Friday, July 29, 2016

Sabbath School Today, Lesson 5, Quarter 3-16

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 5. Jesus on Community Outreach

"Community outreach" can bring many things to mind: feeding the poor, helping the sick and elderly, "doing" many things for those around us and for our communities. All good. But when "the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones" in the 1888 era [1], its basic thrust was soul-winning in preparation for the second coming of Christ in that generation.
Specifically, as Ellen White said, it was "to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." [2] It was what we speak of as the Loud Cry of the third angel's message. She recognized that the message of Jones and Waggoner was its "beginning." [3]
Her heart-burden was giving the message to the world. The message itself was built-in "evangelism." It couldn't be stopped once it started unless "the brethren" succeeded in paralyzing it. She was sorry that in the end of the era, human opposition to the message resulted in its being "in a great degree kept away from the world." [4]
Her main disappointment was not that more money had not come in for "public evangelism," but that our ministers and people had not grasped the message itself. What occupied her mind at that time of the Loud Cry was not so much what we call "public evangelism" where one or a few individuals proclaim the message and many come to listen to it (that came later), but personal evangelism on the part of members of the church who came to understand the message. She saw a one-to-one method of proclaiming it as highly efficient to the point of success in finishing the world gospel commission in that one single generation. She saw that that was Heaven's intention for us. This was the ultimate "community outreach."
Today, something is needed that will halt the process of moral and spiritual decay that is at work all over the world. The insidious advance of corruption and degradation tempt many to wonder why the Lord doesn't do something to intervene. If the moral fabric continues to rot much longer, one wonders whether the people of a future generation will be capable even of comprehending the gospel message enough to accept or reject it intelligently. What we are seeing is the frightening physical effects of alcohol, drug, and nicotine abuse, and the traumatic effects of terrorist attacks, divorce and immorality, spiritually and emotionally.
Jesus says, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). In Bible times, methods we employ today for preserving food were unknown. Food spoiled quickly if not eaten. For the ancients, salt was a widely used preservative. Jesus' idea is that His church on earth is to be the element added to society that will hinder its processes of decay. His people are intended to have a profound and far-reaching influence for good on the nations in which they live.
Just to the extent that love of self remains active in our hearts is there impurity mixed in our "salt." Love of self can make the remnant church saltless, insipid, worthless as the world's preservative. We may continue to fill the world's storehouse, occupying part of the place assigned to the remnant church, and looking like the genuine "salt of the earth" while our witness is impaired or nullified, and our positive, direct influence on the world is largely canceled out.
The "salt" of the remnant church is the principle of the cross. Understood clearly, accepted sincerely, lived out thoroughly in self-sacrificing, Christian ministry, proclaimed positively and powerfully to our modern world by the remnant church, this truth of the cross will be the only preservative in a degenerating society.
Ellen White's dream was that the message should be proclaimed in "every church," and then it would spill out to the world beyond, where millions would find precious truth in the teaching of the cross which they had never seen before.
The cold fact is that multitudes of sincere Christians, have never understood the cross of Christ! The reason is that their commonly held belief in natural immortality had been a dense fog that hides the truth of what happened on the cross from their view. Seventh-day Adventists have taught the non-immortality of the soul for nearly two centuries, but their confusion over the two covenants has kept them, too, from seeing clearly what happened on the cross. So the proclamation of the cross of Christ became the essence of the 1888 Loud Cry message that "we" had looked forward to for decades, and yet we had never known what it would be.
Jesus proclaimed this same truth, which is "evangelism" in the 1888 message. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem just before His crucifixion: "On the last and most important day of the festival Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice [was this a precursor of the "loud cry" we look forward to?], 'Whoever is thirsty should come to Me and drink. As the scripture says [Song of Solomon 4:15], 'Whoever believes in Me, streams of life-giving water will pour out from his heart'" (John 7:37, 38, Good News Bible).
This is a profound statement of the method of "outreach" that Jesus loved. He is not putting pressure on us to do this or that; He is not making us feel guilty for not doing more "evangelism." He is guaranteeing that if we truly believe in Him, the purest evangelism will be flowing out of our hearts as from an overflowing fountain. Of course, no one can truly "believe" if he doesn't understand the message. Therefore the proclamation and teaching of the "most precious" truths are utterly essential.
