Tuesday, January 26, 2016

“The Crisis Continues”

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Crisis Continues"
For the week of January 30, 2016
     Our lesson this week reminds us that worship always has been and always will be a central issue in the great controversy. In heaven at the origin of the controversy, the issue was worship of Jehovah versus Baal worship. In the garden of Eden, the issue was worship of Jehovah versus Baal worship – the same with Cain and Abel, the same with Noah and the antediluvians, and on down through history until the close of the great
     In the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel with Jezebel and the priests of Baal, the two pictures of what God is like stand in stark relief. The words and actions of Elijah, in contrast to the priests of Baal reveal two different pictures of God, and these two pictures – or ways of seeing and relating to God –are also seen in our own SDA history in the 1888 era.

     One picture of God, revealed by the prophets of Baal, is a worship that necessitates much activity, and ecstatic worship, and even blood, in an attempt to move god (Baal) to action. The priests of Baal spent all day in "prayer", and "worship", and dancing, and even the shedding of blood, and all this was done in an attempt to move or motivate god (Baal) to bless or save or listen to them. Call it legalism, or righteousness by works, or appeasement theology, but it all falls in the category of our worship being performed to move God. By contrast, notice Elijah's simple prayer – "Lord, show them today, that you are turning their hearts towards you". In all false worship, the premise is we (or an intercessor – even Jesus) does something to change God's heart toward us. In true worship, God is doing something to change our hearts attitude towards Him. The sacrifice of Jesus wasn't to change God's heart or attitude towards us, the sacrifice of Christ was to change our attitude and hearts towards God. This is the essence of the difference between true and false worship, between Baal worship and the worship of Jehovah, between righteousness by faith and righteousness by works, between the symbols of what the Sabbath and what Sunday stand for when rightly understood. God is the one working to change our hearts towards Him. The purpose of the Son of God is not and never has been –including in His role as our High Priest – to change the Father's heart towards us. Jesus' purpose is and always has been to change our hearts towards God.
     This was the issue in 1888. God was attempting to move us from legalism – Baal worship, to righteousness by faith – Jesus worship. This was ever the theme of the writings of A.T.Jones and E.J. Waggoner. Notice the following article that ties these themes together with the Sabbath Sunday issue that was present truth for our church and country in the 1888 era.
     "It will be remembered that the lesson for last week was upon the scene of Elijah's calling all Israel to the point of decision between the Lord and Baal; how that all Israel, and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, came to him at Mount Carmel, and there the test was to be made, by which the people should decide as to whom they would follow. The prophets of Baal prophesied from morning till noon, "But there was no voice nor any that answered." Then they cried louder and "cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out upon them" till the time of the evening sacrifice (about three o'clock), but still "there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded." Then "Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near." Then he repaired the altar of the Lord, that had been broken down, and took "twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob;" with these he built the altar of the Lord; then prepared his sacrifice and commanded water to be brought and poured upon the sacrifice and the altar until it ran over and down and round about the altar and filled the trench that he had caused to be digged." "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God."

     In last week's lesson we also showed that just before the Lord comes the people will be brought to just such a test upon their obedience to the Lord, in keeping the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, against the decree of Church and State in favor of Sunday, as was Israel against the decree of the ancient Jezebel in favor of Baal; that every man must decide whether he will "worship the beast and his image," or whether he will "worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." We called attention to the fact that there is now a party working for a union of Church and State, for the express purpose of compelling the people to keep Sunday; and that against this the Lord sends a message of warning, and also calls upon all men to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
     When the people all gathered before Elijah, they seemed to be wavering. It seems that they could not make up their minds what they should do. Although the narrative is very brief, it is plain that the attention of all the people had been called to the conflict that was going on between Jezebel and the prophets of the Lord, between Baal and Jehovah
     For (1) Jezebel had cut off all the prophets of the Lord that she could find, and those who escaped were obliged to take refuge in caves, and there were 7,000 persons scattered throughout Israel who had not worshiped Baal. It is impossible that all this could have been carried on without the attention of all Israel being called to this great subject.
     (2) Ahab had made such a diligent search for Elijah that it was impossible that the subject of controversy could have been hidden, for when Obadiah finally met Elijah, he said: "There is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord [Ahab] hath not sent to seek thee; and when they said, He is not here; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not." 1 Kings 18:10.
     (3) The prophets of Baal were working in the interest of Baal, throughout the nation of Israel; for when Elijah did show himself to Ahab and gave the challenge and told him to gather Israel and the prophets together, we read: "So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel." Of these there were four hundred and fifty, and of the prophets of Ashera, the female companion of Baal, there were four hundred. From all these things it is plain that this thing "was not done in a corner;" and we may safely conclude that the subject had been thoroughly discussed by all Israel.
     This is further shown by the very first words that Elijah spake to the people, when they had assembled. Said he, "How long halt ye between two opinions!" It is plain therefore that the people were acquainted with the two views of the subject, although there was hesitancy in decidedly adopting either.
     On the one side was Jehovah, who had brought their fathers out of Egypt; who had planted them in Canaan, who had been with Samuel, and Gideon, and Barak, and Jephtha; who had led the host of Israel round Jericho, and had thrown down its walls; who had caused the waters of Jordan to stand still while Israel passed over; who had led them through the wilderness, and had fed them with bread from heaven, even with angels' food (Ps. 78:25); the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; the Creator of heaven and earth; the lover of a world of sinners. On the other side was Baal, the embodiment of shame, with the wicked, licentious, cruel, shameful Jezebel as his grand patron, and the promoter of his worship.

