Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“How to Be Saved”

Insights #5 August 2, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"How to Be Saved"
For the week of August 2, 2014
What Must I do to be Saved?
The question has been asked at various times and in various ways according to the Bible.  We all know the answer:  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ . . ." (Acts 16:31).  "By grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8).  Jesus said, more than once, "Your faith has saved you" (Luke 7:50).  These were his words to Mary.  The one for whom He had prayed seven times (DA 569).  But what is genuine, saving faith.  Let's see if we can understand what constituted Mary's faith, and facilitated her deliverance from a living hell?

The Bible evidence concerning Mary is very sparse.  But putting the desperate pieces together, scattered between the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, an amazing picture emerges.  Mary had grown up in Bethany, a small suburb of Jerusalem.  And evidently all had gone well for Mary, until one day something tragic happened.  The Bible does not give us the details, so we do not know if it was rape or seduction, but we do know that someone violated her.

In the wake of this awful tragedy, Mary evidently lost all self-respect.  She felt like nothing, going nowhere.  It appears she may have run away from home, leaving her sister, Martha and her brother Lazarus.  We do not know if she had living parents at the time.  But it is clear that she wound up in Magdala, a small village several miles away.  Thus she became known as Mary Magdalene.

Separated from her home, her family and everything that she knew and loved, Mary threw herself into the abyss.  She became a complete basket case.  The Bible says she became possessed of seven devils (Luke 8:2).  The Bible only hints at the nature of Mary's problem, through the description of her critics analysis of Jesus' compassion:  "Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, 'This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner'" (Luke 7:39).  

Mary had been a great sinner.  But one day she happened to meet the Saviour.  And Jesus prayed for Mary, and a demon was cast out.  As wonderful as that must have been it wasn't long before Mary knew she still needed more help.  And Jesus, knowing her need, did not give up on her.  He prayed for Mary again.  Again Mary must have felt a measure of relief, but the problem wasn't completely solved.  And Jesus knew it, so He prayed again, and again and again and again and yet again. Finally after that seventh prayer, Mary was completely healed.

We do not know if Jesus prayed for Mary seven times in one day, like Elijah on Mount Carmel or if He prayed for Mary again and again over a period of weeks or months.  The important thing is that Jesus, the compassionate, patient, persistent, loving Saviour did not give up on Mary.  He kept praying until Mary was made whole.  Thus finally Mary was whole again.  She knew it, and she was so very grateful to Jesus.  Her heart overflowed with genuine appreciation for all that Jesus had done for her.  And she wanted him to know that she was indeed very grateful.  But how could she, a woman with a bad reputation, a woman with no social standing, a woman with no power, how could she say thank you to Jesus.

By and by it seems she got a bright idea.  She had heard Jesus speak concerning his death.  And unlike the twelve apostles, Mary believed him.  Though I'm certain that her heart could not have understood what Jesus' death could mean, she determine that she would purchase some appropriate ointment, something fit for a king, and she would anoint his body to the burying.

So Mary goes to the apothecary to purchase the gift that she desired.  Can you imagine Mary negotiating with the shop keeper?  "I need something special, is this the best that you have?" "No, I do have another bottle it will cost you 100 pence."  "O.K." says Mary, "but is this the very best that you have."  "Who is this for Mary," I imagine the shop keeper asking.  "I do have one more bottle, very precious; it comes all the way from the Himalayas; it's very costly.   It will cost you three hundred silver cones.  You don't . . ."  "That's it," says Mary, "I'll take it."  And with that she pays the price and heads for home.

Arriving home Mary places the precious ointment in a safe place and waits for the day that Jesus has spoken of, the day of His death.  But by and by Mary has a change of heart.  "If I anoint His dead body, He will never know how much I do appreciate what He has done for me."  "He'll never know how truly grateful I am." Eventually Mary hears that her uncle Simon, (the one who caused her downfall), is having a party for the Master and she has another brilliant idea.  "That's just perfect" says Mary.  "I go to the party and anoint him there . . . before His death.  Then He will understand how much I appreciate what He has done for me."

These are the approximate events that led Mary to kneel at the feet of Jesus, where she was no doubt startled by the sight of His unwashed feet.  She had just anointed His head as a proper guest of honor should have been anointed.  But then it seems a fountain burst forth from deep inside her soul and she washed the Master's feet with tears and dried them with the hair of her head.

These were the actions, the expressions of a heart that truly appreciated the gift of Christ.  This appreciation constituted Mary's faith.

