Friday, June 16, 2017

“The Day of the Lord”

INSIGHT #12 JUNE 17, 2017
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
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 09, 2017

“False Teachers”

INSIGHT #11 JUNE 10, 2017
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
Raul Diaz

Thursday, June 01, 2017

INSIGHT #10 JUNE 3, 2017

INSIGHT #10 JUNE 3, 2017

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

INSIGHT #9 MAY 27, 2017

INSIGHT #9 MAY 27, 2017

Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson

"Be Who You Are"

May 27, 2017

This week's Sabbath School lesson might well be titled "Be who you are in Christ" because to "Be who we are" without being "In Christ" is not a pretty picture. To the outside world, we may appear to be in good shape---self-assured, self-confident, self-reliant with high self-esteem. However, those "self" signs are flashing a warning signal of the sinful human nature within. As Romans 3:12 tells us. "There is no one who does good, not even one." So, this week we want to explore the meaning and importance of being "In Christ" in our daily walk for Him as Christians.
Let's start with the memory text, 2 Peter 1:5-7. It is important to look at all scriptures in context, so we need to examine verses 1-4 closely first:
  1. Verse 1 – Tells us that it is through the Righteousness of Christ that we have received a "precious faith".
As the lesson points out, this faith cannot be earned, nor is it deserved, for "it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8). Also in Romans 12:3 we are told that God has given all of us a "measure of faith". This faith is part of the free gift of salvation for all and it is the same faith that Jesus had in his Father when He was on this earth - "the faith of Jesus". We are told that the "gospel of Christ" is the "righteousness of God" (Romans 1:16-17) and that it was planned and initiated before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). God knew exactly what faith we would need and planned accordingly.
  1. Verse 2 – Speaks of the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. This knowledge was promised to mankind since the fall (Gen. 3:15) and fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (John 3:16-17; Gal. 4:4-5.)
  2. Verse 3 - 4 – tells us that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." "He hath called us to glory and virtue". "He has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature."
What power (the power of God) and what promises (the promises of God)! It is important that the power and the promises all flow from the Righteousness of Christ. It is His power, His promises, His faith and His Righteousness, all entirely of God's doing without any human contribution whatsoever (Romans 3:23-24, Gal. 2:16).
We know that faith is being sure of things hoped for (God's gift of salvation in Christ) the substance of which we have not yet fully realized (Hebrews 11:1). It is through faith (the faith of Jesus), that we connect ourselves with Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. This means that at conversion, when we believe and accept Jesus as our Saviour we effectively became one with Him and His death (second) becomes our death. In Romans 6:3, Paul tells us: "or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (In Christ).
In Romans 6, Paul is very clear that just as we die (to sin) through Christ's death we also are "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (verse 11). The "In Christ" concept or idea is a central theme of Paul's theology. Why is it important to us today? "In Christ" is based on the biblical teaching of corporate "oneness" which is a familiar concept historically and in many parts of the world even today but in western society which is primarily individualistic in thinking, it is a foreign thought. Throughout the Bible we can plainly see that all of humanity is linked together in a shared life and existence which constitutes a common unit of shared identity. This is seen in Romans 5:12-18 where we read: " just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned"; "Consequently just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men." Thus, "in Adam" we stood condemned meaning that corporately, the entire human race was condemned by Adam's sin. However, by God's miraculous plan of salvation, initiated and carried out by Him, He united in one person - Jesus Christ - our corporate humanity that needed redeeming with His one perfect divine nature. Through this wonderful union, a just and merciful God qualified Christ to become the second or last Adam representing the entire human race. (1 Cor. 15:45). At His Incarnation, Christ assumed the corporate life of all of humanity in its fallen condition (1 Cor. 1:30). And so, Paul is able to say in Romans 5:18, "so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men".