     Oh! how were it possible for there to be "two opinions"? How could it be that they would not only recognize "two opinions," but actually "halt"—hesitate—between them? Was it because they were worse than any other people that have ever been? Not at all. It was simply because they were human. Let us see for a moment what there was to draw them toward Baal.
     First of all. Baal worship was fashionable, it was popular. Remember that Baal­worship was sunworship. It was just as fashionable, just as popular, then to worship Baal as it now is to keep Sunday. The king, the queen, the court, the rich, the powerful, the mighty, all worshiped Baal; and after these all the middle classes, and all the common people, all, all were for Baal—except only seven thousand out of all the multitudes of Israel. There were a few scattered here and there throughout the nation who refused to accept anything as worthy of an opinion but that the Lord was God, and that his commandments were yea and amen and must be obeyed, and these were held as fanatics.
     Then, too, a person could not prosper at all, unless he worshiped Baal. All the patronage and all the power of the kingdom with the queen at the head, was exerted in favor of Baal. So much so indeed was this, that it was even dangerous not to follow the way of Jezebel and Baal. It was at the risk of life itself that the faithful seven thousand and served the Lord. More than this, when by all these considerations they were induced to forsake their duty to God and their respect for is commandments, the restraints of conscience and the law of God were loosed, for Baal demanded nothing of this kind. No self­denial was ever asked of the worshipers of Baal; no pleasure, be it what it would, was ever denied to the followers of Baal.
     Then, it was just as fashionable to go to a feast in the house of Baal, as it now is to go to a festival in the house of the Lord. Then it was just as honorable to bow the knee to Baal in the house of Baal, as it now is to gamble in the house of the Lord. Then it was just as entirely proper to offer the young women to the highest bidder, in the temple of Baal, as it now is to put them up and sell them at auction, or sell their kisses, to the highest bidder, in the house of the Lord. And then, for the servant of the Lord to reprove those, was to make himself as unpopular, and as much of a troubler of Israel, as it now is to reprove these. Then, it was counted just as stubborn fanaticism to acknowledge Jehovah in the first commandment, as it now is to acknowledge Jehovah in the fourth commandment.
     And this fashionableness, and popularity, and worldly honor, and worldly advantage, and abundance of pleasures, were what caused the people then to halt between two opinions as to whether they would follow the Lord or follow Baal, just as it now causes people to halt between two opinions as to whether they will keep the Sabbath of the Lord, or keep the Sunday of the papal church.
     "How long halt ye between two opinions?" If the Bible says that "the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord," keep it, but if the Bible says that the first day of is the Sabbath of the Lord, then keep that. What matters it though four hundred and fifty prophets, with the second Jezebel (Rev. 2:20) at their head, all say that Sunday—the first day—is the Sabbath; until they point to a verse in the word of God that says plainly, The first day is the Sabbath of the Lord—until then their word on that subject is no more to be taken as the truth than was the word of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal that Baal was God.

