Saturday, January 31, 2015

Commentary: The Flow of Water

Luke 6:45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Proverbs 14: 11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life,

When I read Proverbs 14: 11 I was reminded of the story of the woman at the well.  When her heart was full with Jesus, out of her sprung words of life.  

July 26, 2013

The Flow of Water

"To be filled you must be emptied" - this may sound like a contradiction but it is true. The opposite is also true. To be emptied you must be filled. Even when a bottle is emptied of liquid, it is still full of air. If I fill a jug with water, and close the lid tight, the water stays in and the air stays out. The moment the lid is opened, the water can flow out, but only as long as air can flow in. Air must displace the water in order for the water to move out through the opening.

Let us say that, for some reason, I want to fill the jug with air. The lid must be opened to let the water out, or the air cannot come in. This concept applies in other contexts as well. For example, to fill a truck with boxes and furniture, the truck must first be emptied of its previous load. Your stomach needs time to digest one meal before you fill it with another. The concept, then, is that you cannot fill something that is already full.  This is also true in the spiritual realm.

St. Augustine once said "We must be emptied of that which fills us, so that we may be filled with that of which we are empty." Many pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In order for God to answer this prayer, we must be emptied of self. But, we cannot do the job ourselves.

"No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. The language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul. It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed" (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 159, 160).

This idea of being emptied to be filled can be illustrated by the story of the Samaritan woman. In John 4, Jesus meets her at the well, and asks her for a drink of water. Surprised by a Jew who would ask a favor of a Samaritan, and a woman at that, she questions Him. In response, Jesus introduces Himself and His mission by using water as a metaphor for what He has to offer. Failing to understand, she questions Him again. His response is in verses 13 and 14 --

"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

These are words that Jesus echoes in John 7: 37 – 39,

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

This woman was all too aware of the moral indiscretions of her past life. She was full of guilt and sorrow; however, empty of love and joy - and she knew it. When she believed Christ's revelation of Himself, the Samaritan woman's heart was warmed and filled with the love she much longed for. What she thirsted for was not merely water, but a reservoir of spiritual water springing up into everlasting life. This flowing, filling water which represents the Holy Spirit displaces all the ugliness of self.  Holy Spirit inspired truth, believed and received into the heart, dislodges self from its throne.  Once filled with the Holy Spirit, love for others also filled her heart.  Self no longer lodged in the Samaritan woman's heart she left to tell those she had previously avoided what she found.

John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

There was no need to tell her to witness.  She needed no training.  She was revived and now she could speak.  Witness was a natural outgrowth of her reception of the Holy Spirit.  Her whole village was converted as a result.  They believed whom they formerly knew as the adulterous woman.  The walls of separation - that self had erected in their hearts - were brought down.

A wise author wrote that, "All self-exaltation and self-admiration are the result of ignorance of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. How quickly will self-esteem die, and pride be humbled in the dust, when we view the matchless charms of the character of Christ" (4BC 1178).

In genuine revival, our own hearts are wakened to God's goodness, compassion, forgiveness, and power. We are so charmed by His love and transformed by His grace that we cannot be silent. Genuine revival never leads to self-centeredness or, especially, to self-sufficiency or self-exaltation. Instead, it always leads to a selfless concern for others. When our hearts are renewed by God's grace, we long to bless and serve those who are in need.  The purpose of revival is hearts filled with such a love for Jesus that we long to share this love with every person possible in any way possible. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Divine Wisdom

Divine Wisdom

In Proverbs 8 wee see that Wisdom again is personified.  If we follow the context we realize that Wisdom here is Jesus.  Specifically, Jesus as Creator.  Proverbs 8 says that wisdom is ever present, crying out for listeners.  Tie this with Creation and if we believe that Creation speaks of its Creator, then it follows that Creation, which is ever present, cries out the Wisdom of God.  Those who listen learn and are blessed.  But, many choose to ignore, even reject, wisdom.  in their foolishness, they bring condemnation to themselves.  This week, let's review Creation and how it is linked to redemption.  After all, it could be argued that redemption is the process of making us wiser. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth

Memory text:  Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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

John 1:1-3

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

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

Colossians 1: 15 – 17

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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

