Friday, May 25, 2018

FALLACY

This commentary was published previously.

FALLACY 

A fallacy is a deceptive, misleading, false notion, or belief, etc.  John Dewey said, "I should venture to assert that the most pervasive fallacy of philosophic thinking goes back to neglect of context."  So, the origin of a fallacy is not doing due diligence.  Fallacies are the wrong conclusions based on the incorrect or incomplete information.  In informal logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is a usually false or inaccurate argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption.  Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument.  By accident or design, fallacies may – and can be used to - exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (e.g., appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g., an argument from authority).   

A great example from the past was the fallacy that the world was flat.  Many accepted this fallacy without any evidence.  It was not until great sailors like Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan proved otherwise.  Columbus was said to observe how ships not only became smaller in the distant water but eventually disappear.  (Some believe Columbus read Isaiah 40:22, "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.")  Magellan's crew completed a trip around the globe, proving the planet indeed is round.  

When we study the concept of worship in Revelation, it shows us the many fallacies that exist in Christianity.  The lesson asks us to consider various texts in Revelation and the reasons cited for worship.  We will see that the Devil has attacked every reason for worship by creating fallacies that most professed Christians believe.  As we will see these wrong beliefs rob the believer of the peace and healing that God so much wants to give them.  Space will not allow us to cover all instances of worship.  We will only do a few.
 
The first citation of worship in our lesson is from Revelation 4: 8 – 11.  The first reason to worship God is that the Lord Almighty was, is, and is to come.  God was, is and will be.  He is eternal.  However, many believe that Christ was created; this invalidates John 1: 1 – 2 that the Word was with God the Word is God.  On the other hand many believe that Christ will not return, they say, "We have heard that for years, He is not here yet." 
 
The other reason given to worship God in this text is because "… you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being."  In 2006 a news report said that Nearly 450 Christian churches in the United States celebrated the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin. The churches say Darwin`s theory of biological evolution is compatible with faith and that Christians have no need to choose between religion and science.  What has been done is to accommodate what the Bible says to what worldly science says about the creation of the Universe and World; this poses a problem.  If creation is an allegory so are the Gospels.  You see, the power that Christ used to create the world is the same power He used to perform His miracles.  If Christ cannot create the World in six days by speaking them into existence, He cannot change water into wine, heal lepers or resurrect the dead; this would make Christ either a lunatic or a charlatan.  His dying on the Cross was in vain, and we are no better off for it. 
 
The next text used in our lesson is from Revelation 5: 8 – 14.  The reason given there to worship is because, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (verse 12).  (The Book of Revelation has 28 allusions to Christ as the Lamb of God.)  Is Christ worthy to receive power, and riches, etc.?  Can He be trusted?  The Devil has attacked this belief by twisting the meaning of the Cross away from a revelation of God's character and achievement of a purified humanity, to pay a legal penalty. That God must inflict penalties and therefore executed His Son, and God will use His power to inflict pain and suffering on all those who don't accept the legal penalty paid.  While incarnate and walking among men on earth, did Christ behave in any fashion that would lead us to believe that He exacted revenge and inflicts pain on those who wrong Him?  Has the Father ever acted that way?  The answer to both questions is "No!" 
 
The next reference to worship is in Revelation 7:9-12.  Here the reason for worship is salvation.  It is clear from scripture that Christ saved the world (John 3:16; John 4:42; 2 Corinthians 5:19).  But, somehow there is a fallacy that God only saves those who believe.  And, those who do not believe God will destroy; this is a prevalent view, even among non-Christian religions.  Most religious leaders saw "9-11" attacks as punishment from God.  A reporter once asked Reverend Billy Graham's daughter, "Why would God allow the attacks?"   In a nutshell, she answered, "God could not protect us from the attacks because we asked Him to depart from us."  God had to let go, and we suffered the consequences of our own choices.  Let me ask you this? Who was in control of the attackers?  Was it God?  So, from who was the punishment?  The truth is that the devil has convinced us that God's motto is:  "love me, or I will kill you."  That is not God's motto is it the devil's. 
 
