Friday, December 28, 2012

When All Things Become New

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
When All Things Become New
For the week of Dec. 29, 2012
When All Things Become New
Life’s experience itself has taught us that there are times when another repair on the car won’t due.  It’s not worth it.  It’s time for a new vehicle. Many experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy have found that a new home, a new garage, a new residence is the only solution. The devastation and degradation and corruption of sin will only be fully cured when a new heaven and new earth is in place.

We have tasted some ting of the power of this world to come.  We ourselves have experienced, often after groaning and travailing the new birth, and the newness of life that salvation through Jesus Christ brings --- here and now.  Being in Christ, we have become new creatures and rejoiced in our deliverance from the old man of sin.  But that work of justification and sanctification and living in the power of the risen Christ is not over and finalized until we have the ultimate and final deliverance into the glorious liberty of the sons and daughter of God. It will be something akin to that time when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. But actually it is beyond description.

Only One who can make something from nothing, one who is Creator, can truly make new men and women, and a new world devoid of the curse, the thorns, sickness, and the stalking plague of death.
From Mourning to Morning:  Reflections on The Dawning of A New World
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." I Thessalonians 4: 16 – 18

The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory to gather His saints together, to receive the willing, loving subjects of his kingdom  is the signaling event of the new morning. It is the dawning of the millennium.  This is the dawning of the day to which the prophet Peter refers when he writes, "We have a more sure word of prophecy whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day star arises in your hearts.”

By faith every believer will have already received the dawning of Christ as the day star, the bright and morning star,  in their hearts, the needful preparation to meet him in peace when he comes in glory, as opposed to fleeing to the rocks. For them, those who fear his name and give glory to God, the Sun of righteousness will have already arisen with healing in his wings --- the healing of justification and sanctification which are righteousness by faith. They know Him as the LORD THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jeremiah 23:5

His coming follows the time of trouble such as has never been upon the earth.  His people are prepared to stand by his work as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.  The “investigative judgment” has another side, that of preparing of a people (as John the Baptist did at the first coming) to go before Him (in his Second coming) and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, the disobedient to the wisdom (Christ) of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1: 17.

Christ’s priestly work has prepared them for the glorious morning when sorrow and sighing begin to flee away and when they enter into the  millennium rest, the sabbatical rest before the full dawning of eternal peace and joy following the executive judgment.  Of course, they will have already entered into Christ’s rest, because they recognize that it is his right-doing, holiness, law-keeping, obedience by faith and love in the Father, that has fulfilled the law, being the basis of their salvation in Him.

"And I saw another angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, abusos in Greek,  and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years…."   Revelation 20: 1,2

Note that Satan is put in a bottomless pit, an abyss, or in Greek abusos. This first appears in the Bible in Genesis in the Septuagint  as, “And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep (abusos in Greek, tachon in Hebrew).  This was the creation before God spoke light into existence, a prerequisite to life.  At the millennium, could the earth again become an abusos?

The angel Gabriel did many things:  He appeared to Daniel after twenty-one days of prayer (Daniel 10); appeared to Zacharias announcing the birth of John and Jesus, appeared to Mary telling her she would be the mother of Christ ( both in Luke 1); and He appeared to Joseph in a dream(Matthew 1) telling him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife.   So angels were busy in ministry throughout salvation history.  However, some things only Christ Himself can do.  Only He can bind Satan.  At the commencement of the millenium Christ’s coming itself effects that binding.  The wicked being destroyed by the brightness of this coming, and the righteous being delivered,  Satan has no one to tempt.  In a sense, Christ’s righteousness has bound Satan by developing a people ready to meet Jesus reflecting his agape love. One phase of the judgment is complete, and now the one who was the originator, the Father of lies and murder and sin itself is seized.  Just as the Azazel in the sanctuary service on the Day of Atonement Yom Kippur was taken  into the wilderness by a strong man and turned lose to die, so Satan is cast into the wilderness of the earth to await the end of the millennium.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection."  Revelation 20: 4–6

