Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Partnership With Jesus"

Sabbath School TodayWith the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human EmotionsLesson 13: "Partnership With Jesus"

What is the source of good mental health? For thirteen weeks Christians all over the world have been studying about the mind and body. We are well aware of the problems that cause instability and breakdown: physical health failure, marital disharmony, family feuds, depression, bitterness and hatred, etc.

The prophet Isaiah speaking to his own generation put his finger in principle upon the human mental health problem: "Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more; the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isa. 1:5, 6). The apostle diagnosed our mental condition with these words: "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7).

The Bible is full of psychological insights. The mental health industry is a relative newcomer on the social scene purveying its remedies to a sin-saturated world. But God has revealed the deeper meaning of the plan of salvation that goes to our root problem in the mind.

Jesus gives us His healing love through the message of the cross as our Heavenly Psychiatrist from the inner compartment of the heavenly sanctuary. For sinners who are alienated from God and consequently "act up" in all sorts of childish ways, Jesus proclaims His "peace" to the troubled soul. "My peace I give unto you: ... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

Our Sabbath School lesson gives us a "catch-all" approach to what we must do in a "partnership with God" in order to enjoy good mental health. These good things include prayer, worship in community, forgiveness, service, hope, and trust in God. In our cosmic Day of Atonement Jesus draws our attention away from ourselves so that we may "see" what He is doing in His special-operations "field tent" to win the great controversy. He gives us faith so that we can learn to believe that He is reconciling our alienated hearts and minds by His agape.

Psychology has learned that the reason why people behave badly is because of their subconscious alienation. Illustrating this to young people is easy. Just pull up a weed from the backyard and what do you see? If all you have is the top, the weed will just grow right back to spoil the lawn. Pull up the weed with the long taproot and the problem is solved.

The taproot of sin is a self-centered mind that wants its own way. "They love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 468). The 1888 message of God's pardoning love for the whole race of sinners is joined to the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. The Holy Spirit is convicting our "corporate conscience" as a "remnant" people of our self-centeredness. "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not ..." (Rev. 3:17). It is the same in principle as the attitude of "once saved, always saved"--a cocksure dependence upon self. This is the taproot of our alienation from God that needs Jesus' gift of atonement.

The way to good mental health is through the sufferings of Christ. "Of all the gifts that Heaven can bestow upon men [and women], fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor" (The Desire of Ages, p. 225).

Do you know your Heavenly Psychiatrist? Maybe you say, "I'm not crazy, I don't need a psychiatrist. The Lord can just 'zap' me. He can just magically remove my sin."
But the Lord Jesus doesn't treat us as mental zombies without our cooperation. The great controversy principle teaches that Christ elicits our choice in the expulsion of sin. It's called learning to believe good news. "The gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16).

We cannot avoid the pain involved in overcoming sin with Christ. "Happiness is not a mindless, vacuous euphoria. A grand piano makes beautiful music because its strings are under constant tension. The Lord does not propose to remove your memory tensions, but to give you strength from Christ to bear them in such a way that your life makes music by triumphing over the pain" (Robert J. Wieland, "Questions People Ask," 1888 Message Newsletter, Sept. 1987, p. 5).

Think of the painful memories Christ must carry of the sufferings of His cross--the cruel rejection, the heartless scourgings, the mockery, the abuse, the pain, the horror of that great darkness, the guilt He felt as He was "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin." Does He forget all that? No, He remembers it but also triumphs over it. Thus He can "succor" [help] others (Heb. 2:18).

Hold your head high, for you are a partaker with Christ in His sufferings. Accept the comfort for you in what Paul writes: "I am completing what still remains for Christ to suffer in my own person" (Col. 1:24, REB).

How can you "give something so deeply ingrained in your psyche to Him"? As your High Priest, Christ is your divine Psychiatrist. You could go to an ordinary psychiatrist and pay over a $100 an hour. He would listen as you verbally articulate all your fears, horrors, and resentments. Such therapy would run into weeks and months. But Christ charges you nothing; and what a thousand psychiatrists can't do for us, He will do in a few moments' time.

