Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dead in Christ

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

  Click here for Stream or Download

  Subscribe to this Feed

 Below is the Audio Script:

 The Dead in Christ

Memory Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 16

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

In this passage Paul continues to give to the Thessalonians what is lacking in their faith.  Now, as our lesson states this is important because, in this passage Paul not only corrects first-century misunderstandings, but he provides solid ground on which twenty-first century Christians can stand. “ ‘For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets’ ”(Amos 3:7, ESV). And through the prophetic ministry of the apostle Paul, the Lord has revealed to us wonderful truths regarding the nature of the Second Coming.  That said, this passage is as much about death as it is about Christ’s second coming.  In fact, you could argue that it is about how your belief about death has an effect how you interpret the events of Christ second advent.  Let us read the passage and then discuss it,

1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

There seems to have been the idea that though all of God’s faithful would share in the “world to come,” only those who were alive at the end would be carried up into heaven.  Those who died before the end would be resurrected and remain on earth.  In such a belief system, it would be a serious disadvantage to die before the end came. But it would also mean a separation between those taken to heaven and those left on earth. If the Thessalonians, Paul was writing to, lived until the end, they would truly ascend to heaven at the second coming of Jesus, but they would have to leave their deceased loved ones behind on earth (see 1 Thess. 4:13, 14).

As we can see, regarding the prophecy about the Second Coming, there were important things the church didn’t know and other things they would need to unlearn. It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul begins 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 with a comment about the church’s ignorance, rather than with “you know very well,” which appears elsewhere (1 Thess.5:2, NIV; see also 4:2). Ellen White says,

“The Thessalonians had eagerly grasped the idea that Christ was coming to change the faithful who were alive, and to take them to Himself. They had carefully guarded the lives of their friends, lest they should die and lose the blessing which they looked forward to receiving at the coming of their Lord. But one after another their loved ones had been taken from them, and with anguish the Thessalonians had looked for the last time upon the faces of their dead, hardly daring to hope to meet them in a future life.
“As Paul’s epistle was opened and read, great joy and consolation was brought to the church by the words revealing the true state of the dead. Paul showed that those living when Christ should come would not go to meet their Lord in advance of those who had fallen asleep in Jesus.”—Page 258.

As we think about prophecy, we must remember that it is not given to satisfy our curiosity about the timing and details of end-time events. Prophecy has an ethical and moral purpose.  God designed it to teach us how to live. It is intended to provide encouragement and purpose, especially in the midst of suffering and loss. Rightly understood, the prophecies of the Bible have life-changing power.  Prophecies are to increase our trust in God and reveal to us how much He loves and cares for us.

The Thessalonians misunderstanding of this subject was stealing away their joy, and Paul sought to restore that joy.  Death was only a temporary separation from their loved ones who died in Christ.  God would not forget them.  Paul says of those who died in Christ in Hebrews 11: 39 -40,

Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Those dead in Christ will receive the fulfillment of God’s promise with everyone else that will go to Heaven.  So, the good news to the Thessalonians was not only about their dead loved ones.  This was to confirm to them that Christ would return and that their beloved ones would not be forgotten and would receive the same reward as those who are alive when Christ returns.  In the meantime, they wait in the grave.  While this may bring joy to our hearts, our joy should not be complete, because God’s joy is not complete.  God waits, also.  But, unlike those dead, who lay in the ground unawares, God is very much alive.  Death not only separates from each other, but also separates God from those for whom He sent His Son to die.  So, Christ is eager to come.  So, why has He not come? 

The parable of the sower hints us as to why.  It says that a man sows a seed and the plant eventually grows yielding its fruit.  And at that moment the man “putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come."  We know that the man that sows and puts the sickle is Christ.  And, we are the plants.  What is the fruit?  Spiritually, it is the fruit of the Spirit: "…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22, 23).  This is a brief description of the righteous character of Christ.  Ellen White says,

Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.  {COL 69.1}

It is not an event that fulfills prophecy that is holding Christ back.  The groom will come when “His wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).  Christ must have a Bride, a corporate body of believers that demonstrate that the overcoming that Christ accomplished in His life, human beings who have a mature faith can also have through the indwelling Spirit of God.  They will “reflect” His character, like so many broken scraps of worthless mirror not shining on their own, but each perfectly reflecting another facet of His righteous character like a huge diamond.

