Saturday, April 25, 2015

What is a disciple?

What is a disciple?

Last year we studied quarterly lesson on discipleship.  Let us this week review what a disciple is in the light of the Gospel.  The following are excerpts from commentaries written for that quarterly on discipleship.  This is what Jesus wanted His chosen ones to be. 

What is a Disciple?

In the last lesson, we defined disciples in the light of scripture.   We read in Luke 14,

Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luk 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The implication here is clearly that to be Christ disciples you bear your cross and forsake all and follow Him.  In John 15 discipleship is explained in terms of a farming parable.   We read in John 15,

Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

These two descriptions of discipleship are complementary.   If I remain in A, I cannot remain in B, thus I forsake B.  The bearing of fruit reveals that we are good soil in which the good seed sown and eventually germinated (Luke 8: 4 – 18).  The root found living nutrient and water.   Ellen White sums it up beautifully,

As a flower of the field has its root in the soil; as it must receive air, dew, showers, and sunshine, so must we receive from God that which ministers to the life of the soul…The presence of God is guaranteed to the Christian…As long as the members of the church shall through faith draw sap and nourishment from Jesus Christ, and not from man's opinions and devisings, and methods; if having a conviction of the nearness of God in Christ, they put their entire trust in Him, they will have a vital connection with Christ as the branch has connection with the parent stock (Our Father Cares; 21 – 22).

In summary discipleship means to  abide in Christ and bear fruit; and to pick up your cross, forsake all else and follow Him.  It would behoove us to learn more about following Him.

When Jesus said, "Follow Me" (a phrase that occurs 17 times in the Gospels), it was for the purpose of making them disciples. A similar phrase, "Come unto Me" (6 occurrences), has the same purpose, for one comes to Jesus to follow Him. One may come initially in response to the mysterious drawing of His Spirit, may be merely curious, and want simply to observe or inquire with no intent to follow. But as the contact occurs, the drawing and coming will lead to following if there is no resistance. Jesus is that charming! We were designed for that, and He has preserved in each the ability to sense His drawing and agree with it. The Bible calls that faith.

It is in the coming and the following that the discipling occurs.  One of the best-known uses of "Come..." promises a gift--"I will give you...." And my coming and His giving leads to another dual invitation--"Take ... and learn...." That must be the essence of discipling--the ongoing coming, giving, taking, and learning. The resultant promise is redundant--"I will give you rest" and "you shall find rest." (Matthew 11:28-30).

Now, as we gathered from the verse, to come unto Him we must be invited or drawn to Him.  Jesus said in John 12:32-33

 John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

 What death did he die?  "… the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).  Paul says in I Corinthians 1: 17 -18

 1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

 And, Paul says that the power of God – unto salvation – is the Gospel.  The word Gospel means good news, it has the same meaning of the root word for evangelism.  Thus evangelism is spreading the good news.  Discipline is what happens when we respond to the drawing.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Who is Jesus Christ?

The following commentary, originally published on Friday, November 22, 2013, helps to answer the question: Who is Jesus Christ?

Commentary: Christ our Priest

Christ our Priest

There are a couple of things we need to establish before we delve into Christ as a Priest.  We need to reestablish the fact that the sanctuary, its priest, and services were a contingency plan.  God's original plan was to make the children of Israel a nation of priests.  They refused that plan.  So God established a teaching tool so the Israelites – and the world – could learn the Gospel.   This brings us to the second point, the existence and presence of the sanctuary was as much evidence of God's presence as it was evidence of the Israelites failure in Sinai.  The Levitical is part of that contingency plan.  Remember, God promised to make all Israel priests, only the Levites became priests, this reveals that something went wrong at Sinai.  Therefore, the Aaronic priesthood is also a sign of Israel's failure at Sinai. 

Now last week we studied Christ as our sacrifice.  This is represented by the animals sacrificed at the altar.  These all point to Christ.  For the most part, in the Levitical system the priest kills the sacrifice.  In our world, he who takes the life is superior to the one killed.  None of the animals killed were resurrected.  Christ presents a dilemma to the Aaronic priesthood.  Caiphas sought to kill Christ and succeeded.  Thus, it seems Caiphas was superior.  But, when Christ is resurrected, Christ proved to be superior.  He was a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9: 23). 

When we look then at the order of services we see that the priests take the blood do what with it what they are supposed to do in the service.   The Aaronic Priests never went through the experience the animals went when killed, but Christ did.  So, when we look at Christ as a Priest, we have someone that knows how it feels to be sacrificed.  In terms of Christ being the Lamb, the Lamb became a Priest.  And, the blood He shed as a Lamb, as a Priest He applies to us, for our cleansing.  We read in Hebrews 9,


Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Heb 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


Christ was a better sacrifice.  His blood was more effective.  He was also a better Priest.  The Priests died and needed replacing, not Christ. 


Heb 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Heb 7:23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

Heb 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.


What does it mean that Christ lives to make intercession?  But some ask why Jesus as our High Priest has to "make intercession" for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25). The word "intercession" implies that somebody is not happy and has to be interceded with on our behalf. Christ "is at the right hand of God," Paul says, "who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). John adds his insight when he compares Christ to "an advocate with the Father," the word "advocate" being parakletos in the Greek (1 John 2:1). Vine says the word "was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, who pleads another's cause."


In other words, Jesus is a defense lawyer pleading a case "with the Father," John says. It seems that the Father is the Judge and that we are on trial before Him, and that we would lose our case if it weren't for Jesus being there, representing us. This is 100 percent true; we would indeed lose out if it were not for our divine Lawyer working on our side.


