Friday, July 21, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #4 July 22, 2017

FOURTH QUARTER 2016 ADULT SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS
"JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE"
JULY 22, 2017


   Paul's letter to the Galatians is a carefully written uncompromising, passionate, persuasive polemic by which he approaches the anti-gospel problem in the churches of Galatia. He comes to the problem from three directions: the gospel of grace defended (chapters 1–2), the gospel of grace explained (chapters 3–4), and the gospel of grace applied (chapters 5–6). In point of fact, the letter begins and ends with grace (see 1:3; 6:18).

  Our lesson for this week is the gospel of grace expressed as justification by faith in Christ alone. Justification lies at the heart of the gospel. The gospel is the good news about Christ. He is the gospel. Wherever Christ is, there is justification. Christ is our justification. It cannot be separated from Him.

   Again: justification is not a formula. It is a Person – the Person Christ Jesus. He has been given to all men. Because of this justification has been given to everyone. The fact that men live is an evidence that justification has been given to them, for "justification of life" has been given to all men. This justification that is in Christ is to be believed. It is to be experienced by faith in Jesus.

   Our union, by faith alone, with Christ alone, is the reason we experience justification. Union with Christ and justification by faith must be understood in relation to each other. It is by our faith response to His initiative that we become united to Him and the result is a justified life.

  There are two aspects of justification. One is experiential; the other is independent of our experience. The experiential aspect of justification is the direct participation of a person in the righteousness of Christ when and as s/he believes in Christ alone for salvation. The other aspect of justification is independent and outside the experiential standpoint. This aspect is what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross and by His faith.

   Justification is God's declaration of righteousness and innocence: "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Romans 8:33-34). It is the devil who condemns and brings charges against us. We need to remember always that he has been cast down – from heaven (Revelation 12:10). We need to remember also that God repudiates and throws out the devil's charges against us as observed above in Romans 8:33-34. The devil's charges are legal. We are guilty; we know it and he knows it. BUT Christ "gave Himself for our sins" (Galatians 1:4). He took our guilt and our condemnation. "Messiah" was "cut off, but not for Himself" (Daniel 9:26). He was "cut off" for you and for me. He suffered the death penalty that was ours. "By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon" (1SM 340). Pardon was provided when Christ exhausted the penalty that was against us. This occurred when He died on the cross.

   And so, as stated in Sunday's lesson title: "The Question of "Justification" (Gal. 2:15, 16), the author correctly states that "justification … is a legal term. It deals with the verdict a judge pronounces when a person is declared innocent of the charges brought against him or her. It is the opposite of condemnation." (Emphasis his).

   Both justice and mercy are terms used in earthly court systems today. One who is guilty pleads for mercy and it is granted. He is pardoned and is no longer condemned. In this setting, mercy as well as justice are legal terms pronounced by a judge. Likewise, justification is a legal term and is used today in court cases of earth. But more importantly it is a forensic term used in God's pronouncement of justification. This is because of Christ's death. Notice this thought regarding justice and mercy:
 
    "His [Christ's] object was to reconcile the prerogatives of justice and mercy, and let each stand separate in its dignity, yet united. His mercy was not weakness, but a terrible power to punish sin because it is sin; yet a power to draw to it the love of humanity. Through Christ Justice is enabled to forgive without sacrificing one jot of its exalted holiness." (General Conference Bulletin, Fourth Quarter, 1899, vol. 3, p. 102).
 
   Justification is because of God's justice as well as His mercy and was accomplished by His judicial declaration – by and through the Word, Christ Jesus. Christ's death was and is God's legal justification. Justification was/is "by the blood" of Christ (Roman 5:9). It is inseparable from His death.
 
   God's justification is also accomplished, in practical experience, by His treatment of those who believe in Christ alone for salvation. In this He treats us as though we had never sinned.
 
   "If you give yourself to [Christ], and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned" (Steps to Christ 62).
 
   "We are not to serve God as if we were not human, but we are to serve him as those who have been redeemed by the Son of God and through the righteousness of Christ we shall stand before God pardoned, and as though we had never sinned" (Signs of the Times, April 10, 1893; This is found also in Selected Messages Book 3, p. 140).
 
   "In Christ we are as if we had suffered the penalty we have incurred. In Christ I am as if I had obeyed, and rendered perfect obedience to the law, which we cannot perfectly obey without Christ imparts to us His merits and His righteousness. O, the plan of salvation is a wonderful matter, and we have enough to think of, and talk of, and to be thankful for every day of our lives." (Pacific Union Recorder, September 4, 1913).
 
   In closing let's consider the memory verse for this week's lesson (Galatians 2:20) along with verse 16. The first part of Galatians 2:20 is known in the original language as an envelope construction. It looks like this:
 
Christ
            I was crucified together with
            nevertheless I live
            yet not I
            but living in me
Christ
 
   The life now lived by all men, especially the believer, is the result of Christ's faith as the second half of verse 20 states: "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."
 
   The reason Paul wrote this part of the letter is because Peter had turned from "the truth of the gospel" both in practice and in doctrine (verse 14). Paul's rebuke of Peter is unleashed from this verse to the end of the chapter.
 
