Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Final Events

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 9: "Final Events (1 Thess. 5:1-11)"
During hurricane season folks on the Gulf Coast make preparations. What preparations should we make for "the day of the Lord"? (1 Thess. 5:2). Those who live in the light will realize that this "peace and safety" (vs. 3), extravagant living, is temporary. Jesus invites us to share with Him His solemn Day of Atonement living.
We are "the children of light" and not of "darkness" (vs. 5). We are no longer "darkness" personified. We are now "light" personified "in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8), which means that God's new covenant promise to Abraham is being fulfilled. We are a blessing wherever we go because we are the Light itself shining in us, that is, Christ is dwelling in us. We don't have to worry about giving Bible studies to our neighbors or fellow workers; silently, unconsciously, we are exuding light and knowledge of the gospel by the way we live and speak.
The Holy Spirit is in the process of bearing fruit within us. Having become acquainted with Jesus, we have learned to love "goodness, righteousness, and truth" (Eph. 5:9), and our love is contagious. Other people are saying, "I want what those people have!" That is what the word "evangelism" means.
If Thessalonians has anything to say, God is trying to tell us something. The Titanic has struck its iceberg, but the band on deck is still playing ragtime, and couples are still dancing. They can't hear the people in the steerage screaming. But there are a few "passengers" here and there who are sober, and they are not edified by the jazz music. They are prepared to listen to "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
Too sober, too serious? Our modern "Titanic" is big enough to embrace Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Busch Gardens, etc. Unpopular as is the idea in our age of comedy, Paul says something about being "sober" (1 Thess. 5:6-8) today (but careful! that doesn't mean a long face and pessimism; sobriety is the only optimistic "peace" in the world today).
How can we be scouts on the "watch" and "sober" at a time when most are at "sleep" and "drunken"? All of the ten virgins in Jesus' parable "slumbered and slept" (Matt. 25:5). The only difference between the five "wise" virgins and the five "foolish" virgins is that the former have "oil" and the latter have none (vs. 8). The "oil" is identified by Paul as "the breastplate of faith and love (agape)" (1 Thess. 5:8).
The counterfeit of "faith and love" is trust in God motivated by self-confidence. "The measure of faith" which "God hath dealt to every man" gives us a sober assessment of ourselves. "Faith" helps a man "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly" (Rom. 12:3). A cocksure faith is addictive like alcohol and produces sleepy inebriates.
Peter was ever so sure of himself. "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended" (Matt. 26:33). When the disciples should have been on "watch" (vs. 41) with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were all "asleep" (vs. 43). "All the disciples" were self-assured with Peter--"yet will I not deny thee" (vs. 35). Inebriated with their own self-confidence, the disciples were the equivalent of "wretched," "miserable," "poor," "blind," "and naked" modern Laodicea in need of "buy[ing] of me [Jesus] gold [faith and love] tried in the fire" (Rev. 3:17, 18).
Such old covenant trust in God is an appointment with "wrath" (1 Thess. 5:9). Peter's "faith" was easily overthrown by a teenage girl. His denials of Christ with cursing and swearing resulted in bitter weeping and self-loathing (Matt. 26:74, 75).
God's "remnant" cannot face their final examination ("the mark of the beast") in the great controversy with such self-centered confidence, for it would result in embarrassment not only to ourselves ("lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" Rev. 16:15), but more importantly to Christ.
Legalism has provoked many children to "wrath" (a false view of God's character) and driven them into rebellion. It was the basic problem in the 1888 history. Ellen White said that our ministers of that era had "preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa, that had neither dew nor rain." [1] Yet earnest Seventh-day Adventist leaders were demanding more of the same, saying, "'You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.'" [2] That was legalism, pure and simple! But do we have a problem with it today? Yes; otherwise we would not be losing 75% or more of our young people!
God wants us "to obtain salvation" from our own "wrath," "by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us" (1 Thess. 5:9, 10). As "faith" sees the Saviour who identified with us in His death upon the cross, His divine-"love" is the true motivation. "If one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). In other words, if One had not died for all, then all would be dead. When faith appreciates the atonement He made for us, then we receive the atonement with God. "Be ye reconciled to God" (vs. 20). "The love of Christ constraineth us" (vs. 14). Agape propels our faith.
This is new covenant faith which is obedient to all the commandments of God. It is "the breastplate of faith and love" (1 Thess. 5:8). There is no legalism in such faith.
"The works of the law" and "under the law" experience is disobedience to the law (Gal. 2:16; 4:4, 5). All "works of the law" motivated by self-interest to get into heaven and avoid hell are selfishness. Only "agape is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).
The "helmet" is "the hope of salvation" (1 Thess. 5:8). But we err if we think of it as "our blessed hope," as though our reward were what is important. It's the blessed hope of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The One who wants Him to come soon is He Himself. He longs for "the marriage of the Lamb" to take place with His Bride "making herself ready" (Rev. 19:8, 9). His heart yearns for all in the world who are in agony.
The truest fellowship with Christ is heart sympathy with Him in His concerns, as a bride who truly loves her husband is caught up with His concerns. Now she lives for Him, one with Him because she loves Him. Is it possible that a world church can grow up to be so mature in relationship with the Son of God? All around the world there are those who hear the insistent call from Heaven. May He give us grace to respond!
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, "Christ Prayed for Unity Among His Disciples," Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
[2] Ibid.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dead in Christ

