Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sabbath School Lesson # 10 | "Jesus Won Their Confidence"

Lesson 10. Jesus Won Their Confidence

 Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community 

Lesson 10. Jesus Won Their Confidence


While we live in the midst of distrust, uncertainty, and changeableness, in Christ we have a friend who is perfectly trustworthy and reliable, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). And only as we draw trust from Him, the source, can we gain people's confidence to lead them to Him. In having Christ's love and life, we become more like Him. "When men will show confidence in their fellow men they will come much nearer to possessing the mind of Christ." [1]

Jesus tells youth and older folks, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ... My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30, NKJV).

You might ask, "How can I come to Him? I can't find Him, I can't feel Him. He's a trillion miles away, and His yoke seems hard, and His burden heavy."

Most people don't know how near He actually is. He says, "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you." That Helper is His Vicar, the One sent in His place. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 16:7; 14:16-18). We are closer to Jesus by the Holy Spirit today than His disciples were then.

Many see Christ as Isaiah describes Him, "a root out of dry ground." All that many see is a desert with this ugly root sticking out. "There is no beauty that we should desire Him." "He has no form nor comeliness" (Isa. 53:2.). Why? An enemy has done the work of an antichrist, and misrepresented Christ.

There is a little letter the apostle John wrote where he says, "Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist" (2 John 7). Oh yes, they say He's come, and you can see churches everywhere with steeples and crosses on top. They say, "We're Christian. We believe in Jesus!" But John puts his finger on the root of the problem when he says that there is an antichrist. They do not see that Jesus is come in our flesh, for the only kind of human flesh there is in the world is our flesh.

Antichrist says that Jesus came in some different kind of flesh, pale-faced, hollow-eyed, sunken cheeks, a halo around His head like you see in old stained glass windows, hardly ever smiled, thin, emaciated, intoning His words like a preacher at a funeral--effeminate, an ugly "root out of dry ground." This is "Christ" to many people. Many wonder, "How could Christ be my best friend?"

This horrible antichrist is masquerading as Christ. The word anti can mean three things: "instead of," "in place of," or "against." He has advanced himself instead of Christ, he's against Christ, and he misrepresents Christ while professing to be for Christ. No wonder many people are deceived.

We will not find answers in what this world has to offer, because genuine love and trustworthiness come only from God, its source. He did not wait for human beings to become trustworthy before entrusting them with His only Son. The all-trustworthy God trusted the totally untrustworthy in order to draw them close to Himself, transform, and redeem them. All because of His great love for us. "He [Christ] honored man with His confidence, and thus placed him on his honor." [2]

What a staggering thought to realize that God has faith in man or He would never have sent His Son to us. This faith of God in man was exercised before the foundation of the world, when the Father and the Son agreed together to make an infinite sacrifice for man should he fall.

John wrote, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). The 1888 message draws this great conclusion with its evangelism potential: "We believe in Him because He first believed in us." Which of us could bring himself to trust a converted thief enough to put in his hands every cent we possess, and expect him to keep it for us? Could you trust human nature that much? If you were trying to evangelize a band of notorious kidnappers, could you bring yourself to entrust your newly born son or daughter to their arms while you left for an extended trip? That illustrates what God did!

When we reach out to others, they definitely need to sense that we have their best interest at heart--that we are not manipulating them for some ulterior motive but have genuine concern for them for their own sake, for the great value that God has already invested in each one of them. "The love of God causes us to love, not Him alone, but all men." [3] Like Jesus, we need to reach "the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good." [4]

As true Christians we listen to them, identify and sympathize with them. Christ's "strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts." [5] "By visiting the people, talking, praying, sympathizing with them, you will win hearts." Ellen White describes this as "the highest missionary work" that we can do. [6]