   Verse 16 is the heart of the gospel – "justification by the faith of Christ." Peter knew this. But he had been shamed into denying the gospel. Because of his denial Paul rebuked him saying:
 
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (verse 16). This verse is constructed as a figure of speech known as a chiasm. It looks like the following:
 
          A.  A man is not justified by the works of the law
                B.  But by the faith of Jesus Christ
                     C.  Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ
               B.  And not by the works of the law
          A. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified

   The centerpiece of the chiasm is the most important part – we believe in Jesus alone so that we may be justified by His faith. Here the gospel of grace is defended mightily. And now, you and I have the privilege to be among the last believers on earth just before the second coming of Christ who will be known as those who are justified by "the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). "Believest thou?"
  
~Jerry Finneman

http://www.1888msc.org/article/508/resources/sabbath-school-insights/2017-quarter-3-jul-sep/insight-4-july-22-2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

THE UNITY OF THE GOSPEL

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INSIGHT #3 JULY 15, 2017
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FOURTH QUARTER 2016 ADULT SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS
"THE UNITY OF THE GOSPEL"
JULY 15, 2017

"Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of
the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ;" Eph. 4:13, NKJV.


Our primary passage of consideration this week, found in Galatians
2:1-14, brings out several principles that are essential for unity.
Each of these principles derive from the gospel itself - from the good
news of God's revelation in Christ, and the practical experience
(i.e., commandment keeping) of the Faith of Jesus. The unity of the
gospel is truly unity of the Faith of Jesus. It is what unites the
remnant, following the perfect example of the Lamb, in patient
endurance in the final conflict. This conflict results from the
confused Babylonian denial of a loving Creator which overtly and
covertly promotes "me first" theology, threatening all humanity with
division and destruction. (Rev. 14:1-12)

Divine Direction (vs 1, 2)

Paul exercised the Faith of Jesus by waiting for God to direct him as
to time and place for his work. He went up to Jerusalem because he was
paying close attention to God's voice in the Scriptures and through
the Spirit. The same was true of Christ, who believed and acted on the
prophetic word (Mark 1:14, 15), and was directed in word and action by
the Father through the Spirit (John 14:10-12; Luke 4:1).

Humility (vs 2)

Prior to becoming a power proponent of his understanding of the
gospel, Paul submitted to the scrutiny of those who had the reputation
of personal connection with Christ and the direction of the Spirit. He
had a strong desire to "run with it," but wanted to make sure he was
not running in vain. Christ also had a will to win in His conflict,
but humbly submitted His will to that of the Father all the way to the
cross (Luke 22:42; Phil. 2:5-8)

Freedom (vs 3-5)

Paul understood the freedom that comes in Christ - freedom from
submitting to mere human tradition or expectation. This freedom gave
him understanding of the sneaky methods used to spy out and disrupt
the power of this freedom. Only Christ brings freedom from sin:
"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John
8:36. Jesus was under the same scrutiny by spies, but used the
Scriptures under the direction of the Spirit to confound their efforts
(Luke 20).

Confidence (vs 6)

Although Paul was willing to submit his understanding and experience
to others of like mind, in no way did he derive his confidence or
assurance from those in authority. His confidence arose from the
understanding that God has no favorites - that in salvation His love
and forgiveness are generated and expressed freely, and that our
acceptance and experience of that love is by free will, and not by
coercion or fear. (Titus 3:3-7; Rom. 3:23, 24; 4:24, 25)

Affirmation (vs 7-9)

Paul's desire to serve in the body of Christ was strengthened and
affirmed by the church leaders of his day, who gave him "the right
hand of fellowship." True unity is based on the recognition and
appreciation of where God is working, even if it is in ways and in
people that stretch our comfort zones. We should affirm and strengthen
those who are thus blessed by the grace of God, regardless of peer
pressure or our own biases. Christ encouraged his disciples in this
vein. (Mark 9:40; Luke 9:50)

Service (vs 10)

The desired result of unity is service, which all who like Paul truly
appreciate the gospel are most eager to do. We love, because we were
first loved. We want what is best for others, as God does for us:
"Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment
of the law." (Rom. 13:10) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be
served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark
10:45)

Integrity (vs 11-14)

Paul was not afraid to confront even those who had previously affirmed
his calling and mission, when he saw that self-interest was
undermining the gospel. The integrity of the gospel was paramount. Of
course, Jesus also directly confronted hypocrisy. (Matt. 23:13-29;
Mark 7:6) Talk is cheap, if our gospel does not show love in action.
Do we really believe the universal scope of the sacrifice of Christ?
Are we willing to call others to account for a distorted gospel?

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One
died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live
should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them
and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to
the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know [Him thus] no longer." (2 Cor. 5:14-16)

Why Paul Went Up to Jerusalem. - The record in Acts says that it was
determined at Antioch that Paul and Barnabas and some others should go
up to Jerusalem about this matter. But Paul declares that he went up
'by revelation.' Gal. 2:2. Paul did not go up simply on their
recommendation, but the same Spirit moved both him and them. He did
not go up to learn the truth of the Gospel, but to maintain it. He
went, not to find out what the Gospel really is, but to communicate
the Gospel which he had preached among the heathen. Those who were
chief in the conference imparted nothing to him. He had not been
preaching for seventeen years that of which he stood in doubt. He knew
whom he believed. He had not received the Gospel from any man, and he
did not need to have any man's testimony that it was genuine. When God
has spoken, an endorsement by man is an impertinence.

