Thursday, December 27, 2012

SST #13 | "When All Things Become New" | Pastor Paul Penno

"When All Things Become New"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 13: "When All Things Become New"

After Satan has been punished with a 1000-year time-out, will he learn his lesson and turn to God? Will those who have voted him their leader get a second chance and have a change of heart? These are some of the questions that are answered during this long future millennium. And the 1888 message provides advance insight to prepare us for what will happen.
When the "angel" ties up Satan with "a great chain" in "the bottomless pit," it will be for a literal 1000 years. Up until the millennium, which is after the battle of Armageddon, John referred to time symbolically in order to put off the enemies of truth from destroying his prophecy. But since the enemies are now vanquished, John's reference to 1000 years is literal.
What is "the bottomless pit" (abussos)? The cataclysmic events surrounding the seventh plague of giant hailstones (Rev. 16:21), and the second coming of Christ, have rendered "the earth" "without form, and void (abussos)" (Jer. 4:23); "the heavens above be black" (Jer. 4:28). "The whole land shall be desolate" (Jer. 4:27). "The angel" "delivered" Satan and his angels "into chains of darkness" "reserved unto judgment" (2 Peter 2:4). Satan is chained in pitch-black darkness.
Why can't Satan "deceive the nations no more" (Rev. 20:3)? All those who have taken part in the war against Christ in the battle of Armageddon have been slain by the brightness of Jesus' coming (2 Thess. 2:8; Jer. 25:33). How can Satan deceive dead people? He cannot deceive the saved people because they have been taken to heaven at the coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
When do these thousand years begin? John makes it clear that the "first resurrection" of the dead in Christ will mark the beginning of the thousand years; and the resurrection of the wicked will mark the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:5, 6; cf. John 5:28, 29).
What will God's people do in heaven for a thousand years? Many will be looking for survivors: friends and loved ones whom they expected would be saved. Some will not be there and so God gives the saints executive authority to sit on "thrones" as "judgment was given unto them" (Rev. 20:4). "The saints will judge the world" and "we shall judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:2, 3).
At the conclusion of the 1000 years Satan is loosed out of his prison by the fact that the wicked are raised from their graves again (Rev. 20:13). The Devil immediately goes to work with deception (Rev. 20:8).
Everyone in heaven and within "the camp of the saints,"--the "new Jerusalem" "coming down" "out of heaven" on the earth,--watch to see what they will do (Rev. 20:9; 21:2). Have they learned their lesson? Will they repent and turn to God? It has been necessary for God to give Satan and all his voters this opportunity so that everyone can see clearly that their character is completely and hopelessly evil.
The resurrected wicked love Satan's lies (2 Thess. 2:9-12). He tells them a whopper. He puts into their minds the hopelessly foolish idea that because of their sheer numbers they are able to capture the holy city of God (Rev. 20:9). Satan's purpose is to pull God off His throne and proclaim himself king. The loyal angels and the redeemed saints watch. "It is enough," they say, "now we see the final results of sin. Let justice be done."
Far above the city appears a great white throne (Rev. 20:11). Upon it is seated the Son of God in all the glory of His Father. The wicked have opportunity now to consider their past lives. On a jumbotron screen, they behold the events of the life of Christ, His rejection and crucifixion. Each sees the part he played in a lifelong war against the Lamb. Every thought of their evil minds, every word, every deed, is seen in terrible distinctness as rebellion against God and His truth. Satan and the vast host of the lost fall on their knees before God, confess the justice of their sentence, and acknowledge their unfitness to enter heaven (Phil. 2:10, 11).
The wicked are not judged by their faith because they have none. They are "judged" "according to their works" which are motivated by self love (Rev. 20:12). The "fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them" (Rev. 20:9); not because God hates them, but because they have chosen to cling to their sin. "Our God is a consuming fire" to sin (Heb. 12:29). The only ones predestined for hell are the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). He never intended for one human being to suffer in that fire.