Psalm 33:6, 9

6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

Jeremiah 51:15  adds that God's word has power, " He has made the earth by His power;"

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

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

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

In the Bible redemption is joined by an inseparable connection to Creation. It takes nothing less than creative energy to redeem us. The power by which Jesus saves us from sin is the power by which He created the worlds. In Rev 14:6, 7 the everlasting gospel and creation are connected. The same is true in Col 1:14‑16 where forgiveness, redemption and creation are linked. Likewise, verses 16 and 20 in Rom 1 teach that the power of God in the gospel is the power that creates. The gospel is Christ crucified, buried, and raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-4). The cross – Christ crucified – is the creative power of God applied to men for salvation (1 Cor 1:18, 23,24). The everlasting gospel, as the creative power of God, will be preached in all the world.  Any gospel that leaves out creation is "another gospel," which is no gospel at all. It is powerless. Any gospel that does not preach the creative power of God, as seen in the things that He has made to live, is no gospel at all. The gospel saves us, and comforts us, and sustains us by the power of creation.

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

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

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


Friday, January 16, 2015

A Matter of Life and death

Our lesson included the following story:

Two brothers were left home alone, but given a strict warning by their mother not to eat the cake that she had just baked. To make sure that the boys would obey, she added the threat of punishment.

When she left, it took the boys only a few minutes to decide to eat the cake anyway. "This is not a matter of life and death," they reasoned. "Our mother would never kill us; so, let's eat!"

The mother would not kill them for eating the cake.  But, there disobedient attitude will lead to death. (Read Proverbs 28: 24 and 30: 17).  Our lesson states,

"For the teacher in Proverbs, though, the issue he speaks about is indeed a matter of life and death. His language is strong and sometimes graphic. Of course, Jesus used very strong language Himself when talking about matters of eternal life and death (see Matt. 5:21–30). And no wonder. In the end, our ultimate destiny, our eternal destiny (and what could be more important than that?), rests upon the choices that we make here now. So we should take the urgency of the strong language at face value."  

The point is that all things are a matter of life and death.  Just ask Eve whether eating a piece of fruit is not a matter of life and death.  The following commentary - published in May 8, 2009 -  addresses this point.  I hope it helps.


The week this commentary was written the local Chicago newspaper reported the finding of the body of a dead tenth grader. The youth had been beaten, killed, and burnt. This of course caused an outrage among the people in the city. "What have we come to," some asked. Others asked very concerned, "where are we going?" As the author of the lesson says our world is not where many thought it should be. He quotes,

"The solid optimism of former generations, that everything in the world will get better and better no longer rings true today. Even after the cold war the world is far from a safe place. The threat of terrorism has made us all feel extremely vulnerable. Science, which was supposed to be the harbinger of a better world, now threatens to wreak havoc on that world. The common sources of energy are being depleted. The icecaps are melting. Crime is a sad fact of life everywhere. Human beings show little, if any, signs of moral improvement over past generations. The gap between rich and poor constantly is widening. Our daily installment of news almost invariably tells us about atrocities and moral decay. No wonder someone once said that the Christian teaching of human sinfulness is one teaching that is easily verifiable. That is, that's one doctrine we don't need to take on faith."

We read in Genesis 3, how Sin came into this world.

Ge3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Ge3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Ge3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Ge3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Ge3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Ge3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Ge3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Why did the simple act of eating a piece of fruit bring such dire consequences to all humankind? How did such a small, trivial act constitute a great sin? After all, wasn't Eve, in eating the fruit, giving nourishment to her brain and nerve cells? Wasn't she making good blood? What made the vitamin C and the fiber in this fruit so lethal to body and soul? So we know the issue was not Adam and Eve literally eating the fruit, but following their will against God's. They chose in essence not to trust God, and trust the serpent and themselves. We could say that in rejecting God they rejected the indwelling Spirit of God, and now Sin would dwell in them and in their subsequent generations.

