Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 13 |"The Gospel and the Church"

Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church

 

"Hasty readers are likely to think that there is a division between [Galatians] chapters 5 and 6, and that the latter part treats of practical, spiritual life, while the first part is devoted to theoretical doctrines. This is a great error.

"The object of this letter is clearly seen in this closing portion. It is not to furnish ground for controversy, but to silence it by leading the readers to submit themselves to the Spirit. Its purpose is to reclaim those who are sinning against God by trying to serve Him in their own weak way, and to lead them to serve indeed in newness of Spirit. All the so-called argument of the preceding portion of the letter is simply the demonstration of the fact that 'the works of the flesh,' which are sin, can be escaped only by the 'circumcision' of the cross of Christ--by serving God in Spirit and having no confidence in the flesh."

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual
should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you
too be tempted (Gal. 6:1, Revised Standard Version).

"When men set out to make themselves righteous, pride, boasting, and criticism lead to open quarrels. So it was with the Galatians, and so it will always be. It cannot be otherwise. Each individual has his own conception of the law. Having determined to be justified by the law, he reduces it to the level of his own mind so that he may be the judge. He cannot resist examining his brethren, as well as himself, to see if they are up to his measure. If his critical eye detects one who is not walking according to his rule, he at once proceeds to deal with the offender. The self-righteous ones constitute themselves their brother's keeper to the extent of keeping him out of their company lest they should be defiled by contact with him. In marked contrast with this spirit, which is all too common in the church, is the exhortation with which this chapter opens. Instead of hunting for faults that we may condemn them, we are to hunt for sinners that we may save them." [1]

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (vs. 2).

"The law of Christ" is fulfilled by bearing one another's burdens, because the law of Christ's life is to bear burdens. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Whoever would fulfill His law must still do the same work for the strayed and fallen.

"In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren. ... For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18, King James Version). He knows what it is to be sorely tempted, and He knows how to overcome. Although He "knew no sin," He was made even to be sin for us "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). He took every one of our sins and confessed them before God as His own.

"Even so He comes to us. Instead of upbraiding us for our sin, He opens His heart to us and tells us how He has suffered with the same hardship, pain, sorrow and shame. Thus He wins our confidence. Knowing that He has passed through the same experience, that He has been down to the very depths, we are ready to listen to Him when He talks about the way of escape. We know that He is talking from experience.

"The greatest part therefore of the work of saving sinners is to show ourselves one with them. It is in the confession of our own faults that we save others. The man who feels himself without sin is not the man to restore the sinful. If you say to one who is overtaken in any trespass, 'How in the world could you ever do such a thing? I never did a thing like that in my life! I can't see how anybody with any sense of self-respect could do so,' you might far better stay at home. God chose one Pharisee, and only one, to be an apostle. And he was not sent forth until he could acknowledge himself to be the chief of sinners." [2]

In Acts 26:13-15, Saul of Tarsus was having a battle with his conscience. The Holy Spirit pressed into his soul the constant conviction of sin. For him to go on in his mad campaign against Jesus and His followers, he must repress all the convictions and promptings of the Holy Spirit. This was "hard" on him, and it could have led to severe physical and emotional disorders.

The Lord loved him so much that He actually made it "hard" for Paul to destroy himself through impenitence. And when Saul became the apostle Paul, he never forgot the lesson. Ever afterward he was to teach that it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes the "Good News." Thus, in the words of Jesus, His burden is "easy," and to oppose His salvation is "hard."

Such is the meaning of "righteousness by faith," and the 1888 messengers caught the idea of Jesus and Paul. This was a unique feature of their message, seldom articulated today. Our youth are continually bombarded with the idea that it's hard to follow Jesus, and it's easy to follow the devil. In fact, the idea is entrenched in the minds of many Seventh-day Adventists like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Adventists have been accused, and sometimes rightly so, of teaching that Christ will be full of murderous vengeance when He returns the second time. Evangelists have represented Him as coming with some kind of mysterious cosmic machine gun that emits a lethal ray to murder all His enemies. But the 1888 message presented no such distortion of God's character. The angels told the apostles that it will be "this same Jesus" who returns a second time (Acts 1:11). Sinners will have changed, not He. They will be hardened, not He.

