Friday, December 26, 2014

“The Everlasting Gospel”

Insights #13 December 27, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Everlasting Gospel"
For the week of December 27, 2014

What is the Gospel?

John is a garbage truck driver in a large suburban city. During the winter, his garbage truck doubles as a snow plow and after every snow fall, John drives around the city to remove snow from the roads. Since snow removal has been added to John's garbage collection duties, he is paid overtime wages, and naturally, welcomes the extra money. With extra pay in mind, unlike many people who dread the forecast of snow, snow fall to John is good news. Most school children agree with John that snow is good news but for different reasons. After all, it usually means outdoor fun, and the likelihood that school will be cancelled. As expected, parents however, may not be so happy. Thus, it can be said, snow is only good news to some, not all.

The Greek word translated as Gospel means good news or glad tidings. In Luke 2:10, the angels said unto the shepherds, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Unlike snow fall which is good news to some people, the Gospel - here referring to the birth of Christ - is good news to all people. This means that Christ's second return cannot be the gospel, because it is only good news to those who believe - and expect it - not those who do not believe. Why is this so? Why is His birth good news to all, while His second advent is not? Does the Bible shed any light on this? Ellen White says that, "The Bible is its own expositor. Scripture is to be compared with scripture. The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts" (Ed.190).  In that light, let us go to Scripture to see how the Gospel is defined.

First, we should note that the apostle Mark introduces his book as the Gospel of Christ; while (Apostle) Paul declares in the first few verses of Romans chapter one that "… the gospel of Christ: … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Vs. 16). No less than approximately a dozen times, Apostle Paul identifies the Gospel with God or Christ. Therefore, according to these texts, we can ascertain that the Gospel refers to Christ. Paul is not saying here that salvation is only for believers, but that it is only effective to believers. So, it is the power of God that saves. And, this power of God refers to Jesus and his birth.  In 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18 Paul goes a step further. Let us read,

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

This text associates the preaching of the Gospel with the preaching of the cross, on which Christ died. Furthermore, it equates them by calling them both: the power of God. Therefore, the Gospel, which refers to Jesus and His birth (which is the power of God unto salvation), is also the preaching of the cross.  So, now, we incorporate in this definition of the Gospel the death of Christ on the Cross.  Why is the cross so important?  We read in Philippians 2:8 concerning Christ,

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The death of the cross was considered by the Jews as hanging from a tree, of which Paul says in Gal 3:13, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Christ's death was the final death: complete annihilation. But, it is through this death that we were reconciled to God. We read in Romans 5:10,

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Notice in this verse, that Christ's life is now part of the equation, as opposed to only His birth and death.  The Gospel refers to Jesus. It entails His incarnation, birth, life and death. And, in it is the power of God to save every man. Christ did this for the whole world. We read in 1 John 2:2; and 4:14,

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

What about the resurrection? Paul addresses that also in 1 Corinthians 5:12 -14. Let us read,

Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.

The resurrection of Christ gives the Gospel certainty and makes the Gospel effectual.  It guarantees our freedom from Sin.  And, how exactly are we implicated?  We read in Romans 6:3-5,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Christ took us - the whole world - unto Himself and lived a life of prefect obedience.  Consequently, His life of perfect obedience is ours. His victory is ours. What our Saviour would like for us to do, is, to receive His gift whole heartedly. This is the good news to all people: salvation for all men 'in Christ'.
-Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz

Thursday, December 18, 2014

“Prayer, Healing, and Restoration”

Insights #12 December 20, 2014

Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Prayer, Healing, and Restoration"
For the week of December 20, 2014

"Prayer" The Present Truth 9, 27.

E. J. Waggoner

Prayer is the channel of the soul's communion with God. Through it our faith ascends to God, and His blessings descend to us. The prayer of the saints ascend(s) as incense before God. They come actually into His presence. Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3, 4. Prayer is the index of the soul's spirituality. There is "the prayer of faith," spoken of by James, and there is also the wavering prayer, mentioned by the same writer. There is "the effectual, fervent prayer," which "availeth much," and there is also the cold, formal prayer, which avails nothing. Our prayers show the exact measure of our spirituality.

The effectual prayer takes hold by faith upon the word of God. Faith not only believes that God is, but that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Heb. 6:6. It is offered not formally, but with a sense of need; not doubtingly nor despairingly, but with full confidence that it is heard, and will receive an answer in due time.

The effectual prayer is not argumentative, for it is not the province of man to argue with God. Its statements are not for the purpose of conveying information to God, or of persuading Him to do what He had not intended to do. God cannot be persuaded by man. The arguments and appeals of a finite man cannot change the mind of the Omniscient. The man of faith does not plead with God for any such purpose. He does not want to persuade God to work in man's way, for he believes God's statement that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than man's ways. His prayer is ever, Thy will, not mine, be done.

What then is prayer, and what the purpose for which it is offered? It is the expression of our assent to that which God is willing and waiting to do for us. It is expressing to God our willingness to let Him do for us what He wants to. It is not left for us to instruct the Lord in regard to what we need. "Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." He knows what we need much better than we know ourselves. "For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Rom. 8:26.
God knows every need that we have, and is ready and anxious to give us that which will supply them; but He waits for us to realize our need of Him. He cannot consistently with the infinitely wise principles by which He works, bestow upon men spiritual blessings of which they would have no appreciation. He cannot work for man without man's co-operation. The heart must be in a condition to receive an appropriate gift before it can be bestowed. And when it is in that condition, it will feel an earnest longing which will naturally take the form of prayer. And when this longing is felt, when the soul feels an intense desire for the help that God alone can give, when the language of the soul is, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God,"-the effect is to open the channel between God and the soul and let the flood of blessings which was already waiting to descend. And it is the intensity of the desire that determines how wide the door shall be opened.

We need to realize more the great truth that God sees and knows everything that we need and has every provision made for all our wants, before we have even considered those wants ourselves, and that our work is not to determine what must be done to relieve them, but to place ourselves in a position where God can relieve them by the means which He has provided; to conduct ourselves with Him, to know His mind and thus to move according to His plans, and not set about the fruitless task of trying to make Him work for us according to some plans of our own. {October 5, 1893 EJW, PTUK 422-3}
-Submitted by Bob Hunsaker

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lesson 11: "Getting Ready for the Harvest"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 11: "Getting Ready for the Harvest"

The coming of Jesus shone brightly in the heart of James and so should it be for us. The second advent can be either something we dread or love depending upon our perspective. If the old covenant overshadows our minds, then we're petrified with the thought: "Here comes the Judge! What must I do to get ready?" Thus the second coming is bad news.

But the Lord never sends bad news to discourage us. Jesus sends the message of Good News. It's about how He prepares us for His return. Therefore we are not only interested in what James meant when he wrote for his day, but what does "the coming of the Lord" mean for us today in light of our cleansing of the sanctuary idea.

We have been living in the cosmic Day of Atonement since 1844. Unfortunately, in a lesson entitled "Getting Ready for the Harvest" there is absolutely nothing relating this idea of the harvest with our Heavenly Counselor who is the Head of the church. He is the One who prepares the church for the harvest.

As Christians become more and more urbanized and disconnected from the direct link with the land, our source of food, we tend to become oblivious as to how dependent we are upon the sunshine and rain with which God blesses the earth in order to make it productive. Our fast-paced lives make us impatient. We demand instant results.

