Friday, October 13, 2017

Lesson 2: The Controversy


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Salvation by Faith Alone: The Book of Romans
Lesson 2: The Controversy

 

"The Jews therefore said to one another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?'" (John 7:35).

The Jewish people had become so exclusive that it was beyond their comprehension that someone would preach to anyone but Jews. The reference to the "Dispersion" suggests they were even limiting the outreach only to Jews scattered among the Greeks. The implication is that they considered salvation impossible for anyone but a Jew, therefore outreach was unnecessary. Paul's evangelistic efforts among the Gentiles must have made some of the Jewish Christians uneasy.

If someone was a Jew, everybody knew it by their dress, customs and diet. The Gentiles did not have these cultural customs, making it difficult to tell who belonged and who did not. Any time a group believes it important to distinguish members from nonmembers, rules are necessary. There was freedom in this new Christianity, and the council at Jerusalem concluded that only minimal restrictions would be placed on the new converts (see Acts 15:20). For centuries, the Jews believed that if you kept all the rules correctly, heaven was yours. For the new Christians to side step all that effort was less than well received by many former Jews with old prejudices.

Paul addresses these prejudices at the beginning of his epistle to the Roman Christians by rehearsing the shortcomings of both Jews and Gentiles, concluding, "There is none righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10). The Galatian heresy that God saves only the circumcised had just recently consumed the time and energy of the leadership.

Probably the best setting in which to understand this Jewish prejudice is to look at how they had come to understand God's covenant promises to Israel. The Jews invariably described that God's promises were made to their father Abraham. Indeed they were, but that was not the first time the promise of a Savior was made.

"The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden, when after the Fall there was given a divine promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. ... This same covenant was renewed to Abraham in the promise, 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.' … Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham, it could not be ratified until the death of Christ. ... yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant." [1]

If the promises to Adam and Abraham were the same, the Jews had no basis for believing it was virtually impossible for a Gentile to be saved. But another covenant, formed at Sinai might have been misleading. Why was another covenant formed at Sinai? "In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God ... Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught." [2] Israel demonstrated the truth of this statement when they naively responded at Sinai that they would do everything God had said (Ex. 19:8). They had to be taught they were incapable of doing what they promised.

None of this, including their dismal failure with the golden calf, surprised an omniscient God. Thus began an extended journey with cycles of Israel trying to keep the law, giving up, sliding into idolatry, then starting over with a new generation. When the Messiah fulfilled God's "New" Covenant promises, they were too immersed in their Old Covenant works to recognize Him.

The New Covenant truth was an essential element of the 1888 message, and even today lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts. The 1888 message clarified the difference between the two covenants: The New Covenant is God's one-way promise to write His law in our hearts, and to give us (not offer us) everlasting salvation as a free gift "in Christ." The Old Covenant is the vain promise of the people to obey, and "gives birth to bondage."

E. J. Waggoner saw this difference: "But this [God's promises to Abraham] was not such a covenant as was made with the Israelites at Horeb. That one contained no reference to Christ, and no provision for the forgiveness of sins; the one with Abraham was confirmed 'in Christ' (Gal. 3:17) and was made not on condition that he should be righteous by his own unaided efforts, but was made on condition of his having the righteousness of faith. Compare Rom. 4:11 with 3:22-25." [3]

And in his The Glad Tidings Waggoner wrote: "The covenant and promise of God are one and the same. … God's covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them. … God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything." [4]

The Jews had come to view the ceremonial law and the moral law as one single entity, with all elements binding on those who would enter heaven. Many Christians see the two laws the same way, but nail the entire thing to the cross, saying nothing of the law is now binding. The leadership at the 1888 General Conference took the position that only the moral law, not the ceremonial is binding. This seems the compromise position, but it can be understood differently.