A higher level of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is embraced by the saints as they enter fully into holiness and are no longer fettered with corruption and the restraints of mortality.  They have overcome and the last generation in particular have “gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, and they stand on the sea of glass…Revelation 15: 2.  The Words of Jesus Christ to the angel of the church of Laodicea are uniquely suited to them, “To Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne…” Revelation 3; 21. Trial, tribulation, the good fight of faith,  the experiences of sorrow and suffering, have all uniquely suited these saints, who feel their unworthiness, to sit on thrones in a role of judgment. and reigning with Christ.  Sorrow and sighing flee away into rejoicing and praise.  They now reign in glory, because where sin abounded, by faith, grace did much more abound.  Brokenhearted over the fruits of sin, beholding the cross of Christ, they have let grace reign unto righteousness, so that when the call went forth “… He that is righteous, let him be righteous still” they could be found righteous in Him.

They will no longer see through a glass darkly, but now seeing face to face, the mysteries of salvation, the great controversy, the government of God, and the nature of redeeming love begin to be unfold before them under the tutelage of Christ Himself.  ( See I Corinthians 4: 5).

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth to deceive the natinos which are in the four quarters of the earth…And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and he beloved city: and fire came down deom God out of heaven, and devoured them."  Revelation 20: 7-9

Incredibly, after a millennium of rest in the presence of the God head, away from sin and sinners and Satan’s temptations and devices, the Saints are already beyond his grasp, but must yet encounter him as they behold the clearest revelation of the ferocity and force of the principle of sin.  The drive for power, control, and self-centered dominion continues to drive Satan as he, inspite of a thousand years of reflection on the consequences of his rebellion, decides to continue his rebellion.  He is indeed a captive to Himself.  He is indeed driven.  Even for us now it is highly sobering and instructive to consider the lethal power and bondage of sin, broken only by the cross of Jesus Christ.

Clearly Jehovah’s integrity is beyond reproach.  Just and true are his ways!  If He were an earthly politician, he would have had advisors who encouraged him to engage in a cove- up about  Lucifer’s rebellion, the origin of sin and the issues of the great controversy.  Instead he has chosen to uncover these things, to lay these issues out before us and the unfallen worlds, allowing all to judge Him. Truly, how Great is Our God!
-Michael Horton

Friday, December 21, 2012

Last Things: Jesus and the Saved

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Last Things: Jesus and the Saved
For the week of Dec. 22, 2012
 Watching Versus Waiting

 Although the words ‘watch’ and ‘wait’ are often used synonymously, there is a subtle difference between the two. To wait means to be in readiness or to remain at rest in expectation. To watch is to look and wait expectantly or in anticipation. Waiting can be done while doing other activities while watching encompasses the concept of waiting and requires full attention from the watcher. A person may be waiting and still miss the thing they are waiting for; but this is unlikely to happen if they are watching. The following story illustrates the difference.

Gina, a young girl, asked her grandmother to watch for her as she was coming to visit that day for the weekend.  And naturally, Grandma Lisa promised she would. Wanting to stress the importance of her request, Gina repeated it several times to her grandma, asking, “You’ll watch won’t you? You’ll watch for me grandma, right?” Lisa, who was now becoming exasperated, responded several times that she would. On the day that Gina was due to arrive, Grandma Lisa thought, “I still have time to complete a few chores before Lisa visits, so I’ll just do them and then go outside and wait for Gina and her parents.” However, despite Grandma’s best intentions, she became engrossed in her tasks and lost track of time. Suddenly, Grandma Lisa heard the bell. “Oh no, she thought, that can’t be Gina already.”  Running to the door, Lisa opened it expecting to see an excited Gina. But instead, Gina was very sad. “Why the sad face Gina, aren’t you happy to see your Grandmother?” Grandma Lisa asked. To which her granddaughter responded, “Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you.” “Honey,” said Grandma, “I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you.” “But Grandma,” replied Gina, “I did not want you to waitfor me; I wanted you to watch for me.” She wanted her grandma to be outside expectantly looking for her. 

