Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lesson 5: “The Blessings of the Righteous”

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 5: "The Blessings of the Righteous"
How does righteousness deliver from death? The theme of the 1888 message is: "The Lord our righteousness." We read of this blessing in Proverbs: "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death" (Prov. 10:2).
What follows is the 1888 idea. Righteousness is consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary. The books of heaven are merely faithful reflections of our hearts. Their "cleansing" in the heavenly sanctuary cannot be done until first our hearts down here are cleansed. This is clearly set forth in Jones and Waggoner's books, The Consecrated Way and Christ and His Righteousness, respectively. Sanctification is not the cleansing work; according to the 1888 message, the cleansing is accomplished through true justification by faith. [1]
Righteousness by faith is something experiential, not just something that satisfies the law. Ellen White does not say only that good works follow righteousness by faith; she says "God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place." [2] Although a legal justification has been given for "the guilt of the whole world," those who believe experience a riddance of sin "through faith," not following faith. "Having made us righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ, God pronounces us just." [3]
Through faith "the sinner realizes what the pardoning love of Christ means," and this is what "reconciliation" means. In righteousness by faith, "the heart of the sinner" is reached. It is impossible to believe while continuing to sin; therefore to believe truly is actually the cessation of sin. Faith is a heart-appreciation of Christ's righteousness, and in this sense faith is "counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3-5).
How is the mouth of a righteous man a well of life? "The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked" (Prov. 10:11). This is what Jesus quoted when "in the last day, that great day of the feast [of tabernacles], Jesus stood and cried, saying, ... 'He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly [heart] will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37, 38). Can you find anywhere a more thrilling definition of what it means to "believe" in Jesus? The "he that believeth" is you! Is that "river of living water" flowing out of your heart and mouth to everyone you meet? Do you have a word of good news truth for everyone? Does it "live" in you?
How does God's atonement deal with our sins? "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Prov. 10:12). Our anger is constantly picking a quarrel with God, but His love overcomes our sin. The 1888 message points the way as to how God's agape accomplishes reconciliation with our alienated hearts.
It is on His cross that He identifies fully with you. There, He suffered the ultimate in depression. The darkness that enveloped the cross was God's merciful veiling of His facial agony from the mockery and ridicule of human devils. But the darkness also enveloped His soul. He was terrified of the second death that He faced. "Why have You forsaken Me?" was His despairing cry. And He waited in the darkness for the answer.
Jesus doesn't tell us to do what He did; He only tells us to believe what He did, that is, to appreciate it. And what did He do? He built a bridge in that total darkness of despair, a bridge over the chasm of human lostness, a bridge which we call "the atonement." The Father did not reconcile the Son to Himself; the Son reconciled Himself to the Father. In all this horror Jesus chooses to believe good news. Thus "charity [agape] never faileth" (1 Cor. 13:8).
Your "job" is not to do this or that, to perform works when you are "without strength," but your job is to "look" at Him on His cross. There is where He was "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin," all for us; and there is where God's much more abounding grace is revealed (2 Cor. 5:13-21).
Many ask: "What is this thing called righteousness? It's a big word; it's over my head; help me!" "The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness" (Prov. 11:6).
Sin has made the world to be "crooked," "bad," "wrong," "unjust." Righteousness is making them all right again. What has done all this evil is sin. Righteousness is therefore the opposite of sin. It reverses the evil that sin has caused, it un-does what sin has done, it untangles the knot that sin has tied in the universe of God, especially on this planet.
Justification is what One has done whom the Bible calls "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42). He untied the knot, reversed the evil, brought good in place of bad, reconciled enemies into being friends with God, made everything crooked straight, and made everything wrong to become right.
What is righteousness by faith? That's when our sinful, alienated heart appreciates the justification He accomplished for us; and that is a totally changed heart and life. You're now a new you.
Is there a reward for living the righteous life? Proverbs answers, Yes. "The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward" (Prov. 11:18). Yes, but in this day of atonement all self-centered desire for reward is eliminated. We stop thinking of our poor little selves and become wholly focused on a reward for Jesus.
His closing work of ministering the atonement is the practical fruit of believing the gospel. It means getting ready to meet the Lord when He returns, ready for translation. And the motivation is not self-centered: it's not so we can get a reward, but so He can be "satisfied" in receiving His reward. If He returns and finds we're not ready, think of His disappointment!
The good news we present is centered in Him, because the way we live, the way we dress, what we do with our lives and our talents, and how we spend our money—all is for His glory who died for us and rose again. He deserves from us lives of total consecration. His sacrifice delivers us from the virtual slavery of worldly obsession with self. This dark world deserves to see a people who are not afraid to be different—for His honor and glory.
But it's time for a paradigm shift in thinking: the issue is not egocentric fear for our own salvation (which largely pervades this quarter's lesson), but a new concern that Christ receive His reward—not that "we shall wear a crown in our Father's house," but that at last He receive His Bride.
—Paul E. Penno
[1] The original opposition to the 1888 message maintained that justification by faith is merely pardon for "past sins," as is the current understanding of many Seventh-day Adventists. When justification by faith is understood as mere pardon for past sins so that the real change of heart takes place only in sanctification, there is an inevitable relapse into legalism. When Waggoner saw that "there is but one thing in this world that a man needs, and that is justification" (General Conference Daily Bulletin, p. 74, March 11, 1891), he was not echoing the "new theology" doctrine that justification by faith is merely a legal declaration and that obedience is not necessary. He saw the glorious power of justification by faith, a truth which has taken us over a century to understand.
[2] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 366.
[3] Ibid., p. 394.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lesson 4: "Divine Wisdom"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 4: "Divine Wisdom"

