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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.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Lesson 4: The Call to Discipleship

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Luke
Lesson 4: The Call to Discipleship

 

The brothers Peter and Andrew with their partners James and John had spent the night fishing with dragnets. Nighttime was the best time for fishing on Galilee, but their back-breaking work had yielded nothing for their efforts. So at dawn they beached their boats and mended the nets.

The prelude to all discipleship is Jesus' loving call to the sinner. Such drawing love leads to genuine repentance. Separated from Jesus through their night's toil, the disciples' hearts had become hardened in unbelief. Consequently there was nothing to show for their hard labors. But when their labors were united with Christ's presence it was His word that gathered the fish from the sea.

Up to this point the disciples had not left their occupations in service for the Master. Jesus gave them the prophetic call: "And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men" (Luke 5:10). Though Peter and the others had no former academic qualifications for evangelistic service, the mere fact that Christ chose them was all that they needed. Just as the word of Jesus had gathered the fishes so He "could also impress human hearts, and draw them by the cords of His love, so that His servants might become 'fishers of men.'" [1] Here was the Lord of fish and fishermen, the Lord of nature, the Lord of men and of their daily work. All their desires had come true.

The crowds began to assemble about Jesus. After He stepped into Peter's boat they pulled away from the shoreline so that the pressing crowd might better "hear the word of God" (Luke 5:1). He spoke the "word of eternal life." He spoke "peace to human hearts." "The very words ... would come to them as a message of hope in trial, of comfort in sorrow, and heavenly light in darkness." [2]

Jesus was a carpenter from up the hill in Nazareth. Peter and company were the expert fishermen who knew when and where to go to find the fish. So when Jesus bid them to launch out deeper and let down the nets, there was an initial reticence because of the previous night's experience. They had returned empty-handed.

But "love for their Master moved the disciples to obey" His command, "Let down your nets" (Luke 5:4). Imagine Peter and Andrew's amazement when they hauled up the nets filled with so many fish they called for James and John to help with their boat. Both boats were filled to overflowing and about to "sink."

Peter felt himself in the presence of nature's Creator. The Holy Spirit pressed home to his heart, love of Jesus manifested in the miracle. "The presence of divinity revealed his own unholiness. Love for his Master, shame for his own unbelief, gratitude for the condescension of Christ, above all, the sense of his uncleanness in the presence of infinite purity, overwhelmed him." [3]

Peter had an intense moment such as is described by the apostle Paul: "I say, through the grace given unto me, to every one that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think" (Rom. 12:3). You and I are not excused from listening.

But Jesus through Paul doesn't stop halfway through that sentence. He continues: while I am to think of myself in a humble way, I am also to "think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every one [including me!] a measure of faith." No matter how much I have sinned, how unworthy I am, God has given me an appropriate personal gift of faith. He respects and honors my personality (Psalm 139:5-18). He has already died my second death (Heb. 2:9). He has elected me to eternal salvation (Eph. 1:4-6), not willing that I should perish (1 Tim. 2:4). Christ is already my "Savior, ... especially" if I "believe" (1 Tim. 4:10; John 4:42). Therefore I am invited to the great banquet of "the marriage supper of the Lamb," there is a place card with my name on it--all by virtue of Christ's sacrifice on His cross when He went to hell to find me.

Does this mean that I shall continue living in sin, rebellion, and transgression of God's holy law? If the love (agape) of Christ constrains and motivates me, I can't live for self (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), for the Holy Spirit is stronger than my own sinful nature that I was born with (Gal. 5:16, 17), and the much more abounding grace of Christ is stronger than the world's abounding sin (Rom. 5:20).

1888 ULTIMATE DISCIPLESHIP

We all know that a "disciple" is someone who follows a teacher. Therefore the ultimate lesson in "discipleship" is the one that the "144,000" teach us: these are they who "stand on the mount Zion, ... having the Father's name written in their foreheads, ... and which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (Rev. 14:1, 4). "Mt. Zion" is the church, the same as the "remnant church" of 12:17. For "the Lamb " to "stand on Mt. Zion" therefore is Christ and His people to be fully reconciled; the sacrifice of Christ will at last be fully vindicated in these people.

The 1888 message is about Christ's ministry in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. He ministers to His last-days' people the "atonement" in this final time of the High Priestly ministry; every buried root of enmity against God or alienation from Him (see Rom. 8:7) will have been cleansed from their hearts; His people are at last "at one" with Him. This is the meaning of the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."

A. T. Jones was clear that the sanctuary in heaven cannot be "cleansed" until first of all the hearts of His people on earth are "cleansed." Thus the story of the 144,000 is the story of final victory over sin--a victory accomplished only by faith, not by works.

And here is where the message of Christ's righteousness comes into sharp focus: sanctification is accomplished in the hearts of believers by the ministry of truth. "Sanctify them [Thy people] through Thy truth: Thy word is truth," Jesus Himself prayed (John 17:17). This is what the 144,000 have heartily submitted to.

Thus the 1888 message clarifies the investigative judgment truth. The slightest hint from the Holy Spirit that something in the life is in opposition to that "truth of God," then the believer will gladly give it up. Like a healthy heart beating and pumping blood throughout the healthy body, so the Holy Spirit is working throughout the remnant church; God's people waste no time or energy fighting the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is none of that negative "1888 spirit" that constantly opposes the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The 144,000 come to the place where it can be honestly said of them, "These are they who follow the Lamb [the crucified Christ} whithersoever He goeth." Will it be this generation who open their hearts to this leading of the Holy Spirit?

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 249.
[2] Ibid., p. 245.
[3] Ibid., p. 246.

Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

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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!

