Saturday, February 22, 2020

Victory Over Evil Forces

We live in solemn times.  We can look at what is happening today and see in it the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  Bible prophecy shows us how the Lord is in control throughout until now and forever.  The following commentary, written for a previous lesson, is to encourages not to fear but be sure that in Christ, we are victorious.  

Victory Over Evil Forces

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

We read the verse for this week's lesson, and we have to ask ourselves several questions. One of them is what does Paul means by "in all these things?" To answer this question, we have to go to the context of the passage. Romans 8 is telling us that because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross, sin no longer has to defeat us. We are not reading the whole of chapter 8, for lack of space and time. Yes, we will suffer, and we will be afflicted. None of that means that God does not love us. God has given us all for us to succeed as Christians. All we have to do is receive it. Paul seems to be telling us that we do not need to fear or doubt. God loves us, and He is in control. We can trust Him.

Why would Paul emphasize this? Because, in chapter 7, Paul spoke about how sin worked internally. When we are living by faith, sin is still within us, striving for mastery and control. And, this battle continues and intensifies for as long as we live and grow in faith. It will not stop until we die or are translated. So, Paul is saying that sin attacks us from within and without.  But,  our greatest struggle with sin is inside; sin, after all, is iniquity – a bent toward self. Paul is saying that despite all that, we should never doubt that God loves us; this is perhaps better said in Romans 8: 35 – 39,

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Rom 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rom 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, the word Victory, from the title means the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist. So, the one that defeats or overcomes an enemy or opponent is called a victor. This word victor comes from the Latin word vincere, which means to win, to conquer, or to overcome – the term used in verse 37. What do we overcome? Sin's mastery over us. We are no longer captive or enslaved by sin, whether external or internal, through Christ, who loved us. Here our Victory is tied to God's love for us. So, just as His love is certain and constant, so is our Victory in Christ.

Let us read a couple of quotes from Ellen White in this subject,

"Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith in God, and by the apostle He says to us, 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.' James 4:7, 8. We cannot save ourselves from the tempter's power; he has conquered humanity, and when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey to his devices; but 'the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' Prov. 18:10. Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 130, 131.
"The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every contrite soul. Not one that in penitence and faith has claimed His pro­tection will Christ permit to pass under the enemy's power. The Saviour is by the side of His tempted and tried ones. With Him there can be no such thing as failure, loss, impossibility, or defeat; we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. When temptations and trials come, do not wait to adjust all the difficulties, but look to Jesus, your helper. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 490, 493.

Now, what about Victory over demons? You will notice that Ellen White does not talk about Victory in terms of casting out demons. Not all victors in the faith will be called to do that. The fact that we do not follow their prompting is Victory in itself. Casting out demons is powerful and given by God. However, Christ tells the disciples, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Ellen White elaborates on those whose names are written in Heaven,

From age to age, all who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon written against their names in the books of Heaven, and in the closing work of Judgment their sins are blotted out, and they themselves are accounted worthy of eternal life. {Volume 4, Spirit of Prophecy 309}

Included in this list are those mentioned in Hebrews 11. Not one of the names of people mentioned there made the list because demons were subject to them. They were there because they believed the promise of God, and it was counted to them as righteousness. Their Victory came from believing that God loved them. And, they died believing the promise that had not been fulfilled. They died with the hope that one day God would fulfill this promise and they would be there to enjoy it. They died with the joy and certainty that their names were written in Heaven. They died with the assurance of God's love for them. Do we have this certainty of God's love for us? Do we have the Victory that is ours in Christ? 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Weighed and found wanting

