Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed

Due to extenuating circumstances the audio portion of the review will be delayed.  Below is the script.

The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed
“Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7, 8, NKJV).
Our verse compares the plan of redemption with farming.  Ellen White elaborates on this comparison:
The plant grows by receiving that which God has provided to sustain its life. It sends down its
roots into the earth. It drinks in the sunshine, the dew, and the rain. It receives the life-giving
properties from the air. So the Christian is to grow by co-operating with the divine agencies.
Feeling our helplessness, we are to improve all the opportunities granted us to gain a fuller
experience. As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take deep root in Christ. As the
plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, we are to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit.
The work is to be done “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Zechariah 4:6. If we keep our minds stayed upon Christ, He will come unto us “as the rain, as
the latter and former rain unto the earth.” Hosea 6:3. As the Sun of Righteousness, He will
arise upon us “with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2. We shall “grow as the lily.” We shall
“revive as the corn, and grow as the vine.” Hosea 14:5, 7. By constantly relying upon Christ
as our personal Saviour, we shall grow up into Him in all things who is our head.

The wheat develops “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” The object
of the husbandman in the sowing of the seed and the culture of the growing plant is the
production of grain. He desires bread for the hungry, and seed for future harvests. So the
divine Husbandman looks for a harvest as the reward of His labor and sacrifice. Christ is
seeking to reproduce Himself in the hearts of men; and He does this through those who believe
in Him. The object of the Christian life is fruit bearing—the reproduction of Christ’s character
in the believer, that it may be reproduced in others. COL 66.1.

How do the references to the early and latter rain relate to this farming metaphor?  In Bible times, sowing and plowing took place in the middle of October, shortly after the falling of the early rains. These early rains brought the seed to germination and nurtured its early growth. The latter rain came in the late spring to bring the ripening fruit to harvest.  The latter rain experience would advance the reproduction of Christ’s character in those who are at the stage of growth to receive the latter rain and benefit from its fall.  Thus, the power effected by the rain, is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22, 23). 

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

What are the prerequisites to experience the growth produced by the latter rain?  Again from Ellen White,

The great outpouring of the Spirit of God, which lightens the whole earth with His glory, will
not come until we have an enlightened people, that know by experience what it means to be
laborers together with God. When we have entire, wholehearted consecration to the service of
Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of His Spirit without measure; but this
will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with God. God
cannot pour out His Spirit when selfishness and self-indulgence are so manifest; when a spirit
prevails that, if put into words, would express that answer of Cain,—“Am I my brother’s
keeper?”—The Review and Herald, July 21, 1896.

What prepared the disciples for the early rain, is what will prepare us for the latter rain.  We read in Acts 1: 14 that they were studying scriptures and praying.  Ellen White says that they actually confessed and repented of their Sin.  We read from acts of the Apostles 37,

As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief. As they called to remembrance the words that Christ had spoken to them before His death they understood more fully their meaning. Truths which had passed from their memory were again brought to their minds, and these they repeated to one another. They reproached themselves for their misapprehension of the Saviour.

No longer were they fighting for supremacy; they were of one accord (Acts 2: 1).  Do we need to repent?  According to Revelation 3 we do. 

Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

We are unaware of our condition that leads to death.  Ellen White says,

Jesus did not seek you and me because we were his friends, for we were estranged from him, and unreconciled to God. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. But he has promised to give us his Holy Spirit, that we may become assimilated to his nature, changed into his image. Therefore we must put away everything like passion, impatience, murmuring, and unrest, and find a place for Jesus in the heart. We must have the buyers and the sellers cleared out of the soul temple, that Jesus may take up his abode within us. He stands at the door of the heart as a heavenly merchantman; he knocks there, saying, Open unto me, buy of me the heavenly wares, buy of me the gold tried in the fire, which is faith and love, the precious, beautiful attributes of our Redeemer, which will enable us to melt our way into the hearts of those who do not know him, those who are cold and alienated from him through unbelief and sin. He invites us to buy of him the white raiment, which is his glorious righteousness, and the eyesalve, that we may discern spiritual things. Oh, shall we not open the heart's door to this heavenly voice? He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  {ST, February 8, 1892 par. 6} 

The reference to His voice is very important, for He says that His sheep know His voice and follow Him (John 10: 27).  Revelation further speaks of these*,

Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

Often ignored is that the third angels message is a subtle rebuke*.

