Monday, September 30, 2013

SST #1 | "The Heavenly Sanctuary" | Pastor Paul Penno

"The Heavenly Sanctuary"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Sanctuary
Lesson 1: "The Heavenly Sanctuary"

Welcome to a series of studies probing the deeper meaning of the sanctuary. Rather than being a dry, stale, and profitless "doctrine," the dynamic of the 1888 message restores its "presiding power" in the soul. Far from being an abstract concept, light-years away from our practical day-to-day living, it is "present truth" about Jesus that brings encouragement and refreshment.
Thus far Seventh-day Adventists haven't even made an impression upon the Evangelical consciousness, much less the Christian world at-large, regarding the sanctuary truth. And yet, the sanctuary is "the third angel's message," which is the basis of our public evangelism. "The everlasting gospel" and "the hour of His judgment" are identifiable with "the truth of the gospel" which is to be proclaimed to the world in all its clarity.
Our usual introduction to the public of the sanctuary truth is that of a mathematical puzzle to be solved in the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14. Is the sanctuary simply a math problem? Unless this finds an answer, devotion to our sanctuary message dries up. And if that happens, say goodbye to any meaningful Seventh-day Adventist message beyond that of the Seventh Day Baptists.
The challenge is constantly thrown at us: can you prove the SDA "sanctuary message" (including 1844 and the "investigative judgment") from the Bible alone, without using Ellen White as a crutch?
She said: "The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith," "our faith" being the unique teachings of Seventh-day Adventists that make us different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches. [1] "[It's] the central pillar that sustains the structure of our position." [2]
She was right! If "the sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men," [3] then what Christ is ministering there (to those who will receive it) is the experience of justification by faith. That's the business He is doing in His "office." Our concern is--how does the sanctuary message relate to that special truth?
Why are so many Seventh-day Adventists today giving up the sanctuary message? What they have understood has always been only a cold theological doctrine. It never became a heart-gripping, heart-melting truth. They never learned to love the message. It left them cold, and probably in many cases, worse than that--it left them dominated by nightmarish fear.
They saw Christ's ministry in the Most Holy Apartment as a court trial where our very existence is jeopardized. A rejection slip in the investigative judgment was a consignment to hell. So this distorted view of the doctrine was not mere theological trivia; its side effect to them was spiritual terror.
But the issue could not be more important to understand. The most disturbing statement Ellen White ever made makes simple common sense. It is a brief passage [4] where she says that if we reject a change in Christ's sanctuary ministry in 1844, we lay ourselves open to a deception of the false christ posing in place of the True One, putting on a show that is complete with miracles. By now, the counterfeit has become extremely sophisticated.
Yet we face the influence of former prominent Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders who repudiate these insights about a difference in Christ's high priestly ministry. It may not be their fault that they feel this way. Ministers and leaders in our past generally have taught them the sanctuary message divorced from the special enlightenment of the 1888 message. The "most precious message" was hijacked when the Lord "sent" it.
Ellen White told us in 1896 that "by the action of our own brethren [the light] has been in a great degree kept away from the world" and "from our [own] people." [5] So let's be charitable to these current sanctuary message rejectors, and "consider others lest we also be tempted." These people among us who today are rejecting the sanctuary message very likely never grasped the 1888 message. They grew up and went through academy, college, and university without anyone teaching them either the message or its history. To this day none of our schools offers a course in the 1888 message. Anyone who gets it does so by accident.
The message lifts the unique Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message out of confusion and perplexity and clothes it in the bright garments of Christ's righteousness, that is, the gospel seen as very good news. There are two books that warm the heart through unique sanctuary ideas in the 1888 message:
E. J. Waggoner's The Glad Tidings explains the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. There you discover that the gospel is very good news. It grips your heart.
Justification by faith is far more than a cold theological formula. It's good news far beyond the perception of pastors and leaders who don't see the Sabbath truth, nor the sanctuary doctrine, nor the truth about sleeping saints awaiting the resurrection "in Christ." God has many people in the Sunday-keeping churches living up to all the light they have. They simply don't see the 1888 idea of justification by faith because they don't see that in death man sleeps until the resurrection, and they don't know to follow Christ in His closing work of atonement in the most holy apartment. Both ideas are essential to justification by faith as it is "present truth" today.