The last reference to worship we will look at is Revelation19:1-5.  In this verse, God is to be praised because "…true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants" (verse 2).  God is right, His ways and methods have been proved true. The false system has been exposed, and an end to sin and sinners has been experienced! How has this been corrupted and distorted as we approach the end of time?  In certain circles is said that "The Great Controversy doesn't exist.  Satan did not accuse God.  Therefore, God does not need to prove His character or trustworthiness.  Sin is a willful choice to rebel against God without Satan deceiving.  God merely must pay the legal penalty and punish those who remain in rebellion."  This fallacy leads to continued sinning and a rejection of God's healing of our hearts. 
 
It is not only vital that we believe but what we believe is also important.  Believing the truth about God will lead to eternal life.  Believing the lies that Satan says about God will lead to eternal death. It is as if God is like a Doctor saying "you are terminally ill, let me heal you."  But, Satan says, "You are not that bad.  You can live with your disease.  You do not need the medicine.  Who cares, you have to die of something.  He – the doctor – is saying that to make more money.  He is not a real specialist.  What if He misdiagnosed you?  He is trying to kill everyone that has that disease.  He is in cahoots with the pharmacists.  Just take something for the symptoms."  But, God does not hate you. He hates Sin.  But, those who cling to Sin will be destroyed with Sin. As previously mentioned Ellen White says, "In all who submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them" (Desire of the Ages 107).  I pray we let the Spirit destroy Sin in us.  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Christ our Substitute

Christ our Substitute

The dictionary defines the noun substitute as one that takes the place of another or replacement.  This definition implies the existence of particular requirements.   For example,

1.       The substitute should come from the same pool of person substituted.
2.       The Substitute should have similar if not equal training (same could be said of properties or characteristics).
3.      The substitute must be available to do substitute when necessary.
4.      The substitute should identify with the person being substituted.

A substitute teacher replaces the regular teacher if the latter is unavailable.  In some regions, the qualifications for substitute teaching may not be as strict as those for a regular teacher.  However, for most districts, a college degree is required at a minimum.  Some districts require the successful completion of competency tests.   Other districts insist on full teaching qualifications.  Implied in these requirements is that the substitute teacher must be an adult.   In summation, schools are looking for people with similar academic preparation and work experience.  

In the game of basketball a substitute player is a member of the team, that plays as well or almost as well as the one substituted.  Also, as a member of the same team, the substitute has the same interest and goal as the player being substituted.  So, there is identification.  

When we say that Christ was our substitute, this must mean that He must have fulfilled the above requirements.  As God incarnate, He became one of us, so He came from our pool.  He grew up as we grew up.  He was trained as we were (or as we could be) trained.  He was touched with our infirmities and tempted in all things as we are (yet without Sin; Hebrews 4:15).  Many times the Bible says, that Christ was moved with compassion to serve others.  So, He identified with us.  Evidently, if He was doing the job, He was available. 

All of the above would qualify Jesus to be a substitute, but not our Savior.  To save us Jesus identification went beyond a mere sympathy.  Jesus became us.  The idea is that when Jesus came to this earth, we were all in Him, just as Levi was in Abraham when Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec.  We see this idea echoing in Romans 5 and 6 when Paul contrasts the two Adams.  In the following verses, Paul reveals the premise,

Rom5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Rom5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
Rom5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
Rom6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

When Adam sinned, we all sinned.  We were all in Adam.  But, when Christ conquered Sin in the flesh, so did we.  We were in Christ, which is why we die and are buried with Him.  So, we have resurrected with Him also; which is why Paul says that in Christ we are in Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).  The above explains why Paul says in Galatians 3:13 that, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'"  Jesus can do this because He is us.  Paul repeats the same concept in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Christ did not merely replace us.  He did not merely die our death.  His identity with us was complete.  He carried our Sin and us in Him.  So, He suffered the curse that we should suffer, but we suffered it with Him. And, since He was victorious, His victory is our victory.  And, since in Christ we are victorious, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1 NKJV).  But, do we believe it? 
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Seven Steps

The Seven Steps

Stairs are so familiar today that many of us take them for granted.  They have been around for so long we cannot think of anyone inventing them.  But, stairs are one of the oldest buildings in architectural history; they have always played a central role in the history of humanity.   However, it is difficult to tell precisely when they were "born." Many believe their appearance was thousands of years before Christ. Like everything else, the design of stairs seems to change with the change of architectural eras, reflecting the trends used in different ages and revealing the talent of those who designed them.

