Monday, March 25, 2013

SST # 13| "Creation, Again" Pastor Paul Penno

"Creation Again"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 13: "Creation Again"

Two basic ideas about destiny are in conflict in people's minds worldwide: the world as we know it will go on and on ad infinitum, or at least until it is drawn into the sun's orbit and consumed or a huge meteor strikes it and pulverizes it; and the world of sin and pain as we know it will be ended and a new world, a new earth, will be created "wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:12, 13). The first view can be labeled uniformitarianism; and the second, Adventism--a belief that Christ will return and assert His authority as rightful "second Adam" of the human race and destroy the "works of the devil"--the second coming of Christ.

It seems like a fantastic idea but it's like a golden thread throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Bible: proud, sinful, selfish, lustful, wicked human hearts are changed by simply believing what the apostle Peter says are "exceedingly great and precious promises"!

And they're not man's "promises." They are the Lord's. Can it really be true that there is power in something as simple as believing God's promises? God virtually promised Abraham the sky. And the old man is "the father of us all."

For instance, in the Old Testament we read that He picked up this only monotheist He could find in the ancient world, called him into exile to "a land that [He] would show him," promised it to him "for an everlasting possession." Paul got the idea: it was almost infinitely more than that tiny little strip of land known as Canaan; it meant the whole earth! (Rom. 4:13). And no way could the "possession" be "everlasting" for Abraham unless this "exceedingly great and precious promise" included the gift of eternal life. And further, no way could he be "the heir of the world" unless it became the "new earth." And again, no way could he be "the heir" of such a new earth unless he was given the gift of "righteousness," for Peter insists that only "righteousness dwelleth" there (2 Peter 3:13).

So, it all ends up full circle: God's "exceeding great and precious promises" mean the out and out gift of "righteousness by faith." And that was the meaning of those seven promises the Lord made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 3, and then later swore to in chapter 15--staking His very existence and His eternal throne on His keeping them.

To a great extent, the story of the animal kingdom is the predation of the strong over the weak; come sundown and darkness there is predation, cruel and bloodthirsty. It's always the strong over the weak, merciless and cruel.

An exception is the giraffe; they are gentle to everybody and are not predators over anybody; their strictly vegetarian diet doubtless has much to do with their gentleness and their "live and let live" philosophy of life; but they are the exceptions.

But there is a change coming: the Lord has promised that He will create "new heavens and a new earth" and "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain." There will come a great change over wolves and lions: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock" (Isa. 65:25). The Lord's "holy mountain" is the "new heavens and new earth" that He will create (vs. 17). That's a great change to come over the lion--from the inside out!

And there is good news of righteousness by faith in this story of the change in the lion's nature: it will be the Lord Jesus who changes the nature of the lion! If the lion can experience such a tremendous change in nature, why can't we experience a change in our nature now by the much more abounding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?

People are by nature predators even as cats are, for Romans 8:7 says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." We who are by nature at "enmity against God" have all the evil within our nature that is in being predators. We all need to be converted; we all need a new nature; we all need a Savior from ourselves. Our fallen, sinful nature that is "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7) is to be changed now, today, through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Does it make sense that we, sinful selfish people by nature can be changed, converted, purified, transformed, even "sanctified," by believing those "promises"? Believe it or not, that is Peter's idea: "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, .. exceeding great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4). "Escape" is what we desperately need, for we face the second death without it. The "corruption" of lust surrounds us and would permeate us. Our modern "culture" is steeped in it.

We humans build houses and then wait for people to buy them and move in. God does the opposite: He "builds" human characters of "righteousness" first and then creates "a new heaven and new earth" for them to move in to, and inhabit (2 Peter 3:13).

This "building" for them a new heaven and new earth is for Him a trifling accomplishment. He once "created ... the earth and the things that therein are" in a mere six days (Rev. 10:6; Ex. 20:11). His problem now is not creating a home for His people to live in forever; it's getting them ready to move in, for only "righteousness" can "dwell there." And herein lies the climax of the gospel in creation to which all our quarter's lessons have pointed. God cannot create righteousness in any human heart without that person's full consent; and again, that full consent is not forthcoming so long as "self" is still holding sway in that heart.

