Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath”

Insights #5 May 2, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath"
For the week of May 2, 2015

Of all the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church, none sets us more visibly apart from other faiths than the seventh-day Sabbath.

At our Adventist institutions, Sabbath has a distinct feel. As the sun sets on Friday evening, a hush comes over the campus. Businesses are closed. Classes have ended. Students, teachers, and community alike breathe a collective sigh of relief. Sabbath has come. A blessed peace rests upon all.

Sabbath-keeping traditions vary from culture to culture, but in most places in the world you can find a group with whom to worship on the seventh day. And it's not uncommon to be invited for a fellowship meal at church or at someone's home following the service.

Jesus grew up in a Sabbath-keeping culture. The Jews kept the Sabbath. Jesus kept the Sabbath. And Jesus, "as His custom was...went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" Luke 4:16.

In the synagogue Jesus was no mere spectator. He actively participated in the worship service. The accounts in Mark and Luke reveal that in the synagogue . . .

Jesus taught (as one having authority).

Jesus rebuked evil spirits.

Jesus read publicly from the Old Testament Scriptures prophecies concerning Himself.

Jesus was attacked in church and thrust out of the city where His fellow Sabbath-keepers intended to throw Him off a cliff (but He passed through the midst of them, unnoticed).

Jesus healed people in church, thus inciting the rage of the Sabbath-keeping Jewish leaders.

Jesus was interrogated by church leaders.

Jesus caused the multitudes to rejoice in His miracle-working power on the Sabbath day.

And because of this His fame spread everywhere.

One Sabbath Jesus was invited to dinner at a church leader's home. But the experience must have been something less than relaxing for Him, because, while there, he was being watched closely (Luke. 14:1).

Jesus had friends. And Jesus had enemies. His friends tended to be the lay people. His enemies tended to be the church leaders. They were constantly trying to trick Him into saying something upon which they could find cause for accusation. Behind it all, they were jealous of Jesus. The approbation given him by the crowds they longed to re-direct to themselves. "For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy" Mark 15:10.

Jesus challenged the conventional Sabbath-keeping notions of His day. While the Pharisees were meticulous observers of self-made Sabbath rules, they had forgotten the biblical definition of true Sabbath keeping found in Isaiah 58.  He asked the Pharisees if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. While they were mulling over His question, Jesus healed a man with dropsy and sent him on his way.

Everywhere Jesus went He was loved--and hated--by Sabbath keepers.

Those plotting the death of Jesus hurried to accomplish their deed before the Sabbath began because the commandment had said, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Jesus said, "The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath" Luke 6:5.

How is it with us?

Is it possible to keep the seventh-day Sabbath – at least to all appearances – and yet hate the Lord of the Sabbath?

Today, as in the days of Christ, not all who make a pretense of being Sabbath keepers have surrendered their lives to Jesus. For some, Sabbath keeping is a form.

In our own church history can be traced the record of a similar rejection of Christ as that of the Jews. In Minneapolis and thereafter, it was [Sabbath-keeping] leadership of the day that resisted the most precious message of Jesus and His righteousness. The message of God's agape love that was ready to flow in a rich current throughout the earth was in a large degree rejected, and, as a result, we are still here.

But the time is not far distant when all those who keep the Sabbath will be brought to a test. That time of trial just ahead will reveal the motives in our hearts. Our faith will fail unless it is rooted and grounded in the self-sacrificing love of Jesus. It is an appreciation of His love alone that can change and make us true Sabbath keepers, as a revelation of the faith of Jesus.
-Patti Guthrie


Friday, April 24, 2015

“The Call to Discipleship”

Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Call to Discipleship"
For the week of April 25, 2015

Jesus' call to discipleship flowed from His very life. We see the elements of this in the Luke 5 story when His passion to share "the word of God" (Luke 5:1) led Him to ask a favor of a fisherman--to use Simon's boat as a floating vantage point from which He could teach the people (verse 3). He must have exuded great joy in the process of casting the word and of succeeding in catching people's hearts for an eternal kingdom (Luke 1:33; 4:43; compare Dan. 2:44). And He must have thought of the parallel between catching fish with a net and catching men with the word. For next He cast His word to the fisherman in two simple steps.