It seems that whoever created the first stairs did so accidentally.  Allegedly, the first stairs in the history were wood trunks fitted together; these kinds of stairs were used to acquire strategic positions for survival.  Stairs were first used to overcome the difficulties presented by the terrain, such as valleys or mountains.  The goal was to be able to pass these difficulties as soon as possible; to move up often meant moving to a place of greater security.  At the time this could have meant the difference between life and death.  

So, like many other inventions, stairs first emerged as a solution to a problem.  However years later first granite staircase it was found in China leading to the sacred mountain in Tai Shan; this indicates that one of the utility men gave to stairs was for religious purposes. Confucius in one of his stories said to have gone up this ladder to the top in the year 55 BC.  The ladder was used as a metaphor to describe reaching the height were divinity dwells and establishing a connection between earth and sky. Other examples of stairs built for religious purposes are the biblical Jacob's ladder, the tower of Babel, the pyramids of Egypt that had stairs, the celestial ladder of Shantung in China, and the stairs in India (a peculiarity of the stairs in India is that they also had scientific utility). All these stairs have something in common; they symbolize the rise of the light, the sun, and a path into God's way.

Some say that Lucifer's six-fold assertion of becoming like God is like a metaphorical ladder.  We read this statement in Isaiah 14: 12 – 15,

 Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Isaiah 14:13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Isaiah 14:15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

God tells Lucifer the reality of his existence and contrasts it with what Lucifer had purposed in his heart.  Again, Lucifer's statement is sixfold, making it six steps in the metaphorical ladder.  The seventh step is where Lucifer falls, being "brought down to hell."

We see a contrast with Jesus in Philippians 2: 5 - 9.  Let us read the passage,

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Philippians 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:

 Paul uses six statements to describe what Christ did as a man.  All six statements are about Christ descending, so the seventh step is the Father exalting the Son of Man above all.  What a complete contrast!  The Devil ascended six steps up the ladder only to fall.  Christ descended six rungs down the ladder, to later be exalted.  Paul exhorts us to be like Christ (Philippians 2:5).  Will we?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Christ our Righteousness

Christ our Righteousness

What happens when we reject, ignore or misinterpret a message from the Lord? Consider Sarah and Abraham. Ishmael is the answer, and with it, the many centuries of conflict and violence. Consider Lot's wife – a pillar of salt is the answer. Consider Jonah – even though he was a prophet, he, refusing to heed God's message, turned and fled in the opposite direction. Consequently, he suffered through a terrible storm, was thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a big fish.

What if the word comes from a prophet? Is there any difference when we reject, ignore, or misinterpret a message from the Lord through one of His prophets? Consider Jezebel and Ahab. Jezebel did not repent; instead, she died as was predicted as opposed to Ahab, who listened to the prophet. What happens when we listen and heed? Since Ahab heeded and repented, he did not die the horrible death which was predicted of him. The people Jonah spoke to also repented and they were spared from earthly destruction and possibly eternal death.

What happens when we emphasize part of a prophecy and not the other? We end up like the Jews in Jesus' time, expecting the wrong Messiah. We are not too far from them. We do just that with the first part of the 1st Angel's Message. Let's read what Apostle John wrote,

Revelation 14:6, 7 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

When talking about what the angel has to say, many focus on verse seven. Thus, they emphasize the judgment and the law – specifically the Sabbath. But, they ignore verse six. What does verse six say? It says that the angel has the everlasting Gospel to preach to the entire world. The Gospel is the good news of Salvation. This is the news that salvation which has already been given to us, is made ours personally by faith through grace. It is the news that the righteousness of Christ which saves us, is His, and not our own. In other words, it is the good works of Christ that saves us, not our faulty works. This is why Sister White said that the Three Angels' Message is Righteousness by Faith in verity. Let us read the quote,

 "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message, in verity." The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. {1SM 372.2}

What is the message of Justification by faith? Ellen White declares,

"What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.'' Ellen G. White, —Testimonies to Ministers, p. 456.