In the Quarterly for Sunday's lesson are these words: "Wisdom is so important that it must reach everyone." Fortunately it has. The apostle John says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

But the statement continues: "God created all human life, and Christ died for each one of us. So wisdom, the knowledge of God, and the salvation He offers, is for every human being." Here is the Old Covenant at work--teaching that salvation is an offer--something that is activated once man does something first.

In 1888, God sent a message of love to His people using human messengers to turn His church back to "the old paths, the good way," so they could walk in it and "find rest." One of these messengers was E. J. Waggoner, who wrote in his book, The Glad Tidings, the truth about salvation: "All this deliverance is 'according to the will of our God and Father.' The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). And He 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11). 'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--that 'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men' (Titus 2:11, RV). God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [1]

"Christ is given to every man. Therefore each person gets the whole of Him. The love of God embraces the whole world, but it also singles out each individual. A mother's love is not divided among her children, so that each one receives only a third, a fourth, or a fifth of it; each child is the object of all her affection. How much more so with the God whose love is more perfect than any mother's! (Isa. 49:15). Christ is the light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness. But light is not divided among a crowd of people. If a room full of people be brilliantly lighted, each individual gets the benefit of all the light, just as much as though he were alone in the room. So the life of Christ lights every man that comes into the world. In every believing heart Christ dwells in His fullness. ...

"How often we hear someone say, 'I am so sinful that I am afraid the Lord will not accept me!' Even some who have long professed to be Christians often mournfully wish that they could be sure of their acceptance with God. But the Lord has given no reason for any such doubts. Our acceptance is forever settled. Christ has bought us and has paid the price." [2]

Wisdom continues to cry out against false teachings in every place they exist: "Notwithstanding the Bible is full of warnings against false teachers, many are ready thus to commit the keeping of their souls to the clergy. There are today thousands of professors of religion who can give no other reason for points of faith which they hold than that they were so instructed by their religious leaders. They pass by the Saviour's teachings almost unnoticed, and place implicit confidence in the words of the ministers. But are ministers infallible? How can we trust our souls to their guidance unless we know from God's word that they are light bearers? A lack of moral courage to step aside from the beaten track of the world leads many to follow in the steps of learned men; and by their reluctance to investigate for themselves, they are becoming hopelessly fastened in the chains of error. They see that the truth for this time is plainly brought to view in the Bible; and they feel the power of the Holy Spirit attending its proclamation; yet they allow the opposition of the clergy to turn them from the light. Though reason and conscience are convinced, these deluded souls dare not think differently from the minister; and their individual judgment, their eternal interests, are sacrificed to the unbelief, the pride and prejudice, of another." [3]

 "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate" (Prov. 8:13). "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10; 1:7), so wisdom stands before all else. The fear of the Lord and His true worship are also described as the hating of evil--like He does. This virtue of wisdom is humility; therefore Wisdom hates, above all, self-exaltation in all its forms.

John the Baptist spoke true words of humility when he said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). These words show the true relation of every man to Christ. Every follower of Christ must believe from the heart, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

"To what extent must this increase and decrease take place? --The answer is plain: Inasmuch as the statement is absolute, with no limitation, it is evident that the increasing and decreasing must go on as long as it is possible, that is, so long as there is anything of us left, which can be diminished.