The Gospel Not Magic. - The great lesson taught by this experience, to
which Paul referred the Galatians, is that there is nothing in this
world that can confer grace and righteousness upon men, and that there
is nothing in the world that any man can do, that will bring
salvation. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and not the
power of man. Any teaching that leads men to trust in any object,
whether it be an image, a picture, or anything else, or to trust for
salvation in any work or effort of their own, even though that effort
be directed toward the most praiseworthy object, is a perversion of
the truth of the Gospel, - a false gospel. There are in the church of
Christ no 'sacraments' that by some sort of magical working confer
special grace on the receiver; but there are things that a man who
believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is thereby justified and
saved, may do as an expression of his faith. The only thing in the
world that has any efficacy in the way of salvation, is the life of
God in Christ. 'By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should
boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them.'
Eph. 2:8-10." E. J. WAGGONER. (December 15, 1898 EJW, SITI 788)

~Todd Guthrie

--



Raul Diaz
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Friday, July 07, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #2 July 8, 2017

INSIGHT #2 JULY 8, 2017
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FOURTH QUARTER 2016 ADULT SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS
"PAUL'S AUTHORITY AND GOSPEL"

JULY 8, 2017
 
The authority of Paul and the gospel he preached came directly from God and not man. He evidently told this when churches in Galatia were raised up. And he again made this plain in the beginning of his letter to them. 11 "I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:11-12. So, both authority and gospel came directly through Christ Jesus. Peter wrote that Paul's writings were considered as Scripture during his and Paul's lifetime (2 Peter 3:15-16).
 
Paul's opening salutation to the Galatians contains the gospel. E. J. Waggoner wrote: "The first five verses form a greeting such as, with the exception of the first verses of the book of Romans, is not to be found elsewhere in the Bible, and, consequently, nowhere else in the world. It contains the whole Gospel. If there were no other portion of Scripture accessible, this contains sufficient to save the world. If we would study this small portion as diligently, and prize it as highly, as if there were no more, we should find our faith and hope and love infinitely strengthened, and our knowledge of the rest of the Bible much increased. In reading it, let the Galatians sink out of sight, and let each one consider it the voice of God, through His apostle, speaking to him to-day." The Glad Tidings (original), p. 10.
 
The author of the Sabbath School Lesson makes a good observation for Tuesday's lesson: "One of the unique features of Paul's letters is the way he links the words grace and peace in his greetings. The combination of these two words is a modification of the most characteristic greetings in the Greek and Jewish world. Where a Greek author would write "Greetings" (chairein), Paul writes 'Grace,' a similar-sounding word in Greek (charis). To this Paul adds the typical Jewish greet­ing of 'Peace.'…. [T]he words basically describe his gospel message."
 
The subject in the letter to the Galatians is the gospel of Christ. Paul previously taught the Galatian Gentiles that this gospel is the only way of salvation from sin. But there "false brethren" who came in secretly "to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." Galatians 2:4. They did not believe the gospel of Christ fully and so followed Paul presenting "another gospel" to the Galatians (verses 8-9 KJV), which was not really "another" but was a perversion of the gospel of Christ (verses 6-7). The gospel was under severe attack by both man and devils.
 
The issue of the letter is the true way of salvation from sin as against a false way. It was a perversion of the true way. Paul was so concerned that he uttered a curse on anyone, even "an angel" who preached "any other gospel" to the Galatians other than what he preached to them (verse 8). He expressed this a second time: "now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (verse 9).
 
Later Paul made an appeal directly to the Galatians in these words: "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:2–3.
 
In Galatians 3:1, Paul used very strong communication calling the Galatians "foolish." This is a much stronger word in the original language. The word from which "foolish" is translated means "unintelligent, foolish, dull-witted." (A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed., p. 84). Louw and Nida put it this way: the Galatians were unwilling "to use" their "mental faculties in order to understand —'foolish, stupid, without understanding.' " "Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition, Vol. 1, p. 385).
 
I have four Bibles which translates the word from which "foolish" comes, in much stronger language: "You stupid Galatians! You must have been bewitched—you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly displayed upon His cross!" Galatians 3:1, New English Bible (see also The Complete Jewish Bible, God's Word Translation and The New American Bible).
 
The Holman Christian Bible identified this as hypnotism. "Who has hypnotized you?" (3:1). The Galatian believers were directed away from the gospel of Christ and not just toward, but into spiritualism. This is true even today. Satan, high priest of his synagogue is super active in scattering seeds of his false gospel in the world field.
 
"False brethren" taught that faith in Christ alone was not enough. Something must be added. (See Acts 15:1-5). Is there a possibility that this same false teaching is alive and well today? Notice what the prophet wrote:
"Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him." Faith and Works (p. 19–20.
 
The "false brethren" of Paul's day were angry with Paul and his message of salvation based on faith in Christ alone and not on works of the law. Paul did not declare that the law was not good, nor that it was done away with. In Romans, he wrote that faith "establishes the law." Romans 3:31. Justification by faith establishes God's law in the heart of the believer. We are never justified by keeping the law; neither are we justified from keeping it; we are justified in order to keep the law. If we keep in mind the prepositions underlined in the sentence just before this one, then justification by faith and obedience will not be in conflict. So, let's keep "the faith of Jesus" and "the commandments of God" through faith in Christ alone.

