Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lesson 5: How to Be Saved

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 5: How to Be Saved
This week's lesson teaches that there are "simple practical steps needed for salvation" (p. 38 regular ed.), in other words, "how to be saved." However, the Bible and the 1888 message teach that Christ has saved the world. "It is a fact, plainly stated in the Bible, that the gift of righteousness and life in Christ has come to every man on earth. ... Do you ask what then can prevent every man from being saved? The answer is, Nothing, except the fact that all men will not keep the faith. If all would keep all that God gives them, all would be saved." [1]
Throughout history it is deeply engrained in human thinking that salvation is initially dependant on human initiative. Nothing happens until like the prodigal son we say, "I will arise and go." But did Jesus teach that the salvation of the prodigal son was due to his own initiative? In eternity, will he boast, "I'm here because I came home"? Or will he thank God for his father's love that spoke hope to his heart even while he was sitting in the pigsty? Was it is his own initiative that drove him to "arise and go" or was it the drawing of that love?
It appears that the teaching of Jesus was clear that "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32). He did not teach that those who are saved at last are those who come under their own self-starter power.
Eternal life is promised to everyone who "believes" in Jesus: "If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death," He said (John 8:51, NKJV). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life" (5:24, NKJV). But what does it mean to "believe" in Him?
The Bible warns us of a massive counterfeit of "believing" in these last days (Matt. 24:23, 24, for example). Genuine believing has to do with the Father giving His Son for the world ("God so loved the world that He gave ..."; John 3:16). He gave, not lent Him. That means a totality of giving and an eternity in its duration. It also means an appreciation of His dying for us because the only way we can "believe" is by seeing Him "lifted up" as Moses "lifted up" a snake on a pole "in the wilderness" (vss. 14, 15). That directs us to the kind of death that Jesus died--on a cross (12:32, 33).
Therefore, "believing" in Jesus means a heart-appreciation of the Father's giving Him and of Christ's giving Himself in dying for us our "second death" (cf. Heb. 2:9, Rev. 2:11). Such "believing" transforms the believer. It is a genuine new birth because the love of self is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). There is a well of "rivers of living water" springing up from within the depths of the heart of every true "believer" in Him (John 7:37, 38). That's what it means to believe in Jesus! You are a channel through which that "water of life" flows to thirsty people. 
Love Is the Only Way
Our problem of great importance is how to achieve active and powerful love as a body, so that the full resources and cohesion of the church can be perfectly used to demonstrate it to the world. Truth must be the vehicle, because only truth can penetrate to the secret recesses of the human heart. The Lord has in reserve a means of motivation that will be truly effective. There will be no need to harangue God's people to respond, no need to provide artificial stimulation to induce them to put forth effort, any more than the apostles needed to in the beginning. Something happened at Pentecost that provided the early church with a truly phenomenal motivation.
That motivation was provided by an experience of full repentance, a doctrine that pervades both the Old and New Testaments. A hazy, indistinct concept of repentance can result only in a state of lukewarmness. Like medicine that must be taken in a quantity sufficient to provide a proper concentration in the bloodstream, Bible repentance must be full and thorough, or a truly Christlike love can never operate effectively in the church. This is the kind of repentance Christ demands of Laodicea.
The "end" could have come many decades ago if the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" had been willing to receive the Lord's message when He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19). We are still in this world of confusion and rebellion, battling still with evil spirits and wrestling with constantly worsening problems, for one simple reason: we have never truly done what our Lord has told us to do.
Repentance is sorrow for sin and turning away from it. But if our view of sin is superficial, our repentance will likewise be superficial. Unless we truly appreciate the depth of our sin, only a veneer repentance becomes possible; and it is this that produces ever new generations of lukewarm church members.
The grand finale of the work of the Holy Spirit will be a work of extraordinary beauty and simplicity, as Ellen G. White described it: "Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, 'Behold your God.' 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]
Once this Christlike love can permeate the church as a body, the message will indeed enlighten the earth in an incredibly short time. Human nature is the same the world over. Scratch the surface among all nations, races, or tribes, and one finds underneath the same human hunger for reality. The love of Christ manifested in human flesh is the universal language that will evoke a response everywhere.
The closer we come to what the Bible speaks of as "the end of the world" (Matt. 24:3), the more intimate will the people of God become with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their acquaintance will become like that of a couple who meet, get slightly acquainted, then fall in love, become engaged, and finally marry; no woman on earth will become the "bride of Christ," but there is a body of people known as "the church" who will "make herself ready" for that epochal "wedding" (cf. Rev. 19:7, 8; Eph. 5:23-27).
A "paradigm shift" in understanding is a mild term to describe the upheaval that will occur in the spiritual experience of God's people as they near when Christ closes His High Priestly ministry in the Most Holy Apartment. The grand antitypical Day of Atonement will be a reconciliation with Him that can only be described as a bride yielding herself joyously at last to her long-loved but never yet "known" bridegroom.
The tremendous spiritual upheaval will be a new motivation supplanting our old egocentric one. We have always responded to the desire to be saved--a very wholesome one, indeed; a thousand times better than acquiring worldly wealth. But it's still the desire for a reward; we have sung, "I Shall Wear a Crown in My Father's House," we have contemplated exchanging "the cross for a crown," we have widely taught that "securing our own salvation is the highest duty of life." Again, wonderfully true; but still puerile.
In the closing up of the Day of Atonement, which began in 1844, a new motivation takes over: a concern for Christ that He receive His reward, that He be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords; our concern for Him eclipses that old one of egocentricity.
This won't be righteousness by works; it will be a new chapter in righteousness by faith. At last, "perfect agape [will] cast out fear" (1 John 4:18). A new heart-appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to die for us will be grasped.
This will be our communication to the world of "Christ and Him crucified" as the world has never before heard it in such clarity since Pentecost.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Endnotes:[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 101; 69.
[2] Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416.
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Raul Diaz