Elsewhere Ellen White stated that, "As the increasing glory of Christ is revealed, the human agent will see no glory in himself; for the concealed deformity of his soul is laid bare, and self-esteem and self-glorying are extinguished" (Review and Herald, Sept. 18, 1894.)

There is nothing in us that can save us.

As the glory of Christ increases in us – as our character becomes more like His - "Light is to shine forth from God's people in clear, distinct rays, bringing Jesus before the churches and before the world. ... If through the grace of Christ His people will become new bottles, He will fill them with the new wine. God will give additional light, and old truths will be recovered, and replaced in the framework of truth; and wherever the laborers go, they will triumph. As Christ's ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness." —Ibid., Dec. 23, 1890.

Many, who profess to believe, declare that the message of Justification by Faith makes the law void. However, Sister White had this to say,

"Some of our brethren have expressed fears that we shall dwell too much upon the subject of justification by faith, but I hope and pray that none will be needlessly alarmed; for there is no danger in presenting this doctrine as it is set forth in the Scriptures. If there had not been a remissness in the past to properly instruct the people of God, there would not now be a necessity of calling a special attention to it.... The exceeding great and precious promises given us in the Holy Scriptures have been lost sight of to a great extent, just as the enemy of all righteousness designed that they should be. He has cast his own dark shadow between us and our God, that we may not see the true character of God. The Lord has proclaimed Himself to be "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."" {1SM 372.1}

Indeed, Justification by Faith exalts the Law. Christ's righteousness is the perfect keeping of the Law. And, that righteousness becomes ours when we allow Christ to dwell in us.

In Romans 3: 19 – 31 Paul expounds on this topic. Let us read the passage,

"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

So, it is the good news -- of salvation by grace through faith in the Righteousness of Christ -- which the 1st Angel preaches unto the whole world. The keeping of the law and the knowledge of the judgment will come as a result of that faith. As we live by faith, the Holy Spirit renews our minds into the likeness, perfection, maturity, and stature of Christ. Trying to live by the law so we can stand in the judgment will not help us. We will be found wanting. By letting the Spirit fill us with the fullness of Christ, we are transformed into holy and selfless beings who meet God's approval, and the Law's requirements. Will you let the Spirit do this work in you?

~Raul Diaz

Friday, April 20, 2018

“The Heavenly Sanctuary”

"The Heavenly Sanctuary"

A pastor tells a personal experience regarding the sanctuary in heaven. He says, "Upon entering pastoral duties in a church, I was confronted with a paper written by a scholar who denounced the teaching of the sanctuary in heaven. Three persons each gave me a copy of this paper. I knew that in time I would have to deal publicly with this scholarly paper. The time finally came When I was doing a sermon series dealing with the book of Daniel.
During the week of preparation for the upcoming Sabbath sermon, the Lord impressed my mind with a simple question to ask the congregation. During that sermon, I mentioned to the congregation the following: "If someone tells you there is no sanctuary in heaven, do not argue with him/her. Ask the person the following question: 'Oh, have you been to heaven to see that there is no sanctuary there?'" Next, I said: "If he says 'No,' then you can consider the statement as hearsay." I continued: "The next thing for you to do is to search the Bible about what it says concerning the subject. If it says there is no sanctuary in heaven, then accept it. However, if the Bible says there is a sanctuary in heaven, it will be best to accept that."
You can imagine the brisk activity that simple question caused within the congregation. A few became hostile, while others breathed a sigh of relief when they heard some answers regarding the sanctuary message. Not one who denied the existence of a real sanctuary in heaven could muster an argument against it. At least one who disbelieved in a literal heavenly temple had an about-face and decided to look into the subject from a biblical viewpoint rather than to accept unprovable and negative interpretive assertions."  The pastor did not trivialize the Sanctuary doctrine, neither did Ellen G. White.

