Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keeping the Church Faithful

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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Keeping the Church faithful

In the beginning the word faithful meant full of faith.  But at some point it switched to loyal.  Someone loyal is steadfast in affection or allegiance.  This implies a firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray.   So, now, FAITHFUL implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.  But other definitions give a different nuance.  For example, firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty or CONSCIENTIOUS.  Also, given with strong assurance, an example of this would be *a faithful promise*.  Another definition is true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original, for example  *a faithful copy.*  While all these words and definitions do describe someone that is full of faith, these are just attributes of someone that is full of faith. 

The Word used in the Greek for faithful – in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 - is pistos.  The closest definition in English is trustworthy or reliable.  It makes better sense in the context.  Let us read it,

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep [you] from evil.

In other words, He who will establish you and keep you from evil is trustworthy.  Paul had been warning the Thessalonians about the dangers of living a life of faith.  Then he tells them that God has made promises He will keep. You can trust God.  He will establish you and keep you from evil.  And Paul seems to continue saying in what other things can God be trusted in verses 4 and 5.

2Th 3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
2Th 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

It is God who would do all these things in the Thessalonians; should they allow it.  If they do all else written in the chapter will be taken care of: no disorderly behavior, no busybodies, no free loading, and no problems dealing with those who need to be chastised or even removed from the group.  By the way, at the end in chapter two Paul had given the Thessalonians a list of things God would do for and to them.  So, what is in chapter three is a reminder.  Let us read it some higlights from the passage on chapter two,

13 … brethren beloved by the Lord, … God from the beginning chose you for salvation vthrough sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. …
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

As we can see, chapter 3 follows Paul’s way of writing letters.  At the end of the letter, Paul gives the Thessalonians tips and reminders that were important but not urgent enough to be the bulk of the letter.  The word “Finally” – in the beginning of the chapter is a clue.  It is as if Paul is saying, “These are the last things I am saying.”  Interestingly enough the chapter begins with Paul asking for prayer.  Let us read,

2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2Th 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

Paul is saying to them, “we can identify with you; we also go through trials.  We are also persecuted.  The opposition is great.  We need of God’s grace to endure and prevail.  So, pray for us.  And, pray for those who we are working with.  That they may respond as you did and have.”  How many Pastor’s or church leaders will admit to their struggles?  And, how many of our laity sees pastor’s and church leaders as not struggling as we do or they should know better.  But, Paul says to pray for the leaders.  They are not above us.  They are mere mortals in need of grace, like us.  We should pray for them too. 
Ps.  The word tradition is paradosis; which is a compound word: para and dosis.  The prefix para means from, of at, by, besides, near.  The suffix dosis – from which we derive the word dose; as in prescription or medicine - means the act of giving, a gift.  Putting both together it means “giving over.”  Paul was telling them to hold on to the teachings he had given over to them.   

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Antichrist

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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The Antichrist

In the first chapter Paul gave words of ‘praise’ to the Thessalonians.  IN this way the blow is softened.  Christ did this in Revelation 2 and 3.  Each church had commendations before the reproach.  So, Paul follows this approach. 

Now, IN the first letter Paul clarifies about the coming of Jesus.  But, some misinterpreted what he said.  So, Paul corrects them. Ellen White says,

The instruction that Paul sent the Thessalonians in his first epistle regarding the second coming of Christ, was in perfect harmony with his former teaching. Yet his words were misapprehended by some of the Thessalonian brethren. They understood him to express the hope that he himself would live to witness the Saviour's advent. This belief served to increase their enthusiasm and excitement. Those who had previously neglected their responsibilities and duties, now became more persistent in urging their erroneous views.  {AA 264.1} 
     In his second letter Paul sought to correct their misunderstanding of his teaching and to set before them his true position. He again expressed his confidence in their integrity, and his gratitude that their faith was strong, and that their love abounded for one another and for the cause of their Master. He told them that he presented them to other churches as an example of the patient, persevering faith that bravely withstands persecution and tribulation, and he carried their minds forward to the time of the second coming of Christ, when the people of God shall rest from all their cares and perplexities.  {AA 264.2} 

The language Paul uses lets us know that Paul is referring to the previous letter.  He uses similar phrases.  Although Paul establish that no one knew the day and the hour of Jesus return in the previous letter, Paul spoke in such a way that many thought that they would see Jesus returning in their day.  But, Paul had to clarify this misinterpretation.

