Friday, March 31, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 1 |"The Person of Peter"

Did Peter know he was wrong?

Did Peter know he was wrong? 

One Sabbath School class was discussing the life of Peter.  The class gave Emphasis to Peter's life before conversion and after conversion.  Before conversion, although Peter was boisterous and short tempered, he denied the Lord; After conversion, Peter was the opposite.  After this, they briefly discussed Paul confronting Peter about his prejudice behavior as recorded in Galatians 1.   The teacher then asked the class, "With which Peter do you identify: the one before conversion or the one after conversion?"  There was murmuring in the class.  Tony, who was sitting in the back raised his hand and said, "I identify with Peter."  The teacher and some of the students turned around and asked him to clarify, "which Peter, the one before conversion or the one after?"  The student referring to the event of Paul confronting Peter, answered, "I identify with Peter in that even though I know, as he knew, that the crowd is wrong, I see myself following them."  The class hushed for a few seconds, and then there was murmuring again.  Tony looked around and saw people nodding.  The teacher sighed but did not speak.  A sister in front of Tony smiled and nodded at him.  Another sister, walking down the aisle, smiled and touched his arm.  It seemed that many agreed with him.  They saw themselves drifting the wrong way knowingly.  Now, just because many people do this does not make it right? 

Paul found that this was wrong, which is why he confronted Peter.  Did Peter know He was wrong?  Peter was present at the Jerusalem Council when the Apostles declared that circumcision was not necessary to salvation and (Acts 15:1-24).  He had encountered this situation before when God had clearly revealed to him that he was not to consider any one class of people as "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).  He had even declared that he understood "that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35).   The Holy Spirit bore a Clear testimony by the other apostles, and the corporate church body that there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile and that righteousness is by faith alone in Christ Jesus.  In light of all this, Peter and others withdrew themselves from the uncircumcised Gentile believers.  This discrimination was in effect saying, "Except ye be circumcised... ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).  This action on the part of Peter and the others was not only a denial of the gospel, but it was a virtual denial of Christ.  Based on the statements stated above we can conclude that Peter knew better.  But, he allowed himself to be carried away by the influence of the other Jews, "fearing them which were of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:12). Peter's attitude grieved God.  Ellen White says, 

"Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will make grave blunders. The more responsibilities placed upon the human agent, the higher his position to dictate and control, the more mischief he is sure to do in perverting minds and hearts if he does not carefully follow the way of the Lord. At Antioch Peter failed in the principles of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to face; This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108.

 We too can fail in integrity and violate the principles laid out by the Gospel.  Even so, Peter should still be an example to us in that he was humble.  The fact that Peter died a martyr for Christ tells us that Peter repented.   In that sense, we should be like Peter after conversion. 
Raul Diaz
Raul Diaz

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Work of the Holy Spirit

INSIGHT #12 MARCH 25, 2017

First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Work of the Holy Spirit "
March 25, 2017

The following story was written by Lois E. Johannes and was used as
an illustration to explain holiness. To introduce the story the author
quoted, Psalms 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew
the right spirit within me." The story is as follows:

"Addi wasn't really her name, but it served to identify our wrinkled,
little Aborigine patient. Entering the hospital, Addi straightened her
slight shoulders and without so much as a glance toward the
registration desk, passed all the patients waiting their turn to see
the doctor, then stationed herself just outside his office door. It
was evident she understood that no one enters a doctor's office while
he is seeing a patient. When the door opened, she darted in, seated
herself by the doctor's desk, and began a vivid description of her

An examination suggested that she did have reason to complain but that
the difficulty was not life-threatening. The doctor could correct it
by a relatively simple surgery without charge to her. She was to go
with her nurse to the supervisor to schedule the surgery.

Addi and the nurse left the doctor's office. Moments later the nurse
returned with the information that Addi had gone home, refusing to set
up a time for surgery. Before the week ended, Addi, following the same
pattern, again sought the doctor's attention and received the same
response. After repeating this procedure two or three times a week for
a month, the doctor advised her that he was unable to do much more for
her until she was willing to schedule her surgery.

