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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Salvation, is it a Provision or a Gift?

Forth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Salvation: The Only Solution
For the week of Oct. 27, 2012
Salvation, is it a Provision or a Gift?

To give is to freely transfer the possession of something, whether tangible or intangible, to another or others. A gift is the material expression of giving, it is personal.  On the other hand, a provision is something that is set aside for one’s use. It is the act of providing, equipping, or supplying.  It is not really giving in the same sense that gift-giving is personal; providing, for the most part, is impersonal.  For an example of provision as impersonal giving, let’s say you work in a facility where lab equipment is required, and is furnished by your employer. Each employee has access to these supplies, and when a particular item is needed, it is merely retrieved from the storage unit.  Naturally these supplies are not really the employees’ property, but are provided to accomplish specific tasks. 

ID cards are a typical example of this. Many companies give them to their employees and expect them to wear the ID consistently while in the building. Although each employee’s identifying information is placed on the card, such as his or her name, photo, and signature, the card is not really the employee’s personal property.  It was given to identify them as persons who are entitled to occupy that building.  Thus when you retire, resign, or are fired, you are required to return the ID card. 

While most people do not think provisions are earned, they do think gifts are earned or deserved and view them as the result of equal exchanges.  For instance, John thinks, “I did a great job on that project, therefore I deserve recognition.” Most often a bonus is that recognition. Bonuses often come during holiday seasons, and we associate holidays with receiving and exchanging gifts.  Unlike bonuses, paychecks are usually earned (cf. Luke 10:7), and are not considered a gift, rather an exchange for an employee’s time and completion of tasks. 

Unfortunately, most of what we call gift-giving is done with the expectation of receiving something in return.  Donations, for instance, are seen as gifts, but in reality are not.  Donors usually give with the expectation that the recipient will accomplish a particular goal or purpose, and expect a report on the use made of the donated money.  Frequently the donors expect or anticipate public recognition; therefore donations are not truly gifts. 

There’s an emotional aspect that has not been touched on which often distinguishes a provision from a gift. When a provision has been made to supply needed goods or services, and those provisions are either ignored or not utilized, the emotional response of the provider is usually less intense than when a gift has been personally given but is rejected.  For example, when grocery items have been purchased for the family but  are not used, it is highly unlikely the family members are rejecting the items or the giver; more commonly, the family simply has a taste for something else.   In contrast, cologne is typically purchased as a gift, not as a “provision.”  If the recipient chooses not to use the gift, or worse, rejects it, the giver will most likely feel insulted.

Turning to a spiritual perspective now, has salvation been given, or provided?  Our quarterly speaks of salvation as a provision.  The implication is that salvation is there, and you use it if and when you need it.  You are the arbiter of your need, and God is not insulted or hurt by your choosing to partake of salvation when and where you want to.  Brothers and sisters, yes, God has provided all good things for our individual and collective needs, and even some of our wants. However, God wants us to grow up, to see that it is out of love that He has gifted us from the foundation of the world. Our reception of His gifts is by His power (grace), through the doorway of faith. In reality, the best gift of all is the gift of His Son.

There are several scriptural examples indicating what God has given to us as gifts. Foremost is the gift of eternal life, as found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Author’s emphasis)  This text tells us that God gave His Son, He did not simply provide Him.  And He did so because He loved the world’s inhabitants.  According to the apostle Paul, He withheld nothing. He gave His only begotten Son – and Himself, for He was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).  Almost everything written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving.  Godgave.

At sin’s inception, death was our sentence – the second death.  All we had was death.  As human beings we prefer to think that all the good things we have received are either the result of our earnings, or what we deserve.  However, had not Christ been the lamb slain from the foundation of the world we would receive nothing but death.

According to Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here, the wages of sin (that which is earned) is contrasted with God’s gift (that which we did not earn, nor do we deserve), eternal life.

Oh, what marvelous love! “The man of sorrows did not spurn [us], but poured out His inexhaustible, redeeming love that [our] heart[s] might be made clean” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, October 16, 1888). What an amazing plan of salvation!  Who would have thought that a lamb could rescue the souls of men?  For this we adore Him, and proclaim Him to all sinners who will one day cry, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

God, through His son’s personal message of love, gave salvation to us.  What a perfect gift to be had! By the grace of God, let’s joyfully receive it with grateful hearts.
-Raul Diaz

Friday, October 19, 2012

“Mankind: God’s Handiwork”

Forth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Mankind: God’s Handiwork
For the week of Oct. 20, 2012
Facing the Secular Challenge:  Mankind as God’s Handiwork 
The question of human identity has numerous facets:   Who are we?  How did we come to be? What is our nature?  And thus, what is our purpose? Where are we going? Do we have a choice or is it inevitable? What is our relationship one to another? Did God truly make us of one blood in Adam? (Acts 17: 26) What is our relationship to those who have gone before and are moldering in the grave?  The answers reflect our sense either that humanity is the creation of a Sovereign God with a purpose, or that we are the consequence of random, historical, material processes (evolution). 

