Friday, January 26, 2018

Lesson 4. Escape From the World's Ways

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 4. Escape From the World's Ways


A steward is a manager, or keeper, of someone else's goods and property. In the Bible we first read of stewardship in Genesis 2:15 which states that Adam was made a "keeper" of God's earth and all that was in it. But because Adam believed Satan's lie about God's character, he lost his dominion and "delivered" his Master's "goods" to the enemy (see Luke 4:6; John 12:3114:3016:11).

In Genesis 15:2, Abraham refers to Eliezer of Damascus as his steward. Joseph was made steward of Potiphar's household, and later steward over all of Pharaoh's domain. These are examples of wise and faithful managers of their earthly master's property. The Bible also tells us of unfaithful stewards, servants who say in their hearts, "my Lord delays His coming." They focus on their apparent spiritual wealth, knowledge, and position and fall into the world's ways, neglecting the work God set before them. They become Laodicean, not comprehending that they "are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).

Beginning in 1844, God called a people out of the world so He could bring them to spiritual maturity beyond "Reformation theology" and the limited understanding of justification proclaimed by reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546), John Calvin (1509-1564), Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), and John Wesley (1703-1791). For nearly two millennia Satan worked to obscure the true foundation of justification, which is the faith of Christ. Many of the Pharisees, papists, and some Reformers taught that commandment-keeping ("works of the law" or sacraments of the church) was the way to justification, thus obscuring the truth that commandment-keeping by faith is the result of justification in all who will believe in the power of God to deliver from sin.

As a "called out remnant" the Second Advent people, who eventually formed into the Seventh-day Adventist movement, learned the vital importance of following their Saviour in His work as humanity's high priest in the heavenly sanctuary. They were called of God to proclaim "great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost"--vital truths that the Reformers and Evangelicals never had. These truths "are to shine from God's word in their native purity" through the "1888 message" of Christ and His righteousness. [1]

However, by the mid-1880s, Satan had caused much theological confusion. He well knows that when Christ's "most precious message" is fully accepted into the heart and proclaimed to the world, it will culminate in the finishing of Christ's day of atonement ministry. A. T. Jones commented on the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary when he wrote: "... we are plainly taught that the service of our great High Priest in the cleansing of the true sanctuary must be preceded by the cleansing of each one of the believers, the cleansing of each one who has a part in that service of the true High Priest in the true sanctuary. It is plain that transgression must be finished, and end of sins and reconciliation for all iniquity must be made, and everlasting righteousness must be brought in, in the heart's experience of every believer in Jesus, before the cleansing of the true sanctuary can be accomplished." [2]

Instead of preachers of righteousness by faith, as a people we became expert expositors and defenders of the Law of God, so much so that by the mid-1880s "we [had] been at work on the law until we [were] as dry as the hills of Gilboa, without dew or rain." [3] We reckoned it more important to rely on the law and our own ability to keep it, than to depend exclusively upon the Author of that Law, and thus we became confused stewards of God's final message to a dying world. As a result we have delayed the second coming of our Lord. We must not blame God for the delay that is due to our own insubordination. [4]

During that time of spiritual confusion, God raised up two young men, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, to bring a special message to His remnant people. "The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [5]

We have remained in this world more than a century since this counsel was given, forcing us to ponder: Are we faithful servants of the message that God Himself commanded was to be given to the world; or are we unfaithful stewards, hiding the truth under a bushel; or worse, are we actively fighting against the proclamation of the message by distorting truth and history?

At the 1893 General Conference Session, Elder Jones quoted from a testimony from Mrs. White entitled, "The Crisis Imminent." "Something great and decisive is to take place, and that right early. If any delay, the character of God and His throne will be compromised." Then Elder Jones cautioned: "Brethren, by our careless, indifferent attitude, we are putting God's throne into jeopardy. ... Brethren, for the Lord's sake, and for His throne's sake, let us get out of the way. Let us get out of the way. The only way to get out of the way of God is to flee to Him." [6]