Weighed and found wanting


A few thousand years ago, a Greek King ordered some craftsmen to make him a crown of gold. The craftsmen were paid handsomely and delivered a beautiful golden crown worthy of royalty. The King had a gut feeling that the craftsmen had cheated him, so he went to the wisest man in his kingdom for help. The name of the man was Archimedes. Archimedes accepted the project, admitted it was a challenge, and requested the King for time to determine whether the craftsmen made the crown of pure gold or not. Archimedes thought for days, the problem riddling him and absorbing his life. One day he filled his tub with water to its average level. Upon entering the tub, Archimedes realized that the water level rose a few inches. His weight had displaced the water and raised the volume in the tub. Archimedes had an epiphany. Running out of the tub, he yelled, "Eureka! Eureka! I found it!' Archimedes discovered that to determine whether the crown was pure gold, all he had to do was learn the amount of gold the crown was supposed to weigh, place it in a tub of water, and mark the water displacement. Afterward, Archimedes repeated the same process with the crown. If the craftsmen made the crown out of pure gold, it would displace the same amount of water as pure gold. If, however, the crown was not made out of pure gold, the amount of water displaced would differ. In the end, Archimedes determined that the craftsman cheated the King. The gold in the crown was weighed and found wanting.


With this in mind, we look at Daniel 5. But, first, We use the expression, "the writing is on the wall," to mean the signs are apparent. In Daniel 5, the biblical passage for this week, it means that you have crossed the point of no return, and judgment has been rendered. If Belshazzar were a crown, Archimedes would have found him lacking gold. Belshazzar was, at best, a gold plated crown. What type of Christians are we? Are we pure gold or gold

plated? Pure gold will not tarnish and become purified in the fire. Gold plated will tarnish and completely melt in flames. How can we become pure gold Christians?


The author of Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). So to become pure gold Christians, we need faith. Where do we get faith? Roman 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." But it is not just any faith or belief in God. James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The faith we are talking about here it is humanly impossible to develop. Human faith is corrupted by sin, imperfect, and finite. Revelation 14:12 describes the multitude that God saves as having the faith of Jesus; this is pure gold faith. Human faith is a gold plated faith.


Belshazzar lacked this faith of Jesus. His problem got worse because he had opportunities to acquire it, but chose not to, against the convictions of his heart, despite all the evidence God had given him. Daniel points this out to Belshazzar as Daniel interprets the writing on the wall:


Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Daniel 5:19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before Him: whom He would He slew; and whom He would He kept alive; and whom He would He set up; and whom He would He put down.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:

Daniel 5:21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

Daniel 5:22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:


Ellen White states concerning Daniel and Belshazzar,


Daniel did not swerve from his duty. He held the King's sin before him, showing him the lessons he might have learned but did not. Belshazzar had not heeded the events so significant to him. He had not read his grandfather's history correctly. The responsibility of knowing truth had been laid upon him, but the practical lesson he might have learned and acted upon had not been taken to heart; and his course of action brought the sure result. (Ellen G. White Notes, 36)


God will also find Those who like Belshazzar reject the opportunities that God grants them found wanting. They are gold plated Christians. 2 Timothy 3:5 describes them as, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." Revelation 3 calls them Laodicean--


Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


Ellen White explains regarding those who follow the steps of Belshazzar,


In the history of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, God speaks to the people of today. The condemnation that will fall upon the inhabitants of the earth in this day will be because of their rejection of light. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have lived in error, but from the fact that we have neglected Heaven-sent opportunities for discovering truth. The means of becoming conversant with the truth are within the reach of all; but, like the indulgent, selfish King, we give more attention to the things that charm the ear, and please the eye, and gratify the palate, than to the things that enrich the mind, the divine treasures of truth. It is through the truth that we may answer the great question, "What must I do to be saved?" (E. G. White Notes, p. 33)


God offers us-- Laodiceans, an opportunity to become pure gold faith Christians. He says to us in Revelation 3:18,


I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.


Will we accept His invitation?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Worship in Genesis: Two Classes of Worshipers

Daniel's friends had the faith of Abraham.


Worship in Genesis: Two Classes of Worshipers

" 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!' " (Genesis 28:16-17, NKJV).

The Dictionary defines worship as an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more deities. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something. As we can see, the word has changed meanings. In our understanding, God gives value to us, and we acknowledge His. Based on this reality, someone defined worship thus: "The absolute acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us—the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth, to God; however, they may think of Him or recognize Him. And, whether He be realized through religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character." 

But, God is more than Creator. He is redeemer. So, in true Christian Worship there is an acknowledgement of God as redeemer. Thus, there is a heartfelt appreciation for what He is and what He has done, is doing and will do. True worship entails gratitude for creation and redemption. 