The centerpiece of the 1888 message involves a deeper heart-cleansing than we like to realize. Ever since the beginning of the great Day of Atonement there has been a constant effort on God's part to lead His people to a heart-preparation for the return of Jesus. He is in earnest about that, not content for "world without end" to go on and on, generation after generation of saints going in the grave to join multitudes from Abel on. All of these wonderful saints are "guests" at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). Wonderful!

"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). The cross has guaranteed all this for you, as you take this "faith of Jesus" to be yours.

--Paul E. Penno

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Creation and the Gospel"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Lesson 12: "Creation and the Gospel"

We are still living with the results of Adam's original sin. We have all followed his example. What is the original sin? Is there a solution for it within the 1888 message?
Some major sects of Christianity claim that the first sin was carnal knowledge. One thing is for sure. Sin produced deep guilt in Adam that led to four consequences. What does the Bible teach?
The first consequence was the guilt of shame. He hid among the trees (Gen. 3:8). Second, Adam was afraid of God (vss. 9, 10). Third, he repressed the guilt and couldn't confess his sin, blaming it on Eve (vs. 12). The fourth was enmity against God: "The woman whom Thougavest to be with me" (vs. 12). The woman implied that God was responsible for sin because He created the serpent who beguiled her (vs. 13). [1]
The original sin is repressed hatred against God. "The carnal mind isenmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). Adam's anonymous seed of anger toward God was the acorn which produced the full-blown tree of mankind's murder of the Son of God at Calvary.
God revealed it to him in the sacrificial victim offered in the garden. Adam "saw Christ prefigured in the innocent beast suffering the penalty of his transgression of Jehovah's law." [2] And "he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed the blood of the spotless lamb of God. This scene gave him a deeper and more vivid sense of the greatness of his transgression, which nothing but the death of God's dear Son could expiate." [3]
The human brain's mechanism of repressing guilt has its beneficial side; otherwise the guilt of sin would crush the soul in self-condemnation and fatal despair. But the negative side of repression is that hatred of God goes unrecognized. On His cross Christ prayed to His Father, "forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). It was our sin which murdered Christ.
It is this repressed original sin of enmity against God which the Faithful and True Witness diagnoses in the last-day church of Laodicea. "Thou ... knowest not" (Rev. 3:17). It is the Bride's unresolved guilt and ongoing controversy with her Bridegroom that necessitates the Laodicean message.
When Adam sinned he was not entitled to one more breath of air, one more bite of food, one more moment of blissful love. All his innocence and goodness was gone forever. All he deserved was the grave. But he continued to live because of "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19, 20).
The 1888 message has brought to our attention familiar Scriptures to help us see the solution to our "original sin" problem of enmity with God. God spoke the everlasting covenant to the serpent. He promised to put "enmity" between Satan and the woman and her descendants (Gen. 3:15). God didn't ask Adam and Eve to make a deal with Him by promising to do good. Their sin had defrocked them of all goodness. God simply wanted them to believe His covenant of salvation in the Surety, Christ Jesus, who pledged Himself to stand good for all the promises.
God promised them "enmity" against Satan. He freed their enslaved will so that they could choose to believe. God has done for us what He did for Adam. "God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3, NKJV). He has given, not merely offered, faith to every person.
Divine love took the initiative. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us ... When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:8, 10). Christ effected a legal reconciliation [atonement] on behalf of God's "enemies," "sinners," "the ungodly;" without their even repenting of sin beforehand. God has pardoned the transgressors. [4] "As the result of one misdeed [Adam's] was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act [Christ's cross] is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:18, REB). The gift of God is "acquittal and life for all" (vss. 15-18).