A. T. Jones' The Consecrated Way provides a new perspective on the sanctuary truth. The heavenly sanctuary can never be "cleansed" until first of all the hearts of God's people are cleansed. That's simple! And it's far more than a legalistic accounting trick whereby God looks the other way while we continue sinning. The missing factor is supplied by a new and clearer grasp of justification by faith, which Ellen White saw makes the 1888 message become "the third angel's message in verity." [6]
"Faith" believes when some women tell you on Sunday morning that Jesus is risen from the dead, and you haven't seen Him. Faith doesn't wait to put your fingers in the holes in His hands or in His side, as Thomas insisted. According to 1 John 4:16, truth requires a greater commitment than mere intellectual conviction: "We have known and believed." That's how we follow the true Christ in His ministry in the most holy apartment--convincing objective evidence plus a heart appreciation of it.
The message of the True Witness to the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" turns out to be the sanctuary truth itself. This message has not become a museum piece in our denominational attic; it grips hearts worldwide today wherever it is presented. The Holy Spirit impresses souls who seek to follow Christ of His much more abounding grace for overcoming.
The sanctuary message that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us must yet lighten the earth with glory. Thank God, it will; and that, soon.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Evangelism, p. 221.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 245 (1897).
[3] Evangelism, p. 222.
[4] Early Writings, pp. 55, 56; cf. pp. 260, 261.
[5] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235.
[6] Review and Herald (April 1, 1890).
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Monday, September 23, 2013

SST #13 | "The Promised Revival: God's Mission Completed" | Paul Penno

"The Promised Revival: God's Mission Completed"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Revival & Reformation
Lesson 13: "The Promised Revival: God's Mission Completed"

Our church leadership is obviously exhorting us to "revival and reformation" in this quarter of Sabbath School lessons. This is but an extension of a recent thrust in this regard since the 2010 General Conference in Atlanta. But this is only the latest cycle of "exhortations" since 1888.
Why these repeated appeals to "revival and reformation"? Is the nature of "R&R" temporary only to be necessarily restarted again and again? Or has the True Witness a permanent solution for our spiritual "lukewarmness"?
Our lesson 13 on "The Promised Revival" presents many good things from the Bible on "the Latter Rain." It rightly identifies the gospel of "God's message of love and truth" with the angel of Revelation 18:1. [1] A number of encouraging quotations scattered throughout the lesson from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy indicate the victorious outcome.
The missing link is "the Latter Rain" given as initial showers in 1888. "The Lord in His great mercy sent a most preciousmessage to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with theoutpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [2]
What was resisted in 1888 and beyond to this day is the "latter rain." Ellen White confirms that the "latter rain" was opposed. There was "opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit [latter rain] that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost [early rain]." [3]
Essentially what we are being asked to do is surrender, study, and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter rain proportions, when, in fact, Christ has already given it to us in our history. [4] We are being told that the laity is the big holdup in the outpouring of the Spirit because "our leaders are calling us to it." [5] The fact is, "the light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory [Rev. 18:1] was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." [6]
The position that our brethren take as to whether the church accepted the 1888 message is that initially there was resistance. However, righteousness by faith gained traction among the leadership. It was fully embraced. It is our evangelistic message to the world.
What we need to clearly understand is that the church is teaching righteousness by faith, but it's the evangelical understanding of justification. Does Jesus straighten out crooked people with a legal pardon? Does believing in Jesus correct an auditing problem regarding the sinner's heavenly accounts. Evangelicals teach that by believing one is legally justified. Sanctification is never completed until the second coming. Should Seventh-day Adventists teach what other churches teach about righteousness by faith?
"The truth of the gospel" is an understanding of justification by faith which is consistent with and parallel to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary idea. The word "justification" or "righteousness" means to straighten out that which is crooked. What is the heart-changing Good News that can change the alienation and resistance which God's people have toward Him?
Christ did not die like one who takes a holiday break from all the stresses of persecution and rejection to get away from it all. He made the choice to give up all future claims to the Godhead and a relationship with His Father. The cross was the most complete and utter demonstration of agape that had ever been revealed to mankind.
We need to see Christ's "blood." "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5:19). God made the sacrifice and so did Christ in order to assuage our "enmity" against Him. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God made the sacrifice in order to win our hearts.
When you "see" Their atonement and appreciate what it cost Them to sacrifice all, then you can say you have authentic faith. You experience the forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness involves something more than a legal adjustment to your heavenly accounts. You appreciate the sacrifice. You identify yourselves fully with the One "who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Looking to Jesus as a priest who forgives sin so that it can be repeated again and again, only to be forgiven again, is to remain in a first apartment ministry. Is Jesus an accomplice to such recidivism? A mere legal understanding of righteousness by faith is to completely misunderstand His second phase of ministry.