Asking a simple favor of someone, lets him know we need him and are willing to accept his kindness, and this builds trust. Jesus demonstrated this when He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. That simple act helped to break down barriers that had accumulated for years, and showed her that Jesus accepted and trusted her. Tradition said that Samaritan women were always ceremonially unclean, so devout Jewish men would never accept anything that they had touched. It probably stunned the woman at the well when Jesus accepted water despite the fact that tradition said her very presence had made the vessel that contained it "unclean." But His trust stirred up trust in her own heart. He "was seeking to find the key to this heart, and with the tact born of divine love, He asked, not offered, a favor. The offer of a kindness might have been rejected; but trust awakens trust. The King of heaven came to this outcast soul, asking a service at her hands. ... [He] was dependent upon a stranger's kindness for even the gift of a drink of water." [7]

Certainly Zacchaeus had no reputation for trustworthiness. On the contrary, he was notorious for his fraudulent tax-collecting practices. But when Jesus showed him acceptance and trust in going to his home, it awakened his nobler characteristics, and he yearned to prove himself worthy of Christ's friendship and trust. One cannot help getting the impression that the publican was just biding his time till someone like Jesus would believe and show confidence in him. People had constantly looked down on him, making it difficult for him to extricate himself from his predicament. But Jesus freed him.

Ellen White movingly describes how Jesus inspired and won the confidence of those coming in contact with Him. She writes, "In every human being He discerned infinite possibilities. ... Looking upon them with hope, He inspired hope. Meeting them with confidence, He inspired trust. ... In His presence souls despised and fallen realized that they were still men, and they longed to prove themselves worthy of His regard. In many a heart that seemed dead to all things holy, were awakened new impulses. To many a despairing one there opened the possibility of a new life." [8]

The challenges and opportunities before us are unprecedented. In the immediate future lies the culmination of the great controversy. God calls each of us to have a part in the proclamation of this message to the world.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 189.
[2] Ibid., p. 190.
[3] E. J. Waggoner, "The Love of God," The Present Truth, Dec. 5, 1895.
[4] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 151.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 41.
[7] The Desire of Ages, p. 184.
[8] Ellen G. White, Education, p. 80.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lesson 9. Jesus Ministered to Their Needs

 Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community 

Lesson 9. Jesus Ministered to Their Needs


How Can I Help You? We read that Jesus had "compassion" on the multitudes and that He healed all who were sick, and sometimes left whole villages with no sick person in them (cf. Matt. 9:3614:14, for example). That was 2000 years ago. Now fast-forward to our time: we still have people sick and with all kinds of need.

Monday's lesson quotes Ellen White: "Christ took a personal interest in men and women ... Wherever He went He was a medical missionary." [1] We, too, have compassion for the sick; but what can we do now to help them? Doctors and nurses can do a wonderful work relieving suffering; but what about us ordinary folk?

When Jesus healed the paralytic who was carried to Him by four men who broke up the tiles on the roof and let him down, Jesus knew very well that this man had brought sickness upon himself by sinful living. But He didn't ask the poor man any questions or to make any promises. He didn't even ask him if he had repented; He said straight out, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5).

So, what can we do? We can tell them New Covenant truth. In some cases simply doing that may bring physical healing to the sufferer; all the poor paralytic needed was to hear Jesus tell him, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matt. 9:2), and he was happy, willing to endure his sickness in peace.

There are seven grand promises that make up the healing New Covenant truth. They are in Genesis 12:2, 3: the Lord will make your life important, He will give you happiness, "I will make thy name great," you will be a blessing wherever you go throughout the world, the Lord will bless the people who help you, He "will curse him that curseth thee," you will be part of the blessing that will come upon "all families of the earth" in Christ because you proclaim His message. Therein is healing truth!

To say those words to someone flippantly or thoughtlessly of course does no good; but if by the grace of the Lord we are able to tell the message thoughtfully, meaningfully, the Holy Spirit will bless to the healing of the soul.

Amazing as it may seem, the good news is that the Holy Spirit does the "work." That "wind" is forever blowing seeds of heavenly truth into our minds and hearts. No one is wise enough to tell where they come from, for the grace of God has been working on human hearts in multitudinous ways ever since the world began. Parents, friends, songs of praise, Bible messages heard or read, sermons, expressions of true love, all can be ways that the Lord uses to plant "good news" ideas in the heart. What is important is to recognize that their ultimate Source is God Himself.