First, He hinted loudly at the genuine success awaiting those who enter that unselfish joy, by sending Simon out to fish in a way that the fisherman questioned. But Simon had apparently heard enough of the power of "the word of God" from this humble man from Nazareth to submissively say, "At Thy word I will" (verse 5). The miraculous results convinced him that Jesus' word had a power that somehow embraced him while convincing him, by contrast, what "a sinful man" he was (verse 8). Apparently the obvious miracle of "Thy word" awed Simon and his partners, James and John (verse 10), to the point of fear. So Jesus took the second step, and further embraced Simon with the words, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." This simple prediction, flowing from a heart of faith and love rather than shear foreknowledge, resulted not only in Simon abandoning his occupation of seeking fish to follow the Fisher of men, but also in drawing James and John with him. "They forsook all, and followed Him" (verse 11).

Do not miss the simplicity of what happened. Jesus was sharing "the word of God." The power of the word consists in the fact that it contains the faith of God (Rom. 10:17; 3:2-4), an expression of the unselfish love that God is (1 Cor. 13:7; 1 John 4:8, 16), that defines His kingdom. This actually draws people because they feel valued in a new and deeper way than they have experienced. They see a future for themselves that many had been unable even to dream of. Those who respond positively to this drawing power are said to have faith, to believe. They accept the vision God casts to them in His word. They are caught in His net of love.

But this net is not an enwrapping of bondage. It is in fact the opposite. The story of Jesus in John 8 makes this very plain. As He engaged in a dialog concerning who He was (verses 12, 24, 25), apparently initiated by His words, both spoken and written, freeing an accused woman (verses 1-11), He touched on the essence of this love at the core of the eternal kingdom. "I am not alone" (verse 16). This is so much more than the absence of loneliness. It speaks volumes about who He was in the context of the unselfish nature of His love. "I do nothing of Myself" (verse 28). Jesus described this unselfishness in this way: "He that sent me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him" (verse 29).

This was so appealing, that the next verse recorded a miracle--the miracle of faith. "As He spake these words, many believed on Him" (verse 30). Again note the simplicity of what happened. He described the dynamic of unselfish love that drove His unselfishness. His words cast a net of beauty that captivated "many"! They caught this vision of faith working by love. Their hearts responded positively. They desired to join that circuit of beneficence, and their faith responses completed the circuit apparently for the first time. But would it continue to flow? That is the question of discipleship.

The faith of Jesus was also looking for faith, just as love is always looking for love. When He saw the faith response here, His desire was to nurture and protect it. So His immediate advice was, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (verse 31). Life would continue, and the faith response to His word of faith would be tested by contrary circumstances and feelings that would tempt to a selfish response of no faith and no love. These negative choices would break the circuit, severing the need to "continue in My word." But only in the continuity of responding unselfishly to His unselfish love could one be among that privileged group--"My disciples indeed"! Submitting to this discipline is, in contrast to the bondage selfishness sees in it, the only way to actual freedom. Because, Jesus told the new believers, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"--free "of sin", "free indeed" (verses 32, 34, 36).

This "disciples indeed" reality is what the twelve represented in an intimate way. We see in Luke 6 how Jesus chose "twelve" from among "His disciples." It was as if He said, I will call them into the inner circle of My love, so they can learn its life lessons. So He named them "apostles"--ones He would in turn send out to represent and demonstrate this love to an ever-widening circle of hearers and disciples. But did they realize the practicality of it? What of their selfishness that needed still to be removed by this path of discipline into which the net of His love had drawn them? It is hinted at in the setting of His choosing them, and naming them "apostles." Luke recorded the two events that led to this special choosing and naming.

His healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath resulted in a crisis over the principle of unselfish love in contrast to its opposite. Jesus described them in His question before the healing, "to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" (verse 9). The response of the scribes and Pharisees was "madness" in which they "communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (verse 11). Mark is more explicit. Reaching out to create a confederacy, they "straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Mark 3:6; compare John 8:37, 40, 44). Unselfishness gives; it gives life, ultimately one's own life. Selfishness takes; it takes life, ultimately another's life--murder. So being Jesus' disciple meant being trained to give to the point of martyr. It was the reality of that principle working out in the story that led Jesus "out into a mountain to pray, and [He] continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:9). It was time to call twelve into this type of school, and He could not do it "of Myself!"

Luke 9 pictures this "disciple school" with Jesus' calling, giving, and sending. Jesus called the twelve He had chosen, to give them "power and authority" (verse 1). Being allied with, and representatives of, the King of love would enable them the motive power and the position authority to deliver those in bondage to "devils" and "diseases." Using the verb form of "apostle," Luke recorded that Jesus sent them "to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick" (verse 2). In Matthew, Jesus' words embodied the dynamic heart of this circuit of reaching out to others from Jesus' circuit with them--"freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:10; compare "their work" in Ezek. 1:16).

This preaching and healing the twelve did "everywhere" (verse 6). How did they know how to do this? The discipline of their Teacher in modeling for them these very activities empowered their beginning steps of "so doing" (Luke 12:43). Luke's record up to this point of the verb form of "gospel"--translated variously as "preach," "preach the gospel," "gospel is preached," "bring good tidings," "show glad tidings" (Luke 1:19; 2:10; 3:18; 4:18,43; 7:22; 8:1)--stretched from the actions of the angel at Jesus' birth, to those of John the Baptist, and finally to Jesus Himself. Luke 8:1 plainly says as Jesus was "preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God" that "the twelve were with Him." It is from that background the twelve knew what to say, and how to say it, to cast that net of love.

Later in Luke 9 Jesus introduced the graduate course in this school of discipleship. He was headed to the ultimate demonstration of unselfishness. "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day" (verse 22). Matthew interjects Peter's response, likely representing the other eleven. A literal translation reveals the lesson yet to be learned. "Be kind to Thyself, Sir; this shall not be to Thee" (Matt. 16:22, Young's Literal Translation). The contrast was stark--"nothing of Myself" versus "be kind to Thyself"! They were slow to see and embrace where this school was going. They were blinded by some selfish plans they brought along when they "forsook all."

And so Jesus became very explicit about what "continue in My word" really meant. "And He said to them all [not just Peter], If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). His path was clear. If one wished to "come after Me," to "follow Me," "nothing of Myself" means to "deny himself, and take up his cross daily." From this statement we can strongly affirm that the daily cross of Jesus led to Calvary's cross. We can't preach or heal like Jesus unless we give up self like Jesus.This is the heart of discipleship.

During their time with Jesus, He entrusted two duties to them, to preach and to heal. Before the cross there was no command to "teach." They were still under the tutelage of Jesus. Maturity is required for teaching. One babe can't teach another. (See John 16:12; compare with 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14). And so they finally entered this graduate course by encountering Jesus' literal cross, which was death to all their selfish plans. In their immaturity (read "selfishness"), these who had forsaken all to follow Him, "all forsook Him, and fled" (Mark 14:50). One of the twelve dropped out of school at that point. But through the faith of Jesus (Matt. 26:31, 32), the eleven went on with the course. Jesus' resurrection brought them a "living hope," anchored in the Bible study Jesus gave them (1 Pet. 1:3; Luke 24:27, 44, 45). They matured with this, and thus Jesus was able for the first time to give the surviving eleven the challenge of teaching (Matt. 28:16, 19, 20). Their maturity (read "unselfishness") was manifest in the unity that resulted from their embracing the cross in all its dimensions (Acts 1:14). And when the humility of their unselfish Teacher was exalted to the right hand of God, as our High Priest, He imparted His promised Replacement, "the Spirit of the truth" that would guide them "into all the truth" (Phil. 2:9; Acts 2:33; John 16:13). This is the seal of discipleship.