On your knees, verbalize and articulate these memories and fears. Learn from Job, David, and Jeremiah, how to pray. Out with everything before Him alone! Guard against the tendency to lay the burdens on other people--they can't endure them. Unload all the evil onto the divine Sin-bearer. I guarantee that He will listen and He will respond. He will give you peace of heart, but with it He will give something vastly more precious--compassion and understanding of how to comfort other people (1 Peter 5:7-10; Psalm 37).

Someone who loves you more than life itself is waiting for you with open arms.

--Paul E. Penno

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Nature as a Source of Health"

Sabbath School TodayWith the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human EmotionsLesson 12: "Nature as a Source of Health"

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge
(Psalm 19:1, 2).
Our memory text for this week (quoted above) reveals that God wants to show Himself to us through the natural things that He has created. This is consistent with what Paul tells us in Romans 1:20, "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." Do you want to see the things of God and do you want to know His power in your life? The evidence of His presence is all around you. Just look and say, "Thank you."

"But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (Rom. 10:6-8).
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). 

There are eight principles of nature--remedies for improving, or reforming, one's health: proper nutrition, exercise, fresh water, sunlight, abstemiousness, fresh air, sufficient rest, and trust in God, for He is the One who wants to give you what He has already given you in Christ. Good health is part of the gift of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life. When you couple this with an intellectual understanding and heart-felt appreciation of the infinite Price He paid on the cross to give you all this, you have a winning combination. All these natural remedies, if practiced, will bring you closer to the evidence of the presence of God in your life and they will keep your mind and body in such a tone of health that God can more easily communicate the special things He has for you in these last days before Jesus comes.

In 1888, the Lord brought to His people a message that is yet destined to lighten the earth with its glory. Indeed it is the message of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12 and was the beginning of the latter rain of the Holy Spirit, as described by the fourth angel of Revelation 18:1. This message is the beginning of the special things that God has for us to know and understand for these last days. It is called "the third angel's message in verity":

"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" (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92).

Our health (using the natural remedies) is intimately associated with the third angel's message, but it needs the dynamic understanding of God's new covenant agape to empower it.
"As the right arm is connected with the body, so the health reform and medical missionary work is connected with the third angel's message, and is to work efficiently as the right arm, for the defense of the body of truth" (Review and Herald, June 20, 1899).
"I was again shown that the health reform is one branch of the great work which is to fit a people for the coming of the Lord. It is as closely connected with the third angel's message as the hand is with the body. … To make plain natural law, and urge the obedience of it, is the work that accompanies the third angel's message to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 161).

"When the third angel's message is received in all its fullness, health reform will be given its place in the councils of the Conference, in the work of the church, in the home, at the table, and in all the household arrangements" (Review and Herald, June 20, 1899).

So when we receive the 1888 message in all its fullness, the eight natural remedies will be given their proper place, because they will be seen as a gift from Jesus' healing ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. The cleansing of the sanctuary truth involves God's people growing up into the fullness of Christ and being "sealed" by His self-sacrificing love. The 1888 messengers knew and understood the importance of the natural remedies in the last days before Jesus comes:

"When the health reform was given to the people of God, it was defined as that which is to fit the people for translation. That is the meaning of health reform. The leading thing, the great thing, that God intends health reform to do, is to prepare His people for translation. … We are in the most solemn time we ever saw. Let us consider it" (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Daily Bulletin, p. 88).

"Genuine faith in the Third Angel's Message is evinced by a practical reception of all the truths brought out by it. Among them … involves a practical belief in true temperance, for that is a vital part of the Third Angel's Message. True temperance, or health reform, as it is termed, has been declared to bear the same relation to the last message that the right arm does to the body. Then if we do not believe and practice it, our faith is a crippled faith" (E. J. Waggoner, "Thoughts on the Twelfth Chapter of Hebrews," The Signs of the Times, Feb. 22, 1883, pp. 91, 92).