This is actually God's love in action. The wind blowing "wherever it pleases" is a picture of God's compassionate concern for every human soul. Not less surely is His love manifested for you than that the wind blows on you as well.

One of the misconceptions of the 1888 message is that it is "soft" on works. Christ taught this distinctive kind of faith "which works," and the 1888 "messengers" picked up on this idea. Genuine faith produces obedience to all the commandments of God. Such faith makes the believer "zealous of good works" so numerous they cannot be measured. This goes far beyond trying to preserve a balance between faith and works. It's far more than 50% faith and 50% works understanding. God has already done the loving, and the giving. Our part (believing) comes by responding to that Good News with the heart appreciation that's appropriate--yielding to a heavenly love. Good works follow such genuine faith as surely as fruit follows seed planting. And then all the obedience part of the familiar "third angel's message" comes into place, but far more so, for here was a message that would prepare a people for the coming of Jesus. Pure Day-of-Atonement righteousness by faith is the only message that can produce anything other than "dead works."

Dorcas in Joppa. Wednesday's lesson speaks to the story of the "disciple named Tabitha." Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," relates the real meaning of "good works":

"'Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did' (Acts 9:36). Good works are not something that one puts on, or which he acquires, but they come from within. 'A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh' (Luke 6:45). A man must be made good before he can do good; and this goodness comes from the Lord. 'Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men' (Psalm 31:19). 'For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them' (Eph. 2:10). Good works are extremely necessary, but none need worry about them. If a person is in Christ, the good works will follow as naturally as flowers follow spring rain and sunshine." [2]

Paul in Athens. Here at the very end of our lesson study we read of "the famous story" of Paul preaching in Athens. It's one exception to apostolic success. What our lesson doesn't tell us is that few of his hearers responded positively. But reading through the Acts 17 story of his sermon we find not a mention of the cross! Paul at Athens was much like we are, working for "the higher classes." But from Athens Paul went to Corinth, where he proclaimed to these people what he did not proclaim in Athens. He proclaimed the cross of Christ. He says, "When I came to you, ... I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1, 2).

Paul explains to us how this mighty motivation works in our hearts: "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15). In the original language the idea is clear that those who understand and believe this great truth of grace will "henceforth" find it impossible to live self-centered lives. No more gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and trying to force yourself to work hard for the Lord; it is automatic.

The key word is "love." You cannot truly live under grace unless you appreciate that love revealed at the cross. When the sinner sees that cross, and appreciates that kind of love poured out, all for him, the tears come in his eyes. His heart is melted.

That is true New Testament faith--a heart-appreciation of that tremendous love. That is why we shall keep on learning to glory in the cross of Christ. More and more that "under grace" motivation will crowd out the old self-centered hope-of-reward or fear-of-punishment motivation.

Let us come out of the shadows into the sunshine of living "under grace," and work for Christ because His love "constrains us."

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Ellen G. White, Welfare Ministry, p. 162.
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Full of Good Works," The Present Truth, Jan. 18, 1894.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:


"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lesson 8. Jesus Showed Sympathy

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community

Lesson 8. Jesus Showed Sympathy


Our lesson this week depicts Jesus as a compassionate, empathetic, and sympathetic Savior. True of course, but aren't these adjectives often used to describe us as well, in certain circumstances? But there's a text in Hebrews that goes "light years" beyond the "feeling" of sympathy, and it can only apply to Jesus: "We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities [sympathize with our weaknesses]; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15).

This one verse goes to the heart of the 1888 message--the human nature of Christ. We've read Ellen White's words many times, but to review them now, slowly, will set the tone, as she says: "The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; ... Yet He was God in the flesh. ... We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart." [1]

She expressed her joy when she wrote of meetings held soon after the 1888 General Conference Session: "Many hearts were touched, ... The Lord came very near, and convicted souls of their great need of his grace and love. We felt the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand." [2]

The key to understanding the heart of the 1888 message lies in that phrase--"a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand." He who is "the way, the truth, and the life" made Himself manifest as One "nigh at hand," "Emmanuel, ... God with us," not with Him only, but "with us" (Matt. 1:23).