The 1888 message vividly highlights the good news of the "everlasting gospel" proclaimed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. God has written every one's name in "the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27; 20:12). He has "chosen" and "predestined" you to eternal salvation (Eph. 1:4, 5). The only way that one's name can be removed from "the book of life" is for them to take a pencil and erase their own name (Rev. 20:15).
Both the saved and the lost receive their reward upon the earth. God "formed it to be inhabited" (Isa. 45:18). The wicked meet their final reward here on this earth. The redeemed will likewise receive their reward here. "The righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner" (Prov. 11:31). "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalm 37:11; Matt. 5:5).
The popular idea is that the redeemed will sit on clouds and play harps forever. But the biblical portrayal of the new earth is more appealing. "They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat ... My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 65:17, 21, 22).
Three-fifths of the earth is presently covered by the seas. But in the new earth there will be no more sea (Rev. 21:1). Why? The earth presently suffers under a threefold curse: (1) After man sinned the earth was cursed with "thorns and thistles" (Gen. 3:17, 18); (2) The earth suffered another curse after the first murder (Gen. 4:11, 12); (3) The flood unleashed "the fountains of the great deep [to be] broken up" (Gen. 7:11). The deluge was a curse after which God said, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake" (Gen. 8:21). In the new earth, "there shall be no more curse" (Rev. 22:3).
Not only did Jesus die to redeem humanity; He also died to redeem this ruined earth itself. When the blood flowed from His wounds onto the tree, fell through the air to this earth, and sank into the ground, it redeemed the elements themselves. Even the soil beneath our feet has been purchased by His sacrifice! To this redeemed earth God will transfer His throne and His capital from their present place in heaven (Zech. 14:9-11). Here where the cross of His dear Son was set up, He will establish His everlasting kingdom.
--Paul E. Penno
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Friday, December 21, 2012

"Last Things: Jesus and the Saved"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 12: "Last Things: Jesus and the Saved"
The topic of this week's lesson could not have had better "timing," as the lesson's author asks us to "look at our world," then ask ourselves, "how well have we, as humans, done in making it a better place?" With current events showing us atrocities occurring all over the world, an event in a little school in the United States has gripped the corporate heart of the world, which is described in our lesson as "a place of sin, suffering, misery, disappointment, and death" (please see the lesson for Tuesday, December 18). Such events often fade into memory once the "media" moves on to the next crisis, but as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, should these events help "wake us up" to see that Christ's Second Coming is imminent?
Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary is designated as one of the "special events" within the general period of "last things," that is, before His Second Coming. The sanctuary truth is the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist message, and a few striking statements by Ellen G. White in Evangelism make this clear:
The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith (p. 221). The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God's hand had directed the great advent movement, and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people (p. 222). God's people are now to have their eyes fixed on the heavenly sanctuary, where the final ministration of our great High Priest in the work of the judgment is going forward--where He is interceding for His people (p. 223).
However, the question continues to be asked, "What is Jesus doing now?"
The common idea is that He is a Construction Contractor building palaces or "mansions" for those who arrive in heaven (a childish reading of John 14:2). But "preparing a place for you" is a far bigger idea than a celestial construction activity. Hebrews 9 and 10 describe His High Priestly ministry as cleansing the hearts of His people, "putting away sin," "purging the conscience," preparing a people to "receive the promise of eternal inheritance," "purifying" hearts and minds and lips, to "make the comers thereunto perfect," to render obsolete any "conscience" or "remembrance of sins," to "take away sins," to "perfect forever them that are sanctified," to write His "laws into their hearts ... [which are] sprinkled from an evil conscience," to "provoke [motivate] unto love and good works," to "believe to the saving of the soul." Big job! First, He naturally wants His people to understand why what He is doing is so incomparably important, and second, He would appreciate our cooperation because He can accomplish nothing without it. Cooperation means you stop interposing a rebellious will to counteract what He is seeking constantly to do for you!
In other words, through the Holy Spirit, Christ as High Priest is constantly pressing upon His people the conviction of sin buried deeper than they had imagined it to be; and when the conviction is welcomed and the sin is gladly surrendered and put away, the heart is more closely reconciled to Him. This process is called "atonement," or becoming at-one-with God. In Romans 5:11 it is "receiving the atonement" or "reconciliation." Thus the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a "final atonement."