We have been told:

You may say that you believe in Jesus, when you have an appreciation of the cost of salvation. You may make this claim, when you feel that Jesus died for you on the cruel cross of Calvary; when you have an intelligent, understanding faith that his death makes it possible for you to cease from sin, and to perfect a righteous character through the grace of God, bestowed upon you as the purchase of Christ's blood (E.G. White, RH, July 24, 1888).
This deep heart appreciation of the gift of God in Christ was the active ingredient in Mary's faith.  And Jesus recognized it and said to Mary, "Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace" (Luke 8:50).

Thus we should understand that faith includes trust, but it's more than trust.  And faith includes belief, yet it is more than belief.  And faith includes a deep confidence in God, but faith is more than confidence.  Faith is appreciation of the cost of salvation.  As our lesson this week says:  "The humble and broken heart, subdued by genuine repentance, will appreciate something of the love of God and the cost of Calvary" (E.G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 41).

Mary truly believed and her faith is what led her to a new life of appreciation and devotion.  She was the last at the cross; the first at the tomb Sunday morning; the first disciple to see the risen Savior; the first to herald our risen Lord.  Mary was first to sit at the feet of Jesus, the first to anoint the head of Jesus; the one of whom Jesus said, she "hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk. 10:42).
-Mark Duncan

Raul Diaz

Lesson 5: How to Be Saved

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 5: How to Be Saved
This week's lesson teaches that there are "simple practical steps needed for salvation" (p. 38 regular ed.), in other words, "how to be saved." However, the Bible and the 1888 message teach that Christ has saved the world. "It is a fact, plainly stated in the Bible, that the gift of righteousness and life in Christ has come to every man on earth. ... Do you ask what then can prevent every man from being saved? The answer is, Nothing, except the fact that all men will not keep the faith. If all would keep all that God gives them, all would be saved." [1]
Throughout history it is deeply engrained in human thinking that salvation is initially dependant on human initiative. Nothing happens until like the prodigal son we say, "I will arise and go." But did Jesus teach that the salvation of the prodigal son was due to his own initiative? In eternity, will he boast, "I'm here because I came home"? Or will he thank God for his father's love that spoke hope to his heart even while he was sitting in the pigsty? Was it is his own initiative that drove him to "arise and go" or was it the drawing of that love?
It appears that the teaching of Jesus was clear that "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32). He did not teach that those who are saved at last are those who come under their own self-starter power.
Eternal life is promised to everyone who "believes" in Jesus: "If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death," He said (John 8:51, NKJV). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life" (5:24, NKJV). But what does it mean to "believe" in Him?
The Bible warns us of a massive counterfeit of "believing" in these last days (Matt. 24:23, 24, for example). Genuine believing has to do with the Father giving His Son for the world ("God so loved the world that He gave ..."; John 3:16). He gave, not lent Him. That means a totality of giving and an eternity in its duration. It also means an appreciation of His dying for us because the only way we can "believe" is by seeing Him "lifted up" as Moses "lifted up" a snake on a pole "in the wilderness" (vss. 14, 15). That directs us to the kind of death that Jesus died--on a cross (12:32, 33).
Therefore, "believing" in Jesus means a heart-appreciation of the Father's giving Him and of Christ's giving Himself in dying for us our "second death" (cf. Heb. 2:9, Rev. 2:11). Such "believing" transforms the believer. It is a genuine new birth because the love of self is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). There is a well of "rivers of living water" springing up from within the depths of the heart of every true "believer" in Him (John 7:37, 38). That's what it means to believe in Jesus! You are a channel through which that "water of life" flows to thirsty people. 
Love Is the Only Way
Our problem of great importance is how to achieve active and powerful love as a body, so that the full resources and cohesion of the church can be perfectly used to demonstrate it to the world. Truth must be the vehicle, because only truth can penetrate to the secret recesses of the human heart. The Lord has in reserve a means of motivation that will be truly effective. There will be no need to harangue God's people to respond, no need to provide artificial stimulation to induce them to put forth effort, any more than the apostles needed to in the beginning. Something happened at Pentecost that provided the early church with a truly phenomenal motivation.
That motivation was provided by an experience of full repentance, a doctrine that pervades both the Old and New Testaments. A hazy, indistinct concept of repentance can result only in a state of lukewarmness. Like medicine that must be taken in a quantity sufficient to provide a proper concentration in the bloodstream, Bible repentance must be full and thorough, or a truly Christlike love can never operate effectively in the church. This is the kind of repentance Christ demands of Laodicea.
The "end" could have come many decades ago if the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" had been willing to receive the Lord's message when He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19). We are still in this world of confusion and rebellion, battling still with evil spirits and wrestling with constantly worsening problems, for one simple reason: we have never truly done what our Lord has told us to do.
Repentance is sorrow for sin and turning away from it. But if our view of sin is superficial, our repentance will likewise be superficial. Unless we truly appreciate the depth of our sin, only a veneer repentance becomes possible; and it is this that produces ever new generations of lukewarm church members.
The grand finale of the work of the Holy Spirit will be a work of extraordinary beauty and simplicity, as Ellen G. White described it: "Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, 'Behold your God.' The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory." [2]
Once this Christlike love can permeate the church as a body, the message will indeed enlighten the earth in an incredibly short time. Human nature is the same the world over. Scratch the surface among all nations, races, or tribes, and one finds underneath the same human hunger for reality. The love of Christ manifested in human flesh is the universal language that will evoke a response everywhere.
The closer we come to what the Bible speaks of as "the end of the world" (Matt. 24:3), the more intimate will the people of God become with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their acquaintance will become like that of a couple who meet, get slightly acquainted, then fall in love, become engaged, and finally marry; no woman on earth will become the "bride of Christ," but there is a body of people known as "the church" who will "make herself ready" for that epochal "wedding" (cf. Rev. 19:7, 8; Eph. 5:23-27).
A "paradigm shift" in understanding is a mild term to describe the upheaval that will occur in the spiritual experience of God's people as they near when Christ closes His High Priestly ministry in the Most Holy Apartment. The grand antitypical Day of Atonement will be a reconciliation with Him that can only be described as a bride yielding herself joyously at last to her long-loved but never yet "known" bridegroom.
The tremendous spiritual upheaval will be a new motivation supplanting our old egocentric one. We have always responded to the desire to be saved--a very wholesome one, indeed; a thousand times better than acquiring worldly wealth. But it's still the desire for a reward; we have sung, "I Shall Wear a Crown in My Father's House," we have contemplated exchanging "the cross for a crown," we have widely taught that "securing our own salvation is the highest duty of life." Again, wonderfully true; but still puerile.
In the closing up of the Day of Atonement, which began in 1844, a new motivation takes over: a concern for Christ that He receive His reward, that He be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords; our concern for Him eclipses that old one of egocentricity.
This won't be righteousness by works; it will be a new chapter in righteousness by faith. At last, "perfect agape [will] cast out fear" (1 John 4:18). A new heart-appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to die for us will be grasped.
This will be our communication to the world of "Christ and Him crucified" as the world has never before heard it in such clarity since Pentecost.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Endnotes:[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 101; 69.
[2] Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416.
--------------------------------------------------------Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe.

