Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“The Bible and History”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Bible and History"
For the week of  February 26 – March 3, 2012
To most people, history is the rise and fall of nations.  Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome.  When I think of history I think of people – specific people that follow one another in a chain.  Their stories are woven together in a single cloth.  They have a common thread running through their lives, connecting them. 
The title of this lesson will probably make most people think about Daniel 2.  It makes me think of people:  Luther, Latimer, Patrick, Columba...  All of these men, and many more literally hung their lives on the word of God.  These men expected much of their God, and God honored their trust, doing great things through and for them. 
"The enemy of righteousness left nothing undone in his effort to stop the work committed to the Lord's builders.  But God 'left not Himself without witness' (Acts 14:17).  Workers were raised up who ably defended the faith once delivered to the saints.  History bears record to the fortitude and heroism of these men.  Like the apostles, many of them fell at their post, but the building of the temple went steadily forward.  The workmen were slain, but the work advanced.  The Waldenses, John Wycliffe, Huss and Jerome, Martin Luther and Zwingli, Cranmer, Latimer, and Knox, the Huguenots, John and Charles Wesley, and a host of others brought to the foundation material that will endure throughout eternity.  And in later years those who have so nobly endeavored to promote the circulation of God's word, and those who by their service in heathen lands have prepared the way for the proclamation of the last great message--these also have helped to rear the structure" (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles,page 598).
As you know, Jesus sent out His disciples to start spreading the Word at Jerusalem, and then in Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.  This is where we will pick up the thread of "history."  You will remember Paul and his work in Antioch.  One of the groups of people that the Antioch church ministered to was the Celts.  When we think of Celts we think of Ireland, but this was a small group that had moved down into Galatia.  They took the gospel message home.  So the gospel reached Ireland, England and Wales.  Patrick was used of God to spread the gospel's influence all throughout Ireland.  
Columba started a training school on the island of Iona.  His mission was the evangelization of Scotland.  Following him was Dinooth, who ministered in Wales, and Aidan in England.  Finan and Coleman carried the flag through the first marshal charges of Catholicism.  Though for awhile the gospel light flickered, it did not go out, but rose up brighter.  "In Scotland the seeds of truth scattered by Columba and his colaborers had never been wholly destroyed.  For hundreds of years after the churches of England submitted to Rome, those of Scotland maintained their freedom.  In the twelfth century, however, popery became established here, and in no country did it exercise a more absolute sway.  Nowhere was the darkness deeper.  Still there came rays of light to pierce the gloom and give promise of the coming day.  The Lollards, coming from England with the Bible and the teachings of Wycliffe, did much to preserve the knowledge of the gospel, and every century had its witnesses and martyrs" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 249).
Wycliffe is sometimes called the "morning star" of the reformation.  He was a teacher at the university in Oxford, England.  Wycliffe started translating the Bible from the ancient languages into the English language. "In a work, On the Truth and Meaning of Scripture, he expressed his intention to translate the Bible, so that every man in England might read, in the language in which he was born, the wonderful works of God" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 87).  "[Wycliffe] lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome--to give them the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. He had placed in the hands of the English people a light which should never be extinguished.  In giving the Bible to his countrymen, he had done more to break the fetters of ignorance and vice, more to liberate and elevate his country, than was ever achieved by the most brilliant victories on fields of battle" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 88).
It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss, of Bohemia, was led to renounce many of the errors of Romanism and to enter upon the work of reform.  Thus in these two countries, so widely separated, the seed of truth was sown.  From Bohemia the work extended to other lands.  The minds of men were directed to the long-forgotten word of God.  A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 96).
