Friday, December 26, 2014

'The Everlasting Gospel'

SST #13 | 'The Everlasting Gospel' | Paul Penno:

Lesson 13: "The Everlasting Gospel"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 13: "The Everlasting Gospel"

As we come to a close of thirteen studies of the book of James, we are reminded that "the everlasting gospel" is taught throughout the Bible. It is a joy to share in these few paragraphs the 1888 perspective of salvation throughout the Scriptures.
Surely at some time in your life you have worked for wages. You know what it is to toil all day long. And all the while you kept thinking about the wage your employer had promised to pay you for your hard labor. When you got it, you knew you deserved every dollar, and probably more because you had worked so hard. What your employer paid you was not a gift, but a debt. A wage is something that is paid since you earned it.
But grace is just the opposite. Suppose that you do not work for your employer at all. He owes you nothing. And suppose, that in addition to the fact that you have done nothing to deserve anything from him, you have actually wronged him, perhaps stolen something from him. He could be angry with you if he chooses. But then suppose that he shows kindness to you by freely giving you a precious gift, in spite of all the evil you have done to him. Such a gift would be grace.
Now let us suppose that Christ is our employer. Does He award salvation and eternal life as wages to those who work hard to earn them? Or does He give salvation freely as grace to people who don't deserve it at all? And if He does, how can He be fair if He doesn't save everybody alike?
And, further, if He saves people by grace alone, what is the point of anyone needing a change of heart? People asked that same question in Paul's day, "Let us do evil that good may come?" (Rom. 3:8). These are some of the questions for which we need answers.
If good people can earn salvation, they have every right to be proud of themselves. And if nobody can earn it, why should anyone want to be good?
About 1900 B.C. the Lord called a man out of Ur of the Chaldees to become an example of salvation by grace. His name was Abraham, and Paul calls him "the father of all who have faith." All who believe in Christ are Abraham's spiritual "children." When the apostle Paul "turned the world upside down" with his gospel teaching, it was Abraham whom he put forward as proof of his teaching. Abraham's experience in finding salvation is a perfect example of how we too may find it. Did he earn it? Or was he simply saved by the grace of God?
Paul answers the question, "What shall we say, then, of Abraham, the father of our race? What was his experience? If he was put right with God by the things he did, he would have something to boast about--but not in God's sight. The Scripture says, 'Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.' A person who works is paid his wages, but they are not regarded as a gift; they are something that he has earned. But the person who depends on his faith, not on his deeds, and who believes in the God who declares the guilty to be innocent, it is his faith that God takes into account in order to put him right with himself." (Rom. 4:1-5, Good News Bible).
If God saved Abraham simply by his grace, because Abraham believed, then it follows that you and I are saved in exactly the same way. The gospel was preached to Abraham just as it is preached to us today (see Gal. 3:8). God requires no more from us than He required from Abraham--faith. He has always had only one way of saving the lost--through faith.
This is still a new idea to mankind, 4000 years later! You don't see "grace" in the world today, unless it has come by Jesus Christ. Nobody gives you anything for free, whether a nice house, a piece of property, or a car. Nobody even brings you food for free. You have to earn everything you put into your mouth. The world operates strictly on the principle of "works." You get what you earn, and what you don't work for you don't get.
So completely are mankind given over to the idea of "works" that they imagine that God operates on the same plan. They suppose they must do something in order to earn salvation from God. They must give Him something. They treat God as though He were a retailer. You never feel ashamed of yourself when you go into a shop to buy something. You have your money, you pay it to the retailer, and take what you have bought and you walk out proud and happy. You may feel you have done the retailer a favor, for you know he has made at least some profit on what he sold you.
But when someone gives you something freely as an act of grace, you don't know how you ought to feel. He has done you a favor, and it makes you feel humble. In some way you sense a debt to him.
People like to think that God keeps a business and "sells" salvation to those who will pay Him with their goodness. They like to bargain with Him, to feel like they have something they can give to God--their works. It makes them feel a little proud. They consider themselves somewhat on a level with Him; they give Him something, and they receive something from Him.
But God pays no wages whatever. All He gives is by grace, a free gift. The reason is that there is really nothing we can do to earn salvation, anymore than a baby can earn the food his parents provide him. They feed their baby "by grace." They love him, that is all. And that is the reason God saves us. "It is by His grace you are saved, ... it is not your own doing. It is God's gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of" (Eph. 2:8, New English Bible).
You would think that the world would receive the news with joy. But most people reject it. Why? They are too proud to come to God humbly and to hold out both hands in faith to receive from Him. To receive the "grace of God," we must humble our hearts, and acknowledge that we are nothing, that we have nothing, and that we deserve nothing, and that He gives everything.
There are many people living in this world who in their hearts want to be right with God. But they have been taught to believe something that is wrong, which separates them from God. They have been taught to believe that God loves only good people and that He restricts His mercy to those people who think they find it easy to obey Him. But many know that they have an evil heart that loves to do wrong; so they imagine that God is angry with them or has turned away from them.
But if the sunshine and the rain fall on the evil and the good alike, surely anyone can see that God's grace comes likewise to every man, woman, and child on the earth. Have you done bad things? Do you feel yourself unworthy of the kindness of God? You are the very person to whom He gives His wonderful grace!
There is nothing you can do to earn it any more than you can earn sunshine or rain. You simply receive it with thankfulness. And this thankful receiving is what the Bible calls "faith."
The work that grace accomplishes in every heart that believes is "to set us free from all wickedness and to make us a pure people ..." The grace has "dawned" upon all alike and the changed heart is the experience of those who believe (see Titus 2:11-14, New English Bible).
Christ redeems us to a new life of true, happy obedience "under grace." Sin actually loses its "dominion" when grace is appreciated, for grace is the stronger master. It "emancipates" us more effectively than Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.
--Paul E. Penno
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sabbath School Today, Lesson 12, Quarter 4-14