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Insights #4 July 26, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
For the week of July 26, 2014
This week's lesson is about the gift of salvation, God's initiative to save, with Christ's death as the basis for salvation, followed by two results: freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life.

Most certainly God took the initiative to save mankind. He sent Jesus as the Savior of the world as testified by John and by Samaritans (1 John 4:14; John 4:42). After Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, He was urged by the Samaritans from a nearby city to stay with and to teach them.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." (John 4:39–42).
From that last phrase, Jesus evidently taught the Samaritans that He is "the Savior of the world." This could not be taught to the Jewish people because they felt salvation was limited and exclusively their own. But the Samaritan's minds and hearts were open to this good news.

Paul, some years later, commanded Timothy to teach that God "is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (1 Tim 4:10-11). Salvation is mankind's birthright, but like Esau many trade it for the world's pot of stew. E. J. Waggoner put it this way:

God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession. Thus every mouth will be stopped. (Glad Tidings, original edition, pp. 22-23)

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and He was successful (Luke 19:10; 15:3-10). He "gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:6). The ransom was the price made for our redemption, our emancipation. "With His own blood He has signed the emancipation papers of the race" (MH 90). He accomplished something for every human being. He died the equivalency of the second death for "everyone" (Heb 2:9). He saved the world of sinners from that death. "By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon" (6BC 1099). Those who perish in the second death are those who willfully turn from Christ to "do their own thing." They have the freedom to refuse Him and reject Him.

But those who do not reject Jesus, even though they may be the weakest of the weak, "He will hold by a hand that will never let go." Here is the context for this statement:

Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on the merits of the Savior. By prayer, by the study of His word, by faith in His abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them by a hand that will never let go" (MH 182).

    Here is another promise: "Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. The greater the sinner's guilt, the more he needs the Savior. His heart of divine love and sympathy is drawn out most of all for the one who is the most hopelessly entangled in the snares of the enemy." (MH 89-90).

Remember that while we were ungodly sinners, even enemies, God demonstrated His love for us in that Jesus died for us, justified us in His blood and reconciled us through His death (Rom 5:6-10). Having done the hardest and most difficult part for our salvation, will He not give us grace to live godly, righteous and reconciled lives?

God's grace is much more powerful than is sin. In the very place where sin abounds, grace super abounds much more (Rom 5:20). Paul follows this concept with questions and answers: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom 6:1–2).