This is the idea that Ellen White and Jones and Waggoner saw in the 1888 message. The love for the message that is awakened by one's first discovering it, never dies. You long somehow to share it with every soul you meet. It's a replay of what motivated the early Christians. Youth catch the vision readily once they understand the message clearly.
Ellen White told us that we would be surprised by "the simple means" that God will use in the final proclamation of the third angel's message: this message of 1888 was it. It took everybody by surprise in 1888, including Ellen White herself. When the message itself in its pure strength is undiluted with Babylon's concepts that compromise it, will it not be proclaimed as Heaven intended, to "every Seventh-day Adventist Church" and then to the world? (It will, yet, in the providence of God!) The final blaze of gospel glory will illuminate the world, and for the first time since Pentecost the words "evangelism" and "outreach" will at last come into their own.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1336, 1337; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Review and Herald, "The Perils and Privileges of the Last Days," Nov. 22, 1892.
[4] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lesson 3. Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 3. Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1

It's good common sense to remember. The Son of God identifies with the poor and oppressed all over the world, whether or not they understand the gospel. We may not be able to move all the governments and parliaments to do the right thing, but we can proclaim the news about the Son of God to the oppressed of the world. It makes sense to remember that before we spend on personal luxuries.
In Leviticus 25:13-17 we read that any property that was sold since the last Year of Jubilee would revert to its original owner, for the Lord wanted His land to remain with the tribes, clans, and families to which it had been allotted. For parents to care for their families, they had to have land to cultivate, and the private ownership of property gave stability to the economy. The Lord owned the land and only loaned it to His people. He wanted them to have a sense of proprietorship and responsibility in caring for His property. People usually take care of what they themselves own.
Whenever a piece of land was sold, the proximity of the next Year of Jubilee determined the price, for this determined how much produce the new owner could get from the soil. Since the buyer knew full well that the land would eventually revert back to the original owner, he certainly wasn't going to pay more for the land than what he would be able to get out of it. "The land shall not be sold forever" was God's law (vs. 23).
These laws made it impossible for ruthless real estate speculators to accumulate vast land holdings and thus upset the economy. Even the poorest Israelite family received its land back, and by working the land, they could gain enough wealth to meet their needs and perhaps the needs of others. The Year of Jubilee provided a new beginning for the released slaves and the landowners, and this kept poverty and inequality to a minimum. The people were not to oppress one another (vs. 17), but remember that the land was God's and they were only His tenants (vss. 23-24).
If a poor Jew had to sell himself or his property in order to stay alive, he didn't have to wait until the Year of Jubilee to regain either his property or his freedom (vs. 25). At any time, a kinsman who was willing and able to pay the price could redeem him or his land.
If the former owner of the land was too poor to redeem his land, then a near kinsman could do it for him. But if the former owner somehow acquired the necessary wealth, he could redeem it for himself. The price would depend, of course, on the number of years (harvests) until the Year of Jubilee. If the man had neither a willing kinsman nor the necessary wealth, he would have to wait until the Year of Jubilee to regain his property.
The classic example of the law of the kinsman-redeemer is recorded in the book of Ruth, where Boaz redeemed both Ruth and her inheritance and then married her. The "redeemer" who can redeem Naomi's (and now Ruth's) property has to be the "nearest of kin" (cf. 2:20; 3:9; 4:1). This idea inspired the 1888 "messengers."
Writes A. T. Jones: "Man has lost his inheritance and is himself also in bondage. And as he himself cannot redeem himself nor his inheritance, the right of redemption falls to the nearest of kin who is able. And Jesus Christ is the only one in all the universe who is able.
