Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sabbath School Lesson 9 | "Words of Truth" | Pastor Paul Penno

Lesson 9: "Words of Truth"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 9: "Words of Truth"
Where do we find our 1888 history in the Proverbs? "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23).
How does Laodicea "buy" the truth? The Saviour's voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Rev. 3:18).
The true story of 1888 is one of deep-hearted unbelief as serious as that of the Jews who rejected Christ long ago. [1] But there is good news in the story. "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29, NASB).
Even if His people are not faithful, He must remain faithful. He must await the coming of a generation who will humble their hearts and believe Him. Christ has not abandoned Laodicea; He is still standing outside the door, knocking. Although His presence is not inside, it is a vast encouragement that He still wants in!
The story is most clearly seen as unrequited love. The language in Revelation 3:20 is a direct quotation from the Septuagint Song of Solomon 5:2-6 where Christ ties in the experience of the remnant church with that "song" of the disappointed Lover. He knocks at the gate but is selfishly denied entry by the one who is the only true object of His love. "She" was foolish not to let Him in when He knocked over a century ago; but she is honest in heart, and she must and will come to her time of repentance.
Thank God that Satan's victory was not total! The finishing of the gospel commission has been long delayed, but confrontation with truth gives us a new opportunity for repentance. The full story may humble our pride, but it will strengthen our faith.
The honor and vindication of Christ require our repentance. The evidence indicates that the Lord gives each generation only one chance to accept the precious gift of the latter rain, as He gave the generation of Israelites coming out of Egypt only one chance (Kadesh-Barnea) to enter their Promised Land. In both instances, rebellious unbelief conclusively delayed the work of God.
The Lord's servant has questioned "whether genuine rebellion is ever curable." [2] History seems to say that repentance must be effected by a new generation, unless this one chooses to repent.
Before the new generation could enter Canaan under Joshua, they had to have their Book of Deuteronomy. They must thoroughly understand the preceding generation's rebellion and repent of it in a corporate sense. Only a repentant people could enter Canaan. It was not they who had rebelled at Kadesh-Barnea (they were too young); but they had to repent of their parents' rebellion, for Moses told them repeatedly that they were the ones who had rebelled. It doesn't make sense unless you see the corporate relationship.
Likewise, before modern Israel can again receive the outpouring of the latter rain and proclaim the loud cry message, they must thoroughly understand the truth of a previous generation's rejection of the same blessing they now seek--our new Deuteronomy experience. This is corporate and denominational repentance.
What is the secret of the 1888 opposition? The one who stands back in the shadows of the 1888 opposition is, of course, the great dragon of Revelation 12:17. This brings to view his last battle in the great controversy. His opposition from within centers on "the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Spirit of Prophecy (Rev. 3:17). From without, it's on the commandments of God.
Seventh-day Adventists have always recognized that "the spirit of prophecy" given to the apostolic church has been manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. The unreasonable, persistent opposition against her for all these years marks its source as from that "dragon." This reached a climax in our 1888 experience. The full reality of what she wrote must be appreciated: "Again and again did I bear my testimony to those assembled [at Minneapolis], but that testimony was not received." "[The Lord] has a blessing for us. He had it at Minneapolis, ... but there was no reception." [3]
The special message the Lord Jesus addresses to us (Rev. 3:14-21) indicates it is related to our history: "You say, I am rich and I have been enriched." These words pinpoint our claims in our denominational history. We have been enriched by an acceptance of the message that was to illuminate the earth with glory and prepare that generation for translation! Yet no one has been translated, and the loud cry has not yet lighted the earth. This means either one of two things: the message was not what Ellen White said it was, or our acceptance of it was not what we have supposed it was.
Only if we reject truth can good news become bad news. We can surrender all false ideas in exchange for truth like we exchange money for something we "buy." Maybe that's why the Lord says, "Buy of Me gold ... and white raiment."
If we will listen to Christ's voice and believe what He says, the long-awaited blessings of the latter rain and the loud cry can become reality in this generation. The power was inherent in the objective message itself, and thank God, we can recover it.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 64, 75-80.
[2] "I question whether genuine rebellion is ever curable. Study in Patriarchs and Prophets the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. This rebellion was extended, including more than two men. It was led by two hundred and fifty princes of the congregation, men of renown. Call rebellion by its right name and apostasy by its right name, and then consider that the experience of the ancient people of God with all its objectionable features was faithfully chronicled to pass into history. ... And if men and women who have the knowledge of the truth are so far separated from their great Leader that they will take the great leader of apostasy and name him Christ our Righteousness, it is because they have not sunk deep into the mines of the truth. They are not able to distinguish the precious ore from the base material" (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 393).
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 251, 640.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Words of Wisdom"