~Jerry Finneman

http://www.1888msc.org/article/506/resources/sabbath-school-insights/2017-quarter-3-jul-sep/insight-2-july-8-2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #13 June 24, 2017

INSIGHT #13 JUNE 24, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"
Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter"
June 24, 2017
 
The small Petrine epistles are rich in many themes, all of which are embraced in the 1888 Message and the Gospel Message, as well as the resulting fruits in the life, in progressive personal sanctification, as well as corporate involvement in the world-wide mission of the proclamation of the Everlasting Gospel.

1 Peter 2:24   Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
 
Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, and redeemed the race, thus legally justifying corporate humanity "in Christ."  Those who believe and receive that free gift in true, living faith, experience freedom, forgiveness, peace, healing, and a new life of righteousness. 
Peter places the Gospel at the center, and the context is the early trials and persecution that the church faced, as well as the growing problem of deception in teaching.  In 1 Peter, the big issue Peter confronted was the persecution that Christians were facing. In 2 Peter, the great issue was false teachers. Peter wrote forcefully and authoritatively as he sought to encourage his readers, as well as warn them in regard to the challenges before them.
What is significant is that Peter responds to both issues in theological terms. The sufferings caused by persecution led Peter to meditate on the sufferings and death of Jesus, which resulted in our salvation. The false teachers are going to face the judgment. This judgment will take place after Jesus returns to this earth with the saved after the thousand years in heaven have ended. These are some of the themes that Peter deals with in his two letters.  Whatever we face in life, if we look to the cross and the "matchless charms" of Jesus Christ, the degree of love, sacrifice, and risk He took to save us, it will sustain us in time of trial. 
Persecution is more immediate and physical.  False teaching is more insidious, and gradually creeps in, as the church is tempted to compromise and water down what Peter recognizes is a constant theme throughout the Bible, the call to holiness.  One of the tremendous contributions made in the 1888 Message was the linking of the Gospel with the Heavenly Sanctuary, and the realization that God is calling us, through His spirit, in experience, into the Most Holy Place to write His law in our hearts.  Thus the drawing of God to learn the truth of Christ's life and death, in the union of divinity with fallen humanity, to realize the corporate redemption of mankind, the working of true faith, and the fruit of faith in a life of obedience leading to progressive sanctification and ultimately victory over sin as the Sanctuary is Cleansed, are all true in this link to the heart of Christ.  We love, because He first loved us. 
This week's final lesson will look in more detail at five of the themes Peter wrote about: the suffering of Jesus that led to our salvation; our practical response to the knowledge that God will judge our actions at the last judgment; the hope we have in the soon return of Jesus; order in society and in the church; and the role Scripture has in providing guidance in our lives.
When Peter mentions salvation, it is usually in the context of Jesus' suffering as a Substitute for sinners. For example, in 1 Peter 2:22–24, when Peter writes about the suffering of Jesus, he is using language that reflects Isaiah 53:5, 6, 9. "[Jesus] bore our sins in His own body" on the cross and "by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24) reveal the ideas of substitution and sacrifice.
Like Paul (Romans 3:21, 22), Peter emphasizes the need for faith. As he says to his readers: "Although you have not seen him, you love him . . . for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8, 9). Salvation is not earned by godly behavior, but it is granted when we believe in what Jesus has done for us and accept Him as our personal SaviorOur assurance is found in Him, not in ourselves. If it were in ourselves, what real assurance would we have? Sanctification is the fruit of living faith, for it is "Not I, but Christ, who lives in me."  Obedience is the fruit of faith. We love, because he first loved us.  He wins our hearts in love and we follow Him in faith and trust. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
"Therefore, when the apostle says that we do not make void the law of God by faith, but that, on the contrary, we establish it, he means that faith does notlead to violation of the law, but to obedience. No, we do not say that faith leads to obedience, but that faith itself obeys.  The statement is a brilliant insight into what faith is.  Faith obeys, for faith is a total surrender to Christ. 
Peter considers Christian behavior at many points in his two letters, and a number of themes keep recurring. First, Peter twice emphasizes the link between the judgment of God and Christian behavior (1 Peter 1:17 and 2 Peter 3:11). God will judge everyone's actions. Thus, a Christian should live a life of holiness.
Second, several times Peter mentions that Christians should be holy. In the Hebrew Bible, things that are holy are set aside for use in the temple (Exo. 26:34; 28:36; 29:6, 37) or for God's purposes (for example, the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3). In fact, God's plan was that His people should be holy, just as He is holy, a theme Peter touched on, too (Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15, 16). The process of setting something aside as holy is called "sanctification," and Peter's desire is that his readers become sanctified by the Spirit and be obedient to Jesus (1 Peter 1:2).
Peter highlights two things that will take place in the future: the last judgment and the fiery destruction of evil. In other words, he shows that although there is persecution now, justice and judgment will be done, and believers will receive their eternal reward.
Peter mentions judgment on three separate occasions (1 Peter 1:17; 4:5, 6, 17). He says that God the Father judges all humans impartially according to their deeds (1 Peter 1:17). He notes that Jesus Himself stands ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5). He also makes the intriguing observation that judgment starts with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).
Peter also emphasizes that "the godless" will be destroyed in a worldwide firestorm (2 Peter 3:7).
The Christian life is guided by very practical Christian counsel. In a time of the abuse of power by leaders, leading to persecution, Peter still applies Biblical principles to the issue of respecting human authority. 
Peter would no doubt share Paul's conviction that good church governance is important, too. Paul insists, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40) in church worship services. Peter likewise asks the church leaders to "tend the flock of God that is in your charge" (1 Peter 5:2). They are to do so with humility and care. Local churches need to be led well. Good leaders provide vision and coherence and enable others to exercise their spiritual gifts for the glory of God.
Peter places a priority on the Word of God, and in an age in which the Bible is being continually attacked, we need such counsel. 
2 Pe 3:16  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 
2Pe 3:17   Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 