But let's be careful here: legal justification and "receiving the atonement" are two different things. We receive the atonement [reconciliation] only when we believe. "We have now received the atonement [reconciliation]," Paul says in Romans 5:11, when we are "justified by faith" (vs. 1). But the reception of the gift, that is another matter. The reception is up to us. Only by believing can we receive the Gift that is already given. If I give you a gift, no strings attached, and then you throw it away, that doesn't change the fact that I gave it to you. To confuse legal justification with justification by faith will not help us finish the work in this generation; it will set our clock back to the 16th century, and lead to antinomianism. Instead of completing the Reformation begun by Luther and Calvin, such confusion will only retard its progress.
Have you ever tried to hug someone to express your love and found that person like a stone or a telephone pole, no responsive hug given back? Maybe as a parent you are concerned about emotional frigidity in your child. This person is like a statue, no response to you. Welcome to God's "club"! This is His problem with the human race--massive alienation. We are born separated from Him.
Ever since sin invaded planet earth with the fall of Adam and Eve, God has wrestled with this most serious problem He has ever faced. He is handicapped in that He cannot force anyone. He has to obey the rules, to stand back; a human heart can only be "won." All He can do is "hug" us and keep hoping that somehow His love can get through, and those barriers will come down. It's like waiting for a whole new creation, and that is precisely what it is: "Henceforth ... if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things [coldness] are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:16, 17).
Here we catch a glimpse of Christ as our great High Priest in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary--working night and day to woo us, to win us. When you hug someone you try to look in his/her eyes, to "hug" with your eyes, to say, "I love you" that way, hoping you can arouse something warm in response, hoping to provoke some little response of a choice, "Yes, I choose to respond; I don't know how, but I choose to be reconciled to you." When that happens, how happy you are! Welcome to the Most Holy Apartment of Christ's heavenly sanctuary! You can sympathize with Him as He wrestles with His problem worldwide. But don't give up on Him. He has resources to accomplish His objective. But the struggle is intense. If He fails to win the heart of His Bride-to-be, to melt that icy coldness in Laodicea, He will be forever pained and humiliated.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "After Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, they were filled with a sense of shame and terror. At first their only thought was how to excuse their sin before God and escape the dreaded sentence of death ... The spirit of self-justification originated in the father of lies and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of Adam" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 637, 638).
[2] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1095.
[3] Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 68.
[4] Ellen White speaks thus of "conditions": "The question will come up, How is it? Is it by conditions that we receive salvation? Never by conditions do we come to Christ" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 537). We can receive agape "only as the unmerited bestowal of the Father's love" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 210).
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Sabbath: A Gift From Eden"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 11: 
"Sabbath: A Gift From Eden" 
The Forgotten Sign--The True Sabbath
When you travel into an unfamiliar area, you pay attention to the signs in order to identify the right road to your destination. In the journey of life we also need to follow the Lord's direction signs. But there is one of His signs which most people are not following. Yet this sign was appointed by Christ our Creator in the beginning.
There are several references in the New Testament which identify the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator-God who made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Why the seventh? Not because He was weary. The Word of God declares that "the Creator ... fainteth not, neither is weary" (Isa. 40:28).
Scripture presents the reason: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it:because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:2, 3).
Christ's Sabbath is a memorial or sign that He is the Creator: "Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord." "It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for [because] in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed" (Ex. 31:15, 17).
Not only did Christ the Creator rest on the seventh day of the first week, He also sanctified it, or set it apart, as holy. The Word of God declares that He "sanctified it: because that in it He had rested."
What Makes the Sabbath Holy?