It is just here that we may learn a lesson from the farmer who tills the ground and plants the seed. But beyond that he can't cause the germination or maturation of the crop. He must patiently wait for the rains, both the early and latter.

No one prepares himself or herself for the harvest. No grain can ever ripen by itself without being watered. Our part is to welcome that blessing, and not to fight it off and resist it. The latter rain of the Holy Spirit's outpouring causes the grain to ripen.

The early rain fell at Pentecost, and has been received ever since through the past two thousand years as untold multitudes of human souls have prepared for death. The figure is drawn from the Palestinian barley crop where the annual early and latter rainy seasons were familiar to farmers. The early rain enables the grain to sprout and to grow, but not to ripen for the harvest. The ripening is a change that can only be produced by the latter rain.

There must also come a spiritual change before Christ's second coming. A people must be prepared, not for death, but for translation without seeing death, because the Bible differentiates between the multitudes who have died believing in Christ and those who are living when He comes." [1]

The Lord says He is ready to work with each one on earth who is willing. A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit will accomplish a work that makes ready a worldwide community of believers for the coming of the Lord. It also empowers them to complete the great unfinished commission of proclaiming the everlasting gospel to all the world.

This leads to considering the nature of the judgment hour message. James' practical application is: "My friends, do not blame your troubles on one another, or you will fall under judgment; and there at the door stands the judge" (James 5:9, Revised English Bible).

"Groaning" against one another is a reference to complaining about one another, which is in fact a kind of judging. Grumbling is the opposite of patience and is a mark of unbelief; it is contrary to genuine faith. Although grumbling may seem to be a minor offense, James' warning against it is serious. Those who take up the work of judging their fellows are thereby saying that Christ is not coming to His church to prepare them for His coming and therefore, they must do that work for Him. By judging others they put themselves in the place of Christ. [2]

It is just this perspective of the judgment as "grumbling," blaming "your troubles on one another," judgmentalism that has turned people off regarding our Day of Atonement message. The "hour of His judgment" has become bad news. This is old covenant selfishness to the extreme.

Christ said to Nicodemus, "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). Did Jesus mean what He said? Or as Judge has His personality suddenly changed so that He now presents Himself to the church and the world as its Condemner?

Jesus taught that the source of condemnation is unbelief in Him as the Saviour of the world. "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Condemnation is a do-it-yourself job. In the case cited by James, judgmental complaints about others within the church is a manifestation of unbelief in the True Judge who stands before the door. Thus the one holding the "grudge" condemns himself.

It is telling that in the Judge's message to the Laodiceans, the High Priest positions Himself outside the church wanting to come in. "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:17). Likewise, in James "the judge standeth before the door."

Jesus actually quotes word for word from Song of Solomon 5:2 when He says, "I stand at the door and knock." Thus He tells us that the Laodicean message is actually a love letter from Christ to His Bride-to-be!

Jesus reveals Himself here as the disappointed Lover who has just come from His journey to His Beloved. It's night; it's cold; it's raining; He is hungry; He is lonely; He wants her. But she doesn't want Him, apparently. He is hurt.

Standing outside in the cold, He says He goes on knocking, knocking "at the door." The object of His love has just gone to bed, is in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping. Then she hears Him. She is annoyed; why does He bother her at this hour? She doesn't want to get her feet soiled on that floor--she's comfy in bed. Finally, however, she stops thinking of her own selfish laziness, and thinks of Him outside. Belatedly she gets up to go to the door to let Him in. And, lo, He is gone. He got tired of waiting, waiting.

After all these many years since 1844 when Jesus said that it was His will that "this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34), He intended all along that the generation which went through the Great Disappointment should live to see Him come the second time. But through our resisting His call to the wedding of 1888, the time has been greatly prolonged.

James' specific example of steadfastness in suffering may appear a bit odd (James 5:11). For a reader of Job, it may be surprising to hear that Job became a model for patience, since much of the book consists of Job's impatient complaining to God about the injustice of his suffering. However, the kind of patience that James has in mind is not passivity, but perseverance, fortitude in the face of suffering. The story of the farmer waiting patiently points to a yearning for the day of justice, since the farmer waits not with nonchalance, but with longing. Job did not give in to the falsity being suggested by his friends, and he did not give up; he kept clinging tightly and unyieldingly to God as his life, which is the very reason he felt such a conflict of injustice that was happening in his present life.

But remember the deciding factor of this concluding statement, "the Lord is merciful and compassionate." This points to the end of Job's story,where the Lord's mercy to Job is displayed. The Lord blesses Job.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

[2] See E. J. Waggoner, "Majority Rule," The Present Truth, May 18, 1893. This article may be found at:

Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

“Getting Ready for the Harvest”

Insights #11 December 13, 2014

Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Getting Ready for the Harvest"
For the week of December 13, 2014

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you."

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:11-19, NKJV.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. James 5:7, NKJV.

It is the promise of God in the Everlasting Covenant that is the ground of the patient endurance of the remnant of Revelation 14:12. Because God Himself, as the heavenly husbandman, is so patiently waiting for the reception of the latter rain by his people, we can also patiently endure and wait for Him to fulfill His promise.

But we must lose our penchant for making promises and oaths of our own (James 5:12)  in order to fully trust the promise of God. He has sworn with His oath - let all the earth keep silence before Him!

It is God's mind of patient endurance, revealed in and through Christ (God's makrothymeō - patience in bearing the offenses and injuries of others, mild and slow in avenging, longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish) that we must let be in us (Phil. 2:5) in order for our mind to exercise the same makrothymeō that He has.

The endurance (hypomonē) of James 5:11 is linked to patience (hypomenō), the root of which is menō, to remain or abide, the same root used in John 14:10 to describe the indwelling of the Father in Christ, doing the works, speaking the words.

Thus, being ready for and experiencing the latter rain means patiently living by this Faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12 - pistis Iēsous).

We must so settle in to the truths of the Everlasting Covenant and the Faith of Jesus firmly experientially established in our hearts and minds (James 5:8 stērizō - to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix, render constant, confirm in one's mind) in order to carry the Loud Cry to the world. 

Perhaps even now, as in 1887, we are again at the threshold of the full outpouring of the Latter Rain. Once again, we have more to fear from within our ranks, and within our own hearts, than from the events and forebodings of the world around us. May God so indwell and abide in us that prophetic word of the Minneapolis message will be given with clarity (James 5:10) so that the preparation to receive the Latter Rain may be complete!

God is waiting for His precious fruit.

A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord, not because God is not willing to bestow his blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us his blessing. A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer. While the people are so destitute of God's Holy Spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the word; but when the Spirit's power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect. Guided by the teachings of God's word, with the manifestation of his Spirit, in the exercise of sound discretion, those who attend our meetings will gain a precious experience, and returning home will be prepared to exert a healthful influence....

We have far more to fear from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are far greater from the church itself than from the world. Unbelievers have a right to expect that those who profess to be keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, will do more than any other class to promote and honor, by their consistent lives, by their godly example and their active influence, the cause which they represent. But how often have the professed advocates of the truth proved the greatest obstacle to its advancement! The unbelief indulged, the doubts expressed, the darkness cherished, encourage the presence of evil angels, and open the way for the accomplishment of Satan's devices. RH, March 22, 1887.