All these issues have been central to philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science and many of the academic disciplines that have shaped the Western World.  They are basic to our quest for meaning. These academic disciplines and thinkers have informed and influenced Western approaches to society, to values, morality, government and politics, as well as science.   They are often the lenses which paint our view and and resolve our understanding of economic structures and markets, and institutions, and our larger vision of human relations and possibilities. 

Unfortunately, these views have been built on the skepticism of Greek thought in the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the later rationalism of the Enlightenment. Thinkers like Rene’ Descartes proposed, “I think therefore I am,” as an indubitable principle and the basis for an entire system of reasoning about the world.    His theories and so many others have largely been devoid of the foundational base of a Biblically revealed understanding of man and his Creator.  “I think, therefore, I am?”  We surely are not the creation of our thoughts, but in a sense we have become the product of them. Thus, to a great extent these academic disciplines are “science and education, falsely so-called.”   Man has indeed “committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewn out cisterns --- broken cisterns which can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2: 13.  E. A. Sutherland, Adventist educational pioneer saw that this was indispensable and critical to an understanding of the salvific process for the restoration of the image of God in man. Indeed the purpose of education is that restoration.  Salvation and education are one. This is the true aim of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as E. G. White has said, “restoring the well-nigh obliterated image of God in man.”

 Therefore, the questions of who we are, who made us, and how we got here?  are  long-ranging ones with profound implications for life.  A majority of Westerners have rejected the straightforward Biblical claim in Genesis of the creation of humanity in the image of God. The Fall in Eden, which is so basic to biblical and spiritual understanding, then becomes regarded as mere mythology. Consequently, they are cynical about vital Scriptural views of the fallen nature of man, the Sin problem, the plan of redemption, and the conflict between good and evil. Even Christians sometimes struggle with resolving Biblical accounts and science.  The word speaks softly, clearly, and authoritatively, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11: 3

The question, “What is man?”  Has brought an array of answers and rival theories that seek to explain man’s origin, condition, and possibilities.  They form the curricula of college education in most places.  From Plato’s dualistic view of man’s body and “eternal soul”, to Karl Marx’s  social alienation of man,  to B. F. Skinner’s behavioralist idea that only science can tell us the truth about nature and human nature, to Sartre’s existentialist ideas that man must make his own purpose, to Sigmund Freud’s mental determinism which seems to deny human will altogether ---  the theories abound and outlast our time to consider them. Nevertheless, in the secular arena,  they are deeply respected, studied, and imbibed, and regarded as the mental productions of the great thinkers throughout history.  But one greater is revealed in the Bible as the source of all wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  He is one who does not theorize, but who knows the beginning and the end, because He literally is the beginning (the Beginner) and the end (The resolver) of human existence and history.

Those not atheistic, but agnostic still believe that “if there is a God, they can figure it out by reason.” In this view, man’s mind has become the standard of all things.  Hence we have evolution, same sex marriage, and “any day is holy” approaches to the vital issues of human origin, relations, and worship. The Bible says to them, “Canst thou by searching find out God?”(Job 11:7)  We cannot. But in taking the leap of faith and accepting the idea that the Bible is God’s inspired revelation to us, a whole new vista of understanding opens to us, a system of revelation and insight from God that is consistent and proven by those who dare to test Him and believe that He is.  It is His own declaration of His identity, purpose, and His love for the human family as shown in history and climaxed in the cross of Christ,  that has liberated us through the everlasting gospel.  It is his intimacy as Creator that allows the reasonableness of the intimacy of repentance and confession, rather than rebellion and conflict.  Like the coin every individual has a sacred worth evidenced by the abundant blood shed for all; still all are a part of a community which the Creator Father deems a family.
Most importantly, Divine revelation in the Bible puts human history in the context of the fall and God’s work in Christ (the seed of the woman, Genesis 3; 15).  It reveals that because of man’s choice, something has gone fundamentally wrong, grossly injuring man’s ability to relate to his Creator in love and a life of holiness.  Sin has marred the image of God in humanity. In a time when we talk a lot about “relationship” with Christ, and relationships as more important than religion, we should be quick to succinctly say that the human relationship to God, to Christ, to our Creator and redeemer is simply and powerfully, one of love.  Indeed He is love, and our greatest joy is in loving Him with all our heart, strength, mind, and soul, and loving our neighbor as our selves(Matthew 22: 37-39).  It is the restoration of this love in our hearts through the infilling of the Holy Spirit that is the promise of God’s covenant of blessing us and making us a blessing Ezekiel 36: 25 -28).