God's salvation-bringing grace has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). It gives us power and "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12, NIV). This is in harmony with the name "Jesus" which means salvation. ("Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew word "Joshua" which means Savior). An angel from heaven told Joseph, regarding the Babe of Bethlehem, "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from [not in] their sins" (Matt 1:21).

Present salvation means that eternal life begins here and now for the believer. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life." "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life." "And 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" (John 3:26; 5:24; 1 John 5:11-12).

In closing, consider the following promise to which we may cling and be "as safe as though inside the city of God."

The message from God to me for you is "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). If you have nothing else to plead before God but this one promise from your Lord and Savior, you have the assurance that you will never, never be turned away. It may seem to you that you are hanging upon a single promise, but appropriate that one promise, and it will open to you the whole treasure house of the riches of the grace of Christ. Cling to that promise and you are safe. "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." Present this assurance to Jesus, and you are as safe as though inside the city of God. (10MR 175).
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 18, 2014

“The Holy Spirit”

Insights #3 July 19, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Holy Spirit"
For the week of July 19, 2014

"When about to leave His disciples, Christ was in search of the greatest comfort He could give them. He promised them the Holy Spirit-- the Comforter--to combine with man's human effort. What promise is less experienced, less fulfilled to the church, than the promise of the Holy Spirit? When this blessing, which would bring all blessings in its train, is dropped out, the sure result is spiritual drought. This is the reproach that meets the sermonizer. The church must arise and no longer be content with the meager dew."  (EGW 1888 Materials, p. 435.1; "The Need of a True Concept of Righteousness by Faith," Denver, Colorado, September 13, 1889)

In these words given to the ministers at the Colorado Camp Meeting the summer after the Minneapolis General Conference Session, Ellen White addressed the promise of the Holy Spirit, for our day. Do we sense our need of "the greatest comfort [Jesus] could give"? Why would we allow "this blessing" to be "dropped out"? Why do we accept "spiritual drought" and "meager dew"? Indeed, "this blessing" will "bring all blessings in its train"! But we must view this promise as did the disciples on that Pentecost day. "All blessings" are not to feed our ego. They are not things to help us in our self-centered contention to discover "who is the greatest." It is our self-focus that blinds us to our own need of Him. Like the disciples did (Judas excepted), we must embrace the cross, and let it destroy those selfish plans. Then "the Blessing of Abraham"--"the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14)--will empower us to be a blessing to others in need, to bless others unselfishly as God has blessed us.

The mysterious nature of this Divine Being need not puzzle us, for we are not called to understand the nature of His being, other than the simple evidence we are given--He "is as much a person as God is a person"; He "has a personality"; He "must also be a divine person"; and He is one of the three "eternal heavenly dignitaries" (Evangelism, pp. 616, 617). Indeed, this gift, "this blessing," is none other than "the third Person of the Godhead" (The Desire of Ages, p. 671.2). But in contrast to trying to grasp the nature of His being, we must study in depth the nature of His character, for it is vitally important.

The humility of this Being has confused us as much as the humility of the Son of God confused those to whom He came. We must not confuse the humility of His character with the exalted nature of His being. Jesus promised His church Someone to take His place. Just as Jesus was "meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29), so the fruit of the Spirit's presence will include "meekness" (Galatians 5:23). The Spirit will testify of Jesus (John 15:26)--His righteousness, His faith and love.

"The truth" Jesus was born to "bear witness" to (John 18:37) was the truth about the Father--His character of unselfish love. Jesus embodied that (John 14:6, 9). He was here on a mission to reveal the humble glory, the simple beauty of unselfishness--the driving character quality in which the Godhead had fellowshipped from eternity (see John 3:11; 1:18; 1 John 1:2, 3). When Jesus left this earth, His replacement would continue the witness. He is "the Spirit of the truth" who in the unselfishness of Their character, does "not speak of Himself" but will, if we receive "the love of the truth," guide us "into all the truth." (John 16:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; the definite article--"the"--is in each verse as quoted, "the truth").

As a human Jesus was born "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3; like us), but was conceived through the Spirit (Luke 1:35; unlike us). He would ever be dependent here as a human on the presence of the Spirit (John 3:34; 1:32). Thus He would not live by His own divine nature, but "by the Father" (John 6:57). In fact, He confessed in His identity with our human and sinful condition, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30; see 5:19). This is the same verb He used in telling His disciples, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). This dependence on the Spirit led Him in an amazing ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing (Matthew 4:23). He was "the pattern Man, the great Medical Missionary--an example for all who should come after." (Medical Ministry, p. 20.1).