Something that is binding can be used to punish for violation and rewarded for compliance. If two parties agree to enter into a contract, each has the right to enforce performance by the other. But, even courts recognize that if one of the parties to the contract does not have the capacity to perform what they have promised, there was never a sufficient meeting of the minds to say a mutually binding contract was formed.

In order to save us, God had to do everything. Waggoner understood that through grace, God gives mankind the righteousness of Jesus Who alone has lived a sinless life. By faith the believer accepts this righteousness, making the believer, in Christ, a doer of the law. It is important to understand that this righteousness is not added because the justification obtained by Christ at the cross needs bolstering to entitle the human race to heaven. When Christ proclaimed, "It is finished," He did not mean it was finished except for the process of sanctification which will make us righteous.

He saw it this way: "The meaning of the word 'justified' is 'made righteous.' The Latin word for righteousness is justitia. To be just is to be righteous. Then we add the termination fy, from the Latin word, meaning 'to make,' and we have the exact equivalent of the simpler term, 'make righteous.'" [5]

God provided a Savior Who became our sin for us and paid the penalty for it, the second death. Then, through the accepted gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, He changes our hearts, which are at enmity against the law to love it. Here is where Waggoner saw that the Old and New Covenants were two separate experiences that ran on two parallel tracks from the time of Cain and Abel until the mark of the beast and seal of God as spoken of in the Book of Revelation. The law cares nothing about the state of your heart, but the New Covenant of grace changes your heart of stone to that of God's agapelove.

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 370, 371.
[2] Ibid., p. 371.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Comments on Galatians 3, No. 2," Signs of the Times, Vol. 12, No. 27, July 15, 1886.
[4] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, p. 71, CFI ed. (2016).
[5] Ibid., p. 40.

Notes:
Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/EhIcR-F1Uq4

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

 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, October 6, 2017

Lesson 1: The Apostle Paul in Rome

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Salvation by Faith Alone: The Book of Romans
Lesson 1: The Apostle Paul in Rome

 

During the "beginning" of "the latter rain" of the 1888 era, Ellen G. White is reported to have said, "Let us have all of Romans and all of Galatians." [1] The "most precious message" is "the third angel's message in verity." [2] In other words, it is an understanding of justification by faith, which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. Of all the books of the Bible, Romans most clearly explains justification by faith. Ellen White understood that the companion books which give the greatest light on Revelation 14:6-12, the third angel's message, are Romans and Galatians.

The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is practical truth. In other words, it involves the purification of the hearts of God's people, so that they experience the atonement with God. They have seen the heart-warming truth of the love of God revealed in Jesus' cross. They realize that if Christ had not died for all, then all would be dead. They can no longer live for themselves, but the agape motivation becomes living for Jesus and His Father. They would not willingly choose to bring disrepute upon the Heavenly family into which they have been adopted. This is the real meaning of justification by faith.

Most can identify with the Apostle Peter's characterization of his brother Paul's writings, that there are "some things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). With that discouraging word can we understand the Book of Romans much less the Book of Revelation? Actually it's only the honest-hearted believer of God's promises who can understand Romans. It's the "unlearned and unstable" who misconstrue Paul's writings to their own perdition.

It was to such folks that the Apostle Paul wrote his letter in the church at Rome. They were "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble" (1 Cor. 1:26). They were honest, candid believers. There were probably retailers, skilled craftsmen, day laborers, tradesmen, landscapers, even servants with a few upper class, and maybe a civil servant or two. It was to these kinds of people that Paul wrote. He wasn't trying to shoot over their heads. He wrote simply and directly in order for them to understand. So this is an encouragement for us to "dig in" and apply our minds to some of the nourishing food of the Scriptures.

It was Martin Luther who declared Romans "the clearest gospel of all" and he was right. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the eyewitness accounts of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the most part the gospels do not explain the deeper meaning of the "good news" and the cross. God revealed the deeper meaning to Paul, and Romans is the "key" to understanding the atonement. John's Revelation of Jesus Christ as the "Lamb" (25 times)--the Crucified One--is the gospel for the closing age of the Christian era. However, the Revelation cannot be understood without the Book of Romans.

