Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lesson 8: With the Rich and Famous

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 8: With the Rich and Famous
When Phil Robertson, quoted the Apostle Paul equating homosexuals with idolaters [1], he stirred up a hornet's nest, and was suspended indefinitely from A&E's hit show Duck Dynasty. Divisive portrayals by Christians between themselves and the ungodly and unholy, is a misrepresentation of "the truth of the gospel."
There has been a string of such categorizations in recent Sabbath School lessons: discipling children, the sick, the "ordinary," social outcasts, rich and famous, and the powerful. Does the gospel of Jesus Christ cast a worldview in such a divisive manner? Did Jesus and the early apostles have different strategies for reaching the various classes of society? Should we specialize in ministries to various segments of society? Or is there one true gospel that reaches the heart-needs of every soul in the world?
One truth shines forth clearly from the 1888 message which is essential for Christian disciple-makers. The problem of "us" and "them," of the "righteous" and the "sinners," which is so divisive, is healed by Christ's gift of corporate repentance.
The secret of Jesus' soul-winning power was found in His identification with sinners through repentance. As the Sin-bearer, He was tempted "in all points like as we are, yet without sin." God "made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." He experienced the powerful temptation to sin from the devil in the wilderness, the world, and yes, even from within Himself. God sent Him "in the likeness of sinful flesh." He knew that He could sin. "He ... offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears." He "learned ... obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:7, 8).
The lesson which Christ our Teacher is giving Laodicea in our Day of Atonement, goes beyond our narrow understanding of "individual repentance" for sin. Such "individual repentance" is motivated by getting our own personal souls into heaven so that we won't go to hell like the rest of the world. "Individual repentance" generates divisive disciple-makers who view sinners as groups or even atoms.
Our Heavenly Psychiatrist gives us a systemic view of the world, which is healed by corporate repentance. All the sin that exists in the world would be my sin, if it were not restrained by the grace of God.
Yes, Christians were born into this world with a "carnal mind." "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7). We are all natural-born killer-lions, with the potential of hate and murder.
This reality is confronted daily by the glorious truth of the gospel. Salvation is not 99 percent Christ's righteousness and one percent our righteousness. It is Christ our righteousness, 100 percent all the way.
When the True Witness makes His heart-appeal to Laodicea, "Be zealous therefore and repent," His gift is a yet-to-be-realized systemic repentance. Can the potential Bride of Christ learn from her Husband and repent as He repented during His earthly ministry?
Corporate repentance is the realization that it is my sin that "murdered" the Son of God. It is my heart "enmity against God" that nailed Him to the cross. Therefore I, in myself, am no better than all the world, for whom Christ died.
Laodicea is just one heartbeat away from realizing the ultimate truth of all history taught by Calvary, that she is the one most "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." And when she learns the lesson of corporate repentance it will manifest itself in individuals from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, spontaneously appreciating the words of Christ on His cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Our unknown sin murdered the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. A corporate body will individually respond to the Spirit of Christ, as He gives the water of life freely to all. They will not consider themselves any better or of a special class. They will not view themselves as discipling various classes of people in the world. We are all sinners in need of the much more abounding grace of God.
Those sins "that would have been committed had there been opportunity" which we have not repented of, represent our unrealized guilt. Other people have committed them and we have been thankful that we have not been pressured sufficiently by temptation to do them ourselves. But Luther wisely says that we are all made of the same dough, alike. It follows that corporate repentance is repenting of sins that we would have committed had we had the opportunity. This goes rather deep.
Wesley said of a drunk in the gutter, "There but for the grace of Christ am I." When the church learns to appreciate such contrition, Christ's love will course through its veins and transform it into a truly "caring church," the most effective soul-winning "body" history has ever known (Zech. 8:20-23; The Great Controversy, pp. 611, 612).
This is because such repentance alone can enable one to love his neighbor as himself, not in the sense of excusing or palliating his sin in that we know we could be as guilty as he (this lowers Christian standards), but because such repentance includes an effective cleansing from the defilement of the sin itself. Such love goes far beyond a sentimental sympathy, for it becomes an effective cooperation with Christ in reaching the heart with redemptive, cleansing power. The Head at last finds "members" prepared to be His effective agents in actually saving people. Never does corporate repentance encourage the slightest "holier-than-thou" spirit.
In a time of widespread lowering of standards and tragic failures, "sighing and crying" for the "abominations" in the land becomes a negative and helpless hand-wringing, unless it grows out of a corporate sense of the weakness and guilt that we all in truth share. Corporate repentance automatically eliminates the schism of the "us" versus "them" mentality. It is the true path to heart-unity.
If clearly understood and presented to the world, the accomplishments of Christ's sacrifice will move human hearts as no other truth can. Such truth, presented together with the fulfillments of prophecy and our major doctrines, will bring the phenomenal discipling power that prophecy indicates will be in the "latter rain" and in the "loud cry" of Revelation 18. This discipling "efficiency," says Ellen White, "might have been [ours] in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost," but it has been "in a great degree" lost to our work in consequence of the rejection "in a great measure" of the 1888 message. Is not the recovery of that "most precious message" therefore priority for the world church?
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).
Note: “Sabbath School Today” and Pastor Paul Penno’s video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SST #7 | "Jesus and the Social Outcast" | Pastor Paul Penno