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lesson 4: Salvation

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 4: Salvation[Easy or Difficult?]

Many people fear God and think of Him as one who makes salvation difficultand the road to eternal death easy. It's time to set the record straighton this important issue.

One of the great gospel truths of the 1888 message is that it is actually easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes how good the Good News is. The difficulty is learning how to believe the gospel. Jesus taught this truth.

Our lesson creates some ideas that do not harmonize with this "most precious message." One, which is presented consistently in the quarterlies, is that "God ... offers salvation through Christ." Salvation is God's gift (not offer) to every soul on earth. "We ... know that this is the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42); "Christ is the Saviour of all men" (I Tim. 4:8).

But deep down, how do you feel about God? One possible way to find out the truth could be to ask yourself whether this statement is true or false: "It's easy to be lost and hard to be saved." If you answer True, it is likely that your basic idea of God is uncomfortably like that of the one-talent man, who dug a hole and buried his wealth in the ground. When the Lord finally confronted him, he retorted, "'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid'" (Matt. 25:24, 25, RSV).

Many people today fear God and view Him as a pretty "hard man," who lets it be difficult for us to be saved, but easy for us to be lost. And if that's true, then God sits by unconcernedly while the vast majority of earth's inhabitants get tricked into ultimate disaster. He lets the path to hell be a superhighway down which you coast effortlessly into eternal ruin; and the way to heaven He makes into a cleverly hidden steep trail with every conceivable obstacle fiendishly built into it to frustrate as many people as possible. And God stands back in the shadows content to watch the masses slide down the slippery path to hell while only a mere handful have what it takes to clamber over all those difficulties in the way of those who want to make it to heaven.

There shouldn't be any question about something if Jesus says it plainly. Yet multitudes who say they believe the Bible balk at one of His clearest utterances: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ... For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Human nature seems intent on believing that His yoke is hard. Many feel that being a true Christian is a fiendishly difficult undertaking, a heroic achievement that only a few people can ever hope to realize. Easy to be saved, "hard" to be lost! That's what Jesus said.

Almost everybody these days has the feeling that the lure of the world has more appeal than the service of God. Like a weak, distant signal jammed by a powerful radio station nearby, the Holy Spirit seems barely to come through compared with the appeal of the world. But the apostle Paul says No: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20, 21).

Before we understood the gospel, Paul says, "sin hath reigned" like a king, beating back the power of grace. But when we understand the gospel, grace reigns like a king and beats back the power of sin. This has to be true, because if there is not more power in grace than there is in temptation, John would be wrong when he says, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4), and the gospel could not be good news. But this is what makes it "easy" to be saved and "hard" to be lost.