The gospel net of love cast in the book of Acts captured a murderer named Saul (Acts 8:1; 9:1). Immediately he became a target of murder plots (9:29). Through a series of intense discipleship courses he was transformed into Paul an apostle of love (14:4; compare 1 Cor. 1:9; 15:8, 9; 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11, 12), as well as a teacher of love (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). It was the reality of the accomplishments of Jesus' unselfish love on the cross that captured and changed this man (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:14). This is the goal of discipleship. Do you hear the calling?
-Fred Bischoff

Thursday, April 16, 2015

“Who is Jesus Christ”

Insights #3 April 18, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Who is Jesus Christ"
For the week of April 18, 2015

Jesus was, and is, known as Carpenter, Lamb, Priest, Prophet, King, Rabbi, Teacher, Messiah, God, Savior, Word, Creator, Redeemer and much more. His name, Jesus, means Savior as recorded by Matthew in chapter 1:21: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." A name in Bible times displayed distinctive qualities of character. Jesus is introduced as the Savior. Other qualities of His character are listed in Gal 5:22-3-23 – as the fruit of the Spirit.

Christ's "kindness, goodness [and] faithfulness" was revealed in how He cared for people. The memory text for this week follows the record of the feeding of bread and fish to a great multitude who followed Him. It was after this miracle that Jesus presented two questions to His disciples, regarding who He is. The first was, "Who do the crowds say I am?" (Luke 9:19). The answer: John the Baptist or Elijah or some other prophet. Then came the question to Christ's disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" (Luke 9:20). "The Christ of God" replied Peter.

The term "Christ" means Anointed One (Messiah). It is a title that acknowledged He was the expected Messiah of Israel. In the Gospels, Jesus is usually identified as "the Christ." The composite name joins the historic Person, Jesus, with Christ – the Messianic role that prophetic expectation and early Christianity knew He possessed.

Jesus is truly God and truly man. His title "Son of God" is a declaration of His divinity. Another title "Son of Man" is a declaration of His humanity. This title was a favorite of His. It was evidently taken from Dan 7:13 which prophesied that "the Son of Man went into a place in heaven where the "Ancient of Days" was located. The context is that of an investigative judgment favoring believers (v. 22). Jesus is presented as the Representative of mankind, especially of the believer. The everlasting kingdom and its dominion were given to Him (v. 14). In turn He bestows this kingdom on His people (v. 18). It will be possessed after the investigative judgment finishes its work on behalf of the "saints" (v. 27).

Returning to Christ's title "Son of God" (in the singular), it refers to Jesus in all places except one. It is used of Adam in Luke 3:38 where Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam. Adam was not born a human; he was created as one. On the other hand, Jesus was born into the human family. Adam did not choose to be created or to be born. Jesus chose to be born. The term Adam means man or mankind. He was not only the father of humanity, he was also our representative. Jesus was the second and last Adam (1 Cor 15:45). He now is the Head and Representative of the human race.

After Luke traced the genealogy of Jesus back to the first Adam, he next presents Jesus in deadly conflict with Satan who first overcame Adam on the point of appetite. Appetite was again the temptation with Christ as the Second Adam and as the "Son of God" (Luke 4:1-3). However, Jesus was tested and tempted by the devil for forty days, whereas the first Adam was not. Adam was not tempted from within as was Jesus. Adam, without any need for indulgence of appetite, followed his deceived wife's lead, deliberately choosing to eat forbidden food. Jesus, while suffering hunger in the extreme, was tempted to indulge His appetite with food desperately needed by Him at this time.

The devil tempted Jesus' divinity in saying, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" (Luke 4:3). But Jesus answered him as Man: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God' " (v. 4). Jesus quoted Deut 8:3 and in this verse the word "man" in Hebrew is "Adam." Jesus had to, and did, overcome the enemy of God and man as our Representative. He met the temptation upon appetite and overcame, and this under a much more severe temptation than Adam.

The paragraph under "Further Study" on Friday's lesson is in a letter to Elder William Baker and his wife from Mrs. White. Most people admit that this is "a very controversial letter." One person stated incorrectly, "It's one in which Ellen White addresses the nature of Christ more specifically, more directly, more extensively than just about any other place." This is a highly interpretive statement. The place where she "addresses the nature of Christ more specifically, more directly" and "more extensively" than "any other place" is in The Desire of Ages. That book is a clear Biblically, theologically accurate, and philosophically sound statement. And it was published for public use for the express purpose of giving the correct viewpoint regarding the human nature of Christ. This book is not private correspondence to correct an aberration of the doctrine of Christ. The Baker letter is.

