Saturday, January 19, 2019

The world: Hate it or love it?

The world: Hate it or love it?

Words and their various meanings are fascinating to me. I have always been intrigued by them and take pleasure in tracing their usage in diverse languages. It is amazing how words mean something to one group of people and something else entirely to another group. We receive a very different perspective on a word when we discover its original meaning, as well as how that meaning has changed. The same goes for translating words or phrases from one language to another. Mono-linguistic persons often express surprise when a word in English sounds like a foreign word, but has an entirely different meaning. Words and phrases in one language may not translate into another language readily, so a new word must be coined. Its so easy to think we understand a word in our own language, after all, we use it frequently. And yet, if we become just a little curious, work backward, and trace the word to its original language, we may discover a more profound meaning which heretofore eluded us. That's why I am so thankful for dictionaries and am particularly grateful to God for the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. Without them, I would be lost. These dictionaries shed light on an entirely different picture of God's requirements for us. Take the word obedience, for example. In the English language, we translate it, "do as you are told." In the Hebrew, the word we translated to obedience means, "Listening closely and attentively-- to hear, with a willingness to do." In other words, God does not just want us to take action, He wants us to know Him, know His voice, and in the process, understand what He wants us to accomplish in His power. 

This week's lesson presents a similar situation with the word: World. At first glance, it seems that the Bible contradicts itself. In 1 John and in Romans, it appears that we are being told to hate the world (1 John 2:15; Rom.12:2). Yet, later on, it says that God loved the world (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:18,19) and that's why He sent His Son. What an apparent contradiction! In Matthew 28, we are told that God even commissions us to go out to the world. What are we to believe? Some say that John 17:14 - 18 explains the paradox, but to someone not versed in scripture, this text just seems to provide more confusion. Let's take a look at John 17:14-18: 

John 17:14 I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 
John 17:15 I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that 
Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 
John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 
John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. 
John 17:18 As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them 
into the world. 

This scripture gives the impression that we are to be in the World but not of the World. To someone new to the Christian life, comes the question, "how can I be in something, but not be part of it? "After all, if you're in something, doesn't it stick on you? So, how could I be in-- it but not?" "I'm either in something, or I'm not -- right?" The New Testament was written in Greek, so let's look up the word -- "world," in a concordance. Upon examination, the word -- "Kosmos," from which we get the word "cosmos," has several meanings, and is revealed as the word we're looking for. To determine which definition is correct for the passage in question, we must 1st establish the context of that passage. 

To the Hebrew mind, the word Kosmos can mean several things, a few of which are: the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family; the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. It could also mean: worldly affairs, the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, and the like, which although hollow, frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ; any aggregate or general collection
of particulars of any sort. In summary, the word-- "world," can refer to Sin or the Sinner. Perhaps Sister White sheds a little more light: 

The Followers of Christ are to be separate from the world in principles and interests, but they are not to isolate themselves from the World (E. G. White Notes, page 92). 

Wow, at least for those who've been baffled, we got that cleared up. The "world," used in this context of scripture is referring to the customs, traditions, and expectations of sinful humanity. The apostles, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, are telling us that we are not to be like the wicked inhabitants of the world, worrying, fretting, and concerned with the cares of this life, for they root out the Word (Matt. 6:25-33; Matt. 13:3, 22, 23). If these counsels seem an impossible feat, remember that Christ only asked us to listen carefully, with a willingness to hear, and a desire to do. When we are in Christ, nothing shall be impossible, for all things are possible to him who believes, and abides (Mark 10:27; John 1:3-5; Phil. 4:13). 

It is said that God hates the Sin but loves the Sinner. When we are in Christ, we too will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and will- agape - love the Sinner unconditionally and hate the Sin. You cannot admire both, the Sinner and the Sin, and possess the love of God. When there is no love or burden for the sinner's ultimate eternal destination, there is no doubt, love for Sin. But, when God places in our hearts, His love, and passionate burden for the salvation of the Sinner --- we will hate Sin; and -- we will love our brother unto the death. For Christ's sake, let's be willing to allow God to do this work in us. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Spiritual Wicks

Spiritual Wicks

For the most part, much of matter exists in three phases: solid, liquid, and gas (vapor).  On which phase does the matter exist depends mainly on the property of the material and temperature to which it is exposed. So, for example, in warm to cool weather water is liquid.  In very hot weather water is gas or vapor.  On the other extreme, in very cold weather, water is solid – what we call ice.  

There are terms for the temperature at which matter changes from one phase to another.  For example, there is the melting point, the temperature at which a solid becomes liquid.  These vary depending on the material's property.  So, it is that a material with a low melting point will be liquid where one with a high melting point will be still solid. Another example of these terms is flashpoints: This is defined as the temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air when exposed to flame. If you have two different substances with two different flashpoints, the one with the lower flash point will burn before the one with the highest flash point. An excellent example of this is the wick of an oil lamp.  Let us learn more about these lamps to illustrate this point.  