Remember, the battle is never an even one: grace abounds "much more." It is literally true that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). You have a new Father, so the power working within you for good is much stronger than our tendencies to evil; our heavenly Father is greater than our earthly parents.

When those dark glasses of misunderstanding are removed, we suddenly see that the Bible is full of this "good news." Take another example of Paul's explosive idea: "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

The Bible truth is that God takes the initiative in saving us. He is not as many conceive of Him, standing back, His divine arms folded in disinterested concern while we wallow in our misery. He is not saying, "Well, I did My part long ago; it's up to you now. You must take the initiative. If you want to be saved, come and work hard at it. If it seems hard to you, you just don't have what it takes to get to heaven." No. A thousand times No! But many feel that way about God.

In contrast, Paul wants us to see the divine initiative at work for us: "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).

The Good News Bible says He "is trying to lead you to repent." The goodness of God is actually taking you by the hand and leading you toward repentance as surely as a fireman tries to lead a victim out of the smoke and haze of a burning building. If you don't stubbornly resist, you will be led all the way to heaven.

True, but not everybody repents. Why? Some "despise" this goodness of God. Stubborn, they break away from that leading. As far back as 1892, Ellen G. White grasped this tremendous insight and expressed it well: "The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins" (Steps to Christ, p. 27).

This is a revolutionary idea to many who have supposed that we must take the initiative and do something if we want to be saved. To them this idea seems backward--if we stop resisting, we will be saved! But however revolutionary it sounds, this is the "good news" of the gospel, for it presupposes the active, persistent love of God.

Our lesson teaches that either "we pay for our sins in the lake of fire, or we accept Christ's payment for them on the cross" (p. 30). It's so easy for us naive humans to conceive of the Lord as drawing a circle that shuts out bad people. But he draws a circle to include them, at least until they shut Him out by never-ending resistance. The Lord looks upon lost people not as wolves to be shot down, but as sheep who have wandered away--as potential heirs to His estate. His grace still seeks a way to intrude.

Paul teaches that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:22). It all adds up to the conclusion that if anyone is lost at last, it will be because of his or her own persistent rejection of what God has done throughout his lifetime to save him. No one will pay for his sins in the "lake of fire." By unbelief they have chosen death rather than life in Christ. And if anyone is saved, it will be because of God's own initiative in saving him.

In the final analysis, whether one is saved or lost depends on his own choice. But in the light of the love of God revealed at the cross, even the choice to be saved becomes "easy." The only difficulty in following Him, therefore, is the daily choice to surrender self to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). However, we are never called to be crucified alone--only with Him. But, thank God, it is a million times easier for us to be crucified with Christ than for Him to be crucified alone for us. Look at the Lamb of God, and it does become easy:

Ellen White again supports this Good News: "Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love [agape] has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. ... And all the way up the steep road leading to eternal life are well-springs of joy to refresh the weary" (Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 139, 140; 1896).

Even if this still seems difficult, don't ever forget that it remains much harder to go on fighting against love like that, and beating off the persistent leading of the Holy Spirit, in order to be lost.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lesson 3: The Holy Spirit

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 3: The Holy Spirit


Throughout human history the Holy Spirit has fulfilled the "office work" that Jesus described in John 14:26. The Spirit's work is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Never before has the Spirit's work been as important as in the closing events of earth's history.

A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner saw that genuine righteousness by faith since 1844 is an experience ministered from the Most Holy Apartment of the sanctuary, as represented by the functions of the Jewish annual Day of Atonement. That ritual resulted in the entire camp being cleansed, at least for a moment. The cosmic Day of Atonement is similar in preparing people to meet God by being translated, so the cleansing must take place before Jesus returns, since we are told that those with retained sin will be slain by the brightness of His coming. This process is not concerned primarily with preparing people to die, but preparing a corporate body of God's people for translation at the coming of Christ.

Much more than just getting people into heaven, the 1888 message affirms an eschatological fulfillment of God's call to character perfection through the unprecedented high priestly ministry of Christ, which prepares a people who stand firm during persecution but guards them against the error of perfectionism.

It is during the time period of judgment and cleansing of the sanctuary that each individual's case is examined and their final choice revealed. Submitting to this process is based not on egocentric fear of punishment, or a desire for the reward of getting to heaven, but on a concern for the divine Bridegroom's reward for His sacrifice. After all, the idea that heaven is our reward suggests that we have done something to earn it. We are His reward for His effort in making the plan of salvation happen. This idea tells us that Jesus is motivated more than we are to bring all to salvation. He grieves when we consistently resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit to bring us to a knowledge of our sins so we can repent of them. We humble our hearts just contemplating that.

