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