Sabbath School Lesson 8 | "Words of Wisdom" | Pastor Paul Penno: http://youtu.be/o8u7AsZUpcg

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lesson 8: "Words of Wisdom"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 8: "Words of Wisdom"
In his book Animal Farm, George Orwell describes the disintegration of his imaginary animal society by saying that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." We use this common phrase to describe a situation where we are expected to think we are equal, but in actuality are not. It's frustrating, but by tacit agreement, no one is supposed to discuss it.
God is not deceitful like that. He tells us we are all equal but the reason is not flattering. Proverbs 20:9 tells us that all humans are equal because no one can claim "I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin." We are all equally sinners standing at the foot of the cross in need of grace.
Over the centuries, the Christian church has struggled with the clearly biblical teaching that all humanity is equally guilty. If that is true, the problem presents as to who will be saved and that is where things get confusing. Theories were developed to explain how equally guilty people could somehow differentiate themselves before God so He would take them to heaven. Very soon the early Christian church developed an intricate system of confession, penance and indulgences for those who could afford them. The system was not completely reassuring in that it was impossible to verify that one's efforts were sufficient to please God. This situation also perpetuated the system, at least until Martin Luther took his famous stand that mankind is saved by grace alone, apart from works. For a time, it looked as if the church was moving away from error into truth.
However, the problem of who gets to heaven persisted. The idea that grace had been accomplished for everyone was untenable, because it might mean everyone is saved. The bible clearly teaches otherwise.
Initially the problem was resolved when John Calvin developed his interpretation and exposition of scripture found in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). It emphasizes the sovereignty of God in the selection of candidates for salvation and is closely associated with Puritanism which is best summarized by the acronym TULIP:
(1) Total depravity of humanity.
(2) Unconditional election by God of those who will be saved.
(3) Limited atonement in that nothing was done for those who are not the elect.
(4) Irresistible grace, in that once God elects someone, they cannot reject it.
(5) Perseverance of the saints.
Thus, the "elect" are more equal than those among the not part of the elect. The idea is that Christ's death on the cross only included those elected people, and nothing at all was achieved for the others, thus no matter what they do or don't do, they cannot be saved.
The teachings of Jacobus Arminius and his followers were summed up in five points which were designed to counter the prevailing Calvinist orthodoxy of his day. They are:
(1) God from all eternity predestined to eternal life those of whom He foresaw would remain steadfast in faith to their end.
(2) Christ died for all mankind, not only the elect.
(3) Through free will man cooperates in his conversion.
(4) Humans may resist divine grace.
(5) It is possible for humans to fall from divine grace.
A modified form of Arminianism characterized the Methodist revival of the eighteenth century and dominates much Evangelical theology in America today.
The message of the atonement that A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner brought to the Church in 1888 captures what is true in Calvinism and what is true in Arminianism, but rejects what is error in both.
John 3:16 tells us that God took, has taken, and still continues to take, the initiative in man's salvation. In this respect, Calvinism is true. But John 3:18, 19 teaches that those who are lost at last have taken, and continue to take the initiative in their own damnation. In this respect Calvinism is wrong.
Although God is sovereign of the universe, unlike what Calvin taught, the sacrifice of Christ has given liberty of choice to all the inhabitants of the land (Lev. 25:10). In this respect Arminianism is right. However, it also teaches that the sacrifice of Christ does no one any good unless he first believes, accepts, and obeys, thus denying that Christ is actually the Savior of all mankind, only those who do something first.
"'By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.' [Rom. 5:18]. There is no exception here. As the condemnation came upon all, so the justification comes upon all. Christ has tasted death for every man. He has given himself for all. Nay, He has given Himself to every man. The free gift has come upon all.The fact that it is a free gift is evidence that there is no exception. If it came upon only those who have some special qualification, then it would not be a free gift.  ... There is not the slightest reason why every man that has ever lived should not be saved unto eternal life, except that they would not have it. So many spurn the gift offered so freely" (E. J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 101, emphasis supplied).
"'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" (Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, Galatians Made Clear, pp. 13, 14).
This wonderful truth remains controversial. Why does it matter as long as the Sacrifice was made? So many people have been kept away from having anything to do with religion because "they could never be good enough for God to accept them." They have heard that before God all are equal, but there is an implicit back message that some are more equal than others. If they knew that God has accomplished salvation for them even before they were born, not because of their merit, but because God is the loving God He is. It lifts all the burdens placed on people in the name of religion.
--Arlene Hill