Another common question is, "He promised to come back; why doesn't He?"
The only answer that can possibly make sense is that His people are not yet ready for Him to come. The harvest is not yet ripe (see Mark 4:26-29). And what special ministry can make a people to be ready? Only the ministry of Christ as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8-10). There was an earthly high priest in the ancient sanctuary, so there is a divine High Priest in the heavenly; there was an earthly lamb offered in the ancient sanctuary, Christ is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). As there was an annual day of atonement in the earthly sanctuary, so there is a cosmic Day of Atonement in the heavenly when the High Priest ministers in the Most Holy Apartment, the second apartment, of the heavenly sanctuary.
The specific purpose of that ministry is to prepare a people for the second coming of Jesus. Daniel understood there is a heavenly sanctuary--all the Israelites who were true to God understood it; it is natural then that when the angel in Daniel 8:14 answered the question "how long ...?" by saying "unto 2300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed," it's natural that Daniel understood it was the heavenly sanctuary. That great Day of Atonement ministry is the most important activity going on today in the heavenly universe.
The 1888 message revived interest in this closing ministry of our great High Priest. It restored "its presiding power in the hearts of believers." Ellen White caught this significance. Having experienced personally the thrill of waiting for the coming of Christ in the 1844 movement, she never lost that first love.
When she heard the 1888 message for the first time, something clicked in her memory. She almost intuitively recognized the Good News in the message that announced to the waiting heart, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh!" She heard the welcome tread of divine footsteps that but few of her contemporaries wanted to have ears to hear.
That new development was the joining of the Adventist truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary with a more complete revelation of justification by faith. It was like the confluence of two rivers that had flowed separately but now joined to produce a tide that could bear the grounded ship on its way to port. She saw in the message the glorious means of divine grace provided to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord. She was excited. She recognized that "union with Christ" meant union with Him in His closing work of atonement, in clear distinction from His work in the first apartment, where the door was now shut (cf. Early Writings, pp. 55, 56, 260, 261).
The good news that Jesus gives us isn't only that "our redemption draweth nigh," as though we deserve more reward than anyone else. When Jesus says "your redemption" He means ours together with His in the triumph of His great cosmic controversy. What at first sight may look like an egocentric motivation (the popular one), on closer thought is a fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, a fellowship in bearing His cross (no crown is possible otherwise).
What we're coming to is the growing up of God's people, another name for the great "Day of Atonement," the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, getting to know the Savior intimately. It's not a time for craven fear, as the world now experiences. "Perfect love [agape] casts out fear" (1 John 4:18), so the final time of trouble will be a close, fearless walking with the Savior even through the valley of the shadows.
Yes, let's "lift up [our] heads." With Him by our side, there's nothing to fear.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why trial are good

If the time seems long to wait for our Deliverer to come, if, bowed by affliction and worn with toil, we feel impatient for our commission to close, and to receive an honorable release from the warfare, let us remember—and let the remembrance check every murmur—that God leaves us on earth to encounter storms and conflicts, to perfect Christian character, to become better acquainted with God our Father and Christ our Elder Brother, and to do work for the Master in winning many souls to Christ, that with glad heart we may hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant; ... - TMK 358.4

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Christian Life"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 11: "The Christian Life"

The 1888 message has a transformative effect on Christian life relating to self-understanding, talents and mission, and family life. According to Jesus there are "two commandments" upon which the whole law "hangs" and the second is "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:40, 39). There is not a negative in this commandment. [1] It's a positive promise of God. [2] Faith believes God's promise that in all circumstances of life, He will give you love for your neighbor.
But first God gives you a proper estimate of yourself. Is Jesus teaching what the popular self-esteem movement in the churches advocate? Must you love yourself first before you can love your neighbor?
