Tuesday, May 1, 2012



A five-times divorcee with a heart like stone comes casually, flippantly, to Jacob’s ancient well. Casting only a side glance at the Jewish Stranger, she makes sure she won’t notice Him.
But He notices her. Tired, hot and thirsty as He is from His long journey, He does not sit in silence; He is ready to win a soul. He knows precisely the right way (often to us unknown) to arouse this worldly person whose prejudice has already closed all doors—she thinks.
And look what happens: in the space of a few minutes she is in tears, her cold heart melted, ready to receive joyous Good News and start a genuine new life as a missionary.
How can Jesus have such phenomenal, insightful power to win sin-alienated hearts? We can answer, “He was divine, and had something we don’t have!” But He tells us, “Greater works than these shall [ye] do, because I go unto My Father.” We have come to the time when those “greater works” must be done.
Jesus wants a soul-winning evangelism explosion that will outdo anything our denominational committees have dreamed of: a worldwide network of humble church the well of Sychar. His secret? We suggest: He had experienced corporate repentance.
Without approving of the lady’s sins, He understands the inner pain of her beaten-down heart and thus has found an avenue of entrance, touching a chord of music that has been silent even through four or five marriages.
But was it really mysterious, what Jesus knew? Or can we learn from Him? Yes! If we will humble our proud hearts, to follow Jesus!
Shortly before Jesus met the woman at the well at Sychar (John 4), John the Baptist had baptized Him. But that meant a prerequisite of repentance, for the only people that John could baptize were those who had repented. But Jesus never had sinned! Then how could He let Himself be baptized? To be baptized without repenting would be hypocrisy, for John’s mission was only “the baptism of repentance” (Acts 19:4). John knew this. That’s why He refused Him the rite.
But here’s the wonder: the sinless Son of God lets Himself be lowered into the water the same as any common sinner, making a public confession of repentance. (It’s childish to think the reason was He merely wanted to show us the physical method—John could do that; or make a “bank deposit” of “merit” to be transferred to some disadvantaged people like the thief on the cross).
Jesus actually did experience repentance. He had to, or John could not have baptized Him; but it was not for His own sins, but for ours. Therefore it had to be corporate repentance. Totally sinless, He was “made to be sin for us who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). He identified with the human race so closely that He felt that our sins were His own. Don’t you want understanding and compassion? Sure. So Jesus learned how to feel that burden for others, including the five-times loser at the well.
The earth must someday soon be lightened with the glory of “the third angel’s message in verity,” when a multitude of all nations and tongues will join Him in winning every one in the world who is willing to believe the gospel.
Rather than a few celebrities doing it on screen or through electronics, that fourth angel’s ministry must be performed “largely” by humble people working on a personal heart-to-heart level. Their “training”? Seldom that of “literary institutions,” but knowing Good News better than for a century and a half we have thought it is.
The best thing one could do to foster witnessing is to experience corporate repentance. It is the secret of Jesus’ soul-winning power.
Even Jesus, the expert witness, took time to listen and sympathize, and then meet people’s needs. And following His example not only helps us to understand people and effectively minister to their needs and hurts, but to also win their hearts and trust. Jesus took time to socialize with a sinner and an outcast like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), and in the process determined and satisfied his needs of understanding and acceptance. Jesus, as our great example in witnessing, willingly ate dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. Even though it was really the tax collector who needed help, Jesus provided him with an opportunity to serve and show Him kindness.
And even though He aided Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha in many ways, He frequently accepted and appreciated their gracious hospitality (see Luke 10:38-42).
He talked with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), continuing to comment on his question even after the man had left sadly. In fact, Jesus’ heart went out in compassion for him, for He longed to meet his spiritual need. Scripture states that “Jesus looking upon him loved him” (verse 21).
Jesus was thoroughly acquainted with the basic and pressing human needs as He mingled with people. That is why He, the Bread of Life and the Great Physician, fed the hungry and healed the sick. He did not have to touch the leper in order to heal him. That touch was not necessary for his physical cure, but very essential for his emotional healing. Our Saviour knew that this outcast desperately required acceptance and love. Before He healed him “he stretched out His hand and touched him” (see Mark 1:40-42). It is imperative to take time to get acquainted with people and see their needs surface.