In the letter Mrs. White cautioned Elder Baker concerning his presentations about the humanity of Christ. Some critics of Jones and Waggoner have wrongfully used the Baker letter to suggest that Mrs. White was rebuking those two men for their teaching on this subject.  However, not a shred of evidence has been given to support the allegation. Jones and Waggoner presented Christ as One who entered the human family and was tempted as every human being is tempted. Heb 4:15 unequivocally states that "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

George Knight correctly contends that the discovery of the Baker letter was "one major stimulus for a shift in the position of several denominational thought leaders in the 1950s" (From 1888 to Apostasy, p. 140). This shift was from the 1888 emphasis on the human nature of Christ, as a fallen human nature, to the popular evangelical christ who can never be tempted from within as with the rest of humanity. Following is a contrast between the two Adams as categorized from the Baker letter:

ADAM                          JESUS

was created a pure, sinless being took upon Himself human nature
was . . . without a taint of sin upon him [no] taint of . . . corruption rested  upon Him
was assailed with temptations was assailed with temptations
was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted
he could fall    He could have fallen
he did fall through transgression He held fast to God and His Word
Among all the similarities listed above, the one difference (highlighted) is conspicuously absent in regard to Adam. He was not "tempted in all points as human nature is tempted" as was Jesus and as we are. Another sentence that needs to be studied contextually is: "He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity."

". . . not for one moment . . ." Christ "could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity" is not a statement exempting Him from the working of the law of heredity. The phrase "not for one moment" has to do with duration of time. Furthermore, this statement is not a denial of Christ inheriting tendencies to sin. That statement should be compared with others in this section of the letter:

". . . His faith in His Father's goodness, mercy, and love did not waver for one moment."

". . . not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity" is equivalent to saying that "His faith . . . did not waver for one moment."

If Christ's faith had wavered "for one moment" there would have been "in Him an evil propensity" which would have caused His damnation and eternal destruction. Even though Christ "had all the strength of the passion of humanity" (ST Nov 21, 1892), He did not cross the line between sin and righteousness. Temptation is not a sin.

A commentator gave the following unbiblical assertion regarding Jesus and temptation. He wrote, "Like us, Jesus could be tempted from without … But unlike us, He could not be tempted from within… Despite Jesus' inability to sin, the temptation was very real. It was possible for Him to be faced with enticements to sin [from without], but it was morally impossible for Him to yield." William MacDonald. Edited by Art Farstad. (1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (p. 1212). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Tempted from within is the believer's strongest temptation. We are commanded to overcome this temptation. If Jesus could only be tempted from without, but never from within, we have no hope of overcoming and the command to overcome is cruel mockery. If Jesus had no ability to sin, His temptations were never real. If what MacDonald said is true, then Christ's being tempted in all things was illusionary. If we must overcome, then it has to be done by our own resources. This is legalism at its worst. Temptation from within is where mankind needs help most. If Christ refused to battle with temptation from within, His indicative to overcome as He did is nonsense.

But O! Since it is true that He met, withstood, and overcame the powerful temptations that come from within our fallen nature, we may know and have the blessed assurance that we can overcome by depending on His divine power as He overcame as He did by depending on the power of God.

Rom 8:3 is the answer to overcoming sin: "God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh." This answers the sin from within question. Every time Jesus said "No!" to sin by God's power given to Him through grace, by faith, He condemned sin at its root – from within. Had Christ not been able to meet and to overcome sin at its root level, we are without hope in this world and the next.
Every time we overcome tendencies to sin from within, by the super abounding grace of God, we condemn sin in our fallen flesh (nature). On the other hand, every time we commit sin we justify it. If Christ did not and could not defeat sin the devil's lair, there is absolutely no possibility of our overcoming sin from within.

Speaking about the importance of the human fallen nature Christ assumed, Jones taught that ". . . the salvation of God for human beings lies in just that one thing" A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message", No. 13, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, p. 233.

