Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Church Life"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 10: "Church Life (1 Thess. 5:12-28)"

How do you relate to a church that is sliding into apostasy? [1] How does the 1888 message call the church to its God-appointed destiny?
Paul reminds us that we are "to know them which" "are over you" (1 Thess. 5:12). Jesus says the "stars are the angels of the ... churches" (Rev. 1:20). As the stars of heaven are under God's control so are the ministers of God to bring the "sweet influences" of Christ's love into the church. [2] It's no wonder then that we are "to esteem them very highly" (1 Thess. 5:13).
We hold such men in the highest esteem and respect, short of according them any infallibility or inerrancy, while at the same time rendering supreme homage of conscience to God's revealed truth. Thus we shall love our leaders and cooperate with them loyally, recognizing the possibility that the Lord Himself can overrule their sometimes erring judgment; but ever anxious that we ourselves shall not presume to usurp an ultimate authority only the Lord Himself holds as Head of the church.
Not since post-1844 days has there been such a flood of fanaticism and professed "new light" as now inundates us from every side. Surely it is the "serpent's" idea to "cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman [the church], that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood" (Rev. 12:15). [3] How can we pilot our course safely through all the hazards of heresy and fanaticism in these treacherous last-day waters?
Look for a solid, clear "Thus saith the Lord." While it is true that we are to "prove all things," and "despise not prophesyings" (1 Thess. 5:21, 20), it is physically impossible for one human being to read or listen to all the "flood" of literature and audios going around, even if you spend 24 hours a day at it. The Lord is efficient when He answers sincere prayers. Five minutes are all you usually need to recognize that some items of "new light" are mere confusion. "Hold fast that which is good" (vs. 21).
Check the source. "Those that oppose themselves" have no business speaking to God's people, for they have been "in the snare of the devil" (2 Tim. 2:25, 26). New light is to be tested. Genuine light always leads to "the unity of the faith." (Eph. 4:13) Does it strengthen your confidence in God's leading of His church and His plan of salvation for the world? Does it impart a love for self-denial and soul-winning? Or does it encourage a holier-than-thou spirit of criticism and harsh divisiveness? Any pilot who is willing to see the ship sunk must not be entrusted with the wheel.
Is there a clear-cut message of truth that bears heavenly credentials today? [4] We are confident that when confusion is resolved, a Pentecostal "one accord" will again prevail among God's people, "not on a platform of error," [5] but in the "most precious" 1888 view which Ellen White endorsed so enthusiastically. [6]
The danger of accepting error is indeed frightful, but the danger of rejecting truth is even more so. If we accept error, we make fools of ourselves, but there is still hope for repentance. But if we reject truth, says Ellen White, we reject Christ. The Lord has promised to send "every angel from heaven" to save us from doing that, if we really want truth. [7]
But "we" as a people in our history have on occasion resisted precious truth that the Lord in His great mercy sent to us. And "we" have done worse: we have also "insulted" the Holy Spirit. [8] Paul warns us, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:19-21).
"The third angel's message in verity" is not a newly refined old covenant legalism; it is the message of righteousness by faith. [9] It brought to view a "wider meaning" of the cross and the atonement. It transcended the thinking of our Adventist pioneers who did their best to build on biblical foundations they had rediscovered, but it eluded them; it still challenges us today.
What does Paul mean "sanctify you wholly"? (1 Thess. 5:23). Obviously, the initial experience of conversion or of justification by faith, is good in itself; but it must deepen and extend throughout the mind and heart until there is no hidden portion that is left unaffected, uncleansed. This is why sanctification is a daily work of the Holy Spirit, requiring a daily surrender to Him, until every nook or cranny of the heart is exposed to the merciless light that shines from the cross of Christ, and every egocentric motivation is made painfully distinct, so it can be repented of.
A person may die with that process of being sanctified "wholly" still uncompleted; and we trust that person's soul with the Lord's mercy in the final judgment. But how could any of us "stand" in the final "great day of the Lord" when Jesus returns if there are sinful dark secrets of evil still left in the heart not yet "sanctified wholly"? Wouldn't that bring shame on our Savior? Thank God we have a new day, "today"--a new opportunity to be sanctified!
God "calleth" you to "come out of her [Babylon] my people" (1 Thess. 5:14; Rev. 14:8; 18:4). You simply can't enjoy the opulence and arrogant pride of "that great city" if you appreciate the atonement of Christ. What it boils down to is that we are living in that unique time prefigured in the Israelite sanctuary services of long ago. It's the grand original, the antitypical, cosmic, real Day of Atonement. All "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" is given to all people, even those who don't deserve it--which really means, no one deserves it (1 Thess. 5:28). Do not receive that grace "in vain." Everybody receives it; but only a few appreciate it. Say "Thank You!" for it.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] The church of ancient Israel in Elijah's day (1 Kings 18:21), Jeremiah's day (Jer. 23:1-4), and Jesus' day (Matt. 23:13-16) were fast approaching a critical mass of apostasy.
[2] Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 13, 14.
[3] "Every conceivable power of evil will be set in operation and minds will be confused by many voices crying, ... 'This is the truth, I have a message from God. He has sent me with great light.' Then there will be a removing of the landmarks, and an attempt to tear down the pillars of our faith" (Ellen G. White, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 985; 1892).
[4] "Amid the confusing cries, ... will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon. It is the truth, not fanciful ideas, that is efficacious. The eternal truth of the Word will stand forth free from all seductive errors and spiritualistic interpretations, free from all fancifully drawn, alluring pictures. Falsehoods will be urged upon the attention of God's people, but the truth is to stand clothed in its beautiful, pure garments, ... uncontaminated by the fallacies by which Satan seeks to deceive, if possible, the very elect" (Ibid., p. 984; 1904).
[5] "Testimonies for the Church Containing Letters to Physicians," Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 2. p. 47.
[6] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[7] Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 7, p. 17; The Great Controversy, p. 560. If we reject truth, we reject Christ, for He says He is the truth.
[8] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 314, 418, 1043.
[9] Review and Herald (April 1, 1890; Nov. 22, 1892).
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@1888message.org