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 8: "The Dead in Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-18)"
All the vast hosts who have died believing in Jesus through the centuries have been accorded a special status that you and I who are living have not been given. They have been "accounted worthy" of the resurrection in the Investigative Judgment (Luke 20:35). There is a special place in God's heart for those who "sleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14). He has a deeper longing to bring our loved ones from their musty old graves than we who want to be reunited with them. His love is Infinite. Just as thousands of people benefit individually receiving all the illumination in a well-lit stadium, so God's love is as infinite as the universe and thus each "sleeping" saint is the special beneficiary of it.
But they must remain in the grave as prisoners until the first resurrection. The Bible does not teach natural immortality; saints do not go to heaven at death. But that in turn cannot take place until the second coming of Jesus (no angel can resurrect the dead). But He dares not come so long as there is cherished or unknown sin still in the characters of His people, else His coming should "consume" them (Heb. 12:29).
Hence God's love for "the dead in Christ" requires that a living last generation overcome totally, for otherwise He is stymied. Popular "Reformationism" denies this, but it does not understand the Day of Atonement cleansing of the sanctuary.
"The grave" was never God's ideal for those whom He has created. The Bible holds out what it calls "the blessed hope," not merely of a resurrection for all who believe, but for translation without seeing death, for those who prepare to meet the Life-Giver when He returns. There comes "the voice of the archangel, ... with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then [and here's the message for us now] we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
You don't hear much about it, but it's clearly a part of Bible teaching: God's people who are ready will be translated without seeing death at the second coming of Jesus.
To some, that Bible doctrine sounds too close to fanaticism for comfortable discussion. Actually, it's no more difficult for God to translate His people without their dying than it will be for Him to resurrect the dead ones from their graves--at the second coming. This is the essence of "the blessed hope" that is cherished by those who believe in the second coming (Titus 2:13).
Why must the last generation become totally surrendered in order to be translated? Satan's charge for 6000 years has been that it is impossible for human beings with a fallen, sinful nature to overcome sin truly (see The Desire of Ages, p. 24). He claims he has invented something (sin) that proves that God is wrong. Judged by the dismal record of Laodicea, it appears that he has won the argument. The fact that the Son of God overcame and "condemned sin in the flesh" is not the final issue, although popular "Reformationism" would love to consider it so--thus excusing "us" from overcoming truly
But something else is needed. Christ's victory was indeed a set-back for Satan, and proved him wrong to the heavenly universe; but Satan's charge still stands so far as the human race is concerned: "It is impossible for us to obey ..." (ibid.). The reason the 1888 message is so vigorously opposed is because of its teaching of the certainty, that God will have a people who overcome fully. There will be a demonstration of Christ's righteousness in sinful flesh.
"The honor of God" is involved in the character-perfection of His people. If they at last support Satan's charge, He will be forever embarrassed.
Why can previous generations in the first resurrection enter heaven without the experience of total victory over sin required of those who will be translated? (Luther can malign the Jews, drink his beer on his death-bed, and still be in God's kingdom).
"Required" implies something that requires further balance in the thought of preparation. A bridegroom doesn't require the surrender of his bride; he wins it. The marriage of the Lamb does not take place because God rigidly demands a self-sacrificial devotion that is finally forced; overcoming "even as [Christ] overcame" is a joyous character development that takes place as faith grows to a heart-union with the divine Bridegroom. It's not a point-of-the-gun "requirement." It is the fruit of justification by faith at last clearly understood.
Why is the last generation the "firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Rev 14:4)? Sounds backward! It is a generation, a corporate body, not merely a handful of individuals, the some few of every age (e.g., Enoch and Elijah). Christ must have a Bride, a corporate body of believers, the first to demonstrate that the overcoming that Christ accomplished in His life, human beings who have a mature faith can "copy" (though never equal). They will "reflect" His character, like so many broken scraps of worthless mirror not shining on their own, but each perfectly reflecting another facet of His righteous character like a huge diamond. This corporate body judges all previous generations.
"He that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7), and no saint will come up in the resurrection still in captivity to it. All such slavery to sin is left in the grave. But apparently the 144,000, the last generation, so appreciate "the blood of the Lamb," so clearly comprehend the length, breadth, depth, and height of agape, that self is truly "crucified with Christ." They have died to sin, and as a corporate body are thefirstfruits to demonstrate it.
The truest fellowship with Christ is heart sympathy with Him in His concerns, as a bride who truly loves her husband is caught up with his concerns. Now she lives for him, one with him because she loves him. Is it possible that a world church can grow up to be so mature in relationship with the Son of God? All around the world there are those who hear the insistent call from Heaven. May He give us grace to respond!
--Paul E. Penno with Robert J. Wieland.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Living Holy Lives"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 7: "Living Holy Lives (1 Thess. 4:1-12)"
Any contemporary study of "holy living" must include the context of the unique Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The verses in Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses "sanctification" and "holiness," can be projected down through time to 1888 when a "most precious message" was presented at the General Conference Session. This message switched "gears" from the idea that people were to prepare to die, to a new dynamic: the preparation for translation at the coming of the Lord.