His unselfishness and humility led Him to indentify with us in our human inability. And the Spirit brings the same character qualities to us, to identify with others, to empower us as He did Jesus, for unselfish service, to teach us what "the truth" of God's character looks like in real life, not just in Bible teachings, but in what we could call "applied theology"--the challenges of representing God in the issues of every day life. We "can do nothing" in those areas of need without the Spirit's help. And He wants to help us more than we sense our need of Him.

The proving ground is learning as Paul did, how to deal with "sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17, 20). The only answer we have is the one Paul found, for each of us to have a mind transformed to "delight in the law of God" (Rom. 7:22, 23; compare 8:26, 27), and for the Spirit to "dwell in" us (8:9, 11; same verb as chapter 7) to enable us to handle that part of us that has not been changed, and won't be until "the redemption of our body" (8:23). As we experience that freedom from "the law of sin and death" through the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (8:2), we are enabled to assist others to see how to find the same liberty.

This must have been the core of the process of transformation the disciples experienced that led them through the events of Luke 24 to the condition of being, finally, "with one accord" (Acts 1:14, 2:1). And the results, the corollary event from the throne of God Himself, was an outpouring of the Spirit in supernatural power for witness (Acts 2:2-4, 33). Jesus, not self, was exalted (2:22-36).

Adventism has been stuck somewhere between Luke 22 and Luke 24, in the movement from the beginning of the antitypical Day of Atonement, toward the realization of the Latter Rain. (See Early Writings, p. 271.2; 1888 Materials, p. 27.1; Pamphlet #2 PH002, p. 25.2.) For some 125 years God has been waiting, in His long-suffering, for us accept the ministry of Jesus from the Most Holy Place, sending a message that alone will bring us to "one accord." What is our need? It was graphically described 118 years ago almost to the day of this Sabbath lesson, in an article entitled, of all things, "Why the Lord Waits." Let's read it on our knees.

"Every truly converted soul will be intensely desirous to bring others from the darkness of error into the marvelous light of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The great outpouring of the Spirit of God, which lightens the whole earth with his glory, will not come until we have an enlightened people, that know by experience what it means to be laborers together with God. When we have entire, whole-hearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of his Spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with God. God cannot pour out his Spirit when selfishness and self-indulgence are so manifest; when a spirit prevails that, if put into words, would express that answer of Cain,--'Am I my brother's keeper?' If the truth for this time, if the signs that are thickening on every hand, that testify that the end of all things is at hand, are not-sufficient to arouse the sleeping energy of those who profess to know the truth, then darkness proportionate to the light which has been shining will overtake these souls. There is not the semblance of an excuse for their indifference that they will be able to present to God in the great day of final reckoning. There will be no reason to offer as to why they did not live and walk and work in the light of the sacred truth of the word of God, and thus reveal to a sin-darkened world, through their conduct, their sympathy, and their zeal, that the power and reality of the gospel could not be controverted."  (Review and Herald, July 21, 1896 par. 2)

When this "outpouring of his Spirit without measure" comes, after the above-described prerequisites that stops grieving away this heavenly Guest (EGW 1888 Materials, p. 695.6), "the meager dew" will turn into a "tidal wave" on an unprecedented scale (see Selected Messages, Vol. 3, p. 160.6). Let us welcome the preparation!
- Fred Bischoff

Raul Diaz

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

“The Son of God”

Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Son of God"
For the week of July 12, 2014
This week's lesson was a rich blessing.  I was particularly blessed by a highlight I had never seen before.  In Tuesday's lesson the author points out that Jesus never said, "I am God or I am the Messiah" for had He done so, His life could have immediately been taken.  When He clearly identified himself as God without using those words, "The Jews took up stones again to stone him" (John 10:31).  Yet what was quite enlightening to me was the author's comments on the identifying phrase that Jesus used most of all for Himself, "The Son of man."  "He referred to Himself as Son of man more than eighty times" (July 6, Sabbath School Lesson).  

This has also been my favorite designation for Christ.  I have always felt comforted by the thought that He was identifying with us.  He is "not ashamed to call [us] brethren" (Heb. 2:11).  After all, we have no hang-ups about the fact that He is God.  What deeply impresses and even astounds us is the fact that He willingly became a man.  Yet, I was astounded anew as I read in this week's lesson that when Jesus used that phrase, "Son of man," He was also brilliantly identifying Himself as God, and as the Messiah. He is the "Son of man." This cryptic phrase is clearly an allusion to Daniel 7:13:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him (Dan. 7:13).

In the book of Daniel it is clear that the One who comes to the "Ancient of Days," in the vision of Daniel 7, is a divine personage.  He is given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him" (Dan. 7:14).  This must be the Son of God.  And this must also be a prophecy that He will become a human being.  I had never even considered that Jesus was telling the Jews who He really was.