Some people perceive health reform to be a form of legalism, as if what we do with our health will somehow commend us to God and inspire Him to let us sneak in through the "pearly gates." Health reform that is motivated by a desire for personal heavenly reward or to avoid hell is legalism because of the self-centered motive in it.

Health reform is part of the third angel's message of Revelation 14:6-12. However, "the third angel's message in verity" of Revelation 18:1, the 1888 message, is not health reform. It is the heart-reconciling truth of the message of the cross converging with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. It supplies the constraining love of God to practice "health reform."

So then, viewed from the cross/sanctuary perspective, "health reform" is the self-denying principle inherent in the repentance which God gives us during our cosmic Day of Atonement. "Health reform" is our appointed "fast." It is what is meant for us to "afflict your souls" (Lev. 16:29, 31). We may even now join in with the sufferings of Christ and count it all joy by saying "No" to the desires of appetite for that which is harmful; and "Yes" to that which God has provided through the natural remedies. When we join with Christ in self-denial, He receives the reward for which He died.

Receiving the 1888 message in it's fullness, is a heart-felt appreciation of Who God is, what He has done, what He is doing today, and what He is about to do--in you--and what it cost Him to give us good health. If this is your motive for what you do, there is no self-centered legalism motivating it. It is a faith which works by agape--not legalism.

Undoubtedly you want to honor God by letting Him impart to you the refreshing manifestation of the latter rain power in its fullness. Part of righteousness by faith is choosing to receive the blessings which God has provided in its natural setting.

Receive the "beginning" of the latter rain in its fullness, which will put everything else in its proper place. Believe the good news of "much more abounding grace." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).

"I was shown that if God's people make no efforts on their part [to yield to God's word, cf. Christ's Object Lessons, p. 61], but wait for the refreshing [latter rain] to come upon them and remove their wrongs and correct their errors; if they depend upon that to cleanse them from filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and fit them to engage in the loud cry of the third angel, they will be found wanting. The refreshing or power of God comes only on those who have prepared themselves for it by doing the work which God bids them, namely, cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 619).

Now is the time for us to be "rooted and grounded in love," "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:17, 19). Indeed, for a long time, God has wanted to bring the full manifestation of the refreshing latter rain in order to mature the grain for the harvest. You and I can be prepared to participate in the fullness of that latter rain that had it's beginning in 1888 by letting the message fill our hearts and minds. Then we will be properly prepared to receive God's gifts of the eight natural remedies which He has ordained to cleanse both mind and body. Let Him do it. He will show you the way and hold your right hand (cf. Isa. 41:13).

--Craig Barnes

Note: Unless cited otherwise, quotations are from Ellen G. White.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Freedom From Addictions

