronger brother? Simply by submitting to the will of his stronger yoke-mate. Oh yes, the weaker ox can fight, he can pull in a different direction, and he can chafe against the yoke. He can stubbornly refuse to move forward when the farmer gives the command to his lead ox. But if he does not resist, and if he will fall into step beside his stronger brother, then his burden is indeed light and his work is not hard.
In the letter under study the Apostle John was addressing the heresy of Gnosticism, which denied that Jesus actually took upon Himself fallen human flesh. "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1 John 4:3). In the opening words of his letter, John declared "we have touched Him, we have seen Him!" Jesus is real, not some phantom or figment of the imagination. When John said that Christ came "in the flesh" he used the Greek word sarx, which can only be understood as the concrete form of sinful flesh into which all humanity have been born. Anyone who denies this is exhibiting the "spirit of antichrist." "The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study" (Ellen G. White, The Youth's Instructor, Oct. 13, 1898). Mrs. White also stated that "study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field" and highly recommended it, even to youth. Contemplating the nature of Christ should not be left to PhD theologians. But she also stated, "In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend" (The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896). The nature which Christ assumed is to be our worthwhile study, but don't expect to get to the bottom of its expression of God's love for lost mankind. All of eternity will not be long enough to plumb the depths of God's unfathomable agape.
If Christ did not take our fallen, sinful flesh which needed redeeming then there was no use in His coming in flesh at all. In His capacity as God He certainly has the power decisively to deal with sin, and "destroy the works of the devil" by merely zapping Satan and all his followers out of existence. But such is not the way of God.
The atonement was to be accomplished through every aspect of Christ's life not just His death and resurrection, which paid the penalty for sin and proved God's power over death. Facing the devil on his own ground, in flesh that was susceptible to temptation through the laws of heredity, Christ overcame all and gained the victory over sin in the same flesh in which we have to face the devil. This is powerful, wonderful good news! As our elder, stronger Brother Jesus took the yoke upon Himself and bears the burden. "Only by His subjecting Himself to the law of heredity could He reach sin in full and true measure as sin truly is. ... In delivering us from sin, it is not enough that we shall be saved from the sins that we have actually committed; we must be saved from committing other sins. And that this may be so, there must be met and subdued this hereditary liability to sin; we must become possessed of power to keep us from sinning--a power to conquer this liability, this hereditary tendency that is in us to sin. ... And to keep us from sinning, His righteousness is imparted to us in our flesh; as our flesh, with its liability to sin, was imparted to Him. Thus He is the complete Saviour." (A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 48, 49; emphases in original). By taking upon His sinless nature, our fallen sinful nature with all of its hereditary liabilities, Jesus proved the genius of God (see also The Desire of Ages pp. 49, 117, 123, and 311). The atonement solved a number of problems in that one divine event.
"The only plan that could be devised to save the human race was that which called for the incarnation, humiliation, and crucifixion of the Son of God, the Majesty of heaven. After the plan of salvation was devised, Satan could have no ground upon which to found his suggestion that God, because so great, could care nothing for so insignificant a creature as man." (Signs of the Times, Jan. 20, 1890). We can only stand in complete awestruck silence in the face of such love. And in that awestruck silence we begin to develop an appropriate sense of appreciation that will motivate us to vindicate God's name through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our life to overcome every temptation Satan can think to throw at us. If God gave this much, how can I continue to resist and fight against His easy yoke? (see Steps to Christ, pp. 27, 47, 63, and The Desire of Ages, p. 176).
And then there's that tricky word "absolute." Many claim that we can not have "absolute perfection" because only God is "absolutely perfect." Our Quarterly stresses the "absolute sinlessness of Jesus" on one page, and then referring to 1 John 3:6 and 9 declares regarding John's admonition to cease from sinning, "this sounds quite absolute." Indeed, it is absolute. John does not in any way countenance the idea of a life of continued sinning for the person who claims to follow Christ. The nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation leaves no loopholes for any of us to claim that sin is too powerful to conquer. Overcoming sin in our lives, right now, is not a trivial or peripheral subject--it is the crux of whether or not the Gospel's message is true. It is time to stop quibbling about the subject of sin in our lives. We must be decisive about our involvement with the world and it's sins. So long as we entertain the notion that we can't help but stumble, we will most assuredly continue to stumble. However, Paul admonished us: "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14). "Though sin is real, Christians have no choice but to put it away from their lives, no matter the cost."
And what is the cost? Death. Death to self through full submission to Christ: " ... Christ can not come in fully, unless there is a full submission to Him. Let there be some dying here. Let there be some actual dying to self. That is what it means; it means death." (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 299, original edition).