Jesus addressed this matter with the rich young ruler who asked an old covenant question: "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). The Lord said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (vs. 19). Upon closer self-investigation the youth was satisfied that he had fulfilled all the commandments. But something unidentifiable left him unsettled: "What lack I yet?" (vs. 20).
When Jesus bid him sell all he had and give it to the poor, He invited the young man to follow Him in the pathway of self-denial--the way of the cross (vs. 21). The "young man" "went away sorrowful" because of his "great possessions" (vs. 22). His idol was himself that wealth secured. He hadn't really kept any of the commandments because he was motivated by selfishness. [3]
Whatever Jesus is teaching by the words "love thy neighbor as thyself," He is not teaching you must love yourself first before you can love your neighbor. Self-love is the basis for the self-esteem movement. Self-love was invented by Lucifer and was the original sin that motivated him to rebel against God and murder the Son of God. The false holy spirit assures the sinner that self-denial is the root of his problems. He does not need to go around feeling bad about himself. "I'm OK and you're OK."
Romans 12:3 is the one key on your "soul-computer" keyboard to be hit every day. "I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." The first half can be prayed easily--no problem. I am "chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8), "an unprofitable servant" (Luke 17:10). No person's faith is weak; God gave it to him/her.
Paul's counsel is not to humiliate us into the dust; you and I have been given that "measure of faith" that enables us to hold our head high in the world, and yes, high in the Lord's church, too. A healthy, even vigorous, self-respect is the gift that "faith" gives us here and now.
Is it possible that we could acquire money in a legitimate way and when we meet the Lord still be embarrassed about it? Is it a sin to have money? No, not if God gives it to you. But if you grasp onto it in a selfish manner thinking that you have acquired it by your own hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurial savvy, then you will be ashamed. Because all that we have and are was bought for us by Christ on His cross. All that we deserve is our grave. But He died our second death. That's something to think about for a long, long time. He died penniless and without a swath of clothes. He gave all His riches to you and me. He put it into our bank account before we were ever born.
So now we have a new motivation for managing the money, talents, family, and responsibility bestowed upon us. We are "constrained" by His love. Maybe a better word for "stewardship," which might carry the burden of a legalistic duty, is "fellowship" with Christ.
Jesus loves to proclaim the gospel of God's love and salvation to all the world. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). We may "go" to our neighbors, friends, relatives and work associates. Some may "go" to far off places in the world. Jesus' command requires that we support those who "go" by our tithes and offerings.
Fellowship with Christ doesn't involve a legalistic, self-centered motivation. It means we love the work that is central in the heart of Christ. As the great Evangelist in the Holiest, He is at the nerve-center of the universe. He seeks a resolution to the great controversy by His intercession. He is appealing by the Spirit to alienated hearts globally, "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). He has granted us executive authority in His gospel enterprise. It's a happy fellowship to work with Jesus. In no other way can we get to know Him than to work side by side yoked together.
The Most Memorable Marriage
The common-sense idea regarding marriage is that you ask for, you wait for, you trust, you expect, the Lord to lead the two of you together. And Jesus comments on Adam and Eve when He says, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6). The glue that will hold a married couple together is not their exercise of strong will power, to clinch their fists and grit their teeth and say, "I will be true no matter how horrible this is!" No, the glue is their conviction, their faith, that "God hath joined [them] together."
Believe that He is a loving heavenly Father who above all else has in mind your true happiness; and in His infinite wisdom He sees and knows that your true happiness lies with your being faithful to the "wife [husband] of thy youth" (Mal. 2:14). Such faith can work miracles, and can even transform what the devil makes you think is purgatory--into happy matrimony.
The marriage of Jesus Christ to His Bride is the most memorable one for all time and eternity. The gift of marriage is to help us understand His wedding. The Bible tells about it in Revelation 19:6-8: "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready."
The good news of the 1888 message is that you and I are invited to attend the wedding and the marriage feast: "And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (22:17). Now, around the world, God is preparing that people. Nothing happening in this world is as important. Getting ready for the marriage is an experience closely related to the cleansing of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. This will be grandest party ever held anywhere, bar none!