Freedom From Addictions

I am an addict and a sinner saved by grace through faith.
One of the strangest aspects of an addicted life is doing the same thing over and over while each time hoping for a better or different outcome. When I finally get tired of this, I blame someone else for the reason things aren’t going the way I want them to go. I feel entitled, as if because I know so much and I am me, “Don’t you know!” There can’t be anything greater than me!
The common perception most people have about addicts is that they are using needles with drugs or are alcoholics stumbling about and blurring their speech! However, addictions are far more common than these narrow perceptions. One can be addicted to having to be right, or addicted to a person or relationship that is unhealthy. One can also be addicted to false ideas or beliefs! These all come under the heading of “Mind-Altering.” Whichever one you are familiar with there is a good chance that holding to this belief, relationship, or activity genders within some the feeling of being special, unique, and superior—usually toward others. Reality is their worst enemy. We will do whatever it takes to appear perfect, and to look “good” on the outside no matter the chaos erupting on the inside. Addiction is all about self and pride—all about us feeling better in the moment, no matter the cost or who is hurt in the process. Family, children, careers, marriages, homes, property, and reputation are sacrificed outright for our own selfishness.
I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and had a long history with methamphetamines and then crack. I wanted to stop. I would pray, “God help me to stop!” but nothing would happen and for a good reason. I was the problem—self and pride were the true addiction. God requires all glory; helping me would be inconsistent with me dying to self.
Finally one day as I was smoking a large quantity of crack in a desert wash, I began to cry, then to weep, and then it was like a prayer was squeezed from my lungs. “O God, this is me at my best—me using my best thinking! My best efforts will be to get more crack. I am powerless and weaker than weak—O God, have mercy on me! You know that I cannot stop, but you can come right through this crack smoke and deliver me.”
He did. If any man tries to tell you that Jesus is too pure to be with a sinner smoking crack, never believe him again—he is a liar and illiterate in the things pertaining to God.
Because I was still smoking, I avoided the verse in 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 which says, “Surely you know that you are God’s temple, where the Spirit of God dwells. Anyone who destroys God’s temple will himself be destroyed by God, because the temple of God is holy; and you are that temple” (REB). It condemned me, and so by avoiding it “I wasn’t condemned any more”!
One of the greatest principles that came from the 1888 messengers, A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggoner, and E. G. White, was to take the Bible as it reads and to depend wholly upon the Word to accomplish that which it says. So let us explore a few statements and texts.
Faith does not make facts. It only lays hold of them. There is not a single soul that is bowed down with the weight of sin, which Satan has bound on him, whom Christ does not lift up. Freedom is his. He has only to make use of it. Let the message be sounded far and wide. Let every soul hear it, that Christ has given deliverance to every captive” (The Glad Tidings, p. 107; emphasis added). Our part is to say with the psalmist, “O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; ... Thou hast loosed my bonds” (Psalm 116:16).
Don’t argue with the Lord, and say that you cannot walk straight. He says that you are loosed, and that is enough!Faith can lay hold of this fact and make it a reality in your life—whatever your bond may be! Faith is a heart-melting appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to literally go to hell for us. The love of God forgives the sinner and motivates true faith. This faith (seeing the message of the cross) which works by love (Gal 5:6) involves repentance—a turning from sin.
God did not need Abraham's help to fulfill His promise to give him a son; and God does not need our help to remove thebonds that hold us.  In both cases we are only to believe the promise of God - nothing more. Our fingerprints must be off of all of God’s work—remember Uzzah—he tried to stabilize the ark from falling, and upon touching it, he was struck dead. Keep your fingerprints off of things! Remember that our best effort to change our own lives has been, is, and will ever be but our best failure.
The Word declares: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt [sin], out of the house of bondage [your addictions]” (Ex. 20:2). Here is another wonderful fact—God has already delivered you from your sin [addiction] if you will but say “Amen” to this.
“Conversion does not put new flesh upon the old spirit; but a new Spirit within the old flesh. It does not propose to bring new flesh to the old mind, but a new mind to the old flesh. Deliverance and victory are not gained by having the human nature taken away; but by receiving the divine natureto subdue and have dominion over the human,—not by the taking away of our sinful flesh, but by the sending in of the sinless Spiritto conquer and condemn sin in the flesh” (A. T. Jones, The Bible Echo).
Thus we have shown that God has already set us free from all sin and addiction; we have identified broadly the thinking of the addiction as being that of self and pride (grandiosity); now we make one last connectionbetween self and pride being the addiction: “Pride is intoxication. Just as alcohol stimulates a man without building him up, and finally deprives him of reason, so a man, to use a common expression, ‘loses his head’ when he gets to hunting for the good traits in his character. And withal pride, like alcohol, furnishes no nourishment with which to build the man up” (E. J. Waggoner, “Faith and Humility,” The Signs of the Times, June 2, 1889).
The Lord in His great mercy has removed my drug, alcohol, and tobacco addictions—just as He promised He would! Today I have been working as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor for over 15 years. I can honestly say, “I never quit doing drugs or smoking—God took them from me because He loved me!”
All addictions are an attempt to fill the void in one’s life that sees nothing to love. Addictions to drugs, pornography, alcohol, pride, appetite, etc., are manifestations of loving a false idol. The allurement of sexual passion can easily become idolatry. And idolatry is the substitution of somethingor some onefor Jesus Christ. It is fellowship with Him, not with the idol, that the human heart truly yearns for; but the idol-worship (in whatever form it takes) deceives us with a trinket instead of the genuine. And deception is sin, says Paul. With many, the addiction is pornography, fantasizing—it’s all “lust.” People can go to church and even wave their Bible in the air and still be addicts. Does the true gospel have power to deliver us from this addictive obsession? We have to answer yes, or the world and the church are in hopeless ruin.
But the gospel is the Good News of what Jesus accomplished in His incarnation. Did He truly conquer this sin in the “likeness of sinful flesh”? Or did He sidestep the real issue by taking upon Himself a different nature than what we are saddled with? When He inspired the Bible, did He employ cunning rhetorical evasion to make us think that “in all points He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” while in reality He excused Himself from facing and conquering the realtemptation that plagues us all? The true gospel isthe power of God unto salvation from sexual sin to everyone who believes (see Rom. 1:16). So, everything depends on understanding what it means to believe!
The message to the Church of the Laodiceans is a message to addicts—addicted to self and pride, avoiding reality at all costs. We say we are rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing. We say we have “the truth,” but adultery, child abuse, divorce, and alcohol and drug use are increasing even among church people. This cannot be the result of believing the truth of the gospel] but is the result of having the love of the world in our hearts.
For the most part “we” did not see God’s message of identifying with Jesus’ cross in our denominational history. If we had accepted the message of righteousness by faith that God sent to His people in 1888, and accepted the Word as the power of God, today we would not have to say with humility that “we” are delaying the second coming of Christ. It is our pride, intoxication, and self-satisfaction that is manifest by our Laodicean apathy.
Will the message of the cross be in vain for us? God’s good news does away with sin, along with addictions and the love of the world. It is time for us Laodiceans to study just what this “truth of the gospel” is and learn how to believe it.
Daniel H. Peters