This story reminded me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25).  They were portrayed as standing or sitting expectantly awaiting the groom who could appear at any time.  As the night grew old the bridesmaids fell asleep.  While asleep a loud cry awoke them in the middle of the night, “The Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.”  As they opened their eyes, the night was dark, and they could barely see, so they rushed to light their lamps.  We know the rest of the story; some could light their lamps because they had extra oil. Others, unprepared with extra oil, could neither light their lamps to herald his coming, nor enter in. What is represented by the oil?  Ellen White is quoted in the devotional, “That I May Know Him,” with an answer to this question. 

In the parable, the foolish virgins are represented as begging for oil and failing to receive it at their request. This is symbolic of those who have not prepared themselves by developing a character to stand in a time of crisis. It is as if they should go to their neighbors and say, ‘Give me your character or I shall be lost.’ Those that were wise could not impart their oil to the flickering lamps of the foolish virgins. Character is not transferable. It is not to be bought or sold; it is to be acquired (That I May Know Him, p. 350).

In contrast to the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had righteous characters.  So, although the wise virgins appeared to be as indolent as the foolish ones - none of them were watching for the Groom - the wise virgins had retained oil, and therefore were prepared for the wait. Living by faith, they were enabled to receive the groom.  With that said, what would have pleased the Bridegroom more: if the virgins had been waiting or watching?  Or both?

As, the Groom approached the bridesmaids he must have noticed that they had been sleeping and that five were missing.  We can only imagine his perplexity and disappointment, as he questioned, “Weren’t they supposed to stay awake and light the way to the banquet hall? How is it they all fell asleep? And why were only five prepared for the delay?”  “They all knew I could come at any time. …” It did not look good. 
Was this a sign of things to come?  This incident revealed that the bridesmaids became weary after the long delay. And that while they anticipated a delay, they did not anticipate an extended wait period. 

There are things hidden deep within the recesses of each of our minds, things which only the Holy Spirit through time and circumstances can reveal to us, that we may through repentance and forgiveness, receive its blotting out. Whenever a promise is given of the Lord, a time period of waiting ensues before He fulfills His promise to us. His goal is neither to drive us to distraction nor to frustrate us. Instead, He desires us to wait patiently, expectantly, watching, enduring and persevering until its fulfillment.

Waiting is not a natural human tendency. We want whatever it is-now. And our selfish natures find many ways of attaining our desires. Often subconsciously we present our thinking or behavior in the most moral or rational light, as we attempt to conceal our true purpose, for self to gain the promised blessing now.

Jesus implied that in the Christian’s life, waiting patiently would be an issue, that’s why He went so far as to say, “When I come, will I find faith on the earth?” The delay which He is using for our good, in order to reveal our true hidden state to us while there is time to repent, is instead used by many to fulfill self’s own goals, which is to avoid true self knowledge.

By remaining in union with the source of renewing energy or power, the Holy Spirit, we are enabled by faith to ‘be renewed in the Spirit of our minds’ (John 15, Romans 12:1). The battle after all is for our minds as well as our affections. Watching and waiting patiently are not inactive pursuits; they require vigilance, as well as resting and reposing in the Father.  

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek (inquire of) Him.”  “You therefore beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:17).
-Raul Diaz