Bristling, Addi left the office in a little flash of fury, only to
return shortly, plop her arm on the doctor's desk, and demand, "Well,
then, you can take my blood pressure!" "Her blood pressure duly
checked, she left the hospital seemingly happy.

We all smiled at little Addi's naivete! But as I considered the
episode, I realized that possibly I was somewhat like Addi. How many
times have I prayed, "Lord, take away my unpleasant disposition,
especially my hasty and unreasonable temper. Please take it away,

God responds, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will
I put within you" (Eze. 36:26).

"A new heart?" I ask. "Nothing's wrong with my heart, Lord. Why, a
new heart might completely change my personality, and one thing is
certain, I do want to be me! No, Lord, no new heart. Just take away
this disagreeable temper."

"But God indicates He really wants to give me a new heart and a new
spirit to enable me to walk in His paths with Him. Then, He says, "I
shall be one of His distinctive people, and He truly will be my
eternal God" (Eze. 11:19, 20). So, I can become a completely whole,
yielded, victorious Christian. Yet, I've been insisting on a blood
pressure check when I could have had restorative surgery!"

If we are honest, spiritually we are like Addi. We say we want change,
but all we really want is a superficial change. When the Lord says,
"be ye holy," we say ok, and begin to focus on outward behavior. But
alas there's no change of heart -- no transformation of mind, to the
mind of Christ. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, says
Jeremiah. Therefore only the Lord can perform such an operation. How
does He do it? To answer this, let us first look at God's character.

According to Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2 and Hebrews 12:9, 10, "'God is
holy'." The Scripture further states that the Law is Holy; this should
not surprise us since the Law is merely a transcript of God's
character. Unfortunately many of us look at the law as a list of do's
and don'ts. So we think being holy is comprised of engaging in the
do's and avoiding the prohibited don'ts. Yet in the Gospels, Jesus
asked a young man, how do you define the law, to which the man
responded, all the law is predicated on love – love supremely to God,
and then to man as we love ourselves. The apostle John went on to say
in I John 4:8 that God is love; meaning that His nature or essence is
Agape, and that if we do not love, it's because we do not know God.
Paul describes this self-denying love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 --

"Agape suffers long, and is kind; Agape envies not; Agape vaunts not
itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not
her own way, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in
iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. Agape never fails."

If holiness is the essence of who God is, and God is love, then it
stands to reason that I Corinthians 13 also describes holiness.
Lastly, since love is the fulfilling of the law, and the law is holy,
it then follows that love is the outward expression of inward

How can we love as God loves? According to Romans 5:5, the Holy Spirit
pours the love of God into our hearts. In the Old Testament, the Lord
expressed this to His people by telling Jeremiah, "I will put My law
in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33).
And through Ezekiel, He said that He will put His Spirit upon His
people, and give them a new heart. The old natural heart cannot
produce holiness no matter how much effort is put forth. Only the
reception of the holy "living" law inscribed in our hearts can make us

For this reason, let us not hinder the Holy Spirit's work by resisting
what He has already promised to do. With great heart-felt
appreciation, let's thank and praise the Lord for all He has done, is
doing, and will do. Let us yield to 'this' work, trusting that He will
do a thorough job transplanting a new heart in us. This procedure is
of the greatest importance being both a somber yet delicate
undertaking; therefore, let us rest in the hands of the Great

~Raul Diaz



Raul Diaz
[image: https://]

Friday, March 17, 2017

Even Grace Has Limits

Even Grace Has Limits 

In Numbers 21, the people of Israel murmured against God, and God sent serpents to bite them. 

 Num21:5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
Num21:6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
Num21:7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
Num21:8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
Num21:9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

God had given the people manna, a gift to them from heaven.  This gift they did not appreciate but despised it.  So the Lord allowed serpents to come in the camp and bite the people.  Of course, the people were dying of the serpent bites.  Somehow they made a connection between the serpents and their Sin.  So, they asked Moses to pray to God for delivery.  So, God tells Moses to build a brazen serpent and put it on a pole, those who looked at the serpent on the pole would not die.  

God did not get rid of the serpents or even stopped the serpents from biting.  God wanted the people to exercise faith.  The issue was: would they believe that by looking at the brazen serpent the poison would not be effective?   If they looked, they would live.  (There is no mention of what would happen with the bite marks.  It is possible that the bite marks would remain.) 