“He that is dead is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7), and no saint will come up in the resurrection still in captivity to it. All such slavery to sin is left in the grave. But apparently the 144,000, the last generation, so appreciate “the blood of the Lamb,” so clearly comprehend the length, breadth, depth, and height of agape, that self is truly “crucified with Christ.” They have died to sin, and as a corporate body are the “first fruits” to demonstrate it.

The truest fellowship with Christ is heart sympathy with Him in His concerns, as a bride who truly loves her husband is caught up with his concerns. Now she lives for him, one with him because she loves him. Is it possible that a world church can grow up to be so mature in relationship with the Son of God? All around the world there are those who hear the insistent call from Heaven. May He give us grace to respond!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Living Holy Lives

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

Click here for Stream or Download

Subscribe to this Feed

Below is the Audio Script::

Living Holy Lives
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7, NIV).
Our lesson reiterates the fact that what we are breaking apart on a weekly basis what was a letter written by Paul to the Thessalonians in his time.  We will see that the author of our lesson agrees that the letter builds on what was said previously.  So it is important to keep the context.  We will read from Sabbath and Sunday.  According to our lesson,
The three opening chapters of 1 Thessalonians focused primarily on the past. In chapters 4 and 5, however, Paul turns to the future. There were things that were lacking in the faith of the Thessalonian believers (1 Thess. 3:10), and he wants to help them remedy these deficits. The letter would begin the process, but more could be done only after Paul and the Thessalonians could get together again.
Beginning with 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul builds on the friendship he had affirmed in the first three chapters to offer practical advice for the Thessalonians’ everyday life.
Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 contains a number of key words that anticipate the content of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18. The prayer is about “abounding” in “holiness” and mutual “love” in light of the second coming of Jesus. All of these themes point to specific passages in chapter 4.
In our text for today (1 Thess. 4:1- 2) Paul picks up on the language of “abounding” in 1 Thessalonians 3:12…there is a parallel between 1 Thessalonians 3:12 and 1 Thessalonians 4:l; Paul invites the Thessalonians in both places to “abound more and more” in their love for each other and for everyone. 
Paul began the work of building their Christian framework while he was with them, but now he is impressed by the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps (1 Thess. 3:10) and clarify their understanding. The result would be “more and more” of what they were already attempting to do, which is live a life worthy of their calling.
Paul begins chapter 4 with, “Finally, then” (NKJV). In chapters 4 and 5 he is building on the previous chapters, where his friendship with them is the basis for the practical counsel he will now give. They had made a good start. Now he wants them to continue growing in the truths that they had learned from him.
Two mentions of Jesus in this passage (1 Thess. 4:1, 15) are particularly interesting. They indicate that Paul was passing on the teaching of Jesus’ own words (which were later preserved in the four gospels). Paul was offering more than just good advice. Jesus Himself commanded the behaviors that Paul was encouraging.  Paul, as Christ’s servant, was sharing the truths He had learned from Christ.
Now, this behavior that Paul was encouraging would be the outcome their continual abounding in holiness and mutual love.  What is the behavior or conduct?  Paul encouraged sexual purity, living a quiet life, to be kind to one another, mind their own business, and work with their own hands.  All these would distinguish them from those who did not know God.  The latter did not abound in holiness and mutual love.  So, Paul tells them that the way to do this is to allow God to do His will: which is their sanctification or holiness.  We find this in verses 3 and 7.  Now, according to our lesson verse 3 builds on verse one.  Let us read the two verses,
1 Thessalonians 4: 1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
According to our lesson: Paul reminded the Thessalonians of how they were to “walk” (NKJV)-“live” in many translations-a Hebrew concept used to describe daily moral and ethical behavior.  In verse 3 he uses another Hebrew concept to describe spiritual life and growth, “holiness” or “sanctification.”
We should interject here that it is only by faith that we please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Paul was telling them to continue to live by faith even more.  So, this means that sanctification is by faith.  Our lesson continues to further define the use of the word sanctification in verse 3 and 7.  Let us read verse 7,
1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
Our lesson states that a typical definition of holiness is “set apart for sacred use.” But Paul gives the term a more specific meaning in this letter. Holiness is the condition the Thessalonians will be in at the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 3:13). But in chapter 4 Paul chooses a form of the concept that emphasizes process rather than outcome. It is a noun of action: “sanctifying” more than “sanctification.” It is the will of God that we be engaged in this process (1 Thess. 4:3).  So, if it pleases God that we remain engaged in this process, this means it must be by faith. 
So, what is this process of sanctification?  Before, we answer the question we should establish that any contemporary study of "holy living" must include the context of the unique Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.  To understand the heavenly sanctuary God has given us the earthly sanctuary and its services and sacrifices.  Because, what happened in the earthly is a representation of what happens in the heavenly.  Every day ceremonies of sacrifices were made for forgiveness of Sin.  By faith and figuratively all the sins forgiven daily were accumulated in the sanctuary for a year.  Once a year other ceremony of sacrifice was made to cleanse the Sanctuary from these Sins.  The Sins were blotted out.  This event pointed to the time – of age - when all the Sins of the World, placed on the Heavenly Sanctuary, would be cleansed.  The Sins are blotted out.  We are living in this age now: the Cosmic Age of Atonement. 
However, the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a work that includes the people and extends to them.  (The earthly sanctuary also represents what happens in us). It provides for the perfection of their character in Christ on the one hand; and on the other hand in the final destruction of sin and sinners and the cleansing of the universe from all taint of sin. It is Christ fully formed in each believer. The sanctuary itself cannot be cleansed so long as God's people continue to pour into it a constant stream of sinning. The stream will be stopped at its source in the hearts and lives of God's people. The ministry of Christ in the Most Holy Apartment does make "the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1) and does perfect "forever them that are sanctified" (vs. 14).  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  Blotting out all self from us and in it stead writing in our hearts and mind the commandments and statutes of God.   For this to happen we must permit it to happen.  And, I pray we do.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friends Forever