This is where the Evangelicals are including many Adventists. It's a wonderful ministry of legal forgiveness of sins which Jesus performed for 1800 years in the first phase. If you're planning to die, make sure your sins are forgiven. You'll come up in the resurrection at the second coming.
But Jesus isn't there anymore. He's been in the second phase since 1844. And we should be interested in what He wants. Forgiving sin over and over could go on forever without any resolution to the sin problem. It would forever leave our High Priest in embarrassment that Satan has invented something--sin--for which the gospel has no solution to save. Satan would win his case in God's hour of judgment. Satan would win the great controversy.
What does Jesus want? It should be what we want. We finally stop thinking about what we want selfishly. We finally stop thinking about the easy way to heaven,--the underground route. Jesus will prepare a willing people, a cleansed people, for translation without seeing death at His second coming. They will be a fully ripened harvest--the 144,000--sealed with God's unselfish love, of which the seventh day Sabbath is the visible sign.
This is what caused Ellen White to rejoice in the 1888 message. She saw in their message an understanding of justification by faith compatible with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea. Justification "is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." [7] In others words, here is the clearest gospel of all because it is in harmony with the law of God.
If we can begin to understand our own opposition and resistance to Christ as a denomination, then our history is only one heartbeat away from Calvary. Once we see our true involvement in the crucifixion of Christ, we are prepared to recognize our involvement in the sin of rejecting the latter rain and the loud cry message of 1888. No longer can we smugly brush it off, saying, "It's no concern of mine, I wasn't even born then," any more than we can brush off our involvement with the cross. As surely as the shadow of Calvary hangs over the Jews as a nation, so surely does the shadow of 1888 hang over us as a church. "Just like the Jews."
The latter rain will therefore be a gift of the Holy Spirit that will bring the true and ultimate conviction of sin that only He can bring to human hearts: the guilt of the crucifixion of Christ is our sin. But that is a truth that we don't comprehend clearly, as yet. When God's people do grasp that reality, there will come the greatest repentance of the ages (Zech. 12:10-13:1). It will become the "final" experience of reconciliation with Christ, something known as "the final atonement."
This will make possible a movement, a self-propagating and permanent reformation and revival, a second "Pentecost," a message, to be proclaimed worldwide that will "lighten the earth with glory," and prepare a people for Christ's return.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Sunday, September 22.
[2] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92 (emphasis supplied).
[3] Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234-235 (emphasis supplied).
[4] We are told that "our leaders are calling us to" "revival and reformation." This "will not happen until we, as individuals, make a conscious choice to surrender ourselves with all our hearts and souls and minds to the Lord" (Friday, September 27).
[5] Friday, September 27.
[6] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235 (emphasis supplied).
[7] Op. cit., p. 92.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 12: "Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships"
Our lesson on "Healing Broken Relationships" seems to focus on inter-personal relationships--"breaking down the barriers in our relationships with one another." This will be impossible until the greatest "broken relationship" in the history of the planet is healed--the crucifixion of Christ. And what will create this healing? The crucifixion of self--the repentance of the ages that Christ has been calling us to since the time He walked this earth.
Our lesson says that "great spiritual revivals in the past fostered healed relationships." In describing the revival meetings held at South Lancaster early in 1889 (shortly after the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis), Ellen White directs us to the vital heart of the practical godliness aspect of the message given by the Lord to A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner to present at that Session:
"I have never seen a revival work go forward with such thoroughness, and yet remain so free from all undue excitement. There was no urging or inviting. The people were not called forward, but there was a solemn realization that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. ... We seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven. .. What a beautiful sight it was to the universe to see that as fallen men and women beheld Christ, they were changed, taking the impression of His image upon their souls. ... They saw themselves depraved and degraded in heart. ... This subdues the pride of the heart, and is a crucifixion of self." [1]
This idea of "crucifixion of self" is, or course, not new. Paul, Christ's best defender, says, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20); you are never crucified alone. He says that if you can understand how good is Christ's Good News (in Matt. 11:28-30, for example) you'll consider all this love of self, this love-of-the-world baggage that has so engrossed you, as being so much "garbage." You'll drop it in a moment when you see the "excellency" of being crucified with Christ (read Phil. 3:7, 8; that word "dung" in the KJV means literally "what is thrown to the dogs").