Huss, an ardent reformer in Czech Republic, died at the stake for his faith. "...Luther was a German priest.  While reading the works of Huss, he found that the great truth of justification by faith, which he himself was seeking to uphold and teach, had been held by the Bohemian reformer.  'We have all,' said Luther, 'Paul, Augustine, and myself, been Hussites without knowing it. God will surely visit it upon the world,' he continued, 'that the truth was preached to it a century ago, and burned'" (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 140).
While in Rome doing penance, Luther was climbing a tall staircase on his knees, crying and praying over and over as he climbed.  This monk had been studying the Bible.  As he climbed a verse came to mind.  "The just shall live by faith."  These few words struck him with such startling clarity that he jumped up and ran down the stairs and back to his Bible to study and pray.  What he learned from the Bible, he began to share at the university in Wittenberg.  Students, inspired and empowered by the Word of God, took what they learned home with them, and taught others. In this way, the reformation spread everywhere.
"While Luther was opening a closed Bible to the people of Germany, Tyndale was impelled by the Spirit of God to do the same for England" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 245).
Tyndale speaking to a priest said, "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who driveth the plough to know more of the scriptures than you do" (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, page 19).  Tyndale finished his translation of the New Testament into English.  He was betrayed by a friend and burned at the stake, but the door had been opened, and the Bible was free and available to everyone in England.
The Methodist Church was founded by John Wesley, an Anglican Minister.  Following a difficult and discouraging mission trip to America, Wesley questioned his faith.  In 1738, at the age of 34, John Wesley attended an evening worship service in London which moved him deeply.  In his journal, Wesley described his "Aldersgate experience:"
"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.  I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death" (The Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738).
Wesley went on to travel more than 250,000 miles and preach 40,000 sermons all across England.  His followers became known as Methodists because of their methodical Bible reading, praying and worshiping.
Ellen White grew up Methodist.  When William Miller was preaching about the second coming of Jesus, she accepted the Advent message.  She was one of the early leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church.  As God's special messenger for our day, Ellen White has left us with an abundance of valuable counsel to help us prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior.
E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones were Seventh-day Adventists, and co-laborers with Ellen White in the late 1800's.  Over and over again, Ellen White endorsed the messages given by Jones and Waggoner during this time as "light from heaven," – a special message from God for His last-day people.  
Waggoner wrote a wonderful book about Galatians entitled The Glad Tidings, which I have found to be encouraging, helpful and faith building.  Jones was also a prolific writer, and was instrumental in preventing the establishment of a national Sunday law in the US in 1889.
"The Vaudois and the Huguenots, Wycliffe and Huss, Jerome and Luther, Tyndale and Knox, Zinzendorf and Wesley, with multitudes of others have witnessed to the power of God's word against human power and policy in support of evil. These are the world's true nobility.  This is it's royal line.  In this line the youth of today are called to take their places" (Ellen White, Education, page 254).
Now the torch is being passed to you.  You are the next link in a chain that runs all the way back to Christ.  Will you do your part faithfully, so that God's work in the earth can be finished, and Jesus can come soon for those He loves? 
--Justina Thomas
Author's note:  In writing this article I'm acutely aware that not the half has been told.  As Paul said "Time would fail me, to tell of Latimer and Erasmus, Lucian, and many, many more.  They are all intricately connected.  Each one helps, interacts with, and affects the others. 
 For further study:
·        The Great Controversy, by Ellen White
·        Truth Triumphant, by B.G. Wilkinson
·        They Took John's Torch, by Maud O'neil.
·        Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition (Avaliable athttp://www.adventistbookcenter.com/browse.tpl 