Lesson 7: Jesus and the Social Outcasts

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 7: Jesus and the Social Outcasts

Outcasts the world over have one common fear--that God will not accept them and thousands who have been professed followers of Christ for years, still doubt their acceptance with God. It is for us, the outcasts, that Ellet J. Waggoner wrote to give us simple assurance from God's Word that we are accepted and outcasts no more. [1] This truth is a cornerstone of the 1888 message.
"Will the Lord receive me?" I reply by another question: Will a man receive that which he has bought? If you go to the store and make a purchase, will you receive the goods when they are delivered? Of course you will; there is no room for any question about it. The fact that you bought the goods, and paid your money for them, is sufficient proof, not only that you are willing, but that you are anxious, to receive them. If you did not want them, you would not have bought them. Moreover, the more you paid for them the more anxious you are to receive them. If the price that you paid was great, and you had almost given your life to earn it, then there can be no question but that you will accept the purchase when it is delivered. Your great anxiety is lest there should be some failure to deliver it.
Now let us apply this simple, natural illustration to the case of the sinner coming to Christ. In the first place, He has bought us. "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
The price that was paid for us was His own blood--His life. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18, 19). He "gave Himself for us" (Titus 2:14). He "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" (Gal. 1:4).
He bought not a certain class, but the whole world of sinners. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Jesus said, "The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. ... But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:6, 8).
The price paid was infinite; therefore we know that He very much desired that which He bought. He had His heart set on obtaining us. He could not be satisfied without us. (See Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 12:2; Isa. 53:11.)
"But I am not worthy." That means that you are not worth the price paid, and therefore you fear to come lest Christ will repudiate the purchase. Now you might have some fear on that score if the bargain were not sealed, and the price were not already paid. If He should refuse to accept you, on the ground that you are not worth the price, He would not only lose you, but also the amount paid. Even though the goods for which you have paid are not worth what you gave for them, you yourself would not be so foolish as to throw them away. You would rather get some return for your money than get nothing.
We have nothing to do with the question of worth. When Christ was on earth in the interest of the purchase, He "had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man" (John 2:25). Jesus made our purchase with His eyes open, and He knew the exact value of what He bought. He is not at all disappointed when we come to Him and He finds that we are worthless. We have not to worry over the question of worth; if He, with His perfect knowledge of the case, was satisfied to make the bargain, we should be the last ones to complain!
The most wonderful truth of all is that He bought us for the very reason that we are not worthy. His practiced eye saw in us great possibilities, and He bought us, not for what we were then or are now worth, but for what He could make of us. He says: "I, even I,am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins" (Isa. 43:25). We have no righteousness; therefore He bought us, "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Says Paul: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:9, 10).
Here is the whole process: --"We all ... were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:3-10).
When He takes us, worth nothing, and at the last presents us faultless before the throne, it will be to His everlasting glory, and then there will not be any to ascribe worthiness to themselves.
Surely all doubt as to our acceptance with God ought to be set at rest. But it is not. The evil heart of unbelief still suggests doubts. "I believe all this, but--." There, stop right there; if you believed you wouldn't say "but." When people add "but" to the statement that they believe, they really mean, "I believe, but I don't believe." But you continue: "Perhaps you are right, but hear me out. What I was going to say is, I believe the Scripture statements that you have quoted, but the Bible says that if we are children of God we shall have the witness of the Spirit, and the witness in ourselves; and I don't feel any such witness, therefore I can't believe that I am Christ's. I believe His Word, but I haven't the witness." I understand your difficulty; let me see if it cannot be removed.
As to your being Christ's, you yourself can settle that. You have seen what He gave for you. Now the question is, "Have you delivered yourself to Him?" If you have, you may be sure that He has accepted you. If you are not His, it is solely because you have refused to deliver to Him that which He has bought. You are defrauding Him. He says, "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people" (Rom. 10:21). He begs you to give Him that which He has bought and paid for, yet you refuse, and charge Him with not being willing to receive you. But if from the heart you have yielded yourself to Him to be His child, you may be assured that He has received you.
Now as to your believing His words, yet doubting if He accepts you, because you don't feel the witness in your heart, I still insist that you don't believe. If you did, you would have the witness. Listen to His Word: "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10).
And "he who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself." You can't have the witness until you believe; and as soon as you do believe, you have the witness. How is that? Because your belief in God's Word is the witness! God says so: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 7:16). How is the witness given? By the Word. There the witness is written, and the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance the words recorded.
We must remember that Christ accepts us not for our sake, but for His own sake; not because we are perfect, but that in Him we may go on unto perfection. He blesses us in order that in the strength of the blessing we may turn away from our iniquities (Acts 3:26).
God spoke in the beginning and put the stars in their place, and this same Creator, the Savior of the world, spoke again to the woman "taken in adultery" saying, "Go and sin no more." The power that holds up the stars was hers to keep her from sinning. This command is for us today and will keep us from sinning--if we but believe.
Outcasts no more!
--Ellet J. Waggoner/Daniel H. Peters
Endnote:[1] Christ and His Righteousness, "Acceptance With God," pp. 78-86 (Glad Tidings ed.).
--------------------------------------------------------Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Discipling the "Ordinary"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 