Yes, let yourself feel ashamed--it's a healthy experience. Our souls unite with Him "through faith" (Eph. 2:8). His cross becomes our cross and His glorious victory becomes ours. "Behold Him" on that cross; join Him there. Then you can learn to "glory" in Christ's cross.
Tuesday's lesson admonishes us that "God calls us to cooperation, not competition." Again, the focus must be on Christ, cooperating with Christ first, then cooperation with each other will follow naturally. Cooperation with God involves saying "Yes!" to His call to service. Many shrink from making a full consecration of themselves to Christ because they fear the consequences such a consecration might involve. If the thought of giving yourself to "Africa" as a missionary frightens you, think of one truth that will help you: read Romans 6:13 and grasp that you would be in your eternal grave now if the Son of God had not died in your place and bought you with His blood. Seeing, realizing, comprehending, appreciating this simple truth makes sacrifice for Him "henceforth" "easy," and His "burden [to be] light" (see Matt.11:28-30; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15). Cooperate with Him; let Him use you as one of His agents to help somebody else who is "weary and heavy laden."
As we wind down these lessons on "revival and reformation," the quarterly asks "... what is the greatest thing holding us [the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole] back from the kind of revival and reformation that will be needed in order to reach the world?" The answer given is that "the problem lies solely in us, in our inter-personal relationships, our petty jealousies, our bickering, our selfishness," etc.
The 1888 message shows us that 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 lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts. [2]
The New Covenant truths were the central issues in the 1888 message story. Young E. J. Waggoner had been gifted by the Lord with an understanding that far surpassed that of his silver-haired elder brethren. Ellen White declared that the Lord had done this for him. She said, "Since I made the statement last Sabbath that the view of the covenants as it had been taught by Brother Waggoner was truth, it seems that great relief has come to many minds." [3]
Old Covenant thinking on the part of sincere Christians who want to follow Jesus "genders to bondage" (Gal. 4:24). It's tragic that they do not realize that the Old Covenant ideas that have enslaved their thinking are a counterfeit of the pure, true gospel. They wonder why their "Christian experience" is so disappointing; they do not know the truth of the New Covenant. They assume therefore that the gospel is impotent, when they have inherited only a distorted view of it.
Many of you have probably memorized at least part of what Ellen White has written in Steps to Christ (p. 47): "You are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you [this is what Paul means when he says that the old covenant 'gives birth to bondage']. ... You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. ... Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him."
The Old Covenant was formally endorsed by the leaders of Israel at Mt. Sinai when they got together and voted to respond to the Lord's Good News Gospel declaration of what He would do for them, "All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do" (Ex. 19:8; in a matter of days they were worshipping a golden calf!).
The Lord never asked them to make that promise! When the Lord in Genesis 15:6 called Abraham out of his tent to count the stars of the Milky Way and declared to him as a divine promise, "So shall thy seed be," He did not ask the patriarch to make any promise in return! Abraham's job was to believeHis divine promise.
God's promise was one-sided. And when Abraham did believe, the Lord graciously "counted it to him for righteousness" (15:6). That's what He does for all of us; our promises to Him are vain. Worse, because the Lord does not call for such vain promises, the whole system is lethal, producing "bondage."
Now, let us walk in the bright sunshine of the New Covenant promises of God.
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] Review and Herald, March 5, 1889.
[2] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Gospel Truths That Make the 1888 Message Unique, Gospel Truth #6, pp. 22-24.
[3] Letter to Uriah Smith 59, 1890.
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 11: "Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts"
Most religions and philosophies teach that it is possible to redirect thought patterns of the mind with enough conscious effort. Concentration or meditation is usually the method recommended, so the devout spend as much time as possible emptying the mind of earthly thoughts in anticipation of some epiphany from the gods. If you haven't reached nirvana, you must try harder; the gods will remain indifferent to you until you reach that elusive highest level.
This is an old covenant counterfeit of Satan, but like all counterfeits, it contains elements that are true. It is true that God wants our thought patterns to change, not to bring Him closer to us, but so we can accept more of His blessings. It is true that meditation helps to focus the mind, but not as an end unto itself, as a means of making our minds available to God. The "epiphany" may or may not happen, but like the phenomenon of receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it isn't to give us a mystical experience known only by the individual. Any epiphany comes from seeing new facets of God as we meditate on His word, not on "nothing" in the hope of getting a private revelation.