Now, the word we translate from the Hebrew as worship means to bow down. In the Hebrew culture, you typically bowed down to your superiors. Servants or slaves bowed down to their masters and subjects to their king. There is an acknowledgment of submission. Now, just because we submit to God, it does not mean there cannot be friendship. Jesus called His disciples friends (John 15: 15). In worshipping God, we willingly submit to One Who gave His life to save those who considered Him an enemy (Romans 5:10). The idea was to show them that God is not an enemy but a Loving Master. A Master that would do anything - even give His life - for His servant's well being. When we truly worship God, we are serving friends. 

Can we reconcile worship with the Hebrew word "to bow down"? How about through submission, we acknowledge not only God's superiority but His love for us. Through submission, we demonstrate our gratitude or heartfelt appreciation for what He has done for us. Through submission, we show gratitude for how much worth He has put on us. 

No one will deny that Abraham was a true worshiper. He lived by faith and is called the father of the faithful. He believed (same word for faith) God's precious promises, and because of this was declared righteous. Did Abraham live in submission to the God he loved? Paul says in Hebrews 11,

Heb11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Heb11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

Heb11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Heb11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Heb11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

 "Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Abraham heard God's word and believed it. Abraham did as God instructed; he submitted to God. Abraham did it because he trusted that God had Abraham's best interest at heart. Now, if Abraham was a true worshiper, and therefore an actual submitter, then we can argue that only those who have faith submit and are true worshippers. 

 We have, in contrast, those in Matthew 7:21 - 23 that did works but not out of faith (which is Sin – Romans 14:23). So, they were insubordinate, even rebellious. They were not submitted. They were not true worshippers. Yet, they were deceived in believing they were. Are we deceived also?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Daniel and his Friends

Daniel and his Friends


How do we develop the enduring kind of patience? Our lesson quotes James 1: 2 – 4 to give us the answer, 


"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).


The word patience here is from the Greek hupomone, which means endurance, steadfastness, and courage of every affliction that one confronts on one's spiri­tual journey. The word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 is macrothumia – translated as longsuffering - which essentially means "long tempered" as opposed to short-tempered. 


Although hupomone is not part of the fruit of the Spirit, it is nevertheless essential in our walk of Faith. According to James, it is through trials that we develop the endurance to overcome unbelief continually and remain faithful to God. Our lesson states about this,


'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are to develop our characters.' Ellen G. White talks about this,


"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.


The previous quite doesn't mean, however, that every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete sur­render of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it would be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but God gives us this wonderful promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).


One good example of how trials help develop endurance is Daniel and his friends. It was through trials that they develop the enduring patience that gave them the victory. Now, when we think of Daniel and his friends going through trials, we probably immediately think of the fiery furnace and the Lion's den. And, these were moments in their respective lives when their faith was tested, and they were victorious by the grace of God. But, this trial was not there first one. The first trial was actually while still in Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 38: 17 – 21, Jeremiah tells the King of Judah to surrender to the King of Babylon and "it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live" (Jeremiah 38: 20). Those who did as God asked to surrender to the Babylonian King, it went well with them. Those that did not were either injured or killed. Daniel and his friends surrendered to the King of Babylon. 


You could argue that Isaiah prophesied the second trial. Isiah states that this happened after Hezekiah failed to give God glory for his miraculous healing, and instead took the glory for himself and showed the Babylonians all that was in the house. Isaiah predicted in 2 King 20:17 – 18,


 2Ki20:17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

2Ki20:18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.


Put bluntly, Daniel and his friends were castrated. Daniel then narrates how he and his friends refused to eat out the King's table. The foods were luscious and sacrificed to idols. They did not want their appetite to lead them astray. Reluctantly, the prince of the eunuchs agrees to make a deal give them a ten-day trial.  


Our lesson states that, "God honors the loyalty of the four Hebrew captives, and at the end of their ten-day testing period they look healthier and better nourished than the other students who have eaten from the royal table. So, God gives His four servants "knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom," and to Daniel alone, God gives "understanding in all visions and dreams" (Dan. 1:17, NKJV). " 


Furthermore, After three years of training in the "Babylonian University," the four Hebrews are brought before the King for the final examination. They are not only healthier than the other students, they surpass them in knowledge and wisdom. The King immediately hires The four.

Ellen White states, 

"Daniel and his companions in Babylon were, in their youth, apparently more favored of fortune than was Joseph in the earlier years of his life in Egypt; yet they were subjected to tests of character scarcely less severe. From the comparative simplicity of their Judean home these youth of royal line were transported to the most magnificent of cities, to the court of its greatest monarch, and were singled out to be trained for the king's special service. Strong were the temptations surrounding them in that corrupt and luxurious court. The fact that they, the worshipers of Jehovah, were captives to Babylon; that the vessels of God's house had been placed in the temple of the gods of Babylon; that the king of Israel was himself a prisoner in the hands of the Babylonians, was boastfully cited by the victors as evidence that their religion and customs were superior to the religion and customs of the Hebrews. Under such circumstances, through the very humiliations that Israel's departure from His commandments had invited, God gave to Babylon evidence of His supremacy, of the holiness of His requirements, and of the sure result of obedience. And this testimony He gave, as alone it could be given, through those who still held fast their loyalty". — Ellen G. White, Education, p. 54.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Brand New Seed

The following insight - published previously - reveals how there is a deeper lesson in the fact that Abrahan paid tithes to Melchisedec.  

A Brand New Seed

Some farmers from the same area decided to have a business meeting. Of particular issue in the discussion, was a group of fruit trees which had failed to yield the expected crop. It wasn't that the trees produced pears or even apples instead of peaches. No, the trees yielded peaches alright, but they were consistently sour. Nope, nobody was happy, and everybody wanted something done -- right away. So, the farmers were all meeting this day, to decide the fate of their peach trees. You see, they were all concerned because collectively, year after year, the farmers had attempted various things to remedy the problem with their trees but to no avail. Now, every farmer was fed up, and each came to one conclusion -- they had all purchased the seeds of sour peach from the same shop.

A traveling consultant, having heard of the farmers' dilemma, offered his services. He indicated that if allowed, he would study the situation and present his findings at the end of a specified time. Hopeful, all of the farmers agreed, and the consultant began his analysis. Today, however, was presentation day, and the farmers were eagerly awaiting the results of the study.

At the opening of the meeting, the consultant stood to speak and said, "after analyzing your situation, I have determined that all of you have utilized sour seed." Irritated because they knew this, the farmers urged the consultant to tell them something they didn't know. Unfazed, the consultant continued, "there are several remedies available, and each is pricey." "One is to treat the trees with additives to increase the fruit size, which will probably change its taste." "Another is to uproot the trees and sow new seeds." At this point, one of the farmers asked, "If we go for the first solution, would we have to do this every year?" The consultant nodded and answered, "Yes, sir, you would."
Looking at their copy of the report, the farmers silently estimated how much the intervention would cost them. Then another stated, "but if we uproot the trees, wouldn't that mean we would have to replant?" "And if we do that, there won't be a harvest for several years -- that doesn't sound good to me --you know what they say, 'no harvest, no produce, no produce, no money." Frustrated, the farmers began talking amongst themselves. After they quieted down, the consultant answered, "Yes, what you've said is true -- but.." Just then, another farmer asked the question they had all been thinking. "What guarantee do we have that the new seeds will not be sour?" Simultaneously, all of the farmers started talking again. After they quieted down, the consultant responded, "unfortunately, there are no guarantees -- you know about that more than I do." "Apparently, not as much as we should," said another farmer joking. They all laughed. Suddenly one of the quietest farmers said softly, "I think what we need is brand new seed -- from another source." Slowly the laughter subsided, and all agreed, a brand new seed is just what was needed.

In this story, human beings are the trees that produce sour fruit, having come from bad seed. The seed's name was Adam. When God created Adam, He created all of us in him. The Bible says in Genesis 2:7, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." In the original, the text says that God breathed the "breaths of life into man." Surprisingly, the plural form of the word is used, and not the singular. So, the text reads "breaths" and not "breath," as is written in most of our bibles. From this, we can understand that God breathed into Adam the breath of lives -- all of humankind's lives. So the lives of the whole human race were created in one man: Adam. (Adam in Hebrew means Mankind.) Acts 17:26 confirms this thought: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." So it is no surprise that if God created all human beings out of one man when this man sinned, we all sinned. Romans 5:12 says, "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:" This is the basis of the biblical principle of "Solidarity" or "corporate oneness." The book of Hebrews illustrates this principle is when Paul speaks of Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek, even though Levi was not yet conceived (Hebrews 7:1-10.) How did unconceived Levi pay tithes to Melchizedek? Let's take a look at Hebrews 7:

Hebrews 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes to Abraham
Hebrews 7:10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

How does this fit our situation today? How does the concept of "corporate oneness," or "solidarity" affect us? Well, although we were not yet conceived -- we were in the loins - inside - of Adam -- so when he (Adam) sinned, and his nature changed, all he could bequeath to us was his nature of Sin. Therefore we created sinners. Because of this, we suffer the consequences of Sin and must pay the penalty of the second or eternal death, which, as we know, is not sleep. This death is eternal separation from God.

Unlike the characters in our story, God is neither a farmer nor a consultant. He foresaw our Adam's Sin and, therefore, ours, and before there was a need, he formulated a solution. We needed Brand New Seed in the form of Adam the 2nd. Among the many places in the Bible in which we find the answer to Sin, Romans 5:18 is one of them. It reads: "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." God solved the Sin problem by putting us all human beings in Christ. The whole of the human race, you and I and every human being from Adam to the last person, were put into Christ. Christ became the second or the last Adam. Just as we were in Adam, God, by His act of incarnation through the Holy Spirit, put us into Christ so that we were corporately in Him. In bearing us -- our corporate human nature, He bore our Sin /s.

How does this help us? Since we are in Christ, all that He did we did. His life's history has become our history. So when He died the second death, we died with Him, and as He was resurrected on the third day, so were we. Christ has accomplished Salvation complete and final and has given it to us. This Salvation is God's gift to Mankind. Why? So that none would perish. For in John 3:16 it says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God the Father desires that none should be lost. He has made Abundant provision, and if we at the end are lost, it will be because we have fully and finally rejected His gift of love. So yes, Christ objectively justified and saved the whole world, but only your and my full and personal acceptance His gift (subjective Salvation) will allow us the reward of being the new fruit from the incorruptible seed. Receipt of this Truth (by faith) sanctifies us from Sin's consequences and fits us for Eternal Life. In the personal knowledge of truth is power, for "you shall know the truth, and it shall set you free." (John 8:32)

This expression of "In Christ" is used in Hebrews 1:3-14 approximately ten times. Let's read this passage:

Hebrews 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Hebrews 1:4 According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Hebrews 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
Hebrews 1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Hebrews 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Hebrews 1:8 Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Hebrews 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:
Hebrews 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:
Hebrews 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:
Hebrews 1:12 That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Hebrews 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your Salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Hebrews 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.

Based on this passage we can conclude that in Christ were are not: cursed, left to ourselves, to prove ourselves worthy, we are not lost and forlorn, hopeless, aimless, and excluded from God. On the contrary, we are in Christ: blessed, chosen, predestined to adoption, redeemed through His blood, forgiven of Sin, given wisdom and understanding, purposed to know the mystery of His will, first to hope, and included. Christ has justified all Mankind and qualified us for eternal life. So, Jesus is near us -not only in proximity and in sympathy but - because He has chosen us in Himself. Now, He wants to be "in us," to make us fit for Heaven. If we decide to accept Him, one day, we will be living with Him eternally.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Cosmic Conflict Over God's Character

The Cosmic Conflict Over God's Character

In Matthew 25: 14 – 30, we find the Parable of the talents. We read that two of the servants improved on what the Master gave them. But, the last servant hid the talent and did not improve on it. This man based his action on what he thought of the Master,

Mat 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
Mat 25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

We could imply that the other two servants thought the opposite of their Master. Ellen White seems to tell us that Eve had a similar problem,

The tempter intimated that the divine warning was not to be actually fulfilled; it was designed merely to intimidate them. . . . {CC 15.5}
      Such has been Satan's work from the days of Adam to the present, and he has pursued it with great success. He tempts men to distrust God's love and to doubt His wisdom. He is constantly seeking to excite a spirit of irreverent curiosity, a restless, inquisitive desire to penetrate the secrets of divine wisdom and power. In their efforts to search out what God has been pleased to withhold, multitudes overlook the truths which He has revealed, and which are essential to salvation. . . . {CC 15.6}
Eve believed the words of Satan, but her belief did not save her from the penalty of Sin. She disbelieved the words of God, and this was what led to her fall. In the judgment, men will not be condemned because they conscientiously believed a lie, but because they did not believe the truth, because they neglected the opportunity of learning what is truth. {CC 15.7}

Eve doubted God's integrity; thus, she judged God's character incorrectly. Eve's thought of God provoked her downfall. She now needed to restore her trust in God.

Did you notice that Ellen White says that Eve's experience applies to all men? What lie are men choosing to believe that leads them away from trusting God? We read from Ellen White,

In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every Sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of Sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner. {DA 761.4}

Our lesson has made it clear throughout the quarterly that this is what our denomination believes: Sin must be punished. And, it is God who must punish it. Is it not disturbing that we think of God what Satan says of Him?

If this is what we believe, then we believe that something must be done to avoid punishment. God needs appeasement. The previous statement states the core belief of every pagan religion; hence, the practice of sacrifices. Only "the smell the blood" would appease the angry god. Christians have adopted this understanding of God. Christians understand that "Christ died to reconcile the Father unto us." You will find no such thought anywhere in the Bible. The Bible is very clear,

2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

We read in John 3: 16 that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son – the Lamb slain from the beginning of the World to away its Sin (Revelation 13: 8, John 1: 29). It was the Father Who wanted – and still wants - reconciliation. We read from Romans,

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

In Christ, while we still saw God as the enemy, we were reconciled to God and not God to us. Christ says in John 14,

John 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
John 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

Many read the story of Jesus and realize that their concept of God differs from Jesus. Jesus Himself tells us that He and the Father are One. Jesus is a perfect representation of His Father. Any idea of God that differs from Jesus is wrong. Ellen White says,

There stood in the world One who was a perfect representative of the Father, One whose character and practices refuted Satan's misrepresentation of God. Satan had charged upon God the attributes He himself possessed. Now in Christ he saw God revealed in His true character—a compassionate, merciful Father, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Him in repentance, and have eternal life. (1 SM, p. 254).

A good surgeon cuts into the body of its ill patient, thus inflicting pain.   He does it not to punish her for having a harmful health condition, but to get rid of what is ailing the heart. God intervenes in our life, not to punish us, but to get rid of the Sin, which will kill us otherwise. Those whom He loves, He chastens. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Hebrews 12:11). "…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"(Psalm 30:5).

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Narrative

The Narrative


Most Latin American Countries gain their independence during the 19th century. Puerto Rico was one of the few that did not. Most Puerto Ricans were afraid of independence, partly because of Haiti. Early in the 19th-century slaves in Haiti revolted against their French masters, and took over Haiti. Some of those French ended up in exile in Puerto Rico. Of course, they told their stories. After this, independence was equated with slaves subverting against their European masters and taking control of the territory. Puerto Ricans, who owned slaves, did not want that happening to them. This narrative lasted for years.


When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, any talk of independence was shut down with, "Do you want us to be like Cuba?" In 1959, the Cuban revolutionaries entered Havana, marking the end of the revolution and the success of Fidel Castro and his forces. Many Cubans were forced to leave the Island. Some landed in Puerto Rico. Soon after that, Castro declared Cuba a communist country. So, somehow, independence now became equated with the Cuban experience. The belief mentioned above brought Puerto Ricans to believe that the Communist would take over and force everyone else to work in the sugar cane field. Puerto Rico had long since transformed from a sugar cane economy to a more industrial one. The prospect of going back to cutting sugar cane to Puerto Ricans was terrifying. This narrative still exists. 


Whether the narrative ended up being true or not, it did not matter. It accomplished its purpose: to instill fear in the masses so they would not pursue that option. Paul went through something similar in Thessalonica. 


Paul spent three weeks in Thessalonica reasoning and proving the Jesus was the Christ from the scriptures. Many accepted Christ, but his success incited opposition from local religious leaders and a gang of thugs. The city council finally expelled Paul and sought to prevent his return. When someone preaches new teachings, and people get excited, the leaders and teachers of other religious groups may become jealous.


People placed the attention upon them toward others. As a result, they may behave in irrational ways to try to reduce the influence of the new teacher.


According to Acts 17:5, Paul's success in Thessalonica infuriated some of the Jews who were not persuaded by his message. Jealous of Paul's success with the Gentiles, and indeed not very happy that some of their fellow countrymen had joined him, they decided to enlist the help of "some wicked men of the rabble" (ESV) to stir up trouble. In Greek, the phrase "wicked men of the rabble" literally means "men of the marketplace." It refers to a group of unemployed ruffians who hung out in the marketplace looking for something to do. 


The wicked men of the rabble contrasted to the people who responded to Paul's gospel. According to Luke, these hooligans barged into Jason's home to drag Paul out to the crowd (17:5). The Greek word translated as "people" or "crowd" (demos) can also refer to the public assembly of citizens who had authority over local legal matters. Unable to lay their hands on Paul, they decided instead to haul Jason and others before the local magistrates. When they arrived, they laid two accusations against Paul: (1) Paul was an itinerant troublemaker with a track record of causing problems in other cities; (2) Paul was guilty of treason for claiming that Jesus, not Caesar, was King.


According to the Roman historian Suetonius, shortly before the events described in Acts 17, conflict arose among the Jews of Rome over a man Suetonius calls "Chrestus." This term probably reflects a Roman misunderstanding of the Jewish concept of the Messiah or, in Greek, "the Christ." Someone's preaching of the gospel had just split the Jewish community of Rome. To Roman officials, the debate over the Messiah sounded like preparation for the installation of a new king on the throne of Rome (see Acts 17:7). Probably for that reason, the emperor expelled all Jews from his capital city (Acts 18:2). Some of these exiles probably settled in or passed through Thessalonica, bringing knowledge of these events to the city. Because the gospel had turned the world of Rome's Jews upside down, religious leaders in Thessalonica were determined to prevent something similar from happening there. Notice that it was not their primary concern. They used that story to drum up the charges against Paul and gain favor with the rulers of the city. Sufficiently alarmed by these charges, the magistrates banned Paul and Silas from their city and required Jason to pay a fee to ensure that the two men would not return.


A city council of perhaps five or six "mayors" who made decisions as a group ruled Thessalonica. This arrangement allowed for a considerable amount of independence from Rome, which they would be reluctant to give up. So, the behavior of the city officials in this matter was quite impressive under the circumstances. The similarity to recent events in Rome could have led to severe physical punishment for the new Christians. Instead, the city leaders responded evenhandedly (contrast Acts 16:22–40). They took a significant amount of money from the new Christians as security so that they would not be the cause of further disturbances. Then the leaders let everyone go. The narrative worked. 


We see those who professed to be defending the law of God, breaking it to accomplish their goal. Could we be caught in the same trap? When we are dealing with accusations, we should ask ourselves: is there something else? Is the immediate allegation being used to cover the real reason for the attack? Why is God allowing it? Nehemiah is an excellent example of how we can handle these situations. Ellen White states about Nehemiah,


"In Nehemiah's firm devotion to the work of God, and his equally firm reliance on God, lay the reason of the failure of his enemies to draw him into their power. The soul that is indolent falls an easy prey to temptation; but in the life that has a noble aim, an absorbing purpose, evil finds little foothold. The faith of him who is constantly advancing does not weaken; for above, beneath, beyond, he recognizes Infinite Love, working out all things to accomplish His good purpose. God's true servants work with a determination that will not fail because the throne of grace is their constant dependence" (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 659-660.)  May we learn from Nehemiah.