So it is that, In Christ, we have a new life which includes the faith of Jesus which in turn gives us access to the same power of God that Christ had access to when He was on this earth fully surrendered to His Father's will (John 14:10). Jesus himself speaks of this in John 15:4. He says: "Abide (remain) in Me, and I will abide (remain) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."
In order for us to remain in Christ, we must already be in Christ which is where He puts us when we believe and accept His sacrifice on the cross, His gift to us and as already noted we become new creatures in Christ. It becomes our choice as to whether we continue to abide in Christ which in turn allows Christ through the Holy Spirit into our lives personally. A branch separated from the vine is a dead branch bearing no fruit.
And so it is, when we now look back at our memory verse that it is our response to God's unconditional agape love as reflected in Christ's death and infinite sacrifice on the cross that "In Christ" we have access to the faith of Jesus from which His virtues flow! Thus, the effort Peter is referring to is not a works program but a recognition of the power of Christ that is available to us when we are fully surrendered to His will and relying on His strength.
Ellen White recognizes the importance of abiding in Christ as we see in the following quote from Steps to Christ (p. 69 - 70):
"Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness, — all depend upon our union with Christ. It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly, — by abiding in Him, — that we are to grow in grace. He is not only the Author, but the Finisher of our faith. It is Christ first and last and always. He is to be with us, not only at the beginning and the end of our course, but at every step of the way. David says, "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." Psalm 16:8. {SC 69.1}
Do you ask, "How am I to abide in Christ?" In the same way as you received Him at first. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." "The just shall live by faith." Colossians 2:6; Hebrews 10:38. You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christ's sake did all this for you. By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you are to grow up in Him — by giving and taking. You are to give all, — your heart, your will, your service, — give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all, — Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper, — to give you power to obey. {SC 69.2}
Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, "Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee." This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ." {SC 70.1}
In addition, the "In Christ" concept was a central theme of the most precious 1888 message brought to us by Waggoner and Jones. Here is an example from Jones' thoughts (1895 GCB #18):
"Now it is written of the Christian: "Ye are kept by the power of God through faith." That is done in Christ. We yield to Christ; Christ abides in us, giving us His mind. That mind of Christ enables our wicked self to be in the background. The mind of Christ--"let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"--puts our wicked selves beneath and keeps ourselves back and keeps us from asserting ourselves, for any manifestation of ourself is of itself sin. When the mind of Christ puts ourselves beneath, that gives the Father a chance to work with us and keep us from sinning. And thus God "worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Thus it is always the Father and Christ and ourselves. It is the Father manifested in us through Christ, and in Christ. The mind of Christ empties us of our sinful selves and keeps us from asserting ourselves in order that God, the Father, may join Himself to us and work against the power of sin and keep us from sinning. Thus Christ "is our peace, who hath made both [God and us] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity . . . for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace."So it is always the Father and Christ and we; we, the sinners; God the sinless; Christ joining the sinless One to the sinful one and in Himself abolishing the enmity, emptying self in us, in order that God and we may be one, and thus make one new man, so making peace. And thus the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through, or in, Jesus Christ.  {February 25, 1895 ATJ, GCB 349.5}"
In closing, may we be who we are in Christ, appreciating His love and sacrifice for us, believing in Him, trusting in Him and relying on Him always as we look forward to Him coming to take us home! 