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 12: "Prayer, Healing, and Restoration"
Our lesson this week mentions Elijah several times, including his "important model of prayer" and "work of calling Israel back to God and true worship" (p. 96, regular lesson). We would like to focus on "Elijah" in this week's Sabbath School Today because his life and "legacy" are demonstrations of what God presented through Ellen G. White, Ellet J. Waggoner, and Alonzo T. Jones as the 1888 message, a message that fully embodies "prayer, healing, and restoration."
Who is this Elijah? He was the man who single-handedly confronted apostate Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel during gross apostasy in Baal worship (simply defined as the worship of self disguised as the worship of Christ). When the nation's rulers tried to kill him he had to hide in an unknown spot by the Brook Cherith, and later as a guest of a widow in the heathen land of Sidon. Elijah is not dead: he was translated without seeing death, a type of those living today who will welcome Jesus at His second coming.
First we must read the great promise in Malachi 4:5, 6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers."
Elijah must be someone special, for he was chosen to accompany the resurrected Moses to visit with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) and encourage Him as He faced the horror of His cross. Elijah is a live human being who never tasted death. Where he is in the universe no one knows. If God has already kept His promise and sent Elijah, and we haven't known it, has there been some modern "Ahab" and "Jezebel" who opposed his coming and tried to slay him again, or at least silence him? Is Elijah II being forced to hide in some modern "Brook Cherith," or as a guest of some foreign "widow of Zarephath" who is outside "Israel"? When Ahab and Jezebel tried to kill him and Elijah found refuge in Sidon, Jesus cited that fact to the acute embarrassment and anger of the true church of that day. What made them angry were these words of Jesus: "'I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon [a pagan land]. ...' All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath" (Luke 4:25, 26, 28).
Could it be that God has had to entrust the modern "Elijah" with believers outside our ranks? Could our sin be as great as that of God's people anciently? Does modern Israel despise Elijah II as much as ancient Israel despised Elijah I?
Actually, Elijah is good news. He encourages our children, whereas the frightening political situation is bad news. And what the Lord wants to tell the world is good news. He wants a New Covenant motivation to replace our time-honored Old Covenant one.
The common perception some have of "Elijah" is of a fiery-tempered reformer who specializes in chopping heads off prophets of Baal (religious leaders) with whom he disagrees, but that is not a balanced view of his ministry. The Lord may appoint Elijah II to do the equivalent to modern prophets of Baal, but that is not his primary work. His foremost mission is to "turn the hearts" of "fathers" and "children." That is healing and restoration--"reconciliation," the same as "atonement."
According to the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, we are living in the great antitypical Day of Atonement which comes just before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." In fact, today is that day, the special time of reconciliation, of turning hearts. Therefore it becomes clear that Elijah's work and message will be found in the unique remnant-church truth of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. That raises the question: has our neglect of that truth forced "Elijah's" message to take refuge with what we call "outsiders" like the "widow of Zarephath"? Or hidden as Obadiah hid some prophets of the Lord from Jezebel? We know that the bulk of God's true people are still in "Babylon," but we forget that the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 are primarily directed to the Sunday-keeping churches, where the bulk of God's people are to be found.
You already know the story of the original Elijah. In 1 Kings 17:1 he appears out of nowhere with no designation of "prophet" or evidence that the Lord had sent him. He just suddenly crashes the king's gate and startles him at his desk with the news that no more rain will fall until he agrees for it to come, "except at my word." Face it, this sounds arrogant. He doesn't say, "until the Lord agrees for rain to fall." He says, "at my word." Shocking as it is, Elijah has taken over the administration of the Lord's work in Israel. God has entrusted enormous responsibility to him personally, including control of the elements. Elijah is a forerunner of that group of overcoming people mentioned in Revelation 3:21 to whom Jesus says He will grant to "sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." Just as God gave executive authority to Elijah I, so He will give executive authority to those who overcome even as Christ overcame. Elijah II will have some important part from now on.
James does not say that the drought was the primary will of God; rather, it was His answer to the initiative of Elijah's prayer: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain ..." (James 5:17, 18).
After the extent of the famine had sobered even Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah suddenly confronts Obadiah. The king is humiliated to meet the prophet, and the appointment is made to call the people to Mount Carmel, where Elijah taunts the Baal preachers and demands that they demonstrate before the crowd the lie of their imported Baal worship. Then he prays a prayer that gives us a clue to what the modern "Elijah" will do when he comes again: "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again" (1 Kings 18:37).
Did you catch it? "Turning hearts" is Elijah's main concern, and that will be his work for the church and for the world when he comes just before the return of Jesus. And we know that turning alienated hearts in atonement (at-one-ment) is something only the message of Christ's cross can accomplish. Therefore it follows that Elijah's message will be lifting up "Christ and Him crucified." Jesus says something parallel to sending Elijah, "'Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.' This He said, signifying by what death He would die" (John 12:31-33).
As an evangelist, Paul caught the idea. This at last is real "evangelism": "And I, brethren, when I came to you, ... determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1, 2). Paul turned his world upside down with that message. From this we conclude that the message of that fourth angel which lightens the earth with glory (Rev. 18:1-4) will not be a fear-motivated brand of spiritual terrorism. Wherever and whoever "Elijah" is, he is not a spiritual terrorist scaring people into conversion; he is pleading as an "ambassador for Christ, ... we implore you, ... be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). What is the message he bears? What Christ accomplished on His cross: "For He [the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (vs. 21).
"Elijah" will proclaim nothing but positive "straight testimony." It will be the best Good News the world or the church has ever heard. His message will be the "third angel's message in verity," which will be a clearer concept of "the everlasting gospel" understood since Pentecost's message. The Protestant Reformers of the 16th century understood justification by faith clearly for their time; but they, including the Wesleys, lived too soon to grasp the idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary in this Day of Atonement. Even Ellen Harmon failed to grasp it until after the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844. When she came to her 60s she eagerly welcomed a message brought by two young men, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, to the General Conference Session in 1888 that gave a more clear understanding of justification by faith. This was the beginning of the Loud Cry of Revelation 18: it's initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain" (her words; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 4, p. 1478).
The "lost sheep" will realize that his salvation is totally due to the seeking love of His Good Shepherd, not his ability to "find" Him. This "turns" the worldly heart in contrition. "Faith" finds its true definition: the "believer" demonstrates it as his or her heart becomes a well from which flow "rivers of living water." This is the "evangelism" which will "lighten the earth with glory" and hasten the return of our Savior.
We appeal especially to young people: give your lives, not just a few days now and then to a mission trip, to cooperate with "Elijah" in this grand work of telling the world this "heart-turning" message! You'll meet him some day, and you'll be happy to have worked with him.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lesson 10: "Weep and Howl!"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 10: "Weep and Howl!"

The Lord impressed James to write a scathing rebuke to "rich" people especially in "the last days" where in we live: "Come now, you rich weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! ... You have heaped up treasure in the last days" (James 5:1, 3). Writes Ellen White: "I saw that these fearful words apply particularly to the wealthy who profess to believe the present truth." [1]

One who discerns at least something of the economic significance of the cross of Christ discerns a deeper recognition: we don't deserve any of what we have--not even our next breath. We are reminded of this by the 1888 message. Only the biblical teaching of the cosmic Day of Atonement in which we are now living just prior to the second coming of Christ can put our modern living in perspective, in relation to the cross of Christ.