If one smokes cigarettes for years and then comes down with lung cancer or emphysema, can he say, "God has destroyed me"? Truly, "every man who is destroyed will destroy himself."

Note how in one short paragraph Ellen White says seven times that the unsaved are lost solely because of their own choice, and not through any arbitrary expulsion inflicted on them by the Lord:

(1) A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. (2) Its purity, holiness, and peace would be torture to them; (3) the glory of God would be a consuming fire. (4) They would long to flee from that holy place. (5) They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. (6) The destiny of the wicked is fixed by their own choice. (7) Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God. [3]

If we want to, can we make salvation hard? Yes, if we eclipse the cross of Christ, then we must admit that it becomes terribly hard to be saved. Motivation to consecration and devotion dries up. Temptation to evil becomes overpowering in its appeal. The Saviour becomes "a root out of a dry ground," and His gospel contains "no beauty that we should desire him." Duty becomes a burden, obedience difficult, reading the Bible is boring, prayer is empty, Sabbath-keeping is boring. This is the pathetic "Christian experience" of many church members.

A. T. Jones says: "We have constantly the opportunity to sin. Opportunities to sin are ever presented to us ... day by day. But it stands written: 'Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.' 'I die daily.' ... the suggestion of sin is death to me ... in Him." ... As certainly as He is crucified, I am crucified; as certainly as He is dead, I am dead with Him; as certainly as He is buried, I was buried with Him; as certainly as He is risen, I am risen with Him, and henceforth I shall not serve sin" [4]

Perhaps the familiar fact of power steering in our cars can help us sense this. Try to steer a car with power steering when the engine is not running. It's hard to turn the wheel.  But if the engine is running, then even a child can twist the steering wheel this way or that. The power makes it easy.

But still, as driver, you must do something. You must choose which way you want to go. The engine can never relieve you of that responsibility. You can never sit in your car, fold your arms, and say, "Take me to the post office." But once youchoose to turn right or left and apply ever so little effort to turn the wheel, immediately the power mechanism goes to work and makes the task easy. This is a fascinating mechanism for it illustrates the gospel.

To those who think they find it "hard" to be saved, Ellen White gives us some helpful counsel: "Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?" You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. ...

"The power of choice has been given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him." [5]

The only difficult thing in being a true Christian is the choice to surrender self to be crucified with Christ. We are never called to be crucified alone--only with Him.

But, thank God, it is a million times easier for us to be crucified with Christ than it was for Him to be crucified alone for us! Behold the Lamb of God, and it does indeed become easy. Even if this still seems hard, don't ever forget that it remains much harder to go on fighting against love like that, and beating off the persistent ministry of the Holy Spirit, in order to be lost!

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
and others as noted

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, pp. 124, 125; CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid., pp. 127, 128.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 543.
[4] A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 353.
[5] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 47

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
https://youtu.be/MsA8Iic2uVw

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit

 

If you're going to climb Mount Everest you need a guide. If this movement is to stand victorious on Mount Zion it needs the latter rain of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 14:1). To follow the Lamb wherever He goes without guile on their lips and stand without fault, the 144,000 will have overcome even as He overcame in tempted "sinful flesh" (Rev. 14:4, 5; 3:21; Rom. 8:3). These are individuals who reflect the agape-love of Jesus. Although they are not equal to the Pattern, yet as a body they perfectly identify with the Crucified One.

Sinless living in sinful flesh is a precious "good news" morsel of truth identified by the 1888 message. It would be bad news indeed, if in the Great Controversy Satan has invented something that the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot overcome. If the power of the gospel cannot overcome sin in our flesh, then Jesus will be eternally ashamed and defeated before the universe. Therefore, Jesus needs a "last generation" who demonstrate "the power of God unto salvation" from sin and not in sin (Rom. 1:16).

God's everlasting covenant promise to Abraham is "the blessing." This involves "the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14).

You are invited to go on a "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16). "What our human nature ["flesh," KJV] wants is opposed to what the [Holy] Spirit wants, and what the [Holy] Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature ["flesh"] wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do" (Gal. 5:17, Good News Bible). What are the things you cannot do? Are they bad things or good things?