"He must ... be not only near of kin, but the nearest of kin. ... Therefore ... He also Himself ... took part of flesh and blood in very substance like ours, and so became our nearest of kin." [1]
"Boaz could not come in as redeemer until it was found that the one who was nearer than he could not perform the office of redeemer. The redeemer must be not only one who was near of kin, but he must be the nearest among those who were near. ... This is the precise point that is made in the second chapter of Hebrews [vss. 14-18]." [2]
The vast proportion of Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, think of Christ as Someone who belongs in stained glass windows in cathedrals. The popular "dogma of the Immaculate Conception" denies Scripture; it says that the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother experienced a miraculous breaking of the genetic code that links all humans by our common DNA to the fallen, sinful nature of our fallen Adam, so that Mary was never tempted sexually, and neither was her Son, Jesus. There, with one stroke, we are denied the only Redeemer who can save us from sin and prepare a people who learn to "follow the Lamb wherever He goes," and stand "without fault before the throne of God." That is said of them only because it is true of them, thanks to their Redeemer, "nearest of kin."
The Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself sinful human flesh and became our "near kinsman" (Heb. 2:5-18), so that He might give Himself as the redemption price and set us free. Only He was qualified to do what had to be done, and He was willing to do it. Not only did He redeem us, but also He gave us a share in and made us a part of His inheritance!
It's unfortunate that the Jewish people didn't follow the laws given in Leviticus 25, for their selfishness and greed brought ruin to the land and their economic system. The prophets rebuked the rich for exploiting the poor and stealing their houses, lands, and even their children (Isa. 3:14-15; 10:1-3; Amos 2:6-7; 5:11). The local courts ignored God's decrees; the judges, enriched by bribes, passed down decisions that favored the wealthy and crushed the poor. But God heard the cries of the poor and one day brought terrible judgment to the people of Israel.
God is concerned about how we use the resources He's given us and how we treat one another in the marketplace. Both ecology and economy are His concern, and He eventually permits judgment to come upon those who exploit others and treat them in ways that are less than humane (Amos chapters 1 and 2). The church of Jesus Christ has thrived under many kinds of political and economic systems and isn't dependent on any of them, but the church must always champion the rights of the poor and the oppressed and use every spiritual weapon to defeat the oppressors.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way, pp. 30, 31 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[2] A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message--No. 14," General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1 (1895), p. 265.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lesson 2. Restoring Dominion

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 2. Restoring Dominion

Our lesson this week asks an intriguing question: "What can the church do to help people regain some of what was lost after the tragic fall of our first parents in Eden?" [1]
Many people define what was lost in Eden in egocentric terms. Adam and Eve had interesting jobs and it wasn't difficult or hard work. You could eat a complete meal just by picking and eating what was growing in the garden spontaneously. They could play with all the animals, and they had each other for companionship. People who understand something about God might even include the fact that Adam and Eve had access to Him face to face. They were unified with the entire universe by being connected to and in communication with the Creator of all things. When they chose to rebel, the resulting disunity separated them from this precious unity with God. The entire plan of salvation is God's effort to deal with the consequences of their choice to fracture the union.
In His prayer recorded in John 17:22, 23 Jesus prayed, "I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me" (New International Version).
What a phenomenal concept, that we, in Christ, are loved just like the Father loves the Son. The Godhead consists of three separate beings, but they function in complete unity because the love they have for each other is perfect agape. There is no selfishness in this love, and it suggests that as unified equals, they don't exercise dominance over each other.
Created beings, especially fallen ones cannot relate to such a concept of love, because our concept of love is centered around ourselves. When choosing a spouse, we tell ourselves we want the "best" when we really mean the best looking, the best family, best earning potential, or some other egocentric criteria.
When we speak of unity in the church, we define that as a majority believing the same, but complete unity is generally considered impossible. In order to be unified like Christ described in His prayer, is God going to change us from having free will to automatons, facelessly agreeing to everything He says? No, agape cannot do that, because love only exists when there is no force. No one can force another to genuinely love them. By exercising dominance through force, a person may fake love, but it is for survival, not out of genuine love.
The 1888 message teaches a unique perspective in its special emphasis on the concept of agape as unconditional love. Jesus loved Peter, but when He warned him that Peter would deny Him, Peter let pride take over which led him to essentially tell Jesus He was wrong. Jesus loved him anyway. Judas, also because of his pride, would reject the love that Jesus had for him. Since "on Him was laid the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6), Jesus took Judas's sins to the cross and died his second death, which is the wages of sin. "He tasted death for every man" (Heb. 2:9).