It is true that by beholding, we become changed. What does it mean to "behold"? It can't mean that we look at an object 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only thing a Christian should want is to become more like Christ, so logically, he or she should spend time studying and meditating on Him. This sounds simple, but we have an enemy who is trying to crowd our lives with everything else. There are so many distractions in this world, we tend to think of them as irresistible, but that's a lie of Satan. True, the distractions like your TV exist, but it's just a box/screen that you have. Unless you have programmed it, it doesn't turn itself on or to specific channels. The choice of when, how much, and what you watch depends on you. We tend to think of the TV's enticements as irresistible, but like all the world's other distractions, it's always a choice.
The problem is how to make the right choices. The answer cannot be a works-oriented effort to reprogram our mind to never make wrong choices. E. J. Waggoner described it this way:
"Let us now apply this illustration in a case of conflict against sin. Here comes a strong temptation to do a thing known to be wrong. We have often proved to our sorrow the strength of the temptation, because it has vanquished us, so that we know that we have no might against it. But now our eyes are upon the Lord, who has told us to come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. So we begin to pray to God for help. And we pray to the God that is revealed to us in the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. We begin, not with a mournful statement of our weakness, but with a joyful acknowledgment of God's mighty power. That being settled, we can venture to state our difficulty and our weakness. If we state our weakness first, and our discouraging situation, we are placing ourselves before God. In that case Satan will magnify the difficulty and throw his darkness around us so that we can see nothing else but our weakness, and so, although our cries and pleading may be fervent and agonizing, they will be in vain, because they will lack the essential element of believing that God is, and that He is all that He has revealed Himself to be" (Christ and His Righteousness, p. 92).
We are admonished to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), but how do we do that? Paul outlines the steps Christ was willing to submit to in coming to this earth: "although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" (vs. 6). How does this help the person struggling with sin? We aren't God, but often we try to be. Idolatry is, ultimately, the worship of self and one's own ideas. We are not equal with God and any attempt to insert our own philosophy of how to worship Him is paying homage to ourselves. When Adam decided to eat the forbidden fruit, he was asserting his ideas of what was best for him above what God had instructed. We must never forget that He is our creator God.
Christ laid aside His divine privileges and took the form of a bond-servant (vss. 7, 8). Humans never want to step down and lower their position in life, the desire is always to improve and advance. Christ was willing to humble Himself in obedience to the requirements of the plan of salvation agreed to by the Godhead (vs. 8).
In the ultimate act of humility, Christ submitted to the most feared method of death, that of the cross. The Jews were instructed (Deut. 21:22, 23) that if you were sentenced to death on a "tree," you were cursed by God and had no hope for resurrection. It is one thing for Christ to have died for the unknowing and ungrateful human race, but it was by faith that Christ was willing to become a curse for us with the very real possibility of never seeing life again. Christ was willing to believe His heavenly Father's promise not to leave Him in Sheol (the grave, Psalm 49:15).
Our humility is what God needs to let His Holy Spirit work in our minds to change them. "And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us" (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 668).
Satan always appeals to our old covenant nature, which strives to contribute to everything concerning our experience with God. With Israel of old we promise to God "all that the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8). We don't realize we are born with enmity to His law and need His creative power to change that.
The good news is that God has promised to do just that for us. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31:33). "And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God" (Ezek. 11:19, 20).
Notice the Person doing all the action is God, not us. No amount of concentration will change our thoughts which were "hard wired" into our stony heart, but a Creator God can give a new heart of flesh. What a wonderful hope!
--Arlene Hill
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Christ and His Righteousness - Jack Sequeira

Retired Pastor Jack Sequeira — At Downers Grove Church, 5524 Lee Ave, Downers Grove, Fri., Sept. 20, at 7 PM and Sabbath, Sept. 21, at 11 AM, 2:30 PM, and 4 PM speaking on the theme Christ and His Righteousness. There will be a potluck meal served.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 10: "Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change"
The True Witness gives to the Laodicean Church a reform message that if received and believed results in lasting revival. [1] It is the "straight testimony," the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. The "straight testimony" is an understanding of justification by faith,--"the third angel's message in verity," [2]--which agrees with "the blotting out of sin" from the soul temple. For this reason many "rise up against it" causing the "shaking." [3]
The message of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner was the beginning of that testimony to Laodicea. [4] God's "most precious message" has yet to be seriously considered on all levels of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the authentic reformation leading to permanent revival.
125 years ago there was an unwillingness to "grow and change." In the 1888 era the Advent people resisted their High Priest. Ellen White wrote: "The people have not entered into the holy place where Jesus has gone to make an atonement for His children." [5] The spirit of resistance to the 1888 message is passed from one generation to the next. We continue to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the form of the latter rain, when, in fact, the Lord has already given it to us in our history and it can be rediscovered.