Is God telling us and the world something? Yes! If you have $26 million to spend a year, to do what you like, and you live in a palace, and you ride in the safest car in the world, you are not secure. You have nothing that you can call your own; your next breath is only by the grace of God.

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the icon of the world, his name on everyone's tongue. God told him in Daniel 4:25, "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." Nebuchadnezzar, you are nothing.

This modern world with all its glamour, its pomp, its pleasure, is nothing. So, in mercy, Heaven is telling the world: remember, every moment, your accountability to Heaven and say Thank You, Lord, for this new day. Life in Christ is everything.

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!" James 5:1 refers to "Elijah the prophet" whom the Lord is sending with a message of healing and reconciliation for alienated hearts (Mal. 4:5, 6). We have seen in recent years the stock market crash, affecting the world economy. If we already see a spectacular case of judgment being executed on the "rich," can we expect the blessed salvation message from "Elijah" also to come soon? "Elijah the prophet" comes just before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (the second coming of Christ, Mal. 4:5).

Ellen White applies the words of James 5 in particular to the Laodicean Church in the last days: "I saw that these fearful words apply particularly to the wealthy who profess to believe the present truth. The Lord calls them to use their means to advance his cause. Opportunities are presented to them, but they shut their eyes to the wants of the cause, and cling fast to their earthly treasure. Their love of the world is greater than their love of the truth, the love of their fellow-men, or their love to God. He has called for their substance, but they selfishly, covetously retain what they have. They give a little now and then to ease their conscience, but have not overcome their love for this world." [2]

A missionary to Africa, Robert Wieland, had a personal visit once with the king of Uganda when it was still a British Protectorate. They met in the private home of one of the king's personal friends. He himself drove his Rolls-Royce to the appointment. During the visit he volunteered to express appreciation for the missionary's gospel-ministry for the Baganda, saying that "our problem is materialism." Later he had to flee the luxury of his palace for refuge in England. Yes, he would have been happier living in secure peace in a mud house with only a bicycle. He was a good man caught up in the "misery" of wealth and power, as the apostle says.

Elijah's main agenda is "turning" hearts in a grand, cosmic ministry of heart-reconciliation. The greatest "heart" that needs "turning": the heart of "the Lamb's wife"-to-be, His church (Rev. 19:7, 8).

The "Lamb" (which means the crucified Christ) loves her and wants to marry her, but she has delayed "the marriage of the Lamb" by remaining un-ready as a Bride, alienated in that deeper conjugal maturity. Egocentric, covetous concerns have been her primary motivation. That means that "she" is holding back from the total surrender of heart appropriate for any bride to give to her husband-to-be.

In other words, the "Lamb's" wooing has thus far been unsuccessful. The greatest "prophecy" of the end times declares that she (His church) will repent as a Bride, and give her heart to Him in a corporate, nuptial love. This surrender of heart worldwide will release the pent-up Hallelujah Choruses of all eternity when she "makes herself ready" for the "marriage" (Rev. 19:1-7).

This being un-ready has involved the Bride-to-be in shameful, painful rejection of the Bridegroom, which has naturally humiliated Him. She, not He, has created a cosmic lovers' split. Thanks to "Elijah's" ministry, a healing of her heart must and will come. It will be the "repentance of the ages."

Those who would be loyal to the Bridegroom-to-be will also in deep contrition remain in the loyal fellowship of the bride-to-be. They will fulfill James's appeal to "Come now" with her (5:1).

"Elijah" will "lift up" "Christ and Him crucified" for sinners, clearly and powerfully, beyond anything in all past history (John 12:32, 33; 1 Cor. 2:1-3).

--Paul E. Penno


[1] Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 245.

[2] Ibid., pp. 245, 246.

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lesson 9: "One Lawgiver and Judge"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 9: "One Lawgiver and Judge"

Dear Friends of "Sabbath School Today,"

It's not always possible to cover every topic in a week of Sabbath School lessons in a short essay, so we try to cover one or more of the "dynamics" of the 1888 message. This week, the question at the bottom of Monday's lesson (page 74 of the regular quarterly) begs discussing: "Either reward or punishment, we will face only one or the other. What's your only hope of reward?"

One of the primary gospel truths of the 1888 message is this: 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." [1]

Technology in processing and storing data helps us understand that all the information about our lives is accurately recorded, including our thoughts and motives. God's law is the principle on which His universe is founded, which James calls "the law that gives freedom" (2:12, NIV). Any act or motive that conflicts with this law of unselfish love means that one's heart is at odds with God and with the universe. Thus selfishness becomes a part of our life record--the "books" by which John says we will be judged.

But the Good News is that the Judge is our Brother, the Son of man who took upon Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh" and who knows exactly how "in every way" we are tempted. "Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 4:15; 2:18). His present work is to prepare us to pass our final exam. So, the news of the judgment is infinitely better than you may have thought it to be. Its verdict in your case is in your hands.

Doubtless the Apostle John's desire was to present agape and the judgment in the clearest balance possible. He dared to voice an equation that no other apostle could rise to say: "God is agape." He labors to represent the judgment as consistent with that totally unique character. He represents the Father as condemning no man but as "commit[ing] all judgment unto the Son ... because He is the Son of man," humanity's Peer (John 5:22, 27).

And even though all judgment is "committed" to Christ, He Himself forswears the privilege of pronouncing it, saying that He will not "condemn" any nonbeliever "in the last day." "If any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge [condemn] him not: for I came not to judge [condemn] the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47).

"The remnant will know that the supreme matter before the universe is the trial of truth and righteousness--God's character. Their concern for a reward of sitting by the river of life or walking on the street of gold leading to a heavenly mansion will fade into the background. ...

"How long will God's people be obsessed with their selfish desire for their own salvation? He has made our security easy. He has compromised His standing before the universe to assure us of His commitment to truth and of our salvation from sin. The infinite heart of God is longing for some recognition from His children. Could they sense a little of sacrifice? Could they see what is pending? Could they understand that God also has feelings? How long will it take them to understand the magnitude of the plan of salvation?" [2]

Ellen G. White describes this in such a touching and heartfelt manner: "Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. Open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy and mere formal worship" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 523).

"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).

