Friday, January 26, 2018

"Arming" for Victory

"Arming" for Victory

Let us start by reading Ephesians 6:13,

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the whole armor of God,  that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

What is Victory in Biblical terms?  Victory is the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist.  Who is our enemy? Some may say the Devil, and they are right.  Some may say death, and they are right also.  However, when Christ spoke about overcoming He mentioned the world.  Jesus told His disciples,

John 16: 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

What does Jesus mean by the world?  How do we overcome it?  In a few verses above the verse quoted Christ gives us a hint,

John 16: 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
John 16: 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;

Christ said to the disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will reprove the world of Sin, among other things.  Why Sin?  Because, the world – those who live in it – do not believe in Him.  Why does the world do not believe in Christ?  When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He said that the condemnation of the world was "that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).  So, the world is condemned because they have chosen not to believe in the "Light of the world."  The choice of not believing was the problem of Israel while in the wilderness.  Paul says in Hebrews that they did not enter the rest – of Christ – because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3:19; 4:6).  It was still a problem among Jews in Jesus' day (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:6); so, as we see the word chosen for their condition is unbelief. 

Unbelief is used for two Greek terms: one of them meaning no faith, and the other one apathy.  But apathy is a compound word: a + pathy.   Pathy comes from pathos.  Pathos comes from peithos, of which the root word is pistis or faith.  Paul uses apathy to refer to the Israelites in the wilderness.  Now Paul refers to the apathy – lack of feeling or concern because of not believing – of the Israelites to warn the people of his day that they too could fall into the same trap (Hebrews 4:11).   Unbelief is an ongoing battle going on in our hearts and minds.  Ellen White also warns us about it.  Ellen White says,

"In every soul two powers are struggling earnestly for the victory. Unbelief marshals its forces, led by Satan, to cut us off from the Source of our strength. Faith marshals its forces, led by Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Hour by hour, in the sight of the heavenly universe, the conflict goes forward. This is a hand-to-hand fight, and the great question is, Which shall obtain the mastery? This question each must decide for himself. In this warfare all must take a part, fighting on one side or the other. From the conflict there is no release. . . We are urged to prepare for this conflict. 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' The warning is repeated, 'Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.'" -Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God, p. 328.

So, the implication is that those who put on the armor will overcome the wiles of the devil, of which one of the most excellent weapons is unbelief.   We read in 1 John 5: 4 - 5,

1 John 5: 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
1 John 5: 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

So, to put on the armor then is to be born of God, because they are the ones who overcome the world.  And, they do so by faith – by hearing and believing the word of God.  So, there is no need for unbelief to be part of our lives.  Christ has given us His victory.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Seven Steps

The Seven Steps

Stairs are so common now that many of us take them for granted.  They have been around for so long we cannot think of them ever as an invention.  But, stairs are one of the oldest buildings in architectural history; they have always played a central role in the history of humanity, although it is difficult to tell in which year they made their "debut," many believe that 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.

Apparently, the first stairs were created 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 overcome these challenges as soon as possible; to move up often meant moving to a place of greater security. At that time this could have meant the difference between life and death.  It was very important to move quickly, hence the importance of the stairs.

So, like many other inventions, stairs first emerged as a solution to a problem, although, years later it was found in China the first granite staircase leading to the sacred mountain in Tai Shan, this indicates that one of the utilities that were given to the stairs in his story 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 metaphorically to describe reaching the height of divinity and establishing a connection between earth and sky. Other examples of stairs built for religious purposes are a. the biblical Jacob's ladder, b. The tower of Babel, which was a helical tower, c. The pyramids of Egypt that had stairs, d. The celestial ladder of Shantung in China, and e. 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 the God's presence.

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 six-fold, 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 2:5-11King James Version (KJV)
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 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 steps down the ladder, to later be exalted.  Paul exhorts us to be like Christ (Philippians 2:5).  Will we?