There are many Christians who teach that you cannot do the good things you want to do because of this constant "enmity" of the flesh against the Holy Spirit. So they feel doomed to endless defeat, and sincerely believe the Bible agrees with them. "My craving is so great I can't help giving in! The 'flesh' is master of my life!" They have Galatians 5:17 backwards.

Who is stronger, "the flesh" or the Spirit? If "the flesh" is stronger, that's really bad news; but if the Spirit is stronger, that's good news. If the great power of the Holy Spirit and all of heaven is in that Spirit, and He's striving against your sinful flesh, and still you cannot do the good things you'd like to do, can you think of any news that would be worse than that?

The 1888 message idea is: you go for a walk with the Holy Spirit and let Him hold you by the hand which He has promised to do. You let Him, even though the battle is raging in your heart, and your sinful flesh is constantly tempting you to do or say evil things. You can't do or say evil things because the Holy Spirit is stronger than the flesh.

This does not mean that you have no part in the battle. Your part is to choose to say "No!" to the temptation (Titus 2:11). [1] God has given us the power of choice; the Holy Spirit is forbidden to control you without your consent! When you make the choice, then you invite the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that He is stronger than your sinful flesh. And God is free to work!

When the mighty Holy Spirit guides your life, you are "under grace"-motivation which is the opposite of being "under the law"-motivation (Gal. 5:18; Rom. 6:14). With either motivation you are under an obligation. The old covenant "under the law"-motivation is a constant tension and conflict with the law. It is faith motivated by the fear of punishment and the hope of reward. It is a motivation that appears to comply with the law outwardly, but on the inside there is rebellion.

God did us a favor when He gave us the Apostle Paul who was both a brilliant man and an honest humble man, which is a rare combination. Paul describes what our "flesh" is like in Galatians 5:19-21. God sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Jesus came right into the cesspool of our life. He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Faith, which is "under grace"-motivation, "sees" what Paul is talking about when he uplifts and honors the sacrifice of Christ (Gal. 4:1). Having fully identified Himself with you, you are invited to fully identify with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

To "walk in the Spirit" is to bear "the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love [agape]" (Gal. 5:22). Agape is totally alien to "the flesh" and is an import from our Husband High Priest in the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary. This means we have not one-percent of inherent righteousness. Righteousness is ours by faith through Holy Spirit.

Agape, which is the "fulfilling of the law," comes by faith directed to its source in our day of atonement (Rom. 13:10). That source is our healing Psychiatrist whose office is set up in the holiest of all.

The second advent movement was rooted in a restoration of the love of God. It is the climax of a sequence of divinely led reformatory movements to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare a Bride for translation and the coming of her Groom.

Christ opened to view the source of her love by following their High Priest in through the open door of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary (see Rev. 3:7). "Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest, and pray, 'My Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace." [2] The 1844 Advent people were a Spirit-led, agape motivated, charismatic movement. It was to restore the meaning of agape in the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus through its life, teaching and evangelism (see Rev. 14:12).

The fruit of the Spirit is given by Jesus in His capacity as our Priest in the Most Holy. The true second Pentecostal movement of the latter rain is those who by faith follow Him there. The movement will finish with a great manifestation of signs and wonders than on the day of Pentecost. [3]

Jesus reveals a unique understanding of justification by faith from the holiest. The 1888 message was indeed "special," a further development of justification by faith parallel to and consistent with the unique Adventist idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. It was "the beginning" of the message of Revelation 18 and thus initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain." [4]

Since the true Spirit of God only comes from our High Priest in the Most Holy and thus far we have not impressed upon other Christians the importance of the sanctuary truth, it motivates us to study the 1888 message so that we can share it with them in a convincing manner.

—Paul E. Penno

 

Endnotes:
[1] Titus 2:11, 12 in the New International Versionis very clear: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age."
[2] Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 55.
[3] "Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers" (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 612).
[4] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1478.

 

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
https://youtu.be/z2Av0fc8Qs8

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

 

--

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 11 |"Freedom in Christ"

Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ
 

One of the more valuable aspects of the 1888 message is the honest approach it takes regarding sin. It never excuses or minimizes that sin is completely offensive to a holy God. E. J. Waggoner focuses on the essence of the sin problem when he uses the example of the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-13). Her condition is called a "spirit of infirmity" (Revised Standard Version; "sickness," New American Standard Bible). Sin deforms all of us just as the woman was crippled. When Jesus healed her He said, "you are freed from your infirmity" (vs. 12, emphasis added).