The brazen serpent was for all the people in the camp.  But, only those who looked when bitten were delivered.  Did they deserve it?  No, not one person in the camp deserved to be delivered (Romans 3: 10 – 12).  God did this because He loved the people.  This gesture toward them displayed God's grace.  He gave all of them this gift of life, even when they did not deserve it.  But, just because God gave this gift to all, it did not mean that all would be spared of the effects of the poison in their bodies.  Those who chose not to believe would not look therefore they would die.  In this case, God's grace could not deliver those bitten from dying.   There was no remedy for rejecting the remedy.  Suddenly Grace has limits.  Those who reject the grace that can save them will find that there is no grace for rejecting the grace.  

We may get the impression from Romans 5:20 to 6:2 that grace covers all sin.  But that is not the case.  Let us read it the passage,

 Rom5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
Rom5:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rom6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Rom6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Those who are of the belief that the more they sin, the more grace abounds - if they continue in that path - forget that at some point they will commit the unpardonable Sin.  Jesus talks about this Matthew 12: 31 -32,

 Matthew 12:31-32 (King James Version)
 31Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

This verse refers to the point where you have gone beyond repentance.  You no longer will respond the Holy Spirit's invitation for you to open the door to Him.   Christ did not die for that Sin.  And, while the law may expose that Sin, grace will not abound as far.  This Sin is rejecting the grace that can save you.  Put in different words: there is no remedy for rejecting the remedy.
Raul Diaz

Friday, March 10, 2017

Discipleship and Prayer

The following commentary was published originally to link discipleship with prayer.  It explains prayer in a clear way, I believe.  

Discipleship and Prayer

John 17:20-21
20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 
21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

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 that to be Christ disciples you bear your cross and forsake all and follow Him.  In John 15 discipleship is explained in the context of farming.   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).

How, then does prayer relate to this?  No one will deny the need for prayer.  In the words of Ellen White,

"Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him."—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 93.

"Pray much. Much prayer is necessary to successful effort. Prayer brings strength. Prayer has "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, turned to flight the armies of aliens."  {SW, February 23, 1904 par. 6} 

Notice how she ties faith (Hebrews 11: 33 - 34) with prayer.   Now, since we describe discipleship in the context of farming, can we explain prayer in the same way – or at least using biological imagery?  Ellen White does just this.  Let us read a passage where she does this,

"Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted and the health of the soul be preserved.  Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Wellspring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor" (Messages to Young People, 249, 250.)

When we breathe, our body inhales oxygenated air and exhales air with Carbon Dioxide.  Our blood carries the oxygen throughout the body.  The blood returns to the lungs depleted of oxygen to fill itself with oxygen again; this is an automatic process.  Unless there are problems, no one chooses to breathe; you just do.  What happens if we choose not to breathe?  Most folk cannot hold their breath for more than three to five minutes without fainting.

We read in Luke 18:1:  "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."  If we stop breathing we faint; likewise, if we cease to pray, it will not be long before we find ourselves fainting before the trials that inevitably come our way.  It is through prayer that we are braced for difficulties and trials that require strength far beyond our natural human capacity.

Through the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Christ has urged that His people pray without ceasing. This does not mean that we should always be upon our knees, but that prayer is to be as the breath of the soul. Our silent requests, wherever we may be, are to be ascending unto God, and Jesus our Advocate pleads in our behalf, bearing up with the incense of His righteousness our requests to the Father"  (TMK 78.3). 