"It follows, then, that we must decrease until there is nothing left of us, and He must increase until He fills all things. This obliteration of self, the merging of ourselves in Him, is indeed the only way in which our existence can be continued. ... We do not lose our personality, but Christ becomes our personality, manifesting Himself in us for just what God has designed that we should be. To sink out of sight in Christ is greater than to exalt ourselves to heaven without Him." [4]

Monday and Tuesday's lessons deal with Proverbs 8:22-31, and how wisdom is related to creation. At the end of Tuesday's lesson this question is asked: "Why is His role as Creator so important in understanding His role as our Redeemer?" The answer to this question is basic to understanding the truth of salvation--the 1888 message.

"The Sabbath, as we have seen, is the memorial of the wonderful works of God. But the power of God is clearly seen in the things which He has made, and God expects all men to see His power in them; for He holds all men inexcusable if they do not know His eternal power and Godhead. 'For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse' (Rom. 1:20). Now the Gospel is 'the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes' (vs. 16). Therefore since the power of God is seen in the things that He has made, and the Sabbath is the memorial of His works, it is evident that the Sabbath is the great Gospel memorial. In and through it we learn the power of Christ to save.

"Creation and redemption are the same, and the Sabbath and the cross are so intimately connected, because both are alike manifestations of the life power of Christ. ... 'In Him all things consist' (Col. 1:17). 'In Him we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28)." [5]

"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). The life, which does this, is the life from which all created things came, and by which they exist. The power of redemption is the power of creation, and that is the power of the life of Christ.

Dear reader, Jesus loves you. You have been purchased by the Lord Himself and He gave His precious life to redeem you. God has given to us His Divine Wisdom--Jesus. "In giving Jesus, in that one precious Gift, our heavenly Father gave you all the treasures of heaven." [6]

--Daniel H. Peters


[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 13, 14 (Glad Tidings Publishers ed.)

[2] The Glad Tidings, pp. 11, 12.

[3] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 596, 597.

[4] Waggoner, "Back Page," The Present Truth, July 18, 1901.

[5] Waggoner, "The Sabbath and the Cross," The Present Truth, July 20, 1893.