Friday, January 12, 2018


.                                                         First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #2
"I See, I Want, I Take"
January 13, 2018

The title of this week's lesson brings vividly to mind the story of a young man I'll call Dave, whose family became interested in the Adventist message while Dave was a teen. After completing a home Bible study on the fourth commandment, his family became convinced of the seventh day Sabbath truth. We met this family the first Sabbath they ever attended church. After making their acquaintance we enjoyed times of study and fellowship with them. We suggested the family consider sending Dave to an SDA school. They did. The school accepted him based in part upon our recommendation.
Things went well for a while until we received word that Dave had been expelled from school for stealing. On the outside he exuded an exemplary demeanor and deportment. We were saddened by the news that the stealing had been a recurrent issue, leaving the school with no choice but to send him home. Shortly after his return, he came over to our home with his parents to apologize for letting us down. He read to us a carefully composed apology he had written and then explained to us in his own words what happened: one of the staff members had a valuable piece of equipment which had been left "unguarded." With no one to witness his act, Dave took the equipment and hid it in his own belongings. More than once, he emphasized that the object he took was one that he saw, he wanted, and he took because it was "unguarded." We assured him that we forgave him and that God loved him.
Dave came from a family of means; lack of resources to obtain such equipment legitimately wasn't an issue for him. This experience unfortunately dampened the family's interest in the Adventist Church. Eventually they stopped attending and intentionally cut off all ties with us.
A few years later we heard the tragic and shocking news that Dave had been arrested as a primary suspect in the cold-blooded murder of his parents.
While no one would have predicted this outcome for Dave, nor can we presume to understand the motivation behind his actions, the Bible is clear.
Sin originated in the heart of Lucifer. The principle of "see, want, take" was borne out in his life. He saw Jesus, Who as Creator of the universe and the self-existent One inherently had more power and a higher position than he, a created being, could ever have. Nevertheless, Lucifer aspired to the higher position and more power, and in the ages that followed, he revealed that he would stop at no means to gain his object, even taking the life of his Maker, the Son of God. Covetousness starts in the heart, but given opportunity without repentance, it leads to murder.
All this to say, the desire for something that isn't mine isn't something that merely needs regulating to keep it from getting out of hand. It must be crucified. Covetousness is the root cause of the murder of the Son of God. It bears fruit in stealing from others what isn't mine, whether it be property, money, or a spouse. It resorts to falsehood to cover its insidious tracks, and it ultimately leads to murder of the Son of God.
Greed has a large appetite that can never be assuaged. It is an equal opportunity employer, willingly engaging rich and poor alike in its servitude. Hoarders amass worthless treasures in their homes or garages while others accumulate fortunes in their bank accounts. Both are alike at risk for putting their confidence in the things of this world, which is passing away.
The only cure for the fatal condition of covetousness (it is fatal because the wages of sin is death) is found in beholding Jesus, who "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God," — in other words Jesus did not obtain His high position as God by angling for it or by strategizing; it was His by right, therefore He did not arrive at that position by deceptive means, it was His very identity — "but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:6-8.
The position Lucifer wanted so badly but could never have, Christ willingly gave up in order that He might save man at any cost to Himself. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit in the garden, they imbibed of that Luciferian spirit: I see, I want, I take. Once infected with this disease of sin — of taking what is not ours to take — Adam passed it along to the entire human race. Outside of Christ there is no cure. Materialism isn't merely a desire that must be reined in or controlled, it must be rooted out of the heart like a poisonous plant. With Paul we must experience the life-changing power of the cross every day. We are crucified with Christ and we live, not for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again (Galatians 2:20).
Have you noticed that there are places in the world where people are much more content than in other places? I have witnessed children in Africa who couldn't be happier playing with a self-constructed ball or toy in an open field while I have witnessed children in America made miserable by the acquisition of another toy because it is the wrong brand or not as nice as the neighbor's next door.
The quest for better and more doesn't necessarily end in happiness. It takes resolute purpose to turn away from the things of this world and turn our eyes upon Jesus.
Whether we are rich or poor, the gifts with which we have been entrusted are to be rendered in service for Him.
"To live is to give" is the principle of heaven and of Christ's followers on earth. Owing to the fact that we still inhabit sinful bodies, we should not be surprised if our flesh rises up to complain when we strive to live according to God's plan. If it hurts to give, give anyway. God's agape love medicine is doing its needed work upon the heart. Giving wisely to those in need, whether through the means of our time, energy, or resources is the currency upon which heaven is based. Riches thus invested in our heavenly account will never be lost, but will rebound in blessings throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.
~Patti Guthrie