Rev 14:7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

It tells us to worship God the creator, because maybe we are not, while deceiving ourselves that we are.  We are deceiving ourselves about our condition.  We are in Babylon, so He tells us, “Come out of her my people.”  It does not say we are Babylon, but that we are living there Like the Jews that were taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchednezzer.  At some point the Lord used the Persian King to call them out and restore the temple and Jerusalem.  It is as if He tells us, come out of her my people to restore my temple in you (Revelation 18: 4; 1 Corinthians 3: 16). 

Those in Matthew 7 refuse to respond to the call.  Christ told them I know you not…workers of iniquity.  If we combine this passage with Matthew 25, many who believe they worship the creator, truly do not by the way they have treated fellow humans.  As you did unto them, you did unto me.  To worship the creator is to agape your fellow human beings.  How do we agape? By Laying down your life (1 John 3: 16). It is the Holy Spirit that gives us agape(romans 5: 5).  So, the fruit of the Spirit is an expression of agape. 

Our lesson states that it is God’s work, therefore He will finish it.  But, let us remember He will finish it His way.  The question is will we consent to follow His way and not ours.  According to Ellen White, there will be tension between those who follow God’s way and those who do not.   Let us read,

Unless those who can help in _____ are aroused to a sense of their duty, they will not recognize the work of God when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard. When light goes forth to lighten the earth, instead of coming up to the help of the Lord, they will want to bind about His work to meet their narrow ideas. Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300. (1885)  {Ev 118.1}

The message to be given to the world is the third angel’s message, What is the third angel’s message?  Ellen White says that the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, “…in verity."—(The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890).  What is then Justification by faith?   It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself (FLB 111).  Again we look at Laodicea.  God says that you have a condition that is killing you, you are unaware of it, and you cannot heal yourself.  Only God can heal you. 

The work of the third angel's message that will soon lighten the earth with the glory of God is one in which "there can be no self-exaltation, no boastful claim to freedom from sin, on the part of those who walk in the shadow of Calvary's cross. They feel that it was their sin which caused the agony that broke the heart of the Son of God, and this thought will lead them to self-abasement. Those who live nearest to Jesus discern most clearly the frailty and sinfulness of humanity, and their only hope is in the merit of a crucified and risen Saviour." GC 471.

So, the Lord is asking us now, “Will you not let me in your heart? Will you not come out of Babylon?”  What will be your answer?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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Below is the script:

Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts
Memory Text: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2, NKJV).
Let us define reformation:
“… a reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit.  … Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. …”—Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 25, 1902.
As we can see, it is a work that the Holy Spirit does.  And, it is a work that happens in the mind.  Reformation occurs as the Holy Spirit brings our thoughts into harmony with Christ’s thoughts. Christ becomes our meditation.  When that happens, our actions will follow.  Ellen White says,
“It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence. Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth. If self is his loftiest ideal, he will never attain to anything more exalted. Rather, he will constantly sink lower and lower. The grace of God alone has power to exalt man. Left to himself, his course must inevitably be downward.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 555.
Reformation is all about looking to Jesus. It is about Jesus filling our minds. It is about Jesus shaping our thoughts. It is about Jesus guiding our actions. When we behold Jesus, He will lead us to higher standards than a mere rigidity to rules. We cannot really look to Jesus and remain the same. When we think His thoughts, we have only one desire, and that is to do His will.

Ellen white says,

All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent,
He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into
conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses.
The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we
know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.
Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will
become hateful to us. (DA 668)

Our flesh, still sinful, wants to Sin.  This is our battle.  So, We need weapons specifically for that kind of war.  Paul says,

2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
2Co 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

We cannot always choose the thoughts that race through our minds. We can choose whether we will dwell upon them and allow them to dominate our thinking. To bring each thought into obedience to Christ is to surrender our minds to Jesus. Carnal thoughts are not banished by merely wishing them away. They are driven out as the mind is filled with something else. The mind focused on God’s Word is the mind “safeguarded” and “kept” by God’s grace from the wiles of the evil one.

Scripture teaches that human beings are an integrated unit of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Whatever affects one part of the human frame affects all parts. The disciples taught that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health were interconnected and could not be separated.  All sympathize with each other.  This is why Ellen White warns us,

To every soul Satan comes with temptation in many alluring forms on the point of indulgence of appetite.  The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil (A Call to Stand Apart, 56).