Luther's heart was strangely warmed as he read Romans and saw the truth that "the just shall live by faith." His Catholic training had directed him to receive grace through the sacraments, which would motivate him to do good works that would make the "connect" with God. His agony of conscience was how to know when he had done enough good works. To Luther the joy of discovering that God justifies the ungodly by faith alone was a great release from self-centered bondage in sin.

Luther was on the right track in restoring God's love to the Christian church. However, his successors over-analyzed justification by faith to the point where it became a stale, mysterious book transaction, light-years away from the human heart; whereby, when one had enough faith, God made the necessary adjustments in the books of heaven based on Calvary, and the sinner was justified and forgiven his sins. Thus God experienced the atonement with sin. The atonement was for sins because the sinner believed in the cross.

Such professorial teaching was nothing more than against the law of God's cosmic love. God is not interested in harmony with sin. Christ did not die in order to justify ongoing sin in perpetuity. That is the pagan view of the atonement, which has been absorbed into the Christian church. The idea that the sinner can have "faith" to the degree that God sees evidence in one's prayers, Bible study, witnessing, etc. (all of these things are good when properly motivated by agape), and thus forgives the sinner, is a concept of the atonement that comes straight out of heathenism.

Paul wrote to the Romans, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:7). The only way that Paul could write that sinners could call "God our Father," is because God's gift of the atonement in Christ Jesus reconciled the human race unto Himself. The whole human race of sinners has been legally adopted into the Heavenly family. Now it's for us to recognize this fact and receive the divine revelation of the atonement. [3]

We have been "called to be saints". A saint is one set apart from the world of self-centeredness. Legally, Christ has justified "all" (Rom. 5:18, 19) so that God can "call" everyone to such a blessed, exalted state.

Who among us is not tired of sin? Who is not weary of the continual degradation of sin's bondage? Do you want to know what hell on earth is? "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15). Hell on earth is the embarrassment of having one's sins publicly exposed. Jesus never intends for anyone to face such agony.

Paul saw that Christ came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" with a "self" that needed denial. Such temptations that He felt from within are such that we all feel. To sense the pull of sin is not sin itself (James 1:14, 15). Yet, He "condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3, 4).

The righteousness of the law fulfilled in us is the atonement. It is the practical meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary. It is true justification by faith. It is Christ's gift to us as our High Priest in the holiest of all. Thus Romans is an invitation into the Most Holy Place with Christ.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Letter E. J. Waggoner to O. A. Olsen [n.d.]; original in General Conference Archives.
[2] Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[3] "The atonement of Christ was not made in order to induce God to love those whom He otherwise hated; it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence; but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God's heart, ... We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us, ... The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with its full pardoning power, and at the same time that justice might be satisfied in the righteous substitute." (Ellen G. White, "Christ Our Complete Salvation," Signs of the Times; May 30, 1895.)

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/C8ja7yBDa1o

 

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

--

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 14 |"Boasting in the Cross"

Lesson 14: Boasting in the Cross

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 14: Boasting in the Cross

 

Should the Holy Spirit impart a greater appreciation of what it means to say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world"? Would we be less inclined to think someone a fanatic if he is "determined not to know anything among [his congregation], save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified"? (Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 2:2)?

Our Sabbath school lessons have directed our attention to Galatians because this is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and this book played a key role in that historic event. Martin Luther, John Calvin, James Arminius, and the Wesleys, did great for their day; God was with them. Likewise, Galatians was the center of attention in 1888 when George I. Butler published his The Law in Galatians and E. J. Waggoner his The Gospel in Galatians. The titles of their books reveal what each author saw in Galatians. Butler saw legalism; Waggoner saw The Glad Tidings.

