Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“Story & History”

“Story &; History”

This quarter we will study a series lesser-known characters in the Old Testament. Christ Himself considered the Old Testament important for the Bible says, "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the (Old Testament) Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). John says "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). All Old Testament Scripture reveals Christ. As we study each character, we miss the main point unless we ask, What does this person or story reveal about Christ?

The foundation of God's government is self-sacrificing love. Christ lives to give: "For God so loved the world that He gave… " (John 3:16). Satan has been misrepresenting God's character of love to the world: "So the dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). Speaking of Satan, Jesus said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).

Note: As we study Old Testament stories, we can see that people are either representing Christ and the principles of His kingdom, or they are acting like "their father, the devil."

The Setting

A plot to take the life of man had been laid before God breathed life into Adam. Satan had led a rebel host of angels in accusing God of being self-exalting (Isaiah 14). In truth, it was Satan who was self-exalting. Hidden in his heart was the desire to replace God, the only Being in the universe who held a higher position than he. Then he planned to rule the universe as he pleased. This plan shows how far Satan's self-deception had taken him. Were it possible for him to have annihilated God, his own life would have been instantly destroyed, because no one has life independent of his Maker.

In creating the human race with the capacity to choose, God risked the security of the entire universe. If man were to fall, Christ, who had humbled Himself from eternity past, would become the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 3:8). By separating from His Father, and allowing His divinity to be clothed with humanity, Christ subjected Himself to all the humiliation and torture demons in human form could possibly inflict. He waged a battle much greater than we will ever be called upon to fight. He sealed the fate of Satan and all his followers when He died victoriously on the cross. In so doing, He was not only the Creator, but the Savior and Re-creator of the world. What a theme to ponder!

Each character in this quarter’s lessons has a part to play in revealing to the universe either the character of Christ or the despotic nature of Satan. As we ponder the stories of the lesser-known Bible characters, we do well to review our own stories. We, too, are "lesser-known" characters. Our names may not be emblazoned on the pages of Holy Writ, but they are engraved on the hands of our Savior. Each of us has a part to play in the drama of the ages. History will faithfully record what part we have acted.

What is the story of my life? What is your story? Can you remember particular times in your life when you could sense God's drawing power? Have you fallen prey to Satan's lies? How has God revealed Himself to you in times of trial and perplexity? What is the story of our beloved Seventh-day Adventist church? Have we remained focused, or have we settled in and made ourselves comfortable on this rebel planet? Do we remember what it was that knit the hearts of the early advent believers together in hope of a soon-coming Savior? Do we understand their stories? Do we know what they sacrificed in order for us to enjoy the blessings we experience today?

A new book was released in June, 2010. The Return of the Latter Rain, by Ron Duffield (available through Glad Tidings Publishers or Light Bearers Ministry) tells the story of our Seventh-day Adventist Church history in a unique way. Hundreds of original documents, sequenced in chronological order, let the characters tell their own stories. The result is heart-wrenching and hopeful. History shows that God sent the message of the latter rain to us more than 120 years ago, by a couple of “lesser-known characters” who showed how all the Bible centered in Christ. One of the "Latter Rain" messengers, Dr. E. J. Waggoner, tells the story of how he first came to appreciate Christ in a new and personal way. Note the setting of the story and how it impacted his life:

"Many years ago, the writer was in a tent one dismal rainy afternoon, where a servant of the Lord was presenting the Gospel of His grace; not a word of the text or texts used, nor or what was said by the speaker, has remained with me, and I have never been conscious of having heard a word; but, in the midst of the the discourse an experience came to me that was the turning point in my life. Suddenly a light shone about me, and the tent seemed illumined, as though the sun were shining; I saw Christ crucified for me, and to me was revealed for the first time in my life the fact that God loved me, and that Christ gave Himself for me personally. It was all for me. If I could describe my feelings, they would not be understood by those who have not had a similar experience, and to such no explanation is necessary. I believe that the Bible is the word of God, penned by holy men who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and I knew that this light that came to me was a revelation direct from heaven; therefore I knew that in the Bible I should find the message of God's love for individual sinners, and I resolved that the rest of my life should be devoted to finding it there, and making it plain to others. The light that shone upon me that day from the cross of Christ, has been my guide in all my Bible study; wherever I have turned in the Sacred Book, I have found Christ set forth as the power of God, to the salvation of individuals and I have never found anything else (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (International Tract Society, 1900), p. V, as quoted in The Latter Rain, p. 45).

