Friday, December 30, 2016
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 13. The Character of Job
There are many ways to misunderstand the story of Job. One of them is to think that God looked around for someone on earth with an almost perfect character (He told Satan "there is no one like him") so He could make Job an example in order to win a bet with the devil. God doesn't use people as pawns. The point of the book of Job is that because He promises to finish the work He starts in us, He allows things to happen to us to mature and strengthen our faith.
In the conversation with the "sons of God" (Job 1:6-9), God said some very nice things about Job's character: he's "blameless," "upright," "fear[s] God," and "turn[s] away from evil." Because of these character traits, it is easy to understand that Job was respected by those who knew him. He had a seat in the "open square." Most ancient towns were built around an open area so that the walls formed protection against enemies. This protected area also served as the commercial market place for the citizens of both the town and surrounding area. To have earned the right to a seat would be an indication that the townspeople respected Job and respected his opinions in important decisions affecting the citizens. We might equate it with being a member of the city council. He was wise, honest, and fair.
To see bad things happening to such a good person didn't make sense to Job's friends, so they argued that he must not be as good as he looked. In chapter 31 Job describes all the good things about him as proof that his friends are wrong. We are told in "all this" Job didn't sin, but it isn't sin to misunderstand. The refining process is to mature our character, and God allows it because He loves us. Whether we do good things or have good character traits does not make us exempt.
In the cosmic Day of Atonement cleansing concept that Seventh-day Adventists call the "Investigative Judgment," the process is for us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in showing us who we are, and the sins we may or may not know of so that we can let Him cleanse us and mature our faith. The 1888 message teaches that there will be a group of people at the very end of time who allow God to complete this process in their hearts and minds, but they will not be aware of it. Like Job, they won't be able to think of anything they still need to give to God.
On page 109, the "Quarterly" directs us to an Ellen G. White quotation from The Desire of Ages: "The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people" (p. 671). On the same page, she says that [the Holy Spirit] "first dwells in the heart as the Spirit of truth, and thus He becomes the Comforter. There is comfort and peace in the truth ... It is through false theories and traditions that Satan gains his power over the mind."
Sin came into the world in a disguised, mysterious way. It became the carrier of death when Lucifer, a created being, surrendered to the love of self and unconsciously proposed to take the place of the Creator. Adam surrendered to this same love of self in the garden, and became burdened with a terrible sense of guilt.
The human race has been searching for the right things to do in order to become free from this guilt. It has become the driving force behind the idea of righteousness by works. This is where the gospel becomes the cure. Because the gospel is the power of God, it confronts our guilt, showing us that we are guilty of the ultimate sin of wanting to take the place of the Creator. When we understand we are helpless to free ourselves of this guilt, the gospel frees us to rest in God's ability and willingness to recreate us. This is the power of God, and the power of God forgives, cleanses, and sustains the human soul.
The experience of the 1844 believers ushered in the beginning of a new covenant appreciation of the end time judgment hour. The believers were to see and understand the rebellion of the human heart against God and truth. Their enmity had remained unconscious, awaiting revelation in the final atonement.
"From eternal ages it was God's purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. ... But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His temple."  Heaven is far more than just a material place--it constitutes an understanding, a living experience that begins here and now for God's people in this world.
The mystery of iniquity with its burden of guilt will be replaced with the mystery of godliness. Paul tells us that this mystery has been "kept secret for long ages past, but is now manifested and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26, 26).
"What a magnificent conclusion!--It reaches from eternity to eternity. The gospel of God is the thing of the ages. ... Patriarchs, prophets and apostles have worked in unison in making it manifest; and 'in the ages to come' it will be both the science and the song of the redeemed 'of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,' who shall gather with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and will say, 'Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 
 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 161.
 Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 214.
Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/efrE1qRMMo0
Friday, December 16, 2016
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 12. Job's Redeemer
What does Job know? By faith he knows three wonderful truths: he has a living Redeemer, this Redeemer will stand upon the earth, and Job will see Him with his eyes.
He says in effect, "I will not finally believe that the monster god is the God who made this world. I know that the God I have always feared and loved is related to me by covenant--I belong to Him and His family and His people--and in the end, even if it is after my death, I will see Him, and He will vindicate me so that it will be publicly seen that I have been a real believer with a clear conscience" (Job 19:25-27).
