Monday, October 29, 2012

“Growing In Christ”

Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Growing In Christ
For the week of Nov.  3, 2012
Growing In Christ
This week's lesson portrays our world as it is -- "under the dominion of evil forces that seek to control and to ultimately destroy us," (Tuesday). 
In Thursday's lesson we learn that the cross destroyed "the last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world," but that Satan's existence must be continued. "Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. He must choose whom he will serve"  (Thursday, quoted DA, p. 761).
On Friday, we receive the sober reminder that "If our eyes could be opened to see the good and evil agencies at work, there would be no trifling, no vanity, no jesting or joking" (6T, p. 41), and we are admonished that "principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places are arrayed against all who yield obedience to the law of heaven" (TMB, pp. 29, 30).
We are encouraged that because of what Christ has done for us, we have been "acquitted not only of our sins but also from our bondage to these 'powers.' We need to understand the nature of that victory and claim it as our own" (Wednesday). 
This week's introduction says, "[Christ's] victory can be our victory if we claim it for ourselves, because, no matter what Jesus has done for us, we must choose to accept it. Victory is not automatically given to anyone." Sabbath afternoon, October 27, p. 38. 
Sunday's lesson tells us that "[Christ] took our place, sacrificing Himself in our behalf, suffering our fate for us so that we don't have to suffer it ourselves. Though some reject this idea because they don't like the notion of someone suffering in place of another (especially in the place of someone who is guilty), that's the heart and soul of the gospel message." Sunday, October 28, p. 39.
The beautiful truths of the gospel as proclaimed in 1888 and thereafter, lift the veil that has prevented us from clearly perceiving "what Jesus has done for us" as well as discerning the accomplished fact of the victory that is ours in Christ. This message is indeed "the heart and soul of the gospel," but evidence persists that this message is not yet clearly understood. 
In this Insights we'll explore basic gospel truths especially as they relate to this growing struggle between the powers of darkness and light and see how the "Good News" is needed in our world more now than ever before.
On a walk around our neighborhood a few weeks ago, I met a woman who told me she is a "Walk-in." She explained that a Walk-in is a spirit that inhabits different bodies. She said she had been in the current body for two and a half years and that she remembers where she has been (including various planets and other locations in outer space) in the past.
Other acquaintances in our community have invisible guides that direct their lives. One lady who came to our church for about a year finally admitted that "Jesus" had been appearing to her since she was a little girl and telling her what to do. She stopped coming to church when "Jesus" appeared to her and told her to have nothing to do with Seventh-day Adventists. This instruction followed on the heels of a Bible study on the state of the dead.
Disturbing as such obvious manifestations of spiritualism may be, inspiration paints the scope of spiritualism in much broader, more insidious brush strokes. 
Sister White tells us, "The present age is one of idolatry, as verily as was that in which Elijah lived. No outward shrine may be visible; there may be no image for the eye to rest upon; yet thousands are following after the gods of this world--after riches, fame, pleasure, and the pleasing fables that permit man to follow the inclinations of the unregenerate heart. Multitudes have a wrong conception of God and His attributes, and are as truly serving a false god as were the worshipers of Baal" (PK, p. 177).
A hallmark of demonism and spiritualism in all its form is exaltation of the human over the divine. Today is seen "a spirit of opposition to the plain word of God, of idolatrous exaltation of human wisdom above divine revelation. Men have allowed their minds to become so darkened and confused by conformity to worldly customs and influences that they seem to have lost all power to discriminate between light and darkness, truth and error" (PK 178).
The devil is pleased any time we follow his lead in exalting the word of man (or the devil) over the Word of God. Man has invented a gospel that is well-pleasing to the carnal mind. It allows for us to be Christians in good and regular standing without evidence of heart change or conversion. It was the leadership of the church in the days of Christ who came under the spiritualistic power of demons that led them to crucify their Creator under the guise of "saving the nation." 
In an address to delegates at the 1893 General Conference session, A. T. Jones spoke: "The nearer we come to the second coming of the Saviour the more fully Spiritualism will be professing Christ. . . . Satan himself . . . comes as Christ, he is received as Christ, So then the people of God must be so well acquainted with the Saviour that no profession of the name of Christ will be received or accepted where it is not the actual, genuine thing" (quoted, 1888 Re-Examined, p. 100).
If ever there were a time in history when we need not to be deceived by a false gospel, now would be the time. 
Unbelief kept the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 long years. They failed to believe the "Good News" reports of the two faithful spies. 
Sister White wrote, "If Satan can impress the mind and stir up the passions of those who claim to believe the truth, . . . to commit themselves to the wrong side, he has laid his plans to lead them on a long journey" (Letter O 19, 1892, quoted, ibid., p. 112). Since this was written, we've now traversed 120 years down this long journey road.
The victory that is needed to overcome the powers of spiritual darkness is a fruit of believing the Truth as it is in Jesus, the Good News of the gospel: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, not imputing their trespasses to them" 2 Cor. 5:19. 
When Adam and Eve sinned, the power went out. They severed themselves (and the rest of us, by extension) from the only Power Source of the universe. God said that in the day they sinned, they would die. 
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together. . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" Eph. 2:4-6, 10.
Grace is God's back-up plan--His divine, emergency generator-- which has been extending life to the entire human race--wicked and righteous alike--since Creation. Every single person who has ever lived, no matter how evil or wicked, does so by the grace of God! 
Adam forfeited the life of our race in the garden of Eden. He gave over the dominion of our world to Satan, who has been ruling this world for 6,000 years. With the psalmist we can all say we were born in sin and sin is all we would ever be able to do were it not for the grace of God! 
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" Titus 2:11. This grace encompasses "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), including freedom from the tyranny of Satan. By grace we have been saved through faith.
The secret of victory over the powers of darkness in this present evil age is to believe the Good News: "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" Col. 3:3. 
"This is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith" 1 John 5:4. And the faith the Scriptures enjoin on us is the precious "faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12).
"This is the testimony; that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" 1 John 5:11, 12.
To how many has the gift of God in Christ been given? To all!
And what is included in this gift? "Every spiritual blessing," including victory over the powers of darkness.
And how was this accomplished? "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" 1 Cor. 14:22.
Christ did not merely die instead of us. He died as us. 
Adam sank the ship with all of us on-board. Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, came to be "Immanuel, God with us." He sank to the very depths to reach us where we were--helplessly lost in sin without hope in this world. 
The sin that by right should have suffocated us, drowned Him instead. To retrieve us from the death-grip of Satan and sin, Jesus wrapped His arms around the entire human race, and put us on emergency life support. This is the grace of God, the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 
Our Sabbath School lesson tells us that "victory is not automatically given to anyone," but the Scriptures teach us that gift of Christ was given automatically to the whole world before any of us were born or had any say in the matter! 
In the gift of Christ to this world, the Father did not hold back. Included in that gift was every spiritual blessing --including victory over sin-- and that for the whole world. What Adam did affected the entire human race, and we didn't have any say in that, either. 
Praise God for His much-more abounding grace. He has restored the life which Adam lost, and unless we deliberately despise or neglect this Gift, the emergency generator-life support system will be re-connected to the eternal source of life when Jesus comes, and this mortal shall put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:53).
The Good News really is Good News: "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law [which says we all deserve to be dead], but under grace [God's emergency life-support system]" Romans 6:11, 14.
"And you, being dead in trespasses . . . He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" Col. 2:12, 13.

-Patti Guthrie