In the past lamps where very simple utensils: it was nothing more than a small reservoir filled with oil and a wick coming out of the reservoir saturated with the oil from the reservoir.  Through capillary action, the taper would draw the oil up. If you looked closely, you would notice a charred bit along the top, and sometimes it gets hard and crusty, this is like lacquer from the oils and should be trimmed up from time to time.  When you light the candle wick, the small burnt bit of wick heats the oil traveling up, and the vapor ignites. The oil vapors have a lower flash point than the cotton, so they ignite before the wick does.  Kerosene, for example, has an autoignition temperature of about 220 °F with a flash point of 33-36 °F and Cotton needs about 630 °F to flash.   If you look closely on a candle, the wax does the same thing, you will see a space between the flame and the wick, and it is not the wax but rather the vaporized wax that is burning.  To reiterate, this means the vapors – which only need 33 °F heat to ignite with a flame source - burn before the cotton can burn. So you see, as long as there is oil to burn, the cloth just acts as a wick!  The wick will burn when the oil is gone, and the flame is still does burning; the cotton becomes the fuel.

We will see that there is a spiritual application to this when we study the vision in Zechariah 4. This vision is full of imagery, symbols, and meaning.  Let us read it,

Zechariah 4:1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
Zechariah 4:2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
Zechariah 4:3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
Zechariah 4:4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Zechariah 4:5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Zechariah 4:12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
Zechariah 4:14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.

This vision is an obvious reference to the lamps in the sanctuary.  According to Leviticus 24:2, the Lord said to Moses to "Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually."  We read from Ellen White writings that by the lamps is represented the word of God. The psalmist says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  [We see this as we read the narration as to how the Spirit is represented in the prophecy of Zechariah.]  (PK 594.1; COL 408.1)  

In this vision, the two olive trees which stand before God are represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the candlestick.  From this, the lamps of the sanctuary are fed, that they may give a bright, continuous light. So, from the holy ones that stand in God's presence, His Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities who are consecrated to His service.  (PK 594.1: COL 408.1)  Then the heavenly fire, when applied, makes them burning and shining lights. Our hearts cannot reflect light until there is a vital connection with heaven; this connection is established when the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This alone can make them burn steadily with holy, unselfish love for Jesus, and for all who are the purchase of His blood. And, unless we are regularly replenished with the golden oil, the flame will die out.  (TDG 98.3)  If the fire of the Spirit is not burning, we then become "spiritual fuel.  Ellen White explains why,

The prophet Isaiah had declared that the Lord would cleanse His people from their iniquities "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." The word of the Lord to Israel was, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." Isaiah 4:4; 1:25. To sin, wherever found, "our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29.  In all who submit to His power, the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them.  (DA 107)

As we can see we are the wicks, and without the Holy Spirit oil we burn out.  The Holy Spirit is thus a preserving agent.  It is He that burns, and as long as He is present, He will burn but not us.  So, spiritually we are to be "human torches" "… letting our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christ 2nd Coming

Originally Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 for a lesson on:

Christ 2nd Coming

 

Our lesson (when this was published) seemed to emphasize Christ's second return with the resurrection of the dead.  No mention, or very little mention, is given to Paul's words that say that not all will die.  Some will be translated as Enoch and Elijah.  Being that they represent us, it would behoove us to learn about these men.  Following are a few quotes from Ellen White that speak about these two men and how they are related to us. 

 

3 Selected Messages

Character Perfected by Enoch and Elijah-- 1874.--Some few in every generation from Adam resisted his every artifice and stood forth as noble representatives of what it was in the power of man to do and to be--Christ working with human efforts, helping man in overcoming the power of Satan. Enoch and Elijah are the correct representatives of what the race might be through faith in Jesus Christ if they chose to be. Satan was greatly disturbed because these noble, holy men stood untainted amid the moral pollution surrounding them, perfected righteous characters, and were accounted worthy for translation to heaven. As they had stood forth in moral power in noble uprightness, overcoming Satan's temptations, he could not bring them under the dominion of death. He triumphed that he had power to overcome Moses with his temptations, and that he could mar his illustrious character and lead him to the sin of taking glory to himself before the people which belonged to God.--The Review and Herald, March 3, 1874.  {3SM 146.5} 

 

Sermons and Talks v. 2

Our faith must reach within the veil, whither our Forerunner has for us entered. It is possible for us to take hold by faith of the eternal promises of God, but to do this we must have a faith that will not be denied, a steadfast, immovable faith, that will take hold of the realities of the unseen world.  {2SAT 5.4} 

     It is our privilege to stand with the light of heaven upon us. It was thus that Enoch walked with God. It was no easier for Enoch to live a righteous life in his day than it is for us at the present time. The world in Enoch's time was no more favorable to a growth in grace and holiness than it is now, but Enoch devoted time to prayer and communion with God, and this enabled him to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. It is his devotion to God that fitted him for translation.  {2SAT 5.5} 