My brethren and sisters, let us remember here is the evidence that God will work. You are not to trust in any power but that of the Lord God of Israel. But if you have enmity in your hearts, you cannot expect that God will let his blessing rest upon you. No one will enter the city of God with anything that defiles. We must get ready for the latter rain. The earth is to be lighted with the glory of the third angel,--not a little corner only, but the whole earth. You may think that the work you are doing now is lost; but I tell you it is not lost. When the message shall go with a loud cry, those who hear the truth now will spring to the front and work with mighty power. But you must have faith. It is no use to enter cities unless you have faith in God, and believe that a work is to be accomplished there. You must believe that it is Christ who is by our side, and is finding access to souls; and when you have done the best you can, you must believe, and commit it all to Jesus.  RH, May 10, 1887.
-Todd Guthrie

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

“Weep and Howl!”

Insights #10 December 6, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Weep and Howl!"
For the week of December 6, 2014

One of the primary purposes of the 1888 message, was to bring a gospel message to the Seventh-day Adventist church that demonstrated the power of faith to produce righteousness.  Not a message that promoted faith alone, or that promoted righteousness alone, but that demonstrated to the world and the on-looking universe that faith actually does work through love.  Righteousness by faith is actually righteousness in the life, not merely righteousness "applied" to the life, or righteousness "covering" the life, but actual righteousness in the life.  Righteousness – the thoughts and feelings and behavior that are motivated by self-sacrificing love – is the goal of the gospel.
Ellen White brought out this reality in her summative statement about the Minneapolis message:

The Lord in his great mercy sent a most precious message to his people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to his divine person, his merits, and his changeless love for the human family. All power is given into his hands, that he may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of his own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of his Spirit in a large measure.  {TM 91.2}

Did you see it?  It presented "justification by faith," that reveals itself in righteousness.  Faith isn't merely a fiduciary exchange whereby we purchase salvation with faith.  Faith isn't to accomplish a book-keeping hurdle that God has in the books of heaven.  Faith is a productive reality.  Faith is a causative agent.  Faith causes, it produces, righteousness – heavenly thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Our lesson this week talks about righteousness as it applies to financial matters.  How we acquire money, and how we use money.  Acquiring and using money in "right" ways are practical aspects of "doing" righteousness.  How we acquire and use our dollars and cents, reveal righteousness or selfishness.  It reveals love or evil.  It reveals compassion and wisdom, or ego and delusion. 

And as we've already seen, the path that produces right use of money (righteousness) is the path of faith.  The path that produces Godly spending and giving of money (righteousness) is the path of a heart appreciation of the love of God as manifested in the life and death of Christ (faith).  The 1888 message has the power within it to cause us to use money righteously.
Notice in the following passage how E.J. Waggoner speaks about the right view of value – and money is merely one measure of value:

'For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' Mark viii. 36, 37.

Many a man has exchanged his soul for something far less than a world. No man this side of Adam ever owned a continent. Very few have more than a few square miles of the earth's surface, or hold even this much by more than a precarious tenure. The vast majority have never possessed more than a few hundreds or thousands of pounds; yet even this is sufficient to blind the eyes of men to the value of their souls. Men have bartered away their souls for a little worldly honour or a moment's pleasure. They are making just such bargains to-day. They do not do this understandingly of course; but they do it because their eyes are blinded by the god of this world, and they have no realisation of what the soul is worth.

Yet these same persons have a vivid sense of their own individual importance. They think that no position on earth is too high for them, and no honour too good for them. They are ready and anxious to be exalted above their fellow-men. They live as if it were their aim to make themselves the centre around which everything else ought rightfully to revolve.

But the prophet David, with mind enlightened by a higher wisdom, exclaimed, "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained,-what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" Ps. viii. 3, 4. Man, considered by himself, becomes very small when the eye looks over creation; so small that, as an individual, he sinks into absolute nothingness. What is the globe itself, upon which man dwells? Astronomy reveals it to be nothing but a tiny speck among the myriads of lights that fill the heavens,-in which it is lost like a grain of sand upon the seashore! And what is the nation itself to which an individual belongs? It is only one among hundreds of other nations that have existed upon the earth since time began. And what is he himself? Only one among the countless myriads that have been born and lived and moved upon the earth since it became the home of the human family,-an indistinguishable speck upon an indistinguishable speck, compared with a great creation which exists and moves and lives and fills the immensity of space, upheld by the life of God!

But only God Himself can estimate the soul at its true value; and He has revealed His estimate to the sight of man. The cross of Calvary tells what the soul is worth to God; and its worth to Him is also its worth to us. For we belong to Him, and were created for His pleasure and His glory. But apart from God the worth of the soul is lost. Without Him life would not be worth living. The sinner apart from God would eventually long for death. Connected with God, the soul is of infinite value; but severed from Him it is lost both to the individual and to Himself.

The cross of Calvary is the link that connects the soul with God. Life has its value to us by virtue of that alone. Let us say therefore with the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Gal. vi. 14. {October 12, 1893 EJW, PTUK}

As we experience the love of God that energizes our faith and leads to true righteousness, that manifests itself in our use of finances, may we appreciate Waggoner's true statement that our lives have value only as they are connected to Calvary.  Money, in and of itself, produces no value, but is a measure of how we value things.  If we value others, and if we value the sacrifice of Jesus, it will be manifested in the use we make of our money (righteousness) for His cause and His kingdom.  May He be first and last and all in our finances, as well as every other corner of our lives.
-Bob Hunsaker

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 28, 2014

“One Lawgiver and Judge”

Insights #9 November 29, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"One Lawgiver and Judge"
For the week of November 29, 2014

This week's discussion about law and judgment affords an opportunity to view this topic from the perspective of Christ and His righteousness.

To maintain clarity, we acknowledge that the Bible speaks to the matter of our judging from two viewpoints. James writes in chapter 4:12: "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"

James admonishes us not to judge our brother or sit in judgment against him (vs 11).

According to James, judgment is the Lord's work.

Yet Paul points to a time when "we shall judge angels" and the "saints will judge the world" 1 Cor. 6:3 and 1 Cor. 6:2.

Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" John 7:24.

How can these perspectives be reconciled?

The words of Jesus in John 8:15, 16 give us a clue: "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me."

Jesus did not come to this world so much to make a pronouncement, or judgment against sin or sinners, as to reveal the true nature of sin, and the character of those who love it. He did this by living a life of self-sacrificing love and dying on the cross in shame and agony. And it is this standard of love that will judge the world, revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart of man, whether they be self-serving or self-giving.

The problem with us judging others, according to Jesus, is that we judge 'according to the flesh." And since the flesh is rotten and in the flesh dwells no good thing, we cannot possibly discern the thoughts and intents of the hearts of others except to project onto them the condition of our own evil hearts.

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, A.T. Jones elaborates on this text: "'Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment' John 7:24. One of the most remarkable things about Jesus was the way in which He distinguished between right and wrong. Puzzling questions were often brought to Him, but were always solved with such wisdom that those were dumbfounded. We need the same wisdom, for the traditions of men, false theories, and considerations of expediency have so confused the distinction between right and wrong in men's minds, that many honest believe wrong to be right and right to be wrong. What will clear the issues for us?

"The same state of things existed in Christ's day, but the prevailing mental confusion did not dim His judgment, for God Himself was His judgment. He did not judge according to appearances, for while this is all that humanity has to go by, appearances are often misleading. (John 5:30 quoted) Selfish interests always cloud the judgment, and bias the decision, but Christ was swayed by none of these. Because He sought only the will of God, and listened only to His voice, the Father was to Him for 'a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment.' ...