Inspired insight wrote over 100 times, "Just like the Jews." We are repeating their resistance to the Messiah. The only responsible thing for Jews today praying for their Messiah to come is to go back in their history and rediscover the truth that has already come. The only responsible thing for the Adventist Church is to go back in our history and see where the Lord gave us our showers of the "latter rain." Our ideas of revival and reformation are to be exchanged for the True Witness's ideas of reformation and revival. He is giving a thorough-going denominational repentance, but thus far it has not been received (Rev. 3:19, 20).
Since the turn of the 21st century a number of books bearing the titles "Latter Rain," "God's Last Message," and "Christ Our Righteousness" have come off the presses. They basically reinforce the idea that although the message of righteousness by faith was initially resisted during the 1888 era, things have changed and we are now proclaiming that message. One searches in vain to find any clarity of thought connecting justification by faith with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea. Little progress has been made in recovering our sanctuary message, much less advancing it as the clearest gospel of all. For all our "desire" to have lasting revival and reformation, our ideas about how to obtain it remain old covenant. Revival is something we must do in order to produce reformation.
In our lesson for this week we are encouraged to study several biographical vignettes illustrating how reformation works. One day Jesus visited the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. It's where the sick people hung out hoping for the movement of the water. A man who was lame for 38 years had a plan. If he could be the first to get to the water, he would be healed by the visiting angel. When Jesus showed up asking, "Wilt thou be made whole?" (John 5:6), the man said, before I can get to the water, others beat me to the draw. He implied that if Jesus could help him to the water, then he would be healed. That was his Plan A for getting healed.
When Jesus said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (vs. 8) the man had a decision to make. Either stick with his plan A, or respond to Jesus' command. He chose the latter and was healed. Jesus' word produced a reformation in the man's thinking as to the way he could be healed. He had never thought of this way to healing. He was willing to give up his plan and be reformed by the Lord's idea for healing. The order here is that reformation of truth brings permanent revival.
The Bible revelation of the character of God is: Jesus says, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). The story of the prodigal son emphasizes the seeking love of the father--the lost boy would never have said, "I will arise and go to my father" unless the seeking love of the father had drawn him (cf. John 12:32, 33).
Our children and youth must not be given the idea that God is like a doctor deep in his inner office, hard to find! The seeking love of the Father and the self-emptying love of Christ must be made plain early and through their teen years. An outward profession based on fear is empty; it's the heart that must be won by the truth of His love.
Our current "offer" view of God's forgiveness forces us to see the prodigal son differently. If he is "under condemnation" until he takes the initiative to come home, he cannot be a family member, a son; he is a stranger. But the biblical view sees the prodigal as still being a son even while he was rioting and then in the pigsty--a son, indeed, although a lost one. Did the father "make" him a son only when he came home?
The Bible view tells the prodigal, You are a child of God "in Christ" by virtue of His sacrifice as the second Adam, and He has elected you since He gave Himself for you on His cross. But you have wandered away and sold your birthright. Now, realize and appreciate your true status in Him. Let His love draw you home where you belong, by virtue of His already adopting you "in Christ."
God does not regard unconverted people as wolves to be shot down as soon as possible; no, but He regards them as sheep, not in the fold, to be sure, but still sheep--lost sheep. They need to be converted, to be born again, yes; but all the while God considers them to be heirs to His estate because He sent forth His Son to be "made of a woman" as we are all "made of a woman." He has adopted the human race "in Christ."
You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5), loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know it; you felt ostracised, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected; but God did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God." The proof that He has reconciled you? Gal. 3:6, "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your heart, crying, Abba, Father." What a beautiful, yes and powerful, illustration of Good News "in Christ," and now you can see it for yourself, because your human heart is crying "Father... !"
Your sin-hardened heart receives the atonement. Now there is no end to the amount of good works faith can produce motivated by God's forgiving love. Here is justification by faith which manifests itself by obedience to all the commandments of God. [6] It is the clearest understanding of justification because it is consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] "Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' 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" (Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904).
[2] Evangelism, p. 190; Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[3] "I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people" (Early Writings, p. 270).
[4] "The message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).
[5] "Need of Earnestness in the Cause of God," The Advent Review And Sabbath Herald (Feb. 25, 1890).
[6] This is what caused Ellen White's heart to rejoice when she heard "a most precious message [which the Lord sent] to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It 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 (1895), pp. 91, 92).
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno’s video of this lesson are on the Internet at:
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