Ellen White recognized that this message of Christ's righteousness restored the "presiding power" of the sanctuary message to the "hearts of believers." [1] She saw that the joining of the Adventist truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary with a more complete view of justification by faith was like the confluence of two rivers that had flowed separately but now joined to produce a tide that could bear the ship safely to port. She saw in the 1888 message the glorious means of divine grace provided to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord.   She recognized that "union with Christ" meant union with Him in His closing work of atonement. She saw the clear distinction from His work in the first apartment, where the "door" was now "shut." [2]

The 1888 message made the cleansing of the sanctuary to be a practical subject. This is how the two great rivers, the sanctuary truth and justification by faith, joined together. The message not only called for holy living; it also provided the means. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a work that includes the people and extends to them. It provides for the perfection of their character in Christ on the one hand; and on the other hand in the final destruction of sin and sinners and the cleansing of the universe from all taint of sin. It is Christ fully formed in each believer. The sanctuary itself cannot be cleansed so long as God's people continue to pour into it a constant stream of sinning. The stream will be stopped at its source in the hearts and lives of God's people. The ministry of Christ in the Most Holy Apartment does make "the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1) and does perfect "forever them that are sanctified" (vs. 14).

The sinner is not "made righteous" by an infused merit that does away with the sinful nature. [3] He still has it, but he is no longer a slave to it. He has no merits of his own, as he has no good works of his own; but to be reconciled means he is "made obedient." This is the 1888 idea of being "made righteous." The sinner has "received the atonement" (Rom. 5:1-11) and his deep-seated enmity against the law has been removed by the "mighty argument of the cross." [4] In justification by faith "the love of Christ constraineth us" and becomes the new motivation to holy living (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). Lukewarmness is done forever! Grace being stronger than sin, the 1888 messengers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, grasped the astonishing idea that it's easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes "the truth of the gospel" (see Gal. 2:5, 14).

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard the two messengers tell this. She clearly said the message went beyond what she called "the good old doctrines," for it was "fresh light." This "justification by faith" will be "fresh" to us and to the Evangelical world for it's "the third angel's message in verity." [5]

"Every fiber of my heart said amen," she said, because here at last was the unique, distinct Seventh-day Adventist idea of the everlasting gospel "which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God," [6] including the seventh. Thus it had to go beyond that of the popular Sunday-keeping churches.

"The theme that attracts the heart of the sinner is Christ, and him crucified. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus stands revealed to the world in unparalleled love. Present him thus to the hungering multitudes, and the light of his love will win men from darkness to light, from transgression to obedience and true holiness. Beholding Jesus upon the cross of Calvary arouses the conscience to the heinous character of sin as nothing else can do. It was sin that caused the death of God's dear Son, and sin is the transgression of the law. On him was laid the iniquities of us all. The sinner then consents unto the law what it is good; for he realizes that it condemns his evil deeds, while he magnifies the matchless love of God in providing for him salvation through the imputed righteousness of Him who knew no sin, in whose mouth there was found no guile." [7]

"That God has a sanctuary in the heavens, and that Christ is priest there, cannot be doubted by anyone who reads the Scriptures. ... Therefore it follows that the cleansing of the sanctuary--a work which is set forth in the Scriptures as immediately preceding the coming of the Lord--is coincident with complete cleansing of the people of God on this earth, and preparing them for translation when the Lord comes. ... The life [character] of Jesus is to be perfectly reproduced in His followers, not for a day merely, but for all time and for eternity." [8]

In all past ages "the Lamb's wife" has never yet made herself ready. How can the heavenly Bridegroom get His church's attention? Can He bring His people to attention by an unprecedented fear-motivated demand for holy living? The answer has to be in the text: "To her [His bride-to-be] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8).