"God does everything in perfect righteousness because that is the law of His being, and that same law He puts into our hearts. It is perfectly natural for Him to do right, and it will be the same for those who let Him write His law in their hearts. They will judge righteous judgment, will speak words in season, and always do the right thing in the right way, because God's way is in their hearts. God Himself is their life. They, like Christ, do not need that any man teach them, for the covenant is, 'They shall teach no more his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.' Jer. 31:34. This condition is not achieved by men's own worthinesss. It is a covenant that is established upon promises, made to sinners, and the Holy Ghost applies it to all whose sins are forgiven."

Those who experience the transformation of Christ's redeeming love in their hearts judge thus: "that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh" and we become "ambassadors for Christ," imploring all on Christ's behalf to "be reconciled to God" 2 Cor. 5:14-16, 20.

This is the faith of Jesus in action. Instead of slandering our brothers and sisters--judging them according to the flesh--we regard them as they are in Christ, redeemed, precious souls, bought with the priceless blood of Jesus. In matters of discernment, we rely on "the word of God" which is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" Heb. 4:12.
-Patti Guthrie

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom

Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"
For the week of November 22, 2014

James is a valuable book of the Bible.  Yet, for many, including myself, it has been a rather difficult book to understand and appreciate.  I understand and relate to Martin Luther, who also had great difficulty with the book of James and referred to it as an "epistle of straw."  He later changed his views of the book.  I too had to go through a change of views regarding James.  His counsel is much needed by the last generation of believers, the group that will compose the remnant of the seed of the woman.

Our lesson this week draws valuable insight from James.  Though the passage from which our memory text is taken does have the potential for misunderstanding.  The lesson author has done us a service by taking the text from the NASB translation where it reads:  "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:10, NASB).  The familiar KJV translation of this text reads, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord."  And I suppose that rendering has the same meaning, yet it is a little easier to overlook.  The NASB demands that we pause and consider what is being communicated.

We are always in the sight of the Lord.  The Holy Spirit, Who is God, is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7 – 10).  Thus, though we may, at times, completely fail to realize or take cognizance of the fact that we are also in the presence of the Lord.  Upon first reading the words, "Humble yourselves . . ." one may be tempted to have a negative reaction.  We may ask questions like, "What kind of legalism is this?"  "I can't humble myself."  After all, this is a call to crucify the flesh, with its passions and desires.  And no one can crucify themselves.  If is physically impossible.  And the spiritual reality is just as impossible as the analogous physical reality.  This is a task that requires outside help.  Thus, at first glance, one might be tempted to label this call in the epistle of James to "humble" ourselves as a species of legalism.  But would that be an accurate assessment?

The text says, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord."  As already observed, we are, whether we realize it or not, always in God's presence.  There is certainly sufficient reason for us to walk humbly before the Lord.  Yet, how many fail to understand or realize this reasoning.  God is so awesome if we really understand something of His character, He is so gracious, so tender, so compassionate, so loving, and long suffering, He is so good, if we could realize even 1/10 of 1% of His goodness to us, we would be stunned, overwhelmed, gobsmacked, dumbfounded.   Yet, we often fail to realize or comprehend these great, yea even awesome, realities, because we fail to cherish the gift of faith.

When I use the term faith, I do not speak of "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).  That definition can be difficult to perceive, process, and appreciate.  I speak of that faith which Mary displayed (Luke 7:50) when she came to Jesus with an alabaster box of ointment, very costly, very precious, and she poured it all out in grateful appreciation for what Jesus had become to her.  If we appreciated the goodness of the Lord, if we appreciated His grace, His compassion, His mercy, long suffering, and tender love, we would be moved to walked humbly before Him.

In other words, genuine humility is a natural byproduct of genuine faith.  Now, I realize that the Bible says, "God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3, NKJV).  Yet, this announcement does not prove that all human beings have faith.  The Bible is quite explicit in declaring of us "not all have faith" (2 Thess. 3:2).  So evidently not all "keep . . . the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12), which is freely given to all.  There are a number of things that we could do to destroy our faith.  We could deliberately, knowingly, presumptuously, walk contrary to the convicting promptings of the Holy Spirit and step by step destroy our faith.  We can, like Pharaoh of old, sin and sin again, deliberately hardening our hearts until the voice of the Spirit is no longer heard because we have committed blasphemy against Him. 

Yet, there must be some who will keep the faith.  This means there must someday be a group of people presented who will cherish the faith which has been given to them.  There must be a people who will live up to all the light that they have and thereby become the recipients of even greater light.  There must be a people who will exercise their faith during the dark days.  There must be a people who will keep the faith, in the face of discouraging circumstances, annoying trials, perplexing difficulties, disturbing, disconcerting, mind boggling disappointments.  There must be a people who will not fail or be discouraged though severely tried.  When they do not understand or even fathom what is happening to them, there must be a people who are motivated to say as Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15).  They appreciate so deeply the great love and everlasting mercy of God that, come what may, they will honor His name at every step, counting these earthly trials a very small matter in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.  There must be a people who will count the most severe tests and trials that Satan can devise as but "a light affliction" enduring for "but a moment," in comparison with the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

There must be a people who have seen the cross of Christ, not the wooden instrument of execution, not the cruel techniques of human physical and psychological torture, not the intense burden of earthly agony inflicted by a pagan system's criminal justice, but the greater agony, the heartache, and literal soul trauma so intense and so supremely severe, that it crushed out the life of the Son of God, while "His physical pain was hardly felt" (DA753).  When there are a people whose eyes have truly seen the glory of the Lord blazing fourth from a hill called Calvary, then the heart of our divine Saviour will "be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11) and the end of all things shall come.

These are the people who will not need to be told to humble themselves.  These are the people who will not need to be enticed with promises of celestial pleasures and exquisite heavenly delights.  These are a people who will not be motivated by the prospect of celestial space flight, or the pleasure of designing and building their own homes in a new and beautiful earth.  These people will not even consider the threatening of eternally burning inextinguishable fires.  These people will be a group of people who cannot be stopped, cannot be dissuaded, cannot be discouraged, sidetracked, or detoured from a resolute, unchangeable, irrevocable, decision to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  That path will lead them through the deep waters.  Yet they will know that the waters shall not overflow them.  And it will lead them through the fire.  Yet they know that they will not be burned.  For they know and are confident that the Lord is with them for they have understood that they are precious in His sight.

It is this confidence and knowledge that will truly humble them in the presence of the Lord.  And they shall be His when He shall make up his jewels (Mal. 317).
-Mark Duncan

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 14, 2014

“Taming the Tongue”

Insights #7 November 15, 2014
"Taming the Tongue"
For the week of November 15, 2014

Proverbs 25:11 tells us that, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." This week our lesson focuses our attention on the tongue which James describes as being "so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature…." He says further, "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity." Clearly James is speaking here of a particular function of the tongue, that of speech/words. There is an old adage, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me." How false this statement is. Quite likely most of us have either wounded someone by our words, careless speech or have been wounded by another's words. The power of the tongue—our speech/our words—James likens to two things: one a bit, the other a rudder. "Indeed we put bits in horses mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" James 3:3-5. Words are important. Controlling the tongue is one of man's most difficult if not the most difficult assignment. In fact, verse 2 of chapter 3 seems to say that if we do not stumble in word, if our words are always pure and kind and patient, we will have attained the goal of "a perfect man," Christlikeness.