In The following statements Ellen White tells is how important is the doctrine of the sanctuary,

"The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith," "our faith" being the unique teachings of Seventh-day Adventists that make us different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches. [1] 
"[It's] the central pillar that sustains the structure of our position." [2]
 "the sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men," [3]

 Notice what she has to say about the denial of the heavenly sanctuary by some among us:

The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. [4]
Satan is striving continually to bring in fanciful suppositions in regard to the sanctuary, degrading the wonderful representations of God and the ministry of Christ for our salvation into something that suits the carnal mind. He removes its presiding power from the hearts of believers, and supplies its place with fantastic theories invented to make void the truths of the atonement, and destroy our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the third angel's message was first given. Thus he would rob us of our faith in the very message that has made us a separate people, and has given character and power to our work.[5]

If there is no sanctuary in Heaven, then the earthly sanctuary on earth is a shadow of Moses imagination.  Also, our understanding of Daniel 8:14 (2,300-day prophecy) is based on a fantasy. 

This, then, brings us to the lesson for the week at hand. We will consider two aspects of the heavenly sanctuary ministry. These are its literalness and a few of its functions. While it is true that the functions of the sanctuary are the most critical part of the sanctuary message, the architecture and architectural furnishings are also referred to in several Bible passages. This too is important.  Hebrews  8-10 deals with the literalness along with functions of the heavenly temple.  Likewise in the book of Revelation which has abundant evidence of a heavenly sanctuary (see 1:12-13; chapters 4 and 5; 8:2-6; 11:19; 15:5). The book of Psalms also mentions the sanctuary or temple and constituent parts over 100 times. And of course, the prophet Daniel wrote concerning the sanctuary in heaven as a place of judgment (Dan 7:-13; 8:14).

The most important elements of the heavenly sanctuary are its functions. One such function is that it is God's dwelling place. However, this brings to mind questions concerning the relationship of God to a dwelling place.  Does He need this in light of the fact He is omnipresent (Jer 2: 23-24; Psa 139; Acts 17:24-28)? Since God is ever present in all places at all times, why does He dwell in a temple? In addition to these questions, there is another, how long has there been a temple?

The heavenly sanctuary has been in existence at least since the creation of this world. Jeremiah referred to God's throne and the refuge existing from the point of web time connected to the beginning: "A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary" (Jer 17:12). Jeremiah's words reflect the farthest point in time for earth which was "in the beginning" when God created earth (Gen 1:1).

The key to the question as to, "why God dwelling in a sanctuary is found in His instruction to Moses: "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Ex 25:8). God wants to be with us. His name is called "Immanuel" literally meaning "God with us" (Isa 7:14). Our heavenly Father longs to be with His created beings. He wants to interact with us. Jesus revealed God's longing when He was born into the human race to dwell with us as "Immanuel" (Matt 1:23).

Today God also dwells with angels—"between the cherubim" (Psa 80:1; 99:1; Isa 37:16). He longs to be close to His creatures. And the angels love to dwell in the house of the Lord. God also longs for the day when you and I and all the redeemed will be taken to heaven to dwell in His house forever. Jesus went to heaven to prepare "rooms" for us in the "Father's house" (John 14:1-3, NIV), which is the heavenly temple.

Does God need a place to dwell? Of course not. But the fact that He does reveal attributes of His character that are blessings to us by His presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit. In the teacher's comments for this week's lesson there is a thought-provoking statement:

It is vital to grasp that the original purpose of the heavenly sanctuary was to reveal part of the essential nature of God's character—"Immanuel"—God with us. That God condescends to live in a heavenly sanctuary among the created heavenly beings reveals that He is not aloof, distant, cold and forbidding. He longs to be close to His creatures, and to dwell with us. [6]

Not only is there a temple in heaven - God's dwelling place. In the book of Revelation, the sanctuary is the place of worship for angels and for those who have been redeemed from the earth, (either through translation and resurrection from the grave) (Rev 4:1-11; 5:8-14).

Was there a sanctuary in heaven before sin entered the universe? Yes. Lucifer as the covering cherub was there as a participant in the worship services (Eze 28:17). This was his place of worship until he "desecrated your (his) sanctuaries" (holy places) (v 18, NIV). Then he started a war in heaven, in which he thought he could unseat God from the worship center.