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lesson 7: "Dealing With Fights"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Proverbs: Words of the Wise

Lesson 7: "Dealing With Fights"


This week's lesson deals with problems that have gone on throughout Bible history, and are prevalent today. "Dealing with Fights" includes more than screaming matches, as our graphic depicts, but a myriad of problems between husbands and wives, with personal friends, in the workplace, and even in a king's court with his "ministers." But there is a story in the Bible that applies to the idea the lesson author brings out from Proverbs 17:1, that "the first step to solve [these problems] is to recognize what our priorities are... "

This is the story about someone who "messed up," as our author says, but rather than "covering up" the sin, the person was forgiven, and as our lesson rightly says, "Love ... should be our response to someone else's mistake."

Have you heard the story of the marriage that fell apart because God told the man in the first place to marry a bad woman? God actually told His prophet Hosea to marry a harlot (Hosea 3:1). How could such a marriage not fall apart?

Hosea was forced to watch his wife, Gomer, flirt with other men in his presence. And then the flirting became outright adultery. She had no excuse, for the record is clear that Hosea was not a bad husband; he gave Gomer all her heart could wish for. She was just plain faithless, and there was nothing the grieving husband could do but wait.

The problem was that he actually loved this woman! In fact, for him there was no other in the world who could take her place. Hosea's heart was gold, for he was captive to his love for her, the kind of love that Paul says, "never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). What could the poor man do? Just suffer.

The time came when her lovers inevitably demonstrated their faithlessness, leaving Gomer to end up a miserable wreck in the slave market (Hosea 3:2). Her original, true husband bought her for a paltry sum, was nice to her, and miracle of miracles, aroused some love in her devastated heart, and helped her find repentance. Before Hosea could "save" a soul, he had to start from scratch and "build" a soul--yet to be saved. They finally walk off the Bible stage hand in hand, in love forever, the "hopeless" marriage of the ages.

How could Hosea, sinner though he was by nature, have ever been able to love a loveless, faithless woman? He learned how from the God of Israel, who is our "Savior of the world" (John 4:42). Gomer is Israel, and Israel is "we," the church--the Bride-to-be of Jesus. There is enough in this story to keep us studying, praying, pondering, and repenting, for a lifetime.