But how does one attain to this high standard of righteousness? Three texts bring the goal into sharp focus.

1)    "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile" 1 Peter 3:10.
2)    "Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" Col 4:6.
3)    "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers" Eph. 4:29.

We all need to commit these verses to memory, however, how do they become a reality in our lives? Ellen White in COL p. 335 says, "The power of speech is a talent that should be diligently cultivated. Of all the gifts we have received from God, none is capable of being a greater blessing than this. With the voice we convince and persuade, with it we offer praise to God, and with it we tell others of the Redeemer's love. How important then, that it be so trained as to be most effective for good". Here are some powerful excerpts from A. T. Jones in Lessons on Faith pp. 104-106.

"In the Christian life everything depends upon the word of God. It is true that God is able, and desires to keep us from sinning; but this must be done through His word…This is the way that God has appointed and there is no other way to have this thing accomplished…It was by His word that He created all things in the beginning; It is by His Word that He creates men anew; it is by His word that He will re-create this world and all things pertaining to it…It is not only that the worlds were created by the word of God; but they are also sustained by the same word…So also it is not only that the Christian is created by the word of God, but by that same word he is sustained, nourished and caused to grow. God holds up "all things" by His powerful word. And the Christian is among this, "all things" no less than any or all the worlds…This is to be believed and depended upon by everyone who professes the name of Christ. You and I can no more hold ourselves up and in the right way than can the sun or the earth."

Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…." Commenting on this text Jones continues in his book Lessons on Faith pages 108-109 as follows: "The word of God being living and full of power when it is allowed to work in the life, there will be powerful work wrought in that individual…When the word is spoken by the Lord, there is at that moment in that word the living power to accomplish what the word expresses…It was Jesus Christ who spoke the word at creation; it is He who speaks the word in the Bible.  At creation the word which He spoke made the worlds; in the Bible the word which He speaks saves and sanctifies the soul. In the beginning the word which He spoke created the heavens and the earth; In the Bible the word which He speaks creates in Christ Jesus, the man who receives that word. In both places, and everywhere in the work of God, it is the word that does it." In Hebrews 4:12 it says that the word of God is living and powerful. This word powerful in this text means effectual, full of power. "The word of God is living and full of power, to do for you, with you and in you all that the word says" Ibid p.106.  A Roman centurion came to Jesus because he needed help. His servant was "lying at home paralyzed and dreadfully tormented." Jesus said, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, no need "only speak a word and my servant will be healed." Jesus marveled and said, "Assuredly I say to you I have not found such great faith not even in Israel!" Matt 8:10.

A. T. Jones says, "It is faith to accept that word as the word of God, and to depend upon it to accomplish the thing it says." We cannot tame our tongues for "it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." But God can tame our tongues. Paul puts it like this in Acts 20:32, "And now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

Finally, we consider the example of Christ of whom it is written in Is. 50:4, "The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning. He awakens My ear to hear as the learned."  The quote in the Sabbath School quarterly on Friday from COL pp. 337 and 338 is a wonderful application of this text: "Far more than we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience. We should speak of the mercy and loving-kindness of God, of the matchless depths of the Saviour's love. Our words should be words of praise and thanksgiving. If the mind and heart are full of the love of God, this will be revealed in the conversation. It will not be a difficult matter to impart that which enters into our spiritual life. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings of piety and holiness, will bear fruit in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure. When Christ is thus revealed in our speech, it will have power in winning souls to Him." Let us let the word of God dwell in us richly by God's grace. Amen
-Lyndi Schwartz

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

“Faith That Works”

Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Faith That Works"
For the week of November 8, 2014
A Pastor received an invitation to interview for a job in a prominent church in a large city, which he accepted. The interview process consisted of him preaching a sermon, joining the church for lunch and afterward, participating in a Q&A session with the congregation. Wanting to get a feeling for the church while avoiding the preferential treatment that is sometimes a part of visiting a church as a Pastor, he decided to disguise himself. So, dressed in raggedy, disheveled clothes, unshaven and without a shower for several days, the Pastor went to church. Looking homeless, he entered the lobby, whereupon he was coolly greeted. There was low murmuring as he walked toward the sanctuary. Once inside, the Pastor chose a seat close to where others were seated. Some looked back with a forced smile, while others subtly tried to hold their noses so they wouldn't smell the stench. But eventually, each person stood up and found somewhere else to sit. Within a few minutes, the pastor was sitting by himself. 
Eventually, the Pastor stood up and left the church. He went to his hotel room to clean up, shave, and put on a nice suit and cologne.  An hour later, he drove back to the church.  This time people smiled at him as he entered the building. They even engaged in small talk.  Fortunately, the brethren didn't recognize him. He then walked in the sanctuary itself and, just as before, sat close to where the people were seated.  This time everyone looked and smiled, and, some even said welcome and offered to shake his hand.  
Soon enough, the Pastor stood up to preach. His sermon came from the book of James, showing how works demonstrate faith. Naturally, everyone said Amen.  However, the pastor twisted things around for them when he said that works of faith are works of love.  He said that those sheep at the right of Jesus in Matthew 25 were people who lived by faith.  He explained if they pleased Jesus they had faith (Hebrews 11:6). And since, they had faith, they were just (Hebrews 10:38); and seeing as they were just, they were also doers of the Law (Romans 2:13). Moreover, that love is the fulfillment of the moral law (Romans 13:10).  The church members were now squirming in their seats.  Many folded their arms and frowned sternly. Then the death blow came.  The Pastor said to them, "I noticed how you treated the homeless man that came earlier." A collective gasp was heard. Then there were whispers asking each other how the Pastor could know this.  One dared to ask the Pastor directly. The pastor solemnly replied, "I was that homeless man." Another asked the pastor, "Did you deceive us?"  The pastor answered, "I have to apologize for the deception. I wanted to get a feel for this church before I agreed to be your Pastor. Right now you may be feeling like terrible sinners. But, I have a word for you. It is sinners whom Jesus came to save."
 The story demonstrates how our actions reveal what is in our hearts. These actions, James calls works, are an outgrowth and evidence of what lies beneath the surface. Jesus said that the mouth speaks what abounds in the heart (Matthew 12:34). You may not see the cause, but you can see the effects. We see this in nature. Let's consider the wind. No one can see it, but we can feel it and see its effects. This is why Christ used the wind as an example of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8).  No one can see the Spirit, but we will sense the effects of His presence in our lives or the lives of others.  How do we know the Spirit is present? We see the effects. The works of the Spirit are the outworking and evidence of His presence. 
Faith also works in the same manner.  No one can see faith, but we can sense and see its effects. Works of faith are, as well, the outworking and evidence of faith.  Just like the symptoms of an illness, for example, are the outworking and evidence of the illness.  Christ told his disciples that a little faith can accomplish great things. We read in Matthew 17:20, "And Jesus said… If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." A man of faith will be able to do what he is typically powerless to do -- namely, have his character changed. Christ established that the change caused by our faith will be evident to others.  James' famous discourse on faith and works is often quoted on this subject:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18).
The question then can be asked: what works are the proof of faith? Fortunately, if we let the Bible be its own expositor – as Ellen White says – it will give us the answer, which begins in the first couple of verses of James chapter one. Verse 3 tells us faith that is tried produces patience or endurance. Verse 5 tells us that faith also produces wisdom and assurance. Verses 8 and 9 say that faith exalts those of lesser degree, which is then expounded in James chapter 2. While many say works are the proof of faith, Paul says we are not saved by works. This is evident in Christ's teaching. In Matthew 7, Christ tells the disciples the following:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
The works of the people mentioned here did not show faith. However, Christ still insists, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20); a concept reiterated in John 15 in connection with a display of love or agape. Christ tells the disciples in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
So, it seems to be that the way in which we measure someone's faith is by Christ's self-emptying, self-sacrificial (agape) love dwelling in them directed toward others for their salvation. In 1 John, we find a connection between faith and love. By studying the passage from 1 John 4:12 through 1 John 5:5 we can arrive at this statement: "By faith we overcome when we are born of God, Who is love and whom we cannot see, but He dwells in us (and we in Him)…"  How do we know when this love is in us? When 1 John 3:16 is true of us: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  The faith the Bible speaks of is revealed by willingly and lovingly living for others. It is really the indwelling Spirit of God – who sheds abroad the love of God in us - loving through us (Romans 5: 5).  Consequently, those who have the faith of Jesus possess His love, and by it are purified.
-Raul Diaz


