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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