Peter understands the role of truth in relationship to salvation and the working out of God's will in our lives.
  He therefore severely warns against false teachers, who are "wresting" Scriptures, but ultimately, they are ignoring the Holy Spirit and Christ who saved them.  The truth changes us, making us into people who love one another fervently and with "a pure heart." Obedience, purity of heart, and love—all three are related to one another. This is the ideal we should be striving for.
 Think what it would do for the sense of church unity, if nothing else. "Brethren, will you carry the spirit of Christ with you as you return to your homes and churches? Will you put away unbelief and criticism? We are coming to a time when, more than ever before, we shall need to press together, to labor unitedly. In union there is strength. In discord and disunion there is only weakness." —Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 373, 374.
For Peter, this all has implications for the Second Coming, for we can "hasten" Christ's coming.  May we all experience and retain the gospel, that will be able to see His Coming.
~Pastor Tom Cusack

Friday, June 16, 2017

“The Day of the Lord”

INSIGHT #12 JUNE 17, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Day of the Lord"
June 17, 2017
 
The Delay
 
One day a group of friends were (laughing and talking) on their way to visit another friend who lived some distance away. Everyone was looking forward to getting together as they hadn't seen each other in a while. As they drove along, they soon began singing. When one song would end, another would begin, until before you knew it, all five of the friends were engaged in singing the songs they'd sung together in their choral group. They were having such a good time. Suddenly, one of the guys noticed they'd missed their exit, and that the next one was 15 miles farther down the road. Since there was construction, the opportunities for a U-turn had been blocked; so, on they went through the dusk into the darkness of night. Of course, the singing wasn't as enthusiastic as it had been in the beginning, and the laughing and talking gradually died down too. What was once an exciting trip became an excursion filled with barely concealed anxious thoughts.
 
You see, the friends knew the road they'd been on, and they knew where the exit was, but not beyond. Furthermore, they were uncertain about the upcoming exit, since it was in an unfamiliar and dangerous part of town. Consulting the map led to one set of conclusions about the best way to proceed -- some were in favour of back tracking, while those who consulted the GPS thought that turning around was a waste of time. After a bit of discussion, in which some blame was cast, it was eventually determined that it would be better to follow the GPS. Those who wanted to follow the map were ill at ease, as they felt the map was more reliable, but they kept it to themselves. One hour later, the group of friends finally arrived at their destination. Still eager to see their friend, there was none-the-less, the undercurrent of disaffection, as the seeds of discord had been sown among them. It's interesting how delays with their inherent uncertainties reveal our temperament, our ways of thinking, and ultimately our characters.
 
In the book of Numbers, God told the children of Israel to go and conquer the Promised Land. However, their focus (how long their journey had been already, as well as the taste of the leeks and garlic of Egypt, etc.) distracted them and led them to unbelief in God's promise. Looking at their lack as well as the difficulties along the way caused them to murmur, complain, and falter in their trust. Thus they refused to conquer the land He had given them by promise. The Hebrews just would not in confiding faith trust Him, so instead they took Him by the hand and led Him where He would not go, which was into their 40 year sojourn going nowhere. Their choices were to trust God and go forward into Canaan in faith, or retreat to the wilderness in unbelief. There were no other options. In pain Himself, God let them have what their hearts were set on – their fears. Yes, they had the freedom to choose, they had the right to choose, but they just didn't know what was attached with their choice.
 
According to 2 Peter 3:9 – "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." In other words, the Lord is not slow to fulfill the promise(s) He's made, and neither is He remiss, negligent, careless or unaware of how the waiting seems to us. Actually, in the context of Second Peter chapter three, Jesus, speaking to His people through Apostle Peter calls us His beloved five times. In essence, He is using these terms of endearment - Darling, Sweetest, Precious, My adored one, much loved and cherished – to say, "I have not forgotten you." "How could I forget you whom I have engraved upon Myself?" "I have given My life for you – for us to be together. How could I forget what I've promised you?" "I know it's taking a long time, longer than you expected. I know you're disappointed, and weary, but remember I will never leave or forsake you, I will always love you. Just rest in Me, and I will carry the burden you're bearing, and fulfill My promise to you."
 
What if the Israelites had in heart gratitude, and thankfulness according to the Word (which is faith) seen this reality and accepted it? What a world of difference it would have made. And what if we, individually and collectively were to receive God's promises to us in this manner – what a testimony to God's (character of) love and faithfulness we'd be.
 
Delays almost always both test as well as display the character of the one(s) who are waiting. There were those who believed in the warning that a worldwide flood was coming. Yet when the flood came -- for various reasons, they entered not in. What could be said was the root cause? Unbelief. Perhaps they listened to the scoffers, and the skeptics (2 Peter 3:3-6) and came to disbelieve. Perhaps they were just weary and gave up. Whatever the case, because they did not believe, they were unable to take part in the promised deliverance -- the ark of safety.
 