Friday, October 31, 2014

“Love and the Law”

Insights #5 November 1, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Love and the Law"
For the week of November 1, 2014

"Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom 13:10). Righteousness is conformity to the law of love, for all of God's "commandments are righteousness" (Psa 119:172). It is by faith in Christ alone who brings to us God's righteousness, which is His love. It is Christ who brings us into harmony with God's law of love.

God's law did not fall in the fall of man. And it does not become sin when we sin. The law is the measure of the righteousness of God; it witnesses to His righteousness (Rom 3:21). Because of Adam's fall, and our own, we are far below the righteousness of the law. Because of this we are now dependent upon Christ to raise us up to where its righteousness may be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4). In the righteousness of Christ we obtain God's love and thus "love is the fulfilling of the law." Love – righteousness – is not a formula. It is embodied in a person and that Person is Christ. We receive righteousness – love – by receiving Christ by faith alone.

This love, this righteousness, becomes a way of life for the believer. This is the message of James. He must never be pitted against Paul and his message of righteousness by faith. It is Paul who wrote that love is the fulfilling of the law and James is in perfect harmony with this. He wrote, "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' " (James 2:8).

Both James and Paul wrote about justification by faith. Paul wrote that justification by faith carries the law up front for all to see it in action. He says that it is only by justification by faith that the law of love is established (Rom 3:30-31). James wrote about what justification by faith is and is not.

Another example of what justification by faith is not is the faith of devils. They believe (James 2:19), but they are never justified by their belief. Why is this? Because their faith is historical only. They believe, and cannot deny, that Christ came and died for sinners. The faith that justifies is the faith that surrenders the will to Christ; that accepts Christ as the only way of salvation. Lucifer and his followers refused to surrender and to accept Christ as their Savior and they are now incapable of the faith that leads to repentance and justification. Consequently their belief does not tend toward righteousness and love. What's more is this: the fallen angels are incapable of loving one another. They cannot bridle their tongues. Without God's love they despise each other and unite only to attack the fallen race, especially the remnant people of God.

Humans who are justified by faith in Christ alone bridle their tongues. If one does not control his tongue his profession of religion is useless (James 1:26).

James wrote that you cannot "hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ … with partiality" (James 2:1). The faith of Jesus is blind to all caste societies whether made up of wealth, education, political influence, age or ethnicity. James gives several illustrations of what justification by faith is. Abraham and Rahab illustrate what justification by faith is. It is believing not only in the absence of feelings but against them as in the case of Abraham. Earlier James wrote that those who are justified by faith will care for the elderly and orphans and others in need (1:27).

We "all have sinned" and fall short of love, law and righteousness. All stand alike guilty before God. But everyone, of whatever race or class, can accept this saying: "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). A church-going sinner is no better than a non-member sinner; a sinner who stands as a church-member, is no better than one who is outside. The sinner who has gone through the form of baptism is not better than the sinner who has never made any profession of Christianity. Sinners are sinners, whether in the church or out. Nevertheless we can thank God that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, as well as for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

There is good news and thus hope for the unfaithful professor of religion, as well as for the sinner who has never named the name of Christ. Both can be brought into harmony with God's law of love through Christ. Rahab's experience illustrates this fact.

It is through keeping the faith of Jesus that we are enabled to keep the commandments of God. To keep His commandments is to love Him supremely and to love our neighbor impartially. This means that we are to do good to those who do good to us and alsoto do good to those who try to do us in.

What, then, motivates our actions? Paul tells us that it is the love of Christ that motivates us; it "compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." He then concludes, "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh" (2 Cor 5:14-16).

Likewise, this is the message from James. "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Again, Rahab is an illustration of this (James 2:25). She, along with the of us, deserves judgment, but God's mercy triumphs here and then we, in turn, as did Rahab, give mercy even to our enemies. This is the essence of obedience to the principles of the law of God.
Abraham's faith is another illustration of justification by faith. As stated above, his faith is the faith that believes not only in the absence of feelings but against them. This faith obeys even if it is against one's innermost feelings. In Christ only there is righteousness and strength. In Him there is justification and glory.

Waggoner wrote concerning man's great need:

There is but one thing in this world that a man needs, and that is justification – and justification is a fact, not a theory. It is the gospel.  That which does not tend to righteousness is of no avail, and not worthy to be preached.  Righteousness can only be attained through faith; consequently, all things worthy to be preached must tend to justification by faith.  E. J. Waggoner, "The Bible Echo and Australians Signs of the Times," Sept 1, 1891.

In the Lord there is righteousness and strength. In the Lord there is justification and glory. In the glory of heaven we will not look to the best deeds that we have done and thank God that we are justified because we have done so well. Our song of joy will be, "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev 1:5).
In closing consider the following:

Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help the sinner. There are many who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and errors, until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we are not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our help. When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction or through sin, we shall never say, This does not concern me. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 504.
-Jerry Finneman


Thursday, October 16, 2014

“Enduring Temptation”

Insights #3 October 18, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Enduring Temptation"
For the week of October 18, 2014
Last week we considered the "temptation" James addresses in our memory verse this week, what he earlier called "the trying of your faith" (James 1:3). We examined this in the context of the faith of God, revealed to us through the faith of Jesus (Rom. 3:3, 22). God has poured out in His love "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7). The goal of faith and love and grace is the reproduction of those very principles in us. And the necessary process is learning the receiving and giving of those dynamics. The "trying" and "temptation" are but situations of life that give opportunities for us to pass on faith and love and grace, to make decisions based on them. Cooperating with God in this process James calls "enduring." The outcome is "the crown of life." Those who endure are "them that love Him," the ones Jesus said will be saved, whose love does not wax cold. Those who do that at the end give the final witness (Matt. 24:12-14).

Our lesson this week (James 1:12-21) addresses more the process of this circuit, how love flows in a reciprocal manner, and the problem of breaking the circuit. Let's examine the details James leads us through. Look for the steps in the process of breaking God's plan (italicized).

What James describes that Paul calls "the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2) is what we will initially consider. And the first point to explore is where a human's temptation originates, which James tells us is not "of God" but "of his own lust" (James 1:13, 14). The key here is not the word "lust" which is but a strong desire. What makes something not "of God" is whatever is "of his own." And this also is not simply "God" versus "self." It is unselfishness versus selfishness, for God Himself is unselfish. So Jesus could have a strong "desire" (Luke 22:15; same word as "lust") and actually choose to follow it, because it was not "His own"--it was always unselfish, "of the Father." Remember Jesus' repeated words regarding "mine own":

I can of mine own self do nothing: ... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me (John 5:30).
I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me (John 6:38).
I seek not mine own glory (John 8:50).