[6] Ellen G. White, MR No. 929 (12 MR 34.1), May 19, 1895.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"A Matter of Life and Death"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 3: "A Matter of Life and Death"
"For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:23). Our memory text reminds us that the final stand of the saints is because the faith of Jesus keeps all the commandments of God in us. This is so as a result of the truth stated in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ." This means I have died in this crucifixion, but the Apostle goes on to say, "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 the faith of the Son of God." Jesus kept all the commandments of God, He is living His life in me, through the Spirit, and as such Revelation 14:12 describes Christ's life in His people. His people live by faith and it is this faith of Jesus which works through love that obeys God's law.
The underlying principle of the commandments isn't about stealing, lying, or even killing. While God's law requires us not to be involved in these activities or thoughts, they are the very makeup and core of our humanity since the fall. Therefore, it is impossible for man, whether a heathen or a professed minister of God to abstain, by any amount of effort or desire, from these works of the flesh. The works of man are just that, the works of man.
When God "works" He signs His work with His name and seal. God does not sign any work He has not done, as that wouldn't be proper. Man signs what he does; God signs what He does, and in the end it is the seal of God not the signature of man that is the determining factor. Jesus' obedience to the law is the only obedience that is accepted by the law and therefore it can be sealed. Men's own obedience will never be accepted as all man's efforts come from him and not from faith, therefore all his efforts to keep the law are but sin: "For whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).
Revelation 14:12 states that the commands of God are kept (or believed) because of and by the faith of Jesus. If man's efforts and merits were really even a consideration, John the Revelator missed a great opportunity to mention them here.
The commandments of God are the promises of God. "And God spoke all these words, saying: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Ex. 20:1-2). God has already delivered everyone from sin and from their "darling" addictions. The problem appears to be that most accept the demands of the Law while denying the power of the Lawgiver to preform His own Law! This is the same as accepting creation but denying God's power to accomplish it. Where there is no power, there is no power. No amount of man's jumping up and down can produce what he does not naturally possess. Thus God promises us that because He has already delivered us, we shall not steal, we shall not commit adultery, etc. What wonderful news!
Paul confesses, "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). We have "died," yet the life that is within is that of Christ and He brings His obedience to us, for us and as us. Dead men are freed from sin (Rom. 6:7, 8, 14, 18, 22) and all the talk about how one feels if they commit adultery is merely a diversion--a statement of unbelief in the power of God. It is Christ from beginning to end. Period!
About man's involvement in his own salvation: "If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man, and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 816). The mark of every pagan or heathen religion is that man must do something to contribute to his own salvation.
E. J. Waggoner, one of the two messengers of the 1888 message wrote the following in The Glad Tidings, chapter 2. [1]These passages speak to the life and death matter of the commandments:
"Christ gives freedom from sin. His life is 'the perfect law of liberty.' 'Through the law comes knowledge of sin' (Rom. 3:20), but not freedom from sin. 'The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good' (Rom. 7:12) because it gives the knowledge of sin by condemning it. It is a signpost, which points out the way, but it does not carry us. It can tell us that we are out of the way, but Jesus Christ alone can make us walk in it, for He is the way. Sin is bondage. Only those who keep [believe] the commandments of God are at liberty (Psalm 119:45); and the commandments can be kept only by faith in Christ. (Rom. 8:3,4).
"Therefore whoever induces people to trust in the law for righteousness without Christ simply puts a yoke upon them and fastens them in bondage. When a man convicted by the law is cast into prison, he cannot be delivered from his chains by the law which holds him there. But that is no fault of the law. Just because it is a good law, it cannot say that a guilty man is innocent.
"Moreover, there is not one who has strength to keep the law, for its requirements are great. While no one can be justified by the works of the law, the fault is not in the law, but in the individual. Get Christ in the heart by faith, and then the righteousness of the law will be there also. As the Psalmist says, 'I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Thy law is within My heart' (Psalm 40:8). The one, who would throw away the law because it will not call evil good, would also reject God because He 'will by no means clear the guilty' (Ex. 34:7). But God will remove the guilt, and will thus make the sinner righteous, that is, in harmony with the law.
"Much is lost by not noting exactly what the Scriptures say. In the original in Galatians 2:16 we have the 'faith of Christ' just as in Revelation 14:12 we have the 'faith of Jesus.' He is 'the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Heb. 12:2). 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Rom. 10:17), and Christ is the Word. God has 'dealt to every man the measure of faith' (Rom. 12:3) in giving Christ to every man.
"There is therefore no opportunity for anyone to plead that his faith is weak. He may not have accepted and made use of the gift, but there is no such thing as 'weak faith.' A man may be 'weak in faith,' that is, may be afraid to depend on faith; but faith itself is as strong as the Word of God. Christ alone is righteous. He has overcome the world. He alone has power to do it. In Him is all the fullness of God, because the law--God Himself--is in His heart. He alone has kept and can keep the law to perfection. Therefore, only by His faith--living faith, that is, His life in us--can we be made righteous.
"This is sufficient. He is a 'tried Stone.' The faith which He gives to us is His own tried and approved faith, and it will not fail us in any contest. We are not exhorted to try to do as well as He did, or to try to exercise as much faith as He had, but simply to take His faith, and let it work by love, and purify the heart. It will do it! (Gal. 5:6).
"'As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name' (John1:12). That is, as many as believed on His name received Him. To believe on His name is to believe that He is the Son of God. To believe that He is the Son of God means to believe that He is come in the flesh, human flesh, our flesh. For His name is 'God with us.'
"So believing in Christ, we are justified by the faith of Christ, since we have Him personally dwelling in us, exercising His own faith. All power in heaven and earth is in His hands. Recognizing this, we simply allow Him to exercise His own power in His own way. This He does 'exceeding abundantly' by 'the power that works in us.'"
We began with this verse: "For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:23). And we close with the word of the Apostle John regarding our memory verse: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:4-5, 14).
--Materials for this lesson have been compiled by Daniel H. Peters
from the writings of Ellen G. White, E. J. Waggoner, and the
overall writings and teachings of the 1888 message.

[1] The Glad Tidings, Glad Tidings Publishers edition; some italics have been added by the compiler.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"From Ears to Feet"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 2: "From Ears to Feet"