I heard a story long ago, as to its credit, I do not know. However, it goes like this. "In 1776 the King of England, after a long day, and just before retiring to bed, wrote in His journal, "Nothing of any significance happened today." But that was the day that the Declaration of Independence had been signed (in America)."" Just because the fulfillment of the promise doesn't seem to be happening, doesn't mean that God has forgotten or is powerless.
 
We who are living in these last days would do well to note that the Word of God is His pledge to us. He has said it will not fail, but will prosper in the thing to which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). He has said He is God, forever the same, not a man who will lie (Num. 23:19). Therefore, let's not become weary in the well doing of waiting for Him (Gal. 6:9); He is, after all, faithful who has promised (Heb. 10:23).
 
As we look back through the history of the various stories in scripture (Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jesus, and so forth), and our own history as a people, we can see that faith and feelings always part ways. Jesus Himself said that there were promises He longed to keep (healings, and teachings, etc.) but He could not because of the unbelief of the people. Faith is believing that the Word will do (exactly) what it has said it will do – without our help.
So, while we wait longer than expected for what is to come, may we keep the faith of Jesus, not growing discouraged or dismayed with anxious care. May we, with anticipation and gratefulness, choose to accept and believe the Lord's promises despite what we see and hear around us. And may we allow the Lord to more fully enter into our hearts and minds, instead of hindering His Word in unbelief from fulfilling and finishing what indeed it said it will do.

~Raul Diaz
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 09, 2017

“False Teachers”

INSIGHT #11 JUNE 10, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"False Teachers"
June 10, 2017
 
 
This week's Sabbath School Lesson addresses the issue of false teaching in the church, and the importance of maintaining doctrinal integrity, in the midst of growing apostasy, questioning of God's Word, altering God's Word, and perverting the truth and message that God has for us.  I Timothy 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and Matthew 24:11-13 all warn of a "falling away" or apostasy in the last days, with the growing intrusion of "false prophets", and even a nation called the "false prophet".  We would do well to remember Matthew 4:4. "Man shall not live by bread alone but by EVERY word of God."  We also need to remember John 7:17. "If any will do His will, He will know of the doctrine."  In other words, we must approach Scripture from a surrendered viewpoint, willing to do whatever God's Word reveals, for if we approach the text with preconceived ideas, particularly if we are "walking in the flesh", we are guaranteed to pervert the pure teachings of the word of God.  This all began in the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve with the idea that God's Word was not to be trusted, that "You will not surely die."  He was, in essence saying, God's Word is a lie, for "sin won't hurt you", and this lie is at the heart of all alteration of Scripture, for if He can replace the Word with his own, He has largely done what He has wanted to do, and that is to take God's Place.
 
In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven (E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 761.4).
 
We have much to thank in the courage and faithfulness to Scripture that was shown by the Protestant reformers.  They grew more and more to realize the importance of the Scriptures and faithful teaching of those truths, to eradicate the errors and false teachings and practices that had corrupted the medieval church.  John Wycliffe was one of the earliest of the reformers.  He fearlessly exposed the evils of the monks and friars, and with a holy boldness exposed the evils of the pope himself.  Before reaching the age of sixty he fell ill, worn out by a life of unceasing toil, study, and assaults. Yet his greatest work and contribution to the reformation lay ahead.  "He lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome—to give them the Bible. . ."
After Wycliffe, other men arose inspired by the Spirit of God to restore to the people, step by step many of the Bible doctrines that had been taken away during the dark ages.  Bible study, prayer, baptism by immersion, the priesthood of believers, Christian witnessing, and other Bible concepts, were all restored as the reformers worked relentlessly to point the people back to the Word of God.
 
Martin Luther would arise after Wycliffe to restore that important Bible doctrine, justification by faith.  Martin was an excellent student but it may have been his prayer life that gave him his ultimate advantage.  Martin often said, "To pray well, is the better half of study."  He would often spend hours in prayer.  Martin would later declare that "Christians should receive no other doctrines than those which rest on the authority of the Sacred Scriptures."  In that statement, we hear one of the fundamental principles of the Protestant Reformation, in which Luther would reluctantly become a champion.
 
"It is presented to me that spiritual fables are taking many captive.  Their minds are sensual, and, unless a change comes, this will prove their ruin.  To all who are indulging these unholy fancies I would say, Stop; for Christ's sake, stop right where you are.  You are on forbidden ground.  Repent, I entreat of you, and be converted." — Letter 231, 1903. (Medical Ministry, 100, 101.)
 
The Christian Church needs to ask itself a question.  If churches are all teaching different things, can they all be correct?  Someone has to be wrong.  It is important to note that Once Saved, Always Saved, Predestination and Election, the Secret Rapture, the elimination of the Law of God, and many other doctrines have as their essence that "sin won't hurt you."  In reality, God told us that the "wages of sin is Death."  Romans 6:23.  If we indulge the flesh, we will alter the Bible to satisfy the clamorings of the flesh.  In the area of Woman's Ordination, without getting into the specifics of that discussion, many of the arguments were not Biblical arguments, but ones of preference, personal desire, cultural pressures, etc.  We MUST decide every doctrinal issue from a "Thus saith the Lord", and not from "I feel like it."  As Jesus said in the Garden, "Not my will, by thine be done."  To make very clear just how Satan brings deadly errors into the church such as this one, Ellen White wrote this: "It is when Satan appears as an angel of light that he takes souls in his snare, deceiving them.  Men who pretend to have been taught of God, will adopt fallacious theories, and in their teaching will so adorn these fallacies as to bring in Satanic delusions. Thus Satan will be introduced as an angel of light and will have opportunity to present his pleasing fables.
 