Raul Diaz

Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Creation Care”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Creation Care"
For the week of  February 19-25, 2012
"Creation Care" or environmental awareness --  the theme of this week's Sabbath School lesson -- originated in the Garden of Eden during creation week. Caring for creation was the first job description ever given to man by God (Genesis 1:26, 28). Even in the newly-created world, animals, birds and fish must be subdued and trained; and the earth with its abundant production of plants and trees required wise management and oversight.
But with the entrance of sin came a shift in focus. Instead of using the things God had created to bless others, man perverted the noble uses of plant, human, and animal life for selfish ends. Tragically, as violence and corruption rapidly overspread the earth, God saw only one way to save the world -- and that was to destroy it with a flood. Creatures that had never sinned suffered on account of man's selfishness. Almost all creation perished in the flood.
After the flood God promised, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease" Genesis 8:21, 22.
Because of this promise, we are still alive on earth today, despite the fact that the imagination of man's heart grows more evil with every passing day. Not until the Lord returns for the second time in the clouds of heaven will the earth be destroyed, but it does continue to grow old like a garment because of the sinfulness of man. Implicit in the secular environmental movement today is the acknowledgement that we ourselves, through our own selfish practices, have done much to ruin our world. 
It's fascinating to note Ellen White's observation that in places where sin was most grievous before the flood, there the after-effects on the land were most heavily felt; whereas the most pristine locations on earth today mark where sin was not as great. Underlying the environmental troubles we face today is a spiritual problem which cannot be solved merely by recycling plastic bottles or using cloth shopping bags, good though these things may be.
Being environmentally aware or "green" has achieved "cool" status in our consumption-driven, take-out-meal society. But even being "green" has its politically-correct limits. Have you ever heard an environmentalist mounting a national campaign to encourage vegetarianism in our society? Hasn't happened, even though eliminating consumption of beef would free up millions of acres of land, which could be much more efficiently utilized to grow food for people than animals. God called us to have dominion over the animal creation, but we have exploited, and continue to exploit these humble creatures for selfish purposes.
In the quote for Friday's lesson, Ellen White explains, "There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. . . . There is no leaf of the forest or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry" DA p. 20, 21. Fundamentally, the environmental issue is a spiritual one.
The reason our planet is in trouble today is because mankind has lived against the law of agape, or self-giving love. All creatures, plants, flowers, and trees live to give. Man alone lives to get without giving back. We are reaping the consequences of a 6,000-year experiment in self-centered living. Even unbelievers recognize this way of living is unsustainable.
In His brief 33-year sojourn in this world, Jesus exemplified the principle of self-sacrificing love in everything He did. That means that Jesus never lived for Himself. As we trace through the pages of sacred history, we find principles that will guide us as stewards of the earth and all His blessings to us.
After feeding the crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 on the mountainside, Jesus "said to His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost' " John 6:12.
This principle alone -- faithfully practiced in the daily life -- encourages a sense of responsibility to share the blessings we have received from God with others. Gathering the fragments means not wasting heaven-sent resources.  
In a practical sense, this means we won't allow junk to accumulate in our garages. We'll pass along the things we don't need to others who do. We will live within our means.  We won't throw trash out the window of our car. We will recycle what we can because that's part of living to bless others. We will keep our yards beautiful because that is a part of the dominion God has given us. We will do all we can to treat the animal creation with love and kindness. We will be known in the world as a people who value heaven's precious resources. And we will point people to Jesus who is coming again, and who alone can change our cold, selfish hearts into warm, caring ones that live to give.
A few weeks ago we had a cooking class at our church. After the class, we served samples on disposable foam plates and utilized plastic silverware. An acquaintance of mine who is something of an activist in our town for all sorts of causes questioned me after the class. "I really appreciate the Adventists emphasis on vegetarian cooking and healthy living, but I don't understand why you use disposable plates and utensils. How is that consistent with your faith?" 
Her question was an honest one. I explained that we are in transition in our church kitchen with plans to buy more dishes, but at present we didn't have enough to serve a large group such as that one.
However, at the next event, I made sure that I borrowed enough plates from friends so that everyone got to eat on a glass plate with real silverware. My friend smiled with approval. In the grand scheme of things, disposable plates may not be the major issue, but it's sobering to realize that others are watching to see if we are living lives consistent with the message we claim.
--Patti Guthrie