Again: "He is a complete Saviour. He is a Saviour from sins committed and the Conqueror of the tendencies to commit sins. In Him we have the victory. We are no more responsible for these tendencies being in us than we are responsible for the sun shining, but every man on earth is responsible for these things appearing in open action…" Ibid., p. 267.

Waggoner, earlier made the connection between our justification and the human nature of Christ: "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh, that He might justify us." "Bible Study in the Book of Romans" #12, General Conference Bulletin, 1891.
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz

Friday, April 10, 2015

“Baptism and the Temptations”

Insights #2 April 11, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Baptism and the Temptations"
For the week of April 11, 2015

The "amazing condescension" of Jesus Christ is not to help us to be willing to "humble ourselves whenever the occasion warrants it" but to lay our glory in the dust - period. Our entire lifetime is the "occasion". If you have an E.G. White study Bible, read the comments for John 1 under the title "Divine-Human Saviour" and follow the journey of the Son of God from the heavenly courts above, down to this dark earth and His "most shameful and most cruel death upon the cross as a malefactor" (5BC 1127).

Can we exalt ourselves in the light of this "amazing condescension?" Dare we lift up our heads in pride on ANY occasion? "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low." "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Isa 40:4; Matt 23:12).

The work of John the Baptist was to "Prepare ye the way of the LORD" (Luke 3:4). Our work today is the same. The next few verses of the chapter in Isaiah from which John received the instructions for his ministry contains instructions for us today:

The voice said, "Cry out!"  And he said, "What shall I cry?"  "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever" (Isa 40:6-8).

This Loud Cry was first given in 1888 and is now desperately needing to be revived in our own hearts. Without this message, we can never say to the world: "Behold your God!" (verse 9).

The baptism and temptation of Christ exemplified these realities. Before even setting an example of baptism, He waited patiently and came forward only after everyone else had been baptized (Luke 3:21). As He bowed upon the shore, the Father glorified the Son. But Christ never glorified Himself. He left Himself completely out of the picture. He did not come to live His own life, but to live the life of the Father.

Without Christ, our case is hopeless. All our right-doings are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). "Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin." (COL 311.4) It does not matter how perfectly we keep God's law, if it is "we" who are doing it, it is sin. Christ came to bring us the working of the Father. He says, "I can of my own self do nothing;" "but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." Christ did not do His own works. The Father worked through Him. All His miracles were not performed by His own power, but by the power of the Father.

He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not as the "Master of earth and sea and sky" that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, "I can of Mine own self do nothing." He trusted in the Father's might (DA 336.1).

The life of Christ is what we need. As the Spirit of God descended upon Christ, so the Spirit will descend upon us when we rise to newness of life in Him. "The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ." (DA 805.3) Imparted, not imputed - the living, practical reality. But what was the life of Christ? How was it that He lived a sinless life? What was it that brought to Him the working of God?

Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. "It is written," He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity. But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a "Thus saith the Lord," was a sign that could not be controverted. So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage  (DA 120.1).

This lesson is for us. One of the fundamental truths of God's word is that there is power in itself to perform the thing which it says. This is why God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Read Deuteronomy 32:1-3 and Isaiah 55:10-11 and you will see that the outpouring of the Latter Rain is bound up with the truth that there is power in the word to perform the thing itself. As in creation, so in redemption. "God said, Let there be light: and there was light;" "He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast." Knowing the power of the word, Christ said, "Thy word have I hid in Mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Gen 1:3; Psa 33:9; 119:11).

This is how it was that the Father worked through His Son. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth." (John 5:19-20) Day by day, as the Old Testament scrolls unrolled, the Father unfolded to Him His will. When on the road to Emmaus, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He [Christ] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). When the time came, the Father worked through that word.

But the faith of Jesus encompassed more than this. Christ "knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25) because He was all men. A.T. Jones described this perfectly in 1895:

God dwelt with Him and He was ourselves. Therefore His name is Emmanuel, God with us. Not God with Him. God was with Him before the world was; He could have remained there and not come here at all and still God could have remained with Him and His name could have been God with Him. He could have come into this world as He was in heaven and His name could still have been God with Him. But that never could have been God with us. But what we needed was God with us. God with Him does not help us, unless He is we (February 21, 1895 ATJ, GCB 270.3) .