John and Monica Campbell
Raul Diaz

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Jesus in the Writings of Peter"

INSIGHT #8 MAY 20, 2017
Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"Jesus in the Writings of Peter"
May 20, 2017
Have you ever stopped to consider how much ground we have lost due to the delay in Christ's return?
During a recent prayer meeting service, we pulled out a stack of old Songs of Praise hymn books which I salvaged from the used book table at camp meeting. As we sang old familiar songs that we hadn't sung in years -- decades -- my heart grew wistful, and not just because I'm feeling my age and a bit of nostalgia. More than that, as we sang those early advent hymns, I sensed the fervor of the gospel message in those verses. There was a time when advent believers were selling houses and lands and farms and putting their all into the spreading of the gospel. Reforms were set in place. Jesus was soon to come. Their hearts beat in unison with the love of Jesus and the longing for His soon return. In the intervening years, we have settled back down again. Jesus didn't come in 1844 or 1888 or 1901, and as far as I can tell, much has been lost, including a deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it cost Him to save us.
This week's lesson focuses on Jesus. Praise the Lord! In the hope of recovering some more of the Good News, I've searched through the dusty pages of our history and found a gem on this topic by E. J. Waggoner.
Read and be blessed!
--Patti Guthrie
by E. J. Waggoner
Now we come to the representative character of the work of Christ for us, and our personal relation to His experiences.
We have already pointed out that it was as the second head of the human family, taking the place of him who had failed, that He lived and died. Now our acceptance of Him as a personal Saviour from sin involves the acceptance of all His experiences for us, and our union with Him in those experiences. Thus we read in the Scripture: "For the love of Christ constraineth us: because we thus judge, that One died for all, therefore all died." 2 Cor. 5:14, R.V. "I have been crucified with Christ." Gal. 2:20, R.V. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:4-7.
It thus appears that when Christ died, "all died," because in His representative capacity He was the whole human family, and that when God raised Him from the dead, He "raised us up together," for the same reason.
But all these benefits are only temporary, unless they are received through faith. It is by the cross, the death and resurrection of Christ, that all men live, whether saints or sinners, and so all are sharing in the benefits of His work now, and all will come forth from their graves because of the resurrection of Christ; but it is only those who receive these benefits by a personal faith in Jesus as the One through whom they come, who will be able to retain them to all eternity, God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," but we must acknowledge that these blessings are all in Christ and that they are received and retained only as we receive Him, else we shall not be able to keep that which God has given to us.
So it is with the resurrection. The curse, which is death, is upon all, and yet men live, because Christ bore the curse upon the cross, and "being raised from the dead, dieth no more." But this brief period of life is granted simply as a time of probation, a time in which to accept by personal faith in a risen Redeemer the blessings which have been provided "in Him," that so His work may avail for us to all eternity. "We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with the likeness of His death, we shall be also with the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died unto sin once: but the life that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." Rom. 6:4-11, R.V.
This is simply the experience of receiving Christ as a crucified and risen Saviour. It is a practical statement of what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is to "know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Phil. 3:10. {March 31, 1898 EJW, PTUK 199} 
What then does the resurrection mean to us? It means, first of all, our acceptance of the death of Christ for us and our death in Him; and then it means His resurrection and our participation in His resurrection life, as a daily experience. It means that, our interests have been transferred to the heavenly kingdom, and that we have been made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And so we are exhorted: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Jesus sitteth on the right hand of God." Col. 3:1. It means a victory over the world through our faith in His resurrection life (1 John v. 4), and a final and complete victory over that last enemy which is death. "The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. . . . Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 15:52-57.
So let the word be on our tongues, and the experience of the life of it in our hearts, "He is risen!"
As in nature, as in art, so in grace; it is rough treatment that gives souls, as well as stones, their lustre. The more the diamond is cut, the brighter it sparkles; and in what seems hard dealing, there God has no end in view but to perfect His people. {March 31, 1898 EJW, PTUK 200} 
Time for a break.
~Patti Guthrie