Getting "out of God's way" is in reality falling into His outstretched loving arms where He enrobes us in the personal intimacy of His own righteousness. Only when we allow ourselves to be wrapped in His arms can we have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. Nestled in intimate fellowship, when we pray we are but whispering into the ear of our loving Saviour and, answering, He imparts the power of His Spirit to us. "Faith in Jesus Christ, personal faith in Jesus Christ, and receiving righteousness by faith, and the keeping of the Sabbath, seeing Christ in it, and receiving the seal of God, the perfect image of Jesus Christ, reflected in the character,--this prepares the character for the close of probation." [7]

"We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith; but what brings it? The Spirit of God; and when we have that, Christ dwells in the heart. Then it is the Holy Spirit that brings the personal presence of Jesus Christ; and in bringing His personal presence to us, He brings Himself. Then it is the mind of Christ, by which we may comprehend, investigate, and revel in, the deep things of God which He reaches down and brings forth to our understanding and sets them before us in their plainness. That is what we must have, in order to have the presence of Christ, in order to have the righteousness of Christ, in order that we may have the latter rain, in order that we may give the loud cry." [8]

"Getting out of God's way" also means that we cease damming-up the work through our resistance, and become willing to unashamedly declare to the world that the message we received during the "1888" era is indeed unique. It is deeper than anything the Protestant Reformers or Pharisaical legalists knew, and more sublime than Evangelical theology, reaching to the very heights of the throne of God. Why is it important to focus on the uniqueness of the message?--because, unlike Reformation theology, the message of Christ and His righteousness reclaims from sin through the perfection of our characters, and proclaims everlasting righteousness in Christ.

The balanced understanding of justification by faith brought to us through Elders Jones and Waggoner, has significantly more depth than any previous exposition of the Gospel. "When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard, excepting the conversations between myself and my husband. I have said to myself, it is because God has presented it to me in vision that I see it so clearly, and they cannot see it because they have never had it presented to them as I have. And when another presented it, every fiber of my heart said, Amen." [9]

Appreciation of God's "1888 message" motivates us to careful stewardship in every aspect of our lives. It spiritually elevates us from the world and its alluring attractions, separates us from all unrighteousness, and exalts Christ and His righteousness as the only way of salvation. Justification, both the legal aspect and the application of that justification when "worked out" by the Holy Spirit in our personal lives (see Phil. 2:12, 13), will inspire others to embrace the truth of God's plan of salvation. Plumbing the depth of the "1888 message," we escape from the world's ways and find spiritual comfort and peace in a world that has gone awry.

--Ann Walper

[1] See Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473.
[2] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, p. 121 (2003 ed.).
[3] Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, p. 557; see also p. 560, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 11, 1890.
[4] See Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 696.
[5] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[6] A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message--No. 3," 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 73.
[7] A. T. Jones, "Health Reform by Faith," The Home Missionary, Nov. 1893.
[8] A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message--No. 11," 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 246.
[9] Ellen G. White, MS 5, Sermon, "Christ and the Law," Rome, New York, June 19, 1889.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Lesson 3. God or Mammon?

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 3. God or Mammon?


One marked feature in the teachings of Christ is the frequency and earnestness with which He rebuked the sin of covetousness, and pointed out the danger of worldly acquisitions and the inordinate love of gain. In the mansions of the rich, in the temple, and in the streets, He warned those who inquired after salvation: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

--Ellen G. White, The Retirement Years, p. 95


A fundamental truth underlies all human existence. No human being anywhere can claim rightful title to even one dollar as being his or hers. This principle, which is at the heart of the 1888 message, is taught in a well-known verse: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" (John 3:16). Obviously, this means that "the world" was doomed to "perish" unless God gave that Gift. It's a blunt, straightforward recognition that "the world" (everyone, not just believers) owes everything to that divine Gift. No one can believe the gospel without recognizing immediately that he now relates to money and material things in a new way.

Another text states the same principle even more clearly: "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and 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. 5:14, 15). The original language implies that a new compulsion now grips the heart, stronger than the old compulsion of selfishness.

This powerful truth lays an ax at the root of our love affair with money. If we believe that Christ "died for all," that is the same as saying that we died along with Him and that if He had not died for all, we would all be dead and would therefore have nothing.