Therefore in the following lesson he says:

And Christ having taken our human nature in all things in the flesh and so having become ourselves, when we read of Him and the Father's dealings with Him, we are reading of ourselves and of the Father's dealings with us. What God did to Him was to us; what God did for Him was for us (February 22, 1895 ATJ, GCB 299.1).

Christ became ourselves, and the Father worked the victory in Him. When Christ overcame Satan in the wilderness, He overcame Satan as ourselves. "What God did to Him was to us; what God did for Him was for us."

The faith of Jesus laid hold of this reality. When He was pleading with God for power to overcome sin, He knew that the answer to His prayer would bring us power to overcome also. He knew that when He overcame, we would overcome in Him. His victory would be our victory. This is why it is that A.T. Jones says:

Faith is not something that comes from ourselves with which we believe upon Him, but it is that something with which He believed--the faith which He exercised, which He brings to us, and which becomes ours and works in us--the gift of God (February 21, 1895 ATJ, GCB 270.1).

If we will be among that number who have the faith of Jesus, we must believe that what God worked in Him, He was working in us, because He was we. The life that He lived was our own life. The word that worked for Him, was working for us. All we need to do is accept the fact and LET it be our reality.

When He put Himself where we are, where did He get salvation?... This word of salvation saved Him when He was ourselves, and it saves us when we are in Him. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake--me, me! And this in order that every one on the earth can say in him, "He leadeth me" (February 22, 1895 ATJ, GCB 301.8).

When we see Christ rising from the waters and the blessing pronounced upon Him, we must see ourselves in Him. When we see Him suffering the great test over appetite, presumption and pride, we must see the Father working the victory in ourselves. If we will do this, and we will see this in every act of His life, the amazing reality will dawn upon us that we already have a perfect life in Christ. And then, shall we not live it?

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me Galatians 2:20.

May God help us to learn quickly that we may teach others this wonderful truth.
-Camron Schofield

Friday, April 03, 2015

“The Coming of Jesus”

Insights #1 April 4, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Coming of Jesus"
For the week of April 4, 2015
This quarter we will study the Gospel of Christ according to Luke. Luke covers the beginning of Christ's life as a man on earth to the ending of His life by crucifixion followed by His death and resurrection from the dead. He also informs us of Christ's divinity and His mission of redemption.

Luke first composed this book as a letter to a fellow Greek, his friend, by the name of Theophilus (Luke 1:3). (The book of Acts is written, by Luke, to the same man, see Acts 1:1). Luke explains how he did his research for writing the gospel of Christ. First of all he wrote that he would set "forth in order" the faith of the Christians (v.1) and that he had gathered information from "eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" (v. 2). He wrote that he "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first." This is evidence of a good historian.

There is further evidence that Luke was a good historian. He wrote about the historical context of the birth, the life, and the death of Jesus. He gave names of leading participants as well as other people in addition to dates and places.

Not only was Luke a historian, he was also a scientist – a physician. Paul calls him "the beloved physician," and named him as among his "fellow-laborers." (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). In his letter to Timothy Paul wrote, "Only Luke is with me." (2 Timothy 4:11).

Paul sought Luke out as a helper because of his skill as a physician. They both worked for the spiritual, as well as the physical, well-being of people they met, as God directed them. Luke did "double service as a physician and a gospel minister." (Evangelism, p. 544). God's ideal for medical missionary work is a combination of medical and pastoral workers together working as a team. In a class I took in Public Health entitled "Historical Perspectives of Health," we learned that many of the "Church Fathers" were also physicians or were associated with them.