As I reveled in the joy of this new insight, and pondered its significance my joy was suddenly turned to sorrow as I realized that there is a most serious lack in our Sabbath School lesson for this week.  In fact, a quick scan of the entire quarterly confirmed my fears.  The lesson for this quarter will focus upon and emphasize the truth that most Christians already know and accept.  And it will carefully avoid communicating the truth that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ need to understand.

You see, we have a problem today that is actually the exact opposite of the problem that the Jews of Christ's day had.  The Jews of Christ's day looked at Christ and saw a son of man.  Many of them thought He was just a man and nothing more.  This is hard for us to grasp when we consider the many mighty miracles that He performed. We smugly assume that we are much more enlightened than they were.  Yet many of us have an equally serious problem.  We tend to think of Christ as the Son of God, the Son of God and nothing more.  Sometimes we reveal a tendency to merge His humanity into His divinity and fail to keep the two natures separate and distinct.  It appears that we have not fully appreciated the fact that Jesus has two natures.  His divinity did not enhance or elevate His humanity.  And His humanity did not degrade or compromise His divinity.  He is fully God and fully man and the two never meet.

Hebrews chapter one is dedicated to the objective of presenting the idea that Jesus is God.  Hebrews chapter two is dedicated to presenting the idea that Jesus is man.  Chapter one teaches us that there is not a shadow of the slightest difference between Christ and the divine nature.  It does this in order to facilitate the presentation of the idea in chapter two that there is not a shadow of the slightest difference between the human nature of Christ and the human nature of those whom He came to redeem.  He is fully God and fully man with no shadow of any difference between the divine nature of Christ and the nature of God and no shadow of any difference between the human nature of Christ and the nature of mankind.  To compromise one is to compromise the other.  He was "in all things made like His brethren" (Heb. 2:17).  This detail is essential to the plan of redemption.

This is the truth that our Sabbath School Lesson fails to mention.  It tells us that "He was born as a baby, grew up as a child (increasing in wisdom and in stature [Luke 2:40, 52]), and had sisters and brothers (Matt. 13:55, 56).  He ate (Matt. 9:11), slept (Luke 8:23), was tired (John 19:28), and suffered hunger and thirst (Matt. 4:2, John 19:28).  He also experienced sorrow and distress (Matt. 26:37)."  Unfortunately our lesson ends its description of the humanity of our Saviour here, just short of what is needed to redeem a lost race, just short of what is needed for Him to be victorious in His conflict with Satan.  All that is presented is true, wonderfully true.  Yet, it stops short of mentioning the characteristic that is absolutely necessary to qualify Him to be our Substitute and our righteousness.  It stops just short of fully identifying Him with us and thus leaves room for an incorrect understanding of the humanity of Christ.

Do not forget . . . that the mystery of God is not God manifest in sinless flesh, but God manifest in sinful flesh. There could never be any mystery about God's manifesting himself in sinless flesh—in one who had no connection whatever with sin. That would be plain enough. But that he can manifest himself in flesh laden with sin and with all the tendencies of sin, such as ours is—that is a mystery. Yea, it is the mystery of God. And it is a glorious fact, thank the Lord! Believe it. And before all the world, and for the joy of every person in the world, in Jesus Christ he has demonstrated that this great mystery is indeed a fact in human experience. For "as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." "In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren." And therefore God "made him to be sin for us." "He hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Thus, in our flesh, having our nature, laden with iniquity, and himself made to be sin, Christ Jesus lived in this world, tempted in all points like as we are; and yet God always caused him to triumph in him, and made manifest the savor of his knowledge by him in every place. Thus God was manifest in the flesh,—in our flesh, in human flesh laden with sin,—and made to be sin in itself, weak and tempted as ours is. And thus the mystery of God was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. O, believe it! (A.T. Jones, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 29, 1896).
"This truth is an essential part of "the message that God commanded to be given to the world" (E.G. White, Evangelism, p. 192).  It is part of the gospel (See Romans 1:1-4).  It is good news that we must carry to the world.

If Christ had not taken our nature, He could not be tempted in all points "like as we are" (Heb. 4:15); He could not be the "merciful and faithful High Priest" (Heb. 2:17) that we need; He could not be "the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).  We have been told:

The divinity of Christ is our assurance of eternal life (E.G. White, Youth Instructor, Feb. 11, 1897).  

And we have also been told:

The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God (E.G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 245).