Thursday, August 06, 2009
CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST
Antichrist means opposed to Christ. The spirit of antichrist is, therefore, the spirit that is opposed to the Spirit of Christ. The apostle John says, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1 John 4:3). There are many forms of it, for the same apostle says, "Even now there are many antichrists" (1 John 2:18). But no matter what the form or the disguise, the spirit of antichrist is primarily the spirit of Satan, for his is "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
The great opponent of Christ does not always carry on his work of opposition openly. He "is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14), and "deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). Now no one can deceive unless he appears to tell the truth; therefore it must be expected that Satan will in his work counterfeit the truth as nearly as he can. Christ warns us that "there shall arise false christs, and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:24). This being the case, no one need be surprised to find that Satan has carried and does still carry on his work under the guise of Christianity. It is only when people are quite fully given to his service, and there are few to challenge it, that he throws off his disguise.
If it were possible, he would deceive the very elect. And why is it not possible to deceive them? Christ gives the answer. He said of the shepherd of the sheep, "When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers" (John 10:4, 5). And then He said, "I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine" (vs. 14).
In becoming acquainted with Christ, therefore, and in that way only, can we escape the deceptions of the enemy. It is necessary that we study the Spirit of Christ so that we may know by contrast the spirit of antichrist. This is very clearly set forth by the apostle Paul, in his exhortation to us to have the same Spirit [see Phil. 2:1-8].
The characteristic of Christ is here seen to be humility. He says of Himself, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29). Note well that when He came to earth He took upon Himself only the form of a servant. That does not mean that He did not serve, for He also said that He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (20:28). What is meant is that He had only to take the form of a servant, because He had the mind to serve before He came to the earth to give His life on the cross.
This is a far different spirit from what prevails among men. The highest virtue known among men is for a man not to seek that which is not his own. The common form of self-justification is, "I want nothing but what is due me; I simply want my rights." But that desire was not in Christ. He gave up His own. He committed everything into the care of the Father, who "highly exalted Him," because of the mind that was in Him, which was the mind of God, for "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:19). If men who stand so firmly on their rights, demanding that they shall be accorded everything that is due them, were consistent, and claimed the same thing from God, it would fare hard with them.
The study of the Spirit of Christ is an inexhaustible subject; but we [can] form a sharp contrast with the spirit of antichrist. Christ declared that His kingdom was not of this world, whereas Satan claims the whole world as his own (see Luke 4:5, 6). Therefore he is called "the god of this world," and the "prince of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4; John 14:30). It is for this reason that in Ezekiel 28 Satan is represented as the king of Tyre, while the nominal king is called the prince of Tyre. When wicked men rule they are simply instruments in the hands of Satan, who is the real ruler. He is king, while they are only princes (vss. 12-17).
Satan lost his first estate because his heart was lifted up on account of his beauty. This is the first indication of the spirit of antichrist,--thinking of self. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isa. 14:12-14). Note that Satan's thought was all of self. The pronoun "I" is most on his tongue. He was going to be like the Most High. He would place his throne by the side of the throne of God. He was not content with being first among the angels; he must be God. He was sure that his talents and beauty deserved a far higher place than was granted him. Ambition caused his fall.
Mark the contrast between Christ and Satan. Christ had everything by right, being God by nature, yet He resigned all. He would not look out for His own interests, and let others look out for themselves; He emptied Himself, and thought only of others. Satan had nothing of his own, but only that which was given him, yet he designed to seize everything. He was a created being, yet he thought that he ought to be God, and that he could be. He would seize what his ambition craved, no matter what the consequences of others. This is the spirit of antichrist. Therefore we are justified in saying that the spirit of antichrist is simply the spirit of self.
Wherever self predominates, there Satan rules. The Spirit that works in the children of disobedience is the spirit of self. It cannot be too fully learned that self is Satan. Every manifestation of self is nothing but the manifestation of the working of Satan in man. Every sin among men has sprung from selfishness; and the perilous times of the last days will be due to the fact that "men shall be lovers of their own selves" (2 Tim. 3:1, 2).
On the other hand, "Christ pleased not Himself" (Rom. 15:3). Whoever will be His disciple must deny Himself. As Christ emptied Himself, and allowed God to appear in His fullness, so the disciples of Christ must allow Him to come into their hearts, driving away self by the same power by which He emptied Himself, that they may be "filled with all the fullness of God."
[If you would like to read Waggoner's entire article, or download it, please visit: http://1888mpm.org/