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sabbath School Insights: How Jesus Spent "His" Time

How Jesus Spent "His" Time

How Jesus Spent "His" Time 

Balance as an adjective is a state in which opposing tendencies are equal. To balance an object means to position it with its center of gravity above its supports in such a way that there is no tendency for it to topple over to one side rather than to another.  The forces of gravity are equal on each side.  

In acoustics, balance is the condition in a stereo system wherein both speakers produce the same average sound levels.   In aerospace engineering, it is the equilibrium attained by an aircraft, rocket, or the like when forces and moments are acting upon it to produce a steady flight, especially without rotation about its axes.  In chemistry, balance is to bring a chemical equation into a state wherewith conservation of mass and charge.   

We could say that balance in social terms is the point at which you can give time to all parties and activities, and they all are satisfied.  Something humanly impossible to do, but that we believe we should be able to do.  Because it is impossible, many experts say that we should learn to say, "No."  You cannot please everyone and do all things well at all times.   

From our human perspective, Christ lives an "unbalanced" life.  (He said, "No," sometimes.)  He "neglected" and "ignored" His family (Matthew 12: 46 – 50).  He did not eat at times (John 4: 31 – 33).  All so that He could do the things stated in the verses enumerated in our lesson  - Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:16, John 2:1-11, John 12:2.  These examples give us four different categories of work: preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding.  We should note that Jesus repeatedly said that it was not He that did the works, but His Father.  Let us read from John 8: 28, 29; 12: 49, 50; and 14:10,   

John8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
John8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 
John12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
John12:50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. 
John14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 

Jesus spent the time given to Him doing the Father's will.  To be able to do this Jesus prayed - sometimes all night.  Here are a few verses talking about that,  

Mark1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 
Luke5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed. 
Luke9:28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 
Luke6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 

The prayer enabled and empowered Him to lay aside His will so he could do His Father's will, which in His case was preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding.  Christ died to self daily.  He said, "No," to Himself to say, "Yes," to the Father.  To live as Jesus lived then is to live a life doing the Father's will.  What is the Father's will for us?  The following is an excerpt of a sermon by a prominent Pastor which answers this question from Romans 12: 1 - 2.

"The question I want to ask you is, "Are you willing to present your bodies a living sacrifice?"  Romans 12:1:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
In other words, for me now onward is not to live for myself but for Christ.  Because of this, Paul says in Romans 12:2:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In other words, "do not fit yourself into the world's mold."  This is one of the biggest problems we face here.

It wasn't long after coming to America I discovered this was one of the major problems that we face here in America.  I'll tell you why.  When I go and preach the gospel to the pagans in Africa, to the Animists, and they become Christians, they know that they are saying good-bye to paganism in exchange for Christianity.  So it is a common practice among Africans when they are baptized to actually change their names.  They actually change their names, just like Paul did when he was converted from Judaism.  He changed his name from Saul to Paul.  What does this signify?  It means that they are no longer belonging to the world.

But here is the problem in this country.  For years in school every morning, public or private school, we have to say, "This is one nation under God."  So it has caused a problem because we make no distinction between our culture and Christianity.  Because it's "one nation under God."  But let me ask you a question.  In practice, is this really one nation under God?  Because we have not made a distinction between the cultural patterns of our country and the Christian lifestyle, whatever the trend is of the culture, the church follows.  You look at the culture of the country and look at the direction of the church.  It doesn't take long for the church to change.  And we follow in the same footsteps, whether it's divorce, lifestyle, you name it, and this has caused a major problem.

I want to repeat there are two things of which you must be aware as a Christian.