Just what is the good news of Galatians? We live in this "time of the end." The "hour of God's judgment is come." Now is the world's grand cosmic Day of Atonement. What is due now is not a proud triumphalism to "glory in the cross," but a self-humbling appreciation for the agape love seen there. Now is the time to "comprehend" what Christ accomplished on His cross (Rev. 14:6, 7; Eph. 3:14-21).

Now you will say, "Well, that kind of experience is normal for somebody who gets to be in their nineties." We assume that the world cannot be crucified unto us until we get old. And then the advertisements for fast cars no longer appeal to us. And the lovely fashions no longer appeal to the ladies. The malls and Disneyland no longer hold an attraction.  Is that what it means to boast in the cross?

"The world is crucified unto me," says Paul. "I glory in the cross"  (Gal. 6:14). I have seen a scintillating radiance in the cross that nothing in the big city can outshine. My thinking day and night is about the sacrifice of Christ. I am amazed. I marvel that the Son of God should go to hell to save my soul. I can never get enough of it. It's the overmastering passion of my life from here on out.  I can't help but share it with others.

Does your heart crave the joy that filled the hearts of the early apostles? Yes! We are not satisfied with a dull, unenthusiastic, leaden kind of spiritual experience, common as it may be. What did the apostles have that we don't seem to have?

They saw the significance of the cross of Christ! Yes, they also believed the resurrection of Christ; but the resurrection meant nothing without appreciating what He had accomplished on His cross. Billions of Christians around the world all glibly profess that "Christ died for our sins." But how and why did He die?

To study for the answer to that question is not an exercise in futility or riding a hobbyhorse. Paul told the Corinthians that he knew nothing save Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-3). The light which will yet lighten the earth with its glory will be a revelation of the significance of that love revealed at the cross. Something about the cross will yet stir Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, yes, even those billions of lukewarm Christians.

Did Christ die only as an alien millionaire stepping in briefly to pay our legal debt? The words used to describe this view are "vicarious atonement." Or did Christ actually become one of us, the second Adam, and die as us? How closely did He identify with us?

On the one hand, the vicarious atonement is an exchanged transaction. On the other hand, Christ identifying with us is a shared experience. The vicarious atonement leaves the human heart cold, or at best, lukewarm. Christ identifying with us lightens the soul with unending joy. According to their testimony in the New Testament, the apostles clearly were fired with Christ identifying Himself with us.

Look at it this way: What did Christ accomplish on His cross? Does it matter what one believes? Why did Paul "glory" in that cross?

There were good reasons. Paul understood that: In becoming one of the human race, Christ joined His divinity to our humanity, "in Himself." He became the "second Adam," the new Head of the human race. In so doing, He reversed what the first Adam had done, who had brought "condemnation" on the human race.

Thus Christ brought "justification of life" "upon all men" (Rom. 5:18). That is why He treats every human with grace and kindness as though he or she had never sinned, "not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5:19).

Instead, God imputed humanity's trespasses unto Christ: "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). By His sacrifice, Christ took upon Himself the penalty for all human sin, dying for "every man" his or her second death (Heb. 2:9).

The only appropriate response for any human is to appreciate what Christ has already accomplished for us and has given us as a "gift." That was the reason why Paul "gloried" in that cross; he loved the atonement, and reveled in the truth of what Christ had already accomplished at the cross.

Paul described his heart-reaction in these words: "The love [agape] of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live [you and I] should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). Without sensing that "constraint" imposed by a heart-appreciation of Christ's sacrifice, we humans (we're all naturally self-centered) find it impossible to live any other kind of life than self-centered. Before our selfish hearts can become truly grateful, we have to understand what it is that Christ has given us, not merely offered us. Several times in Rom. 5:15-18 Paul "glories" in what Christ has given "all men"--"justification unto life."

If you want that kind of joy, know nothing but Christ and Him crucified; then His resurrection will mean new life for you in Him. Let's learn to "glory" in that cross!

--Paul E. Penno

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/E0WmZmFpI8M

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

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