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Servant Leadership

INSIGHT #7 MAY 13, 2017
Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"Servant Leadership"
May 13, 2017
"The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:25-28. 
Do you know someone who is an elder? What is it about that person that makes you consider them your elder? Is it that they are older? Or have more wisdom than others? What is the crux of being an elder, or a leader?
In God's kingdom there is a hierarchy - there are different positions occupied by different beings.  But contrary to Lucifer's accusations, God does not play favorites. Honor is related to character.
Christ was one with the Father, of the same divine, eternal, loving character. His position as Michael the archangel was one of servant leadership, a humbling of Himself to serve the angels. His leadership is in contrast to that of Lucifer, who sought to glorify himself rather than serve willingly, resting in the Father's bestowment of his particular gifts.
The choice of style and approach to leadership remains the same for us today. In 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter draws the contrast of these two principles. Shepherds of the flock should see the bigger picture (oversee), serving willingly and eagerly, living the "in Christ" life as He lives in them. This requires a death to self. The alternative approach is by compulsion, driven by self interest, and thus oppressive of others.
"In the kingdom of God, position is not gained through favoritism. It is not earned, nor is it received through an arbitrary bestowal. It is the result of character. The crown and the throne are the tokens of a condition attained--tokens of self-conquest through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."  AA 543.
A humble spirit is essential whether we are leading, or following (1 Peter 5:5-7). Humility allows God to shower His grace upon us, and allows us to let Him care for us and our cares. It also saves us from trying to do too much.
"We shall forfeit the favor of God if we lose the meek and lowly spirit which in his sight is of great price. Love to Jesus must be the motive which impels us to action. He places the highest value upon even the most trivial acts done from love to him." (RH, November 18, 1884 par. 16)  
"All the work done, however excellent it may appear to be, is worthless if not done in the love of Jesus. One may go through the whole round of religious activity, and yet, unless Christ is woven into all that he says and does, he will work for his own glory." (Letter 48, 1903).
"The work done for Christ in the world is not made of great deeds and wonderful achievements. These will come in as needed. But the most successful work is that which keeps self as much as possible out of sight….
"The labor of love for Christ's sake, if treasured by the giver ends there, for he has all the reward he will ever have. But if he does this work for Christ's sake, thinking not of the matter afterward, angels of God gather up these incidents and cherish them as precious pearls. 
"The gentleness of Christ that is revealed in laboring for souls while self takes no credit, will be rewarded. With God the deeds of all are counted for just what heaven values them, not as they are estimated by the worker. It becomes us to do no more than we can do with order, with thoroughness and exactitude. 
"If our active temperament gathers in a large amount of work that we have not strength nor the grace of Christ to do understandingly and with order and exactitude, everything we undertake shows imperfection, and the work is constantly marred. God is not glorified, however good the motive….
"The worker complains of constantly having too heavy burdens to bear, when God is not pleased with his taking these burdens; and he makes his own life one of worriment and anxiety and weariness, because he will not learn the lessons Christ has given him, to wear His yoke and bear His burdens rather than the yoke and burdens of his own creating. Christ says, 'My yoke is easy, . . . My burden is light.' Then let every extra burden be left for Jesus, and all the necessary burdens He will also take, and bear them, and us too." (17MR 69-70)  
It is the humility Christ reveals in His steps down to the cross (Phil.2:5-8) that reveals the power of His love, and humbles us. We must be established by steadfast faith in this love, surrendering to Christ's leadership, in order to meet the temptations of the counterfeit leader, who is not the Lamb, but like a roaring lion. It is a sobering time in which to live, requiring constant vigilance against the temptation to let self rule. The contrast will be seen more and more clearly as we approach the end.
"Love is power. Intellectual and moral strength are involved in this principle, and cannot be separated from it. The power of wealth has a tendency to corrupt and destroy; the power of force is strong to do hurt; but the excellence and value of pure love consist in its efficiency to do good, and to do nothing else but good. Whatsoever is done out of pure love, be it ever so little or contemptible in the sight of men, is wholly fruitful; for God measures more with how much love one worketh, than the amount he doeth. Love is of God. The unconverted heart cannot originate nor produce this plant of heavenly growth, which lives alone, and flourishes only where Christ reigns. Love cannot live without action, and every act increases, strengthens, and extends it. Love will prevail and gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless. Love works not for profit nor reward; yet God has ordained that great gain shall be the certain result of every labor of love. It is diffusive in its nature, and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful, and affect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful. Wherever the power of intellect, of authority, of force, is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach, assume a defensive, repelling position, and increase their strength of resistance as they are met by another power than love. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. He came into the world to bring resistance and authority into subjection to himself. Wisdom and strength he could command, but the means he employed to overcome evil were wisdom and strength of love. Suffer nothing to divide your interest from your present work until God shall see fit to give you another piece of work in the same field. Seek not for happiness, for that is never to be found by seeking for it. Go about your duty. Let faithfulness mark all your doings, and be clothed with humility." RH, May 11, 1886.      
"Lucifer sought supreme authority, eternal in the heavens. When the spirit of worldly ambition has entered a church it seeks temporal authority supreme on earth. This is but the natural course for human weakness to take, when it has forgotten to subject itself in child-like humility to Divine leading. When the fallen church and the fallen angel have purposes which complement each other and tend to the same end, they become natural allies. But when the church forsakes its Divine Master, it subjects itself to Satan's leadership, and becomes, with all its power and intelligence, the dupe and the tool of supernatural subtlety. The two will then work together for the same ends,- the supremacy of self, and the subjugation of all else, and will have a common purpose,- to destroy the product of the Gospel, liberty, civil and religious. When a church does this it becomes an ecclesiasticism and no longer the Church of God."  July 2, 1896 EJW, PTUK 420.
"We are prone to think only of the fact that Satan goes about, like a roaring lion, seeking to destroy us, forgetting that God sends His goodness and mercy also after us, and that they are able to deliver us. 'The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.'" January 18, 1894 EJW, PTUK 33.
"There is power in the love of the Lord. He is great, and He is love, so that His greatness is the measure of His love and gentleness. When He comes to deliver His people from the roaring lion that walks about, seeking whom he may devour, it is with such power that the heavens and the earth are shaken, and moved from their place; yet that mighty exhibition of power is but the manifestation of His tender love. 'Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.' Isa. 40:10-11. But the oldest person on earth is in comparison with the Lord but an infant, and so the Lord says: 'Hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by Me from the belly, which are carried from the womb; and even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear, even I will carry, and I will deliver.' Isa. 46:3-4. There is hope and comfort for all in Him who has said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' "August 16, 1900 EJW, PTUK 514.
Amen! Praise our great Servant Leader!!! May we learn to lead like Him, and to follow Him wherever He goes.
~Todd Guthrie

