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

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Victory Over Evil Forces

Victory Over Evil Forces

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your
flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all
trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was
against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the
way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and
powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in
it. Col. 2:13-15.

The reason the followers of Christ have victory over oppressive forces
in this cosmic battle is because they comprehend and appreciate
something of what was accomplished for them at the cross.

The victory described in Colossians 2:13-15 arises from God’s
willingness and ability to forgive, out of the infinite resources of
His grace, the condemnation which was against us. This preemptive
forgiveness (charizomai in the Greek) undercuts the accusations of
Satan that God is unwilling or unable to forgive. When Christ was
nailed to the cross, He bore our condemnation as the representative of
the entire race, and thus placed great power in the hands of every
person to deal with the oppressive spiritual powers with which we
battle every day.

It is important to remember that our redemption and our victory was
planned ahead of time, even though the manifestation of that plan is
in the here and now:

“… ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as]
silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition
from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before
the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for
you,  1 Peter 1:18-20.

God is the source of all power. The extent to which He can manifest
that power for us, giving us victory over evil forces, is determined
by our belief in how extensive that power is. How comprehensive was
the victory at the cross?

While it is appropriate to read Romans 8:26-39 in the context of our
response to what God has done for the saints who love God, it is also
right to read it with an eye to the implications for all men:

 How many has God called according to His purpose?  Titus 2:11
 In Christ, how many are predestined to be saved?  2 Peter 3:9
 How many have been justified unto life in Him?  Romans 5:18

Now, justification by grace; that is on God's part. Justification by
His blood, that is on God's part and he has done that for every single
human being on his part. He has done all for justification to every
human being; his grace is free to every human being, and his blood is
the channel through which it flows to every human being, and "we thus
judge that if one died for all, then all died," so that is of God's
grace. But while he has done all this for every human being, yet it
avails only for those who personally apprehend it by their own faith,
who lay hold of the justification provided. It is freely provided for
every one, but by faith in him, the individual lays hold of that
justification for himself. Then the provision which has been made
freely for all avails for him as an individual and when, by faith, he
has made a personal application to his own case of the justification
which comes from God through the blood of Christ, then as a
consequence, as the inevitable result, Christ's works appear in him.
Therefore, for the person in Jesus Christ, it does not make any
difference which method of justification is mentioned. If he is
justified by grace, as of course he must be, all these other
consequences follow. If he is justified by grace, then he is justified
through the blood, by his own individual faith, and the works will
appear; and you may touch this at any point. If he is really justified
by works of faith, when you say he is justified by works, you imply
all the rest before it. This ought to do away with our discussion as
to whether we are justified by faith or by works, or whether it is by
grace, or how it is. One who is truly justified personally, must be
justified by every one of them. And when one who is truly justified,
manifests one of the four, the other three are all implied. (WW
Prescott, February 6, 1895 N/A, GCB 44.5)

Was our corporate humanity glorified in Christ? Matthew 3:17

And the word that was spoken to Jesus at the Jordan, "This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," embraces humanity. God spoke
to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we
are not cast aside as worthless. "He hath made us accepted in the
Beloved." Ephesians 1:6. The glory that rested upon Christ is a pledge
of the love of God for us. DA 113.

For whom was the Son delivered up? Isaiah 53:5,6,11
Who are freely given all things?  Ephesians 4:8, Hebrews 5:1, Romans 8:32
Who in the world have the love of God inseparably bound to them? John 3:16

At the Saviour's baptism, Satan was among the witnesses. He saw the
Father's glory overshadowing His Son. He heard the voice of Jehovah
testifying to the divinity of Jesus. Ever since Adam's sin, the human
race had been cut off from direct communion with God; the intercourse
between heaven and earth had been through Christ; but now that Jesus
had come "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3), the Father
Himself spoke. He had before communicated with humanity through
Christ; now He communicated with humanity in Christ. Satan had hoped
that God's abhorrence of evil would bring an eternal separation
between heaven and earth. But now it was manifest that the connection
between God and man had been restored.  DA 116.

What assurance this should give those who claim the blessings God has given!

The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every
contrite soul. Not one that in penitence and faith has claimed His
protection will Christ permit to pass under the enemy's power. The
Saviour is by the side of His tempted and tried ones. With Him there
can be no such thing as failure, loss, impossibility, or defeat; we
can do all things through Him who strengthens us. When temptations and
trials come, do not wait to adjust all the difficulties, but look to
Jesus, your helper.  DA 490-493.
-Todd Guthrie