How does this story relate to the 1888 message? It's a story of a problem that only God's love--agape--can solve. When the Bible says, "God is love," it says, "God is agape." Only agape can solve the problems presented in our lesson. Agape is the foundation of the 1888 message, and an appreciation of the agape of Christ delivers us from egocentric motivation--"the love [agape] of Christ constrains us" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

Agape is the kind of love that loves the unlovable, even enemies. The Bible says that unless we have agape, even if we can speak with "the tongues of angels," we are nothing but beating a gong. If we "understand all mysteries," and even have all faith so that we could remove mountains, and have not agape, we are nothing. We can even give everything to feed the poor, and give our bodies to be burned, yet it "profits ... nothing" without this wonderful gift ofagape (see 1 Cor. 13:2, 3).

Hosea's stormy marriage to Gomer is a picture of Christ's love affair with Israel (yes, and the church today). Hosea was a "captive" to his love for Gomer; he had fallen in love with her, although she was by nature given to infidelity. But the prophet goes down in history as the one man most closely representing Christ in relation to His people Israel, and to His church. The Lord put Hosea's book in the Bible for our special attention in these last days.

The prophecy implicit in Hosea is Good News for a remnant church that is enmeshed in a worldwide lethargy, plagued with dissension and "offshoots." As surely as Gomer at last responded to Hosea's undying love, so surely will the corporate church respond at last to Christ's undying agape. Christ gave Himself in death for this church; His sacrifice cannot prove a failure; a repentant humanity cannot remain more faithless to Him than was the repentant heroine of the Book of Hosea to her earthly husband; God has faith in us that must not prove futile.

How can we let Hosea be more successful than Christ? If Christ risked everything in His sacrifice, it must not fail. But unless His church does overcome at last in order to become His repentant and faithful Bride, His sacrifice will be in vain.

Some have concluded from the painful facts of our past and current history that the Lord has cast off this denominated, organized church. But they forget the kind of love portrayed in the Book of Hosea, the love that will melt all the problems portrayed in our lesson.

Ellen G. White said it beautifully: "It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him" (The Desire of Ages, p. 480).

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lesson 6: "What You Get Is Not What You See"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 6: "What You Get Is Not What You See"

The book of Proverbs reads like Solomon's attempt to record as much of the wisdom God gave him as possible. He uses succinct and sometimes pithy statements which he frequently repeats for emphasis. It is easy to think of them as a lesson book on successful living, especially if they are seen as simply good advice to be attempted, but a standard too high to achieve all the time.

There is nothing wrong with using Proverbs as a standard of Christian living in the same way that God's law is the ultimate standard. However, both the advice in Proverbs and the directives in the law are just standards, neither has power to help sinners put either into practice, no matter how wise the advice. We are reminded of the apostle Paul's frustration: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not" (Rom. 7:18, NASB).

Proverbs and the law tell us what we should do, and with Paul, we "joyfully concur with the law of God ... but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:22-24). We are all that "wretched man" who wants to do good, but finds resistance in our human flesh.

Solomon frequently tells us that the solution is the "fear" of the Lord (Prov. 1:7, 29; 2:5). There is nothing wrong in fearing God, but it's only the beginning of wisdom. Most people who respond to God's calling them to repentance can remember that some level of fear of punishment or hope of reward in heaven was mixed into their experience. God takes us wherever we are, but we need not stay at that immature level. The foolish think that since that was their initial motivation it's the only motivation for walking with God.

As if to reinforce this fear, Proverbs 15:3 tells us "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good." This is very close to the Santa Claus song that tells children, "he sees you when you're sleeping, he sees when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good ..." Everyone understands Santa can't expect us to be good all year, and we joke about the excuses so Santa will still bring us gifts. God is not Santa, and He can never wink at sin, but He is willing to change our hearts so we love His law and keep it. Wise faith never trusts in our ability to "be good" on our own even though seeing what we consider correct performance is reassuring. Those who have received wisdom from God know that walking by faith, not sight, requires humility. We must admit that we don't know the best path for us, but God does. A fool trusts his own wisdom, the wise trust God's.