Job knows he has a living Redeemer. The "Redeemer" was someone tied to you by covenant, usually a relative, whose calling was to stand for you when you were wronged. One of the most beautiful illustrations of this principle is in the book of Ruth, where Boaz acts as Naomi and Ruth's kinsman-redeemer, caring for them in their widowhood and becoming for Ruth the husband she needs.
Job is confident he has a Redeemer who "lives." This Redeemer can be none other than God Himself, who stands as the Redeemer of His people.
Job knows by faith that this Redeemer will "at the last ... stand upon the earth," "upon the dust," referring to Job's grave. There will be an eternally living vindicator standing on my grave, attesting my genuineness and justification with God.
Job knows that in the end he will see this Redeemer-God with his own eyes. Job expects this to happen after his death--"after my skin has been thus destroyed" (Job 19:26). Job will be hidden in the grave and then summoned in the resurrection to meet his God. To stand before God has the meaning of justification with God, being vindicated. Job's faith makes this future reality so vivid that it is almost as if he is already experiencing this longed-for vision of God. Job is a prophet and the Spirit of Christ within him searches and inquires about what person and time is being indicated by these longings (1 Peter 1:10-12). The deepest longing of Job's heart is to stand vindicated before the God he loves and worships.
Unless the book of Job is nonsense, it clearly indicates that Job vindicated God. Those who say it is blasphemy or near-blasphemy to recognize that converted sinners can ever have even the slightest part in vindicating the Lord and helping to resolve the "great controversy between Christ and Satan" have ignored the obvious import of Job.
The Lord staked the honor of His throne on the outcome of Satan's temptations to Job. There are links that bind Job on his dung hill with Christ on His cross.
Imagine for a moment what would have happened had Job failed the test: Satan would have trumpeted all over the universe that God is defeated, that He is wrong, mistaken, and that His plan of salvation is a failure. The fact that Job did not fail ("My servant Job" [has] "spoken of Me the thing which is right", Job 42:8) obviously means that He honored God, defended His cause, silenced Satan, got God off the hook, in short--vindicated Him.
Some say, "Only Christ could do that!" But the fact is, Job did it too! The fact that Job vindicated God does not mean he did it on his own. It was by faith ("I know that my Redeemer liveth ..."). It was righteousness imparted by faith.
Christ on His cross, Job on his dung-hill, and the saints apparently forsaken of God during the Time of Trouble, all have something in common: a practical experience of atonement. By faith they span the awful gulf of God-forsakenness that all have felt. There is no sense in the heavenly universe watching the demonstration if it is meaningless!
Christ was not afflicted with boils or leprosy. He did not lose a family or hear a wife say, "Curse God and die." He suffered no sudden, forced deprivation of wealth. But He was tempted more than Job could possibly have been. As He hung upon His cross, it was not for Him to say, "I know that My Redeemer liveth!" Rather, it was His to bear the nakedness and of pure distilled despair. No conviction of righteousness triumphantly upheld Him as was Job's privilege.
Job was "made the righteousness of God" even in his darkest moments, and rejoiced in the conviction of innocence which was imputed to him from the Innocent One. But Christ was "made to be sin," and both in appearance and in actuality, was numbered with the transgressors (2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:12). The bitter cup He drained was the second death, the pain and guilt of naked sin, which He was "made to be" on our account, and which was imputed to Him. Job drank no such cup, but rather was sustained by the fruits of Christ's atonement. "The light that lighteth every man" shone in his soul.
Christ vindicated God by enduring the darkness of the second death. Had He not endured that darkness, He would have been sustained by hope, and thus His sacrifice would not have been complete. It is only when this truth is comprehended that a complete atonement becomes possible to contemplate.