"These false prophets will have to be met.  They will make an effort to deceive many, by leading them to accept false theories. Many scriptures will be misapplied in such a way that deceptive theories will apparently be based upon the words that God has spoken.  Precious truth will be appropriated to substantiate and establish error.  These false prophets, who claim to be taught of God, will take beautiful scriptures that have been given to adorn the truth, and will use them as a robe of righteousness to cover false and dangerous theories.  And even some of those who, in times past, the Lord has honored, will depart so far from the truth as to advocate misleading theories regarding many phases of truth, including the sanctuary question." — Manuscript 11, 1906. (Evangelism, 360, NOTE especially the last sentence, "even some of those who, in times past, the Lord has honored".)
 
Ellen White has also given us this warning to protect us from the omega deception: "The time has come when we cannot depend upon the doctrine which comes to our ears, unless we see that it harmonizes with the Word of God. There are dangerous heresies that will be presented as Bible doctrines; and we are to become acquainted with the Bible so that we may know how to meet them.  The faith of every individual will be tested, and everyone will pass through a trial of close criticism." — The Review and Herald, May 3, 1887. (Evangelism 590, 591.)
 
Memory Text: "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." 2 Peter 2:19
 
In his first epistle, Peter, with great pastoral concern, sought to encourage readers in regard to the perils of persecution.  Though we don't know exactly what form of persecution he was specifically addressing, we do know that the church would face terrible trials as the pagan Roman Empire sought to extinguish the growing movement of people called "Christians."
 
But Satan launched a two-pronged attack.  Certainly, persecution from the outside-that is, brute force and violence-was a powerful tool.  But the church faced another threat, one perhaps even more dangerous than outside persecution.  And that was the threat from inside.  Just as the Jewish nation in the past had to deal with false prophets, the follower of Jesus in Peter's day had to deal with false teachers "who privily shall bring in damnable heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1) into the church itself.  And, even worse, Peter warned that many would follow these "pernicious ways" (2 Pet. 2:2).
 
We thank God for the faithful ministers in His church, and we pray for revival and reformation in His church.  Let it begin with me, but let us not forget to pray for the leadership, the pastors and elders who will find in the day of judgement much pain and suffering if they do not repent of their false teaching.  It is more serious than most believe.  "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8,9.
 
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." (2 Pet. 2:1-3).
 
Whatever these false teachers were presenting, they were leading their victims-people who had recently found the Lord Jesus-back to their old sinful way of life.  It's easy to imagine some kind of cheap grace gospel that downplayed the need for purity and holiness, something that caused them to be caught up again in the very "corruption" (2 Pet. 2:19) of the world they had just escaped from.  No wonder Peter spoke so sharply and strongly against these teachings and warned about what the result of following them would be.
Perhaps the echo of the words of Jesus in 2 Peter 2:20 is intentional (see Matt. 12:45, Luke 11:26).  Jesus tells the parable of a man who has been freed from an unclean spirit.  The spirit wanders without a place of his own, and then returns to see "'my house from which I came'" (Matt. 12:44).  He arrives and finds it empty and put in order.  He then moves back in, but he brings with him several other spirits more wicked than himself.  As Jesus says, "'the last state of that man is worse than the first'" (Matt. 12:45).  The danger Jesus illustrates and Peter describes is real.  The new believer needs to ensure that the things of the Spirit replace the things that used to dominate his or her life.  If involvement in church and the sharing of the new faith does not replace the earlier secular activities, it is too easy to revert to one's old ways.
 
Read 2 Peter 2:6-16.  What other examples does Peter use to give his warning about what wickedness will lead to?
 
The first substantive reference to Sodom in the Bible is Genesis 13:12-13. Lot and Abraham decided to separate for "financial" reasons.  Lot chose the Jordan valley, and "pitched his tent toward Sodom" (Gen. 13:12).  The Bible then comments, "Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD" (Gen. 13:13, NRSV).  Later, when God warned Abraham that He was planning to destroy Sodom, Abraham negotiated an agreement that God would not destroy it if 10 righteous people were found there (Gen. 18:16-33).  The unlikelihood of finding even 10 righteous people in Sodom was amply demonstrated by what happened to the messengers sent to visit Lot.  The city was duly destroyed; only Lot and his two daughters escaped (Gen. 19:12-25).
 
Peter derives two lessons from this story.  First, the two cities provide an example of the punishment coming to the ungodly (2 Pet. 2:6).  Second, it shows that the Lord knows how to rescue the righteous from trial (2 Pet. 2:7-9).  Peter then notes some of the characteristics of those who were destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah: they indulge their flesh in depraved lust, despise authority, are bold and willful, and do not hesitate to slander the angels (2 Pet. 2:10-11).  These characteristics have similarities to how Peter describes the false teachers and their followers.
 
The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22:1-24:25.  He had been hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites.  At first reluctant, he was eventually persuaded to take on this task by the offer of a larger sum of money (Num. 22:7-21).  On his way, he was confronted by an "angel of the LORD" and was saved from death only when his donkey turned aside.  Balaam then beat his donkey and realized his mistake only when his eyes were opened, and he saw the "angel of the LORD" himself (Num. 22:22-35).  In the end, Balaam ended up blessing Israel (Num. 23:4-24:24).  Peter used Balaam as an example of those enticed by adultery and greed (2 Pet. 2:14, 15).  Such people are like Balaam.  They have left the path that they should follow.
 