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christian Life

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
The  Christian Life
For the week of December 15, 2012
The Christian Life
“Anyone can call himself or herself a Christian. What, though, does that mean in practical terms?”
Nothing is more practical than the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is the only way to arrive at “correct living,” because any good work produced is His work:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10.
The lesson this week is thus a study in some of the ways the indwelling of Christ is manifested in the life of the believer.
For example, proper stewardship of resources is simply the practical application of the Faith of Jesus. What did Jesus believe about ownership? From whom did He receive all things?
The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. John 3:35.
And how does this impact how we view our “possessions,” as we call them?
Yet for us [there is] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom [are] all things, and through whom we [live]. 1 Cor. 8:6.
As the verses in Sunday’s lesson indicate, we see the Lifegiver laying down His life, showing that humility of complete dependence on His Father, and thus showing us the stewardship of the Father - He also loves to give. This is the essence of stewardship - agape love. This is what we need dwelling in us - not simply the concept, but the real deal.
Tithe then becomes a token of complete surrender to the One who gave Himself to the race, and redeemed the race from the curse, restoring the blessings of God (Monday). 
Identity is probably a better hook than “love for self” on which to hang our thoughts about how we view ourselves (Tuesday). This identity change is possible only as we see how complete was the union of Christ with humanity:
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know [Him thus] no longer. 2 Cor. 5:14-16.
The “in Christ” theme is not just a motif, it is the motive for living and giving!
Marriage becomes a one-way covenant (Wednesday), a promise to love and cherish our spouses according to the law of agape love, which is what is needed living in bodies affected by the curse. By the faith of Jesus, we are looking for the redemption of our bodies from the curse (1 Cor. 15), even as we treat them as the temples of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19). This has practical application in our marriages.
Faithfulness in our relationships, be they those of employment, civil society, or social circles, is based on God’s faithfulness toward us and His entire creation. This is of course in the context of the Great Controversy, where we see the effects of the battle raging in all of these areas. Only the mind of Christ knows how to negotiate the conundrums which are created for us on a daily basis.
From W.W. Prescott:
“Writing the law in the heart is simply having Christ dwell in us. Christ was the living law, the law in life. Christ's Spirit is the Spirit of that divine-human life that lived in obedience to God's commandments. That is the Spirit He puts upon us, His other self dwelling in us. The law of God is ministered by the Spirit of God. When that comes into the heart, it is Christ Himself; it is "Christ in you the hope of glory." And when Christ comes into our hearts, He is the living law, the law of God worked out in character. Christ dwelling in our hearts, means bringing the character of God into our lives. Keeping the commandments of God is manifesting the character of Jesus Christ.” (January 27, 1896 WWP, BEST 28.1) 
From Ellen White:
“In Peter's talk to Cornelius and his company, he told them "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil; for God was with him." These are the works that he did; for God was with him. Nicodemus said, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him;" and Christ himself said, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." God was with him as his indwelling life and power. How this experience was accomplished is made plain by the scripture, "For he whom God has sent speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." The Spirit was not given by measure; it was the fulness of the indwelling Father. "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. That is to say, God was in Christ, working in him, reconciling the world unto himself, and he dwelt in him in his fulness by giving the Spirit to him without measure. That was the Father dwelling in him, and the Father dwelling in him was the working power in him. Not that Christ had no power of himself, and could not have worked himself, but we must keep before our minds continually that Christ voluntarily took a position that his own character did not require him to take, in order to help us out of the position that we are in, where we cannot help ourselves. He consented to this experience of living wholly by the life of another, keeping his own self in abeyance, in order that another's self might appear in him, to be an example for us, and further, in order that this experience might be possible for us. There is a wonderful mystery about the incarnation of Christ, that his experience in the flesh should be our experience in the flesh by his dwelling in us. And when he came to identify himself with flesh, and to dwell in flesh, it was not simply to dwell in flesh in Galilee, but everywhere where flesh would submit itself to his indwelling. This is why Christ identifies himself so closely with his followers, because it is he himself in his followers. This is not to be regarded as a shadowy experience, beyond our daily life. This is to be our daily life, and we are to rise above the idea that the power to live is in ourselves, and that we have to depend upon our own might. To set forth the example of Christ without the power of Christ is of little avail. God has not left us simply with Christ's life before us as an example, but Christ came in the flesh, came to live the life of righteousness, identifying himself with human flesh, in order that he might through all time identify himself completely with his followers, and that he might live in them, to be life and power and wisdom and righteousness to them. The life that Christ lived in Judea is the life which we are to lay hold of by faith in the promises of God. 
Now the giving of the Holy Spirit is the giving of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ in us, and the power of the Holy Spirit is the power of Christ in us, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the indwelling of Christ in us, for the Holy Spirit is Christ's actual representative.”   (GCB 632) 
-Todd Guthrie

Thursday, December 06, 2012

“The Law and The Gospel”

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Law and The Gospel”
For the week of Dec. 8, 2012
“The Law and The Gospel”
This week’s lesson is about God’s law and His gospel. There are those today who oppose the gospel of Christ while others oppose the law of God. What is needed is spiritual eyesight to behold and believe the close relationship between the law and the gospel.