No, the means the Lord will employ will not be a thunderclap from heaven or an earthquake, but a tender, quiet, heart-warming message of "the righteousness of saints." A message that woos the heart--"righteousness by faith," the Bridegroom coming close in an appeal, a gentle touch of truth.

--Compiled from the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes (from Ellen G. White, unless otherwise noted):
[1] Evangelism, pp. 224, 225.
[2] Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 374; 62, 63.
[3] "Can any man live a sinless life?" I have been asked. No, but Christ can. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." I have demonstrated that I can do nothing. The wages of sin is death, and so I must die, and let the Lord take the management. The first man showed his impotence, and now the second man Adam comes in, and in Him God's power is fully revealed. There is only one man and that is the Lord Jesus Christ: for there is only one seed. By the obedience of one many are made righteous. We become men indeed, perfect men, only as we are in him (E. J. Waggoner, cited in Robert J. Wieland, A Brief Look at "1888," p. 15).
[4] See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 375.
[5] Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[6] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[7] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1074.
[8] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 365-367.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Friends Forever: Pastor Steven McCandless.mov

Friends Forever: Pastor Stephen McCandless.m4v

"Friends Forever"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 6: "Friends Forever (1 Thess. 2:13-3:13)"
It is always amazing to do some travels and tours of Turkey and Greece in tracing the footsteps of the Apostle Paul of many years ago. This journey opened my eyes to appreciate what great labor of love that Paul harbored in his life in spreading the Good News to all the various places he traveled by foot and across the sea.
Our study of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13 will takes us into a place where Paul had developed friends in Christ. Let us zoom in where Paul spent a month or two in Thessalonica (present day Thessaloniki, Greece), which was the capital of Roman Macedonia. The Egnatian Road, which connected the East with Rome, became an important commercial trade route of Thessalonica. Paul addressed this young church in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths, as indicated in Acts 17:1-5, preaching in the synagogue, and he was invited to fellowship in the home of Jason, Acts 17:7. This was an intensive Bible study to these new believers in Christ, and in nurturing them to be strongly grounded in the Gospel.
The church in Thessalonica comprised a majority of Gentiles, Greeks, and some Scripture-loving Jews. Major opposition arose which necessitated the Apostle Paul be sent to Athens. In his place, he had his young co-worker, Timothy, carry on with the ministry of the Good News. The follow up report from Timothy to Paul, was that the church in Thessalonica rejoiced over the Gospel and longed to see Paul again. This intensive Bible study that the Apostle Paul delivered for weeks and months had created a special bonding of friendship with the new believers in Thessalonica. This is the action of agape, the power of God's love generating in the heart joy and spreading outward!
This Good News of God's agape-love is the foundation of the message brought to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1888. There is a recommended reading of The Good News is Better Than You Think that you don't want to miss. Read chapter 3, where you see that God's love is active, not passive, which ties in to what Paul was emphasizing in his ministry wherever he went.* Also read all the way through John 3 to see how Jesus' explanation of the new birth is also very Good News. Agape is what "turns the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).
The Greek term agape means love, the same love you see in 1 John 4:8, "God is love." There is a distinction between God's love, agape, compared to human love (eros, in the Greek is the word from which we get our word erotic). When one experiences a new, converted life in Christ, it is a deep, longing fellowship with God which constrains us to lay down our old selfish nature, "I". Christ took the steps to identify with our humanity. By this God has shown His love to man. He expresses His deep love for us. You don't see this in any other god that can lay down his life for our salvation. What a friend we have in Jesus! We can sing this hymn each day to uplift God's influential love.
"True, heaven-born love is not selfish and changeable. It is not dependent on human praise. The heart of him who receives the grace of God overflows with love for God and for those for whom Christ died. Self is not struggling for recognition. He does not love others because they love and please him, because they appreciate his merits, but because they are Christ's purchased possession" (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 101,102).
"It is not the fear of punishment or the hope of everlasting reward that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow him" (The Desire of Ages, p. 480).
"Supreme love for God and unselfish love for one another--this is the best gift that our heavenly Father can bestow. This love is not an impulse, but a divine principle, a permanent power. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. Only in the heart where Jesus reigns is it found. 'We love Him, because He first loved us.' In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 551).
May you constantly experience a new heart transplant in Him daily and be energized by His compelling love. I am speaking to you as a cardiac nurse. Don't let all those diseases of "I-itis" weigh you down. Live as His new creation, rejoicing in Him, in His grace. Many prayers to you my dearest friends in Christ!
--Mary Chun
* You may read or download this chapter by clicking on this link:

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