Unfortunately, the message linking the cleansing of the sanctuary to character perfection before translation is considered with scorn or even outright hostility by many Seventh-day Adventists today. They dismiss it as impossible, perhaps from a quiet realization of how futile their own efforts to become perfect have been.

Contrast those who think it is impossible with those who have come to believe that they must perfect their own character on their own. They believe they are not entitled to heaven unless they stop sinning, but are frustrated with their past performance. They come to focus on specific things they do or don't do, completely unconscious of major sins they are unable to see.

The most terrible sin ever committed was an unknown sin. Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). To "know not" in this context, is to be unconscious of it. The entire human race participates in sin and thus shares in the guilt of killing the Son of God, but many refuse to see that. The enormity of this guilt leads us to attempt to place the blame elsewhere, perhaps on the Jews or the Romans, or that it is simply a myth and didn't happen.

Some may claim that 1 John 1:9 tells us "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So, if we confess (our part), God is obligated (God's part) to forgive us and that's all there is to it. We no longer have the sin. How can He hold us responsible for failing to confess sins we don't even know we have? Even the famous 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous requires participants to admit their shortcomings to those whom they have hurt, and as far as possible to make it right. But they stop there. They are not instructed to ask their "Higher Power" to reveal hidden sin to them.

While it is true that God does forgive our sins when we confess them, confession must be a conscious nature, acknowledging specific sins. Sin is not magically cleansed like we press a delete key on a computer. It is an accepted fact in psychological science that much of our behavior is driven or influenced by ideas placed in our hidden consciousness over years of exposure. Psychiatrists and psychologists are kept busy helping people understand the hidden recesses of their minds where phobias and the compulsions they drive are located. Can the redemptive process of God, accomplished by His Holy Spirit reach even the unconscious mind?

King David thought so. He realized he could not do this for himself, but he had faith that God could. He prayed: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23, 24 NASB). We are all like David, we can't do this for ourselves, but like everything that looks impossible to us, all things are possible with God.

Ellen G. White wrote, "Everyone has undiscovered traits of character that must come to light through trial. God allows those who are self-sufficient to be sorely tempted, that they may understand their helplessness." [1]

Some may ask, "How do I know the Lord is doing this for me?" Waggoner answered the question: "The Lord is very quiet in His work. Some of the most mighty works of the Lord are done in the most quiet and unnoticeable way. He does not always rend rocks and make the earth quake when He does a thing." [2] Here is where we tend to get anxious. We ask, "If it's quiet and unnoticeable, how do I know it's happening?" We usually also mean, "How do I know it's happening fast enough?"

Becoming born again is the same as being born the first time. Outside forces cause conception to occur, the fetus to develop and be born. There is no evidence of a fetus taking constant inventory of its development and making adjustments to make things happen in a certain way or faster. Then, is there nothing we do? Do we just sit and wait? Waggoner explained it this way: "The word of the Lord is the seed by which the sinner is born again. We read of the 'Father of Lights' that 'of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures' (James 1:18). So we learn that, 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." [3]

We are asked to cooperate with God in this most serious process. If we are immature in our understanding of righteousness, it can be discouraging. In a classic sermon at the 1893 General Conference, Jones told the congregation, "When sin is pointed out to you, say, 'I would rather have Christ than that.' And let it go. ... Then where ... is the opportunity for any of us to get discouraged over our sins? Now some of the brethren here have done that very thing. They came here free; but the Spirit of God brought up something they never saw before. The Spirit of God went deeper than it ever went before, and revealed things they never saw before; and then, instead of thanking the Lord that that was so, and letting the whole wicked business go, ... they began to get discouraged." [4]

Ellen White summarized the work of the Holy Spirit this way: "The Holy Spirit glorifies God by so revealing His character to His people that He becomes the object of their supreme affections, and by making manifest His character in them. ... When the Spirit was poured out from on high, the church was flooded with light, but Christ was the source of that light; His name was on every tongue, His love filled every heart. So it will be when the angel that comes down from heaven having great power, shall lighten the whole earth with his glory. [Rev. 18:1]" [5]

What terribly glorious times we live in!