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Sabbath School TodayWith the 1888 Message Dynamic
Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human EmotionsLesson 10: "Jealousy"

"Jealousy [is] as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire" (Song of Solomon 8:6).
In the most famous case of pre-meditated murder of all time--in the entire universe--jealousy was the primary motivation. In wanting to "be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:14), Lucifer actually wanted to murder God and take His place as Ruler of the universe. He proved this by crucifying the Son of God. His original jealousy became hatred, and hatred is always murder in essence. At least, the seed is there.

The Bible gives us example after example of the part jealousy has played in determining the outcome of major events; but throughout these stories there is a common theme--that jealousy never "wins," but is overruled for good.

There is a man in the Bible who could have committed the unpardonable sin, but thank God he did not. If he had, it would have been a very spectacular one, for it would have reduplicated on earth the "original" sin of Lucifer in heaven--jealousy of Christ. It was the sin of Lucifer against Christ, and it became for Satan the sin against the Holy Spirit (cf. Isa. 14:12-19; Eze. 28:12-19). The man who was tempted but overcame was, of course, John the Baptist. He had known the thrill of preaching the true message under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; but then it seemed the bottom fell out and the Holy Spirit left him for somebody else, as he saw the crowds abandon him and go over to the Man from Nazareth. He struggled with temptation, and Heaven looked on with concern, but the new "Elijah" stood the test. John's disciples even taunted him, "'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you testified--behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him'"! But John replied: "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled'" (John 3:26ff.). John was rewarded by a great report in the Bible; and a day yet to come.

Joseph was next to the youngest of old Jacob's sons, probably around 17 years old when his life was violently disrupted. His ten older brothers were the true church of that day; they were the "Israel" of the world, God's chosen nation-to-be, and they rejected Joseph and hated him. (There are some people today who feel rejected by the true church of today!) Sent on a self-sacrificing mission to help his ten older brothers, Joseph suddenly found himself the object of their bitter feelings of jealousy when they grabbed him and threw him helpless into a pit, lonely, hungry, probably bruised, while they sat down to enjoy a meal, possibly from home that Jacob had sent with him. Then his brothers most cruelly sold him as a slave to some heathen merchants who came by, thinking of course that they would never see him again. (It was their hatred of "righteousness by faith" that motivated them to do this awful deed!) We know the "rest of the story" as told to us in Genesis.