A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, the two "messengers" God "sent" with the "beginning" of the Revelation 18 message, presented the fate of the lost with an emphasis on God's fairness, His love, and compassion. They were, above all, "evangelists," longing to bear a message of reconciliation. They wanted to avoid any semblance of "fire and brimstone" preaching, convinced that the true motivation for lasting conversion is an appreciation of God's love. They wanted to find a clearer grasp of what that love has meant for the world. This conviction enabled them to "glory in the cross" as the true heart of "the third angel's message in verity." They viewed all of our "doctrines" in that light, and they anticipated Ellen White's Desire of Ages statement years before it was published. This was their emphasis.

The issue is evangelism, not complex theology; what message can reconcile the alienated, world-loving, self-centered, "lukewarm" heart to God? Unless a clearer understanding of the gospel becomes involved, the result must inevitably be further lukewarmness of devotion perpetuated generation after generation for centuries more. The present-day truth pleads with the sinner "in Christ's stead." That is, as soul-winners we enable the sinner to identify with Him so fully that he experiences a first-hand encounter with Christ as vivid as did the Samaritan woman at her well or Nicodemus in his night interview. This is soul-winning and soul-holding evangelism.

The message of the three angels is that God will certainly have a people who bring glory to Him. Revelation's primary concern is the vindication of the Lamb who paid an infinite price to redeem us. But His vindication also involves our own, for we are one with Him. Those who stand faithfully "with Him" in this final struggle will not do so in order to gain a reward for themselves. Salvation is indeed a bargain, but getting a good bargain will not be the motive for anyone who truly follows Christ in these last days. The little flower girl at a wedding is ever so sweet and lovable, but all she really cares about is getting some of the cake and ice cream at the reception. The bride, on the other hand, doesn't care about the refreshments. Her interest is in the bridegroom, and in him alone.

Is it possible for us self-seeking humans, who all our lives have been immersed in pursuing trivial self-interest, to find a larger perspective--a genuine heart sympathy with the Lamb of God? Appreciation of Him for His own sake will transcend both our fear of being lost and a merely selfish hope of reward in heaven. This is the mature faith toward which God is calling us.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short


[1] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths That Make the 1888 Message Unique, pp. 27-29.

[2] Donald K. Short, "Made Like ... His Brethren," p. 111.

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lesson 8: "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of James

Lesson 8: "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom"

There is some practical, day-to-day, instruction in James about how to overcome temptation. James has the Good News idea that Jesus taught about the Good Shepherd.

The 1888 message brings to our attention that the shepherd doesn't wait around at home for the lost sheep to find him. If he did, the lost would never find its way home. Rather, the Good Shepherd is not satisfied until he has searched high and low for the one lost sheep. In other words, God takes the initiative in finding you, poor sinner, and carries you all the way home on His shoulders, if you will let him. Thus it's easy to be saved and hard to be lost if you understand this wonderful reality about your Saviour.

James wrote, as a truth for all times, that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God, whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). "Besides the devil and the world, each one has his own self, the worst enemy of all, to contend against." [1] "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).

The pure gospel always upsets lukewarm church members. The usual understanding that has been drilled into our people, and especially our youth, is that it is very hard to be a good Christian, and very easy to be lost. Jesus says the opposite, as anyone can see who will consider His words of life (Matt. 11:28, 29).

What James has said is usually understood backwards too. "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" (James 4:5). The bad news idea almost always comes through as we look at this from an old covenant perspective. [2] Because of the universal conviction of how imperfect we all are, we convince ourselves we cannot hope to do the good things we know to be right.

Because of the 1888 message we may have confidence in what this verse is saying. The Revised English Bible brings out the good news more clearly, "The spirit that God planted in us is filled with envious longings" (James 4:5). God the Holy Spirit does not tolerate His people trying to be friends with the world. The context is that of decrying friendship with the world. God desires from His people an exclusive marriage, like that of a spouse, and if they seek to be friends of the world, they may be called "adulteresses."

The first part of James 4:5, "Or do you think the Scripture for no good reason says. ... ," presents the second part of the verse as support for the warning against spiritual adultery. God's jealousy for His bride is in view. God's Spirit yearns for our fidelity with jealousy.

Satan cannot force you to transgress; even if he tries to frighten you by stamping his foot, you don't need to put up with him, for James says that if you "resist the devil, he will flee from you" (James 4:7). You don't need to suffer either allurement or terror from Satan!

"He giveth more grace" (James 4:6) which does more than teach us negative victories; it teaches us how to live beautiful, noble, sin-free lives. You still have a sinful nature (Jesus took upon Himself our same sinful nature, yet He never sinned!); the closer you come to Christ it may be the more you feel the temptations of Satan, but the more decided are your victories over him.

Christ "was in all points tempted like as [you] are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), and even though you are tempted you too may overcome "even as [He] also overcame" (Rev. 3:21). And that's today; you don't need to wait until your deathbed. Like Christ, you will learn instantaneously to tell the devil, "Get thee behind me!"

Yes, you do have something to do--"resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). But you say, "That's my problem--I don't have the strength to resist!" Then read the first part of the same verse: "Submit yourselves therefore to God." Come to the Saviour, singing:

"Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,"

and you will find that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). That is freedom. It's a miracle, but it's true. But please don't expect that you'll never be tempted again. It's your privilege always to exercise the power of choice. [3]

The Lord has taken the initiative in loving and seeking you! He is not trying to hide from you. Now, respond. The Holy Spirit yearns with jealousy for you. Now, "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8).

Probably good sincere people have pounded into you a wrong idea of God (maybe even from the pulpit). God is not waiting for you to maintain a relationship with Him; He wants you to know He is maintaining a relationship with you. It all begins with His initiative, not yours. He wants you saved more than you want to be.

When Jesus came, He changed our ideas about His Father. The Good Shepherd is not waiting for His lost sheep to find Him; He is seeking the sheep (Luke 15:3-32). The text about "seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Isa. 55:6) needs a clearer translation. The Hebrew verb there for "seek" is not the common one, looking for a lost object; it means "pay attention to Me because I am near! I'm not far away, ever!"

This idea of working hard to maintain our relationship with the Lord is a subtle Old Covenant idea that has crept in. When you begin to grasp His seeking love, His cross, you will "hunger and thirst" for His "truth of the gospel." It will expel your love for amusement; it will heal you of your Bible boredom. But we "walk softly": if you are in a spiritual coma, yes, force yourself to read your Bible and pray. But please ... believe the New Covenant.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] E. J. Waggoner, "Thoughts on the Third Psalm," The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1885, p. 375.