While the world’s competing intellectual views abound, the Word of God presents us a clear spiritual view.  It says we are indeed His workmanship in creation; and again, now because of the fall and sin, His workmanship in redemption.  It promises that through his work as our High Priest in the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, we shall be made like Him, bearing his image in its fullness again.( I John 3: 1-3). We will ultimately be his workmanship, finished and glorified, in the Kingdom made new. 


Next year is 2013.  Not a special year of significance in the mind of most.  It will be one hundred and twenty five years after 1888.  It was then that some of the clearest Biblical presentations of the gospel, the work of Christ, the true nature of man and the love of God were presented.  The purpose of God for humanity in Adam was set forth.  What was lost was presented. The exalted role of Christ in restoring what Adam all but lost -- the image of God in humanity--- was presented.  The glorious role of the gospel in exalting humanity beyond its initial purpose and preparing the bridge of Christ to stand in the judgment, was proclaimed by the messengers.  The message of God’s love and righteousness in the three angels of Revelation 14 began as a loud cry.  One hundred twenty five years later, as the violence in the nations of our world and on the streets of our cities tells us, as pain proliferates, and confusion distorts minds, now  it is time for that clearer image of the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world,   to again be presented.  May the angel of Revelation 18, the fourth in the series, again come down with great power to lighten the world with the glory of Christ’ righteousness.
-Michael Horton

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

“Revelation and God Revealed in It ”

Insights #02 Oct. 13, 2012
Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Revelation and God Revealed in It ”
For the week of Oct. 13, 2012
Revelation and God Revealed in It