Ellet J. Waggoner says, "It makes a vast difference whom one serves. The servant derives his importance from the dignity of the one served. [The apostle] Paul served the Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody may serve the same Master. 'Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?' (Rom. 6:16). Even the ordinary house servant who yields to the Lord is the servant of the Lord, and not of man. ... 'No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye can not serve God and mammon' (Matt. 6:24). No man can serve the Lord and have other service besides that" (Waggoner on Romans, pp. 9, 10).

You may just now be wrestling with some temptation to put something you don't really need, or some person, as the object of your heart's devotion in place of your true Savior.

• Before you are tempted to sacrifice your soul, God shows you a glimpse of how wonderful Heaven is.
• Before you snatch at some earthly riches, He reveals to you the true wealth of His salvation "in Christ."
• Before you worship some earthly "idol," He shows you how precious is His eternal friendship.
• Before you seek fulfillment in some forbidden infatuation, He shows you the eternal preciousness of true love.
• Before you are dazzled by the "glory" of the lights of Times Square, He shows you a glimpse of the eternal glory of the cross of Jesus!

All this is in that blessed preamble to the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:2). How can we be so stupid as to let anything in spiritual "Egypt" confuse and bewilder us?

So, what's wrong and what's right about our use of money? The Ten Commandments, if appreciated and followed, would long ago have solved the world's painful economic inequities. But they haven't succeeded. Some spiritual virus continues to create vast gulfs between the "haves" and "have-nots."

Here's the Good News: When we understand and believe the inspired preamble, when we appreciate what the Son of God has done for us, modern idolatry loses its charm. It's not the gold or silver or wooden crosses in churches that captivate our souls; it's the understanding of the love of Christ that is revealed at His cross. In the light of that cross of Christ, our beloved "idol" turns into "ashes" even before we worship it! All the glitter that once attracted us has lost its sheen and we actually begin to "glory ["boast," The Revised English Bible] ... in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).

God never asks us to give up something unless first of all He shows us how precious is the Gift He has already given us! Maybe we can say it this way: He never asks us to give up a stuffed doll until He shows us a precious live baby in our arms. He never asks us to give up a plastic toy car until first He shows us He has already given us a genuine new car.

Inheriting the wealth of the universe "in Christ" for all eternity--this is why you cannot place any other "gods" (mammon) before the Lord when you believe the truth of the gospel. It's not a works trip. It's a faith trip. Faith is like dynamite; it's powerful, it "works." It saves you before you sin! It saves you from sin!

Jesus' solution to our selfishness is not to shame us, but to share with all of us the good news that we can enjoy a dynamic, practical victory over the love of money.

One great little nugget of truth is in Galatians 5:16, 17. If you let the Holy Spirit hold you by the hand as you choose to walk with Him, you "cannot do the [evil] things" that otherwise your sinful nature would want you to do!

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland, et al. as noted


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

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Lesson 2. I See, I Want, I Take

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 2. I See, I Want, I Take


The subtitle to this quarterly's lessons on stewardship is "Motives of the Heart." The most important aspect of the 1888 message is that everything depends on our heart motives. Unless we have accepted that we can do nothing to save ourselves, our attempts to ingratiate ourselves to God present a false gospel that is constantly infused with self. Without the union with and continued indwelling of the Holy Spirit, any righteousness we may think we have is considered by God as filthy rags.

The solution is a new heart, as David yearns for in Psalm 51: "Create in me a clean heart ..." He doesn't ask for God to patch up the bad spots on an otherwise pretty good heart. We must accept that God gave us the first body He created for us in the first Adam (see Paul's argument on the two Adams in Romans, chapter 5) and He "rebirths" us in the second Adam (Christ) and will give us a completely new body at the resurrection. The human race needs a Creator, not more "works" programs to make us think we're getting better.

God created bodies for us and everything that we need to support them physically and emotionally. Paul summarized the entire subject of our stewardship to God in Romans 12:1: "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (New American Standard Bible). Using this passage, Ellet J. Waggoner reasons that because of God's infinite power and wisdom, "Nobody can add anything to Him. No one can put God under obligations to Him. No one can give Him something for which He should receive something in return." [1] It is only what God has given us that we can give back to Him.