An Adventist minister was told, “The ten commandments have nothing to do with us now. We are not in the dispensation of the law, but of grace, so that the law is not binding on us; it is all done away with.” “Really” was the reply. “Did not Jesus say we are not to even to think that He came to destroy the law, but to fulfill it? (Matt 5:17). The Bible tells us Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), not the works of God. Why did Jesus come to fulfill the law? Was it that we might violate it? Not at all. We were doing that already, for ‘all have sinned,’ and ‘sin is the transgression of the law.’ Surely no one in his right mind can really think that Christ came and died, in order that men might be able to do that which they had been doing all the time!”

But does not Paul say, “You are not under the law, but under grace?” He certainly does, and he immediately adds: “What then? Shall we sin [transgress the law] because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6 14, 15). Those who are not under the law are the only ones who can and do keep it. The moment one breaks the law, he is under it. The law then has its hand upon him, condemns him, and holds him for punishment. But grace saves us from the punishment which the law indicts upon transgressors. Grace saves us from transgression. Before grace says “yes” to us, its first work is to say “‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.” Titus 2:12, NIV). It takes away the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, and gives us in its place the righteous mind of Christ, which is of the same nature as His law (Phil 2:5; 1 Cor 2:16).

In some minds the law is too narrow and is considered strange as it did to Ephraim, “I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12). The Psalmist declares that God’s “commandment is exceedingly broad” (Psa 119:96). From God’s word we learn that it is not the law that is too narrow and strange, but rather, it is the carnal mind of man that is strange and narrow. It is not subject to the law of God and can never be (Rom 8:7).

The Psalmist wrote that “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” Psa 19:7-9. From this we gain knowledge that the principles involved in the law are righteousness, purity and perfection.

So, may we conclude from this that anyone regarding the law of God as something strange, must be a stranger to conversion, to righteousness, purity, and perfection? This is not to say that we keep the law in order to be converted, nor to become pure and perfect. Neither the entire law, nor any single command of it, was designed to be a means of salvation.

It is through Christ alone that God justifies, converts, purifies and perfects us. He frees us from the bondage of sin, – in order that we may keep His law. God first redeems; then enjoins. It is only when God has cleansed the heart, and driven out every idol, living within us by His Spirit, that His commandments can be kept.

God does not change; His law and His gospel do not change. He has one way of saving men. Christ is that way. “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10: 49). “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  His “goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2), and He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8) These texts make it certain that there is but one way of salvation from the beginning to the end of time, and that is Christ, who is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

This was, and is, the message of Minneapolis. It presented justification by faith in Christ alone. It invited people to receive Him and His gift of righteousness. His righteousness is pure and perfect and converts the most weak and helpless human being who receives it in faith. Christ’s righteousness within the believer “is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God,” but “many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent.”[1]

According to David, as quoted above, conversion is associated with God’s holy law. How then, does the law and the gospel come together in the process of conversion? Paul’s letter to the Galatians has insights into this. Before faith in Christ came to any of us, the law “confined [as in prison] all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor[2] to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:22–24). Here the Law and the Gospel work together, the purpose of which is conversion. To be under the law is to be under the dominion of sin and thus under condemnation (see Rom 6:14). It is clear that the law locks up, as in prison, all who are not converted. The law drives unbelievers to Christ for salvation, in that it drives the unconverted to Christ for relief and for release.

The law gives the convicted sinner no rest until he flees to Christ. The past tense in Gal 3:24 can be used here only by those who have come to Christ and have been justified by faith, as Paul shows in the next verse. The idea here is that of a guard who accompanies a prisoner who may be allowed to walk about outside the prison walls. Since the law was our guard, our taskmaster, our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, it must still be its office to those who are not joined to Christ, and must retain that function until everyone who will accept Christ is brought to Him. The law will be a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ, as long as probation lasts.