Who would have thought that the sinful condition of our world today came from a simple action of eating a forbidden fruit? God foresaw that the problem would grow from a "little act of disobedience" into massacres, wars, and the killing of 16 year old youngsters. It all comes from the same attitude Adam and Eve had in the garden. We could argue that it is those little unchecked indulgences that that start us on that road that lead to a life of self-righteous living. Christ had to deal with the temptation of appetite. We read in Matthew 4: 1 – 4,

Mat4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Mat4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Mat4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Mat4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

By Christ conquering where eve and Adam failed in the beginning he set up a foundation to be faithful to God. We also read how Daniel and his friends refuse to eat of the Kings meal in Daniel 1:8,

Dan1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

We know now how Daniel's friends were able to stand up for God even when they were thrown in the furnace (Daniel 3). We know now that Daniel was able to stand up for God when he was thrown in the Lion's den (Daniel 6). Daniel and his friends – as well as Jesus - yielded to the Holy Spirit's leading. The Holy Spirit gave to them the victory. Conquering the little Sin of appetite was the start of a successful yielded life to God. I pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to do the same with us.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“The Call of Wisdom”

"The Call of Wisdom"

The title of our lesson is a reference to verses 20 through 24 of Proverbs 1.  Let us read it,

Prov 1:20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
Prov 1:21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
Prov 1:22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
Prov 1:23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Prov 1:24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

Notice that wisdom in this passage is personified.  Who could wisdom be?  Verse 23 gives us a clue: "I will pour out my spirit unto you…" This sounds like what the Lord tells Joel in chapter 2.  Let us read it,

Joel 2:28-29King James Version (KJV)
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

Peter says that this verse was fulfilled at Pentecost.  We expect this prophecy to be fulfilled again in greater measure in the last days.  Those who receive the "latter rain" will be rebuked, they will heed the rebuke and love the rebuker - unlike the foolish, who refuse the rebuke and hate the rebuker (Proverbs 13: 1, 15: 12).  God will pour His Spirit upon them.  This is evidently, a reference to Laodicea, who are rebuked about their condition, and some respond, and let Christ in them (Revelation 3: 15 - 22).  Can wisdom be a person?  Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1: 30).  It is Christ who cries out, "come unto me all ye who tore burdened and heavy laden, … I will give you rest" (Matthew 11: 28 - 30).  So, if Christ wants us close to Him, the fear of the Lord cannot be us being so afraid of Him that like Adam we run away from Him (Genesis 3: 9).  Or even like the people at Sinai, who refuse to come close to God.  The following quote is a note from the translators of the NET version of the Bible.  I think it is enlightening.  Let us read it,

1 tn Heb "fear of the Lord." The expression יְהוָה יִרְאַת (yir'at yÿhvah, "fear of Yahweh") is a genitive-female construct in which יְהוָה ("the Lord") functions as an objective genitive: He is the object of fear. The term יָרַא (yara') is the common word for fear in the OT and has a basic three-fold range of meanings: (1) "dread; terror" (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) "to stand in awe" (1 Kgs 3:28), (3) "to revere; to respect" (Lev 19:3). With the Lord as the object, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of meaning appear in Exod 20:20 (where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical convulsions); Moses encouraged the Israelites to not be afraid of God arbitrarily striking them dead for no reason ("Do not fear!") but informed the people that the Lord revealed himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning ("God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin"). The fear of the Lord is expressed in reverential submission to his will – the characteristic of true worship. The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33). It is expressed in hatred of evil (8:13) and avoidance of sin (16:6), and so results in prolonged life (10:27; 19:23).

There are two kinds of fear: one that makes you run to God, and the other that makes you run away from God.  He engages us and we respond with fear: run to Him or away from Him.  Christ wants us to run to Him.  One of my favorite authors had this to say about the fear of the Lord,

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." Prov. viii. 13. It is not to be afraid of Him and shun His presence, but to hate and shun that which is unlike Him. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. And as hating evil is identical with keeping His commandments, so the fear and the love of God are identical. God wants all men to love Him; and "there is no fear in love." E.J.W., The Present Truth [British] April 4, 1895.

If Christ stands at the door knocking, will you let Him in if you are afraid of Him?  If you believe that He is loving, merciful, compassionate, etc, will you not let Him in?  It reminds of me of the beautiful words of the hymn,

The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don't you let Him come in?
There's nothing in this world to keep you apart,
What is your answer to Him?

Time after time He has waited before, 
And now He is waiting again
To see if you're willing to open the door:
O how He wants to come in.

O will you not let Him come in?