Again from Ellen White,

Paul's words were not to be misinterpreted. It was not to be taught that he, by special revelation, had warned the Thessalonians of the immediate coming of Christ. Such a position would cause confusion of faith; for disappointment often leads to unbelief. The apostle therefore cautioned the brethren to receive no such message as coming from him,
and he proceeded to emphasize the fact that the papal power, so clearly described by the prophet Daniel, was yet to rise and wage war against God's people. Until this power should have performed its deadly and blasphemous work, it would be in vain for the church to look for the coming of their Lord. "Remember ye not," Paul inquired, "that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?"  {AA 265.2} 

Paul wanted to make sure they stood fast in the truth.  He wanted to make sure that there faith remained strong.  Ellen White says,

Thus Paul outlined the baleful work of that power of evil which was to continue through long centuries of darkness and persecution before the second coming of Christ. The Thessalonian believers had hoped for immediate deliverance;
now they were admonished to take up bravely and in the fear of God the work before them. The apostle charged them not to neglect their duties or resign themselves to idle waiting. After their glowing anticipations of immediate deliverance the round of daily life and the opposition that they must meet would appear doubly forbidding. He therefore exhorted them to steadfastness in the faith:  {AA 266.3} 

Paul had commended the Thessalonians for their endurance during trials.  Their belief that Christ would come in their day, had some believing that deliverance was nigh.  This would disappoint and discourage many when Christ return took longer then they were expecting.  Paul needed to make sure that they remained strong.  Christ would not come as soon as they thought, so deliverance from this world would not be quick.  But, the promise of “I will not forsake you, I will be with you until the end,” still stood.  Christ would still give them what they needed to endure; therefore God would still be glorified. 

The Thessalonians also needed to be warned that this work of the man of Sin and the falling away had begun.  They were already false teachers in those days teaching heresy.  John identified this heresy as the belief that Christ sinned not because He did not come in the likeness of Sinful flesh (fallen flesh), that Christ was not tempted as we are, therefore He could not be touched with our infirmities, therefore He could not conquer Sin in the flesh ((Romans 8: 3; Hebrews 4: 15).  This is the opposite of what Paul taught.  John called these antichrists (1 John 4: 3; 2 John 1:7). 

Although, the man of sin and the falling away have been revealed, many still hide in the shadows preaching this heresy.  So, it would behoove us and take heed that we let no man deceive us by any means (2 Thessalonians 2: 3).  In other words, although the man of Sin and his organization have been revealed, what they teach is believed by others in all other denominations.  These men are also antichrists.  We should stay away from these.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Promise to the Persecuted

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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Promise to the Persecuted

Promise to the Persecuted

To glorify God is to reveal God’s character.  Two questions come to mind: 1. What is the character of God; 2.  How is it revealed?

In Exodus 33 Moses asked God to show His glory? God replies that Moses will see the attributes of God’s character:

Exo 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
Exo 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
 Exo 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Exo 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Notice how God associates His name, with His character and Himself.  There is no distinction between them.  So, to glorify God is to reveal His character.  So, when Paul says to the Thessalonians that he wishes that the name of Christ be glorified in them (2 Thes. 1: 12), Paul is saying that he wishes that their character be like Christ’s. 

We can see that Paul’s prayers had been answered.  We see that the Thessalonians were in many ways already exhibiting the character of God.  How so?  Let us read 2 Thessalonians 1: 3 - 5,

2Th 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
2Th 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
2Th 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

The faith of the Thessalonians was growing and this is revealed by how they treated each other with agape.  Recall that Christ told the disciples they shall know you by your love – agape.  The other way in which the Thessalonians revealed God’s character was by the patience and faith they exhibited in all the persecutions and tribulation they endured. 