The Gospels show Jesus’ skill in balancing both the apparent and hidden needs in ministers to others. For example, He was interested not only in physical thirst, but also in spiritual craving. He did not care just about physical eyesight, but also spiritual insight. When He healed bodily leprosy, He also dealt with the leprosy of sin. Besides identifying with people, He also sought their transformation. Following Christ’s example will motivate us, for example, to conduct all our health programs not as an end in themselves, but as a bridge leading us to meet the needs of spiritual health.
Conducting community programs as a church will lead us to pray for the participants, befriend them, talk and listen to them, sitting next to them.
Meaningful relationships develop between the members and those attending. Such friendships will lead to minister to their spiritual needs as well.
A good test of one’s doctrine is whether children can understand it.
Christ has already accomplished something for every human being. He died the second death for “every man,” and thus elected “all men” to be saved. In that sense, it is true that “He saved the world.” Appreciating what Christ accomplished by His sacrifice, lukewarm Laodiceans will learn the meaning of faith, and how to glory in the cross.
(a) When Christ “died for all,” He tasted “death for every one” (2 Corinthians 5:14 Hebrews 2:9). It had to be the second death that He “tasted” because what we call death the Bible calls “sleep,” which everyone experiences except those who will be translated (John 11:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). Therefore there is no reason why anyone should at last have to die the second death except that he has resisted or rejected the salvation already given him “in Christ” (cf. Hebrews 2:3; the Greek word “neglect” in the King James Version means “despise,” see Matthew 22:5).
(b) At Christ’s baptism, the Father “accepted” the human race in Him (Matthew 3:17). Thus He is already “the Savior of all men” (John 4:42); no one can any longer doubt that the Lord has accepted him/her “in Christ.” But Christ is “especially” the Savior “of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:101). Our salvation does not depend on our initiating a “relationship” with Him; it depends on our believing/responding to the “relationship” He has already initiated with us.
(c) Christ “has abolished death” (the second; 2 Timothy 1:10). Since no one need be lost at last unless he chooses to reject what Christ has already accomplished for him, the only reason he can be lost is his unbelief (John 3:16-19). Christ has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). For “every one,” believers and unbelievers, He has brought “life,” and for those who believe, He has also brought “immortality.”
(d) In Romans 5:15-18 Paul sets forth what Christ accomplished on His cross. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 illustrates that “verdict of acquittal” or “justification” for “all men.” By His uplifted cross and on-going priestly ministry, Christ is drawing “all men” to repentance. His gracious love is so strong and persistent that the sinner must resist it in order to be lost.
The Bible Teaching
(a) All the life and happiness which the world enjoys is the purchase of Christ’s sacrifice. Every loaf of bread is stamped with His cross (John 6:32, 33, 35, 50-53; cf. The Desire of Ages, p.660). This truth of total indebtedness to Him is the basis for all genuine Christian experience.
(b) If Christ had not died for the world, we would all have perished. The Father laid the trespasses of the world on Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19; Isaiah 53:5, 6). Thus, in a very real sense, Christ’s sacrifice has justified “all men” by giving them a legal “verdict of acquittal” in place of that “judgment” of “condemnation” “in Adam” (Romans 3:23, 24; 5:15-18, NEB). When the sinner hears and believes the truth, he experiences justification by faith (Romans 4:25; Ephesians 2:8-10).
(c) The lost deliberately negate this justification Christ has effected for them, and take the “condemnation” back upon themselves (Hebrews 10:29; 2 Corinthians 6:1; cf. Steps to Christ, p. 27).
(d) Believers in Christ can say that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” But it is “not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish” (John 3:16). Since He paid the price for all our sins, the only reason anyone can be lost is refusal to believe, to appreciate, the gift already given “in Him” (verse 18). God does not put us in double jeopardy, for “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). How then can He lay that iniquity on us again? Paul asks (Romans 8:33-39). The lost take it back on themselves.
(e) All this adds up to a judicial “verdict of acquittal… and life for all men,” just as surely as Adam’s sin brought “a verdict… of condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:16-18, NEB). The one who believes this Good News is motivated to total consecration of his all to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).It follows that it is actually easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes how good the Good News is. The only difficult thing is learning how to believe the gospel. Jesus taught this truth.
(a) God does the loving and the giving; our part is to do the believing (John 3:16, 17). “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). But the word “believe” must be understood as the Bible teaches it (Romans 10:10).
(b) “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light,” and to resist, to “kick against the goads,” is “hard” (Matthew 11:28; Acts 9:5; 26:14).
(c) The reason why this is true is that “the love [agape] of Christ constraineth us.” Christ’s love is active, not passive. The one who believes the gospel cannot continue living for self (Romans 6:1, 2, 14, 15; 2 Corinthians 5:14, KJV).