However, during the Dark Ages medical work was taken out of the hands of Christian physicians by the Church in those centuries devoid of light. This led to medical as well as religious disaster during the middle and late Dark Ages. It was a period of social, intellectual, spiritual, and physical decline. Medical historian Ackerknecht comments that during this period, "The hands of time had been turned back a thousand years." (Erwin H. Ackerknect, A Short History of Medicine, p. 82.) He says further, "The Middle Ages are placed in time between two great epidemics:  the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death" (Ibid, p. 91).  In between these two devastating bubonic plagues there were famines, diseases, lesser plagues, moral corruptions in addition to many superstitions on the part of people. Illness and death under the papal system was a way of life. "Estimates of the number who died range from a very conservative one-fourth of the total population to as much as three-fourths" Reuben Hubbard, Historical Perspectives of Health, p. 135.

Some Christians, in order to show their sanctity, never bathed. Because personal hygiene was mostly unknown, people became infected with vermin. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in 1170. When the monks undressed him for burial they found lice everywhere in his undergarments "like boiling water." (Arthur Swinson, The History of Public Health, p. 19).

When the gospel was beginning to be restored, the health of the body was seen to be important. Protestant reformers, such as John Wesley and Sylvester Graham (healthful Graham crackers came from him) were health reformers as well as pastors. The union between medical missionary work and gospel work will be restored in the everlasting gospel proclamation of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. Medical work is the arm that opens the door so the body of redemptive truth can enter the lives of individuals and groups of people. "The medical missionary work is to bear the same relation to the work of the third angel's message that the arm and hand bear to the body. Under the direction of the divine Head they are to work unitedly in preparing the way for the coming of Christ." (Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 160).

The Gospel of Christ will end as it began, united with the medical missionary work as demonstrated by pastor Paul and Luke the physician.

Concerning Luke's qualifications as a medical historian, Bettmann, writes, "The doctor speaks in the Gospel of St. Luke. The most cultured of the evangelists was known as St. Luke the 'beloved physician,' and Christ's deeds were described by him with literary skill and medical insight." He continues, "The many accounts of miraculous healing are told in St. Luke more fully than in any other gospel with understanding and in a language that only a doctor would use." (Otto L. Bettman, A Pictorial History of Medicine, p. 49).

Luke's use of medical terms of his day is observable in his book as he describes physical afflictions instead of laymen's language used by the other gospel writers when describing the same sicknesses. The Greek expression, "suffering from a fever and dysentery" (Acts 28:8) or "attacks of gastric fever" are "medically exact and can be vouched for from medical literature." (Adolf Harnack, Luke the Physician, pp. 176, 177).

In the incident of the man with leprosy, Luke wrote, "Behold a man full of leprosy." (Luke 5:12).  Mark says simply, "a leper came to him" (Mark 1:40); Luke, the physician, is the only gospel writer to note the advanced stage of the disease of that man "full of leprosy." When describing the man with palsy, Luke wrote, "a man who was paralyzed" (Luke 5:18) instead of "a paralytic" as in Mark 2:3. There are many such examples we will read about during this quarter.

In our lesson today we see the deep interest of God in sending His angels to minister to human beings. Angels came to the shepherds and announced the glad tidings of joy and of salvation in the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-13). It was Gabriel who gave names to John the Baptist and to Jesus. (Luke 1:13, 31). From a human standpoint it was impossible for Elizabeth and Mary to conceive a child. Elizabeth was too old and Mary was a virgin. But "with God nothing" is "impossible." (Luke 1:37). Both Mary and Elisabeth realized their inadequacies. And so with us. As we realize our deficiencies we may claim this promise today.

"God's work is done quietly, and only in quietness and confidence do we have strength. Great things are expected of us, but since with God nothing is impossible, so nothing is impossible to him that believeth; and with the accomplishment of the greatest and most glorious work boasting is excluded, because that work can be done only by one whose sense of his own weakness and inability to do anything forces him to depend wholly on God." E. J. Waggoner, The Medical Missionary, Vol. 14, p. 166.

"With God nothing shall be impossible." "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for You." (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17). Knowing this, you and I may with confidence obey the Lord's exhortation: "Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:5).

Consider as we close, the good news from the Holy Spirit, through the uncle of Jesus – Zacharias – the message of salvation in Christ: "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets … that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life." (Luke 1:68-75).
-Jerry Finneman