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

Click here for Stream or Download 

Subscribe to this Feed 

Below is the Audio Script::

Friends Forever

Memory Text: “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13, NIV).

The word friend appears 53 times in the KJV.  Very few times friend is used in association with God:   one of those few times was when Abraham was called a friend of God.  The word for friend in Hebrew is different than Greek.  In Hebrew the word is “rea`” and “re`eh”.  Both of these words derive from “ra`ah”, which means to tend, to pasture, to shepherd, to feed, to graze.  In Greek is mostly phylos, which means friend or associate (buddy or pal). 

Did Jesus call the disciples, “buddy” or “pal?’  It is important to notice the context of when Christ called the disciples friends.  In John 15, Christ instructed the disciples to abide in Him.  Then in verse 10 he tells them that “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.”  Then in verse 12 He tells them that His commandment is for them to agape one another as Christ has agape them.  Now notice the associations Christ makes in the John 15: 13-15,

John 15: 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15: 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
John 15: 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Christ told them that He will lay down His life for them – His friends.  And, verse 15 tells us why Jesus called them friends, “for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”  Christ used the term friend to distinguish between servants and friends.  As followers of Christ they could be considered His servants.  And, they probably had a high estimation for friendship, and Christ clarified what true friendship is all about: agape.  If you agape you will have no problem laying down your life.  With agape they could do unto others as Christ had done unto them (1 John 3:16). 

How do you lay down your life?  When Jesus was talking to Peter and asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  After Peter’s response Christ instructed Peter, “Feed and tend my sheep and lambs.”  This brings us back to the concept of friendship in Hebrew.  And, if we look carefully this is how Paul acted with the Thessalonians. 

If we recall from last week’s lesson Paul used language that referred to himself as a mother and father to them.  Let us read 1 Thessalonians 2: 7 and 11,

1 Thessalonians 2: 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 
1 Thessalonians 2: 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 

Our lesson states that Paul felt as a parent who is pulled away from his children and leaving them orphan.  So, it is no surprise that he longed to know about them, and to see them again.  Paul states this in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20,

1 Thessalonians 2: 17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.
1 Thessalonians 2: 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.
1 Thessalonians 2: 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
1 Thessalonians 2: 20 For you are our glory and joy.