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] "There is not a negative in that law, although it may appear thus" (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1105; Letter 89, 1898).
[2] "The Ten Commandments ... are ten promises" (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1105; Ms. 41, 1896).
[3] "The lover of self is a transgressor of the law. ... The young man … [had] selfishness of his heart. ... He did not possess true love for God or man. ... In his love of self ... he was out of harmony with the principles of heaven" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 392).
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"The Law and the Gospel"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 10: "The Law and the Gospel"

Most Christians have a love-hate relationship with the law of God. Evangelical Christians abolish it as a legalistic "under the law" experience. Others, including some Adventists, say, "Since we cannot hope to keep the law perfectly, we'll just keep on sinning up until the second coming of Christ. So all we can hope for is a mere legal justification." Could it be that some, unwittingly, are on the wrong side of the great controversy? [1]
Both of these options teach that Jesus saves Christians in their sins and cannot keep them from sinning (Matt. 1:21). Satan claims that he has invented something which even God can't solve, namely sin. He claims that it is impossible for sinners to keep the law of God. If that's the case, then the gospel has no good news for the erring.
The resolution to the law-gospel dilemma is found in the 1888 message. There is perfect unity between "the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" so that our Great Intercessor gives the atonement of sinless living in sinful flesh (Rev. 14:12).
The conflict God's people have with the law started at Mount Sinai. God promised to do with them what He had done with their father Abraham, to write His law upon their hearts and minds (Gen. 15:6). But instead of believing God's everlasting promise, in their self-confidence they made their old covenant promise to do everything just right (Ex. 19:8). [2]
The Lord didn't ask them to make a bargain with Him. He knows that the human mind is "carnal" "enmity against God" and "is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7). Human promises are "like ropes of sand." [3]
Since they would not permit God to do as He had promised with believing Abraham, He wrote the law on cold tables of stone and had them placed inside the ark within the tabernacle constructed for His dwelling place situated in the midst of the encampment. "The law" was "added [emphasized] because of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19). The "transgression" was their self-righteous old covenant promise. There in the gospel by "moonlight," He instructed believing worshipers in the coming Messiah, the true sacrificial Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
"The first covenant had ... ordinances" which "could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience" (Heb. 9:1, 9). They were "carnal ordinances," because they were performed by "worldly" hearts of unbelief (vss. 10, 1).
As "heirs" of their Father's estate, they had been promised the whole world in righteousness (Gal. 4:1), but because of unbelief they were "under tutors and governors" (vs. 2) of moral and ceremonial laws. In their "childhood" they "were in bondage under the elements of the world" (vs. 3). Their "under the law" pledge to keep the law was motivated by selfishness (vs. 5). Self-love was the bottom line of their faith. Faith was a self-centered hope of reward and avoidance of hell. Since "love [agape] is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10); a worldly, ego-centric love is unbelief. Non-faith is an "under the law" experience of disobedient legalism.
Some righteous few, like Abraham, Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, believed God's new covenant and were "under grace." But for most of them, they were "kept under the law" "shut up" by wardens (Gal. 3:23). Says Paul, "the law was our schoolmaster" (vs. 24); until such time either in the old dispensation of types and ceremonies, or the new dispensation of fulfillment, "the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (vs. 22).
The gospel and the law were given by God hand-in-hand when the Lord declared in the preamble to the ten commandments, "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:2). The Lord has redeemed us from our sell-out to the slavery of sin and death, by His payment on our behalf at the cross. He has freed us from the shackles of sin and self. As our Substitute and Surety he has fired the first Adam from whom we receive nothing but sin, condemnation, and death.