Lucifer attempted to "sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north" (Isa 14:13). The NIV calls this "mount of the congregation" "the mount of assembly." Lucifer wanted to break into God's house of worship which is also His residence.

Lucifer, too late learned that God's temple in heaven is not only His dwelling place and creation's worship place, but that it is also the courtroom where he is judged, condemned and sentenced to eternal death. It is this function of the heavenly sanctuary—the investigative judgment—upon which we Seventh-day Adventists mostly dwell. This we must do, but we must not forget the other above mentioned and very important functions of God's heavenly sanctuary.

In closing, we must consider another vitally important function of the heavenly sanctuary. In Revelation, the Lamb metaphor is the "key" to the sanctuary and to the book. Most of the twenty-eight references to Christ the Lamb occur in worship passages and center on salvation more than judgment. The Lamb fulfills the promise of God to establish righteousness, depicting redemption through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In Rev 5:6 a slain lamb is seen in the midst of the throne which is located in the heart of the temple. This is a revelation of Christ crucified as the central attraction in the heavenly sanctuary. It reveals the self-sacrificing love and mercy of Christ and the Father and His government. But that is not all.

In Revelation the Lamb of God has two aspects: a sacrificial Lamb and a military Lamb (Rev 5:6; 12:11;13:8; 17:14). They are interconnected, standing in the heart of the book depicting the two sides of God's activity—His mercy and his justice. So we observe the two primary motifs: the sacrificial lamb metaphor united with the metaphorical Lamb Leader, Ruler, and Judge. The two are combined here. Just as God's mercy and His justice meet in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is the sacrifice of the Lamb that exalts the temple in heaven along with its other functions that we have considered in this lesson—of God's dwelling place and creation's house of worship along with God's judgment.

Endnotes
[1] Evangelism, p. 221.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 245 (1897).
[3] Evangelism, p. 222.
[4] Review and Herald, May 25, 1905.
[5] Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 17. (1905); Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 53-54.
[6] Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Oct | Nov | Dec 2013, p. 16.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Unshakable Faith

Unshakable Faith

In a time of civil upheaval, a group of Christian refugees were praying in a church. Storming the church property, a group of soldiers discovered the people praying. Not wanting to alert the people to their presence right away, they quietly searched the church for anything of value. Unfortunately, they found nothing but a picture of Jesus on the wall. Angered, the commanding officer decided to take it out on the praying Christians. Ordering all those present to come forward, the commander insisted they approach the picture, spit on it, and renounce Jesus by stating, "You are worthless, and I don't need you!" If they failed to do this, the commander threatened to shoot them on the spot. The elders of the Church were the first to come forward. Boldly they stood up, approached the picture, spat on it, and repeated the cruel words. Others, one by one, followed the example of the elders. After a few moments, and several persons later, a young girl stood up. Walking to the picture with her scarf in her hand, the young girl wiped away the saliva, softly uttering the words, "Jesus, I need You for I am worthless." All were silent, wondering what would happen next. The girl, apparently unafraid, stepped before the Commander and said, "You can shoot me now." Falling to his knees, the now contrite commander began to cry inconsolably; his heart broken, he gave it to Jesus. This true story of courageous faith occurred in Rwanda during the bloody massacre of its people. We all need to ask ourselves this question, "in the moment of truth, will we have 'the faith of Jesus' " as this little girl did? 

Although frightening, we often wonder, "how can I develop this type of unshakable faith--and do I want to?" To these questions, let's add the question, "is wanting it enough?" Let's begin by looking in the book of Daniel, to see if there is an answer. Scripturally, the story in Daniel chapter 2 follows consecutively the one in chapter 3, as would be expected. Thus, both stories seem to have occurred relatively close in time, yet they did not. Ten to twelve years intervened between the King's dream of the image and his golden construction of it. How easy it is to forget the impression made on the mind by the Holy Spirit, and the response of faith when we do not abide in Him. The time in between chapter 2 and chapter 3 provides a test for King Nebuchadnezzar-- namely, will he after accepting the interpretation of the dream as from the Lord, wait on Him for its fulfillment. All of heaven and earth were waiting to see, "will the Babylonian King surrender his will -- along with its attendant pride and ambitious plans -- to the King of Kings, or after a time of delay, will he be found building a monument to his dreams?" 