     There is no disguising the fact that this Sabbath question is fast gaining the lead of all public questions. The great multitude, as governments, and as nations, are rapidly wheeling into line in support of the claim that Sunday is the Sabbath and must be so kept under penalty of law. There are a few, a little company, who, in opposition to this, maintain that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, and must be so observed. And this question, as to which day is the Sabbath, is not left for our decision, any more than the question as to who was the true God was left to theirs in the day of Elijah. The Lord himself has decided this question as well as that. And after the manner of Elijah we say to all. Write these two questions, 1. Is the seventh day the Sabbath? 2. Is the first day the Sabbath? Then which ever one that the word of God in the Bible says is the Sabbath, let that day be the Sabbath. And that holy word answers, with no uncertain sound, to every man in the wide world, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work."
     "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Isa. 58:13, 14." A. T. J. {August 13, 1885 ATJ, SITI}

~Bob Hunsaker

Friday, January 22, 2016

“Conflict and Crisis: The Judges”

Insight #4 January 23, 2016
First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Conflict and Crisis: The Judges"
For the week of January 23, 2016

Our lessons this quarter review the history of the great controversy in broad brush strokes. The subject is infinite.

Our Insights commentary this week:

1) reviews the issues undergirding this controversy

2) examines how these issues played out in God's choice to call five individuals to serve in various capacities during the period of the judges, and

3) considers lessons for the church today.

How We Got to Where We Are

     John the Baptist expressed the practical outgrowth of the gospel in these words: "He must increase, but I must decrease" John 3:30.

     The entrance of sin into the universe began with its antithesis--"I must increase" (Isaiah 14:13,14)--a trojan seed that took root in the fertile mind of one who from the beginning was "perfect in [his] ways" until iniquity was found in him (Ezekiel 28:15).

     This seed, long cherished, at last bore fruit in expression. Who better to lead the angels than he, the most beautifully-gifted one. Ostensibly, this would be for the betterment of the universe and the happiness of the angelic host.

     But the notion that "I must increase" to a position to which God had not called him had a well-hidden caveat: "He must decrease." There wasn't room for two at the top. One would have to go, and Lucifer determined it should be Christ. Even after his expulsion from heaven, the disaster of sin with its tide of misery and woe could not possibly have been conceived of by the angels of God, let alone the infinite humiliation of Christ in leaving his position in heaven forever to become a part of his human creation. Christ's mission to save man at any cost and at the risk of eternal loss and ruin would leave the angels reeling in shock and be the subject of study by the saved for the rest of eternity.

     The ensuing struggle between good and evil spilled over to our newly-created world, where Adam's sin embedded this new philosophy-- "I must increase, but He must decrease"--into the very genetic fabric of the human race.

     At the entrance to the Garden of Eden, a Lamb was slain, and the promise of a Savior was made certain (Genesis 3:15).  Christ would take the never-before-trodden path from the throne-room of heaven to the cross. Satan's true identity would be revealed as "a murderer from the beginning" John 8:44.  He desired Christ's position, and the cross would reveal that Christ's position with the Father was not something to be grasped, but something to be given up in answer to the charge that He was self-seeking, and in order to manifest that the so-called love that seeks its own has in it the hidden seed of murder.

     John the Baptist understood the gospel. "He must increase, but I must decrease." No other formula works for the operation of the universe. Our Savior lives to give, and He delights only in freewill expressions of love and service from His creation. No forced obedience or pretended love find a place in His kingdom.

     For this reason God has "chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" 1 Corinthians 1:27. For example, instead of sending angels to direct God's work on earth, God has entrusted this important mission with imperfect people like you and me. As in heaven, so on earth. Not all are called to the same rank or station, and herein lies the test for God's people in all ages.

Called and Equipped to Serve

     Our Sabbath School lesson this week briefly reviews the lives of five individuals who were called by God to serve during the Old Testament period of the judges. In these stories of Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Ruth and Samuel, we glean insights into God's ways of working, which are unlike our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

    What makes the story of Deborah unique is that she was both a prophet, a judge . . . and a married woman. But Deborah wasn't the only woman to have a unique role in this story. She prophesied to Barak that the Lord would use a woman to deliver Sisera's army into his hand, therefore, she said, "there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking" (Judges 4:9). When God works, He always does it in such a way as to lay the glory of man in the dust. The Lord worked through a woman, Jael, the weaker vessel, in order that the praise for the victory would go to God, not to man, and God used his humble servant, the woman Deborah, to encourage Barak, the leader of Israel's army, by her words and presence in the battle.