(d) Christ’s love for each individual person is infinitely greater than that of a parent for a child (Psalm 27:10; 103:13).
(e) To “kick against the goads” is to resist the Holy Spirit’s conviction of Good News (John 16:7-11).
(f) Light is stronger than darkness, grace is stronger than sin, and the Holy Spirit is stronger than the flesh (John 1:5, 9; Romans 5:20; Galatians 5:16, 17).
(g) God is leading every person to repentance, but many refuse His leading (Romans 2:4). Christ is a Good Shepherd who is seeking His lost sheep even though we have not sought Him. A misunderstanding of God’s character causes us to think He is trying to hide from us. There is no parable of a lost sheep that must seek and find its Shepherd.
(a) This truth flows naturally and logically from the gospel as Good News (Luke 15:1-10). The false idea is that like a shopkeeper, the Lord regards us indifferently until we take the initiative to ferret Him out from His hiding place. The truth is that He seeks us (Psalm 119:176; Ezekiel 34:16). 1
(b) If anyone is saved at last it will be due to God’s initiative; if anyone is lost at last, it will be due to his own initiative (Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16-19).
(c) Our salvation does not depend on our maintaining a relationship with God; it depends on our believing that He stands at the door and knocks—seeking to maintain that relationship with us unless we break it off (Revelation 3:20).
In seeking us, Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself “the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Thus He is a Savior “nigh at hand, not afar off.” He “is the Savior of all men,” even “the chief of sinners.” But sinners have the freedom to refuse Him and reject Him.
The Bible Teaching
(a) His names is “Immanuel, … God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
(b) Though He was “in the form of God,” He was “made a little lower than the angels,” “made of woman, made under the law,” “in all things … made like unto His brethren,” “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 2:9, 14; Galatians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
(c) “As the children are partakers of flesh [sarx, Greek] and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:17).
(d) He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
(e) To deny this reality that He “is come in the flesh [sarx]” is “that spirit of antichrist,” the essence of the Roman Catholic counterfeit of the gospel. (1 John 4:1-3).
The new covenant is God’s one-way promise to write His law in our hearts, and to give 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.” The spiritual failures of many sincere people are the result of being taught old covenant ideas, especially in childhood and youth. 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 Bible Teaching
(a) The old covenant “gendereth to bondage” (Galatians 4:24, KJV, “slavery,” NEB).
(b) It is the spiritual experience of being “under the law,” under a fear motivation (4:21).
(c) The old covenant was formed at Mt. Sinai when Israel vainly promised, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). God did not ask them to make that promise. They broke it soon afterwards.
(d) Peter’s promise never to deny the Lord was an old covenant promise (Mark 14:29-31).
(e) God made seven great promises to Abraham, but did not ask him to make any promise in return (Genesis 12:1-3). God repeated and enlarged them later, still exacted no promise from him (13:14-17; 15:4, 5). Chapter 15:9-17 shows that the covenant is a one-way promise.
(f) God never asks us to make promises to Him; He asks us to believe His promises to us (15:6).
(g) Abraham is “the father of all those who believe.” Thus he is the example of genuine righteousness by faith (Romans 4:1, 11-13, 16-18). The law, given 430 years later, became “our tutor” (“schoolmaster,” KVJ) to lead us on a long detour back to the experience of Abraham, to be “justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-26).
Our Saviour “condemned sin in the flesh,” conquering the problem for the human race. He forever outlawed sin in the vast universe of God by defeating it in its last lair—our fallen, sinful human flesh. Because if Him, there is now no reason for any human being to go on living under the frightful “dominion” of sin. Sinful addictions lose their grip if one has “the faith of Jesus.”
The Bibie Teaching
(a) The purpose of Christ’s coming was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
(b) He succeeded (Hebrews 2:14, 15)!
(c) The victory was won by meeting all the temptation that Satan can present to sinful human “flesh” or nature, and by conquering sin there (Romans 8:3).
(d) The result: those who have faith in Him demonstrate in their lives “the righteousness of the law” (verse 4).
(e) God’s people will “overcome even as [He] overcame” (Revelation 3:20).
(f) One who has such faith cannot continue under the “dominion” of sin (Romans 6:14).
(g) The result of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary will be the preparation of a people for translation, who will by faith in Christ become “mature” or “perfect” in character (Hebrews 6:1; 7:25; 10:1; 11:39, 40; 13:20, 21).