The six days of creation formed the groundwork for the sanctification of the seventh day for man. The word "Sabbath," from the Hebrew, means rest. The Hebrew cognate verb shabbath means to cease, to rest, or to keep asabbath. This verb occurs twice in Genesis 2:2, 3, where it is translated as "rested." In the beginning, Christ's rest made this day the Sabbath day. Christ the Creator confirms this in Exodus 20:11. He identifies the seventh day as the Sabbath day: "The Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."
The Lord who spoke the Ten Commandments at Sinai is Christ. The fourth commandment identifies Him as the Creator (Ex. 20:8-11). So according to the New Testament, Christ is the Creator, the Lord who spoke these commandments, with God the Father. And, the Lord who spoke the Ten Commandments is the same One who sustained them: "They [the children of Israel] drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:1-4; see also Neh. 9:12, 13).
Christ says: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work" (Ex. 20:8-10).
Christ has given His Sabbath to be a sign that He is the One who makes persons holy, the One who saves in addition to being the Creator. He considers His Sabbath as a sign that He is the Savior. This reveals the high value Christ places upon the Sabbath for His people. The heart of theSabbath is Christ.
A False Sabbath and Righteousness by Works
The substitution of human ordinances for divinely appointed institutions forms a part of the false principle of righteousness by works. The man-made Sunday sabbath in place of the Christ-appointed seventh-day Sabbath is one example. This substitution places the authority of man above the authority of Christ. Many do not realize that the keeping of the false sabbath of the first day of the week in place of the true seventh-day Sabbath of Christ is a part of this false principle of righteousness by works!
God's threefold message of Revelation 14:6-12 is designed to correct this false principle. The message leads into the righteousness by faith that is seen in obedience to all the commandments of God. It restores the trueSabbath of Christ as a sign of righteousness by faith. The issue of the worship of Christ as the Creator (vs. 7) versus the worship of the beast and his image (vs. 9) is basically the issue of righteousness by faith and the essence of the third angel's message.
Someday the work of the threefold message will come into its final movements. The earth will be illuminated with the glory of Christ's righteousness. (Compare Rev. 18:1-4 with Rom. 9:28.) The Sabbath will be preached and understood in its deep spiritual aspects.
The Lord wants you to be a part of this last-day threefold message. Be one of those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This is the wisest, the best, the most rewarding decision you will ever make.
Justification by Faith and the Sabbath
Ellen G. White, in her familiar quotation about the Lord in His great mercy sending in 1888 "a most precious message through Elders Waggoner and Jones," continues: "it [the message] presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God(Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92; emphasis added).
Justification by faith is far more than a legal declaration, it becomes a purely personal experience. The heart of the one who believes is reconciled at-one with God. And furthermore: since no one can be reconciled to God and at the same time not be reconciled to God's holy law, it follows that genuine justification by faith makes the believer demonstrate "obedience to all the commandments of God," including willing acceptance of the Sabbath truth.
The Sabbath Seals Your Oneness With Christ
If you were offered a truck loaded with gold, it would not be a blessing as rich as the Sabbath. It brings what gold can never bring--happiness. The Hebrew title of Psalm 92 is, "A Song for the Sabbath" (GNB):
How good it is to give thanks to You, O Lord, 
to sing in your honor, O Most High God, 
to proclaim Your constant love every morning 
and Your faithfulness every night, ... 
Your mighty deeds, O Lord, make me glad; 
because of what You have done, I sing for joy.
When we are oppressed by temptation and trials, we are to think of His "mighty deeds," and we shall be made glad again. That great power is exercised to deliver us. Nothing is too hard for the Lord, and no power can withstand Him. When we rest in that power, the victory is already won.
For this reason, the Sabbath is the seal of a new creature in Christ, one who is united with Him by faith. Born a creature of the dust, he is now a newly born member of the heavenly family. The Sabbath is therefore the "seal of God" which is placed upon "the foreheads" of God's servants in these last days (Rev. 7:1-4). It came from Paradise and marks those who are destined to live eternally in Paradise. As they assemble through eternity from Sabbath toSabbath, they will "sing for joy" because of what their Savior has done for them: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
In Christ we find rest; in Him we keep the Sabbath, in Him we find rest from sin and self.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
(Compiled by Carol A. Kawamoto)