     Afterwards, Deborah and Barak lifted their voices in prophetic song: "When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord!" Judges 5:2. Deborah and Barak understood something of the principle of the cross. The call to lead is the call to serve. God alone is exalted, and when leaders demonstrate this spirit, the people will follow by willingly offering themselves.

     Apparently, being filled with self-importance is not a prerequisite to being called by God to lead, as is evidenced by the story of Gideon. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (Judges 6:12).

     The Lord continued, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?" (verse14)

     If God were to tell you that you were a mighty man of valor, how would you respond? Gideon could have said (or at least thought), "Thanks so much. I really am quite brave and I have to agree--I am a mighty man! . . . ." but no. Gideon replied, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house" Judges 6:15.

     In God's eyes, that was precisely the point. God had chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the things which are mighty. God could not have worked effectively for the deliverance of Israel through one who was exalted in his own eyes. More often than not, we find a trend in Scripture that God calls those who feel unqualified for the call.

     In the life of Samson we find the remarkable story of a man set apart from his mother's womb to be a deliverer in Israel. Yet the special training and preparation Samson received as a youth did not secure him from falling prey to temptation. The very gifts God had bestowed for the purpose of saving others, Samson used for selfish purposes. Though reconciled to God at last, one can only feel saddened by the thought of what might have been. Yet Samson's story is a testimony to the mercy and grace of God, for we find Samson's name listed among the faithful in Hebrews 11:32.

     Though neither a judge nor of Jewish descent, Ruth the Moabitess found a place of honor in the ancestral line that would bring forth One who would "judge among many people" (Micah 4:3). Like Abraham, Ruth left the homeland of her birth, choosing to unite her interests with the family of God. She is among those who by faith were "blessed with believing Abraham" because the "Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed' " and through this humble, believing daughter of God, Christ the promised seed came (Galatians 3:9, 8)

     Samuel, like Samson, was set apart for a special work before his birth. Though his upbringing was in many ways deficient due to the influence of Eli and his sons, Samuel was faithful to his call as both prophet and judge in Israel. Sadly, however, Samuel was not valued by the people of Israel. His Christlike, humble demeanor was strangely out of place in the palaces and stately courts of the surrounding nations. When the people said unto him, "Behold, thou art old, . . . now make us a king to judge us like all the nations," "that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles," Samuel was grieved. He took the matter to the Lord in prayer, and the Lord said to Samuel, "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me" (1 Samuel 8:5, 20, 7).

Lessons for Today

     "All men are chosen to be witnesses for God, and to each is his labor appointed. All through life the Spirit is striving with every man to induce him to allow himself to be used for the work to which God has called him. Only the Judgment Day will reveal what wonderful opportunities men have recklessly flung away."

     "Not every one can be a Paul; but the thought that each one, according to the ability that God has given him, is chosen and called of God to witness for Him, will, when once grasped, give to life a new meaning" E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings (orig. edition), p. 20.

     May the Lord help us to be content with our calling, whatever that may be, and may the prayer of our hearts be, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

~Pattie Guthrie

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

“Global Rebellion & the Patriarchs”

Insight #3 January 16, 2016
First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Global Rebellion & the Patriarchs"
For the week of January 16, 2016

          Our lesson this week looks at several stories between the time of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and the time of Joseph.  The first story is the story of Cain and Abel.  Many have looked at the story of Cain and Abel and wondered if God is a picky controlling deity.  Does it really matter what one brings as an offering as long as it is some of their best?  And after all, isn't a beautiful platter of fruits and nuts a better offering than a dead and bloody animal – especially from a vegetarian perspective!
           Is the lesson of the story of Cain and Abel that God is really serious if He asks for a sacrifice to be done in a certain way, and so don't try and change it?  God is sovereign and if He says to do it a certain way then who are we to question – right?  God said it – just do it – right?  If that is our thought process, then we are offering the same sacrifice as Cain, even if we happen to get the actual substance of the offering correct.