[2] Even the Lesson for Wednesday is confusing when it says: "James 4:5 is not easy to understand," "the most difficult verse in the New Testament," and refers to "the ambiguity of the Greek."

[3] "What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 47).

Raul Diaz

Monday, November 17, 2014

SST #8 | "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom" |

SST #8 | "The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom" | Paul…:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lesson 7: "Taming the Tongue"

Sabbath School Today

>With the 1888 Message Dynamic
> The Book of James
> Lesson 7: "Taming the Tongue"
> "Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you." This little nursery rhyme is trying to convey the difference between physical and emotional injury. We may not have a choice when we are hurt physically, but we can choose whether words will hurt us emotionally. At least that's the sentiment, but in reality most of us don't have the emotional fortitude to never be affected by hurtful words.
> A child whose parent consistently tells him or her that they are stupid will begin to believe that's true. Children under a certain age rarely have the discernment to understand they can reject their parents' assessment of their mental acuity, since that comes with maturity if the child is willing to think independently about himself. If such maturity never develops, the child is doomed to carry the negative words, allowing their echoes to form their lifelong image of themselves. The failure of the parents to control their tongue becomes adopted by the child, and without reprogramming the child will repeat the parent's sin and make it his own sin.
> James tells us that "By his own wish He [God] made us His own sons through the Word of truth, that we might be, so to speak, the first specimens of His new creation. In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper. For a man's temper is never the means of achieving God's true goodness. Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. ... The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God's law, the law of liberty, and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness. If anyone appears to be 'religious' but cannot control his tongue, he deceives himself and we may be sure that his religion is useless" (James 1:18-26, The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips).
> It is not only individuals who can look in a mirror and forget what it shows them, but it is possible for a corporate body to make this mistake. The message given during the late 1800s to our Seventh-day Adventist Church was a very specialized mirror meant to correct an over-emphasis on law-keeping which grew out of an understandable passion to restore the importance of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. This fervor began as noble inspiration but soon disintegrated into preaching the law without love (agape) until we were as "dry as the hills of Gilboa."
> In giving the pure message of righteousness by faith to His messengers, A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggoner, and E. G. White, God was trying to get us to discern what we as a church had become. Instead of humbly accepting the rebuke the message could sow in our hearts we were slow to listen and quick to use our tongues to resist the precious light. Articles were written, sermons were preached, arguments were made, and messengers were attacked, all because people were talking instead of listening.
> The body of Christ is vertical as well as horizontal. It embraces all who have been its members in the past and all who will be in the future. Understanding the past is essential to understanding the present and preparing for the future. Those who do not know history are fated to repeat it. We cannot truly understand ourselves unless we understand our predecessors.
> Ellen White discerned the truth. The reason that the 1888 message was only the "beginning" of the Latter Rain and Loud Cry and not the completion, is that to a large degree the message was rejected by the leadership of the church. Sadly, those who so fervently believed in the doctrine of the second Advent actually delayed it for generations. They looked in the mirror but forgot what they saw. If we were to have another 1888 session where the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as the Latter Rain, would we again insult Him? Unless there is repentance for doing it the first time, the answer has to be yes.
> Since 1888, the denomination's corporate discussion of the message, if any, has focused on collateral issues: whether it was accepted, whose version is right, or that it's just Martin Luther's message, nothing new. Much of what the official church publications focus on is this or that writer's interpretation of the message. This is the wrong "mirror" to be looking into. The original writings of the three people God used are well-preserved and are more readily available now that mass media sources such as Amazon can get them. Yet, many are afraid to read them, preferring modern commentators' opinions. In some cases, these commentators completely omit the vital disctinctives such as the fact that Christ, coming in the likeness of sinful human flesh nevertheless accomplished a perfect character that can be ours by faith. Over the decades our dear church has insisted on preaching law-keeping as a requirement for salvation, the pendulum has swung across conservative and liberal lines and back again. We don't really understand where this pendulum should be, but someone is usually quick to criticize saying wherever the pendulum is now, it's wrong. Most give up and say it isn't possible, so it must not be necessary.
> Yet, the heavenly angel predicted in Daniel 8:14, "Unto two thousand three hundred days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The books of heaven cannot be cleansed of the record of sins until our hearts are cleansed, which brings the issue of righteousness by faith into clear focus. Justification by faith is more than a mere legal declaration; it makes the at-enmity soul to be at one with God. Submitting to the cleansing process in the time before Ancient Israel's Day of Atonement was required to accomplish unity of the body, even for just a day. The Cosmic Day of Atonement in which we have been living since 1844 will accomplish a unity that is sealed in each individual permanently.
> There is a difference between corporate guilt and condemnation. As part of the human race we share the corporate guilt of the murder of the Son of God, but we are not held accountable or condemned unless we refuse the gift of repentance (see John 3:16, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 38). As modern Seventh-day Adventists, we share the corporate guilt for our forebear's rejection of the beginning of the Latter Rain and Loud Cry, but we will not be condemned for that sin if we accept the gift of repentance. We accept that gift by accepting the actual message, studying it, and sharing it with those who are willing to listen.
> For a long time the Lord Jesus has been waiting for Laodicea to humble herself and accept the eyesalve embodied in the 1888 message. Only with that can we see ourselves in the mirror of God's eyes. Only then will we be quick to listen and slow to justify ourselves with our tongues.
> --Arlene Hill
> Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fwd: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 6, Quarter 4-14