This may sound too good to be true, leading some to ask, "'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' ... 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, andhas 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." [2]
But the lesson's intriguing question remains: What can the church do to help people regain some of what was lost after the tragic fall of our first parents in Eden? The title of our lesson is "Restoring Dominion," but what did God give human beings dominion over?
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" (Gen 1:26, King James Version). We were not given "dominion" over other humans, just the flora, fauna, and the earth. Paul confirmed this when he said "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand" (2 Cor. 1:24).
The parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9) suggests there are different categories of people, even in the church. Too many are content with "crowd religion," happy to hear an entertaining sermon once or twice a month, but letting nothing go deeper. Those people are represented by the seed that falls on ground and never actually takes root. The "stony ground" people initially receive the Word with joy, but fail to hang on to their faith when trials come. People stay in the church for many reasons, but we need to check ourselves on any kind of pride, even denominational pride.
The slumbering church, content with "crowd" or "stony ground" religion, cannot learn non-selfish love without waking up to accept the message to Laodicea by the True Witness (see Revelation 3). We need to agree with His assessment of our blind condition and take His advice that we need eye salve to exchange our self-righteousness for His clean and white linen character.
Without that recognition and repentance, we should understand that dominion can be a dangerous thing in people who are not ruled by a non-selfish love. For the church to be able to properly show the world a restoration of Edenic dominion, it needs to experience the unity of God's agape before it can be entrusted with dominion. The more the church unites under the umbrella of that love, the more she shows the world that it is the only basis of unity. Any thought of restoring dominion is best directed at restoring dominion over ourselves, which we lost at the fall.
It is the True Witness's evaluation of the Laodicean Church that she considers herself "rich and increased with goods and hath need of nothing." This self-righteousness and self-perceived doctrinal purity is the cause of her "lukewarmness" and legalism. Her self-love is exposed as in need of God's agape. Hence, Christ's call for her to repent. In other words, exchange her ideas of righteousness by faith for His righteous self-sacrificing Divine love demonstrated on the cross. The 1888 message has always been one of joy and hope that would result in the repentance that the Bride of Christ must have in order to be made ready for the second coming.
Ellen White challenges us: "The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for a renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King's highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the pentecostal energy. This will come; for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power." [3] Pray that this happens soon.
--Arlene Hill
[1] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 14.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 13, 14 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[3] Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 307, 308.
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 1, 2016

Lesson 1. The "Restoration of All Things"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 1. The "Restoration of All Things"

How did evil get started in the perfect world which God created "in the beginning"? The answer is astonishing. Human beings invited the devil in, opened the door to him, welcomed him. And those human beings were our first parents, Adam and Eve. The devil could not push himself in unless our first parents should invite him into their home. We can understand this even today, for evil cannot intrude into a person's heart and control him unless he first gives his consent. In creating man "in his own image," the Creator endowed him with the ability to reason and to choose. The enemy took advantage of this freedom and deceived man.
Which is more reasonable, to accept the Bible by faith, or evolution by faith? Evolution is man's imagined idea of "what might have been."
The Bible teaches devolution, that is, that man has fallen lower than his original condition. This is in complete harmony with the simplest, most easily seen law of nature, namely that everything gets old, wears out, or runs down. Man was created "in the image of God" and has wandered far from his original place of honor, but he is still a child of God through Christ, and is loved by His heavenly Father. Evolution teaches that man is essentially only an animal for whom the survival of the fittest is the jungle law. Who can estimate the cruelty and injustice, the inhumanity of man toward man, that this "theory" has produced in our sad world? Which do you prefer to consider yourself to be? A child of God or merely a clever animal?
An animal caught in a trap can know nothing but physical fear; but a human being is created in the image of God with infinite capabilities for joyous eternal life, not merely eternal existence. Unlike animals, we can know bright dreams of "the much more abundant life."
Eve actually believed the serpent's deception; Adam did not. He joined her in the evil step only because he loved her. Whatever this mysterious, unknown thing to come might be that God said was "death," he chose to share it with her. But mother Eve's original deception included the idea that there would be no death: "Ye shall not surely die," the wily serpent had assured her. Here is the origin of the idea of the natural immortality of the human soul.