After a person is justified by faith, s/he is no longer under the law; no longer under the dominion of sin; no longer condemned; no longer shut up by the law, because he has been driven to Christ – the attainment and object of the law. For “Christ is the end [the object, the aim, the purpose] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4).

So then, a heart-felt faith of appreciation for the gospel of Christ our Righteousness, our Redeemer, brings us into harmony with the righteous law that had previously condemned us. Evidence that we have the correct message and experience of righteousness by faith is found in the very law itself. It testifies in the believers behalf. It witnesses to the fact that we have the genuine article of heaven’s eternal righteousness (Psa 119:72; Rom 3:21). Anyone who preaches a righteousness that denies any of the commandments of God cannot be preaching the gospel of Christ and His righteousness. This can be demonstrated by the inseparable relationship between Christ and the Sabbath.

The Sabbath points to every blessing of salvation that is in Christ. He invites us to come to Him for “soul” salvation “rest” (Matt 11:28, 29). After Jesus created the world and all that is in it, He “rested on the seventh day.” The Sabbath pointed to that perfect creation rest (Gen 2:2). After man sinned, the Sabbath pointed to redemption’s rest – to that freedom of “rest” from bondage – found in Christ alone. Creation and redemption are the same in purpose and by the same power of Deity. This is accomplished by the divine creative power of God’s word by which all things were created in the beginning as outlined in Genesis one. Anyone who accepts Christ, the Word as Savior, by faith becomes a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17).

The blessing of the Sabbath also points to the blessing of justification by faith (and all other blessings) in Christ (Gal 3:8, 9; Eph 1:3; Gen 2:3). This continues with sanctification, likewise. God sanctified the seventh day (Gen 2:3). This points to the sanctification through Christ by God’s powerful truth (John 17:17, 19). The Lord’s holy day – the seventh-day Sabbath – in like manner points to the holiness that we find in Christ (Ex 20:8, 11; 1 Pet 1:15,16).

The fourth commandment is a summary, an epitome, a microcosm, an embodiment, of the entire righteousness of the law, thus demonstrating that the Gospel of Christ and the Law of God are not antithetical to each other. They are in perfect harmony. The whole law witnesses to everything we receive from Christ, namely, justification and rest and sanctification and holiness.

-Jerry Finneman

[1] Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 92
[2] Luther translated this word “tutor” or “schoolmaster” more closely to the original meaning than many of our English translations. He called the law “a “custodian;” a “taskmaster;” an “executioner” as a jailer “holding him captive in prison.” (Luther’s Works, Vol 26, p. 346).