Paul says to the Thessalonians that if they are not there at Christ return, the event would not be perfect.  In essence, Paul would consider that he failed and that his work was in vain.
Paul sends Timothy to encourage them, to make sure they are grounded in the faith, and to bring back a report of them.  The report pleased Paul.  “Paul’s heart went out in tender sympathy toward these believers, who, in the midst of trial and adversity, had remained true to God” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 255).  We read in 1 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 8

1 Thessalonians 3: 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—
1 Thessalonians 3: 7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3: 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

So, Paul makes sure they know his desire toward them and let them know that he is incessantly praying for them.  Let us read 1 Thessalonians 3: 9 – 13,

1 Thessalonians 3: 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God,
1 Thessalonians 3:  10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?
1 Thessalonians 3: 11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
1 Thessalonians 3: 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,
 1 Thessalonians 3: 13  so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

What Paul is expressing is more than just a pal or a buddy.  Paul is expressing unconditional, self-denying, other centered love.  Ellen White describes this love,

“True, heaven-born love is not selfish and changeable. It is not dependent on human praise. The heart of him who receives the grace of God overflows with love for God and for those for whom Christ died. He does not love others because they love and please him, because they appreciate his merits, but because they are Christ’s purchased possession.”—Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 101, 102.

This love comes to us from the Holy Spirit who sheds it in our hearts (Romans 5:5).  I pray that we accept it.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Apostolic Example

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

  Click here for Stream or Download

Subscribe to this Feed

Below is the Audio Script:

The Apostolic Example

Memory Verse: 1 Thessalonians 2:4
4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

In this week’s lesson we cover the first half of the second chapter of 1 Thessalonians.  We should remember that this was originally a letter written in a specific time and place for a specific group of people under certain circumstances.  With this in mind we ought also to remember that the chapter and verse division was added after the fact.  So, the beginning of one chapter is always a continuation of the previous chapter. 

In this case the first verse is an addition to verse 9 of the previous chapter.  We know this because there is a similar expression on both verses.  Let us read both verses.

1Th 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
1Th 2:1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

The key phrase here is: “shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you” from chapter 1 verse 9 and “know our entrance in unto you” from chapter 2 verse 9.  The key words in these phrases are entering and entered.  They are the same word in the Greek: eisodos.  In the context of the letter (More on that later) this word means conduct or behavior. 

Now, it is evident in Verse 1 of chapter 2 who it is that knows about Paul and his companions behavior, but who is the “they” in verse 9 of chapter 1.  It turns out the word in Greek is not “they” but apaggello, which means good tiding or report.  This word has the same root as the Word from which we derive Evangelism.  The report or good news that came from Thessalonica showed how Paul and his Companions behaved among them. 

About the word eisodos: it actually means place of entrance or entry way.  It is a compound word from eis: a preposition that means, “into, unto, to, towards, for, among.”  The other word in eisodos is hodos, which means either journey or traveled way (properly) or a course of conduct, a way (i.e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding (metaphorically).  Since, Paul is not talking about traveling, but about what he did and how we behaved, it would follow that the use of the word eisodos (entry or entrance) is the metaphorical one. 

Paul is actually saying that, “you know how we conducted ourselves with you, and your own conduct after conversion shows how we conducted ourselves.”  The rest of the portion of the chapter that we are studying this week is an explanation of what Paul is saying.  Every point made in this portion of the chapter is to distinguish themselves from the itinerant speakers that roamed through the empire, seeking followers and a stream of income.  Ellen White says,

 “While Paul was careful to set before his converts the plain teaching of Scripture regarding the proper support of the work of God, . . . at various times during his ministry in the great centers of civilization, he wrought at a handicraft for his own maintenance. . . . “It is at Thessalonica that we first read of Paul’s working with his hands in self-supporting labor while preaching the word [1 Thess. 2:6, 9; 2 Thess. 3:8, 9].

We will read the verse referred to:

1Th 2:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
1Th 2:9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

This is one example of how they were different than those itinerant preachers.  Other verses to distinguish themselves are:

1Th 2:3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
1Th 2:5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
1Th 2:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Paul also wanted to defend himself, et al, from the accusations the Jews made that they were causing upheaval.  We read in the following verses,

1Th 2:7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
1Th 2:8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
1Th 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
1Th 2:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

You cannot be causing trouble when your conduct is as described above.  Of course the only reason Paul and his companions were able to behave that way is because of their dependence on God.   Paul says that, “we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention” (1 Thes. 2:1).

To speak boldly is to speak without fear. And we know from scripture that fear and love (agape) cannot coexist. We know this because “Perfect [or complete] love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). According to Paul, in Romans 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This was the same Sprit that Ananias said would fill Paul (Acts 9:17). And, Acts 13:9 states that Paul was full with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shed God’s love abroad in the heart and mind of Paul, and thus he spoke openly and lovingly of Jesus, without fear. The same Spirit that gave them power [boldness] gave them love.