So fully has the Son of God identified Himself with our fallen humanity, that it's difficult to take a scalpel and separate the heart cries of Jesus in the Psalms from the heart cries of king David. For example, in Psalm 22:1 David cries out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" But then we discover that Jesus cries the same dereliction as He hangs on His cross (Matt. 27:46). Then as we read further in Psalm 22, lo and behold, we find that the entire psalm records the heart cries of Jesus up to the moment of His death when He cried out, "It is finished."

But how could Jesus Christ, the sinless One, pray the same words that the guilty, bloodstained sinner David prayed? Wasn't Jesus "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26)? He should be as far away from feeling like the despicable sinner, David, as day is from night!

But let's go back to Matthew 1:23 in which His name is translated, "God with us." Isn't it "unto us" that this "Child is born, unto us a Son is given" (Isa. 9:6)? Didn't the Father "so love the world that He gave" Him to us forever? Don't we "see Jesus ... made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9)? How could He "suffer death" unless He came inside our skin, as it were? He is "not ashamed to call [us] brethren" (vs. 11)! He had to be "[made] perfect through sufferings" (vs. 10). But wasn't He "perfect" all along? In holiness, yes; but He had to go through a process of education for 33 years in order to qualify to cry out sincerely from a broken human heart every word of Psalm 22!

That word "made" has enormous meaning: "In all things He had to be made like His brethren. ... In that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour [aid] them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18). He was "made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4). He was "made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7), He became truly a man "in the [same] likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3), "made ... to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," understood the relevance of Christ being our Saviour, who is "nigh at hand." He wrote in The Present Truth magazine:

"To confess Christ, it is not enough to believe that He once lived and suffered and died and rose again. We must confess not merely that He did come in the flesh, but that He 'is come in the flesh.' He is a present Saviour. As in all the afflictions of the Israelites of old He was afflicted, so now 'we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities' (Heb. 4.15). He still feels everything that touches us, for He is still in the flesh. Even in the heavenly places. He is still 'the Man Christ Jesus' (1 Tim. 2.5). He is our forerunner, that is, one of the brethren who has gone before to prepare a place for the rest. When He comes again, He will come in the flesh for His flesh did not see corruption and the same flesh that went into the grave also ascended to heaven (Eph. 4.10)." [3]

"Although the Word was made flesh, even our own sinful flesh, He was 'full of grace and truth.' He was 'in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin' (Heb. 4.15). God made Him 'to be sin for us,' yet He 'knew no sin' (2 Cor. 5.21). He was made to be sin, yet He 'did not sin, neither was guile found in His mouth' (1 Peter 2.22). It is these two things combined that make Him a sympathizing Saviour, in whom we may freely confide. No one can sympathize with another's failings, if he has not been tempted in the same way. Moreover, those who are guilty of any sin are the quickest and fiercest to condemn others for the same sin. Sinners excuse sin, but have no sympathy for fellow-sinners. It is only those who are cleansed from sin, who can exercise charity for the erring. Christ was tempted to the uttermost, and was always pure from the slightest taint of sin; therefore we may trust Him as one who knows and who cares." [4]

What does it all add up to?

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became "the Son of man," your Saviour "in the flesh." He empathizes with you 100 percent. In the first Bible verse cited in this essay is a double negative that makes a powerful positive: "We do not have an High Priest who cannot [sympathize with our weaknesses]; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Does He sympathize with all the sorrowing, pain-ridden people on earth? Yes! He longs to put an end to sin and the sorrow it brings. And the closer we come to Him, the more we will share His concern. Don't turn your back on Him even for a day!

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
and others as cited

[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 244.
[2] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, "Meetings at South Lancaster, Mass.," March 5, 1889.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, "The Word Made Flesh," Dec. 19, 1895.
[4] Ibid. (italics added).