In further analyzing this passage in Romans, Waggoner reaches the conclusion that since God created us and provided all we need, and He needs nothing--it is "reasonable that all should yield their bodies to Him, for Him to control. He alone has the wisdom and the power to do it properly." [2]

The logical extension of giving Him our bodies includes everything else He has given us to support our bodies, the most important of which is faith. In essence, God created us and equipped and empowered us to be good stewards of everything He has given us. The idea of stewardship has become associated only with financial responsibility, but it's much more than that.

Waggoner describes a complete attitude shift from what sin has given us. After the first Adam fell, our birth inheritance from him is embodied in the title of this lesson, "I see, I want, I take." We are born with self-centered pride as our motivation for everything we do. That sounds hopeless but God has consecrated a new and living way that starts with rebirth. It seems a simple solution, but our pride doesn't let go easily. We are not naturally inclined to be humble. Pride is always rearing its ugly head, mainly in figuring out ways to improve on what God has called "good."

"Pride Is the Enemy of Faith.--The two cannot live together. A man can think soberly and humbly only as the result of the faith that God gives ... The man who has confidence in his own strength and wisdom, will not depend upon another. Trust in the wisdom and power of God comes only when we recognize and acknowledge our own weakness and ignorance.

"Faith a Gift of God.--That faith which God deals to man is indicated in Revelation 14:12: 'Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.' God does not give faith to the saints only, any more than He gives the commandments to them alone; but the saints keep the faith, and others do not. The faith which they keep is the faith of Jesus; therefore it is the faith of Jesus that is given to men." [3]

"Keeping" is generally what stewards do. They keep what they have been given. The unrighteous steward (Luke 16:13) was told that he was going to be fired for squandering his master's means. The unrighteous steward said, "I see, I want, so I take." When the master found out, he shrewdly granted discounts to the master's debtors, not to guarantee some return on potential "bad debts" for his master, but to generate good will so the debtors would take him in when he was fired. This steward was not "keeping" anything for his master, he was manipulating him. The master complimented him for his shrewdness, missing the steward's ulterior motives.

What is Jesus illustrating with this parable? We have learned that all people, not just believers are given faith. God gives us the freedom to keep it or use it for selfish purposes. Many make the mistake that since we are only given a "measure" of faith, it is our responsibility to grow it by exercise. In other words, God has not given us enough faith, so we must do our part. This is another way to deny God's power and sufficiency.

"In What Measure?--We have seen that faith is given to every man. This may be known also by the fact that salvation is given to every man, and placed within his grasp, and salvation is only by faith. ...

"The question is, in what measure has God given every man faith? This is really answered in the fact already learned, that the faith which He gives is the faith of Jesus. The faith of Jesus is given in the gift of Jesus Himself, and Christ is given in His fullness to every man. He tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). 'Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ' (Eph. 4:7). Christ is not divided; therefore to every man is given all of Christ and all of His faith. There is but one measure." [4]

So our stewardship is based on keeping the faith of Jesus, which has been given to us in full measure without need for our improvement. There is no need for us to do anything but keep and cherish what God has given us. No one has this inclination of "motives of the heart" naturally, but if we lay hold on His promises by faith, we will have the mind of Christ gradually replace our hearts, which can only See, Want, and Take.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 177.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., p. 179; emphasis added.
[4] Ibid.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Lesson 1. The Influences of Materialism

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 1. The Influences of Materialism


Recently a friend jokingly said to me, "Don't you know that he who dies with the most toys wins!" That's about as far as you can get from the compassionate generosity of God. But it's pretty close to what our culture is all about--a culture saturated with greed and headed for disaster. Millions of Americans seem to share this view of our modern wants, particularly as our economy continues its unparalleled growth.

Still, for the majority of us who have known hard times in our lives, today's consumer economy brings to mind Jesus' parable that has become known as the "Parable of the Rich Fool," the story of a man who had so much that he planned to build new barns in which to store his goods. And we remember well what Jesus said of him, "'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20-21, New International Version).

It has been said that we don't own our things; our things own us. How easy it is to be consumed by material possessions; hence, Jesus warned about "the deceitfulness of riches" (Mark 4:19).

Think through just how easy it is for money, or the pursuit of it, to blind our spiritual priorities. How crucial that we keep this truth in mind as we seek to reach those whose wealth might have already blinded them.

At the same time, we all need a reality check. Some people live as if the one question that they will be asked on Judgment Day is, How much money did you make?