The Father, as well as the Son, hates sin. But in accordance with the agreement between them Both, Christ became the representative Adam for the human race and paid the penalty as the sinner's Substitute and Surety, having tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Thus, God's wrath against sin was experienced by Christ on His cross. He suffered the curse of God which was the condemnation of the second death. His shed blood qualifies Him as mankind's Advocate with the Father. It makes it possible for the Father to shower his blessings of life equally on both the just and the unjust.


But who is He "pleading," "interceding" with? Who needs to be "persuaded" to accept us? Does it make sense to say it's the Father? Wasn't it He who took the initiative to "so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son" for us? How could He be against us, needing Jesus to "intercede" for us? Does the Father have a club behind His back, about to let us have it, and then Jesus steps up and says, "Look, Father, at the wounds in My hands, etc. Please be nice to these people!"? No, that doesn't make sense. The Father loves us just as much as the Son loves us! Then who is Jesus interceding with?


Is He interceding with the devil? Will he or his angels ever be persuaded to be nice to us? Hardly! Then who has to be persuaded to "accept" us, to stop condemning us? The good angels? No, they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for" us, not against us (Heb. 1:14).


Then who is left who needs to be "persuaded," interceded with to "accept" us, except we ourselves? We are the ones who need to hold our heads high, to join Paul in being "persuaded" that nothing will ever "separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:3839).


Now, For Christ to intercede between God and us, to be our mediator, He needs to identify with us.  Ellen White said, 


"… the reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare him worthy to treat with the infinite God in man's behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man's substitute and surety must have man's nature, a connection with the human family whom he was to represent, and, as God's ambassador, he must partake of the divine nature, have a connection with the Infinite, in order to manifest God to the world, and be a mediator between God and man.


"Christ, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, humbled Himself beyond description to be joined together forever with the human race. As Adam was enjoined that in marriage a man would leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, so Christ left His Father in heaven to become forever a part of the human family.


"Clothing His divinity with humanity, He came to earth to be called the Son of man and the Son of God. He was the surety for man, the ambassador for God—the surety for man to satisfy by His righteousness in man's behalf the demands of the law, and the representative of God to make manifest His character to a fallen race." 1SM 257


The good news of what Jesus did for the human race as revealed in the gospel alone has power to extinguish our love for sin and prepare us for entrance to our heavenly home.


"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Heb. 4:1516


A last word: you will notice that the work in the sanctuary is performed by the Priest and High Priest, not the sinner.  Likewise, the work in the Heavenly sanctuary is performed by Christ.  This means that the work of cleansing us, the Holy Spirit's temple, is also done by Him.  We just let Him. 


"The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus ... in repentance for his sins" (Steps to Christ, p. 27). Therein is the essence of this cleansing of the sanctuary!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Insight: The Coming of Jesus

Who was Luke?  According to Ellen White,


 "Luke, the writer of the Gospel that bears his name, was a medical missionary. In the Scriptures he is called the beloved physician. Colossians 4:14. The apostle Paul heard of his skill as a physician, and sought him out as one to whom the Lord had entrusted a special work. He secured his co-operation, and for some time Luke accompanied him in his travels from place to place. After a time, Paul left Luke at Philippi, in Macedonia. Here he continued to labor for several years, both as a physician and as a teacher of the gospel. In his work as a physician he ministered to the sick, and then prayed for the healing power of God to rest upon the afflicted ones. Thus the way was opened for the gospel message. Luke's success as a physician gained for him many opportunities for preaching Christ among the heathen. It is the divine plan that we shall work as the disciples worked." -Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 140-141.


As mentioned above, he authored the Gospel according to Luke.  According to our lesson,


"Acts 1:1 tells us that before Acts was written, its author wrote a former account. This, and the fact that both accounts were addressed to Theophilus (Greek for 'lover of God'), helps lead us to conclude that one author was responsible for both books. The two accounts can be viewed as Part 1 and 2 of Origin and History of the Christian Church. Part 1 is a narrative of the life and work of Jesus (the Gospel of Luke) and Part 2 (Acts of the Apostles) is an account of the spread of the message of Jesus and of the early church."


This quarter we will focus on the Gospel he wrote.  What makes his Gospel unique?  Our lesson states,

In addition to being a physician, Luke was a meticulous historian. In introducing the Gospel, Luke places Jesus in real history; that is, he puts the story in the historical context of its times: Herod was the king of Judea (Luke 1:5), Augustus reigned over the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1), and a priest by the name of Zacharias was exercising his turn in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 1:5,9). In chapter 3, Luke mentions six contemporary dates related to the ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.

Thus, Luke places the story of Jesus in history-real people, real times-in order to dismiss any idea of mythology with his narrative. His readers must stand in awe and wonder at the fact that Jesus is real and that through Him God has invaded history with the Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11, NKJV).


So, Luke presents Christ, the Son of God, as a man.  He was born like we are, and lived as we live (without yielding to temptation).  This according to Ellen White is key to the plan of salvation.  She states,


The more we think about Christ's becoming a babe here on earth, the more wonderful it appears. How can it be that the helpless babe in Bethlehem's manger is still the divine Son of God? Though we cannot understand it, we can believe that He who made the worlds, for our sakes became a helpless babe. Though higher than any of the angels, though as great as the Father on the throne of heaven, He became one with us. In Him God and man became one, and it is in this fact that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in the flesh, we look upon God in humanity, and see in Him the brightness of divine glory, the express image of God the Father (Selected Messages 3:127, 128).{LHU 75.5}

In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem's manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, He in whom was the fullness of the Godhead bodily, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race (The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896).{LHU 75.6}


God's love for us is equal to how much did Christ lowered Himself for us.  All we are ask ion return is heartfelt appreciation – to be grateful.