Christ as our Representative last Adam is the Saviour of the world. He has legally justified the whole race of sinners. If you need proof of that, just take a long, deep breath. You're alive! Now receive the atonement He gives, the forgiveness of your sins. "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
Your faith now appreciates the Divine love so freely given. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (1 Cor. 5:14). You see if One hadn't died for all, all would be dead, but you live! Now faith has a new motivation, Divine love. "Faith works by love" (Gal. 5:6). With the "under grace" motivation of the cross, there is no end to the amount of works faith can produce. This is new covenant faith in harmony with the law of God. Said Jesus, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Genuine faith is manifested by keeping all the commandments of God, including the fourth commandment. [4]
The ten commandments are now ten glorious promises of God. [5] "Thou shalt not steal" is no longer a negative, but God's promise that though you may be in the office all alone with a million dollars of company money on the desk, God will preserve you from stealing even one penny.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery" is God's promise to save you from ever falling into that deceptive pit, no matter how alluring a sexual temptation might be. The misery you will escape is enormous! The ten commandments become what most people have never dreamed of: ten messages of miracles of joyous good news.
To receive the "seal of God" is to receive a distinguishing mark that sets one apart from others as very different and peculiar. True Sabbath-keeping is the fruitage of a genuine conversion to Christ. It is not merely a case of resting on Saturday. To receive the seal of God through true Sabbath-keeping is to receive the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, a "rest" from sin and self: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His" (Heb. 4:9, 10). These "works" are old covenant works of pride and love of self.
Is the sacrifice of Christ as Lamb of God, and His ministry as great High Priest, powerful enough to save His people from (not in) their sins? When Christ comes the second time, will He find a body of people of whom it can honestly be said, they "follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:4)?
If the Lord wants to, He can accomplish the preparation of a people for the second coming of Christ. For the first time in human history, a divine announcement is made concerning a corporate body of people from "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people," "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). Before the grueling inspection of the unfallen universe, they pass the test. The Lord is honored in them. And the next event is His coming (vs. 14).
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (From Ellen G. White):
[1] "Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan." Special Testimony for Ministers and Workers, No. 11, p. 8.
[2] "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). "Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, 'All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.' Exodus 24:7." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372.
[3] Steps to Christ, p. 47.
[4] Testimony to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92.
[5] "The ten commandments, Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not, are ten promises, assured to us if we render obedience to the law governing the universe." Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1105.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"The Church: Rites and Rituals"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 9: "The Church: Rites and Rituals"
Rather than "rites and rituals," the Seventh-day Adventist Church uses the term "ordinance" when commemorating Christ's baptism, and the Lord's Supper, which is preceded by the "ordinance of preparation," [1] the washing of feet. In Ellen G. White's writings, marriage and tithing are also included as ordinances. [2] (These will be discussed later in the quarter.) Several 1888 "most precious message" dynamics are found in the three ordinances discussed in this lesson, among them: God's agape love for us, the practical godliness truth implicit in the ministry of the heavenly High Priest in the Most Holy Apartment, the power of the Holy Spirit, the two covenants, the nearness of our Saviour, and the concept of justification by faith. Please keep these in mind as you study not only this little essay, but foremost, the Bible and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. May we all receive insights into these truths is our prayer.
Baptism: When Jesus came to John asking for baptism, he refused. Jesus had to give him a Bible study there in the water, convincing John that He was the antitypical Lamb of the daily service. "Then he suffered Him" (Matt. 3:15).
Two lambs were offered "daily" on the altar of burnt offering, morning and evening, in behalf of everyone within the boundaries of Israel. "Strangers" and Gentiles were included as the beneficiaries. No repentance was required, no confession; no questions were asked; the lambs were "offered continually," whether anybody believed or not (Ex. 29:38-42). All you had to do was to be a human being, and you were under the umbrella of God's abounding grace. This was the gospel by "moonlight" (Rev. 12:1). As we come to the "sunlight" of the New Testament, the meaning is made clear: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). The daily service of the two lambs was a ministry for the whole world.
When Jesus was dripping wet from His baptism in the River Jordan, a Voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). So, when the Father put His arms around Jesus, at the same time He put His arms around you, too. Ellen G. White has written, "The word spoken to Jesus at the Jordan ... embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless. 'He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.' Eph. 1:6. The glory that rested upon Christ is a pledge of the love of God for us" (The Desire of Ages, p. 113).
The day after Jesus was baptized, John introduced Him, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Not "maybe," "perhaps," or "He takes away the sin of a few." Why this universal sacrifice of atonement? "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Those promises and that declaration are the New Covenant to your soul.