          God called for a certain sacrifice, because that sacrifice represented something that the sacrifice of Cain in bringing his fruits and vegetables could never represent.  The point of the sacrifice was to teach us a lesson, to give us a reminder, to help us understand and comprehend something that any other type of sacrifice would not accomplish.
          The point of offering a lamb was to teach us two very important lessons.  One, that sin is a destroyer.  When Abel slew the lamb, it was to remind him that sin kills – and in that reminder, that lesson, to be moved to avoid sin and its consequences at all costs.  And two, that the ultimate demonstration of sin as a destroyer was going to be made by God Himself in the person of His Son.  When Abel killed the lamb, he would understand, he would be reminded, that God's Son was going to demonstrate in His own life, that sin is in fact a killer, a destroyer, and that we are the cause of that death.
          So God's choice of a sacrifice was not arbitrary.  It wasn't the manifestation of a picky, controlling God.  It was God using a learning tool most adapted for the lesson to be learned.  The killing of a lamb demonstrates the self-sacrificial nature of God's character and the destructiveness of sin, in a way that no fruit and vegetable offering never ever could.  The symbolic sacrificial service fits perfectly the lesson to be learned.
          God is not in the business of picking random tests for us to see if we will do them no matter what.  Everything God asks of us is for our own benefit – including when He sets up a sacrificial service.  That's why Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God, and Cain's wasn't.  Cain's sacrifice wasn't acceptable to God because it didn't in any way help Cain understand the nature of sin and how God was working to deliver us from the sin problem.
          Cain's sacrifice taught the lesson that we just need to bring something to God to satisfy His demands.  Cain's sacrifice represented all the systems of self preservation and self-salvation that have existed since then.  And all these sacrificial systems are based on one premise, and that premise is that someone besides God, or outside of God, does something to cause God to relate to them in a more favorable manner.
          The whole premise of all false religion is that when we "miss the mark" in our moral lives, the God(s) are upset with us, and in order to make things right, we, or someone else, need to do something to cause the God(s) to relate to us in a better way, to assuage their hostility.  This false religious construct can take many forms, some of which are more obviously false like human or animal sacrifice for the sake of appeasement, or sometimes they can take a more subtle form – including the idea that Jesus is the one who makes God look more favorably towards us.
          By contrast, the true gospel says that God loves us and accepts us no matter what our failures may be.  And that it is in that unconditional love and acceptance that we are motivated to leave behind every weight and the sin which so easily besets us.  The sacrifice of Christ then becomes not a method of changing God's attitude towards us, but it is God's method of revealing to us what has always been in His heart towards us.  The death of Jesus doesn't cause or allow God to forgive or love us more, it reveals that He always has and does love us with all the love that He has.
          The death and sacrifice of Jesus isn't to change God's attitude towards us, the death of Jesus was to change our attitude towards God.  Sin is the dangerous and lethal entity in our universe and it is sin that needs to be run away from – not God!  God is not the one we need to be afraid of or cautious around, sin is the one to be afraid of.
          In the story of Cain and Abel, we see two systems of theology – two pictures of God.  One is a God who provides a sacrifice to appease us, and one is a system where we provide a sacrifice to appease or satisfy God – or in its more subtle form, Jesus provides a sacrifice to appease or mollify God.
          In the 1888 era of our own SDA history, we have these same two systems at work.  Notice the following profound, amazing, and disconcerting statement by an inspired observer:
"The danger has been presented to me again and again of entertaining, as a people, false ideas of justification by faith. I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a special manner to confuse the mind on this point. The law of God has been largely dwelt upon and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain. I have been shown that many have been kept from the faith because of the mixed, confused ideas of salvation, because the ministers have worked in a wrong manner to reach hearts. The point that has been urged upon my mind for years is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I have wondered that this matter was not made the subject of discourses in our churches throughout the land, when the matter has been kept so constantly urged upon me, and I have made it the subject of nearly every discourse and talk that I have given to the people."  {FW 18.1}
          Imagine, as we look at the offering of Cain and think how na├»ve he was, our own inspired prophet is telling us that we are in danger of repeating the offering of Cain in our understanding of God's work in justification by faith!  The 1888 message of the righteousness of Christ was meant to correct this trend in Adventism to present truth without Christ – if there even could be said to be such a thing as truth without Christ.  But we were and have been trying.
          No matter what the church problem or conundrum – youth leaving, women's ordination, jewelry, fundamentalism, liberalism, etc, etc, all of these challenges find their root in a misunderstanding, and a lack of understanding of the truths of righteousness by faith.  When we as a denomination, truly fix our eyes on Jesus, as the 1888 message was meant to move us to do, we will move forward not struggling as Cain did, but living in the peace and joy and security that Abel did.
          I would encourage you, dear reader, take the time to study this most precious message of the righteousness of Christ.  Any experience short of this, will lead to an experience and worship that will always be tainted with the offering of Cain.  The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message through His servants, Elders Waggoner and Jones – let's receive that gift.