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lesson 7. Jesus Desired Their Good

 Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community 

Lesson 7. Jesus Desired Their Good


By now those studying this quarter's lessons have noticed that for a church to be a soul winning force in the community, it must demonstrate a special kind of love for people. The 1888 message depends on a proper understanding of God's agape love, which is so different from the modern English single word for love, which is used to encompass so many facets of the concept. The word agape is used many times in the New Testament, and looking at a few instances will help to understand its true meaning:

Matthew 24:12: "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love [agape] will grow cold."

Luke 11:42: "Woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love [agape] of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others."

John 5:42: "I know you, that you do not have the love [agape] of God in yourselves."

John 3:35: "The Father loves the Son [with agape] and has given all things into His hand."

Romans 5:5: "Hope does not disappoint, because the love [agape] of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Bible texts from the New American Standard Bible).

There are many others, but even these few texts tell us that God's true love is given to human beings by God because they do not have it naturally within them. It is shared between the Beings of the Godhead. We humans would be completely devoid of this selfless love if God didn't pour it into our hearts, and even then we have been given the Holy Spirit, who is to direct this love in our hearts and minds.

Genuinely desiring good for others is an impossible standard without God's agape. The dramatic story of Jonah demonstrates someone who believed we should "love one another" in theory, but in actual practice he failed. If Jonah had been willing to see himself as God saw him, he would have realized his colossal selfishness. He actually resented God for forgiving the people of Nineveh when they repented. He was more interested in preserving his reputation as a prophet.

The story of healing the blind man related in Mark 8 contrasts the repentance of Nineveh with Bethsaida's stubborn rejection of Christ. "And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him 'Do you see anything?' And he looked up [gained sight] and said, 'I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about.' Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, 'Do not even enter the village'" (vss. 22-26).

Why did Jesus lead him out of the village, and after the healing tell him to go home without entering the village? In Matthew 11:21 we find that Bethsaida was one of the cities upon which Jesus had pronounced judgment saying, "Woe unto thee Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago ..." (KJV).

In a sad contrast to heathen Nineveh's repentance, Bethsaida had rejected Jesus and His message. There was no value in showing them further evidence of Christ's identity. When the blind man was brought to Christ, apparently no one in town was interested enough to follow them when Jesus led him out of the town, thus they missed witnessing the miracle. Rejecting or even slighting Christ's precious message and His blessings means forfeiting them. If God cannot win our hearts with blessings bestowed, He will attempt to make us aware of our blindness by withdrawing those blessings. Bethsaida was unwilling to see, and therefore she shall not see.

In performing the miracle, Jesus began by spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on the man. Not an uncommon practice in medicine of that day, this must be seen to parallel the advice Christ gives to the Laodicean church to obtain eye-salve to anoint those who are spiritually blind (Rev. 3:18).

Surprisingly, when the man opened his eyes, the miracle was not complete. When asked what he saw, he said he saw what he perceived as men, but they were like walking trees. It would be easy to explain this odd perception as simply the initial confusion of the new believer, and that is an appropriate application. But maybe there is something deeper. Why use a tree? The English language has a common colloquialism which describes a frantic and confused person as "running around like a chicken with its head cut off." Why didn't this man see a chicken?

What do we think of when we think of a tree? A tree is something that grows in the ground and it has roots which anchor it to the ground. It is generally expected to produce something beneficial to its environment, whether it is the tree's fruit, nuts, leaves, seeds, shade or just transforming carbon dioxide to oxygen. It provides habitat for birds, small animals and insects. In the Garden of Eden, a tree provided life-sustaining fruit. When they sinned, Adam and Eve chose the leaves of a fig tree to cover themselves. When Christ saw a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit, He cursed it. What happens if the tree decides it wants to be like men and walk around? It is no longer rooted and grounded to its source of life.