Both the divine and the human natures of Christ are essential to the plan of redemption.  We must not hesitate to declare what the Bible says concerning both.
-Mark Duncan

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

“Our Loving Heavenly Father”

Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Our Loving Heavenly Father"
For the week of July 5, 2014

This quarter's lessons are systematic topical studies of various teachings, by Jesus, in different settings such as in the synagogue or on a mountainside or by the sea. The first three lessons are about the Godhead. Following these, salvation is considered, then the Church and its mission, with the law and Sabbath coming after, finally proceeding to the topics about death, the resurrection and ending with the second coming of Jesus.

This first week's lesson is about the Father. He is presented, as should be, as "Our Loving Heavenly Father." However, most religions of the world present Him not as a loving Father, but as an exacting tyrant who requires sacrifices, even suffering, to appease His wrath. This was the misunderstanding of God's chosen people before, and during, the days Jesus sojourned on earth two thousand years ago. This notion continues to this very day in the religions of the world and by many, if not most, Christians.

On the other hand, there are teachings of Spiritualism which present love "as the chief attribute of God" (GC557). But it makes little or no distinction between evil and good. In a book written by a Spiritualist, A.B. Child, M.D., entitled Whatever is, is Right, we read in question and answer form:

"What is evil?" The reply is "Evil is good." On page 27 we read: "What is Evil?" "What is called evil is good. Nothing is evil in reality, for what appears on the surface to be evil, is only a necessary effect of goodness; it is the effect of wisdom acting ever, for the best good of all." Under the question, "What is a lie?" we read the devil's answer: "A lie is a truth intrinsically; it holds a lawful place in creation; it is a necessity" (p. 18).

Since the message of God's love is paramount, especially in these last days of earth's history, we may be sure that the devil will present a false concept, a counterfeit, of God's love. The following quotation sums up this counterfeit teaching of Spiritualism:

Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God's justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight.
It is true that spiritualism is now changing its form and, veiling some of its more objectionable features, is assuming a Christian guise. But its utterances from the platform and the press have been before the public for many years, and in these its real character stands revealed. These teachings cannot be denied or hidden (GC 557, 558).

Notwithstanding the devil's counterfeit, God's love must be considered and proclaimed. We must not shy away from presenting God's fatherly love to the fallen race.

Let's first consider some background for the term "Father." In the Old Testament, the word comes from the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter Aleph is the "father" of the Aleph-Bet. It is a silent letter, but testifies of the oneness of God. (See Hebrew for Christians, by John J. Parsons, online at: Aleph-Bet/Aleph/aleph.html).

The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Beth, which means a house or a tent. A "father" is a member of a household. God is our Father. And we are of His household: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph 2:18).

God is the father of His people. The word "father" is used of the founder, protector, and sustainer, of a family, a household, a church, or a nation.

The devil's attack has always been centered on the character of God. Jesus came to unmask the devil's deception and present a true picture of God as our Heavenly Father. This was because most of Israel had a misconception of God. This included the disciples of Jesus who were with Him for more than three years. Jesus must have been cut to the quick when Philip requested "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us" (John 14:8). Jesus was "the express image" of God's person (Heb 1:3) and so He replied to Philip, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9).

It wasn't until the cross that the disciples more fully understood the love of the Father as manifest by Jesus. On the cross Jesus revealed the infinite agony that the Father experienced on our behalf, as well as Christ's own sufferings for us – all for us. "The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God" (Ed 263). God's suffering did not begin nor end at Calvary.

The cross is a mighty revelation of the unconditional love of God for a race who did not love Him. Read Rom 5:6-10, where we read that "Christ died for the ungodly" and that His death was a demonstration of the love of God for us "while we were still sinners." Even "when we were enemies" we were justified and reconciled to God "through the death of His Son."

E. J. Waggoner wrote of his conversion experience, which happened when he was 27 years old and while attending a camp meeting. He saw Christ crucified for him personally and for the first time he realized that God loved him. He wrote:

[A]n experience came to me that was the turning point in my life. Suddenly a light shone about me, and the tent seemed illumined, as though the sun were shining; I saw Christ crucified for me, and to me was revealed for the first time in my life the fact that God loved me, and that Christ gave Himself for me personally. It was all for me. If I could describe my feelings, they would not be understood by those who have not had a similar experience, and to such no explanation is necessary. E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (1900), p. 5.

Waggoner knew that he would find in the Bible "the message of God's love for individual sinners, and I resolved that the rest of my life should be devoted to finding it there, and making it plain to others." Ibid. And so he did.

And you can know today, right now, that "God is bending from His throne to hear the cry of the oppressed. To every sincere prayer He answers, 'Here am I.' He uplifts the distressed and downtrodden. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. In every temptation and every trial the angel of His presence is near to deliver" (DA 356).