This is why The Holy Spirit does not limit Himself to one aspect of our lives when He convicts us of our need for growth. Reformation is not one-dimensional. The Spirit longs to bring our lives into total conformity to the will of Christ in every area. If there are physical lifestyle practices not in harmony with His will, God invites us to surrender them for His glory. Satan wants to control our minds through our bodies; Jesus longs to control our bodies through our minds. Our bodies are a temple, not a funhouse. By following – hearing and hearkening – the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we can live more joy-filled, productive, abundant, healthy lives.    

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reformation: A Willingness to Growth and Change

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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Below is the script: Reformation:
The Willingness to Grow and Change

 “He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:6, 7, NKJV).

 Our lesson this week is about the continual transformation that must take place in our lives. Each day of the week’s lesson illustrates renovating grace in the lives of the first disciples of Christ. These are examples of what God’s grace will do in those who are faulty, but “willing to be made willing.” Not only is God’s grace a justifying grace (Rom 3:24), it is also His power working within us to change us and to grow us more and more into the likeness of Christ. Grace is always greater and stronger than our sinful nature and our sin (Rom 5:20). If it were not so, it would be impossible for us to change or to grow into Christlikeness.

Growth and change does not involve our promises and pledges, for these are ropes of sand. Continual faith and the willingness to cooperate with God that is key to constant transformation. Our cooperation does not depend on our spiritual “back bone” or, in other words, our will power. However, cooperation does involve the power of the will. The strength of the will is in choosing. The power comes from surrendering the will to God’s will. This is where the battle of every believer (and of every unbeliever) is won or lost. Grace, faith and surrender of the will to God are the deciding factors in reformation, in change and growth. “

Ellen White says: “Let no man present the idea that man has little or nothing to do in the great work of overcoming; for God does nothing for man without his cooperation. Neither say that after you have done all you can on your part, Jesus will help you. Christ has said, ‘Without Me ye can do nothing’ (John 15:5). From first to last man is to be a laborer together with God. Unless the Holy Spirit works upon the human heart, at every step we shall stumble and fall. Man’s efforts alone are nothing but worthlessness; but cooperation with Christ means a victory. . . . Never leave the impression on the mind that there is little or nothing to do on the part of man; but rather teach man to cooperate with God, that he may be successful in overcoming.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 381.

Our part is consenting to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. “All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of ages 668.

Reformation then is transforming our hearts into the likeness of Christ. For that, man must consent to let the Holy Spirit do the work. This is the great battle. It goes against our Sinful nature. But, it is the only way to have victory: surrender to the Holy Spirit. “As finite, sinful man works out his own salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who works in him, to will and to do of His own good pleasure. But God will not work without the co-operation of man. He must exercise his powers to the very utmost; he must place himself as an apt, willing student in the school of Christ; and as he accepts the grace that is freely offered to him, the presence of Christ in the thought and in the heart will give him decision of purpose to lay aside every weight of sin, that the heart may be filled with all the fullness of God, and of his love.”—Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 134.

We cannot do this work ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can do it. We just let Him. “God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the powers and faculties given to man. Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are "willing to be made willing," the Saviour will accomplish this for us, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the know ledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.” White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 482, 483; see also The Mount of Blessings, pp. 142, 143.

We cannot will ourselves into this work. Our will is not strong enough. What we “need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.” White, Steps to Christ p. 47.

Reformation occurs as we cooperate with God by choosing to surrender to Him anything that the Holy Spirit points out as not being in harmony with His will. Unless we make those choices (sometimes very painful ones), then positive, spiritual change will not occur.” Revival is what made the prodigal come home. It is a heart hunger to know the Father’s love in a deeper way. Reformation is the choice to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading for change and growth. It is the choice to give up whatever stands in the way of this closer relationship with God.

 The greatest motivation to make changes in our lives is the desire to no longer break the heart of the One who loves us so much. When the boy was wallowing around in the mud with the pigs, the father suffered more than his son. Revival occurs when God’s love breaks our hearts. Reformation occurs when we choose to respond to a love that will not let us go. It occurs when we no longer want to do anything to break God’s heart. It takes place when we make the difficult choices to give up those attitudes, habits, thoughts, and feelings that separate us from Him.