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“Lord of the Sabbath”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Lord of the Sabbath"
For the week of  12-18, 2012
In our memory verse for this week we hear Jesus saying that He is Lord of the Sabbath. This is because He created it. The Sabbath was made for man. Just shortly before Jesus spoke these words, the Pharisees accused Christ's disciples of performing a traditional unlawful practice on the Sabbath. What did they do? While walking through a grain field they plucked and ate some of the grain (Mark 2:23,24). Then immediately following Jesus made His statement of being Lord of the Sabbath. The very next Sabbath Jesus healed a man (3:1-6).
Regarding the Sabbath, there are two principles given here. The first is that the Sabbath was instituted by God for mankind's benefit and refreshment. The second one is that Jesus is the Master of the Sabbath – He has sovereign authority over its use, as demonstrated in the healing of the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath (3:1-5). This man's problem was not life-threatening. The healing could have waited until the next day. But Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, demonstrating the two principles – that He is Lord of the Sabbath and that it was appropriate for Him to benefit that crippled man in healing him on the Sabbath.
Failure to use the Sabbath to meet this man's need, as stated in 2:27, was a harmful misuse of its purpose. The moral issue of "doing good" on the Sabbath was at stake, but the Pharisees refused to debate this issue. Their issue was a legalistic one. Consequently, they plotted to kill Jesus for disregarding what they believed to be the legal issue of transgression. But Jesus freed the Sabbath from legalistic encumbrances, and by grace delivered this man from his distress.
This brings us to the purpose of the Sabbath, both in creation and in redemption. In the beginning God created the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week as the completion of His creation. God then rested. So did Adam. Adam's first full day was one of rest – the rest of the Sabbath, the Lord's holy day. The day following, the first day of the week, Adam began his work. The word "Adam" is twofold in meaning. Adam was the first created human. It is also a corporate term.
The term "Adam" is used well over 500 times in the Old Testament in a corporate sense. The man Adam represented the human race. In Adam, humankind rested on creation Sabbath. And further, there was a second time when the entire human race rested on the Sabbath. That was when Jesus, the last Adam, the final Representative of the race died and rested in the tomb after His work of redemption on earth was finished. So, the entire human race rested on the Sabbath twice when its representatives – the two Adams rested.
When God created man, He created him in His likeness (Genesis 1:26,27). When man sinned, he lost, to a large degree, the image of God. However, God was not caught off guard. As soon as there was sin there was a Savior. The plan of redemption was immediately put into effect. Its purpose is the same as that of creation – that man should be in the image of God. Redemption is simply carrying out the purpose of creation in that God predestined us to be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29).
The Sabbath is the memorial of redemption as well as of creation. What we observe in the Sabbath we also see in the Redeemer. The Sabbath points to what we find in Jesus. The Sabbath cannot be separated from Him. To reject the Sabbath means to reject Jesus. The following chart illustrates the relationship the Sabbath has to the redemption in Christ.
            The Sabbath Points to ...                                   ...Jesus
God Blessed        (Gen 2:2)The blessedness of forgiveness    (Acts 3:26)
Sanctified            (Gen 2:3)Sanctification         (John 17:19; 1 Cor 1:30)
Rested                 (Gen 2:3)Rest                                    (Matt 11:28,29)
Hallowed            (Ex 20:11)Holiness                                    (1 Pet 1:16)
Sunday's lesson states the truth that "God refers to" the "blessing of the Sabbath in the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, forever linking the creation Sabbath with the weekly Sabbath." Likewise, redemption Sabbath is forever linked to Jesus our Lord and Redeemer.
Waggoner wrote "the cross of Christ is 'the power of God.' 1 Cor. 1:18. The Gospel is 'the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.' Rom. 1:16. But ever since the creation of this world, the eternal power of God has been manifested in the things that he has made. Rom. 1:20. Therefore the cross of Christ – the Gospel – is the same power that is seen in creation. The same power of God by which man was created in the beginning, is now manifested through the Gospel to re-create him – to bring him back to the perfection which he had at first." E.J. Waggoner, "The Signs of the Times," February 4, 1897.
The Sabbath is forever linked with the power of creation, which is the power of the gospel of God unto salvation and thus forever connected to the cross which is "the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18). The Sabbath is the memorial of the cross. It points to the redeeming power of the cross (Ex 20:11; Deut 5:15; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18). Justification of life that has come to all men came through God's judicial act, in Christ on Calvary, which resulted in the verdict of justification of life (Rom 5:18).
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath because He made it. He is the Lord of mankind because He made them. He is "the Lord Our Righteousness" because He was made to be sin for us in order that "we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21). And the Sabbath points to, and is, the memorial of "by faith" righteousness which is the gospel.
--Jerry Finnema