So often we hear Christians talk about "freedom in Christ."  And, of course, this is a valid concept.  To be free from the condemnation of the law and to have assurance of salvation because of what Christ has done for us and not from our own works is indeed to be free.  The story of Martin Luther and the bondage from which he suffered before he understood grace is a great example of what this freedom can mean.  However, as we saw in Peter, the wonderful truth can be twisted.  "The great truth of our entire dependence upon Christ for salvation lies close to the error of presumption.  Freedom in Christ is by thousands mistaken for lawlessness; and because Christ came to release us from the condemnation of the law, many declare that the law itself is done away, and that those who keep it are fallen from grace.  And thus, as truth and error appear so near akin, minds that are not guided by the Holy Spirit will be led to accept the error and, in so doing, place themselves under the power of Satan's deceptions.  In thus leading people to receive error for truth, Satan is working to secure the homage of the Protestant world." - Ellen G. White, Christ Triumphant, p. 324.
 
Discussion Questions:
 
Meditate on 2 Peter 2:19 and the other things Peter says about the results of the false teaching. Why must we be sure to learn for ourselves the crucial truths we believe? How important is it that we all agree exactly on what we should believe? When does it become "dangerous" to think ideas that are different from the rest of our fellow believers?
 
Look at some of the strong language of Peter in regard to the whole question of punishment and judgment: "bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1); "shall utterly perish in their own corruption" (2 Pet. 2:12); "to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Pet. 2:9); "and their destruction does not slumber" (2 Pet. 2:3). What should these texts tell us about not only the reality of judgment but about how strongly God condemns those who will lead His people into error?
 
What do you think it means when those who talk about "freedom in Christ" generally do so, not in the context of the law in general (though some do) but in the context of keeping the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment?  How does this argument help us to see another way that the idea of "freedom in Christ" can be twisted?
 
True freedom is total trust in Christ, His Word, and His ultimate victory in the Great Controversy.
 
~Pastor Tom Cusack
 RR
Raul Diaz

Thursday, June 01, 2017

INSIGHT #10 JUNE 3, 2017

INSIGHT #10 JUNE 3, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Prophecy and Scripture"
June 3, 2017

"The Sermon. Rome in the Book of Daniel" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 77, 23, pp. 354, 355.

          In 2 Peter 1:16-19, where the apostle is recalling the fact that they saw the kingdom and glory of God in the transfiguration of Jesus on the mount, of which they were eye-witnesses, you remember these words: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts," as well as everywhere else. The object of prophecy, then, is to give light in the dark. 

          You know, likewise, that it is written that "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people;" and that is the time of the world in which we are now living. You know also of that expression in Ephesians 6, touching "the rulers of the darkness of this world." Darkness does cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, but God has caused his light to shine in this darkness. And the light that particularly shines in the darkness of this world, to give light to those who are in the darkness, is "prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." 

          You know also: you have found in your lessons, over and over, that the prophecies of the book of Daniel are written especially for the last days. He who revealeth secrets maketh known "what shall be in the latter days." "It shall be for many days." "At the time of the end shall be the vision." "Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." Then, the book of Daniel, being prophecy written especially for the time of the end, and the prophecy being as a light shining in a dark place; in that, it is the prophecy that is particularly to give light in the time of the end. But the book of Daniel, I repeat, discusses principally only two great powers—Babylon and Rome.  

          The history of Babylon of old—that of Rome of old—has instruction in it—through the book of Daniel—that must be, and will be, light to the people who are living in the time of the end, and who are in, and surrounded with, the darkness of this world. We know that in one phase of Rome, it is particularly a prophecy of these times, and that is in the characteristic of the little horn—the union of Church and State, the changing of God's law, the persecuting of God's people, etc. All this is spoken of in the last times, and we have studied that particularly all these years. 

          Eight years ago, only a little later than this, I spoke from this pulpit one Sabbath, on the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the likeness of Rome in our day in the uniting of religion and the State in the United States government. We ourselves have seen this done, in spite of the Constitution, in spite of all principle, in the declaring this to be "a Christian nation;" and in the changing of the Sabbath of the Lord to Sunday.  This was done when in Congress the fourth commandment was read as expressing the reasons for the pending legislation, and then was so interpreted that "the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday," must be the Sabbath that is meant in the fourth commandment, and shall be meant in the United States, so far as legislation goes, and the power of the United States shall go, to cause respect for it. In the study of that procedure we saw the very likeness of what had been before, when the Church, in the fourth century, united herself with the Roman State, and exalted Sunday in the place of the Sabbath of the Lord, and put under a curse all who presumed to work on Sunday, and who did not work on the Sabbath. I need not further review that. 

          But there is more to Rome than just that, — a good deal more. And all of it is to show us that, in this time in which we live, that which was Rome in its day is instruction to us in our day. What Rome did in the course of her going away from God, and leading the world away from God, is instruction to us in our day, when we see the like thing carried on, in the same way precisely, and for the same purpose precisely. As I have often said on this subject: Two things that are so much alike in the making, must be alike when they are made. {June 5, 1900 AT JONES, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 354}

Alonzo T. Jones.

~Richard Kearns