You have died to the world.
You no longer belong to the world system.
You are living in the world, but you are not of the world.  When Jesus prayed, in John 17:15, He said:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

Now what's the difference?  Is the difference only in outward acts?  No.  We need to go deeper than that.  I want to give you some texts.  First go to 1 John 2, where we see the difference between the world and the church.  I will expound on this in more detail as we go along but I'm just laying the foundation.  What's the foundation?  Every Christian must realize that when you is born in the kingdom of God, you are born crucified.  That's the title of this chapter.  I've taken it from a French theologian.  He said, "Every Christian is born crucified."  1 John 2:15,16:

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.
Now, what did he mean by "Do not love the world"?  He did not mean not to love the people of the world.  We must love the people of the world because they are children of God at least by the cross, even though they don't recognize it.

You cannot belong to this worldly kingdom and the kingdom of heaven at the same time.  They are two opposite kingdoms.  What does he mean by "the world"?  Verse sixteen mentions the three driving forces that control the worldly person.

"The cravings of sinful man," in some translations called "the lust of the flesh."  What he feels he wants.  He wants everything.
"The lust of his eyes."  What he sees, he wants.  He's keeping up with the Joneses.
"The boasting of what he has and does," sometimes called "the pride of life."  He always wants to go up and up and up.  He's not willing to go down.  If you don't believe me, ask an eighth grader, "How would you like to go to seventh grade next year?"  I have yet to see a young pastor of a big church who voluntarily wants to go to a small church.  Even in the church, we want to go up and up and up.
We have three kinds of missionaries.  I worked 18 years in Africa and observed three kinds of missionaries.  One is the "tourist missionary."  They are always carrying their camera.  Africa has a lot of game to offer them.  The second kind I call "political missionaries," because you cannot rise to the General Conference unless you have mission service.  So some come there for one term to qualify for a promotion.  But there is a third group, "genuine missionaries" who come there to witness Christ and forget self.  That is the problem with the world.  It's looking for self.  Now turn in contrast to Galatians 5:24:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
That's the mentality of the Christian.  Please turn to chapter six of Galatians.  In Galatians 6:12 Paul says:

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly [legalists] are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Do you know what Paul is saying here?  Those who are legalistic are following rules because they want to give glory to themselves.  The gospel, the cross gives glory to God and, therefore, it means swallowing your pride.  But now look at verse fourteen.  Verse twelve is dealing with the legalist, but verse fourteen is dealing with the true Christian.  Galatians 6:14:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
A Christian is born crucified.  Back to Romans 12:2-3:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Paul is saying, "Please, don't fit into the world's mold but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  What God wants to see in you and me is a transformation of the mind.  The performance will take care of itself.  There are too many Adventists who are trying to get perfection of performance in preparation for the second coming of Christ, or the time of trouble.

So one day I sat down, and I spent hours looking at every statement in the Spirit of Prophecy where the word "character" appears.  I discovered that what Ellen G.  White also teaches — which is in harmony with Paul — is the perfection of the human mind-character.  In other words, the mind set needs to be perfected, the performance God will take care of.  She calls it the cleansing of the soul temple.  Not the performance, but the soul temple.

In other words, we need to have a mind that is totally surrendered to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The performance God will take care of.  So what Paul is saying here is, "Don't conform to the world but be transformed by renewing the mind."  Philippians 2:5:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
"Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus."  But also read verses one to four of Philippians 2:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the samve love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
When you have the mind of Christ, God will reveal to you what is the good and acceptable service that He expects from you.  He doesn't expect the same thing from everybody.  Different people have a different measure of faith.  Therefore, he concludes (Romans 12:3):

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
What's the foundation of Christian living?  It's back to the formula, "Not I, but Christ."  That is what you need to remind yourself of daily.  A Christian is justified.  He stands perfect before God.  But when does he begin to live as a justified Christian?  Now!  Daily!  Renew your minds and pray to God, "Father, you have given me your Son.  I am crucified with Him, and now I want Him to live in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.""