                My first and still fondest memory of my early experience in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the middle 1980’s, was the degree of intensive Bible study I encountered amongst the members who befriended me, shared with me, and led me further in the church.  We cannot afford to lose that zeal, focus, priority, and valuing of God’s Word.  We ought to be studying our Bibles as never before, and to be searching, most of all, not for doctrinal truth, but for the “matchless charms of Jesus Christ” revealed throughout the Scriptures.
                The word “Scriptures” refers to the Written Word, and it is the Scriptures that Jesus quoted and utilized in his teaching and preaching.  Some cite the text in Thessalonians that says we should heed to the “traditions”, whether written or spoken, to refer to the dual channels of the Word of God written, and that of the “sacred traditions” of the church.  However, as we understand in our Protestant heritage there must be a test or standard to measure all truth, and that standard is the Word of God.  If all that was said or preached was also considered equal to the Bible, then there would be no standard to test those teachings and preachings.  The Spirit of Prophecy is also to be measured against the Scriptures, as the “lesser light” leading us to the greater light.  As Ellen G. White said near the end of her life, “I commend to you this book.”  We need never to lose such a heritage from the Protestant Reformation, but more importantly, as we have such access to the Bible and other Christian materials, to be diligent to be found approved in our knowledge of God’s Word to us.
                God communicates to human beings in many ways, such as His “small still voice”, nature, divinely inspired personal experiences, etc. but His greatest revelation, other than the obvious of Jesus Christ Himself, is His Word which is our guide and standard throughout our lives. 
                The Bible proclaims that it was not given merely by men, but men moved by the Holy Spirit.  God inspired their minds to communicate His message, and it is infallible in its message, intent, and plan of Salvation. 
                As II Timothy 3:16 states, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, or “god breathed”, and is profitable for every aspect of the Christian life, thoroughly perfecting us unto every good work.  A Roman Catholic apologist would argue that the text states that the Bible is “profitable”, but not sufficient, and thus we need additionally the “Sacred Traditions” of the church to fill out all that is needed.  Yet the text itself argues against such a conclusion.  The text is saying that “all” Scriptures are inspired by God, thus every verse in the Bible is inspired, and is profitable towards correction, instruction, etc.  The total effect of the profit of each individual passage is that we may be thoroughly perfected unto every good work, and thus, the total Bible is sufficient, from the benefits of all those profitable verses.  If we can be perfected from the Bible, then there is no other writings that are necessary. 
                That of course begs the question of Ellen White’s writings.  She herself stated that we did not need her writings if we really knew the Scriptures.  Yet, because of our fallen condition, and the human tendency to become entrenched in traditional patterns of thinking, the prophetic gift is of great value to us in showing the depth of meaning in the Scriptures.  They are truly a “lesser light” leading us to the greater light.  My experience with the Spirit of Prophecy has led me to want to study the Bible ever more.  Mrs. White’s writings are “authoritative”, as we state in the Fundamental Beliefs, but that does not mean we consider her writings to be equal to Scriptures, but that the prophetic gift lends an authority and power to her writings, as she speaks with conviction of her understanding of the total revelation of God’s character, will, and plan revealed in Scriptures. 
                There are those who argue that Jesus Christ, rightly seen as the center and ultimate focus of all Scriptures, for they “testify” of Him, and His matchless love, holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, and truth, eliminates the need for study of other issues such as prophecy, doctrine, etc.  Yet, Matthew 4:4 calls us to live by “every word of God”.  This protects against the ecumenical tendency to “unite on the doctrines held in common”, and to essentially disregard or discount the rest.  We could never sanction such an ecumenical unity, for to do so would be to betray the Bible and the Word who gave it to us. 
                We understand that the nature of inspiration in the Bible is that of thought inspiration, as God moved upon the minds of the writer to communicate as God desired.  We do not hold to a verbal inspiration model because we recognize that God worked with men of varying experience, education, and understanding of truth.  God works through fallible human beings to accomplish His infallible will. 
                The prophetic gift operates in the same fashion as the writers of the Canon.  God worked to reveal thoughts and ideas, occasionally through visions and dreams, and then led the prophet to write or have transcribed the intent that God had through the revelation. 
                It is important to express the central truth that the primary objective of all of God’s revelation is to reveal Christ, the Gospel, the “righteousness of God”, and the plan God has to restore us to His glory, or character.  Jesus Christ is the center of all the Bible, and we should be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  By beholding we become changed.  The Bible is not, as some claim, a “dead letter”, but a living organism, worked by the Spirit to move on the human heart, if open, to receive Christ and His love.
                We hold to the truth of the Godhead, the unity of three co-eternal persons, who are all deeply invested in our salvation and redemption.  Some of the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers held to a different view, avoiding the errors they felt were understood in the idea of the “Trinity.” We were moved over time to develop a correct view of the issue. We do not teach the same position as the Roman Catholic, and our view today is completely correct and Biblical.  (I would urge you to read a book entitled, Defending the Godhead, by Vance Ferrell.  He has done a good job in the discussion.)  The fact that some of the early SDA pioneers taught differently is often used as a criticism against the adventist church.  Yet God takes people as they are and then leads them into all truth by His Spirit, and the reality that the church grew in their understanding should not be used as a criticism, for growth is a positive outcome, and obviously the church was being led by the Spirit of God.
                One of the central truths of the Bible is the truth that God is Creator.  It doesn’t attempt to prove God’s existence, leaving the responsibility for God’s revelation to fallen man to God, in the remaining beauties of His creation, in the dealings He has with each human being, in the work on the heart by the Holy Spirit.  As the lesson states, “Conviction about the existence of God cannot come from rational arguments alone. The Bible teaches that a person is convinced of God’s existence through personal experience with Him as the Holy Spirit impresses one’s heart and mind with the fact of His existence. In many cases, people may come to believe in God first; only after, then, do they start to build a logical and intellectual foundation for faith in a God whom they cannot see.”  Without doubt, the Bible reveals a God who is greatly involved with humanity. The whole great controversy scenario is, really, about how the Lord is working to save humanity from the clutches of sin and Satan. From the first act of the earth’s creation (Gen. 1:1) to the cross (John 19:18) to the recreation of the earth (2 Pet. 3:12, 13), the Bible shows us unequivocally the Lord’s intimate activity with humanity.”
                “In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. ‘Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.’ 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.”-Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 8, 9.  These words from the Great Controversy are a deep study for us, to be intimately involved with the Word of God, and allowing the Spirit, or the life of Christ, to live out that Word of Life in us.  The Word of God is to become “engrafted” into our minds, characters, lives, forever.
-Thomas R. Cusack

Friday, October 05, 2012

“The Great Controversy: The Foundation ”

Insights #01 Oct. 6, 2012
Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Great Controversy: The Foundation ”
For the week of Oct. 6, 2012