~Bob Hunsaker

Friday, January 08, 2016

“The Crisis in Eden”

Insight #2 January 9, 2016

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

"The Crisis in Eden"

For the week of January 9, 2016

Last week we considered three lies which the devil, speaking through a serpent, enticed Eve. The three lies were all transgressions of God's law. We need to remember that the law of God existed before Adam and Eve were created. Angels were governed by it. Lucifer fell because he transgressed the principles of God's government. After creating Adam and Eve, God revealed to them His law of righteousness. It was not in written form, but was revealed to them by their Creator. The three lies were those which Lucifer was self-enticed by and with which he deceived a third of the angels. Likewise, these worked for the fall of Adam and Eve. And they are with us to this very day. They will be with the human until the close of probation. These three are:
 You do not have to obey GodYou will never dieYou will be like God
Before we discuss the Crisis in Eden let's briefly consider creation and the Creator. Christ was the active agent in creation (John 1:1-3). He created the world and all that is in it by the power of His word. He spoke and what He said became what He said (Psalm 33:9). In seven days He created a perfect world and everything in it. Everything was very good because of the Creator. All things were perfect. The crowning act of creation on earth was the creation of mankind.

God did not create Adam as He had did with all other things animate and inanimate. He formed man from clay, the dirt, the dust of earth. Like the potter molding a vessel, Christ shaped man in His own image physically, mentally and spiritually. Man was created with individuality with the ability to think and do. With this came a moral conscience to distinguish good from evil.

God's law is His standard of morality. Because God created us, He is entitled to have laws to govern us. His laws whether physical, mental or spiritual are for our benefit. Created with freedom to choose, man was made responsible and accountable for his actions. God presented His law to Adam in the following words as recorded in Genesis 2:16–17:

16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Man may eat freely of every tree, with one small exception. There was one tree, only, among the multitude of trees restricted by God for food. This prohibition was because of the crisis which started began in heaven. The prohibition was a test of faith in God's word.

After expelling Lucifer and his followers for heaven, they came to earth and here the great controversy between God and Satan, between good and evil was to be played out. The universe was on tiptoe watching the drama as it unfolded in the theatre of earth. "We have been made a spectacle [literally: "theatre"] to the world, both to angels and to men" (1 Corinthians 4:9).

A.T. Jones noted the expression with which Satan opened the conversation with Eve. He wrote,

It is an expression which insinuates into her mind a whole world of suspicion. The common version translates it, "Yea, hath God said," etc. The Revised Version gives it the same. The Jews' English version translates it, "Hath God indeed said," etc. But no translation can give  it exactly. It can not be exactly expressed in letters so as to form a word that would give it truly. Yet everybody in the world is familiar with the expression. It is that sneering grunt (expressed only through the nose) -- c-ugh! -- which conveys query, doubt, suspicion, and contempt, all at once. "C-ugh! hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" And everybody knows that to this day among men there is nothing equal to this sneering grunt, to create doubt and suspicion; and no other expression is used so much by mankind  for that purpose. And this is the origin of it.Ecclesiastical Empire, pp. 590-591.

Satan was directly attacking the law of God and indirectly God Himself in these temptations. The law is a transcript of God's righteous character. His law is the law of righteousness (Psalms 119:172). Sin is the coming short of God's righteousness. To come short of His righteousness is to transgress the law, which is sin.

Eve was led to disbelieve God through the evidence of her senses instead of believing God. She saw that the fruit looked good to eat. She smelled its wonderful aroma. She tasted the forbidden fruit and sinned. She chose look; she chose smell the forbidden fruit; she chose to eat it; she chose to sin. Then she led Adam into sin. He chose to die with her rather than to be separated from her. Romans the first chapter tells us "that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22).

Eve was the first inhabitant of this world who responded to the suggestion of selfishness, at the suggestion of Satan which is the suggestion of self. She was the first to reach out after wisdom this way. What did she get? Nothing but foolishness. She became a fool. And this is where we all are today. It is Satan who leads the natural mind. When those go away from God, as did Adam and Eve, they became fools who change "the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things."