 

Patriarchs and Prophets

By the translation of Enoch the Lord designed to teach an important lesson. There was danger that men would yield to discouragement, because of the fearful results of Adam's sin. Many were ready to exclaim, "What profit is it that we have feared the Lord and have kept His ordinances, since a heavy curse is resting upon the race, and death is the portion of us all?" But the instructions which God gave to Adam, and which were repeated by Seth, and exemplified by Enoch, swept away the gloom and darkness, and gave hope to man, that as through Adam came death, so through the promised Redeemer would come life and immortality. Satan was urging upon men the belief that there was no reward for the righteous or punishment for the wicked, and that it was impossible for men to obey the divine statutes. But in the case of Enoch, God declares "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6. He shows what He will do for those who keep His commandments. Men were taught that it is possible to obey the law of God; that even while living in the midst of the sinful and corrupt, they were able, by the grace of God, to resist temptation, and become pure and holy. They saw in his example the blessedness of such a life; and his translation was an evidence of the truth of his prophecy concerning the hereafter, with its award of joy and glory and immortal life to the obedient, and of condemnation, woe, and death to the transgressor.  {PP 88.2}

     By faith Enoch "was translated that he should not see death; . . . for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Hebrews 11:5. In the midst of a world by its iniquity doomed to destruction, Enoch lived a life of such close communion with God that he was not permitted to fall under the power of death. The godly character of this prophet represents the state of holiness which must be attained by those who shall be "redeemed from the earth" (Revelation 14:3) at the time of Christ's second advent. Then, as in the world before the Flood, iniquity will prevail. Following the promptings of their corrupt hearts and the teachings of a deceptive philosophy, men will rebel against the authority of Heaven. But like Enoch, God's people will seek for purity of heart and conformity to His will, until they shall reflect the likeness of Christ. Like Enoch, they will warn the world of the Lord's second coming and of the judgments to be visited upon transgression, and by their holy conversation and example they will condemn the sins of the ungodly. As Enoch was translated to heaven before the destruction of the world by water, so the living righteous will be translated from the earth before its destruction by fire. Says the apostle: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God;" "the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." "The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.  {PP 88.3}

 

God is waiting for His people to be like Enoch and Elijah.  Then the end will come.  Consider the following quotes from Ellen White,

 

"The long night of gloom is trying, but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come so many would be found unready.  –2T 194 [1868].

"Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory. –DA 633, 4 [1898].

"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church.  When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.  It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel.  Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain. – COL 69 [1900]. 

 

The reason Christ has not come yet is because the above condition has not been met.  How long will we keep delaying our Lord's return?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stewards of Service

Stewards of Service

The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Sister White stresses the importance of this by telling us to study the lessons in nature. She says in Our High Calling, page 253: "Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, and of His laws that govern nature and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth." Let's take a tree as an example. A mature tree uses precious earthly resources: it occupies space, utilizes air (Carbon-dioxide we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree releases, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, is not only tasteful to our palate, but it is good for our health. Trees cannot consume fruits, as can we. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as the leaves and the wood of the tree for papers as well as numerous other products. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then the three do from us. So, all the resources that trees use end up being for our benefit. And, it seems that trees do this – that is: serve us – selflessly. Well, wouldn't you say, If trees were stewards they would manage God's entrusted resources to benefit us, mankind? 

Our analogy of the tree is really one of stewardship and serving others. When a steward is faithful to God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves. When we give to others or do for them, it is because we expect the service to be of benefit to us. Often we hope a tangible return, such as money or other favors – tickets, meal, gift certificate, etc. Other times the benefit we derive from serving others is intangible. We want to be seen to gain favor. Frequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear. We hope to be relieved from doom. Thus we misuse God's resources for our own benefit, even though we claim we are using these resources to serve others.

A true Christian - at whatever level - is a faithful Steward. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will produce fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). The Spirit of God that dwells in him springs forth this fruit because the fruit is the character of God himself. Therefore, service is not out of guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or peace. The service of a true Christian, in whom the Spirit dwells, is motivated by Agape – God's unconditional love – and the driving force is really gratitude. A real follower of Christ gives and serves freely, for he has received freely (Matthew 10:8). 

Typically we do not equate stewardship with the selfless serving of others. As a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, he does as the Master wishes. What are the Master's wishes? "…but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the following text from Matthew 25 will illustrate what this means: 

Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 
Matthew 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 
Matthew 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 
Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 
Matthew 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 
Matthew 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 
Matthew 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 
Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 
Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Faithful stewards are sheep who unknowingly serve their Lord by helping those in need. Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain. What is the difference between the two? It is Agape – God's unconditional love. The type of love that the Father is, which drove Him to give to all human beings "…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This love made Jesus weep because of the harm Sin had done to His humanity (John 11:35). This love can only be found in us when we permit the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This love makes us faithful stewards who serve others, as they are needful, as we were serving Christ Himself. Will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward serving others as the Lord wishes?