Thursday, May 04, 2017

"Suffering for Christ"

Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"Suffering for Christ"
May 6, 2017

In 1 Peter 4:12-14, Peter uses the metaphor of fire for the trials that Christ's followers will experience. As long as Christians exist in this world, fiery trials and persecution will be the norm. This is why Peter warned us not to be surprised. Fire was a good metaphor to use for at least two important reasons. Depending on the object experiencing the fire, the result can be devastatingly destructive such as in the loss of life as well as property, which sometimes happens in forest fires. Contrarily the effect can be constructive, such as in the removal of impurities from silver and gold.
Although there are varying methods for refining gold, typically either chemical or high-temperature flame is utilized, which is determined by both the quantity of gold and, the level of purity desired.
Refining by flame is one of the oldest methods in existence. It is even mentioned in the scripture, and is the preferable method for purifying larger quantities of gold. The tradition remains virtually unchanged today, except for a few advancements in safety and precision. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a fire with temperatures reaching more than 1000 degrees Celsius (1832° F). The intense heat made this job a dangerous occupation for the refiner, as he sat next to the heat with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross which rose to the top of the molten metal. Once the dross was removed, what remained in the crucible was the pure gold.
God, who is the master refiner, says, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" (Isaiah 13:12). Clearly, there is a parallel between making gold pure and making man as pure as gold. Sin is the dross that makes us impure. God uses and allows trials and affliction as the fire to purify us.
The gold of faith and love shines brighter as a result of the purification. Thus will it be for the feeble human being who puts his trust in Christ. "He" will make the man's character precious as a consequence of abiding with Him, through the Holy Spirit (YRP 131). The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but it will only consume the Sin. That fire produces death to selfishness, sensuality/carnality, love of the world, pride, and arrogance. It is death to lukewarmness as well. The fire consumes the impurities of the sinful character; only God's character, now indwelling in our souls, remains.
Our Lord Jesus suffered through the fire of affliction. As the Sin-bearer, Christ was subject to the lightning bolts of wrath for the universal law demands death to the sinner. Jesus experienced "the wages" of the second death for sin on the cross. He went all the way to hell for you and me. Ellen White elaborates further on this by saying,
"Greater is He that is in the heart of the faithful, than he that controls the hearts of unbelievers. Complain not bitterly of the trial which comes upon you, but let your eyes be directed to Christ, who has clothed His divinity with humanity, in order that we may understand how great His interest in us since He has identified Himself with suffering humanity. He tasted the cup of human sorrow, He was afflicted in all our afflictions, He was made perfect through suffering, tempted in all points like as humanity is tempted, in order that He might succor those who are in temptation" (YRP 131).
The words of Peter are then not only to warn, but to encourage us. Let us read 1 Peter 4:12–14,
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part, He is glorified."
Christ is not asking us to go through anything He has not experienced. Neither is He asking us to endure our trials alone, in our own strength. He has pledged Himself to us, and we can trust Him! He will never leave nor forsake us and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We have in Christ, "a High Priest who [can] sympathize with our weaknesses, [as He] was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 13:5; 4:15 - 16; 2 Cor 12:9

~Raul Diaz