Throughout history, God has given humans messages about Who He is and that He loves us unconditionally. As generations came and went, those instructions became distorted by human memories and inclusion of human thinking. The Jewish nation had so distorted the truth about God, their confusion prevented them from recognizing the Messiah when He came. The apostolic church received the true gospel from their exposure to Christ's direct teaching, but the same distortion occurred with the inclusion of satanic inspired human ideas. The reformers began the task of refocusing on the genuine gospel of salvation by faith alone.

Unfortunately, the same deadly cycle happened again and God raised up a little group, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was given the special message for the end time church in the understanding of the Sabbath and the cleansing of the sanctuary. Once again, that message was distorted with concepts of legalism, which took the power out of our arguments regarding the Sabbath and the sanctuary message.

"'When you are laboring in a place where souls are just beginning to get the scales from their eyes, and to see men as trees walking, be very careful not to present the truth in such a way as to arouse prejudice, and to close the door of the heart to the truth. Agree with the people on every point where you can consistently do so. Let them see that you love their souls, and want to be in harmony with them so far as possible.' Then she added, with a touch of sadness, 'Oh that I could impress upon all the necessity of laboring in the spirit of Jesus; for I have been shown that souls here in Europe have been turned away from the truth because of a lack of tact and skill in presenting it.'" [1]

Once again, God raised up messengers to reinstate the great concepts of revealing the agape of God by the doctrine of righteousness by faith alone, with no contribution by the works of humans as being the only way of salvation. Unless we are rooted and grounded in God's agape love by faith, we will be as men who are trees walking. Those who are privileged to study the message given to the 1888 "messengers," A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, and to Ellen White, have a serious responsibility that our own repentance is deep, and our understanding is rooted and grounded in the straight testimony of the True Witness. Our own repentance cannot be shallow.

"I write this because many in the church are represented to me as seeing men like trees walking. They must have another and deeper experience before they discern the snares spread to take them in the net of the deceiver. There must be no halfway work done now. The Lord calls for stanch, decided, whole-souled men and women to stand in the gap, and make up the hedge. [Isaiah 58:12-14 quoted.]

"There is a decided testimony to be borne by all our ministers in all our churches. God has permitted apostasies to take place in order to show how little dependence can be placed in man. We are always to look to God; ..." [2]

The parallel between "seeing men like trees walking" and the lukewarmness of Laodicea is apparent. Jesus appeals to His people to repent. What shall they repent of--legalism? The uprooting of trees from their foundation and the cause of lukewarmness in the church is the condition of legalism. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is legalistic because, for all practical purposes, its understanding of faith, is motivated by an individualistic selfish avoidance of hell and hope of reward in heaven. When there is a convergence of individuals who exchange their self-centered love, for faith's true motivation in God's love, then the True Witness's straight testimony will have accomplished its work, and there will be an evangelism explosion the likes of which the earth hasn't seen before.

Like the tree that is rooted and grounded, it reaches for moisture and nourishment deep within the soil. So must our roots reach to the deep mysteries so readily available to those willing to study God's word.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887, "Presenting the Truth in Love," p. 69.
[2] Ellen G. White Comments in SDA Bible Commentary, The, vol. 4, p. 1152.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 5, 2016

Lesson 6. Jesus Mingled With People

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community

Lesson 6. Jesus Mingled With People

 The Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus the paramount witness have always been at work preparing the harvest for us. When we mingle with others, it is with the sure conviction that God has already been convicting their hearts. Nothing is more invigorating than to know that we are never alone in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. Not only is God working before us to save others, He continues to do so.

The Bible often tells us to seek the Lord. "It is time to seek the Lord" (Hosea 10:12). But the Bible also tells us that the Lord is seeking us: "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). He says He is the Good Shepherd, who seeks His lost sheep. Jesus told how the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep and sought the one lost sheep (15:3-7). He is like the woman who searched and found her one lost coin (15:8-10). Even the parable of the prodigal son tells the same truth: the son did not create love in his father's heart--he walked home only because he knew there was love in that father's heart for him.