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Church: Rites and Rituals

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
The Church: Rites and Rituals
For the week of Dec. 1, 2012
The Church: Rites and Rituals
            Our Sabbath School lesson for this week about rites and rituals stirs memories from my early experience and the decision I made to follow Jesus in baptism.
            What about you? Do you remember the day you were baptized? What events led up to your decision to give your life to Jesus? 
            If you're the one teaching the lesson this week, it might prove rewarding to invite people to take a minute or two to share their testimony of coming to Christ. Through the vicissitudes of life, it sometimes happens that we forget our first love, Jesus. That is why often bringing to mind the precious experiences of God's leading in the past serves to build our faith while living in uncertain times. 
            I was blessed to be raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home. When the great evangelist Fordyce Detamore gave a series of meetings shortly after we moved to town, my parents took my younger brothers and I to the meetings. We wanted to win a free Bible, and since this was the inducement offered for those who didn't miss a night, we went every night! Elder Detamore's preaching was Spirit-filled and convincing. As I beheld the pictures of large beasts coming out of the sea, I was awed by the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. One night, Elder Detamore invited all who desired to give their hearts to Jesus in baptism to come forward. Needing no second invitation, I rose from my seat and made my way to the front row of the auditorium. After completing a series of Bible lessons at school, I was one of several who was baptized a few weeks later on December 6, 1969. I had just turned nine years old.        
            Subsequently, I was allowed -- for the first time ever -- to partake of the communion bread and grape juice and participate in the foot washing service. The reverence and simplicity with which these services were conducted formed a deep impression on my youthful mind. My introduction to these ordinances which Jesus Himself enjoined on His followers until He returns proved a great blessing over the years, as I witnessed the family of God--old, young, rich, poor, and of varied ethnicity--coming together and serving one another in remembrance of Him.
            I feel a bit nostalgic for those days. Over the past few decades, our beloved Seventh-day Adventist church has also experienced the vicissitudes of life. 
            Now, the press for baptisms seems largely targeted at populations where the gospel message is welcomed -- in countries other than our own. 
            The Lord's supper and foot washing service, while intended to reaffirm our commitment to Christ, has in some instances become simply another church ritual -- to be avoided if possible -- and conducted only infrequently in some churches.
            More than one hundred years ago the Lord sent a message to our church -- first through the prophetic ministry of Sister Ellen White -- and later through two young men who proclaimed the Good News with power. Had the generation of that day embraced this message (Jesus), we would have been in heaven "ere this." We are still here. 
            From the beginning of time God has been wooing His earthly children. Rituals that once embodied a precious faith and experience have grown stale and cold. While it is certain that Satan has come up with counterfeits to the true (the Eucharist and baptism by sprinkling, for example), doing the service even as God asked us to can still be only a form without Jesus in our hearts.
            Brother A.T. Jones wrote: 
            "For a person to be baptized in His name, signifies much more than merely to have the phrase recited over him and then to be buried in the water. To be baptized in the name of the Lord, really signifies that just as the person is buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of, in the water, so also is he buried, overwhelmed, and lost sight of, in the name, the character, the nature, of the Lord. It signifies that that person's old, original nature and character are no more to be seen in the world; but in their stead the nature and character of the Lord. It signifies that he is no more to be manifest in the world; but that God, instead of himself, is to be manifest in him in the world. 

            "This is what baptism 'in His name' signifies, both in the Greek words and in the doctrine of the Scripture. But how shall the people be baptized in His name, if they do not know His name! And how shall they know His name, if they are not instructed in His name, and to make manifest His name to the people? O, let the preaching be all "in His name" indeed, that the people may be truly baptized "in His name," that the promise may now be fulfilled, "My people shall know My name"! 
A. T. JONES. {October 24, 1895 ATJ, PTUK 678} 
            What  we -- and the world -- need now is Jesus. Not a watered-down,  feel-good religion that accommodates the sensuality and cultural -isms  of our day; we need the daily infilling of the Spirit of God. 
            "The Christian truth of the real presence of Christ converts the soul of the believer: the papal dogma pretends to convert the bread and wine. The Christian truth of the real presence of Christ believed, makes man subject to God in everything: the papal dogma makes God subject to man in everything. The preaching of the Christian truth of the real presence of Christ in the believer, is the revelation of the mystery of God: the preaching of the papal dogma of the real presence is the proclamation of the mystery of iniquity. A. T. JONES. {July 19, 1894 ATJ, PTUK 450.6}
            The Apostle John says, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works" Revelation 2:1.
            Writer W. A. Ogden wrote the words to this inspiring hymn found on page 258 of the SDA Hymnal: 
            Baptize us anew With power from on high,
            With love, O refresh us! Dear Savior, draw nigh.
            We humbly beseech Thee, Lord Jesus, we pray,
            With love and the Spirit baptize us today.
            Unworthy we cry, Unholy, unclean,
            O wash us and cleanse us From sin's guilty stain.
            O heavenly Dove, Descend from on high!
            We plead Thy rich blessing; In mercy draw nigh.
            O list the glad voice! From heaven it came;
            Thou art My beloved, Well pleas-ed I am.
-Pattie Guthrie

Friday, November 16, 2012

“Arming” for Victory

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Arming” for Victory
For the week of Nov. 17, 2012

“Arming” for Victory 

Everyone likes shoes to one degree or another – shoes are useful, protective and sometimes even beautiful.  They protect our feet from sharp or pointed surfaces and may prevent us from stubbing our toes.  Shoes can be costly or cheap – that is to say cheap shoes are not only inexpensive but can be poorly made. None-the-less, shoes are an important piece of protective wear.