The 1888 message sees Christ's sacrifice on the cross as accomplishing infinitely more than "merely deferring" the original punishment for sin. "The punishment or wages of sin--eternal death" was neither "waived," "deferred," nor "delayed," but was inflicted totally on Christ. This is the only foundation on which grace can rest. Grace that does not rest on Christ's complete sacrifice must be "cheap grace." He actually and truly paid the debt of every man's sin, and therefore fully died the second death of "every man." Thus there is no reason for any human soul to die that second death except for his own personal unbelief, his refusal to appreciate what Christ has actually (not provisionally) accomplished for him on the cross (John 3:17-19). This view of the cross may take one's breath away, but we see it as stark Bible truth.
"Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). This was the equivalent of the second death. He made the commitment of all He had, to give Himself to death and hell forever, withholding nothing. This is the measure of His agape.
Christ's atonement is infinitely more than we have been ready to understand. Every human being is involved: "Jesus, the world's Redeemer, stands between Satan and every soul. ... The sins of everyone who has lived upon the earth were laid upon Christ, testifying to the fact that no one need be a loser in the conflict with Satan." (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 23, 1899).
What good news! And how the world hungers to hear it!
--Paul E. Penno
Friday, December 9, 2016
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 11. Out of the Whirlwind
In our essay this week we would like to focus on Thursday's lesson, "Repenting in Dust and Ashes." Our lesson author makes the statement that Job, after being "overwhelmed by what God had shown him," "saw himself for what he really was, ... abhorring himself and repenting in dust and ashes."
Wrote Ellen White, "'The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind' (Job 38:1), and revealed to His servant the might of His power. When Job caught a glimpse of his Creator, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. Then the Lord was able to bless him abundantly and to make his last years the best of his life."  This reminds us of a similar statement in reference to His people in modern times:
"Unless the church which is now being leavened with her own backsliding, shall repent and be converted, she will eat of the fruit of her own doing, until she shall abhor herself. When she resists the evil and chooses the good, when she seeks God with all humility, and reaches her high calling in Christ, standing on the platform of eternal truth and by faith laying hold upon the attainments prepared for her, she will be healed. She will appear in her God-given simplicity and purity, separate from earthly entanglements, showing that the truth has made her free indeed. Then her members will indeed be the chosen of God, His representatives." 
Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," has written that "wherever in the Old Testament it speaks of any one being broken to pieces by the Lord, we find coupled with that repentance, submission, or bitterness of soul, dust and ashes. When they humbled themselves before the Lord, they put dust on their heads. What was signified in this? I am nothing but dust. In the fifty-first, the penitential Psalm, it says near the close: 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.' That word 'contrite' means rubbed together until it is dust. The Lord, then, does not despise dust; because he can do a great deal even with dust. A good workman does not despise his material. Dust is one of the things which the Lord takes to do everything. Out of dust he made all things to grow. Out of dust he made man to rule over the works of his hands, therefore the Lord does not despise dust." 
Could this Old Testament "story," and the writings of Ellen G. White and one of God's "messengers," be pertinent to us, who are living in the "last days"?
Very prominent in the 1888 message is the idea of ceasing to resist our Lord. Ellen White caught it. Not until after the 1888 Conference did she state it clearly: "The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins."  Therein is the essence of the cleansing of the sanctuary!
The 1888 idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary imparts a new motivation for following Christ. The truth of agape supplies the strength--"the agape of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14). Fear of the "investigative judgment" is "cast out." This is part of the cosmic Day of Atonement--a time for at-last-realized one-ness with Christ. That delivers from fear as much as He Himself was delivered from fear in His life on earth.
The Sanctuary truth leads directly to the Bride of Christ making herself ready. That "oneness" is further delineated in Scripture as a development that has never taken place in all past history: "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." A special blessing is pronounced on those who are invited to "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:6-9). As individuals, all (including those of the last days) are "guests at the wedding." But as a corporate body, the church of the great Day of Atonement becomes the Bride of Christ.
In order for the dilatory Bride to "make herself ready" for the "marriage of the Lamb," she must welcome the disclosure of her true need. The Bride is a corporate body, therefore her repentance is a corporate repentance.