The word endure in the greek is The word anechomai.  IT refers to a God given capacity to endure pain or hardship.   When assailed, you stand down; you know that God is in control.  The love of God, which is spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is not easily provoked, but bears all things (Romans 5:5; Corinthians 13: 7).  So, God makes you able to bear the attacks or tribulations.  And, they weigh heavy on you, because the person assailing you is not aware of what is at stake.    They either do not know who they are really hurting or do not know the extent of the pain inflicted.  You feel for them, wishing they knew what you know.  This could be the reason why Jesus was able to utter the words, “Father forgive them for they now not what to do” (Luke 23: 34).  When Peter drew his sword to attack the mob, Jesus answered,

 Mat 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Mat 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Mat 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

In other words, “Stand down; I must endure this to complete my mission.”  So, we can conclude that the Thessalonians were enduring as Christ did.  This meant that God was at work with them and that in spite of the persecution God had not forsaken them.  The persecution proved that the Thessalonians were doing something right.  And, Christ’s words were proven to be accurate: they shall persecute you, also. 

If the presence of the risen Christ in our lives is truly a foretaste of God’s kingdom that will ultimately supplant the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2: 44 – 45), then it should be no surprise that this world will feel threatened and seek to hinder God’s work and His followers.  The persecution that the Thessalonians were facing for their faith was evidence that a new day is coming.   So it is for us.  So, while persecution may not feel nice to those persecuted, it is good news. 

Is the judgment good news?  The judgment is a complex subject.  The judgment has many phases, so we would have to break it down further.  But, one thing should be clear, while the judgment does vindicate God’s people; it is not at the expense of those who wrong them.  Christ died for them, too.  And, He wants to save them.  He uses your patience, faith and love while enduring persecution, as a witness to those persecuting, so that they may repent. 

In reality, the judgment vindicates God.  In Revelation 14: 6, the Angel identifies the judgment as belonging to God.  Although, loved by God, We are mere witnesses; His witnesses.  When Christ was crucified many derided Christ for saying He was the Son of God.  But, such was the testimony that Christ gave to one of the Roman Centurion that he exclaimed what most Jews would not, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).  Christ glorified the Father on the cross.  The Thessalonians glorified Christ by enduring the persecution and tribulation.  Are we? Will we?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Church Life

Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no overview this week.  But, here are a few notes borrowed from other authors that I thought may be helpful..

About Leaders (From Tom Cusack)

Our attitude towards our leaders, as well as towards all, is based on the truth that
Jesus Christ died for all, and desires all to repent, to experience an abundant life, and
unity in the body of Christ. While w e hold leaders accountable, we ought more to
intercede in prayer for them, to assist them in their important work, to blend our
spiritual gifts with theirs, and to learn the important lesson of learning to live under
authority, as we are obviously all under the authority of God.
Leaders are to truly lead, to admonish, exhort, to discipline, to make spiritual
decisions, to listen carefully to God, and to maintain the standards and integrity, as
well as bear witness of the Christian Church.
Leaders are to work carefully with people, to study them, to find effective methods, to
“bathe” all that they do in the Gospel and the character of God’s “agape” love.
Leaders are to understand that their work is largely a personal work. Leaders are to
examine themselves, and to keep the goal before them of disciplining people into the
fullness of the Christian experience.
Leaders are to provide ministry to all types of people, because the Gospel is
applicable to all kinds of people. Discouraged people need mild treatment; the weak
and defenseless need support and encouragement. Leaders need to handle
disagreement and criticism in such a way that it reflects that they were rightly
motivated by unselfish love and a deep concern for others.