In Daniel chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar is confronted with the choice to exercise faith. Brought to the point of decision at the revelation of his dream.  The king honors the Lord by saying in Daniel 2:47-"Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." Hearing this, we would say that the King believed Daniel and God. But His response, while a heart response, was not made by a broken, contrite heart. It was made by a heart still prideful and boastful, thus allowing Satan control of this stronghold in his life. The disciples also found themselves in this predicament when they could not cast out the demon filled child (Matt. 17:14-21) and again when they were almost capsized in the squall on the lake (Matt. 14:22-33). Vacillating between the "pride of life, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes," they were unprepared to hold on to the Word of promise -- their living savior. 

In Daniel chapter 3, the three Hebrew youth are also confronted with the choice to exercise faith. They too are brought to the point of decision when it is declared that if they do not bow down and worship the golden image, they are to be burned alive. Imagine, the peer pressure to conform. It was worse than when they refused to eat the King's food from his table. After all, the King had his pride to lose if these Hebrew youth declined to follow his orders this time, and that would make him extremely hostile and angry. All the dignitaries of every land of importance were there, ready to oblige the King's decree. There is no mention of Daniel's whereabouts, so we must assume he was absent, but everyone else was present. The statue itself was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide--in plain view--in the plain of Dura.  All could see it.  So, how do the Hebrew youth stand up to that pressure? How would you stand? In Daniel 3:12, we note that they did not yield--bow down. The pressure to yield to doubt and disbelief increased greatly, as they were called before the king. In verse 14-15, the King gives them another chance to obey his decree, because he liked them. What is their response? Let's view Daniel 3: 15-18: 

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us our of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." 

Their response is one of belief and trust in the God who delivers. According to their statement, they believed that God would do right by them whatever the outcome was. They had determined to stand steadfast without regard to whether God delivered or not, for they were representing Him and He changes not. Their will was to do the will of Him who sent them there, which was to demonstrate His character to Babylon as well as the surrounding nations. Israel and Judah's kings had been proud and boastful. They lacked the humility that comes from a contrite and broken heart, and so they led the people and their nation into captivity. 

In captivity, how did the Hebrew youth get to this place of faith? The answer is in Daniel chapter one. Remember, they refused to eat the King's food.  Because they knew that it was God who fed them (with manna in the wilderness then, and in captivity now) to make them know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live (Deut. 8:3). Although captives, their hearts were contrite and broken over the wickedness that led to their national ruin and captivity. Yielding their will to God in the little things, they were counted faithful, and God blessed them further. By remembering God's goodness and mercy, they continued to be faithful. Through prayer and fasting, they were prompted to join with Daniel as he implored the Lord to reveal the dream and with its interpretation (in chapter two). Thus Christ developed these youth from faith to faith, and from grace to grace. By the constant yielding of their will to Christ, they were dying daily and thus were prepared to state that fact under enormous pressure. 

The three Jewish youth were like Job who said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him:" (Job 13:15). There was in these three – and in Job – a complete dependence on Christ. Such a life of yielding, Christ lived, remaining faithful to the end by depending on His Father entirely. This constant dependence on God for everything enables us to overcome, as He overcame. It is through dependence on God that we receive the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us, allowing us to be willing to hear and to do all of His good will. This is what gives us unshakable faith. 

The King of Babylon did not yield his heart. He yielded his emotions, and intellectually assented to the truth. Thus he had no root in himself, and as the great tree, could not stand. Had his feelings and thoughts been constantly bound up with the truth, had he like the King of Nineveh, who repented by faith through grace, his pride would not later have driven him mad. Lessons of those who with contrite and broken heart demonstrated the faith of Jesus are among the pages of inspiration, and we would do well to hear them. Listen well, for our willingness to attentively hear and to do is at the foundation of heart obedience without which it will be impossible to endure. 