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:[1] E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 211.[2] E. J. Waggoner, Studies in the Book of Hebrews.
[3] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p 153,154 (Glad Tidings ed.)[4] A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin 1893, p. 404.
[5] Letter 25b, E. G. White to Uriah Smith, Aug. 30, 1892; in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1017.
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

1888 national conference 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

What Jesus teaches about The Son

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 2: The Son
"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross." --Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 83
Our lesson this week focuses on Christ's divine nature, and also His "full humanity." The question is asked, "Why is it so important for us to know that Jesus was fully human?"
One of the greatest truths of the 1888 message is that 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 Saviour "nigh at hand, not afar off." He is the "Saviour of all men," even "the chief of sinners."
The key to understanding the heart of the 1888 message lies in that phrase--"a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand." [1] He who is "the way, the truth, and the life" made Himself manifest as One "nigh at hand," "Emmanuel, ... God with us," not with Him only, but "with us" (Matt. 1:23).
Jesus Christ comes to us in the 1888 message in a unique way. And the baffling, often misunderstood, history of that message demonstrates the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Let Christ be revealed in His fullness, and Satan for sure will be aroused to oppose. It is so even today.
Was Christ indeed "in all points tempted like as we are" from within as well as from without? Or was He so different from us that He could not feel our inward temptations? Was He really and truly man? Or was He tempted only as the sinless Adam was tempted? Can we be sure that He was tempted as we are tempted? Or was He tempted in some mysterious non-human way, irrelevant to our understanding?
This message was not the hair-splitting, partisan, cerebral theological contentions that are so common among us today. It was simple, powerful, soul-saving Good News that won sinners, including tempted teenagers!
Ellen White in Steps to Christ gives us the heartfelt answer to the lesson's question: "He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is 'not ashamed to call them brethren' (Heb. 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness" (p. 14).
A. T. Jones (one of the 1888 "messengers"), speaking at the 1895 General Conference said, "'He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken' [quoting Ellen White]. Wherein did He link Himself with us?--In our flesh; in our nature. That is the sacrifice that wins the hearts of men. ... When we consider that He sank His nature in our human nature to all eternity,--that is a sacrifice. That is the love of God. And no heart can reason against it. [2]
This "descent" into humanity was for the purpose of lifting us to become adopted in Christ: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal. 4: 6, 7). In other words, Christ's being "made flesh" is truth that is gloriously verified in the personal experience of those who believe in Him.
Christ entered the stream of human heredity, being exempt from none of the ills of our inheritance. "He took on Him the seed [Greek, sperm] of Abraham," "made of the seed [sperm] of David according to the flesh" (Heb. 2:16; Rom. 1:3). He could not come closer to us.
He came for the express purpose of attacking and conquering the wild beast of sin in the lair where it had taken up residence in human flesh. It was "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3, 4). His battle against sin was real, in no sense make-believe or contrived.
He became the Prince of human sufferers, tasting to the full all the woe to which we humans are subject. Through faith in Him, we become "partakers of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13). In other words, our sufferings are no longer pointless agony, but are elevated to a kinship with Christ. In Christ, our human sufferings take on an eternal glory. He was "crowned with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5) "for the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9), and we too will "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" in His presence, realizing our kinship with Him in suffering (1 Peter 1:8).
Christ's "descent" to us included His taking upon His sinless nature our sinful nature, that He might be tempted as we are and earn the right to succour (help) us in our temptation. He was totally sinless, yet He was also totally tempted as we are:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. ... In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:14-18).
In ancient Israel, the high priest was the counselor, shepherd of the people, physician, healer of their sick souls. The best modern definition of that word "high priest" is Divine Psychiatrist, the Physician of our souls. Christ is the heavenly Healer of our souls, near to each one of us, "able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
If there were any respect in which Christ was exempted from enduring our temptations, He would be helpless to "succour" us in those temptations. Whatever sin that we are tempted to commit that He was not tempted to commit, we would have no Saviour from it. We would be helpless, forever unable to resist such a temptation. But "we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was tempted [in all points] like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15).
The reality of the Son of God truly becoming one of us is seen in His taking upon Himself our sinful nature, yet not partaking in our sin itself. He opens a window into His heart, that we might see the struggle He had to endure: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:30; 6:38).
Surely today we must feel the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who is not afar off, but nigh at hand! A dying world needs to see Him thus.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 181.
[2] General Conference Bulletin, 1895, pp. 381, 382.
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Raul Diaz

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lesson 1: Our Loving Heavenly Father

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 1: Our Loving Heavenly Father

  In the days of Christ, He was clear that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22); the true church was that Temple in.  Jerusalem which He said was "My Father's house" (John 2:16). But He split that "church" wide open with controversy.