Adam and Eve's descendants split into two camps: those who believed the deception and those who held firmly to God's original revealed truth, "Ye shall surely die." And there were those who believed the serpent's lie, "Ye shall not surely die."
His three deceptions were woven together into one strand: (1) There will be no death, for Eve believed the serpent that man's nature is immortal; (2) "knowing good and evil" is essential, for there is a conjunction of opposites; and (3) "ye shall be God," for divinity dwells within every immortal human soul and only awaits self-realization.
The descendants of Adam and Eve who heartily repented of their folly and maintained a firm loyalty to the original truth of God were called "the sons of God" (Gen. 6:2). They became the progenitors of an unbroken line of generations of faithful worshippers of God who believed that man had forfeited immortality by rebellion against Him and could obtain it only through faith in a divine Saviour to come, and in His sacrifice. These faithful believers in God's truth cherished the promise that He made to the serpent in the presence of the guilty pair in Eden: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). Here is the acorn of good news in seed-form that developed through the ages until the grand oak of truth was fully matured in the New Testament.
Look at this precious assurance that has brought hope to the human race: This "enmity" against the serpent is something not natural to the human heart. No one is born with it. God puts this enmity against evil in the heart through the grand sacrifice mentioned in this promise. It is a gift of grace. Satan will have his followers known as "thy seed." "The woman" will also have "seed." And there will be "enmity" or war between the two "seeds." A Deliverer will come in the person of the woman's "seed," a descendant of Adam and Eve. This is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus.
Satan will succeed in wounding or "bruising" the woman's seed on the "heel"--an "acorn" prophecy of the eventual crucifixion of the Son of God on His cross. But Christ's apparent defeat will prove to be a glorious victory; He will crush the serpent's head and kill him.
God's people cherished this promise for thousands of years, waiting for the coming of the Deliverer. Satan (the serpent) has been defeated by the sacrifice of Christ, and the long reign of sin and evil is to be brought to an end.
Does the sin of Adam transmit to us irresistible tendencies to sin? Would it not be more accurate to state that the sin of Adam transmits to us tendencies to sin that have overcome all human beings except Christ, and which are "irresistible" to us if we have no Saviour? If we say that the tendencies to sin transmitted by Adam are truly "irresistible," are we not in danger of echoing Satan's charge that the law of God cannot be kept by fallen man? The idea that our natural "tendencies to sin are irresistible" is responsible for the immorality and anti-nomianmism that pervades the world and even the lukewarm church? This seems to be a kind of Calvinist defeatism.
The 1888 message advances the startling thesis that tendencies to sin are resistible--if only we understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. And part of that "good news" is that Jesus proved in His human flesh that these tendencies are indeed completely resistible. This is not fanatical "perfectionism" but rather a reverent appreciation of the message of Christ's righteousness.
Christ came to save the lost race, fallen and degraded. In His giving of His life on Calvary, He made an abundant atonement for the sins of the entire world. No sin can be committed for which satisfaction was not met upon Calvary. This was also one of the distinctive features of the 1888 message--that Jesus did more than just make an offer--He gave the gift of His own righteousness to all mankind, and that the only reason all mankind would not be made righteous by that giftwas because so many would refuse to partake of the gift freely given.
Peter at Pentecost spoke of Christ's heavenly inaugural in this way: "... Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things ..." (Acts 3:21). The parallel thought to this is Revelation 19:7 [1]--Christ cannot return until this "restitution" takes place.
In numerous Ellen G. White statements, this "restitution" is described as "restoring the image of God in man," [2] etc. This is equivalent to the seal of God placed in the forehead. Such a "restitution" certainly entails a vindication of God, and His plan of salvation. It cannot be mere legal imputation, for if it were, the "times of restitution of all things" would have been Abel's time when he was murdered by Cain, for he was legally declared righteous by imputation then, long ago. The "times" Peter speaks of are meaningless unless they are when righteousness by faith is fully imparted as a "fitness for heaven."
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready."
[2] Ellen G. White, "This Man Receiveth Sinners," Signs of the Times, Jan. 15, 1894.
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:
Raul Diaz