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 6: "Faith That Works"
What is genuine faith? James deals with this million-dollar question in the latter part of chapter 2. The 1888 message helps us see in the Scripture the true motive for faith. It is hinted at in our Wednesday's (Nov. 5) Lesson, but left undeveloped: "True faith is 'faith working through love' (Gal. 5:6)."
Let's begin at the end. It's there that we find James' illustration that explains the relationship between faith and works. A corpse without breath produces nothing (James 2:26). So "faith" without "works" is dead. Obviously, the breath of life is the animating principle of the human body. The Life-giver is God Himself. Likewise, Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). James is not pitting faith against works or vice versa; he pits a living faith against a dead faith.
James engages in conversation with a "vain man" (James 2:20). This empty man is a self-proclaimed Christian who argues for a separation between faith and works. He says, "Believe 'there is one God' (James 2:19), and that is sufficient for salvation."
But James counters the vacuous Christian's orthodoxy saying, "Don't 'the devils also believe, and tremble?'"
Isn't the essence of faith to believe in God? Doesn't Hebrews say that the one who comes to God must "believe that He is"? (Heb. 12:6). But believing that God exists doesn't go far enough, because when the devils think of God it causes them to shudder, says James. The devils' faith doesn't change their behavior at all. They continue to hate God and war against Him and His followers.
So what is James' point? You can talk all you want about how much you believe there is one God, but if all you can do is proclaim your orthodoxy, you're nothing more than an empty windbag. In reality, you're no better than the devils.
In James' view genuine faith works. Faith is the primary cause of the secondary evidence seen in works. He cites two illustrations from the Old Testament to support his conclusion: Abraham and Rahab. On the surface you couldn't have two more polar opposites than Abraham, the Friend of God, and Rahab the harlot; but both had the faith which works. They are examples of justification by works.
Take Abraham for example. Since James takes for granted that his Jewish readers will know the circumstances of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, he simply goes straight to the point. Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac on the altar (James 2:21).
God had told Abraham to do this. What Abraham didn't know was that God needed Abraham to do this. In the great controversy, Satan accused Abraham of worshipping God out of self-serving, ulterior motives. Abraham found himself suddenly projected onto the stage of the universe for all intelligent beings to see. Was he willing to sacrifice his only unique son whom God had given him? Abraham was put on the spot like God Himself, who gave His only begotten Son because He loves the world.
Abraham's faith was sorely tested, but without hesitation, faith triumphed because God's loving sacrifice motivated him. He saw through the immediate horror of human sacrifice, and perceived God's great paradox of either saving His Son and losing the world, or loving the world of sinners, and losing His Son. The Father made the decision to sacrifice His love for the Son and forever give Him to the world. God proclaimed this gospel to Abraham, and he chose to exercise this gift of faith by sacrificing Isaac. This Divine, self-sacrificing love, exhibited in the father of the Hebrews, was the cornerstone of the ancient church.
We recognize that James' point is that faith works. Abraham was "justified by works." But the 1888 message asks, why did Abraham's faith work? The answer, Because the primary cause was the Father's self-denying, self-sacrificing love in giving His only begotten Son. In fact, John 3:16, the best-loved verse in all the Bible, is based upon Abraham's decision to sacrifice his only, unique, God-promised son, Isaac. This "present truth" is missing in the Lesson.
But many are probably missing another story that is part of the picture—how "the harlot Rahab" of pagan Jericho has a significant role in the story. Many scholars have concluded that the evidence suggests that Salmon fits into the picture as one of the "spies" who stayed at Rahab's place before the destruction of Jericho.
In his genealogy, Matthew tells us that someone named "Salmon" married Rahab and became the father of Boaz, who married Ruth, and thus Rahab came into the genealogical line behind Jesus of Nazareth, the world's "nearest of kin" who alone could "redeem" us from sin (cf. Matt. 1:4, 5).
Rahab was a most unusual character; she would interest and appeal to any Israelite whose heart was sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Rahab had thought through the issues of the day; her heart was convicted: the one true God, the Lord, was with Israel; the truth was there. She experienced a corporate repentance for paganism. Rahab was converted; she yielded her heart to the Holy Spirit.
One popular book by Ellen G. White is entitled Faith and Works, the title having been added by editors long after the author's death. Yet inside the book covers, she repeatedly speaks of the correct formula as being "faith which works." [1]
James' view and the 1888 message go beyond the so-called Reformation view that justification by faith is merely a legal transaction taking place millions of light-years away, without respect to the heart of the believer himself. It also goes far beyond the usual current "historic" Adventist understanding that regards justification by faith as pardon or forgiveness for past sins, while a life of present obedience is labeled as "sanctification." However much justification by faith depends upon the legal substitutionary work of Christ outside of the believer, its very essence is a change within the believer. The merit on which justification by faith rests is never within the believer, but justification by faith itself is evident in the believer: Self is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). This is why justification by faith is dependent upon the justification achieved for mankind at the cross. And genuine sanctification is the experience of extended, on-going justification by faith, separated unto God.
The believer's faith is counted for righteousness. Faith embraces the whole of Christ's righteousness. All the Lord asks from the sinner is true faith; He credits him with all the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Yes, the Bible is true; there is only one Savior, Jesus; none of us is a co-savior. It's not a 50/50 salvation trip; it's 100% salvation by Christ, received by faith. But the faith is not the "dead faith" that the apostle James decries (James 2:20). A "dead faith" can produce nothing except self-righteousness (which doesn't have a very nice fragrance!). A living faith works; it has to work; it will work; it always works by agape.
Paul E. Penno
[1] "The faith essential for salvation is not mere nominal faith, but an abiding principle, deriving vital power from Christ. It will lead the soul to feel the love of Christ to such a degree that the character will be refined, purified, ennobled. This faith in Christ is not merely an impulse, but a power that works by love and purifies the soul" (Review and Herald, Aug. 18, 1891; emphasis added).
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lesson 5: "Love and the Law"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 5: "Love and the Law"