"At this time Christ was set forth before my eyes 'evidently crucified' before me. I was sitting a little apart from the body of the congregation in the large tent at a camp meeting in Healdsburg, one gloomy Sabbath afternoon. . . . All that has remained with me was what I saw. Suddenly a light shone round me, and the tent was more brilliantly lighted than if the noon-day sun had been shining, and I saw Christ hanging on the cross, crucified for me. In that moment I had my first positive knowledge, which came like an overwhelming flood, that God loved me, and that Christ died for me. God and I were the only beings I was conscious of in the universe. I knew then, by actual sight, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; I was the whole world with all its sin. I am sure that Paul's experience on the way to Damascus was no more real than mine . . . . I resolved at once that I would study the Bible in light of that revelation, in order that I might help others to see the same truth" (E. J. Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," May 16, 1916, as quoted in The Return of the Latter Rain, p. 45).

Brother Waggoner saw what we need to see in this quarter’s lessons as we study the underlying theme of Scripture: "And these are they that testify of Me" (John 5:39).

--Patti Guthrie

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"All the Rest Is Commentary"

All the Rest Is Commentary

In 1985 I lived in a small town in Puerto Rico. There was tension brewing in our little Seventh-day Adventist church.  It seems that one group of brothers and sisters in the church were highly critical of the other members of the same church.  Although the areas of disagreement were many (dress, TV and movie watching, etc.), the main issue was meat eating.  The vegetarian group told the meat eating group they would not go to heaven if they continued to eat meat.  For this, the vegetarian group armed themselves with quotes from Ellen White’s writings.  The meat eating group countered, “Show me from the Bible.” 
The fight came to a head when the vegetarian elder used the eleven o’clock hour to criticize others and uplift himself.  During the sermon, he mentioned that the church should not watch certain kinds of movies.  Then, later that same evening, the elder along with other members watched an a movie of the kind he had preached against, and boasted to others how much they enjoyed it. It seems that this hypocrisy totally escaped the elder’s notice.  

The Pastor could no longer stand the division, so he brought a well respected conference official to deal with the issue.  To make his point, the official concluded with a very colorful metaphor:  “Many vegetarians will not go to heaven because their tongue is too big, so much so that they will need two caskets: one for themselves, and another for their tongue” (compare James 3:5-8; 4:11).
In 2009, in a small suburb of Chicago, Illinois, in a small church with less than 20 members, a young man started to defend the wearing of wedding bands.  Many of the church members tried reasoning with him by stating that wedding bands are jewelry.  Of course, the usual arguments ensued.  Since the young man could not win the argument, he brought his “expert” to contend with the church members.  The two young men tried to defend wearing jewelry the entire afternoon.  Most of congregation could not believe that as late as 2009 this was still a debatable issue. 
In the year 2010, we are dealing with the same old issues that Paul wrote about in Romans 12 through 16.  In fact, we have even added a few since, while the same old excuses continue.  The argument on one side goes like this: “The Bible does not talk about that;” “I do not see anything wrong with that;” “You are too rigid and judgmental;” “Other churches are doing it;” etc.  Those on the “other” side say things like: “Ellen White says…;” “We have never done it that way before;” “This is not what Adventism is about;” “Not in our church!” etc.  One group creates a list of things to do and things not to do. The other group rebels against the lists. 