The "incense" offered on the altar of incense daily or continually was also a type of a universal ministry of intercession. Only the blood of Jesus continually ministered keeps this wicked world from being destroyed (Rev. 8:3-5; when He ceases to minister His blood, then will come the time of trouble). Thank God He still ministers today in the Most Holy Apartment! That has to be Good News!
The Ordinance of Preparation: When the disciples entered the upper room the pitcher, basin, and towel were there, in readiness for the feet washing, but no servant was present, so it was the disciples' duty to perform it. But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant. By their silence they refused to humble themselves. The disciples made no move toward serving one another. Jesus waited to see what they would do. Then He rose from the table, took a towel, and girded Himself. With surprised interest the disciples looked on, and in silence waited to see what was to follow. "After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." This action opened the eyes of the disciples. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in a new light.
Christ had expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty. Instead He gave them an example they would never forget. His love for them was not easily disturbed or quenched. He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant, one of the last acts of His life on earth.
By this act of our Lord this humiliating ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance. It was to be observed by the disciples, that they might ever keep in mind His lessons of humility and service. [3]
The Lord's Supper: That last meal that Jesus ate with His disciples illustrates the idea of "substitution" that the New Testament teaches (yes, and the Old Testament, too), a shared experience with Him. Jesus did not say to his disciples, I am eating this Bread instead of you, nor did He say, I am drinking from this cup instead of you. He ate with them, He drank with them; they ate and drank with Him. Using the clearest illustration possible of intimate oneness He represented His believers as "drinking My blood, eating My body." "Abide in Me, and I in you," He pleads. You are branches and I am the Vine (John 15:4, 5). "Ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." In sending the Holy Spirit to dwell with those who believe in Him, Jesus represents Himself as not leaving them orphans, "I will come to you" (14:20, 18). Open your heart, receive His Spirit; you receive Him.
Jesus does not want us to think of Him as separate from us, doing everything "instead of us," while we look on in childish wonder, uncomprehending. He did indeed die instead of us, He died our second death so we don't have to die our own second death--that is all true; but it is only part of the truth He obviously wants us to understand and experience. He wants intimate oneness with us where we enter into His feelings and His experience as a branch enters into the life processes of the Vine.
And then coming down to the last days of history just before Christ's return, Revelation introduces us to a oneness with Him even more intimate, even closer to our human understanding. We see how He wants us to sense an even deeper identification with Himself--a Bride's nearness to her Husband. Here is a shared experience with Him, one in which human pride can have no place. When "I am crucified with Christ" all my "glory" (yes, even pastoral!) is laid in the dust forever.
Since the cross the Father could "make His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). He was now free to treat "every man" as though he had not sinned. Now the truth of the Lord's Supper could make heartfelt sense: Christ Himself is "the bread of God … which ... giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33). "The bread that I will give," says Jesus, "is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world. ... Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (vss. 51, 53). This is equally true of "all men," believers and unbelievers alike. [4] Christ gave the gift of real life to the world, to the human race; if only "all men" would receive the gift with faith, it would be to them the beginning of eternal life.
But this truth articulated in the 1888 message does not mean that everyone will go to heaven. It is not the heresy of Universalism. By His sacrifice, Christ has given to every one of us the freedom to resist and reject what He has given us. And sadly, many do. The lost ask for their own final destruction. Those who are saved at last are simply those who gladly receive the gift.
God's plan was, that once Seventh-day Adventists could learn to proclaim this truth--what Christ has accomplished for the human race--then honest hearts would experience what the Bible calls "justification by faith." That's what the gospel accomplishes in hearts and lives changed forever. By proclaiming what Christ accomplished on His cross, the honest heart is won.
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
and Ellen G. White as noted
[1] Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church, p. 300.
[2] See Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, p. 1929.
[3] Excerpted from Counsels for the Church, pp. 299-301.
[4] The Desire of Ages, p. 660. Written in the after-years of glow from the 1888 preaching.
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