Our salvation does not depend on our skill, our strength, our intuitiveness, in finding an elusive God who is hiding from us; it depends on our believing, realizing, comprehending, appreciating, what it cost Jesus to seek and find us. If you work hard trying to find Him, you will naturally be proud of your accomplishment, especially when you consider how few people succeed. But if you realize that "from first to last," it has been Christ's seeking love trying to find you, then your proud heart is melted. And that is the beginning of a genuine Christian experience.

We are to pay attention to the Lord while He is available, and call upon Him while He is near (Isa. 55:6). In this solemn Day of Atonement, it surely is time to "pay attention to the Lord." That He is still "available" is tremendous good news.

This is the first new covenant truth of the Bible which the 1888 message zeros in on. Christ takes the initiative in seeking us for salvation. This is God's grace. If it's the other way around, that we seek Him first in salvation, then it's old covenant legalism. Rather, God is seeking us. Then the appropriate new covenant response is to pay attention to Him.

Now this is the pattern in soul-winning. In the first step of Christ's method, He did not just mingle with others, but He did so as one desiring their good. People were His first priority. But how did He do that? He sought access to their hearts in "a way that made them feel the completeness of His identification with their interests and happiness." [1]

Jesus associated with people simply because He loved them, and because He had their best interests at heart.

Usually we react toward people rather than act. We wait for others to take the initiative.

"Christian sociability is altogether too little cultivated by God's people. ... Especially should those who have tasted the love of Christ develop their social powers, for in this way they may win souls to the Saviour." [2] Ellen White also admonishes us "not to renounce social communion. We should not seclude ourselves from others." Why? Because "they will seldom seek us of their own accord," and because "social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour." [3]

The purpose of the salt in the saltshaker is for it to be used not placed on a shelf to be admired by whomever passes by. It was put there for the sole purpose of being sprinkled on the food, mingled with it, and giving it taste. Ellen White uses the term mingled in illustrating this point: "Salt must be mingled with the substance to which it is added; it must penetrate and infuse in order to preserve. So it is through personal contact and association that men are reached by the saving power of the gospel." [4]

The Lord has raised up His church as the only hope the world has; it is the medium through which He intends to pour out His grace upon the world; it is to have an influence on world population far out of proportion to the smallness of its numbers. Scripture makes clear that the remnant church is to spread abroad a knowledge of the pure true gospel that will serve like salt served in Jesus' world--a preservative of the fish that were caught in Lake Galilee and transported to the markets in Jerusalem.

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus says His church is the salt of the earth. In Luke 14:34, 35 He speaks of salt that has lost its saltiness and asks the pointed question: If His church has lost or forgotten the gospel that is the saltiness of the salt that the world needs to keep it from spoiling like spoiled fish, "wherewith shall it [the earth] be seasoned?" In other words, what other hope is there for society except revival, repentance, and reformation permeating His remnant church? Pray for that repentance and reformation--please.

How has the Holy Spirit already been busy influencing human hearts around us? "The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest. ... Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him." [5]

Not only does He already thoroughly know the person we are contacting, but He is doing His utmost best to reach out through us to that individual. The Holy Spirit takes our simple social contact and humble and sincere testimony, and uses them to soften and convict the most hardened heart. "By being social and coming close to the people, you may turn the current of their thoughts more readily than by the most able discourse." [6] God has so many providential opportunities to witness that He wants to send our way. And if we are in tune with His great passion to save the lost, and take the initiative, remarkable experiences will happen that would not otherwise.

Jesus' incarnation ministry is where we identify with people's needs and feelings, while pointing them to Jesus, who can satisfy their deepest longings. And from being anchored in Him the Rock, from that position of strength, we can reach out to others, identify with them, lift them out of sin's ditch, and set their feet on spiritually higher ground.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes [Ellen G. White]:
[1] Gospel Workers, p. 45.
[2] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 172.
[3] The Desire of Ages, p. 152.
[4] Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 36.
[5] Steps to Christ, p. 28.
[6] Gospel Workers, p. 193.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
Raul Diaz