As we study chapters 12 through 16 of Romans, we realize that Paul was dealing with situations that are very similar to ours.  This should come as no surprise; we are talking about people with sinful human natures.  People were self-willed then and are still self-willed today.  The only cure for self-will is the Gospel.  Paul saw and experienced the self-emptying nature of Christ’s love which changed his life forever.  The Holy Spirit came to dwell in Paul, and transformed him from a Gentile hater and Christian persecutor into a man willing to give up eternity if, by his sacrifice, others would be saved.  Thus Paul became like Christ, identifying himself with those he sought to save.  To Paul, life was no longer about what he wanted. Life was about what God willed. 
In Philippians 2:5 – 9 Paul said to his beloved church members, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  In other words, “Submit yourselves to Christ for the sake of others as He submitted to His Father for our sake.”   In this light, it should come as no surprise that Paul asks the mature brethren to be compassionate and understanding towards the weak brethren whom he saw as “babes in Christ.  He tells them in Romans 15:1-3, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”

 Paul expects more from those who have received more.  And, he knew that the babes in Christ needed nurturing; something only a mature Christian could give them.  Paul knew what he was talking about; he was a babe in Christ once. 

I believe the biggest problem we have in Christianity is the lack of mature Christians.  Church members are not likely to be criminals, i.e. murderers or thieves, but they can have the coldest of hearts.  The church needs people who, like Paul, allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in them and transform their minds and hearts and actions into the likeness of Christ.  People who feel the pain when others hurt.  People who will encourage and pray for those who do not see everything just as they do instead of condemning and rejecting these struggling souls.  This living demonstration of Agape will not only change our churches, it will also hasten Christ’s return.
                                                                                   –Raul Diaz
In closing this quarter’s lessons, we do well to consider the following excerpt written by E. J. Waggoner and found in Prophetic Lights, page 133.
The apostle James says: "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned; behold, the Judge standeth before the door." James 5:9. What a picture! We are all here expecting the Judge soon to come to decide our eternal destiny. The position we occupy when he comes will determine our fate. If we are humbly working, he will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." If we are striving with one another, instead of against sin, he will say, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Even now he is at the door; his foot is upon the threshold, and his hand is upon the latch. Who, realizing this, can harbor resentment in his heart? Suppose the Judge should open the door, and find us in the act of smiting our fellow-servants! Surely this thought is enough to cause us to "live soberly, righteously, and godly."
Time now is closing, yet "the whole world lieth in wickedness." The mass of mankind in all ages have rejected the mercy of God, and so it will be now. But "though the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved." Some out of every kindred and people and nation will wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. For such, mansions are preparing, into which "an abundant entrance" will be ministered when the King comes to claim his own. Of such he will not be ashamed; and in the midst of the great congregation he will call them brethren. Poor and despised they may be now, but then they will be exalted to a place at God's right hand. Glorious thought! "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly;" and as we contemplate the glorious rest and peace that he will bring, our longing hearts respond, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Law and Love"

It happened in 1992 or 1993.  I was a student.  I had to choose between paying for food or paying for car insurance.  I really loved my 1969 Buick, but when it came right down to it, I chose to buy food.
Everything went well until the day the dreaded flashing red and blue lights came on right behind me.  My stomach churned as I pulled to the side of the road and contemplated my lack of the mandatory insurance verification card.  The silver buttoned, blue eyed officer swaggered up to my side of my less than road-worthy car.  I told him that although I did not have insurance, I could produce a current driver's license. The officer was not impressed.  He impounded my car. 

I was forcefully reminded that 'the authorities that exist have been established by God' (Romans 13:1).  I was prompted to thank the officer for giving me the citation, and for impounding the car since by doing this he was doing what God had appointed him to do - uphold the law.   

The officer looked at me as if I had forgotten to take my medication.  I parted ways with my car and with the policeman, but some of the lessons I learned that day have never left me.  I have not been without insurance since then, though it was only 'Third Party Coverage' most of the time.  

I wish that all my encounters with the law had been as exemplary and cordial.  At times I have been radical--like the times I participated in protests against the repressive South African government at the height of Apartheid or “Apartness.”  I am thankful to the Lord that He removed that unjust government without the violence that my passive resistance could have incited.   