Proverbs is not primarily about don'ts, but about how we can live better lives in 2015. Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). We don't deserve it, but we can have it, to the max, because Christ gives it, on terms of grace.
Proverbs 4 shows us the only path into life: Christ. Here's how to get going. "Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, ... When I was a son with my father, ... he taught me ... hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live" (Prov. 4:1-4, English Standard Version).
We are overhearing a father of teenage sons coaching them in wisdom. How does he do it? He tells them what he learned from his father when he was a boy. Our forefathers are not disqualified from speaking into our lives just because they have passed. The Bible says, "Remember your leaders ... and imitate their faith" (Heb. 13:7). The dead fathers speak from proven experience.
Our best hope, under the Holy Spirit's guidance, is the restoration of that "most precious message" that the Lord sent, the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry. [1] Most of Ellen White's calls for revival and reformation are within the context of the 1888 message.
"I know that a work must be done for the people, or many will not be prepared to receive the light of the angel sent down from heaven to lighten the whole earth with his glory. Do not think that you will be found as vessels unto honor in the time of the latter rain ... if you are ... cherishing roots of bitterness brought from the conference at Minneapolis. ... I appeal to you, men in responsible positions, ... The Lord looks with disfavor upon those who ... manifest a satanic disrespect toward those whom they should highly regard." [2]
Legalism majors in traditional appeals to "start living the ... Christian life now" apart from clear gospel truth. Such appeals sound good; they are highly popular (as legalism always is); the easy, natural thing is to nod the head, say amen, "Let's do it." And we have been resolving so for a long time. Our pious exhortations ... "we-must-be-more-faithful," "we-must-get-up-earlier," "we-must-pray-more," [3] "we-must-study-our-Bible-more," "we-must-love-more," "we-must-be-more-Christ-like," "we-must-sacrifice-more," "we-must-visit-our-neighbors-more," "we-must-work-harder." But telling people what to do without providing true New Testament motivation, falls far short of gospel good news.
Ellen White rejoiced in the message of Jones and Waggoner because she saw in it a motivation whereby these familiar legalistic imperatives of Adventism could be translated into joyous gospel enablings.
We are told to look forward not backward. While this is true, this fails to see that the real need of the church is the recovery of the pure truth of justification by faith, of which popular Evangelicalism is not the proper source. There is hope for the church if we will believe Ellen White's counsel, "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." [4] It means mastering the truth about 1888 so we can face forward with understanding.
On His cross Christ actually redeemed the world, died "every man's" second death, gave him every blessing he has ever had including sunshine and rain and the gift of salvation. None will be lost who does not resist or disbelieve the truth.
Our bright hope is the promise of the gospel: "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day" (Prov. 4:18).
What keeps us moving forward in the way of God's wisdom is hope. If you have chosen Christ, He is dawning in your life. There might be only a glimmer of light on your horizon right now. But the sun is rising, the darkness cannot stop it, and Christ will bring His good work in you to noonday brilliance: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:5). That bright gospel confidence is how you keep going, step by step, on the right path.
We "follow" Jesus --never stand still. He is leading His people to get ready for His second coming. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). "The everlasting gospel" of Revelation 14:6-15 prepares a people for that time when John saw "a white cloud, and upon the cloud sat like unto the Son of man, ... the harvest of the earth is ripe." The second coming of Christ!
Now, how not to get lost along the way. "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23). Pay attention to the gospel pathway by applying it to our hearts constantly.
This is just the opposite of the wisdom of our culture. We are told today that if we are going to be happy, what we need to do is assemble around us our selfish little designer life just the way we want it, with our dream house and our "trophy" wife or husband, our ideal job, and all the rest. But the truth is, if we got it all, it would only make us more depressed and angry, because all those outward advantages would only mock our sadness within.
We need our hearts continuously filled with the ever-fresh life of Christ, by faith in the gospel. Said Jesus, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37, 38). We will not lose our way on the journey of life if we will keep coming to Jesus and drinking in His acceptance, His forgiveness, His promises, His love. Everything else flows out from deep in there.
As we draw the love we crave from Jesus, it flows out in healing throughout our being. "Put away from you a crooked mouth, and put devious lips far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil (Prov. 4:24-27).
The Lord Jesus Christ who died for you also claims you, all that you are from head to toe. The gospel calls you to deploy your very body for Him. If we are distracted from real-time connection with the mercies of God, so that our hearts grow cold and our mouths become reckless and our eyes wayward and our feet wandering, we are only one misstep away from life-shattering catastrophe. We do not have to give ourselves to raw evil to end up there; we only have to un-guard our hearts, we only have to stop being vigilant. Every one of us is always five minutes away from total disaster. But if we are receiving by faith the outpouring of Christ's love in constant supply from His Throne of Grace, we cannot lose our way.
If you are right-handed, hold your right hand in front of you so that you can look at it. If you are left-handed, hold out your left hand. You do a lot with that hand, both good and evil. But now dedicate that hand to Christ. He can make you wise all your life long with that hand. Here is what you need to remember. Jesus died for your hand.
He did not die only for the sins you have committed with your feet. He shed His blood out of love for your feet, to redeem your feet, to make your feet live in the present life, to the praise of the glory of His grace. Your feet will be powerful for God. Your feet will no longer feel pain. Your feet will no longer be able to sin. In fact, everything you are will be redeemed. How can you give yourself over to stupidity now? That is not your path. That is not your destiny. Christ has set you apart to Himself. Christ will have the final say in your life, and His purpose of grace is dawning in you right now.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 91.
[2] "To the General Conference," B-24, 1889, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 442, 443.
[3] Nevins, "I Must Pray More," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 14, 1863, p. 49.
[4] Life Sketches, p. 196.