Again: "God looked upon humanity, not as vile and worthless; He looked upon it in Christ, saw it as it might become through redeeming love. He collected all the riches of the universe, and laid them down in order to buy the pearl" (COL 118).

And think of this. This is especially for you. God wants to win your confidence: "If you ask the help of God, you will not ask in vain. The Lord is at work in many ways to win your hearty confidence." (This Day with God, 184).

Will you surrender your life, without reservation, to this God – this loving Father – who loves you without limits. Think of this: God who superintends the unnumbered places and people of the universe, takes time to bend from His throne to listen to you and to me. What a God! What a Father!
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Our Loving Heavenly Father

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 1: Our Loving Heavenly Father


In the days of Christ, He was clear that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22); the true church was that Temple in.  Jerusalem which He said was "My Father's house" (John 2:16). But He split that "church" wide open with controversy.

If you had been living there you would have wondered how this lowly man from Nazareth could be right and the great theologians and leaders in the Temple could be wrong. But that was the way things were. Honest people were perplexed; they watched and listened and pondered, just like you today.

Jesus cleared things up for us all: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" (John 7:16-18). That settled it for every honest-hearted person: the teachings of Jesus separated the people into two classes --those who ended up crying "Crucify Him!" and those who believed in Him and took up their cross to follow.

And now today His teachings will again separate the world into two classes: those who accept "the mark of the beast" and those who receive "the seal of God" (Rev. 7:1-4; 17:14). You and I today are choosing sides.

This week Christ invites us to explore what He taught about His Father. He may correct misunderstandings about His Father's character. "Christ's favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God." [1] E. J. Waggoner characterizes the "Father" as the "sweet name" Jesus taught us "to call the great God." Our heavenly Father is infinite. At first thought, this truth may tempt us to wonder if the comfort He can give us is real and effective; how can it be if the Father is an infinite being?

The 1888 message helps us see the true character of our Father. Don't forget that He was also the "our Father which art in heaven" to Jesus during His years of sojourn with us in this human life. Whatever the Father was to Jesus, He is the same to us. His being infinite does not in the least lessen the personal attention He gives to us each one.

If we trace God's agape-love back before time and creation, before God's desire to make humans in His image, there existed love within the family of the Godhead. The Father has always had a Son to love from eternity, and the Son has always expressed His love of the Father by choosing to subordinate Himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son and likewise does the Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we humans have had earthly fathers who left us confused and bewildered at the word "father." But Jesus came on a mission to this earth specifically to reveal to us the family of the Godhead. "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). Here is marvelous instruction in self-denial, which is the highest wisdom. Everything is delivered into the hands of Christ, and He uses the power only to reveal the Father to men, while He Himself remains unknown. We speak of knowing Christ, but in knowing Him we learn only the character of God. In seeing Him, we see God. Jesus said to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

He "emptied Himself" that the Father might appear. In all the universe no one knows the Son, except the Father. That was and is the sacrifice of Christ. Looking down upon fallen humanity, His heart was filled with love and pity, and He said to the Father, "I will declare Your name to My brethren" (Heb. 2:12). So He was content to be despised and unknown, to be misunderstood and rejected, without any complaint, knowing that the Father understood Him.

When God the Father was confronted with a world [that is, in Adam] that had sinned and rebelled against Him; did He drop a bomb on them? No; He did what the unfallen universe thought was unthinkable: He frankly forgave them and granted the sinners a judicial verdict of acquittal.

Now the Father was free to treat sinners as though they had never sinned. The name for this action is grace.

Romans 5 describes what happened: The Father's "act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam's wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ" (vs. 15, New English Bible).

This marvelous gift of grace does not belittle the seriousness of the sin that we have committed; the true dimension of the guilt of our sin is the murder of the Son of God.

What kind of sacrifice can balance that account of our guilt? Someone holy and innocent must take our place and "pay the price of guilt."

This is a legal or judicial "verdict of acquittal" that Christ accomplished for us and gave us as a gift. The 1888 message focused on this precious truth like a laser beam. The Father so loved us that He gave us His only Son to die our second death. All He asks from us is to "believe" what He has done. And that word "believe" means to express a heart-felt appreciation for what it cost Him to save us. And that heart-appreciation melts the stony heart, and changes us --that is, converts us.

The Bible invites us to "think of God." And when we do, it is not to think of Him as some merely infinite electronic-like intelligence that pervades the universe, but we are to think of Him as Someone infinitely close and personal --"Our Father which art in heaven. ..." (Matt. 6:9).

Your personal memories of your earthly father may be deficient, but the heavenly Father is not limited by your personal, individual deficiencies; He has a road or route direct to your individual human heart and He invites you to "believe" in Him in His fullness of love (agape).

 --Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 40.

Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe.

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to

Raul Diaz