The Great Controversy: The Foundation

During this quarter we will study some of the “28 Fundamental Beliefs” of our Church. We need to keep in mind what the author’s introduction states regarding these fundamentals. They “are not a creed in the sense that one could not expect any further development of the truths expressed in them (or that even more teachings could be added).” [1]
This quarter’s first lesson is about the Great Cosmic Controversy theme as revealed to us in Scripture. This theme is foundational for the entire quarter and should be remembered as we study the lessons, especially, for this quarter. The Great Controversy theme truly is predominant in the Bible. This conflict is about the prolonged cosmic contention existing between the former covering cherubim, Lucifer, and his Creator. Central to the conflict is God’s love.
The founder of this dispute is Lucifer. No sane reason can be presented for the existence of his opposition. This is an unexplainable mystery. How could a perfectly created being, made in God’s image, become a devil (Eze 28:15)? It is the “mystery of iniquity.” He turned against God who loved him with an everlasting love. In turning from God’s love, Lucifer made choices that led to his diabolical hatred of God. Had he been able to do so, he would have torn God from His throne and would have placed himself there because this was the meditation of his heart (Isa 14:12-14).
There is another “mystery” infinitely greater than the “mystery of iniquity.” It is the “mystery of godliness.” This mystery is about God, His character of love, and His plan for our redemption. The plan of redemption is simply the carrying out of God’s original plan in the creation of mankind – that they are to be in the image of God (Gen 1:26, 27; Rom 8:28). The plan involved the suffering of “Seed of the women” and the eventual destruction of the devil including all evil (Gen 3:15). The plan of redemption also promises forgiveness to all who have faith in Christ alone. And it promises to restore the image of God in those who have a heartfelt appreciation for what God has done for them, in Christ.
The Great Controversy began in the mind of Lucifer and this while he was in the very presence of God. He undoubtedly knew God better than any other created being. He would have revealed God’s love, throughout the far flung universe, in all the power of his angelic majesty and ability. But, in time, through his God given ability to choose, he became the creation of his own confused and perverted imagination.
Before war broke out in heaven, it raged within the mind and heart of Lucifer. The conflict between good and evil first began there; then worked its way out in his life and in the lives of others such as Adam and Eve and one third of the angels. “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21). Out of the abundance of his heart he spoke and acted. That war continues. What was, still is. “Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord.” (Proverbs 6:14)
Lucifer, the morning star, closest to the Source of Light, began to think that he was the source of his own light. But his taper came from God – from the blazing glory that radiates from His person. The Bible pictures the glory of God as fire (Dan 7:9,10). He is called a “consuming fire” (Ex 24:17; Deut 4:26; Heb 12:29). But He “fireproofed” Lucifer before he sinned. God continues to give him existence. This is essential because every intelligent person in the universe, one day, will be fully convinced and will acknowledge that Lucifer was wrong in starting his controversy with God.
The word “consume” means an intensive and complete destruction. This consuming fire of God is the source of energy millions upon millions of times more intense than all the combined power of all the atomic bombs of mankind. The atomic bomb cannot vaporize everything. But the fire of God can. Although Eze 28:12-17 informs us of the time when Lucifer was “fireproof,” the time is coming when he will be flammable – at the end of the millennium (Rev 20:7-10).
This Great Controversy involves all of us. We will either fight God or accept Him. In either case we will be involved in God’s fire. Either you and I will be refined by His fire (Mal 3:2; 1 Pet 6,7), or like Lucifer, flammable, at the end of the millennium (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:15).

The choice is ours.
Today Jesus invites us into His sin consuming fire. He offers us His faith and His garment of righteousness (Rev 3:18), both of which were tempered by the fierce fires of temptation when He dwelt on earth (Heb 4:15,16; 5:7-9; 2:18; Rom 5:19). Consequently the “faith of Jesus” and His righteousness are now eternally fireproof.
We need to remember that the everlasting fire is in heaven and not in hell (Isa 33:14). In heaven, God’s people will be forever “fireproofed ” (Isa 33:15). God has sent His message that, if believed, will both purge and make us “fireproof.” It is the message of His righteousness presented in the most alluring terms in His counsel to Laodicea (Rev 3:18). Those only who are made righteous by faith in Christ alone will be made fireproof that will last throughout eternity.
The ongoing cosmic conflict between good and evil – the Great Controversy – is described accurately in the books we know as “The Conflict of the Ages.” This series begins with Patriarch’s and Prophets and ends with The Great Controversy. Patriarchs and Prophets begins with three words and The Great Controversy ends with the same three. The first is a declaration. The last is the affirmation formally and explicitly of those three words. We will close this Insight with the last paragraph of the series and the three words:

“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate,  in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”[2]

-Jerry Finneman

[1] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, October – December, 2012,  pp 2,3.
[2] Ellen White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, p. 678.