About Prayer:

Pray without Ceasing

     In the work of heart-keeping we must be instant in prayer, unwearied in petitioning the throne of grace for assistance. Those who take the name of Christian should come to God in earnestness and humility, pleading for help. The Saviour has told us to pray without ceasing. The Christian can not always be in the position of prayer, but his thoughts and desires can always be upward. Our self-confidence would vanish, did we talk less and pray more.  {YI, March 5, 1903 par. 3}
     We give evidence of the sincerity of our prayers by the earnestness of our endeavors to answer them, to overcome the sins which strive for a place in the life. Our prayers will be ineffectual unless we continually strive to correct that which is wrong and unlovely in our lives. If we ask God to work for us, and then make no effort to conquer self, our prayers will rise no higher than our heads. God helps those who co-operate with him. We can obtain forgiveness only through the blood of Christ. His atoning sacrifice is all-powerful. But in the struggle for immortality we have a part to act. Christ will help those who pray and then watch unto prayer. He calls upon us to use every power he has given us in the warfare against sin. We can never be saved in inactivity and idleness. We might as well look for a harvest from seed which we have not sown, and for knowledge where we have not studied, as to expect salvation without making an effort. It is our part to wrestle against the evil tendencies of the natural heart.  {YI, March 5, 1903 par. 4}

About Testing Prophecies:

Beware of False Prophets.-- In these days of peril we are not to accept everything that men bring to us as truth. As professed teachers from God come to us declaring that they have a message from God, it is proper to inquire carefully, How do we know that this is truth? Jesus has told us that "false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many." But we need not be deceived; for the Word of God gives us a test whereby we may know what is truth. The prophet says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."  {7BC 951.7}
     From this statement it is evident that it becomes us to be diligent Bible students, that we may know what is according the law and the testimony. We are safe in no other course of action. Jesus says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits" (RH Feb. 23, 1892).

  In these days of delusion, every one who is established in the truth will have to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Every variety of error will be brought out in the mysterious working of Satan, which would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect, and turn them from the truth. . . .  {7BC 952.1}
     There will be false dreams and false visions, which have some truth, but lead away from the original faith. The Lord has given men a rule by which to detect them: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." If they belittle the law of God, if they pay no heed to His will as revealed in the testimonies of His Spirit, they are deceivers. They are controlled by impulse and impressions which they believe to be from the Holy Spirit and consider more reliable than the Inspired Word. They claim that every thought and feeling is an impression of the Spirit; and when they are reasoned with out of the Scriptures, they declare that they have something more reliable. But while they think that they are led by the Spirit of God, they are in reality following an imagination wrought upon by Satan (BE Sept., 1886).

About Sanctification (From Paul Penno):

What does Paul mean “sanctify you wholly”? (1 Thess. 5:23). Obviously, the initial
experience of conversion or of justification by faith, is good in itself; but it must deepen
and extend throughout the mind and heart until there is no hidden portion that is left
unaffected, uncleansed. This is why sanctification is a daily work of the Holy Spirit,
requiring a daily surrender to Him, until every nook or cranny of the heart is exposed to
the merciless light that shines from the cross of Christ, and every egocentric motivation
is made painfully distinct, so it can be repented of.

From Ellen White:

The Whole Man to Be Sanctified.--The truth must sanctify the whole man--his mind, his thoughts, his heart, his strength. His vital powers will not be consumed upon his own lustful practices. These must be overcome, or they will overcome him (Letter 108, 1898).  {7BC 909.6}
     Clearing Away the Miasma of Sin.--Sanctification--how many understand its full meaning? The mind is befogged by sensual malaria. The thoughts need purifying. What might not men and women have been had they realized that the treatment of the body has everything to do with the vigor and purity of mind and heart.  {7BC 909.7}
     The true Christian obtains an experience which brings holiness. He is without a spot of guilt upon the conscience, or a taint of corruption upon the soul. The spirituality of the law of God, with its limiting principles, is brought into his life. The light of truth irradiates his understanding. A glow of perfect love for the Redeemer clears away the miasma which has interposed between his soul and God. The will of God has become his will, pure, elevated, refined, and sanctified. His countenance reveals the light of heaven. His body is a fit temple for the Holy Spirit. Holiness adorns his character. God can commune with him; for soul and body are in harmony with God (Letter 139, 1898).  {7BC 909.8}