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sabbath School Today, Lesson 1, Quarter 1-15

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 1: "The Call of Wisdom"


King Solomon was the wisest, most knowledgeable man of his generation, maybe of all time! The Lord had richly endowed him with wisdom that surpassed all of his day.

Yet underneath was a solid foundation of pure humility that made it possible for the Lord to bless him as He did. When the Lord offered him, as King David's descendant, anything he might ask for, he was wise to ask for the right things: "O LORD my God, Thou hast made [me] Thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. ... Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart ... that I may discern between good and bad" (1 Kings 3:7-9).

The Lord commended him because he had not asked for riches, or fame, or power: "And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing."

Therefore the Lord gave him what he had asked for, but besides that, the Lord gave him wealth and power and fame beyond estimate: "I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor" (vss. 12, 13).

But you say, "I don't have Solomon's wisdom!" But we are coming to the time when you'll need it. We face very perplexing problems: shall we believe Genesis 1-3 that God created the earth in six literal days, or be crushed under the scientists who declare that evolution alone is the answer and ridicule us who believe in the first great miracle of the Bible? Shall women be ordained or is that wrong? Is salvation by faith alone or by faith-plus-works? Are the Daniel and Revelation time prophecies a day-for-a-year, or meaningless jargon? Is there a manifestation of God's "spirit of prophecy" today as clearly inspired as were the prophets of old? How can we judge between truth and subtly disguised error?

In every theological puzzle that confronts you, where the evidence seems balanced between opposite views, don't throw up your hands in despair, and decide to sit on the fence. You can't! At the end of the road, you're going to have to decide frankly and openly between the "mark of the beast" and "the seal of God" (Rev. 13:16, 17; 7:1-4). Look to see where is agape, the true biblical love. Don't be fooled by the foolish, shallow sentimental "love" that is the counterfeit of agape. Keeping the commandments of God will be the final test in the great controversy between Christ and Satan; but let's remember that only "agape is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 10:10). Outward conformity to the letter of the Ten Commandments may mask a heart that is bitterly devoid of agape. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:10).

The Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon when he was mature, in control of the kingdom of Israel, and in favor with God. The 1888 message is reflected in some of the themes dealt with in the book.

Does God want us to go through life fearful that we may at last be lost? Is fear a valid motivation for serving Christ?

Some will say, "Yes!" In the Book of Proverbs we are told that "the fear of the Lord" (1:7, 29) is something positive for us to experience. Even Jesus warns us, "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). No Bible text specifically tells us not to "fear the Lord."

So, with this heavy emphasis on "fearing the Lord," is it His will that we go through life under a spiritual terror? Is fear of punishment an adequate motivation for being obedient to God's commandments? Some will say, "Yes, for it has worked for 6000 years." But does that mean that the fear motivation will characterize those who prepare for the second coming of Christ? Will there come a paradigm shift in motivation as we come nearer to the end?

There is a healthy fear that any physically and emotionally normal person will always have. You look both ways before you cross a busy street; you avoid unhealthful things like smoking and alcohol--common sense fear will motivate you to enjoy life longer.

But fear of hell fire will not be the motivation that will constrain God's people to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:4, 5). A new one will supplant the old one, even as the "new covenant" will transcend the old. A clearer understanding of what happened on the cross of Christ will capture every honest heart and "constrain" all who believe "henceforth" to live not for self, but for "Him who died for us and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

The biblical "fear of the Lord" is not craven terror but a heart-appreciation for the awesome righteousness of Christ. To "tremble" before Him is not being scared of Him but being thrilled by a healthy contemplation of what it cost Him to save us.

So if you have ever felt like you don't know how to go in or come out, as if you didn't know how to live this new day, blessed are you. If you confess this reality of your emptiness before the Lord, and simply ask Him to direct your steps, to keep you from making any stupid mistake, to save you from yourself, He will enable you to live for the One who died for you.

--Paul E. Penno

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