Have you ever worn the wrong pair of shoes for an event, let’s say a wedding, and been embarrassed? Or perhaps you bought a pair either too large or too small and your feet (and body) suffered the achy consequences. Maybe you even got dressed in the dark and put on a mismatched pair, and didn’t catch it until you were out in public – alas, it was too late to avoid feeling and perhaps even looking foolish.  Hopefully, you and others got a good laugh out of your mishap.

Wearing the right shoes for the right occasion is important, as shoes can be supportive, decorative or crippling. How many have limped, hobbled or shuffled because they wore the wrong shoes? Properly shod feet enable standing firm, advancing forward with confidence or retreating backward with caution. When the occasion calls for it, they even allow evasive side to side movement.

No wonder Christ through the Apostle Paul cautions us not only to put on the whole amour of God, but to make sure our feet are shod with the Gospel shoes of peace that we might stand protected in battle (cf. Ephesians 6:13, 14, 15).  Our faith filled work of delivering God’s message of reconciliation to humanity necessitates sturdy supportive shoes.

Battle shoes are a lot like praise. Praise is useful, protective and sometimes even beautiful.  It protects us from Satan’s attacks which are frequently sharp and pointed.  You may say, that is what the shield of faith is for, and you’d be right, except that shields are unarguably not as beautiful as shoes and by proxy, praise.

King David, a consummate warrior was known not only for his skill on the battlefield, but for his magnificent praise of the Lord. Let us hear him –

“O Come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods”  Psalms 95:1-3. 

And then there is Psalms 98:1, (see also Psalms 99:1, 2), and Psalm 107:1, 2 –

“O sing unto the LORD a new song; for He hath done marvellous things: His right hand and His holy arm, hath gotten the victory.”

“O Give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy;”

Anointed King David was daily hunted by his murderous enemies. So relentless were his foes of whom, the then seated King Saul was foremost, that David feared for His life. This is when many of his Psalms were written, depicting his agonizing struggles both physical and mental.  Yet, David came off conqueror, victorious over his spiritual and physical foes.  Music of scriptural praise played a major role in his victories.

King David understood and believed the loving kindness and the goodness of God. And whether or not he understood the principle of the sacrifice of praise, he utilized it effectively as a weapon by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In contrast, King Saul did not understand the power of giving praise to God, because he loved the approbation of his subjects. According to Sister White in Patriarchs and Prophets (pp 650), Saul’s love of the approval of others “had a controlling influence over his actions and thoughts; everything was marked by his desire for praise and self-exaltation. His standard of right and wrong was the low standard of popular applause. No man is safe who lives that he may please men, and does not seek first for the approbation of God.”

For a while, as David played his harp for King Saul, the evil spirits would leave. But after the battle with the Philistines, where the women of Israel sang that Saul killed his hundreds, and David his thousands, King Saul “opened his heart to the demon of jealousy” (ibid, pp 650), and at the last, while David was later playing his harp for Saul to ease his demonic attacks, Saul threw a javelin at David narrowly missing him.  Having given into the envy which consumed him, King Saul finally gave himself over to the evil spirit which ruled over him.”

Understanding and believing the loving goodness of God, is first and foremost in spiritual warfare. It is what ignites faith. By faith filled praising of the Lord Jehovah, both David and Christ were victorious in fighting with principalities and powers of wickedness in high places.  King David’s experiences are chronicled in the Psalms to give us courage and fortitude.  His prophetic description of Christ’s sufferings in Psalms 22 mirror his own, even though Christ’s were for the Sin of the world. Like King David, evidence that Christ was conqueror in the greatest battle against evil is demonstrated by His praise of the Lord’s character in verses 22-31 of Psalms.  What great news! Christ was victorious! Indeed, “… how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
-Raul Diaz