Such repentance is not only sorrow for sin and its results, but a genuine abhorrence of it. It produces an actual turning away from the sin. The law can never do this for anyone; the miracle is administered by grace. "The law worketh wrath," imparting only a terror of judgment, but grace works a repentance that makes "old things" pass away; "behold, all things are become new" (Rom. 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:17). Sin that was once loved is now hated, and righteousness that was once hated is now loved. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
Far from being a negative experience, such repentance is the foundation of all true joy. As every credit must have a corresponding debit to balance the books, so the smiles and happiness of life, in order to be meaningful, must be founded on the tears of Another upon whom was laid "the chastisement of our peace" and with whose "stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). Repentance is not our tears and sorrow balancing the books of life; it is our appreciation of what it cost Him to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (vs. 4).
Ellen White says, "At every advance step in Christian experience our repentance will deepen. It is to those whom the Lord has forgiven, to those whom he acknowledges as His people, and He says, 'Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight'" (Ezek. 36:31). 
A repentance like this is beyond us to invent or to initiate. It must come as a gift from above. God has exalted Christ "to give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31). And to the Gentiles also He "granted repentance unto life" (11:18). Is He any less generous to us today? Such an experience seems almost wholly out of place in these last days. Can a sophisticated church ever receive it?
Laodicea's repentance will go down to the deepest roots of this natural "enmity against God." This deeper phase of repentance is repenting of sins that we may not have personally committed, but which we would have committed if we had the opportunity.  The root of all sin, its common denominator, is the crucifixion of Christ. A repentance for this sin is appropriate because the books of heaven already record this sin written against our names:
The Laodicean call to repentance is the essence of the message of Christ's righteousness. Whatever sins other people are guilty of, they obviously had the "opportunity" of committing them; somehow the temptations were overmastering to them. The deeper insight the Holy Spirit brings to us is that we are by nature no better than others. Christ's righteousness is 100 percent imputed to us; we don't have even 1 percent that is ours by nature. When Scripture says that "all have sinned," it means, as the New English Bible translates it, "all alike have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Digging down to get the roots out--this is now "present truth."
There is no way that we can appreciate the heights of Christ's glorious righteousness until we are willing to recognize the depths of our own sinfulness. A confession of sin that only scratches the surface can produce only a surface or veneer forgiveness. And that, of course, produces spiritual lukewarmness.
Does the Seventh-day Adventist Church have something to repent of in "dust and ashes"? Yes, Ellen White writes, "Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God." 
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
 Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 164.
 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 250, 251.
 Ellet J. Waggoner, "Studies in the Book of Hebrews, No. 5," Feb. 14, 1897.
 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 27.
 Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 160, 161.
 Ellen G. White Comments in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1085 (Signs of the Times, July 31, 1901).
 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 745.
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/rWjQaImAJPw
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
Friday, December 2, 2016
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 10. The Wrath of Elihu
Have you ever felt a "righteous indignation" about the 1888 message? Why doesn't the church recognize the latter rain message that ripens the harvest for Jesus to come? Have you ever been "angry" about that?
It's not fair is common and deeply felt. We are hard-wired with a sense of justice that ought to be done. We overturn governments because they are unjust or corrupt. We expose corruption and injustice in high places and expect it to be put right.
Job has made the accusation, "God is not fair!" He is not merely speaking of corruption in high places but of corruption in the Most High Place. If there is not justice in the universe, what hope is there for us? On a personal level, if I feel that God has not treated me right, in my health, my upbringing, my abilities, my relationships, my work, or in a failed relationship, a bereavement, a sickness, or a psychiatric disorder, then my faith will be harmed, my obedience will become reluctant, my hope will be destroyed, and my joy will be poisoned. The very first temptation in the garden in Eden was to believe that God is not fair. We are reminded as we meet Elihu that the justice or fairness of God lies at the heart of the book of Job.
When the three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes, then Elihu burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong (Job 32:1-5).
Elihu is angry first with Job "because he was righteous in his own eyes" (vs.1) and "because he justified himself rather than God" (vs. 2). He is angry that a mortal man should claim to be in the right in a way that suggested that God must be in the wrong for causing him to suffer.
Was Elihu's anger justified? Was it what we would call "righteous indignation"? Jesus displayed righteous indignation over the misrepresentation of His Father's house (see Luke 19:46). And here we have a rare example of seeing Jesus when He was "with anger." He heals somebody when He was angry! We would naturally think He would want to cool off before He heals someone; but no, His "anger" was justified, holy, and righteous.