According to Sister White: 

"Important are the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Hebrew youth on the plain of Dura. In this our day, many of God's servants, though innocent of wrongdoing, will be given over to suffer humiliation and abuse at the hands of those who, inspired by Satan, are filled with envy and religious bigotry. Especially will the wrath of man be aroused against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and at last a universal decree will denounce these as deserving of death. 

As in the days of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so in the closing period of earth's history, the Lord will work mightily on behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. He who walked with the Hebrew worthies in the fiery furnace will be with His followers wherever they are. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain." (Ellen White Notes, page 25.) 

As unpleasant as it may seem, let Christ break our hearts upon Himself, let Him wash us and make us contrite. It will be natural to yield to Him then, and we will have that unshakable faith we so desperately need. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

The World Has Heard

The World Has Heard

We read in Acts 4: 12,

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

A previous lesson stated: 

"The words of the Scripture here are very clear: salvation is found only in Jesus Christ and in no other name under heaven. It's important, however, not to read into these words more than they specifically say."

Imagine a man in a building that is on fire; before being able to escape, the smoke overcomes him and collapses unconscious. A firefighter finds him on the floor, grabs him, and brings him outside, where the medics take over.  The medics rush the man to the hospital, and a few hours later he regained consciousness.

The point is that this person, who was saved, had no idea who had saved him. In the same way, anyone who is saved—either before Jesus came in the flesh or after—will be saved only through Jesus, whether or not that person had heard of His name or the plan of salvation.

Many will be saved that did not know the Gospel.  But, somehow knew the law and kept it.  Paul speaks of them in Romans 2: 14 – 15,

14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 
15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

Ellen White says of these,

Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 638.

Paul here declared that there are some outside of Christianity who will receive eternal life as a result of an obedience-unto-life principle (cf. Lev. 18:5). For those Gentiles who show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts because their consciences also bearing witness (Rom. 2:15 NIV), it will make a difference on Judgment Day because these people have responded to the work of the Spirit in their hearts.

This verse – Romans 2: 14 – 15 - says that it is possible to do the law, without knowing the law.  For the Bible student, this should not come as a surprise.  As we read in Galatians 3:6, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  The word used for righteousness in Greek is the same word for justice.  So, the righteous are just.  The "just" are doers of the law, and they live by faith (Romans 1: 17; 2: 13).  Now, faith comes through the hearing of the Word (Romans 10: 17).  Abraham heard God's word, Abraham believed it, therefore, was reckoned a doer of the law.  Did Abraham know the Ten Commandments?  No, he did not.  Abraham knew the Gospel, but not the Ten Commandments.  These were not given more than 400 years after.  It begs the question, what Law did Abraham keep?

Even angels did not know there was a Law until they learned it from God.  Ellen White says, 

But in heaven, service is not rendered in the spirit of legality. When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His words are re-echoed, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Psalm 40:8. {MB 109.2}

No one will deny that the angels are doers of the Law.  But they were also doers of the Law even when they did not know there was a law.  So then why was the Law given?  Paul says in Galatians,

Gal 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, …

Here the word added has a connotation of being spoken, declared.  The word transgression in Greek has a connotation of stepping aside from the path.  So, the Law is declared because of our stepping aside from the way of Christ.  The quote above is evident in the following Ellen White's quote,

"If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God's law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses. {PP 364.2}"

The Ten Commandments were given - declared = because the people failed to cherish God's covenant.  Anytime the Ten Commandments are lifted up is a reminder that the belief in the Covenant has been abandoned.  Should we then keep the Ten Commandments or the rest of the law hidden? 

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

When I was growing up, a 15-year-old had to wait until he was 16 to take the driver's license test.  Should he hate the law because he is 15?  Or, should he wait a few more months until he turns 16?  Even those who are displeased with the law will likely wait until they fulfill the requirements.  What does the Law require?

"The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can 'be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.' Rom. 3:26."—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 762

Since the righteous are doers of the Law and love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13: 10), then it follows that the righteous are loving.  Even if these righteous are Gentiles, who have never heard of Christ.