The law is anything but passive.  It confronts me in many different ways.    The most constant and wounding encounters are those in the home where love is most closely tested.  How does love relate to the law?

For many years I saw the law as a standard that I had to measure up to.  I knew that I must keep it perfectly, and I knew that I was a failure--until I came across this life-changing insight shared by Elder E. J. Waggoner:

The giving of that law was one of the highest manifestations of love that could be because it preached to the people in the strongest tones that there was life in Christ.  The One who gave the law was the One who brought them out of Egypt.  He was the one who swore to Abraham that he and his seed should be righteous, and this showed to them that they could not get righteousness in the law but that they could get it through Christ.  So there was a superabundance of grace, for where sin, by the giving of the law did abound, there grace did much more abound.  That thing is acted out every time that there is a sinner converted.  Before his conversion he does not realize the sinfulness of his sins.  Then the law comes in and shows him how awful those sins are, but with it comes the gentle voice of Christ in whom there is grace and life.

How precious it is to have that conviction of sin sent to our hearts, for we know that it is a part of the work of the Comforter which God sends into the world to convict of sin. It is a part of the comfort of God to convict of sin, because the same hand that convicts of sin holds the pardon, that as sin had reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.  In this grace we have again those precious words, “much more.” “Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds" (Romans 5:20).
 --1891 General Conference Bulletin p.139

The Law is the schoolmaster that takes us to Christ.  In our brokenness, disobedience, lawlessness, guiltiness--it takes us to Christ.  I need Christ.  How about you?  I need this painful, comforting work in my life.

There is more.  This love that Christ has for you will not leave you broken, disobeying, lawless, or guilty.  The law serves as a protective barrier.  

Just recently I have come across a clarification that has been helpful with regard to the seemingly negative 'thou shalt not' tone of the Law.
The Napoleonic code on which much of European law is based since about 1798 presumes that what is not expressly permitted is forbidden.  In contrast, the Common Law Code on which American law is premised since about 1798 assumes that what is not forbidden is permitted.
Our home runs much more smoothly on the Common Law.  God's Law is stated in the negative since it underlines what is forbidden so that we can have access to all the freedom that it does not forbid.  It truly is the law of liberty.  “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ASV).  “So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty” (James 2:12).

-- Ricky Kearns

Note: Pastor Paul E. Penno has prepared a verse-by-verse study on Romans chapters 12 and 13. If you would like a copy please respond to this e-mail and ask for "Romans 12 and 13." It is also available at: http://www.1888mpm.org/articles/romans-12-13-verse-verse-study
Additional reading:* For "Clear Definitions of Agape and Faith," Robert J. Wieland's "Dial Daily Bread": http://www.1888mpm.org/blog/clear-definitions-agape-and-faith
* E. J. Waggoner on "Romans 12" and "Romans 13":

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Insight: "The Election of Grace"

Insight #11, September 11, 2010

Third Quarter 2010 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

"The Election of Grace"

My Bible has section headings designed to give the reader a hint as to
what to expect in the ensuing verses. There are 2 headings in Romans
10.* For verses 1-13 it says, "Israel needs the gospel." Verses 14-21
have the heading, "Israel rejects the gospel."

Paul stated clearly that the gospel is what Israel needs. "For I am not
ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation
for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek"
(Romans 1:16). Verse 1 of this chapter says that the gospel concerns
Jesus Christ, the Son of God. "For the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it
is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

So, the gospel which Israel needs and which concerns Jesus Christ is the
message of the cross. This simple yet profound and multifaceted
definition is, for Paul and for us, the foundation of our experience. It
is efficacious and sufficient for beginning and sustaining the Christian
life. It prevents the apostasy described in Romans 11. "For since, in
the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased
God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who
believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we
preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks
foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God
is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. But God
has chosen the foolish things of the world to pout to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the
things which are mighty" (I Corinthians 1:21-25, 27). Praise God!