We should think carefully before we display our anger. Time and place and choice of words are always things we need to think about when we speak critically. Should we express some "righteous indignation" over Laodicea's refusal to receive the latter rain of the 1888 message?
Could Jesus sometimes be angry when He is present by the Holy Spirit at our own worship services? If we preach, sing hymns or gospel songs, pray public prayers, while we have "hard hearts," we run the risk of angering Him. His patience is never said to be infinite, and we are getting down close to the end. If someone has wronged us in an unjust way, we have a right to some "righteous indignation," but never should we permit our hearts to become "hard." We can be "angry" with a soft heart that still loves our opponent!
Suppose the Holy Spirit has responded to the pastor's earnest prayer for His blessing in leading the worship service and bringing us a message from heaven, and we sit there nursing a hard heart and then go home utterly impervious to the ministry of the Holy Spirit—don't ever let more than one Sabbath pass like that. When Jesus gets angry (He still does!), He doesn't throw a temper tantrum and break dishes or scream at us. He simply walks away sad, and leaves us alone. When that happens to us, we are most miserable and we have lost the consciousness of our misery. It's hardly a step from hell.
These people Jesus was ministering to in Mark 2 and 3 thought they were the "true church" which kept the commandments of God. Their parallel with us was uncomfortably close. Times almost without number Ellen White compared the church to them. In respect of "1888" alone, she said many times that we acted "just like the Jews."
Dr. Arnold Wallenkampf, formerly of the Biblical Research Institute of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, frankly acknowledges that our forefathers' sin in the 1888 era was a repetition of that sin of the Jews:
"It staggers one's imagination that delegates to a Seventh-day Adventist General Conference session could treat the Holy Spirit shamefully, insult and injure Him, and even figuratively crucify Jesus in the Person of the Holy Spirit. ... It was but natural for the majority of the ministers to follow their revered leaders. ... Many of the delegates ... became accomplices in the sin of rejecting the message of righteousness by faith, through action according to the laws of group dynamics." 
The sin of blindly following leaders, of drifting with the tide, of being afraid to stand alone for truth, is what Wallenkampf means by his term "group-dynamics." It is simply a synonym for corporate guilt.
What poses a unique problem is Ellen White's statements that "we" repeated the sin of the Jews in rejecting Christ in the person of His "special messengers." They are long since dead. How do we go about making that right?
Can Jesus be satisfied with an apology voted by our official committees? Or can the Holy Spirit accept a mere invitation to overlook "our" "insult"?
God is too big to be satisfied with such a veneer confession. We can't drag Him down to our judicial judgment levels. He is not concerned about His personal feelings (although He certainly has them!). He wants no financial indemnity or public convention-apology. His anger is not selfish; it is white-hot righteous indignation because a world has been deprived of "a most precious message" that He "commanded" should be proclaimed. And He still "so loves" that world for which He gave His only begotten Son! He forgets Himself in His concern that this message be proclaimed, that people dying for want of it may hear it.
In our 1888 era "we" as church leadership brought upon ourselves a solemn indictment in full sight of the watching universe. It is inevitable that the world also must know the truth:
"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [the moral law in Galatians], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. ... The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." 
There is something we can do to make matters right with Heaven and with the world: Accept the message that we "in a great degree" rejected. That is still possible, but it involves humbling our souls. Give it to the church, clearly, powerfully, unequivocally. Allow the "Lord's delegated messengers," His "special messengers" in the 1888 era, to speak to the world church.
Let this "most precious message" vitalize our "29 doctrines," let it saturate our every radio and TV presentation, our public evangelistic campaigns, and all our magazines and publications. Proclaim it to the world without a trace of old covenant legalism mixed in. Only then could the Lord say of us what He said of Mary Magdalene's offering at Bethany: "She hath done what she could."
It will prepare God's people for translation. Don't kid yourself: Satan will oppose that message hell-bound. But "the grace of God" will be much more abounding. God's people will respond to their High Priest.
—Paul E. Penno
 Arnold V. Wallenkampf, What Every Adventist Should Know About 1888, Review and Herald, 1988, pp. 43-45.
 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235.
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/f28SPMWZweg
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org