 Jesus asks us to consecrate ourselves to Him. He has placed signal honor upon the human race; for He says, "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Shall we not, then, give to Christ that which He has died to redeem? If you will do this, He will quicken your conscience, renew your heart, sanctify your affections, purify your thoughts, and set all your powers at work for Him. Every motive and every thought will be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ.  {7BC 909.10}
     Those who are sons of God will represent Christ in character. Their works will be perfumed by the infinite tenderness, compassion, love, and purity of the Son of God. And the more completely mind and body are yielded to the Holy Spirit, the greater will be the fragrance of our offering to Him (RH Nov. 24, 1896).  {7BC 909.11}

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Final Events

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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Final Events  (1 Thess. 5:1–11)

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8, ESV).

This week we continue with our study of the epistle to the Thessalonians.  We are to remember that this chapter is related to the previous one.  Paul did not make divisions to his letters; those were added later for our convenience. 

When we look at it this way we realize that Paul was not done with the subject of the second coming.  Our quarterly states,

In this week’s passage, the Second Coming is still the primary theme, but the focus shifts. Here Paul is not so much clarifying details about Jesus’ return as he is proclaiming the need for constant readiness in light of that return (and the judgment that it entails).  The previous passage was encouraging; when the end comes, the outcome will be much more positive than the Thessalonians were expecting. Now that they understand better the nature of His return, the question is how to prepare for it.

So, Paul continues in this passage with a different aspect of the subject.  One more clue that these two passages – last week’s and this week’s – are related is the fact that both passages end with very similar phrases. 

1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

This let’s us know that the message of Christ return was to be comforting to the believers.  With last week’s passage Paul told them that Christ would not forget the dead, and with this week’s passage Paul tells us that Christ would not forget those who are still alive in His return.  What we are going through here has an end, and it is a glorious one.  It will be the end of Sin and the beginning of a new life without Sin.  As our quarterly says, “it will be better than we expect.”

Now, by comparison last week’s passage is only six verses, and this week’s is eleven. 
The beginning of last week’s chapter started with the words, “I would not want you to be ignorant.”  So, Paul went into details to make sure they got it.  This week’s passage starts with the words, “Regarding … I have no need to write, because you already know that …” In other words what we get in this chapter is probably only a review.  So, this week’s passage could have been a lot more verses. 

Ultimately, Paul’s message is that to endure to the end we need to be watchful and sober (1 Thessalonians 5: 8).  Why?  Ellen White says why,

“There is need of watchfulness. Our own hearts are deceitful; we are compassed with the weaknesses and frailties of humanity, and Satan is intent to destroy. We may be off our guard, but our adversary is never idle. Knowing his tireless vigilance, let us not sleep, as do others, but ‘watch and be sober.’ ”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 409.

Until Christ comes we will be assailed by the Devil.  And, we need something to protect us and fight back.  So, being that this is a Spiritual War, we need an armor that can help us fight in that war.  Paul says that we are to be watchful and sober putting on the armor of God so “that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” and “that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 11, 13).  Now, to be watchful we must be awake and alert. Which means your eyes and ears should be open.  But, we walk by faith and not by sight.  So, the issue here is one of faith.  And, to be sober means that we are not drunk or drugged up, we have not lost control of mind.  So, we do not lose our inhibitions and acts in ways we regret later.  We also do not lose our memory, as many who are drunk or high do, and do not remember our foolish actions.  When we are sober we are in control.  Since we are talking about spiritual soberness then we mean that the Holy Spirit is in control, this is what the Bible calls temperance. 

Faith and temperance are both attributes of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22 – 23).  And, if we would look at the components of the armor (1 Thessalonians 5: 8; Ephesians 6: 14 – 17), some of them are also attributes of the fruit of the Spirit; namely: love, faith, and peace.  So, we could say that in this spiritual war the Holy Spirit is our armor.  Only He can protect us from the wiles of the Devil and give us the ammunition to fight against him.  The question is: will we let Him. 

The last words of the passage say,

1 Thessalonians 5: 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

The fact that God does not leave us on our own to fend for ourselves should be a reason to be comforted and encouraged.  This is something worth reminding each other with.