Thursday, November 14, 2019


NOVEMBER 16, 2019

As I looked at our lesson title this week and realized it was our seventh lesson for the quarter, it brought to mind Matthew 18:21 where Peter questions Jesus on forgiveness and asks how many times we should forgive our brother, thinking his suggestion of 7 times was a generous thought. The response of Jesus that 70 times 7 was appropriate was essentially saying that we should be willing to forgive with no limit. The real underlying message for us here is that God's forgiveness has no limit just as His agape love has no limit, for God is love! When we come to see more of the depth of His love and His sacrifice then our hearts and minds will be changed and as new creatures in Christ, we also, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us would be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters without limit. Before we can forgive, we need to see His forgiveness of us and so a key part of our lesson study this week will be to take a closer look at God's forgiveness of us.
The other key topic we want to study this week is the prayer of repentance in Nehemiah 9. As it mentions on Sunday's lesson, this prayer was not just an individual prayer of repentance but a "corporate prayer and confession that demonstrated a deep understanding of the nature of sin". Corporate repentance is significant in scripture and has a special significance for God's last day people today as well.
Let us start our study of God's forgiveness by looking at Christ's forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11:
"In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn but to save." (DA 462.3)
What deliverance! What a Saviour! This story clearly shows forgiveness taking place before any confession or repentance. In fact, the Bible shows no evidence of any confession. Yet she was clearly pardoned and given hope when Jesus said "go and sin no more."
Can you imagine what she must have thought? Is it really possible? Can she not only be pardoned but cleansed? Is it possible she can actually go out and sin no more? She sees hope in the Lord's command. She wants to be cleansed. She wants to go and sin no more.
In Desire of Ages, we read: "In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins. This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion, she repaid His forgiving mercy." (DA 462.1,2)
We see that her pardon led to a desire for cleansing and she was cleansed. The woman was pardoned before she confessed, and the pardon led to confession, repentance, and cleansing.
Here are several scripture texts dealing with forgiveness that further clarify what Christ has done for each and every sinner at the Cross:
Ephesians 1: 7,8: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding."
Romans 3: 23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Colossians 1: 13,14: "For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, Who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins."
Consistent with these scriptures are several quotes from EGW, Waggoner, and Jones that help us to see more of the depth of Christ's infinite love and sacrifice in paying the penalty of the second death for every sin and every sinner none of which we earned or deserved:
"Justice demands that sin be not merely pardoned but the death penalty must be executed. God, in the gift of His only-begotten Son, met both these requirements. By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon." (1SM 340.1)
"Christ became sin for the fallen race, in taking upon Himself the condemnation resting upon the sinner for his transgression of the law of God. Christ stood at the head of the human family as their representative. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world. In the likeness of sinful flesh, He condemned sin in the flesh." (RH 5/6/1875)
"Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours;" (YI 11/4/1897)
"All men have been bought with this infinite price. By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven, God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being.
Whether believers or unbelievers, all men are the Lord's property." (COL 326).
Many Christians, including Adventists, do not understand that all of our sins were pardoned at the cross, although scripture is clear on this point. Some believe that the free gift of salvation is only a provision and that your sins are only forgiven when you are baptized, confess, and repent…and even then, it only applies to past sins. Every future sin must then be confessed and repented of, otherwise you are lost. In other words, we have to earn both our forgiveness and salvation.
This is in contrast to the peace and assurance that God wants us to have when we believe that the free gift of salvation is already ours in Christ. By faith, (the faith of Jesus), we believe that we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
We can see that forgiveness is more than a legal act or pardon by which He sets us free from condemnation. God also wants to reclaim us from sin-it is the outflow of His redeeming love that transforms the heart and causes us to want the cleansing only He can provide.
And so, we have Jesus as our High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary, cleansing us from our sins and preparing a last day people for His second coming. But it is with a moment by moment surrender to His will through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will recognize our need and desire that cleansing so we may claim His victory over our sins and our sinful nature until He comes.
"We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent." (COL189.1)
"His death has secured life and pardon for all. Nothing can keep them from salvation except their own perverse will. Men must take themselves out of the hand of God, in order not to be saved." (Waggoner on Romans p.144)
"The Lord will not compel anyone to take it…no man will die the second death who has not chosen sin rather than righteousness, death rather than life." (GCB1895Feb.21, p.269)
"All the grace of God is freely given to everyone bringing salvation to all…Having given it all, He is clear, even though men may reject it." (RH 4/17/1894)
Now, as we move on with our study, this week we look at Nehemiah 9 and the corporate prayer of all the people, those who had been oppressed and their oppressors, including all the leadership, priests and Nehemiah himself. Their prayer recognized God's goodness and His mercy while acknowledging, confessing and repenting in sorrow not only their sins individually but as a people and the sins of their forefathers all of which had brought them to this point. In order to go forward and complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem, this was necessary so that they would be united as a nation under God and His principles.
The "corporate" concept is an important part of scripture in both the Old and New Testament. Just one example is Daniel's prayer (Daniel 9) stating "we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled" and asking for God's forgiveness.
Similarly, in the New Testament in Romans 5 we see how Christ as the Second Adam took the entire human race into Himself so that "by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (vs.18).
We also see at Christ's baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) corporate repentance. John was reluctant to baptize Jesus. "How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?" (DA 110.2). "Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do." (DA 111.2). "As one with us, He must bear the burden of our guilt and woe. The Sinless One must feel the shame of sin. The peace lover must dwell with strife, the truth must abide with falsehood, purity with vileness." (DA 111.4). Clearly, this was Christ's corporate repentance for us and as us.
So now let's bring this back to God's last day church today. We are indeed His final church, the Bride that Christ, as our groom, has been waiting for to be ready for Him to come. Ellen White said multiple times that Christ would have come before 1900. One example is the following:
"Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God." (Testimonies for the Church 6:450 (1900).
Revelation 3 tells us that Laodicea is God's final church, and EGW has reminded us multiple times of our Laodicean condition thinking that we are OK and in need of nothing when in fact vs. 17 tells us we are actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. The good news is that in vs. 18 God has the solution for us:
"The gold that Jesus would have us buy of Him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment that Christ alone can give. The eye salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. (RH April 1, 1890).
But Christ's message to the angel (leadership) of the church (vs.14) tells us we need more as seen in vs. 19: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent."
While we, of course, do need individual repentance this is a message to His bride, God's final church, His last day church in our Laodicean condition. He is looking for our corporate repentance as a church and His bride. Our groom has been patiently waiting for us since He gave us a most precious message in 1888 to share with the world.
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world…. this is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." (TM 91/92)
So, as with Nehemiah and his people, we also need to come together in unity, repent, seek His forgiveness and go forward to share the message God gave us that the world is waiting for. One final encouraging thought from Prophet and Kings, (Ch. 56, p.668) which deals with Nehemiah 9:
"Every true turning to the Lord brings abiding joy into the life. When a sinner yields to the influence of the Holy Spirit, he sees his own guilt and defilement in contrast with the holiness of the great Searcher of hearts. He sees himself condemned as a transgressor. But he is not, because of this, to give way to despair; for his pardon has already been secured. He may rejoice in the sense of sins forgiven, in the love of a pardoning heavenly Father. It is God's glory to encircle sinful, repentant human beings in the arms of His love, to bind up their wounds, to cleanse them from sin, and to clothe them with the garments of salvation."

John and Monica Campbell

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