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 10, 2012

“God the Lawgiver”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“God the Lawgiver”
For the week of February 5-11, 2012
A while back an acquaintance whom we’ll call George spent considerable energy giving me a hard time about the legalistic, fun-spoiling, bondage that is Christianity.  One of his favorite sayings was, “According to the Bible thumpers, rules reign and fun is ruled out.”
Interestingly, this same acquaintance is an avid football fan.  In search of enlightenment about George’s mindset, I decided to do something I have not done for more than 30 years.  I sat down and watched a part of a football game.  It was, in fact, a part of the recent Super Bowl game.  When I got online and started the video stream, the camera was repeatedly showing one “play” over and over from different angles and at different speeds.  It seems that millions of hyped “fans” were anxious to cheer or jeer one certain player depending on whether or not both of his feet touched the ground for a fleeting second on the preferred side of a little white line.  Not only this, the player was scrutinized to see whether or not he had managed to maintain full control of the ball while falling across the line, touching his toes on the preferred side, and while simultaneously being brutally attacked by two huge opponents.  According to the commentator, millions of dollars and untold fame for a whole team hinged upon all these little technicalities.
Talk about extreme legalism in the name of a game!  I wondered if George felt that his “fun” was being “ruled out” by all this attention to rules! 
The fact is, nobody anywhere can have any “fun” – any peace – any security – any enjoyment of anything from games to serious business – without the rule of law.  How many millions of people in Middle East “hot spots” are testifying today that life under harsh dictators was better than what they are experiencing in that transition time during which there is no organized enforcement of law and order.
How beautiful are the laws of God’s government!  Every one of his “rules” is designed for our benefit.  He, Himself, abides by these rules.  He is not hypocritical.  He does not make one set of laws for us, and another for Himself.  Furthermore, His law is so designed that it is an accurate “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). 
God’s law is the standard by which He will decide who your neighbors will be through eternity.  Think about that for a moment.  Who do you want God to put in the mansion next to yours?  Do you want it to be someone who has a problem with any of God’s Ten Commandments?  Seriously?
Romans 13:8–10 has some instructions for those who are preparing to inhabit the mansion next to yours in heaven:  “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another:  for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
After reading all of the scripture passages from this week’s Sabbath School lesson, it is clear that keeping the Ten Commandments is just a symptom of being in love with God and our fellow-man.  Law-breaking is positive evidence of a heart in which love does not reign.  How, then, have we managed to let the enemy twist our minds to the point that we, as a society, could complain of God’s strict attention to law while demanding that our sports icons submit exactly to a host of technicalities in the name of a game, whose consequences are not a matter of eternity – or even of life and death in the here and now?
The officials who oversee football games must show no particular attachment for any player or team.  The public demands that they must rule strictly according to the laws of the game.  By contrast, our heavenly Lawgiver cannot hide his affection for those who are playing the game of life.  The stakes are infinitely high, the odds impossible, and the game is intense.  The Enemy of Souls is the one who is constantly watching technicalities – constantly screaming “Foul play!” 
Incredibly, the Judge of the whole earth – the King of the universe prefaces His law with this amazing statement:  “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” 
With minimal research, it is clear that “the land of Egypt,” and “the house of bondage” mentioned here are symbolic of our slavery to sin and our place on death row.  Instead of counting us out because of our unworthiness, the King of the Universe here guarantees us that He, as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) has found a law-abiding way to set us free from the penalty and the power of sin.  The Sanctuary services were an elaborate attempt to help God’s people see how far He was willing to go to meet the demands of the law on their behalf.  Not only this, He remains willing to live out His life within us so that only the “symptoms of love” (obedience to the Law of God) may be seen in us when the judgment sits and the books are opened.
Should a member of law enforcement hear any parent say, “I didn’t kill my child today because I could not figure out any way to do it without getting caught and sent to jail,” you may be sure that this child would be immediately removed from the home because it is an unsafe environment.  No child on earth is safe unless his parents have true love for him or her.
By the same token, any person who seeks to keep the law in order to “get saved,” or in order to “avoid burning in hell” is not safe to have in the mansion next to you in heaven.  Nothing short of true love for God, which creates in our hearts true love for our neighbors can make us safe to save.  Such love does not come from trying hard to keep the law.  It comes from looking at the Lawgiver.  
“Look unto me, and be ye saved [from your lack of love], all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else….Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness [law-keeping] and strength [to obey]: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:22-25).
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
For the week of  January 29 – February 4, 2012
Imagine it's your day off.  You're stumbling around in the kitchen, wearing an  old, stained sweatshirt, with your hair still the way it was when you got up.  Hearing the doorbell, you open the door to see an executive who is employed by the same corporation where you work.  This elegant, impeccably dressed person thought you needed a ride to the office this morning.  Instantly you feel the contrast between yourself and what you are looking at.  You feel intimidated, insecure, and embarrassed.

Multiply that feeling exponentially and you get a small idea of how you would feel if you were to see God.  When you see holiness, you’ll know because you will be in awe of what you see, and you will feel the contrast between you and God.  This feeling seems to be the norm in all Scriptural accounts where humans meet with heavenly beings.

In a recent program, panelists were asked to define holiness.  Despite receiving the questions in advance, no panelist had a concrete definition. Some spoke of holiness as an attribute of God, others addressed the question in terms of the Sabbath commandment, and still others, in terms of how human beings should behave.  However, the panelists did agree on one idea, no matter how vaguely they stated it, that Holiness is all that God is, and it is everything we are not.  While most of the audience seemed to understand the panelists’ struggle, the meaning of holiness remained just out of reach.