Many tend to underestimate the power sin has over us, especially when we believe sin to be specific acts. It is easy to convince ourselves we can control our actions, but we laugh at the alcoholic who claims he or she can quit drinking any time. Many of us know there are things in our lives we need to clean up, but the pressure isn't great enough to compel us to change, maybe someday.

There are even folks who nervously attend lectures at Seventh-day Adventist gatherings where the big question is whether the Sunday laws are getting closer. The unspoken but misguided idea is that when the laws start to be enforced we can tuck ourselves back into church so we don't have to give up anything in the interim. The parable of the ten virgins tells us this will not work.

Returning to the crippled woman, Waggoner explains: "Now note how accurately this describes our condition before we meet Christ:

"(1) We are bound by Satan, 'captured by him to do his will' (2 Tim. 2:26). 'Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin' (John 8:34) ...

"(2) We have a 'spirit of infirmity' and can in no wise lift ourselves up or free ourselves from the chains that bind us. It was when we were 'without strength' that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6, King James Version). These two words 'without strength' are translated from the very same word that is rendered 'infirmity' in the story of the woman whom Jesus healed." [1]

When Jesus told the woman she was freed from her infirmity, there were no conditions, but she did have to believe she was healed. "Faith does not make facts. It only lays hold of them ... the liberty wherewith He makes us free is the liberty that existed before the curse [of sin]." [2] "Now the truth is stated that if a person does anything with the hope of being saved by it, that is, of getting salvation by his own work, Christ is 'of no advantage to him.' [Gal. 5:2]. If Christ is not accepted as a complete Redeemer, He is not accepted at all." [3]

Like the Judiazers told the Galatian Christians, "Many have an idea that they must do some part of the work alone. They have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, but now they seek by their own efforts to live aright. But every such effort must fail ... It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly,--by abiding in Him,--that we are to grow in grace. ...

"Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. ... 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." [4]

This is frustrating to people who want the reassurance of seeing their Christian experience progressing. It's simply a day-by-day choice to let God direct everything in their lives. So is this just a passive life, no plans required, just bump along life aimlessly? Yes, in the sense that we don't plan things without God, but no in the sense that we follow the plans God has already developed for us.

Waggoner caught the idea: "Think of it! God Himself has wrought the good works with which we are to appear before His throne. And how are we to get them?--Simply by trusting Him; by appropriating those good works by faith. God Himself comes to dwell with those who believe His word, and He lives out His own life in them. This thought is enough to fill every soul with love and joy and confidence. ...

"The secret of the whole matter is to acknowledge that in us dwells no good thing, and that God alone is good, that we are nothing, but that He is everything; that we are weakness, but that power belongs to God, ... Christian activity comes only through passive submission to God, as the clay is passive in the hands of the potter." [5]

The Galatian Christians had rejoiced in the freedom of the true Gospel that allows us to rest in Christ, but legalistic and intolerant people had tried to take that freedom away by adding a requirement other than faith in the Gospel.

"God's law is the truth (Psalm 119:142), and the Galatian brethren had started out to obey it. They succeeded in the beginning but later on had been hindered in their progress. 'Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone' (Rom. 9:32). Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no stumbling in Him. The perfection of the law is in Him, for His life is the law.

"The cross is and always has been a symbol of disgrace. ...The offense of the cross is that the cross is a confession of human frailty and sin and of inability to do any good thing. To take the cross of Christ means to depend solely on Him for everything, and this is the abasement of all human pride. Men love to fancy themselves independent. But let the cross be preached, let it be made known that in man dwells no good thing and that all must be received as a gift, and straightway somebody is offended." [6]

Freedom is a fragile thing because it cannot be forced. God cannot use force, so He uses His love to draw us to Him. Lay hold of that, don't resist.

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, p. 106; CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid, p 107.
[3] Ibid, p. 110.
[4] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 69, 70.
[5] Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 173, 174; Glad Tidings ed. (1999).
[6] The Glad Tidings, p. 113.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/iYG-OO7DxTE

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz