Friday, May 10, 2019

“THE ROYAL LOVE SONG"

"THE ROYAL LOVE SONG"

Temporizing 

It was a very dark, damp and cold night. But that didn't bother her, for she had a dim candle to light her way to bed. During the time when she lived, most of the homes were very simple. There were one or two rooms, whose floors were made of dirt and covered with hay; this type of flooring meant that the occupants' feet were dirty and needed to be cleaned just prior to going to bed. Hers were no exception. By the side of her bed, there was a little bowl of water. Nightly she sat on the bed, placed her feet in the cold water, washed and immediately dried them with a small towel she had by a table - where she had placed the candle. As soon as she dried her feet, she put them on the bed, leaned over, blew out the candle, and then pulled the thick blankets up to cover herself. After a few minutes, she began to feel comfortable and warm. As she felt the heaviness in her eyes, and limbs, she began to relax, thinking that at last she'd get a good night's sleep. As soon as she closed her eyes, and began to drift into sleep, she heard the knock at the door. Startled, she opened her eyes, and listened intently. It was her Beloved Lover calling to her, telling her he wanted to see her, that he longed spend time with her and that he wanted to be intimate. Annoyed that he had awakened her, she decided to remainquiet; perhaps he would go away. Afterall, he could come at another time—a more convenient time. But he didn't go away. Instead, he continued knocking, pleading even more softly, and persuasively, "Please open the door, my love, I wish to see you.Won't you let me in? Don't you miss me? My darling, it's so cold out, it's raining, and I'm wet.  Can't I at least come in and dry off?" Conflicted, as he continued to pleadfor entry, she finally, retorted, "Not now! It's very dark, and I've blown out the candle; it's cold, and I am underneath my blankets. Besides that, my feet are already clean, and I do not want to dirty them by going to the door."  Quiet for a few moments, her lover responded, "It has been such a long day; I have not seen you, and really want to spend time with you; you will not regret it." Frustrated, yet conflicted, she firmly replied, "Come back tomorrow." Her response was met with silence. Feeling awful that she had rejected him and moved with remorse, she got up, and walked in the dark to the door. After a few moments offeeling her way, she found the knob. Turning it, she opened the doorand sadly found that her lover had left. Filled with angst, she wept, thinking that it would probably be days before she could see him again. It was likely that he left to see his fields far away and would not return anytime soon. 

 

Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have read the book of the Song of Solomon, you may realize that this is a paraphrase of Songs 5: 2-6, in which the lovers part ways for a time. Things seemed to be going so well between them, so why did Solomon leave Shulamite? What could have caused him to distance himself in such a way? And why did Shulamite respond to him with such resistance? Of course, we remember that the floor was dirty, and the light out; that she had just drowsily retired to bed, and was in that sweet sleep-wake state. Naturally she didn't wish to be disturbed—after all, who would. I mean, proper rest is needed to function the next day, right? Yes, at first glance we can see these things. But, where was her compassion for him? He was cold, she was warm, he was wet, she was dry, he was shivering, she was comfortable. Leaving a friend outside in the inclement elements is something you wouldn't do. Then why did she do it to her lover? What could have motivated her, and why did he leave? 

The last three questions can be answered, "because she was temporizing." What is temporizing? It is acting evasively to gain time, avoid argument, or postpone a decision. It is what we do when we do not want to be bothered, inconvenienced, or are caught unprepared. In either case, we may be trying to buy some time to find a way out. But a way out of what? Closeness; the vulnerability that comes with both emotional and physical closeness -- Intimacy. 

On the one hand we want intimacy, we desire to be close, to be fully known and accepted. Yet on the other we don't want the vulnerability, and inconvenience that comes with self-exposure. Thus, like the Shulamite woman, we selfishly and immaturely find more comfort in the warmth and cleanliness of our beds, than in the company and presence of our divine Lover who has come so near to us. As Shulamite perceived she was better off in her condition, "in need of nothing" (Revelation 3: 17), we often do too. And by so doing both she and we resist the love, warmth, comfort and cleanliness, the wonderful knowing, and deep acceptance that only our divine Beloved Lover can give.  

You may recall that the Song of Solomon is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom - the Beloved Lover - and His Bride the Church. Christ has not come back for us, because we - His Bride, the Church -like the Shulamite woman have repulsed His nearness to us – His desire for union. We are content with connectivity, if you will, but not union—or full ongoing disclosure on our part. And yet, it is our permission and receptivity to His closeness that brings cleansing and renewal such as is typified in the cleansing of the Sanctuary. As a body we seem to be preoccupied with teaching and preaching the temporal specifics of how to know He's coming (prophecy), without teaching, preaching or practicing the internal preparation needed for His return. We want Him to be near enough to rescue us from our individual and corporate fears and failures but not near enough to see us as we really are. We're willing to point people to the mirror as a standard of Sabbath keeping, but not as a reflection of our unlikeness to our divine Lover. We're even willing to share the Gospel, as long as it's focused on the righteousness we are to have, and the "nearness" with its attendant victory Christ desires us to receive.

These things are in essence true, however, if we were in school, it would be the difference between theory and clinicals. Spiritually speaking, we as a body like the old covenant theory (and practice), but God wants to provide us with His new covenant clinical model. In the old covenant model, we try to impress God and each other with our theology and endeavors. Under the new covenant model, we believe His compassionate nearness to us (the taking on of our collective humanity, and gaining the victory over sin) along with His promises, and see them as His loving invitation to open the door of our individual and corporate heart to Him. This is the only power that will transform our thinking, our living, and our witnessing.

There is a song that comes to mind, probably one of many with this theme-- "Open the door, Jesus is knocking, open the door let the light shine in. Open the door Jesus is waiting, open the door to Him." Couple this with another that goes something like this, "the Saviour is waiting to enter your heart, why don't you let Him come in? Receive Him and all of your darkness will end, O how He wants to come in. Time after time He's waited before, and now He's waiting again, to see if you're willing to open the door; O how He wants to come in."

Friends, no longer let us temporize, but willingly open the door of our hearts—the deepest recesses of our minds, to Him. 

  

 

Sent from Mail for Windows 10


--

Friday, April 19, 2019

Samson vis a vis Christ

Samson vis a vis Christ

Today we learn a new expression. Today's phrase is "vis a vis." It is a word that originates from the French language. It means face to face. But other uses include:  as opposed to, compared with or concerning. Let us apply it to this week's lesson. Let us put Samson face to face with Christ, to see how they compare and how they contrast or oppose each other. 

Let us look first at the similarities, or how they compare. 
1. In both cases, the parents were visited by angels before the baby's birth to prepare them for the parenting of their respective children.  Also, in both cases, the angel spoke first to the mother and afterward to the father. And, in both cases, the angel gave information as to what the babies' mission would be. (Judges 13: 3-14; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18 – 25). 
2. Both Samson and Christ performed supernatural things because they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Judges 14:6, 19; Luke 4:1, 14). 
3. Both were persecuted by their enemies (Judges 16:2; Matthew 26:4; John 7:1).
4. Both were betrayed for money (Judges 16:5; Matthew 26:15).
5. Both were asked to perform for mockery (Judges 26:15; Luke 23:8).
6. Both died for the sake of others (Judges 13:5, 16: 28 -31; Romans 5:6, 8; 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3).

Now let us look at the contrasts or how they oppose each other.
1. Where Samson was indulgent, Christ was the epitome of temperance. Not that Christ was as strict as John the Baptist was in eating. However, Christ knew no woman. Samson fornicated or slept around.
2. Samson was presumptuous; Christ never dared to presume (Judges 16:20; Mat 4: 6, 7).
3. Samson gave himself the glory for his strength; Christ always gave the glory to the Father (Judges 16:16, 17; John 8: 28, 10: 25). 
4. Samson's good deeds including his death could not save humanity from Sin; Christ's death did save humanity, including Samson.

Yes, Samson left a lot to be desired. He was indulgent, presumptuous, and a seeker of pleasure. However, God never gave up on him. And, neither does God give up on us. After all, we are no better than Samson. It would be easy for us to look back at Samson and say "Samson should have known better." Samson knew, and it was not enough. We, too, can know also and it will be not enough. I remember the old expression, "There go I, but for the grace of God." And, yes maybe you will not sleep around, but the Devil has plenty of other temptations in his arsenal for us. The bottom line is that only Christ can deliver us. We have this promise "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20). And another one, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God answered Samson's prayer to destroy the temple and kill everyone in it. Not once is God heard saying, "Why do you come to me now? Did I not warn you enough? You are on your own, buddy." No. God stayed true to His love for Samson. And, so He does with us, as Paul says in Hebrews 7: 25, 

Hebrews 7: 25 Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Samson repented and turned to God, and God was waiting. Will we repent and turn to Him? He is also waiting for us.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth

Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth

Memory text:  Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Text for this week has implications worth examining.  It says that there was a beginning and that God was there already.  So, God is before everything.  Moreover, everything that exists, except for Him,  He created it.  The phrase 'In the beginning" reminds me of John 1: 1 -3,

John 1:1-3
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

This text is expanding on Genesis 1.  We know that the term "the Word" refers to Jesus.  So, the verse specifically says that out of the three persons of the Godhead it was Christ who created; this is not to say that the other two were not capable.  They just had other roles.  In verse 3 we see that everything was made through Him.  By this, we mean that Christ created out of nothing.  Christ did not transform previously existing material.  Christ created matter; not energy.  Christ Himself is energy.  This concept is further is repeated in Heb 11:3 "…so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."   Colossians 1: 15 – 17 repeats what John 1 says,

Colossians 1: 15 – 17
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ holds all He created together.  He sustains His creation.  The same power used to create is the same power used to support.  So, while nature reveals the glory of God, it is still by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (Heb 11:3).  We believe it because God says so.  Also, when we look at Nature, we see it reveals what God has said.  Thus, it increases our faith.  The latter part of the clause states that creation was by the Word of God; Psalms  33; 6, 9 confirms this,

Psalm 33:6, 9
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

Jeremiah 51:15  adds that God's word has power, " He has made the earth by His power."  Now, Paul makes a connection between Christ as creator and Christ as redeemer.  Let's go back to Colossians 1.  It says Christ is "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins ... For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1: 16, 16).  Paul seems to imply that the reason Christ can redeem is because He is the Creator.  Is there a relationship between the two?  Ellen White thinks so.  Remember the creator is also sustainer.  So she says,

The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great laws that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The laws that govern the heart's action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the laws of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the soul. From Him all life proceeds. Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action. For
all the objects of His creation the condition is the same--a life sustained by receiving the life of God, a life exercised in harmony with the Creator's will. To transgress His law, physical, mental, or moral, is to place one's self out of harmony with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin. {Ed 99.2}

Christ is Redeemer by virtue of His power as Creator.  If He were not Creator, He could not be Redeemer.  Several verses refer to redemption as an act of Creation.  The Psalmist prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). The apostle says, that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17) or a new creation. We read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: ... For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

The Bible joins Creation and redemption by an inseparable connectionn. It takes nothing less than creative energy to redeem us. The power by which Jesus saves us from sin is the power by which He created the worlds. In Rev 14:6, seven the everlasting gospel and creation are connected. The same is true in Col 1:14‑16 where forgiveness, redemption, and creation are linked. Likewise, verses 16 and 20 in Rom 1 teach that the power of God in the gospel is the power that creates. The gospel is Christ crucified, buried, and raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-4). The cross – Christ crucified – is the creative power of God applied to men for salvation (1 Cor 1:18, 23,24). The everlasting gospel, as the creative power of God, will be preached in all the world.  Any gospel that leaves out creation is "another gospel," which is no gospel at all. It is powerless. Any gospel that does not preach the creative power of God, as seen in the things that He has made to live, is no gospel at all. The gospel saves us, and comforts us, and sustains us by the power of creation.

Creation and redemption have the same purpose regarding man. In the beginning, God created man in His image (Gen 1:26, 27). Then sin entered. Was God caught off guard, when this occurred?  Was the plan of redemption an afterthought? Never. Christ was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" and before that "was foreordained" to die for us (Rev 13:8; 1 Pet 1:18-20). As soon as there was sin, there was the cross of the crucified  Christ. Christ was made to be sin itself – the curse – in order to redeem us from it (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13).

The plan of redemption is carrying out of God's original plan of creation – that you and I should be made in the image of God (Rom 8:29). Redemption is brought about through God's creative power of the cross. Redemption is a new creation. Coming to Christ, uniting with Christ, being in Christ, by faith, makes you and me new creatures (2 Cor 5:17). How is this brought about?

Christ created the worlds through the power of His word (Psa 33:6, 9; Heb 11:3). He re-creates us anew by the power of that same word; This is the new birth (James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23). His word is full of life and exceedingly powerful (Heb 4:12). David realized the close relationship between creation and redemption when he prayed "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psa 51:10). God promises to give us a new heart in answer to this kind of prayer (Eze 36:25‑28); This is the creation of righteousness and true holiness within us (Eph 4:23,24).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dressed For the Judgment

Dressed For the Judgment

While on tour, a famous singer – whom we will call Liam Phillips - stopped in a major city to give a concert. One evening after rehearsal, the very casually dressed Liam decided to stop by an exclusive restaurant for dinner. On the door of this restaurant hung a sign that stated, "Jacket Required." Oblivious, Liam went right through the doors, without reading the sign. Naturally, he found himself denied entry by a tall, muscular man, who sternly warned, "Sir, you cannot enter dressed like that." Puzzled, the singer asked, "Why not?"  To which the bouncer replied, "We have a dress code, sir; it says so right there on the sign. Didn't you read it?"  With embarrassment, the singer answered, "No I didn't. What did it say?" Ever polite, the bouncer replied, "Jacket Required." Slightly chagrined, the singer, who was used to receiving preferential treatment, tried to charm his way in.  So he said to the bouncer, "Well, I am pretty sure an exception can be made since I am Liam Phillips." Anticipating this, the bouncer stated, "Sir, "I know who you are, but you still cannot enter. I am just doing my job."

By now the singer was both frustrated, and hungry. Aggravated, he yelled at the bouncer, "Let me talk to your manager now! If he knew that you were denying me entrance, I could make him fire you!" Calmly, the bouncer replied, "Mr. Phillips, if my manager wants to make an exception that is his call. I do not have that authority," At that moment the manager entered the lobby and stated, "What is all the commotion?" To which the bouncer quickly replied, "Mr. Phillips would like to speak to you." "Ah, Mr. Liam Phillips," said the manager, "I love your music. What can I do for you?" Clearly frustrated, the singer quickly replied, "Thank you. I just want to order dinner, I'm hungry, but your muscle man will not let me in." "Mr. Phillips," replied the manager, "I am sorry for your inconvenience, but we have a very strict policy concerning our dining attire. However, if you were to put on a jacket, we would be glad to serve you."  "Where would I get a jacket at this time?" said Liam with a tone of sarcasm, it was rather late for stores to be open. "Well," said the manager, "There is a store right next door. They are still open. You can get one there. Please tell them Mr. Smith sent you."  "Fine," said the singer, "I'll be back." And with that, he left the restaurant still fuming.

When he arrived at the clothing store, the attendant recognized him immediately, and said, "Liam Phillips, what an honor. Love your music. What can I do for you?" "Thanks, man, I need a jacket," answered Liam. "Did Mr. Smith send you, Mr. Phillips?" asked the attendant. "Yes, He did," replied the singer. "Then please follow me," said the attendant. The attendant led the singer to a rack and pulled out a jacket that he felt would fit. And, indeed it was a very good fit. The singer pulled out his credit card, and the attendant said, "Oh no, this is a compliment of the restaurant."  Puzzled, the singer walked out of the store and then into the restaurant. He looked at the bouncer sheepishly, smiled and said, "I have my jacket."  The bouncer smiled in return, and nodded his head in approval, and said to Liam, "Come right in, Mr. Phillips, the maître d' will be with you shortly."

This account – loosely based on a true story, shows that the singer thought that his accomplishments or identity should have merited him entry into the restaurant. But, the restaurant had other standards: semiformal attire.  Knowing that not everyone would have a jacket when visiting the establishment, the restaurant provided complimentary attire so costumers would not have to leave, but could if they chose to, fit the standard of the restaurant and still be served. All were welcome to the restaurant, but only those with jackets would be allowed to stay and be served.

This is reminiscent of the parable of the Royal Wedding Feast of Matthew 22:1–14, where the invited guests are provided with garments, appropriate for the royal occasion.  Just as the singer in our story was required to be dressed in a specific manner to be served in the restaurant, so the wedding guests must be dressed in proper attire to attend the wedding. Matthew 22:8 states "those who were bidden [first] were not worthy."  That is to say that they rejected the invitation. What made those invited last, worthy of attending the Royal Wedding Feast? They accepted the invitation. Yet and still, that was not enough.

When we look further at our story, we find that the King provided the garment that made the guests worthy of attending the wedding feast. It was clear that the King desired the attendance of every guest, for not only was a personal, handcrafted invitation issued, but he spared no expense in providing an exquisite tailormade garment for each. 

As hosts often do, the King decided to oversee His guests who had arrived. To his surprise he found one not dressed in the provided garment.  When questioned, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" this guest was speechless. He had no excuse. Garments were given to all. The fact that this man chose not to wear the wedding garment was an insult to the King. Thus, he was thrown out into the utter darkness. This is a graphic description that salvation is more than accepting the gospel invitation. Putting on the garment provided at high cost is the only thing that will allow us to be served in the kingdom of God. Without it, the light will go out, and we will find ourselves in utter darkness, which represents eternal separation from God (Matthew 22:11-13).

If we think that the King took pleasure in punishing the offending man, then we miss the point that the King not only extended a personal invitation but that he provided the proper attire for each -- a tailor-made garment. Therefore, we can deduce that the King was displeased, perhaps even grieved that the guest chose not to wear the clothing. How disappointing.

In this parable, we are the guests who are bidden to attend the Wedding Banquet of our Bridegroom, the Lamb. As good Laodiceans, we may think that our accomplishments will make us worthy to enter and attend the Royal wedding feast. However, God's assessment of us is that we are unworthy because we are not choosing to put on the garment of His character (See Revelation 3:15-17). Instead, we're wearing the apparel of our own devising (cf. Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons p. 311). But the message is clear, the garment provided by the King is the only attire of any value. Knowing that we are dressed improperly, and in danger of being thrown out, the King counsels us, "… buy of me … white raiment, that thou may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear…" (Revelation 3:18).  This white raiment represents the Righteousness of Christ, continually received by faith through grace: activated by agape, it is a gift. If you have accepted the invitation, have you received the gifted garment? Are you dressed for the divine Wedding Feast in royal attire, or are you wearing your own pitiful citizen's dress?--

Dressed For the Judgment

Dressed For the Judgment

While on tour, a famous singer – whom we will call Liam Phillips - stopped in a major city to give a concert. One evening after rehearsal, the very casually dressed Liam decided to stop by an exclusive restaurant for dinner. On the door of this restaurant hung a sign that stated, "Jacket Required." Oblivious, Liam went right through the doors, without reading the sign. Naturally, he found himself denied entry by a tall, muscular man, who sternly warned, "Sir, you cannot enter dressed like that." Puzzled, the singer asked, "Why not?"  To which the bouncer replied, "We have a dress code, sir; it says so right there on the sign. Didn't you read it?"  With embarrassment, the singer answered, "No I didn't. What did it say?" Ever polite, the bouncer replied, "Jacket Required." Slightly chagrined, the singer, who was used to receiving preferential treatment, tried to charm his way in.  So he said to the bouncer, "Well, I am pretty sure an exception can be made since I am Liam Phillips." Anticipating this, the bouncer stated, "Sir, "I know who you are, but you still cannot enter. I am just doing my job."

By now the singer was both frustrated, and hungry. Aggravated, he yelled at the bouncer, "Let me talk to your manager now! If he knew that you were denying me entrance, I could make him fire you!" Calmly, the bouncer replied, "Mr. Phillips, if my manager wants to make an exception that is his call. I do not have that authority," At that moment the manager entered the lobby and stated, "What is all the commotion?" To which the bouncer quickly replied, "Mr. Phillips would like to speak to you." "Ah, Mr. Liam Phillips," said the manager, "I love your music. What can I do for you?" Clearly frustrated, the singer quickly replied, "Thank you. I just want to order dinner, I'm hungry, but your muscle man will not let me in." "Mr. Phillips," replied the manager, "I am sorry for your inconvenience, but we have a very strict policy concerning our dining attire. However, if you were to put on a jacket, we would be glad to serve you."  "Where would I get a jacket at this time?" said Liam with a tone of sarcasm, it was rather late for stores to be open. "Well," said the manager, "There is a store right next door. They are still open. You can get one there. Please tell them Mr. Smith sent you."  "Fine," said the singer, "I'll be back." And with that, he left the restaurant still fuming.

When he arrived at the clothing store, the attendant recognized him immediately, and said, "Liam Phillips, what an honor. Love your music. What can I do for you?" "Thanks, man, I need a jacket," answered Liam. "Did Mr. Smith send you, Mr. Phillips?" asked the attendant. "Yes, He did," replied the singer. "Then please follow me," said the attendant. The attendant led the singer to a rack and pulled out a jacket that he felt would fit. And, indeed it was a very good fit. The singer pulled out his credit card, and the attendant said, "Oh no, this is a compliment of the restaurant."  Puzzled, the singer walked out of the store and then into the restaurant. He looked at the bouncer sheepishly, smiled and said, "I have my jacket."  The bouncer smiled in return, and nodded his head in approval, and said to Liam, "Come right in, Mr. Phillips, the maître d' will be with you shortly."

This account – loosely based on a true story, shows that the singer thought that his accomplishments or identity should have merited him entry into the restaurant. But, the restaurant had other standards: semiformal attire.  Knowing that not everyone would have a jacket when visiting the establishment, the restaurant provided complimentary attire so costumers would not have to leave, but could if they chose to, fit the standard of the restaurant and still be served. All were welcome to the restaurant, but only those with jackets would be allowed to stay and be served.

This is reminiscent of the parable of the Royal Wedding Feast of Matthew 22:1–14, where the invited guests are provided with garments, appropriate for the royal occasion.  Just as the singer in our story was required to be dressed in a specific manner to be served in the restaurant, so the wedding guests must be dressed in proper attire to attend the wedding. Matthew 22:8 states "those who were bidden [first] were not worthy."  That is to say that they rejected the invitation. What made those invited last, worthy of attending the Royal Wedding Feast? They accepted the invitation. Yet and still, that was not enough.

When we look further at our story, we find that the King provided the garment that made the guests worthy of attending the wedding feast. It was clear that the King desired the attendance of every guest, for not only was a personal, handcrafted invitation issued, but he spared no expense in providing an exquisite tailormade garment for each. 

As hosts often do, the King decided to oversee His guests who had arrived. To his surprise he found one not dressed in the provided garment.  When questioned, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" this guest was speechless. He had no excuse. Garments were given to all. The fact that this man chose not to wear the wedding garment was an insult to the King. Thus, he was thrown out into the utter darkness. This is a graphic description that salvation is more than accepting the gospel invitation. Putting on the garment provided at high cost is the only thing that will allow us to be served in the kingdom of God. Without it, the light will go out, and we will find ourselves in utter darkness, which represents eternal separation from God (Matthew 22:11-13).

If we think that the King took pleasure in punishing the offending man, then we miss the point that the King not only extended a personal invitation but that he provided the proper attire for each -- a tailor-made garment. Therefore, we can deduce that the King was displeased, perhaps even grieved that the guest chose not to wear the clothing. How disappointing.

In this parable, we are the guests who are bidden to attend the Wedding Banquet of our Bridegroom, the Lamb. As good Laodiceans, we may think that our accomplishments will make us worthy to enter and attend the Royal wedding feast. However, God's assessment of us is that we are unworthy because we are not choosing to put on the garment of His character (See Revelation 3:15-17). Instead, we're wearing the apparel of our own devising (cf. Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons p. 311). But the message is clear, the garment provided by the King is the only attire of any value. Knowing that we are dressed improperly, and in danger of being thrown out, the King counsels us, "… buy of me … white raiment, that thou may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear…" (Revelation 3:18).  This white raiment represents the Righteousness of Christ, continually received by faith through grace: activated by agape, it is a gift. If you have accepted the invitation, have you received the gifted garment? Are you dressed for the divine Wedding Feast in royal attire, or are you wearing your own pitiful citizen's dress?
--

Friday, March 15, 2019

Kept in Check

Kept in Check

A mother bear had traveled many miles looking for food with her cub when she noticed that the cub had wandered away from her. Anxious, she began to look for him. Meanwhile, the cub, reaching the rocky area of a river, started to play. First, he rolled on his back with his hind legs in the air. Then he chased his tail and even smacked himself a time or two. Tiring, the distracted cub began to climb on the rocks and to swat at the various fish in the rushing stream.
Engrossed in play, he did not realize that a cougar was stealthily approaching. Crouching, the cougar silently and slowly moved toward the cub. Suddenly, the cub thought he heard something and looked up directly into the face of the growling cat that was ready to pounce. Realizing his life was in danger, the cub attempted to defend himself. Standing on his hind legs, he growled back. Although he wasn't sure this was the thing to do, he could think of nothing else, and so on he snarled while clawing the air. Startled, but determined, the cougar stared up at the cub with ears back, hissing. Suddenly he looked frightened, turned and ran away. Amazed at how easily the cub had caused danger to flee, he congratulated himself, not realizing that behind him on her hind legs, stood his mother. It was she who had frightened away the dangerous and hungry cat, as she defended her cub. By himself, the cub was no match for the cougar, but the other was. It was the mother bear that kept the cougar in check.

There is a quote from Ellen G. White in Friday's lesson, which reads, "The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit." There are two ways to view both this quote and the above story. One is in the subjective sense, and the other is in the objective. Let's look first at the subjective. In the above story, the cub represents you and me, and the cougar represents Satan – the price of the power of Evil.
We have wandered (and continue to roam) away from God into danger and imminent death. The mother bear, which goes looking for her lost cub, represents the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who keeps the power of evil in check, so the wanderer has the opportunity to escape.  According to the Apostle Peter, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV). For This reason, Peter advises us to be alert and controlled by the Spirit -- having given our will over to Him. On our own, away from God -- the source of life, we are no match for Satan. We would not have a chance against him, even if all of us were to join forces against him. However, thank God for our mother bear, the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Job, God tells Satan about Job, "Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job 1:12). So the enemy of souls can do unto us, only what God allows him to do. Being that the Holy Spirit is God, the devil must go through Him before he gets to us. According to Sister White, "he who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord's permission, and 'all things' that are permitted 'work together for good to them that love God.' Romans 8:28" (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing page 71). Isn't this thought amazing? 'It is not that we resist evil, but that we allow Christ to be our defence.' What a novel thought. Whatever difficulties or trials we experience -- as hard as the hit may feel -- the Spirit of God receives it first. We merely feel what God allows us to feel.  Moreover, even then, He buffers the blow, for, without His presence, the entire force of the blow would destroy us.

Another way to view both the story and the quote is in the corporate sense. From this vantage point, the cub in the story represents the church. We know from reading the book of Revelation that in the final days of this earth's history, the restraint that has been upon the wicked will be removed, and Satan will have entire control of the minds and hearts of the impenitent. According to Sister White, "When God's long-suffering patience will have ended, when the world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled upon His law; when the wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; and the Spirit of God has persistently been resisted, He will at last be withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, the wicked have no protection from the evil one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that, which came upon Jerusalem in the hands of Titus in 70 AD (Maranatha, page 265). Perhaps, the plagues of Revelation 16 paint the gruesome picture of the terrible trial that humanity will go through when the Holy Spirit is no longer holding the enemy in check. Persecution will happen those who by Faith stand alone in this earth without an intercessor. The Devil will convince the agonizing masses of evildoers to blame the Saints. 

We are the cub. God sees us both individually (subjectively), and objectively as one. When we are in Christ, and He is in us, the evil that Satan sends to destroy us does not have its intended effect. We are protected because the powers arrayed against us are held in check by the third person of the Godhead -- the Holy Spirit; this does not mean that we will not feel frightened, for we will, just as that little cub was afraid for his life. God has promised -- and He keeps His promises -- He will deliver us speedily when we call upon Him. Perhaps like the cub we are calling silently, thinking no one is around to hear. Take heart, for God is faithful and will not allow anyone of us to be destroyed. Keep the faith!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Commentary: Our Prophetic Message

Commentary: Our Prophetic Message

The following story is representative of what the 3rd Angel's Message will produce in those who receive it by faith.

My niece Katrina* and I are not blood-related. I met 16-year-old Katrina when my adopted sister married her father, a man who already had children. Soon I became her father's friend and Katrina's uncle. Katrina and her sister Katherine* have both become my nieces. There is nothing in our relationship which indicates that we are not related by blood. The fact that I'm Caribbean-born and they are American-born doesn't seem to make a difference.

When Katrina was younger, she studied my home country for her research paper. In college, she went abroad to study the language and customs, which provided a common ground between us. As young women, she and her sister worried about disappointing me and sought my company often. Today they have graduated college, and grad school respectively, and I'm the uncle they call when they need to pray about work projects or have questions about the latest Latin dish they are trying to prepare.

God's love has created a closeness between us which has erased every hint of difference. We are a family.  So it is when God's people allow themselves to become one together with Him. In identifying with Him, our aims, and purposes become united, and we become one family, one body. Although God's family comes from all parts of the world, our different languages, complexions, features, and cultures should merely serve as a memorial to God's creativity -- nothing else. God has called us together as one body to serve Him and to invite others to serve with us. 
How will the world respond to our invitation if our differences scatter us?

In God's kingdom, there are no rich or poor, no educated or ignorant, no great or small. We are all children of the Almighty in His Son. Through Him, we understand that we have been enabled to work with each other to prepare others for His kingdom. "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col. 3:11, NIV).
No matter how different we are, God wants us to function as one. As a part of His body, He gives us His Spirit -- of Agape-love, peace, and joy, which is demonstrated in caring for the needs and wants of others, all sharing in the hope of Jesus Christ.
You may be asking yourself, "What does this story about God's love as a uniting factor have to do with the message of the three angels"? Just this: you cannot love those with whom you do not identify.

Christ's identification with us is the foundation of the gospel, the cornerstone of the doctrine of Justification by Faith; it is the gift through which every other gift flows. Christ's death on the cross was merely the out-flowing of His agape which He found in identifying Himself with us from the foundation of the world.

To be justified is to be made right with God legally and forensically as well as morally. The moral law rests on this – Agape – Supreme love to God as our response to His wooing, and love to man as He has loved us. To be justified (by faith) then is to recognize in heart and mind that I am all men and all men are me. We are all one humanity and in Christ all one body. The loss of any part through ignorance, willfulness or neglect, is the loss of me – part of me.

To those who wonder what justification has to do with the three angel's message, Ellen White said this, "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"-- Review and Herald, April 1, 1890; {Ev 190.3} (Emphasis author's).

The third angel's message is a prophetic message, and traditionally we have taught that this message of commandment keeping -- particularly Sabbath keeping or worshiping, is paramount to being saved; and likewise, that those who do not heed the warnings, will receive the mark of the beast, and be lost. Sadly, many of us have equated our positive performance of keeping the law, attending church, attending and promoting evangelistic series and AY's along with camp-meetings and the like with not being found wanting in the judgment. To buttress our position, we've used texts which seem to say that our faith in Jesus saved us and judged according to our works.

We quote Romans 2:13 – "Not just the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." However, perhaps our understanding of hearers and doers is not accurate. The hearing which Jesus has in mind is active; eager focused listening with the intent to understand and receive what is being said (because the speaker is intimately known), willing to do, even before knowing what (content) is being spoken. While here on earth, Jesus Himself said, "I of mine own self can do nothing…as I hear…" (John 5:19, 30). It is He who brings everything secret and hidden into judgment – words, thoughts, motives, and actions. The man or woman, whom He justifies, has the law engraved on the heart and mind. Why? Because the Holy Spirit who is residing inside and embodies the law gives the gift of love, peace, joy, faith… (Gal.5:22, 23). Works of the flesh, no matter how good they seem are condemned as sinful, because they are not done by those whose hearts and minds the Holy Spirit fills with the faith of Jesus, which works by agape- love, and which purifies the soul.  

Friends, the basis of the three angel's message of warning is the everlasting gospel. It is the pleading of the prophetic body of messengers – to accept by faith the good news of Christ's deep and abiding self-denying love which He demonstrates in His identification with us – His taking on our sinful nature -- and His death on the cross in fulfillment of the wages of sin.

I Peter 4:17 says "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached (margin: the word of hearing) did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" Heb. 4:2. The hearers did not understand that the "works" they were to do, had been finished from the foundation of the world" Hebrews 4:3. Have we understood?