This is the reason Adam and Eve could not answer God's straight question straight – "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" (Genesis 3:11). Satan took them under his dominion and there was no other power to control them. His control was absolute and they could not obey God. They could only make excuses by blaming others. But, thankfully, God did not leave them in that condition. Nor has he left the race there. He turned to the devil, masquerading as a serpent, and declared, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

I want to call attention to a false translation of Genesis 3:15. It is Jerome's Latin Translation. It reads as follows: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." [Bold emphasis supplied] This Old Testament in the Douay-Rheims Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate, and first published by the English College at Douay, France in a.d.1609. The purpose of this translation, in both text and notes, was to uphold tradition in the face of the Protestant Reformation, especially in England. It was an effort to support the Counter-Reformation. The woman who supposedly crushes the head of the devil is a pretended Mary. Statutes depict this false doctrine. These statutes present Mary as standing on the serpent's head.

However, the correct translation remains and is: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

This is  the first gospel promise of Christ crucified and it is not at all about Mary as has been interpreted and depicted in Papal dogma.

There are two enmities in the world: one is Satan's enmity against God; the other is from God and His is enmity against Satan. Through these two enmities came two mysteries, one is the mystery of God; the other the mystery of iniquity. The mystery of iniquity involves the unanswerable question: How could perfectly created beings such as Lucifer, the angels that fell with him, Adam and Eve, become evil? There is no reason for this. To find a reason for it is to excuse sin. There is a greater mystery. It is this: how can fallen sinful human beings who have deface God's image in them, be made again into His image? We can only answer thus – it is because of Christ. He was made to be sin itself for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In concluding this study here is a quote from A. T. Jones who presented this thought at the General Conference in 1895:

This enmity against Satan is the righteousness of God, of course. In this saying, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman," God broke the bond of Satan over the will of man, set man once more free to choose which authority he would follow, which king and which world he will have. In this word God broke the absolute dominion of Satan and set the man free to choose which world he will have. And since that time the man who will choose God's way and yield his will to the control of God can answer a straight question unto the Lord, so that when the Lord comes and asks, Did you do so and so? He can answer, Yes, without bringing anybody else into it at all. This is confession of sin. And thus came the ability to confess sin and reveals the blessed truth that the power to confess sin--repentance--is the gift of God. (General Conference Bulletin, February 17, 1895, p. 192).

~Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 01, 2016

“The Crisis in Heaven”

Insight #1 January 2, 2015
First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Crisis in Heaven"
For the week of January 2, 2016

This quarter we will study the great controversy between Christ and Satan. The lessons are concerned with where the conflict began and where it will end. They also deal with practical aspects of this engagement of war as it relates to you and to me personally. The title of this quarter's lessons – Rebellion and Redemption – summarizes the struggle between good and evil; between righteousness and sin. The knowledge of rebellion and God's plan of redemption opens our understanding to rebellion and to the recovery from it.

Our lesson this week is about where the great controversy began and to where it continues. The crisis began in Heaven and later was transferred to earth. In both places freedom to choose was displayed. Strong mental power of the top executive angel in heaven bent his will to evil and was followed by man's submission to that bent will on earth. Both Lucifer and Adam deliberately twisted their wills away from and against the will of God. Both are responsible and accountable for their rebellion against God.

The memory text for the week is pregnant with meaning. "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:10). Salvation is the overriding theme of the Bible. It signifies a rescue or a deliverance with special spiritual significance.

Salvation is a multidimensional theme with a wide range of meaning, so simple definitions are impossible. Scripture speaks of salvation as a reality with dimensions that are both individual and corporate, objective and subjective, eternal and historical. Salvation also involves the paradox of freedom of choice and Divine sovereignty. The biblical writers viewed salvation with further dimensions of past, present, and future phases, each of which intensifies and deepens the concept. In the Bible, salvation is presented as a process with a beginning and an end.

Despite the complexity of these dimensions, the Bible constantly speaks about salvation in the context of some very simple and concrete relationships between humans and God. God is the main actor throughout the Bible beginning with the deliverance of Adam and Eve and their son Abel all the way through to that great multitude who shout "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:10). Salvation in this verse is attributed to both the Father and the Son. Both are involved in our redemption. Both are connected with the gospel: this is "the gospel of Christ" which "is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16). Paul in his letter to the Corinthians wrote that "the message of the cross … is the power of God" for those "who are being saved" (1 Cor 1:18). Salvation involves Christ, the gospel, God, power and faith.