Christ reverses our misplaced priorities. While possessions are not forbidden, they must be placed in perspective. Material goods are God's instruments designed to benefit humanity. They become blessings when shared rather than when hoarded. When hoarded, they become curses.

Materialistic persons, whether rich or poor, are in danger of sacrificing their eternal well-being for temporal pleasures. Eternal satisfaction is exchanged for passing fancies that deteriorate and become outdated.

Humans serve God or money, never both. Everyone, rich or poor, needs to be reminded: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).

Here is one simple reality. It is not possible to develop deeply spiritual thoughts if we feed our minds with violence, immorality, greed, and materialism. Our senses are the gateway to our minds. If our minds are bombarded with the stimulating scenes of Hollywood's entertainment, they will be molded by these sensual experiences rather than by the principles of God's Word.

Multiple millions of dollars are spent by media producers to manipulate our emotions, condition our thinking, and shape our values. We can be assured that the basic question that these entertainment gurus ask is not, "How can these productions prepare people for the soon return of Jesus?" The bottom line that motivates them the most is money.

Seventh-day Adventist Christians preparing for the second coming of Christ should reflect carefully before sacrificing their souls on the altar of the world's entertainment.

There are some parents who are so concerned about their children's Internet viewing habits that they have installed filters to block out certain sites. Others have done something similar with television. The purpose of these electronic filters is to let some things in while keeping others out. God has provided a "spiritual filter" for our minds. It has been carefully crafted to allow only those things into our minds that will build our spiritual experience with Jesus.

As long as you have a sinful nature or as long as you are in "the flesh," you are doomed to spiritual defeat. And this is what many professed Christians believe. Their experience constantly reinforces this idea for they find the flesh all-powerful. Appetite, illicit sex, sensuality, pride, jealousy, hatred, drugs or liquor, materialism, constantly beat back the Spirit, and they find themselves defeated time after time. Surely the Saviour's heart goes out to them.

If Jesus Christ is "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42), doesn't that mean He can save any person from "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life"? (1 John 2:16). Otherwise, the Bible is a farce. Our question is not, "Can He save" but "Does He"? Unless you answer "yes," you're not much of a witness for Him, are you? And just "preaching" about it seems empty and helpless, and only deepens the guilt that many feel.

Legalism is not the answer, however stern and strict. According to the apostle John, one can't deny the reality of the multitude of our built-in desires. By nature, you're drowning in them and you need a Life-Guard Saviour 100 percent. Don't think your own will power will succeed.

Before you start your new day you have prayed, "Father which art in heaven, ... Lead [me] not into temptation, but deliver [me] from evil" (Matt. 6:9-13). If you log on to Internet pornography, aren't you deliberately canceling that prayer? You're walking directly onto the devil's ground, doing Peter's thing when he denied Christ by mingling with the worldly crowd who enjoyed the fun of watching Christ be crucified. By watching pornography you are crucifying Christ afresh in the person of the victims--supporting the business of their exploiters.

Jesus told it straightforwardly as only someone can who Himself goes to the cross: "whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27).

You don't know what to do until you learn. The grace of God actively teaches you to say "No!" exactly as Jesus Himself did (Titus 2:11-14, NIV). Now, thank Him, praise Him! Join Christ on His cross and let self be crucified with Him (you're never alone). The new covenant, not the old, is the answer.

The Adventist reform movement grew out of this concern for cooperation with the heavenly High Priest in His closing work of atonement. In a very special sense, God's people who follow Christ by faith have their attention focused on Him, not on themselves. Their motivation is not fear but a corporate concern for the final success of Christ's mission. A clearer understanding of the cross and the Saviour's sacrifice delivers them from vanity.

The glorious good news of it all is that never in world history have we had a better opportunity to find release from the crippling tyranny of being absorbed with self. God's people in these last days are to be the happiest, most free from pride, sensuality and materialism, the most selfless humans, the world has ever been refreshed to see.

Their lifestyle reform is not a do-it-yourself works program or a form of self-torture. It is a "sign" of an inner devotion to Christ and a preoccupation with Him (the 1888 focus) that demonstrates they have found something more exciting to be concerned about than adorning themselves or indulging sensual appetites.

--Paul E. Penno

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

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