Israel demonstrated this in their foolish interpretation of what God wanted. He asked them to make a tabernacle so He could dwell among them. A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 "messengers," understood this concept: "When the tabernacle was made and was set up in the midst of the camp of Israel, many of the children of Israel supposed that that was enough; they supposed that to be the way in which God would dwell in the midst of them. ... In addition to the splendid building and its furniture, there were the sacrifices and offerings of the people ...There were the priests in their continual services; and there was the high priest in his holy ministry. Without these the sanctuary was for Israel practically an empty thing, even though the Lord did dwell in it."

They missed the idea that the building, the priests, and the services were all demonstrating the process of atonement and forgiveness obtained. "Atonement is literally at-one-ment. The sin and the guilt had separated them from God. By these services they were made at-one with God. Forgive is literally give-for. To forgive sin is to give for sin. Forgiveness of sin comes alone from God. What does God give, what has He given, for sin? He gave Christ, and Christ 'gave Himself for our sins.' (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:12-16; Rom. 5:8-11)." Our hearts, not outward actions, are what we give Him.

"And the placing of the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration ... of the truth that He would dwell in the midst of each individual" (Eph. 3:16-19). Some of that nation, in every age, saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body, in all ages, Israel missed this thought; and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual" (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 70-73).

"Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (Prov. 16:3, KJV). The word translated "thoughts" here is translated "preparations" in 16:1, and means "plans." We are instructed by the wise man to submit our plans to the Lord; otherwise the best-laid plans can go astray. Too often we make plans, plunge into a course of action, and as an afterthought ask God to bless what we are doing. We belatedly find out He is not in our plans at all. However, when we consult God from the beginning, He establishes our thoughts--that is, He leads us in the way He has planned. His way is always best.

The 1888 message highlights God's plan for us living in the last days. The ancient little "day of atonement" once a year taught precious good news: "On that day the priest shall make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (including previously unknown ones, Lev. 16:30). Who did the actual work? The priest--a symbol of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. The people cooperated with the priest. They kept the little day of atonement sacred. Thus we are to observe the great original Day of Atonement, which has been "now" ever since 1844, the end of the 2300 year prophecy.

Serious distortion of this good news has caused some to think this is "perfectionism," which is a heresy. But add to that twisting of the truth the universal conviction of how imperfect we all are, and like cooking a terrible stew you come up with the idea of doleful Seventh-day Adventist hermits only a step short of self-flagellation. Who wants such a sad life, is youths' idea.

To correct this distortion and create the happiest Christ-like people ever on earth was God's purpose in sending "us" the "most precious message" of 1888--the grand antitype of the kindergarten type that came every "tenth day of the seventh month." That day ended with an entire nation walking on air! They were so happy once again to be at-one-with God and with one another. Day of Atonement "most precious" truth is powerful!

On that ancient one day quarrels were gone, alienations healed; husbands and wives recovered the love that once brought them together; the most alluring idolatry (it constantly ensnared them!) was abhorred because something better had been tasted on this great day--the gospel. It's "Elijah's" "turned hearts"! It was God's plan that our "Day of Atonement" should end with the reception (not rejection!) of the "most precious" message of 1888, which should blossom and "lighten the earth with glory" in "rapid" "final movements," now long overdue. A people wholly reconciled to God and to one another--that is the meaning of the judgment today.

But it's time for a paradigm shift in thinking: the issue is not egocentric fear for our own salvation (which largely pervaded this Quarterly), 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.

It is wise to daily acknowledge Him as our Sovereign God. When we fail to do this, we become foolish and must slog through life, trying to make things work with minimal to no success. We find no joy in our efforts, but live in fear of God watching us with disapproval. It's much easier to acknowledge Him as Sovereign, submitting our hearts, plans and wills to Him. May God give us the humility to do this.

--Arlene Hill

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"What You Get Is Not What you get"

Sabbath School Lesson 6 | "What You Get Is Not Wh…: http://youtu.be/3eHiteVOnh0