Jesus described this origin of sin (before Genesis 3) in these words, "When he [the devil] speaketh a [literally, the] lie, he speaketh of his own." (John 8:44; compare also 5:43; 7:18; these use the exact adjective James uses, translated "his own"). So "of his own" is equivalent to "not of faith" (Rom. 14:23). This is the root of sin. The devil originated acting on "his own" (his "self-seeking"; see Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 21). It was a rejection of faith working by love. Through Adam and Eve this has infected our very nature, which we must confess.

The second point is defining temptation, which is simply the drawing or enticing (James 1:14) of self-seeking. Satan became fully immersed in this dynamic, but to convey that principle to perfect beings which God had created with unselfishness, in other words, to tempt them, Satan had to use subtlety and guile. He had to deceive them into thinking that to live for self was actually good, that the results would be improvement. So Eve had to begin to "see" something that was not there (Gen. 3:6), something that was false--that "her own" interests were not being met by God, but would be if she herself ate the fruit. Thus temptation is the deceptive pull of sin.

Was Jesus really tempted? The evidence is that He "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15). Then He must have felt the pull of "His own." We see that clearly in His words in Gethsemane, "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). His earlier words imply He had a daily decision of this nature. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23). The implication of this verse is that Jesus was daily denying Himself, "His own." Jesus' faith and love, received daily from the Father (Isa. 50:4, 5), enabled Him to reject the deception of "his own" and overcome each temptation.

The third point is that only when the desire for "his own" unites with the will, what James calls "when [his own] desire has conceived," does sin come forth (James 1:15). The will must permit, agree, and nurture the desire to live for self. Only then does sin come into being. This could be in the mind alone, but usually is expressed in outward actions. We could call this the conception of sin. Only here does personal guilt begin. (The corporate dimensions are not addressed by James.)

James' fourth point is the implication that sin is not static. It, in fact, is a parasitic dynamic that grows. But its growth is an abounding of lawlessness (Matt. 24:12), living more and more for self, less and less in the way God Himself lives, and how He designed ("the law") all to function. This is the growth of sin. If it is not stopped between temptation and conception, it grows.

The final point is that the deception that "his own" is good is unmasked when sin is finished. The result is not good. What the growth produces in the end is death (James 1:15). Breaking "the law of life" destroys. This is the result of sin. Paul summarized the process in one verse, tracing from death backward. "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Cor. 15:56).

The lesson of Romans 7 is important to note here. Self must die (7:9). The law must be appreciated (7:10-13, 22). The will must choose the good (7:15-20). But even then there remains an unchanged part that is identified fully with sin (7:14, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23). This dimension of our being not only produces a battle unknown by someone not experiencing the changes described (7:23), but also blocks the ability in oneself (one aspect of "his own") to find deliverance from sin (7:25). Victory is found only by dependence on a power outside of self. It comes only from "God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:25). The Spirit must dwell where sin dwells (Rom. 8:9, 11; compare 7:17, 18, 20). Only then can Paul's freedom be realized. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2).

Jesus came under the law of sin and death (Gal. 4:4), taking our nature of sin and our guilt of sin ("made ... sin for us"; 2 Cor. 5:21; compare Rom. 8:3).1 His identity with us enabled His suffering (Heb. 2:9, 10, 18). His identity was complete, but because He rejected the will of sin (its conception), He avoided the failure of sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). His death was thus not His but ours (2 Cor. 5:14). His unselfish life and death overcame sin. His victory is ours.

James concludes our passage by an appeal--to avoid the deception of sin (1:16) by acknowledging the universal gifts from "the Father of lights" (1:17; compare John 1:9), to see that God's will for all produces, not sin and death, but creatures of righteousness (1:18-20; same verb "produce" as verse 15; see 2 Pet. 3:9, same verb "will"), to lay aside all that "his own" produces and to receive "with meekness the engrafted word" (1:21) by which the Spirit works.
-Fred Bischoff
1.  See Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 190; Manuscript Releases, Vol. 13, p. 369.

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Fwd: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 2, Quarter 4-14

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 2: "The Perfecting of Our Faith"
We are prone to think of justification by faith as theoretical, high-flying theology. But, with the dynamic of the 1888 message, it is the joy of our present Christian life with God. We are invited to see this precious perspective in the book of James.
When our "sinful flesh" is tempted to doubt and discouragement by the trials of life, the answer James gives is to link "faith," "patience," and "perfection" with the "wisdom" of God. "The trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:3-5).
In James 2:21, 24, 25 he discusses justification by faith and works. "By works a man is justified, and not by faith only." In chapter one, James presents how the faith that justifies works amidst trials. Genuine justification by faith patiently endures trials, and the end result is Christian character perfection. It is a gift from God discerned by His "wisdom." God, in His mercy, sent the beginning of this "wisdom" to us in our 1888 history.
Why do trials come our way? Is it the trials that mess up our otherwise good record? If you lived somewhere that wasn't so stimulating, wouldn't it be easier to live a better life? Where do temptations come from? Don't the temptations come in from all around us? However, don't temptations also come from within ourselves? Do they not arise from within our mind and then eventually work themselves out in our day-to-day living? Some reason that God is to blame for all this. After all, didn't He make us this way? So then, how can He demand of us perfect obedience? We're only human, so all we can expect is weakness and continued lapses into sin.
If this is the case, then is God unjust in giving us the ten commandments? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ not powerful enough to overcome sin in sinful flesh? If this is the case, then there is a disconnect between the gospel and the law. In the most subtle ways the law is diminished or done away. Satan rejoices. He has achieved his purpose. He has undermined the government of God. Everyone is a law unto themselves.
The purpose for trials is not to mess up our record. Trials reveal to us what already exists in our flesh that we didn't know existed. Unknown sin is revealed by trials and temptations. Say I have a glass pitcher filled with water. The water is clear as crystal. If I take a spoon and stir up the water, the settlement at the bottom which had gone unnoticed would be agitated and cause the water to become murky. Now the water is undrinkable.
This is the way it is with trials; they do not introduce something into the life that didn't exist before. They merely stir up what is already there. For example, you may be calm and peaceful for days on end, thinking that your emotions are under control. But let someone cut you off in traffic, and suddenly you flare up and let out some bad words. The incident didn't introduce something new into your character. It simply revealed what was already there and now you know that it continues to exist.
The work of conversion and a change of heart introduced by the Holy Spirit is a miracle from above. You are given a new heart, which means a new mind or character. It is the mind of Christ, which is selfless. Whereas before the new birth you were self-centered, now you have been given a new nature characterized by agape. The Holy Spirit changes your mind. But your "flesh" remains the same. The new birth does not convert your sinful nature. The new character imparted to you by the Holy Spirit enables you to choose the will of God for your life and say "No" to your sinful flesh.
Day by day, hour by hour, it is the Spirit that grows your character. But it is your choice to continue abiding in the Vine, Christ Jesus. As a branch your life is only sustained by the life-giving sap that is supplied by the Stock. Thus it is possible for character to mature continually as right choices are made. These choices are all prompted by the Holy Spirit. This is the process of justification by faith.
Christian character perfection is growing up in appreciation of God's love manifested at the cross. It is Christ who gives us agape, which motivates our choices of faith. Thus we are in a cooperative endeavor with our Saviour.
Does the Bible teach the possibility of sinless living in our sinful nature? This question can only be answered by seeing how near the Saviour has come to us.
If Christ was sent by God "in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be filled in us" (Rom. 8:3), then the obvious answer is "Yes." Christ is both our Substitute and enabling Example. He demonstrated it once for all. He "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). And of His people it has to be said eventually, "In their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God" (Rev. 14:5). They will overcome "even as I also overcame" (Rev. 3:21, says Jesus. No saint will ever overcome except through faith in the Great Overcomer, "the Author and Finisher of our faith." The overcomers acquire no merit to themselves, yet they gain everything by their faith. Christ "is able also to save them to the uttermost ... for such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7:25, 26). [1]
If we take away the high priestly ministry of Christ in the second apartment as distinct from the first, this idea of preparation for the second coming disappears, and the impact of the Advent movement is reduced to a "me-too" echo of the popular evangelical churches.
Our unique message centers in the sanctuary ministry of Christ: When Christ comes the second time, will He find a body of people of whom it can honestly be said, "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus"?
If the Lord wants to, He can accomplish the preparation of a people for the second coming of Christ. For the first time in human history, a divine announcement is made concerning a corporate body of people from "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people": "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). Before the grueling inspection of the unfallen universe, they pass the test. The Lord is honored in them. And the next event is His coming (Rev. 14:14).
--Paul E. Penno
[1] E. J. Waggoner's Christ and His Righteousness, page 7 (Glad Tidings ed.), neatly summarizes his concept of sinless living. This is a summary in a nutshell of his Minneapolis message preached only a few weeks before being published in Signs articles:
"In the first verse of the third chapter of Hebrews we have an exhortation which comprehends all the injunctions given to the Christian. It is this: 'Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.' To do this as the Bible enjoins, to consider Christ continually and intelligently, just as He is, will transform one into a perfect Christian, for 'by beholding we become changed.'"
A. T. Jones' teaching was in full harmony with Waggoner's. In The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, first published as Review and Herald articles in 1898 and 1899, he states it simply and powerfully:
"In His coming in the flesh--having been made in all things like unto us, and having been tempted in all points like as we are--He has identified Himself with every human soul just where that soul is. And from the place where every human soul is, He has consecrated for that soul a new and living way through all the vicissitudes and experiences of a whole lifetime, and even through death and the tomb, into the holiest of all, at the right hand of God for evermore. ...
"And this 'way' He has consecrated for us. He, having become one of us, has made this way our way; it belongs to us. He has endowed every soul with divine right to walk in this consecrated way; and by His having done it Himself in the flesh--in our flesh--He has made it possible yea, He has given actual assurance, that every human soul can walk in that way, in all that that way is; and by it enter fully and freely into the holiest of all. ...
"He has made and consecrated a way by which, in Him, every believer can in this world, and for a whole lifetime, live a life holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and as a consequence be made with Him higher than the heavens" (pp. 87, 88, Glad Tidings ed.).
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