Our lesson this week could be titled, "Law and Love: Inseparable or Incompatible?" There are two ideas that have become provoking to many Adventists: legalism and love. Love is often invoked as a cloak to cover illicit passion, the kind that flouts the holy law of God. And for some Christians, the word love also has become a synonym for sentimentalism, a brand of theology that is soft on sin. Sometimes righteous people say they have heard enough about love; they want more stern calling sin by its right name. More law. More judgment.
There are also earnest Christians who are fed up with legalism masquerading as the gospel. Legalism was promoted for decades as "the third angel's message," 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." 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.'" [1] That was legalism, pure and simple! But do we have a problem with it today? Yes!
The problem now is that Lucifer has discovered a "sugar-coated" brand of legalism to confuse us while we vainly imagine that we have outgrown the old kind. The new form is more deadly than ever. Let us ask several simple questions: (1) What is, and what is not, legalism? (2) What is, and what is not, genuine love? (3) How can law and love be inseparable? They appear (on the surface) to be incompatible.
Obedience to God's law is never legalism. The perpetuity of the law is not legalism, nor is preaching the importance of obedience. Legalism is not overemphasis of the law, as though there were some secret line of balance between legalism and grace--fifty-fifty. "Balance" is not the issue; 99% gospel and 1% legalism nullifies the gospel, or "frustrates" it, to use Paul's expression (Gal. 2:21, KJV). The 1% of legalism will poison the whole like a small dose of arsenic ruins bread.
What is, and what is not, genuine love? There are some 200 references to love (all positive) in the New Testament. One says, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). If that is true, we should be preaching love a thousand times more than we do!
The problem is that the Enemy has kidnapped the New Testament idea of love (agape) from Christianity and substituted the Hellenistic, pagan idea instead (eros). Most Christians do not understand the difference. The New Testament idea of love is not soft on sin--it is the only effective antidote to it. There is nothing mushy about agape; the same God who is agape is also "a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Long before the flames of the last days are let loose, that holy fire will have burned highly refined self-centeredness out of every Laodicean heart where genuine faith in Christ will let it do so.
To talk about the law without understanding agape "brings about wrath" and actually contributes to sin. That was the 1888 problem. Brethren did not understand what true obedience is. Only "agape is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 4:15; 13:10). It follows that the remnant church who "keep the commandments of God" will be a people virtually obsessed with agape. "The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory" [2] This message is not soft on sin.
Our human love is dependent on the value of its object. Our lesson asks how we can "learn to express [selfless] love for those whom we deem undeserving or who don't love us back" (Tuesday).Not one of us on our own has what the New Testament says is the real thing.What we have in common with everybody is the natural endowment of eros--the love that loves others because they are nice to us, or because they are beautiful, or valuable to us.
It's natural for us to invite people to lunch who we think will invite us back. But agape is a love that creates value in its object: "I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold" (Isa. 13:12). God delights in transforming hopeless people into infinitely precious people equivalent in value to His own Son whom He gave for them!
When the Bible says that "God is love," it says "God is agape." This kind of love loves the unlovable, even enemies. Eros, on the other hand, is a love that rests on a sense of need. But agape is so rich that it has no need, and loves with no thought or desire for reward of any kind. What a treasure! It makes life worth living!
Thus we return to our question: How can law and love be inseparable? When New Testament love is seen to be agape, law and love are blended into one. This is why Paul could say that "agape is the fulfilling of the law." The secret is the cross. When self is "crucified with Christ," "the body of sin" as its root is "done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Rom 6:6). The Ten Commandments suddenly shine with new splendor: they become ten promises of the glorious power involved "under grace."
It comes as a shock to many people to realize that the famous Ten Commandments are primarily ten promises, not ten rigorous, burdensome prohibitions. The secret is realizing what the Prologue means: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:1, 2). God is telling us, I have already redeemed you; I have already delivered you out of slavery to "self" and thus to Satan's principles of self-governance; I have already brought light to you, new hope, new joy; now, believe that I am your prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God, your Friend, your Savior; and then, says God, I guarantee you will never come under the bondage of breaking this perfect "law of liberty" (see James 2:12). You will sing with David, "I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts" (Psalm 119:45).
This is why we are urged over and over to glory in the cross, to make it central in our preaching, to know and experience the contrition that comes from kneeling at its foot. Why is that preaching of the cross so unpopular and so rare today? Is it because of the widely prevalent love of self and upward mobility that pervades many even in the ministry? Many valleys of dry bones may witness miracles of new life when agape comes into its own.
How can we learn to love with agape? Not by trying, not by working at it, not even by vainly praying for it (though prayer is good, of course). We learn by looking, and looking again: "In this is agape, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. ... And we have known and believed the agape that God has for us" (1 John 4:10, 16).
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] Ellen G. White, "Christ Prayed for Unity Among His Disciples," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 11, 1890.
[2] Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lesson 4: "Being and Doing"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Book of James

Lesson 4: "Being and Doing" 

James 1:22 tells us, "... be ye doers of the word" (King James Version). The New American Standard Bible renders it, "But prove yourselves doers of the word." Moffatt translates it, "Act on the word."

Become "doers of the Word" or "do the Word." What's the difference? It isn't complicated. It's as simple as the old and new covenants. When Israel first promised "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8, NASB). They had just arrived at Sinai but the Lord had not yet given them the Ten Commandments. They really had no idea what God was asking of them, but whatever it was they thought they would do it.

This seems pathetically naive considering how Israel's history demonstrates they failed miserably. Their promises were prompted by their slave mentality. A slave is expected to act on his master's orders regardless of his own will. The old saying "ours is not to reason why, but just to do or die" describes a slave. When humans think of God as their slave master, there is constant conflict between the will of God and the will of the human. When our first parents chose to do things their way in the Garden of Eden, that conflict was embedded in our genetic heritage. Adam and Eve had been at peace with God before their choice, but after, conflict was inevitable.

We misunderstand James when we think his epistle is a "how to" book of helpful hints to the happy Christian life. We interpret his sublime instruction to become "doers" of the Word as "do the word." We believe he is giving instructions on what to do, when he is really telling us what to be.

When the brethren met at the A.D. 51 Council in Jerusalem, it was James, the brother of Christ, who "chaired" the meeting (Acts15:13). He allowed everyone to finish speaking then did a summation and offered a solution. The issue was whether the new Gentile converts needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas withstood the promoters of this idea as bringing in a different gospel. The controversy was between the real gospel and a counterfeit. He recommended that circumcision not be required but that the new converts abstain from food offered to idols, from fornication, eating animals killed by strangulation, and eating blood. This seemed good to the brethren, but the issue didn't die. Throughout Paul's ministry, subversive Jews followed him, trying to give people a counterfeit gospel.

There are at least two major ways to counterfeit the pure gospel of freedom in Christ. One is to claim that freedom means no restrictions so the believer need not cooperate with the Lord in recreating our sinful hearts. We can go on sinning until Jesus comes and then, a magical change happens in the twinkling of an eye.

The other counterfeit is ordinary legalism cloaked in more Christian than Jewish terms. These legalistic Christians make the same mistake the Jews made by thinking that if we are outwardly correct God won't notice we haven't given Him our heart.

Taking an example from Paul's day, let's imagine someone brings food offered to idols to the potluck table at the agape feast. The head deacon knows where the food came from so he quietly removes it. The person who brought the food still doesn't understand the restriction, and even though the deacon's action prevented him from eating the forbidden food, he was doing the will of the deacon, not himself. The point is, God wants our actions or non-actions to flow from a recreated heart. He can't accept even correct actions that flow from an unrepentant mind trying to trick people and God into thinking the actions are genuine.

This makes most folks nervous. They say, "don't we have to do something while waiting for God to change our heart?" True, there is something, but it isn't trying harder to be good.