What is it that makes the definition of holiness so elusive?  The dictionary defines holiness as the state of being holy.  This brings us back essentially to the same question: what does holy mean?  According to Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; and Hebrews 12:9, 10, ‘God is holy’, and He wants us to be holy as He is holy.  Thus, we can state with assurance, that holiness is an attribute of God, and that holiness not only belongs to Him, but that it is something tangible He wishes to share with us.  Hebrews 12:14 states, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

As you can see, defining holiness is not a simple task. In the context of defining holiness, how do we define God?  I John 4:8 says that God is love, His nature or essence is Agape, and that if we do not love, we don’t know God.  Paul describes this self-denying love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

“Agape suffers long, and is kind; Agape envies not; Agape vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,  does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own way, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Agape never fails.”

If holiness is what God is, and God is love, then it stands to reason that I Corinthians 13 also describes holiness.  We typically think of I Corinthians 13 in terms of performance, but, what God does is always a reflection of who He is.  There is no inconsistency between God’s essence or character and His performance.  Furthermore, God’s character is in evidence when you see Him.  In other words, when you see God, you see His character (Exodus 33 & 34).  However, since the advent of sin, shame and fear are the primary emotions our suspicious and untrusting nature experiences.  But when we see, through the scripture, that His work has been to redeem us, to reestablish the pure intimacy He had with Adam and Eve prior to the fall, we will see I Corinthians 13 personified.  Holiness and Agape are not separate attributes of God, He possesses them both, and when He inhabits us, we too will embody them both.

How do you know you have seen God?  Years ago, a friend fell from a tree and hit the ground.  In doing so, he fractured a bone in his arm.  I was told that he yelled out in pain, “I broke my arm!”  I asked the friend who related the story, “How did he know?”  Then one of them asked me, “Have you ever had a fracture?” I replied, “No.”  And he said, “When it happens to you, you will know.”  Years later, I slid on ice and landed on my right knee.  Immediately I knew that my friend was right; I knew I had fractured my knee.  Of course the x-ray confirmed what I already felt. 

When you see Holiness, your true condition will immediately be revealed to you, and you will know you have seen it.

From the biblical record, two phenomena will occur: first, you will be in awe of what you have seen; second, you will realize that you are inferior to what you see.  Read Isaiah’s story in chapter 6 particularly verses 1-7.

After Isaiah saw the Lord and heard the angels crying, “Holy, holy, holy, the earth is full of His glory” (splendorous character of Agape), his recognition of his own condition, provoked the response, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”  Immediately, an angel flew to Isaiah with (a piece of) live coal, laid it on his mouth and said, “This has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” 

It has always been God’s intention to remove from us our shamefully impure and embarrassingly sinful state.  He desires to cleanse us, so that we find pleasure and delight in Him.  We will continue to feel awe in the splendor of His presence, but we will feel welcomed and accepted at the same time.  Remember, if the nature of His holiness is love, and we do not feel loved in His presence, then the purpose is defeated.  God did what it took to change Isaiah’s sinful condition, and if in recognizing our true condition, we consent, He will do the same for us.  Isaiah felt the love, and we shall feel it too.

The Cross is the greatest revelation of God’s love.  It is the highest demonstration of His willingness to sacrifice everything dear to Himself in order to rescue human beings.  It is also the highest demonstration of His holiness.  Through the cross, God wants to give us new minds filled with thoughts and motivations such as Christ possessed.  He wants us to have new, loving hearts of flesh in place of our stony hearts and old attitudes.  He has new names for us, new citizenship, and His Holiness.

Unfortunately, due to our cultivated and inherited tendencies to sin, the offense of the cross continues.  Some of us will not let Christ into those innermost chambers of either heart or mind.  Instead, we keep Him at a distance – afar off – determined either to do things ‘just right’, or not really caring.  After all, we say, God is love, and He’s accepted me, so I can rejoice, all is good.  There is only one problem – God’s holiness is not separate from His Agape.  He is too much a gentleman to take anyone to live with Him whose neglect or fear prevents them from really desiring His close presence.  To all such, Christ pleads, “ye uncircumcised in heart and ears – do not resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did…for “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any hear and open the door, I will come in and sup with him…” (Acts 7:51 & Revelation 3:20).
--Raul Diaz