(h) This demonstration will honor Christ as a Bridegroom (Revelation 14:1-5; 19:7, 8).
A higher motivation becomes realized in the close of time than has prevailed in the church in past ages—a concern for Christ that He receive His reward and find His “rest” in the final eradication of sin. All egocentric motivation based merely on fear of hell or hope of reward is less effective. The higher motivation is symbolized in the climax of Scripture—the Bride of Christ making herself “ready.”
The Bible Teaching
(a) An appreciation of the agape of Christ delivers from egocentric motivation (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).
(b) God longs to see His people “grow up” out of immature, childish motivation (Ephesians 4:13-15).
(c) A spiritual “babe” is “unskillful in the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:12-6:3).
(d) The climax of the plan of salvation is the “marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7).
(e) It has been delayed only because “His wife [has not yet] made herself ready” (verse 7).
(f) The making “ready” is the experience of righteousness by faith (dikaiosune) which culminates in “the righteousness of saints” (dikaiomata). Imputed righteousness is at last lived out in imparted righteousness (verse 8; Romans 8:4). It is all by faith.
(g) This glorious triumph is parallel to the sealing work as the culmination of the cleansing of the sanctuary (Daniel 8:14; Revelation 7:1-4; 14:1-5, 12).
(h) Satan maintains that it is impossible for fallen man to obey God’s law; a people who keep God’s law demonstrate the falsehood of his claim (Romans 13:10; Revelation 15:1-4).
The Bible so clearly teaches that righteousness is by faith. Therefore the only element that God’s people need in order to prepare for the second coming of Christ is genuine faith. The message the world needs to hear is the truth of righteousness by faith in the light of the cleansing of the sanctuary—“the third angel’s message in verity.” Faith is understood in its true biblical sense—a heart appreciation of the agape of Christ.
(a) “We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Galatians 5:6).
(b) “By grace are ye saved through faith.” It’s “with the heart” that we believe (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:10).
(c) God’s people in the end of time will be noted for having suchf aith (Revelation 14:12).
(d) Such faith is an experience that constantly grows and develops (Romans 1:16, 17).
(e) The constant prayer of those who have faith is, “Help Thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23, 24).
(f) Saving faith is so closely related to agape that it is a response to it (John 3:16; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Philemon 5).
(g) Agape is “shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit,” brought from heaven vertically; immediately it flows out horizontally to our fellow men. What flows back to God is faith (Romans 5:5; Colossians 1:4).
(h) Translation at the coming of Christ will be the final experience of mature faith (Hebrews 11:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
(i) How can we understand “righteousness by faith” unless we understand what “faith” is?
The 1888 message is especially “precious” because it joins together the true biblical idea of justification by faith with the unique idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is a Bible truth that the world is waiting to discover. It forms the essential element of truth that will yet lighten the earth with the glory of a final, fully developed presentation of “the everlasting gospel” of Revelation 14 and 18.
The Bible Teaching
(a) The ancient Hebrew sanctuary and its services were a type or pattern of the ministry of the plan of salvation in the heavenly sanctuary (Leviticus 25:8, 9).
(b) The priests served “unto the example or shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).
(c) Christ is the true High Priest of the plan of salvation (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14-16; 5:5-10; 7: 24-28, etc).
(d) The worlds final day of judgment way typified by the annual Hebrew day of atonement (Leviticus 16:26-32).
(e) For God’s repentant people, that day meant a special preparation, a judgment of acquittal, vindication, and a cleansing of heart (Leviticus 16:29-31).
(f) Daniel’s prophecy pinpointed the commencement of the antitypical (or cosmic) Day of Atonement at the end of 2300 years in 1844 (Daniel 8:14).
(g) We are living today in the grandest era of world history when the plan of salvation is to be concluded with victory for Christ (Hebrews 9:11-15, 23-28).
(h) The heart-cleansing preparation for the second coming of Christ will be a special ministry of justification by faith in the Day of Atonement (10:36-38; 11:22-28; Revelation 14:6, 7, 12).