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Friday, April 10, 2015

“Baptism and the Temptations”

Insights #2 April 11, 2015
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Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Baptism and the Temptations"
For the week of April 11, 2015

 
The "amazing condescension" of Jesus Christ is not to help us to be willing to "humble ourselves whenever the occasion warrants it" but to lay our glory in the dust - period. Our entire lifetime is the "occasion". If you have an E.G. White study Bible, read the comments for John 1 under the title "Divine-Human Saviour" and follow the journey of the Son of God from the heavenly courts above, down to this dark earth and His "most shameful and most cruel death upon the cross as a malefactor" (5BC 1127).

Can we exalt ourselves in the light of this "amazing condescension?" Dare we lift up our heads in pride on ANY occasion? "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low." "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Isa 40:4; Matt 23:12).

The work of John the Baptist was to "Prepare ye the way of the LORD" (Luke 3:4). Our work today is the same. The next few verses of the chapter in Isaiah from which John received the instructions for his ministry contains instructions for us today:

 
The voice said, "Cry out!"  And he said, "What shall I cry?"  "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever" (Isa 40:6-8).

This Loud Cry was first given in 1888 and is now desperately needing to be revived in our own hearts. Without this message, we can never say to the world: "Behold your God!" (verse 9).

The baptism and temptation of Christ exemplified these realities. Before even setting an example of baptism, He waited patiently and came forward only after everyone else had been baptized (Luke 3:21). As He bowed upon the shore, the Father glorified the Son. But Christ never glorified Himself. He left Himself completely out of the picture. He did not come to live His own life, but to live the life of the Father.

Without Christ, our case is hopeless. All our right-doings are as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). "Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin." (COL 311.4) It does not matter how perfectly we keep God's law, if it is "we" who are doing it, it is sin. Christ came to bring us the working of the Father. He says, "I can of my own self do nothing;" "but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." Christ did not do His own works. The Father worked through Him. All His miracles were not performed by His own power, but by the power of the Father.

He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not as the "Master of earth and sea and sky" that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, "I can of Mine own self do nothing." He trusted in the Father's might (DA 336.1).

The life of Christ is what we need. As the Spirit of God descended upon Christ, so the Spirit will descend upon us when we rise to newness of life in Him. "The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ." (DA 805.3) Imparted, not imputed - the living, practical reality. But what was the life of Christ? How was it that He lived a sinless life? What was it that brought to Him the working of God?

Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. "It is written," He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity. But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a "Thus saith the Lord," was a sign that could not be controverted. So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage  (DA 120.1).

This lesson is for us. One of the fundamental truths of God's word is that there is power in itself to perform the thing which it says. This is why God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Read Deuteronomy 32:1-3 and Isaiah 55:10-11 and you will see that the outpouring of the Latter Rain is bound up with the truth that there is power in the word to perform the thing itself. As in creation, so in redemption. "God said, Let there be light: and there was light;" "He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast." Knowing the power of the word, Christ said, "Thy word have I hid in Mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Gen 1:3; Psa 33:9; 119:11).

This is how it was that the Father worked through His Son. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth." (John 5:19-20) Day by day, as the Old Testament scrolls unrolled, the Father unfolded to Him His will. When on the road to Emmaus, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He [Christ] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). When the time came, the Father worked through that word.

But the faith of Jesus encompassed more than this. Christ "knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25) because He was all men. A.T. Jones described this perfectly in 1895:

God dwelt with Him and He was ourselves. Therefore His name is Emmanuel, God with us. Not God with Him. God was with Him before the world was; He could have remained there and not come here at all and still God could have remained with Him and His name could have been God with Him. He could have come into this world as He was in heaven and His name could still have been God with Him. But that never could have been God with us. But what we needed was God with us. God with Him does not help us, unless He is we (February 21, 1895 ATJ, GCB 270.3) .

Therefore in the following lesson he says:

And Christ having taken our human nature in all things in the flesh and so having become ourselves, when we read of Him and the Father's dealings with Him, we are reading of ourselves and of the Father's dealings with us. What God did to Him was to us; what God did for Him was for us (February 22, 1895 ATJ, GCB 299.1).

Christ became ourselves, and the Father worked the victory in Him. When Christ overcame Satan in the wilderness, He overcame Satan as ourselves. "What God did to Him was to us; what God did for Him was for us."

The faith of Jesus laid hold of this reality. When He was pleading with God for power to overcome sin, He knew that the answer to His prayer would bring us power to overcome also. He knew that when He overcame, we would overcome in Him. His victory would be our victory. This is why it is that A.T. Jones says:

Faith is not something that comes from ourselves with which we believe upon Him, but it is that something with which He believed--the faith which He exercised, which He brings to us, and which becomes ours and works in us--the gift of God (February 21, 1895 ATJ, GCB 270.1).

If we will be among that number who have the faith of Jesus, we must believe that what God worked in Him, He was working in us, because He was we. The life that He lived was our own life. The word that worked for Him, was working for us. All we need to do is accept the fact and LET it be our reality.

When He put Himself where we are, where did He get salvation?... This word of salvation saved Him when He was ourselves, and it saves us when we are in Him. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake--me, me! And this in order that every one on the earth can say in him, "He leadeth me" (February 22, 1895 ATJ, GCB 301.8).

When we see Christ rising from the waters and the blessing pronounced upon Him, we must see ourselves in Him. When we see Him suffering the great test over appetite, presumption and pride, we must see the Father working the victory in ourselves. If we will do this, and we will see this in every act of His life, the amazing reality will dawn upon us that we already have a perfect life in Christ. And then, shall we not live it?

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me Galatians 2:20.

May God help us to learn quickly that we may teach others this wonderful truth.
-Camron Schofield
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