Lesson 5: Discipling the "Ordinary"


Few people consider themselves "ordinary." Most of us like to think there is something special about us, at least enough to be entitled to be on this earth. Yet, when Adam sold the human race into sin, we lost entitlement to anything except what our new master, Satan, could give us, which is death. All of Adam's children, ordinary or special by the world's standards, are in the same situation. The key to understanding the cross is recognizing that hopeless condition. Our lesson states that "Christ's death was the great equalizer: it showed that we all are sinners in need of God's grace." Indeed we are, but how does the Cross of Christ show that?

The lesson of the cross was no mystic secret reserved for the inner circle of a few close disciples. At the height of His ministry when "there went great multitudes with Him," He boldly proclaimed to them all the same testing truth: "He turned and said unto them, 'If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple'" (Luke 14:25-27, NASB). It was as if He said, I am glad to see you following Me; but are you really sure this is your heart choice? If you follow Me, you must of necessity accept My route.

It is clear that a decision to accept the gospel is a decision to accept the route of the cross, and that decision can be made only by the inner heart of hearts. No elaborate program of evangelistic meetings or emotional preaching can bring a heart to that decision without the drawing power of the Holy Spirit.

The reason the cross is the "power of God unto salvation" is that love alone has true drawing power. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness" (Jer. 31:3). Christ would rather draw by the cross than drive by His power. The converts who come by way of the cross are those whom the Father draws. In His mysterious process of drawing, the Father doesn't want mere lip service, but He wants true disciples who will follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

Are there barriers to this drawing process? Yes but they come from within us. Many think we must stop sinning before God will accept us. We try our best to "clean up our act," but deep down we are never sure we have done enough.

No involved, difficult, or obscure process of doing battle with sin is the method of God. Christ has won that battle for us, if we are willing to depend by faith on Him rather than our own efforts. But our natures compel us to cherish those pride-filled efforts as if they had saving power. When you see that He has come in your flesh, that is, has taken your place in your particular situation at this moment, you can see how love is set straight on the collision course of the cross, the only source of saving power.

As readily as you say "Thank you" for a kindness done you, your heart responds with a deep sense of contrition. All your petty self-love stands revealed in its ugliness. As in ultraviolet light, all the motives of your heart suddenly appear different from how you ever saw them before. No emotional preaching has done the trick--you have seen something yourself. What you have seen in that light is the real you, the you that is without love. A light shines from the cross that illuminates your soul in the floodlights of heaven, and you see yourself as the Beings of the unfallen universe look upon you, with every character flaw exposed. You want to hide, but this strange light of love bathes your soul, and every little root of pride, self-esteem and reliance on works shrivels up. This is true agape love, which creates value in its objects no matter how "ordinary" they may be.

The fall in Eden affected the entire human race, for Adam and Eve could only produce children with the sinful nature they had acquired. Many think that God's warning to them, "for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17), was not fulfilled because they did not die "in the day." It is tempting to think somehow they had some life force within themselves that prevented them from dying as God had said.

"As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew what He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary. ... What love! What amazing condescension! The King of glory proposed to humble Himself to fallen humanity! He would place His feet in Adam's steps. He would take man's fallen nature and engage to cope with the strong foe who triumphed over Adam. He would overcome Satan, and in thus doing He would open the way for the redemption of those who would believe on Him from the disgrace of Adam's failure and fall" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1901; Feb. 24, 1874).

Christ is willing to make disciples of all, "ordinary" or "special." "'The Father Himself loves you' (John 16:27). He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. ... The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan's delusions have lost their power. ... No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 64-65).

This lesson incorporates so many of the heart-warming Good News truths of the 1888 message, including these few: (1) Christ has accomplished something for every human being. He died the second death for "every man," and thus elected "all men" to be saved. ("For the world, Christ's sacrifice was made"; Christ's Object Lessons, p. 301. "Christ ... redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and saved the world"; My Life Today, p. 323).

(2) By His uplifted cross and on-going priestly ministry, Christ is drawing "all men"--His love is so strong and persistent that the sinner must resist it in order to be lost ("Death has passed upon all men, because all have sinned, and the gift of righteousness has come to all men in the life of Christ"; Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 102).

(3) In seeking us, Christ came all the way 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." ("There was in His [Christ's] whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His Divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire, nor did His Divine power for a moment waver"; Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 34, Glad Tidings ed.).

We become aware that the true test of discipleship is that we see our own sinfulness. It is not important if we are "ordinary" or important and special by the world's standards. The cross requires that we see our helplessness to do anything about sin by our efforts. If we are willing to see what our sin cost God to fix the problem at the cross, we will be drawn to Him who died for us and consecrated a way of salvation so we can be with Him. What amazing love!

--Arlene Hill
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe.

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

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