“The Perfecting of Our Faith”

Insights #2 October 11, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Perfecting of Our Faith"
For the week of October 11, 2014
The apostle James had long resisted the witness of the faith of Jesus, his brother (John 7:5; Matt. 13:35; Gal. 1:19). But at some point he had surrendered to the powerful evidence (Heb. 11:1) that Jesus' faith had provided, not only to His true identity, but also to the dynamic of faith working by love that we could easily say is how God runs the universe (Gal. 5:6). And though James, like all of us, battled unbelief as long as he lived (as long as the flesh remains; Gal. 2:20), he was not content with baby faith ("little faith"; see Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). He saw the importance of God's plan--"the trying of your faith," and what would come from that. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:3, 4). Paul wrote of this goal to be "entire"--"The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 5:23).

When we view faith in the "circuit of beneficence" which is the "law of life for the universe" (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 21), it becomes clear to us that faith originates with God, as a function of the agape love that He is. Paul described it this way: Love "believeth all things" (1 Cor. 13:7). In the creative force that His love imparts, He is seeing "all things" in the way they would look were they all motivated by unselfish love. It is in that sense that Jesus is "the author ... of faith" (Heb. 12:2). By dealing with all through that dynamic, He has actually imparted to all that way of living, the "measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

God's word brings to us the evidence of how God imparts faith. This process is beautifully described in this statement. "To those who take God's word with reverence, seeking to learn His will that they may obey it, all is changed. They are filled with awe and wonder as they contemplate the purity and exalted excellence of the truths revealed. Like attracts like. Like appreciates like. Holiness allies itself with holiness, faith with faith. To the humble heart and the sincere, inquiring mind the Bible is full of light and knowledge. Those who come to the Scriptures in this spirit are brought into fellowship with prophets and apostles. Their spirit assimilates to that of Christ, and they long to become one with Him." (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 705).

But James is addressing more the question of how Jesus moves beyond authoring this faith, and becomes "the ... finisher." And this seems simple also when we view the circuit. He treats us in faith, and imparts in that way of relating to us the very principle itself of faith. Then His providence arranges or allows us to "fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2), to give us opportunity to exercise that very faith--to deal with life based on faith working by love in very practical situations unique to the life of each of us. As we, through surrender to His faith and love, learn in the practical situations of life to reflect those same principles to others, we are "letting patience have her perfect work." We allow the circuit to be completed, and to continue flowing in an unending stream, powered by the source of all--His love.

The giving nature of God's love means He is teaching us how to continue giving, through the challenges we encounter. James addresses the fact that faith working by love does not use possessions as its criteria. It acquires in order to give, and it empowers others to do the same.
Trials and suffering are but the school where we learn not just how to give but what to give, by listening to the creative promptings of His Spirit. Thus we learn to endure--to keep giving no matter how much "taking" we encounter. This "patience" in its end-time development is what enables God's people to endure the final storm of lawlessness, by loving to the end, and thus giving a witness to the gospel that will flood the earth (Matt. 24:12-14; Rev. 14:12).

It is the "joy ... set before" that empowers such giving (Heb. 12:2; Neh. 8:10), knowing that others will also see the dynamic, be captured by it, and adopt it as their way of living, for eternity. This joy continues even through suffering, as one gives more and more in the presence of those who are taking more and more. This joy is based on principle, not feeling. Faith leads, and feelings follow.

This growing process follows the measure of faith (Rom. 12:3) and love (Eph. 4:16), learning more and more how to love as Christ did. The goal is "a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). This is the "perfect work" James saw. As the Spirit unfolds to us more and more what this means in each of our lives, we develop "the wisdom that is from above." And it "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." By His word and Spirit, we see through the eyes of faith; we view things from God's perspective. And we act on that. This is the "meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13).

In this process, we do not always learn what to do on the first attempt. We have many opportunities to repent of our unbelief, our resistance to God's faith and love working through us. We will see much evidence in our past (individual and corporate) of unbelief that like Israel at Kadesh, has blocked God's plans. We will have to repent and confess these failures, and submit to God's correction and instruction, spending more time meditating on God's faith and love, demonstrated throughout the past and the present.

So let us "ask in faith, nothing wavering." (James 1:6). Don't stop; keep asking. Steady yourself by leaning on Him. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." (James 1:12). The circuit will be complete, and will continue through eternity, in the beauty and joy of unselfish love, receiving and giving.
-Fred Bischoff

Raul Diaz