E. J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," expressed these concepts so clearly and simply in an 1890 article in The Signs of the Times:

"In the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of Colossians occurs this exhortation: 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.' This text, rightly understood, solves the problem of Christian living. ... That there is a power in the word of God, far above that of any other book, cannot be doubted. ... The word hidden in the heart protects against sin. ... The word of the Lord is the seed by which the sinner is born again. ... While those who are Christ's are born of the Spirit, the word of God is the seed from which they are developed into new creatures in Christ. The word, then, has power to give life. ... This is stated very plainly by Jesus Himself in John 6:63: 'It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' This shows that the power of the Spirit of God dwells in the word of God.

"With the knowledge that the word of God is the seed by which men are begotten unto a new life, and that the hiding of the word in the heart keeps one from sin, we may easily understand 1 John 3:9: 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' ... Of course the word can do this only for those who receive it in simple faith. But the word does not lose any of its power. If the soul thus born again retains that sacred, powerful word by which he was begotten, it will keep him still a new creature. It is as powerful to preserve as it is to create. ... The Spirit is given to bring truth to remembrance, in time of trial; but that which one has not learned he cannot remember. But if he has hidden the word in his heart, the Spirit will, in the hour of temptation, bring to his remembrance just that portion which will foil the tempter.

"Many people earnestly long for Christ to come and dwell in their hearts, and they imagine that the reason why He does not do so is because they are not good enough, and they vainly set about trying to get so good that He can condescend to come in. They forget that Christ comes into the heart, not because it is free from sin, but in order to free it from sin; and they possibly never realized that Christ is in the word, and he who will make it a constant companion, and will yield himself to its influence, will have Christ dwelling within. He who has hidden the word in his heart, who meditates in it day and night, and who believes it with the simple faith of childhood,--such a one has Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, and will experience His mighty, creative power." [1]

--Arlene Hill


[1] Excerpted from Christ and His Righteousness, "The Holy Spirit Works Through the Word," pp. 152-157, Glad Tidings ed.; originally published as "The Indwelling Word," The Signs of the Times, July 14, 1890.

Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lesson 3 "Enduring Temptation"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of James
Lesson 3: "Enduring Temptation" 

The "1888 Message" is not another message in addition to all other messages, but is the plain Scripture and nothing more than that. This message presents justification through faith in Jesus; it invites all to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. This "is the third angel's message." [1]
The righteousness of Christ is obedience to all the commandments of God. Only Christ can do this and only Christ can keep us from sin.
Our lesson's title this week is in line with the power of this message and we begin with our lesson's main Scripture: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." Therefore "receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:12, 21).
The "blessing" of man is defined as follows: "God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities" (Acts 3:26). So a person who has been turned away from his iniquities, does not sin--or in the words from our lesson's text, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation."
A brief word about enduring temptation: If the "implanted word" is received with meekness, the man endures temptation and is kept from sinning--for this word is Jesus and He is the only One who is able to save our souls. A man who humbly receives this Word is justified by faith, because the Word can only be received by faith."
"Christ is primarily the Word of God, the expression of God's thought; and the Scriptures are the Word of God simply because they reveal Christ." [2]
Before Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). Now, Jesus saving "His people from their sins" is the same as Jesus keeping us from sinning--being "drawn away by [our] own desires and enticed" (James 1:14). He does this action only from within and never from afar. (Notice that the text in Matthew does not say He will "try to save His people," but that He will save them!)
The "implanted word" is Jesus Christ. He is the gospel--the Good News, the Savior of the whole world. Man is only able to endure temptation because of the humanity of Christ and His sacrifice as us and for us. "In seeking us, Christ came to where we are, taking upon Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Thus He is a Savior "nigh at hand, not afar off." He "is the Savior of all men," even "the chief of sinners." But sinners have the freedom to refuse Him and reject Him." [3]
From Friday's lesson we read: "'The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and ... the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.'--Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 311."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14). Dwelling among us is the same as dwelling in us--thus it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" that is this implanted word.
"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same" (Heb. 2:14). Notice the text only says that Jesus was a partaker of the flesh and blood of "the children"--we are the children. "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like" us "for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:1, 18). Therefore it is only Jesus that "knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations" (2 Peter 2:9).
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Christ living "in me" is the gospel in total. It is the mystery of God who sent His Son to save His people from yielding to temptation.
Those who endure temptation are Christ's and "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). A. T. Jones, one of the two 1888 messengers, wrote: "The Spirit of God is freely given to every believer so that they are led by the Spirit; the flesh, which is ever present, cannot do the things that it would naturally do, because the Spirit holds it in subjection. In a Spirit led life, God rules and causes 'the fruit of the Spirit' to appear instead of 'the works of the flesh'" [4]
"The only thing for which God gives an individual superhuman power, is to resist temptation." [5] "Through the Holy Spirit, Christ has consecrated a way through our flesh so that every soul, in spite of all the passions, lusts, desires, and inclinations of the flesh, can "inherit the kingdom of God." [6]
Our text states that the one who endures temptation, "when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." The approval here is the same approval spoken of in Genesis 1:31 when "God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good." The Sabbath sealed up creation and is a sign of God's power to deliver us from sin. Thus the redemption and creation are the same and the Sabbath is the sign of each.
"I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them" (Ezek. 20:12). Sanctifying is the removing and the keeping from sin. The Sabbath is the evidence of this.
Now, "in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished" (Rev. 10:7). This mystery is: "Christ in you, the hope of glory"--His cleansing and keeping us from sin. This mystery is finished in the saints who have endured temptation and have been established and approved by God--sealed by God as evidenced by having "the faith of Jesus" and thereby "keeping the commandments of God" (Rev. 14:12).
Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). "And He gives to us His own faith--"the faith of Jesus"--which is able to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy. It has done it; this faith is already the victory that has overcome the world" [7]
"Let us, then, when temptations reveal to us what is in our hearts, not lose courage, and settle down in despair" for "God provides us with power to live even in sinful flesh as free from sin as He Himself." [8]
--Daniel Peters
[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91. 92.
[2] The first sentence of E. J. Waggoner's, "Personal Experience" (written shortly before his death May 28, 1916). See:

[3] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths That Make the 1888 Message Unique, "Gospel Truth #5."
[4] A. T. Jones, "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 5:22-26," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 2, 1900.
[5] Jones, "Notes," American Sentinel, May 26, 1898, pp. 321, 322.
[6] Op cit. (Jones, "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 5:22-26").
[7] E. J. Waggoner, "Every Temptation", The Present Truth, April 26, 1894, p. 263.
[8] Waggoner, "Why Does God Permit Temptation," The Present Truth, Oct. 11, 1900, pp. 645, 646.
Raul Diaz