If you had been living there you would have wondered how this lowly man from Nazareth could be right and the great theologians and leaders in the Temple could be wrong. But that was the way things were. Honest people were perplexed; they watched and listened and pondered, just like you today.

Jesus cleared things up for us all: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" (John 7:16-18). That settled it for every honest-hearted person: the teachings of Jesus separated the people into two classes --those who ended up crying "Crucify Him!" and those who believed in Him and took up their cross to follow.

And now today His teachings will again separate the world into two classes: those who accept "the mark of the beast" and those who receive "the seal of God" (Rev. 7:1-4; 17:14). You and I today are choosing sides.

This week Christ invites us to explore what He taught about His Father. He may correct misunderstandings about His Father's character. "Christ's favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God." [1] E. J. Waggoner characterizes the "Father" as the "sweet name" Jesus taught us "to call the great God." Our heavenly Father is infinite. At first thought, this truth may tempt us to wonder if the comfort He can give us is real and effective; how can it be if the Father is an infinite being?

The 1888 message helps us see the true character of our Father. Don't forget that He was also the "our Father which art in heaven" to Jesus during His years of sojourn with us in this human life. Whatever the Father was to Jesus, He is the same to us. His being infinite does not in the least lessen the personal attention He gives to us each one.

If we trace God's agape-love back before time and creation, before God's desire to make humans in His image, there existed love within the family of the Godhead. The Father has always had a Son to love from eternity, and the Son has always expressed His love of the Father by choosing to subordinate Himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son and likewise does the Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we humans have had earthly fathers who left us confused and bewildered at the word "father." But Jesus came on a mission to this earth specifically to reveal to us the family of the Godhead. "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). Here is marvelous instruction in self-denial, which is the highest wisdom. Everything is delivered into the hands of Christ, and He uses the power only to reveal the Father to men, while He Himself remains unknown. We speak of knowing Christ, but in knowing Him we learn only the character of God. In seeing Him, we see God. Jesus said to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

He "emptied Himself" that the Father might appear. In all the universe no one knows the Son, except the Father. That was and is the sacrifice of Christ. Looking down upon fallen humanity, His heart was filled with love and pity, and He said to the Father, "I will declare Your name to My brethren" (Heb. 2:12). So He was content to be despised and unknown, to be misunderstood and rejected, without any complaint, knowing that the Father understood Him.

When God the Father was confronted with a world [that is, in Adam] that had sinned and rebelled against Him; did He drop a bomb on them? No; He did what the unfallen universe thought was unthinkable: He frankly forgave them and granted the sinners a judicial verdict of acquittal.

Now the Father was free to treat sinners as though they had never sinned. The name for this action is grace.

Romans 5 describes what happened: The Father's "act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam's wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ" (vs. 15, New English Bible).

This marvelous gift of grace does not belittle the seriousness of the sin that we have committed; the true dimension of the guilt of our sin is the murder of the Son of God.

What kind of sacrifice can balance that account of our guilt? Someone holy and innocent must take our place and "pay the price of guilt."

This is a legal or judicial "verdict of acquittal" that Christ accomplished for us and gave us as a gift. The 1888 message focused on this precious truth like a laser beam. The Father so loved us that He gave us His only Son to die our second death. All He asks from us is to "believe" what He has done. And that word "believe" means to express a heart-felt appreciation for what it cost Him to save us. And that heart-appreciation melts the stony heart, and changes us --that is, converts us.

The Bible invites us to "think of God." And when we do, it is not to think of Him as some merely infinite electronic-like intelligence that pervades the universe, but we are to think of Him as Someone infinitely close and personal --"Our Father which art in heaven. ..." (Matt. 6:9).

Your personal memories of your earthly father may be deficient, but the heavenly Father is not limited by your personal, individual deficiencies; He has a road or route direct to your individual human heart and He invites you to "believe" in Him in His fullness of love (agape).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 40.

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Raul Diaz