Monday, March 4, 2013

SST # 10 "Stewardship and the Environment" Pastor Paul Penno

"Stewardship and the Environment"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 10: "Stewardship and the Environment"
Since Seventh-day Adventists believe that the earth will be made completely new at the end of the millennium, why should we worry about "keeping" this sin-plagued garden? That was the job given to Adam when God created the earth. Today secular humanism tells us that if we all work together we can save all the endangered animals, prevent global warming, and achieve world peace. "Just give peace a chance," they sing. That would be wonderful, but only an individual change of heart because of an appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ, possible only by the working of the Holy Spirit, will produce a perfect world of peace. As long as people refuse that, they will continue to act in their own interests and will ignore the rights of others.
"Meeting human needs" must be the guiding principle of stewardship. Being good stewards means much more than paying tithes and offerings. First and foremost, it means yielding to the Holy Spirit who changes your heart to reflect that self-emptying love, agape. Without that, we cannot have the Spirit-guided empathy necessary to discern true need and proper management of earthly resources in order to meet human needs.
At creation, Adam was given dominion over all creatures. Power always comes with responsibility. For a time Adam accepted and fulfilled that responsibility, but when he placed his love of Eve above God, he abdicated his position and lost the power to fully carry out the responsibility. Before sin he was to cultivate and keep his dominion, but after sin the ground was cursed and much greater effort was required. In fact, they were to labor for the great majority of their time, but God preserved the blessing of the Sabbath rest on the seventh day of the week. They were to appreciate the attributes of God as revealed by His creation and were given rest from their labors on that day.
Instead of entering into that rest, Adam's descendants began to act as if God did not exist, and there was no need to remember Him as the creator. By the time Israel came to Sinai, God had to tell them to remember the Sabbath, which had apparently been forgotten. God wanted Israel to demonstrate to the world how He could save a group of people, but they needed to spend a full 24 hours each week appreciating God's creative power as revealed in His creation. God wants His children to remember they are His, not their own creation. Only then can we rest in His promises to create us anew.
But Israel did everything but rest in His promises, and we need to learn from their experience. "The rest that was offered to the children of Israel in the desert, is the very same rest that Christ offers to all mankind, rest in God, in the everlasting arms,--for the only begotten Son 'is in the bosom of the Father.' John 1:19. ... But God always was and is everywhere present; why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence. Instead of taking God into account in all the affairs of life, most people live as though He did not exist. ... It is as Creator that God reveals Himself, for the fact that He creates marks Him as the self-existent God, and distinguishes Him from all false gods. ... Now since rest is found only in God's presence, and His presence is truly known and appreciated only through His works, it is evident that the promised rest must be very closely connected with creation" (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 283-284). [1]
The meek, gentle, and humble will inherit the earth. Using Israel as a type of the redeemed, God was about to give the land of Canaan to Israel when Moses told them: "for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you" (Deut. 12:9, NASB).
"The rest and the inheritance are inseparable. In Christ, who is 'God with us,' we find rest, 'in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him that worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.' ... 'The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.' Ps. 16:5. He is both our rest and our inheritance; having Him, we have all" (op. cit., p. 285). The meek humbly accept that only in Christ will they enter into rest and the promised inheritance.
Once they entered into the land and God gave them rest, which was always tenuous because of unbelief, Moses reminded Israel of their stewardship responsibility to bring offerings and tithes to the Lord (Deut. 12:11). The land was good, and they prospered from it. There may have been individuals who did not return anything to the Lord but He makes His sun to shine on all. Only in the judgment will the differences in heart be made known. Good stewards receive God's blessings on this earth and the earth to come. Stewardship, like entering into the Sabbath rest, is not forced by God, it is voluntary.
If appreciating the things that God created reveals Him to us, we should use the Sabbath hours to worship Him the Creator. The more we pollute and mismanage this earth and its resources, the less we can develop a proper appreciation of God as a loving and generous Creator.
There is also a spiritual stewardship responsibility given to those who understand the Gospel. If we use the specially blessed Sabbath hours to appreciate God's creation and the plan to redeem both mankind and the earth from the curses that sin brought, we are entering into rest from works-oriented religion and constant self-centered fear of being inadequate and unsafe to save. This message given to our church in 1888, gives a special peace to those who know and love it. They will become aware of their responsibility to be good stewards of it, and will join Israel in their responsibility to proclaim it "to the uttermost parts of the earth." "That God's design for Israel was that they should proclaim the Gospel to all the world, is seen in the fact that if they abode in His covenant they were to be a kingdom of priests" (op. cit., p. 272).
But the 1888 message has also taught us that 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." [2]
--Arlene Hill
[1] To read the entire chapter in The Everlasting Covenant, "The Promises to Israel: The Promised Rest (Part 1)," please go to the Website:
[2] From Ten Great Gospel Truths that Make the 1888 Message Unique, pp. 27-29.
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