"The Crisis in Heaven" involved all the above dimensions. Because of His gift of freedom of choice God allowed Lucifer, His anointed cherubim, to sin. To sin is to die. But had this top executive in the government of God died immediately, questions in the minds of loyal angels would have led to confusion, bedlam, madness and anarchy throughout the universe. Questions would have led to doubt, fear and hatred of God and eventually universal chaos.

But God stepped in and prevented Lucifer from reaping the consequence of his sin – death. The original sin, which began in Lucifer's mind while still in heaven, had to be exposed for what it is. This took time. And it took the crucifixion of Christ to demonstrate, fully, the awfulness of Lucifer's rebellion.

In his process in his rebellion Lucifer took down other angels with himself. Through subtle deceptions he led a third of the angels of heaven, who believed his lies, into rebellion against God. They left their domain and attacked God and His government in heaven, but they lost the war. They were cast out of heaven, came to earth, and deceived Eve. Adam chose to join Eve and Lucifer in rebellion against God (Jude 6; Rev 12:7-9; Gen 3:1-6). The freedom of choice to sin involved death and damnation to the human race as well as to the fallen angels. Consider the lies Lucifer presented to Eve –

The devil uttered three lies to Eve through what appears to be ventriloquism. He spoke through a beautiful winged serpent. (After the fall of Adam and Eve, the serpent was downgraded to a limbless scaled reptile slithering on the ground instead of flying through the air (Gen 3:14; PP 53)). Those lies are still with us and will be until the second coming of Christ. The three lies are: You don't have to obey God (implied); "You will not surely die"; "you will be like God" (Gen 3:1-5). These three lies were echoes of Lucifer's exceedingly strong desire to be "like the Most High" (Isa 14:14).

In the passage recorded by Isaiah 14:13-14, regarding the fall of Lucifer there are 5 personal pronouns ("I will") and 1 adjective ("my") which describe what is in his carnal heart. There are a total of 48 English words recorded as used by Lucifer. In the Greek there are 30 words, and only 24 in Hebrew. Lucifer's use of "I" is 1 out of 8 words in English; 1 out of 5 in Greek and 1 out of 4 in Hebrew. Years ago I wrote in the margin of my Bible the following:

The use of words such as "I", "me" and "my" once in 26 words is normal. Used once in 12 words it is considered abnormal. Used once in 7 or 8 words is indicative of a mental problem. (I neglected to write down the source from where I got this information). The conclusion, whether in English, Greek or Hebrew is – Lucifer has a severe mental problem.

Ezekiel has much to say about Lucifer's fall while still in heaven as one of God's covering angels. He corrupted his God-given character, wisdom, riches, and beauty (Eze 28:15-17). He coveted God's power instead of His character. "God made him good and beautiful, as near as possible like himself" (RH, Sept 24, 1901). But Lucifer wanted more. He coveted equality with God.

Let's consider God for a moment. Do you think he has emotions? Most religions of the world, including too many Christians, believe He has one dominant emotion which is wrath or seething anger. Consider the word used to describe God's reaction when Lucifer sinnind. "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre. …" What is the meaning of "lamentation?" It is a deep sorrow especially experienced when someone dies. God mourned over the loss of Lucifer. He will mourn over us also if we are lost by choosing Satan's way in the great controversy. May this never be!

In the near future Lucifer will have clipped wings as did the serpent that was used by him to deceive Eve. Just as that serpent in the Garden of Eden became a limbless scaled reptile slithering on the ground, so will "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan" (Rev 12:9) move over the broken chaotic earth for a thousand years, never more to roam throughout the universe tempting unfallen beings.

Our memory text for this week will be proclaimed in the soon coming future reality of heaven by all the redeemed from every age of earth's history – " 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' "(Rev 7:10). But for now let's consider what Paul wrote to the Philippian church members:

Paul in Phil 2:6-8 presents the contrast between the character of God and that of Lucifer. Jesus who was equal with God, because He was and is God. From His equality with God Jesus took seven steps down. He descended down, down, down to death, even to the death of the cross. Jesus did not think it robbery to be equal with God the Father. He did not think this was something to be seized as He was and is God. Lucifer did. Thought equality with God is something to be seized and grasped. So we have two minds set before us. And from these two attitudes mankind chooses – either the righteous mind of Jesus or the carnal mind of Satan. Which shall I choose? What shall you choose. Let's "Let this mind be in" us as it "was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). If we let it, it will be in us.

~Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz