Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Seen and the Unseen War


Our lesson begins with the statement,


"Each day we make important choices about lifestyle, relationships, careers, priorities, entertainment, and friends. To truly comprehend the significance of these choices, we need to make sure we understand what they are really about. We need to pull back the curtain and see the unseen, for the Bible teaches that there is an unseen reality that greatly impacts what we do see.

Living in the age of science, we shouldn't have a hard time believing in invisible realities. We who know about x-rays, radio waves, and wireless communication should easily believe in what we cannot see. With every cell phone call we make or receive, or with any satellite communication we watch, we are working on the assumption of unseen realities that make these seen (and heard) experiences real."

I cannot see electricity but enjoy most of what it produces.  I cannot see a virus, but can tell when they are present in someone sick.  Likewise, I cannot see God, but can experience His presence.  The following commentary takes this principle to explain how Gos often works.

"Faith That Works"

For the week of November 8, 2014

 

A Pastor received an invitation to interview for a job in a prominent church in a large city, which he accepted. The interview process consisted of him preaching a sermon, joining the church for lunch and afterward, participating in a Q&A session with the congregation. Wanting to get a feeling for the church while avoiding the preferential treatment that is sometimes a part of visiting a church as a Pastor, he decided to disguise himself. So, dressed in raggedy, disheveled clothes, unshaven and without a shower for several days, the Pastor went to church. Looking homeless, he entered the lobby, at which point the ushers greeted him coldly. There was low murmuring as he walked toward the sanctuary. Once inside, the Pastor chose a seat close to where others sat. Some looked back with a forced smile while others subtly tried to hold their noses so they wouldn't smell the stench. But eventually, each person stood up and found somewhere else to sit. Within a few minutes, the pastor was sitting by himself. 

 

Eventually, the Pastor stood up and left the church. He went to his hotel room to clean up, shave and put on a nice suit and cologne.  An hour later, he drove back to the church.  This time, people smiled at him as he entered the building. They even engaged in small talk.  Fortunately, the brethren didn't recognize him. He then walked into the sanctuary itself and, just as before, sat close to where the people sat.  This time, everyone looked and smiled, and, some even said welcome and offered to shake his hand.  

 Soon enough, the Pastor stood up to preach. His sermon came from the book of James, showing how works demonstrate faith. Naturally, everyone said Amen.  However, the pastor twisted things around for them when he said that works of faith are works of love.  He said that those sheep at the right of Jesus in Matthew 25 were people who lived by faith.  He explained if they pleased Jesus they had faith (Hebrews 11:6). And since, they had faith, they were just (Hebrews 10:38); and seeing as they were just, they were also doers of the Law (Romans 2:13). Moreover, that love is the fulfillment of the moral law (Romans 13:10).  The church members were now squirming in their seats.  Many folded their arms and frowned sternly. Then the death blow came.  The Pastor said to them, "I noticed how you treated the homeless man that came earlier." The congregation gasped collectively. Then there were whispers asking each other how the Pastor could know this.  One dared to ask the Pastor directly. The pastor solemnly replied, "I was that homeless man." Another asked the pastor, "Did you deceive us?"  The pastor answered, "I have to apologize for the deception. I wanted to get a feel for this church before I agreed to be your Pastor. Right now you may be feeling like terrible sinners. But, I have a word for you. It is sinners whom Jesus came to save."

 

 The story demonstrates how our actions reveal what is in our hearts. These actions, James calls works, are an outgrowth and evidence of what lies beneath the surface. Jesus said that the mouth speaks what abounds in the heart (Matthew 12:34). You may not see the cause, but you can see the effects. We see this in nature. Let's consider the wind. No one can see it, but we can feel it and see its effects; this is why Christ used the wind as an example of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8).  No one can see the Spirit, but we will sense the effects of His presence in our lives or the lives of others.  How do we know the Spirit is present? We see the effects of His presence. The works of the Spirit are the outworking and evidence of His presence. 

 

Faith also works in the same manner.  No one can see faith, but we can sense and see its effects. Works of faith are, as well, the outworking and evidence of faith.  Just like the symptoms of any illness, for example, are the outworking and evidence of the illness.  Christ told his disciples that a little faith can accomplish great things. We read in Matthew 17:20, "And Jesus said… If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." A man of faith will be able to do what he is typically powerless to do -- namely, have his character changed. Christ established that the change caused by our faith would be evident to others.  Many, on this subject, quote James' famous discourse on faith and works:

 

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18).

 

The question then can be asked: what works are the proof of faith? Fortunately, if we let the Bible be its "own" expositor – as Ellen White says – it will give us the answer, which begins in the first couple of verses of James Chapter one. Verse 3 tells us faith that is tried produces patience or endurance. Verse 5 tells us that faith also produces wisdom and assurance. Verses 8 and 9 say that faith exalts those of lesser degree, which is then expounded in James chapter 2. While many say works are the proof of faith, Paul says works do not save us: this is evident in Christ's teaching. InMatthew 7, Christ tells the disciples the following:

 

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

 

The works of the people mentioned here did not show faith. However, Christ still insists, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20); a concept reiterated in John 15 in connection with a display of love or agape. Christ tells the disciples in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

 

So, it seems to be that the way in which we measure someone's faith is by Christ's self-emptying, self-sacrificial (agape) love dwelling in them directed toward others for their salvation. In 1 John, we find a connection between faith and love. By studying the passage from 1 John 4:12 through 1 John 5:5 we can arrive at this statement: "By faith we overcome when we are born of God, Who is love and whom we cannot see, but He dwells in us (and we in Him)…"  How do we know when this love is in us? When 1 John 3:16is evident in us: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  We reveal the faith the Bible speaks of by willingly and lovingly living for others. In reality, it is the indwelling Spirit of God – who sheds abroad the love of God in us - loving through us (Romans 5: 5).  Consequently, those who have the faith of Jesus possess His love, and by it are purified.

-Raul Diaz

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Friday, April 22, 2016

"...but speak the word only,"

"...but speak the word only,"  

Matthew 8:5-13

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.


The Following Insight establshed that there is power in the Word the Roman Centurion asked Christ to speak.  This Centurion believed it, so.  


Published on 1/12/2013 

Creation: Forming the World

Memory text:  Isaiah 45:18
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: 'I am the Lord, and there is no other.

Last week the focus was Genesis 1: 1.  When we look at the implication of Genesis 1:1, we end up with Jesus at the center of everything.  It is Jesus who created all; this said, we need to know why this is important.  And, while last week many reasons were given, it would behoove us to see this in the context of the Great Controversy.  Specifically, it would help to know what was going on then, historically.  Very, briefly, we know from Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy that there is enmity between Christ and Satan.  We know that Satan, then Lucifer, had issues with Christ being God.  How could Christ prove that He was God?  One way is to create the world with all the heavens witnessing the event.  Could anyone have any doubts about Christ being God after this event? We know that Heaven rejoiced when Christ finished the earth (Job 38:7).  Could it be that one reason they rejoiced is because now there was proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Christ is indeed God?

How would they know that Christ was God?  Because only God could speak the Word and things happen.  We read in Hebrews 11: 3  that "… the worlds were framed by the word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."  Peter agrees with Paul.  He says in 2 Peter 3:5 that "by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water."  The Psalmist had said long ago, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth." "For He spake, and it was;" "He commanded, and it stood fast." Psalm 33:6, 9.  The expression "And, God said…" is used nine times in Genesis 1.  We can see here that His Word was instrumental in creating all things in this planet.  Interestingly, all through the Gospels many are healed, resurrected, and forgiven by and with His Word.

Some define faith in terms of the Word, "Faith is trusting that the word will do what it says it will, and waiting for the Word to do it."  Paul writes in Romans that "faith comes through the hearing of the Word" (Romans 10:17).  Jesus says that man shall live by this Word (Matthew 4: 4).  And, it is His Word that sanctifies us (John 17: 17).

If we think about it, one of the most important things that come across in Genesis 1 and throughout the Bible is the power of His word.  The best way to the power of His Word describe is in the book of Isaiah,

Isaiah 55:10 - 11
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Anyone that professes to believe in Christ would agree God's Word is powerful and truth.  But, many have trouble believing His Word.  And, herein lies our problem, it is only effectual in us if we believe.  
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Our lesson states: 

"Also, look at what Jesus says in Matthew 8:11-12."

Matthew 8:11-12King James Version (KJV)

11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"What a stern warning to those who have been given great privileges. We, as Seventh-day Adventists, also are greatly privileged, and should take heed."

Indeed, we should!


Raul Diaz

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount

The following was originally Posted on 4/26/2014.

 Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount

 " 'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled' " (Matthew 5:17, 18, NKJV).

 On Sabbath's entry, our lesson gives us an overview of the Sermon on the Mount and state their objective.  Let us read,

"When most people think about the Sermon on the Mount, they automatically think of "the Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:1–12).  However, the Sermon on the Mount covers three chapters that many divide into four sections. The Beatitudes comprise only the first section. In the second, Jesus compares Christians to light and salt (Matt. 5:13–16). The third, Matthew 5:17–48, is where Jesus gives us a new and deeper perspective on the law. And then there is the final and longest section, Matthew 6:1–7:23, in which Jesus provides clear teaching on Christian behavior. The whole talk ends with the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matt. 7:24–27), which stresses the importance of obedience to what God calls us to do.

This week we will investigate the third section, Matthew 5:17–48 - which theologians call the antitheses, cases in which Jesus present sharp contrasts, to see what it teaches us about the law."

The last sentence shows us what the premise and bias of our author: the Law is the Ten Commandments.  This premise we disproved two weeks ago (See http://sabbathschoolinsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/christs-and-law-of-moses.html).  We concluded that the keeping of the Law is loving: God above all else and your neighbor as yourself.  It is laying down your life for them (1 John 3: 16).  It is living for them, at the expense of your life.  This concept can only happen in us when God writes this principle in our heart: this is God's covenant promise to us.  We read in Jeremiah,

 Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is the Gospel: good news.  Through the Holy Spirit Christ dwells in us, and while in us He rewires our minds and hearts to be more like His mind; in only we allow Him.  Hebrews 11 gives us a list of those who have allowed God to do this work in them.  This list should encourage to us.

What we call the beatitudes are promises made to those who exhibit nine specific attributes of those who follow Christ: this proves that God "…is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11: 6).  Christ is establishing a contrast between what HE is and stands for and with the leaders of the church are about.  He does not ignore or forsake those who suffer.  The reason He lets them suffer is twofold.  First, is to develop a righteous and loving character in the sufferer.  And the second reason is that: through the development and exhibition of this loving character, others may be encouraged to trust God also.  His light shining through those who trust Him disperses the darkness of Sin in the world.  The light not only lets us know that we are sinners, but that God is love.  Salt gives flavor, preserves, and melts frozen hearts. 

So, Christ continues to establish the contrast: "you have heard it say…, but I say…"  Remember who Christ is talking to:  He is talking to people that believe that they should obey a myriad of ordinances from oral tradition as originated by well-known elders.  They believed that following these rules would lead to the obedience of larger rules.  Christ showed them that outward behavior was not enough.  What is cherished in the heart is Sin, also.  We are born with it.  We inherit it.  And, only God can fix it.  Can a lustful man truly have grounds for divorce from an unfaithful wife, when he in his heart he has been unfaithful also? 

Christ continues by giving practical applications of how the life of a person who lives by faith looks, in contrast to the religious leaders of the day.  Christ finishes the sermon warning the people to beware false prophets.  He says that "by the fruit you will know them."  Do not let their apparent zeal and piety fool you.  Many make the claims to be His, but are not (Matthew 7: 21).  Those falling in that category may be the brother sharing the pew with you or the elder or the Pastor.  God may be using you to be light and salt in their life.  

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Raul Diaz
Posted by Ulee at 4/26/2014 06:31:00 AM
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Friday, April 08, 2016

Staying The Course

A word on John the Baptist:  Originally published on Thursday, March 31, 2005

Staying The Course

Out recently is a film entitled, "Simon Birch." It is about a 12-year-old boy who was unusually small and deformed at birth. In fact, he never grew taller than 3 feet, the size of, well a young boy. Because of his physical and emotional peculiarities, he was disliked and rejected by many. Even his parents hardly paid any attention to him at all. In the town, only a few liked Simon, and sadly, he killed one of them by accident. To make matters worse, it was the mother of his best friend, Jake. What made Simon different, is that he dared to ask questions and to expect answers, even from adults. He was unafraid. Above this, Simon believed that all human beings had a purpose in being alive, a purpose that God designed them to fill. Simon not only believed this about others, he believed it about himself, and would share it whenever he felt the conversation prompted it. Simon wanted to please God. So to say that Simon was an unusual fellow was an understatement.

For most of his short life, Simon searched for his purpose. Waiting and watching, he spoke of it always. When Simon discovered that Jake was attending church with his mom, Simon asked to visit with them. Enjoying church fellowship, and being close to God, Simon was unafraid to rebuke the Reverend out loud when he was wrong-- even in the middle of the service. Naturally the Reverend was embarrassed and humiliated and therefore didn't like Simon for this. And so Simon got into trouble for the childish pranks his classmates pulled.

Simon and Jake used to go swimming together where they would practice holding their breaths and of course they competed with one another to see who could hold his breath the longest. Simon had the uncanny ability to hold his breath for a long time under water. Each time they went swimming, Simon tried to hold his breath longer than he did the last time. This ability proved to be an asset, for one day, it saved lives. While on an outing with 4 and 5-year-olds, the bus they were in riding swerved to avoid hitting a deer.  Out of control, the bus careened off the road, down the embankment, and into the river. The force of the current drove the back door open, and the bus began to sink. Panic-stricken, children started rocking themselves out of fright, banging on the windows, and crying. Some were even screaming. Pandemonium reigned, as the bus driver opened the front door and escaped underwater. All thought they would drown. Only Simon remained calm. Standing on a seat, he shouted to the children "shut up, and listen!" And they did. Because Simon had been kind to them and was about their height, they trusted him. Stronger than they were, Simon was able to force open a window, get under them, and push them out one by one. At last, one boy was left, but he caught hid foot under the seat. Simon, holding his breath, submerged and was able to free the kid.  However, Simon began to sink with the bus in the icy cold winter waters of the river.  Adults arriving on the scene found out what happened and that Simon was still on the bus. Swiftly they took action, rescued him and took him to the hospital.  Simon did revive and was able to talk, but was far too weak. One by one his classmates and best friend, Jake, visited. Simon told them that he was ok and ready to die, that he was at peace because he had fulfilled his purpose and could now go. Trying to reassure them, Simon told them not to be afraid and sad, because God had a purpose for each of them too, and that when it was time, each one would know it. Bidding them good-night because he was tired, he died.

The moral of the film is that God prepared Simon for "such a time like this." God could use Simon because Simon was willing. Like Simon, John the Baptist, although awkward, was willing. Being a Nazarite, John lived by strict lifestyle principles. According to Mark 1:6, "And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey." Unfashionable, John did not partake in the trendy styles of consumption. "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). Furthermore, John lived in the wilderness and was not frequently seen in the towns or cities. He seemed to be like what we would refer to as a cave man. He may have been unpolished and unmannerly, and was probably dusty and sweaty, to say the least. According to the book of Mark: John the Baptist was unafraid to preach the truth to whoever would listen, and that included the wealthy and the powerful. Needless to say, straight truth is usually - how shall we say- unappreciated. So perhaps like our film character Simon, he was tolerated by the religious types.

John and Simon were forthright.  However, John, according to Mark 1:7, was humble. He preached: "...here cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." He understood that Christ's mission would supersede his, and responded by saying, "... I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost" Mark 1: 8. Known throughout Judea as one who defied the authorities with a message of righteousness and truth, John called Sin by its name and was unafraid. Today we may conclude that John was politically incorrect, not that there existed such a thing at that time, but just the same had we heard him, we might have found him offensive.

From his birth, John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit. John was the one of whom it was said, "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight" Mark 1: 2, 3. Simon Birch, although a film character, epitomized a life filled with the Spirit. Like John the Baptist, his mission was to prepare the way that others might see God, and have life eternal. Like John the Baptist, he was not deterred by challenges or difficulties. They both kept the faith, enduring till the end.
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