Ellen G. White witnessed at the 1888 General Conference Session the full force of the results of jealousy when the "Spirit of God was insulted":

"You cannot tell how it pains me to see some of our brethren taking a course that I know is not pleasing to God. They are full of jealousy and evil surmising, and are ever ready to show in just what way they differ with Elders [A. T.] Jones or [E. J.] Waggoner. … I can never forget the experience which we had in Minneapolis, or the things that were then revealed to me in regard to the spirit that controlled men, the words spoken, the actions done in obedience to the powers of evil. … The words and actions of every one who took part in this work will stand registered against them until they make confession of their wrong. Those who do not repent of their sin will, if circumstances permit, repeat the same actions. … I know that at that time the Spirit of God was insulted" (Letter Sept. 19, 1892, from Australia, to Uriah Smith; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1042, 1043; emphasis added).

Earlier in that year (Aug. 30) she had also written to Uriah Smith: "I know of no sins greater in the sight of God than cherishing jealousy and hatred toward brethren, and turning the weapons of warfare against them." "There are many who are as blind as were the Jews in the days of Christ" (ibid, p. 1011).

The Lord is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5), He has tremendous Self-respect, determined not to let the Jews crucify Christ again, and also determined not to let His glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain to be "insulted" again. When Laodicea lays her self-righteous, proud offering on His altar, "wealthy, and have need of nothing" when in reality she is of all the seven churches of history the most "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked," He will treat her offering as He treated the offering of Cain--just walk away until it withers and becomes garbage that the janitor has to cart away. The Lord will not accept the offering of those who choose to remain proud and self-sufficient.

"The jealousy of God was completely unrelated to human selfish dignity and possessiveness. God was jealous for His children because they went after gods which were nothing. False gods were the enemy's seductive lure to destruction. Waggoner said of God's jealousy: 'Instead of cringing and cowering with dread at the thought that God is a jealous God, we should rather rejoice with exceeding great joy; for it assures us that He who is the Almighty will effectually guard us from the arts of the cunning foe, who seduces in order to destroy.' The jealousy of God, far from being something to fear, was an assurance that God would cause His people to stand in the midst of an idolatrous generation" (Paul E. Penno, Calvary at Sinai, p. 364).

To idolize any person is to break the first commandment. Adam idolized his beautiful, charming wife, Eve; put her Number One, and led us all into sinful idolatry. Today's Laodicean idolatry makes Jesus sick at His stomach (Rev. 3:14-18), even if church membership rolls soar into the billions. Why is He so jealous of anyone who is our "idol"?

The honest truth is that He has given Himself to hell, has died our second death, has emptied Himself of His last breath--for us, to save us from utter ruin. It makes Him sick inside when we join the "great multitudes" who flock after Him while they trivialize their devotion to Him. Any honest, loving husband will be jealous if his wife is having an affair.

This hypocrisy has been going on for a long time, ever since Luke 14; it permeates Christ's last days church. Does it make sense that He at last puts His foot down and demands that we choose one side or the other, totally?

Yes, look soon for the strangest judgment ever seen on this planet since sin began. The crowds of Luke 14 never dreamed that in a few weeks they would be propelled into demanding His crucifixion. Silently as the thief coming at midnight, the final test will overtake us. We will determine who is Number One in our hearts. We could fool ourselves that we're getting heaven on earth, and end up finding it's hell.

It's time to let the Lord have all there is of us; share the cross of Jesus with Him (that's where we belong, you know). "Humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God" (1 Peter 5:6). Get down to rock bottom.
--Carol A. Kawamoto, with thanks toRobert J. Wieland and Paul E. Penno

Note: Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
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