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
 RR
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
 RR
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