Sadly, Paul tells us in Romans 10:20, 21, "I was found by those who did
not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me. But to
Israel He says, all day long I have stretched out My hands to a
disobedient and contrary people." Paul's heart desire, according to
verse 1, is that Israel would respond and be saved. Then, in verse 2 he
says, " For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but not
according to knowledge." Paul also said that before his conversion he
had a zeal like that, so he understands Israel's problem.

What is the "zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" that Paul
originally had, and now Israel also has, and for which the gospel is the
remedy? Verse 3 tells us. "For they being ignorant of God's
righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not
submitted to the righteousness of God." The simple answer to our
question: "...they have not submitted to the righteousness of God."

This error hits at the foundation of the gospel of God, which concerns
Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God has been manifested in the faith
of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21, 22). This legal language speaks of God's
justice and mercy which allows Him to be just, and also the justifier of
the one who has the faith of Christ (Romans 3:26). All of this is
wrapped up in the message of the cross. God sent His Son as a sacrifice
for the sins of the world. We rebelled and refused to believe (Romans
3:3), but Jesus remained faithful to the covenant between Himself and
His Father. The faith of Jesus, shown by His "righteous act," satisfied
the requirements of the law and justified the world so that "many will
be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).

The divine faith of Jesus - affirms God's unbreakable love. "God proves
His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for
us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus is the assurance from God that makes human faith
possible. Therefore, Jesus makes righteousness possible.

The zeal that is "not according to knowledge" fails to recognize the
righteousness of God as manifested in the faith of Jesus. It fails to
see the "righteous act" of divine love for all, that makes our faith
response possible. This is the point of Israel's ignorance. Paul wants
Israel to know that the emphasis is on what God did through Jesus
Christ. By faith, Jesus "was obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross" (Philippians 2:8). Through the resurrection, Christ has
constituted the beginning of a new humanity (Romans, chapters 5 and 6).
God has "predestined" this new humanity to be "conformed to the image of
His Son" (Romans 8:29). Because this manifestation has taken place
"apart from law," through Christ's action, the new humanity includes
Jews and Gentiles. He became "a servant to the circumcision for the
truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the
Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written...rejoice O
Gentiles, with His people," (Romans 15:8). Romans 10:4 says, "For Christ
is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

In the book, Waggoner on Romans, page 164 we find this gem. "We have
seen that the end or object of the law is the righteousness which it
requires...the law of God is the righteousness of God. But this
righteousness is the real life of God Himself and the words of the law
are only the shadow of it. That life is found only in Christ, for He
alone declares the righteousness of God (Romans 3:24, 25). His life is
the law of God since God was in Him. That which the Jews had only in
form is found in fact only in Christ. In Him the end of the law is
found. The gospel is powerful good news, and it produces a life
transforming faith as we begin to understand. Faith comes by hearing the
good news. So Paul says 'how beautiful are the feet of those who preach
the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things' (Romans

What if we do not obey the gospel? Will God cast us off? "God has not
cast away His people whom He foreknew" (Romans 11:2). "The Lord will not
forsake His people for His great name's sake, because it pleased the
Lord to make you His people" (1 Samuel 12:22). "See I have inscribed you
on the palms of My hands, your walls are continually before Me" (Isaiah
49:16). Praise God! "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable"
(Romans 11:29).

As we survey the wondrous cross this Sabbath, I pray that we will say
with Paul, "But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence
of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the
loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ and
be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law,
but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which
is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:9).

May we have a zeal for God which is according to true knowledge. Amen

--Lyndi Schwartz

*All scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of
the Bible

For an excellent companion book to these studies, please see Waggoner on Romans: the Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, by E. J. Waggoner. You may access the complete book at: http://www.1888mpm.org/book/waggoner-romans

For Jack Sequeira sermons on Romans click here: MP3; Windows Media; Real Audio
 For the written version click here
 For a paraphrase on Romans click here