Thursday, March 12, 2015

“Living By Faith”

Insights #11 March 14, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Living By Faith"
For the week of March 14, 2015
As a group committed to the preaching and teaching of the "most precious message" given to our church at the Minneapolis General Conference session in 1888, Proverbs has not been a book to which we have often turned. So this quarter has presented a tremendous opportunity to explore new frontiers. In Acts 20:27, Paul says, "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of truth." We will find gems of truth as we "seek her as silver" and "search for her as for hidden treasures," Proverbs 2:4. Then Solomon declares, continuing in verse 5, we "will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."

The lesson this week is Living by Faith and one is quick to observe through the daily titles where our focus should be. We will deal with three of the themes: keeping the law, seeking the Lord, and loving the truth.

Keeping the law

Proverbs 28:4, 7, 9
"Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them." "Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son." "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination." Psalms 19 tells us that the law of God is "perfect, converting the soul," "it enlightens the eyes," "rejoices the heart," is "more to be desired than gold, yea even find gold," and this is "sweeter than honey." How can this be when it is a law? In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, page 52, we read, "The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character the expression of divine love and wisdom. The harmony of creation depends upon the perfect conformity of all beings of everything animate and inanimate to the law of the Creator. To Man, the crowning work of creation, God has given power to understand His requirements, to comprehend the justice and beneficence of His law, and its sacred claims upon him; and of man unswerving obedience is required." The same book starts out God is love, His nature, His law is love. The law has been given that we may know Him and grow in intimate fellowship with Him, like Enoch did, that we may more and more reflect the divine image.

One of two most notable declarations of the law in scripture is Exodus, chapter 20. Starting from verse 1, we read, "And God spoke all these woods saying: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage." Here at the outset, before any demand or action is required of mankind, God speaks the gospel to us. I am the One who has redeemed you, I have taken the initiative in mankind's redemption. Salvation has already come to us. God gave the commandments to Israel after He had delivered them from the cruel Egyptian bondage, and God gives us the good news today of a righteous act to all at a historic point in time "to all and on all who believe." The Bible tells us that, "When the fullness of the time had come God sent forth His son born of a woman born under the law to redeem those who were under the law," Galatians 4:4, 5. Before there was sin or a written law, there was a Savior. 2 Timothy 1:8, 9 informs us that "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us." Armed with the power inherent in this good news, Paul is able to tell us that the gospel is the dynamite of God to salvation and, I will add, obedience. Salvation comes in the law (through the obedient life and death of Jesus) and before the law. We don't keep the law to be saved, but vice versa. Now our ears can listen and cherish what the remaining verses in Exodus 20 are saying.

The first commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." The second commandment deals with deeper issues related to idol worship and the complex entanglements of idol worship. Many Adventists today quickly rush past these first three commandments on our way to the fourth, but let's hear what the pen of inspiration says about idolatry. She comments on I Cor. 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved flee from idolatry" in Acts of the Apostles, p.317: "The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he meant not only the worship of idols but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian." And here I must say, God protect those of us who love this most precious message from a "boastful knowledge of the truth" and from impatience with our brethren.

Then Testimonies, Volume 1, page 609- "I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbathkeepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them.  A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God--a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven." The high claims of heaven! In the giving of the Decalogue, God makes plain that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and everything that is. He rested on the seventh day and hallowed it as a perpetual sign for all the ages of His creative and redemptive power, of His love and faithfulness to mankind, and as His ultimate sign of righteousness by faith. In the "wisdom of man" the Sabbath has been changed, and now the veracity of scripture from Genesis chapter 1 is felt to be foolishness. Proverbs 28:4 says, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked but such as keep the law contend with them." This brings us to the second section:

Seeking the Lord

Proverbs 28:5, "Evil men do not understand justice. But those who seek the Lord understand all." Proverbs 2 says things like "incline your ear to wisdom," "apply your heart to understanding," "cry out for discernment," "lift up your voice for understanding" – "then we will understand the Fear of the Lord." The process of seeking the Lord is a persistent gazing upon the uplifted Savior – Romans 1:16, 17 – with wide-open eyes as at something remarkable. This is different from simple voluntary observation or mechanical, passive, casual vision, and is an earnest, continued inspection. We listen to His word, we meditate on His inspired word, and we pray for guidance, understanding, and application. This is what Enoch did. Ellen White said that he hungered and thirsted for that divine knowledge which God alone could impart. She says, "Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image. His face was radiant with a holy light, even the light that shineth in the face of Jesus." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 87. Human knowledge is enriched by meditating on divine matters. Proverbs absolutely rejects human wisdom. Proverbs 28:26, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." Proverbs 26:4,5, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Proverbs 3:7, "Do not be wise in your own eyes." The good news is that, as we seek God, we remember that we were first and already known by Him, with peace and joy we search deeper into the unsearchable riches of Christ, and with thanks to God for His indescribable gift to us. The love of Christ compels us. This brings us to the final point:

Loving the Truth

We have touched on some tremendous gospel truth – did you notice? 1) The law of God is a transcript of His character. 2) God is love and His law is love. 3) The truth that, from the foundation of the world, God took the initiative in the plan of salvation. 4) We don't obey in order to be saved. We are saved, therefore, by the Faith of Jesus we obey. We have seen the gospel truths in 2 Timothy 1:8, 9; Ex. 20; Gal 3:13, 24; and Rom. 1:16,17, and we have seen the immutability of God's law and truth. These truths have brought us to contemplate the uplifted Saviour as we seek the Lord.

Proverbs 29:1,15

"He who is often reproved and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy." And verse 15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." We often think of verse 15 in terms of disciplining children, but could this also refer to God's last day remnant people. Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten therefore be zealous and repent."

Some Truths:

Review and Herald, April 1, 1890

Several have written to me inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have said "It is the third angel's message in verity.

Testimonies to Ministers, page 92

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.

6T, page 19

The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel.

Elsewhere, Ellen White states that had Adventists held fast their faith and followed unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and proclaiming it to the world, that they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward… It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. Last Day Events, 36, 38.

Finally, in Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, page 313 she says this, "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ's sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequences of their own course of action."

As we listen to the important truth that the angel to the church of the Laodiceans writes, which I believe is a vital message for the remnant church to comprehend, I pray that we can embrace and even love the message to Laodicea. God lays out the remedy for insubordination. It is the gold tried in the fire, the white garments that we may be clothed, and the divine eye salve.
-Lyndi Schwartz