The popular view taught through most of these 2000 years is that when good people die they go straight to heaven, or at least to purgatory to be purified for heaven—the doctrine of “natural immortality of the soul.” But the Bible teaches (1) that those who die, sleep until the resurrection day (John 11:11). And (2) the resurrection depends on the second coming of Christ, for He alone can raise the dead (John 5:25-29; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). And (3) when Jesus returns, those who are not ready will not be able to endure the glory of His appearing (2 Thess. 1:7-10). And therefore (4) the time of Christ’s second coming depends on His people getting ready, for He would not dare to come if they are not ready (Heb. 12:29). (5) Jesus likens their getting ready to a farmer’s crop growing up and maturing until it is ready for harvest (Mk. 4:26-29). (6) The growing up makes it possible for Him to come the second time to “reap” the “harvest” (Rev. 14:14, 15). (7) But the “crop” cannot become mature until “the latter rain” of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring comes (Joel 2:23, 24). The “former rain” fell at Pentecost at the beginning of the Christian dispensation; but the latter rain will close that dispensation. Therefore (8) nothing can be more important than for the church to seek the blessing of the latter rain (Zech. 10:1). And where is the the Good News? (9) The latter rain is a message of “much more abounding grace,” a clearer view of what the Saviour of the world has done for us, a revelation of His love (agape) that “constrains” every honest-hearted soul to live unto Him and not unto self (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), so that (10) this truth can “lighten the earth with glory” (Rev. 18:1-4).
Around the world this week some Christian people have been giving special emphasis to an important question: Is it possible that God will ever have on earth a perfect church? Not just one tiny little congregation out in the backwoods somewhere far away from civilization where its members will be isolated and insulated from the devil's temptations, where there’s no TV, no malls, no radio even. No, that would not be a fair test. The question is: can God ever have a perfect world-wide church—in the world but not of the world—out in the midst of all the evil that the devil can produce? The question itself is controversial with many saying a decided No. “Nobody is perfect, so how can God ever have a perfect church?” If we let Paul’s words mean what they say, the answer becomes Yes! He says Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar [unusual] people, eager to do good” (Titus 2:14). The word “peculiar” doesn’t mean outlandish, but they stand out, different, unique. Then there is Ephesians 5:25-27: Christ “gave Himself” with the purpose in view of having “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” The word “church” doesn’t mean some tiny little group of fanatics out in the woods. And there is in Ephesians 5 the idea that this church is to be the Bride of Christ. In fact, the expression “without spot” is quoted from the Song of Solomon 4:7, again speaking of the Bride of Christ at last ready for the wedding. (You never saw a wedding where the bride’s dress was dirty, have you?) Christ will not marry some one super-woman; but the corporate body of His people are brought to view in Revelation 14:1-5, 12, 15, 16 as a church in whose “mouth there is no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” And they finally surface again in 19:7, 8 where the Bride is seen as at last “making herself ready.” But back again to the objection: “Nobody’s perfect.” Granted; but the fact that there never has been a church as yet “ready” to be the Bride of Christ doesn’t mean that it’s impossible or that it will Never happen. It won’t be a “works program” or ecclesiastical promotion that accomplishes Christ’s purpose. It will be a “faith trip,” something to do with that first phrase we studied: “Christ gave Himself.” Here at last will be a group of people who in a corporate, united sense have grown up out of their childish understanding to grasp “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge,” that led Him to “give Himself” for us (see Eph. 4:18, 19). Let’s start growing up today!
When Jesus promised His disciples (and therefore, us], saying “Let not your heart be troubled, . . . I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3), He gave the world our “blessed hope” that Paul tells us about. “The grace of God that brings salvation as appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No!’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live [soberly] and godly in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-14, cf. Greek, and NIV).
Not only is this our “blessed hope,” it is His as well, for Jesus is an eager Bridegroom who wants to come again. He longs to take to Himself His Bride, just as any loving bridegroom wants the wedding to come.
But Jesus can’t come, eager as He is, for a strong angel must first give his all-important permission before Jesus can come. We read of that in Revelation 14:
“And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, . . . and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped” (vss. 14-16).
That “other angel” is the key person here: no matter how eager Jesus is to come for His “marriage of the Lamb” (and He is eager to come!), yet He cannot come until this special angel gives Him permission; and the permission cannot be given until the “harvest of the earth is ripe.”
The problem here is not the size or the extent of the “harvest” but whether it is “ripe.”
The word “ripe” refers to character development; that is, not the chronological age of the “saints” who are involved, for often a very young “saint” may be fully dedicated to the Lord—in other words, “constrained” by the love of Christ to live “henceforth . . . unto Him who died for us and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). It’s growing up into the likeness of Christ.
It’s not a works program; it’s the heart appreciation of the love of Jesus; it’s “comprehend[ing] with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:17-19).
That “comprehend” is a wonderful word: it enlightens every cell of our being, and at last we come “alive”!
It’s looking at Jesus—“Behold! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).