This is how Jesus lived, "… Jesus lived in dependence upon God and communion with him. To the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty, men now and then repair; they abide for a season, and the result is manifest in noble deeds: then their faith fails, the communion is interrupted, and the life-work marred. But the life of Jesus was a life of constant trust, sustained by a continual communion: and his service for heaven and earth was without failure or faltering.  {SW, February 23, 1904 par. 7} 

Just like our whole body benefits from breathing, the body of Christ is to benefit from prayer.  Real prayer is by definition intercessory.  Prayer – in its real sense - links us to God and others.  Ellen White says,

"What does intercession comprehend? It is the golden chain which binds finite man to the throne of the infinite God. The human agent whom Christ has died to save importunes the throne of God, and his petition is taken up by Jesus who has purchased him with His own blood. Our great High Priest places His righteousness on the side of the sincere suppliant, and the prayer of Christ blends with that of the human petitioner"  (TMK 78)

When we pray for others, we become as vessel, conduits, or channels to distribute God's blessings to others.  We become as fountains springing God's living water so others can quench their thirst for righteousness (John 7: 38).  
Raul Diaz

Friday, March 3, 2017

Baptism In Light Of The Gospel

Baptism In Light Of The Gospel

(Originally published on Thursday, March 20, 2008)

Recently, researchers made a study about how well churches were doing and why.  Researchers asked Pastors this question, and they said that their church was doing well. When asked how they knew their church was doing well, they replied that offerings were up, church assistance was up, and program participation was up, also. When researchers asked the members the same questions, a majority said that they did not feel well spiritually. Yes, they went to all services, contributed by tithing and offerings and even participated in programs, but on a personal level, they did not feel close to God. The study revealed that, sadly, they did not have devotional time with God. They neither read their Bible nor prayed. The studies conclusion showed that there is a difference in how both sides understand spirituality and a lack of belief on both sides. Some may be ignorant, while others are just rebellious.

Many see the amount of baptisms as a sign of how well a Pastor is doing. Why are baptisms so imperative to some? Because, baptisms, in the church management's estimation, are a quantitative measurement that is easy to see as opposed to spiritual growth which is very subjective. It is sad because while a pastor may be baptizing many people, it does not mean him or the church are doing well spiritually.

Were baptisms important in the Bible? In the book of Mark 16:15-16, Christ is quoted saying,

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Notice that in the text the baptism comes after the belief. Baptism can only come after you believe; if you are baptized without you believing you merely got wet. Those who do not believe typically will not get baptized, and of course, this will lead to eternal damnation. 

Getting baptized should be a symbol that you have believed the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of salvation. What does this mean? When Christ died on the cross, He saved the whole world from the eternal damnation or death - that is the wages of Sin (Romans 6:23). Because of this we now know, that God is not against us (Romans 5:8). In fact, He is the one that sent His Son to pay the wages of Sin – "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  God loves us so much, that He wanted to save us from this second death, which is good-bye to life forever. As the Apostle John wrote, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1John 4:10). And, He did this while we were yet His enemies or sinners (Romans 5:8). In other words, it is not because we loved Him – we naturally hate God - but because He loved us. Anyone that loves God does so because He loves us first (1John 4:19). But that is only part of the good news. God not only wanted to save us from eternal death, but He also wants us to live eternally with Him.

Those who are grateful for what He has done believe Christ accomplished this for them. We read in John 3:16 that those who believe not only will not perish but have eternal life. God wants to take us home with Him to be with Him forever. But, as a friend of mine says, "you can't take someone home if they don't know how to act." While God wants to take with Him the whole world, only those who believe – constantly and continually - that Christ has saved them from eternal death will learn how to act. They will overcome their sinful tendencies and will be transformed into a new being by the renewal of their hearts and mind. By the Lord's indwelling Spirit God's law and statutes are written in our hearts and mind.  To this group baptism is special.

To this group, baptism represents the new birth experience. They have repented, left the old behind, died to self, been converted, given a new heart of flesh, and their mind has been renewed. Symbolically, when we go down in the baptismal waters we die, and when we come up, we are resurrected. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. If it were, salvation would not be by grace through faith, but by baptism. The thief on the cross will be resurrected unto eternal life. He believed Christ. By faith, this man accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Those who believe will have no problem becoming baptized.

Now, you will notice that Jesus never baptized anyone (John 4:2). Paul baptized only a few, he understood his mission as preaching and teaching the gospel, not baptizing (1 Corinthians. 1:17). Twice in Acts Paul's calling is mentioned, on neither occasions was the verb to baptize used. It is not to say that baptism is not important. Going against the Holy Spirit's conviction that you should be baptized is Sin. Not baptizing is not an unpardonable Sin, but it may be a step toward it.