Saturday, February 22, 2020

Victory Over Evil Forces

We live in solemn times.  We can look at what is happening today and see in it the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  Bible prophecy shows us how the Lord is in control throughout until now and forever.  The following commentary, written for a previous lesson, is to encourages not to fear but be sure that in Christ, we are victorious.  

Victory Over Evil Forces

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

We read the verse for this week's lesson, and we have to ask ourselves several questions. One of them is what does Paul means by "in all these things?" To answer this question, we have to go to the context of the passage. Romans 8 is telling us that because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross, sin no longer has to defeat us. We are not reading the whole of chapter 8, for lack of space and time. Yes, we will suffer, and we will be afflicted. None of that means that God does not love us. God has given us all for us to succeed as Christians. All we have to do is receive it. Paul seems to be telling us that we do not need to fear or doubt. God loves us, and He is in control. We can trust Him.

Why would Paul emphasize this? Because, in chapter 7, Paul spoke about how sin worked internally. When we are living by faith, sin is still within us, striving for mastery and control. And, this battle continues and intensifies for as long as we live and grow in faith. It will not stop until we die or are translated. So, Paul is saying that sin attacks us from within and without.  But,  our greatest struggle with sin is inside; sin, after all, is iniquity – a bent toward self. Paul is saying that despite all that, we should never doubt that God loves us; this is perhaps better said in Romans 8: 35 – 39,

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Rom 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rom 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, the word Victory, from the title means the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist. So, the one that defeats or overcomes an enemy or opponent is called a victor. This word victor comes from the Latin word vincere, which means to win, to conquer, or to overcome – the term used in verse 37. What do we overcome? Sin's mastery over us. We are no longer captive or enslaved by sin, whether external or internal, through Christ, who loved us. Here our Victory is tied to God's love for us. So, just as His love is certain and constant, so is our Victory in Christ.

Let us read a couple of quotes from Ellen White in this subject,

"Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith in God, and by the apostle He says to us, 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.' James 4:7, 8. We cannot save ourselves from the tempter's power; he has conquered humanity, and when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey to his devices; but 'the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' Prov. 18:10. Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 130, 131.
"The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every contrite soul. Not one that in penitence and faith has claimed His pro­tection will Christ permit to pass under the enemy's power. The Saviour is by the side of His tempted and tried ones. With Him there can be no such thing as failure, loss, impossibility, or defeat; we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. When temptations and trials come, do not wait to adjust all the difficulties, but look to Jesus, your helper. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 490, 493.

Now, what about Victory over demons? You will notice that Ellen White does not talk about Victory in terms of casting out demons. Not all victors in the faith will be called to do that. The fact that we do not follow their prompting is Victory in itself. Casting out demons is powerful and given by God. However, Christ tells the disciples, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Ellen White elaborates on those whose names are written in Heaven,

From age to age, all who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon written against their names in the books of Heaven, and in the closing work of Judgment their sins are blotted out, and they themselves are accounted worthy of eternal life. {Volume 4, Spirit of Prophecy 309}

Included in this list are those mentioned in Hebrews 11. Not one of the names of people mentioned there made the list because demons were subject to them. They were there because they believed the promise of God, and it was counted to them as righteousness. Their Victory came from believing that God loved them. And, they died believing the promise that had not been fulfilled. They died with the hope that one day God would fulfill this promise and they would be there to enjoy it. They died with the joy and certainty that their names were written in Heaven. They died with the assurance of God's love for them. Do we have this certainty of God's love for us? Do we have the Victory that is ours in Christ? 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Weighed and found wanting

Weighed and found wanting


A few thousand years ago, a Greek King ordered some craftsmen to make him a crown of gold. The craftsmen were paid handsomely and delivered a beautiful golden crown worthy of royalty. The King had a gut feeling that the craftsmen had cheated him, so he went to the wisest man in his kingdom for help. The name of the man was Archimedes. Archimedes accepted the project, admitted it was a challenge, and requested the King for time to determine whether the craftsmen made the crown of pure gold or not. Archimedes thought for days, the problem riddling him and absorbing his life. One day he filled his tub with water to its average level. Upon entering the tub, Archimedes realized that the water level rose a few inches. His weight had displaced the water and raised the volume in the tub. Archimedes had an epiphany. Running out of the tub, he yelled, "Eureka! Eureka! I found it!' Archimedes discovered that to determine whether the crown was pure gold, all he had to do was learn the amount of gold the crown was supposed to weigh, place it in a tub of water, and mark the water displacement. Afterward, Archimedes repeated the same process with the crown. If the craftsmen made the crown out of pure gold, it would displace the same amount of water as pure gold. If, however, the crown was not made out of pure gold, the amount of water displaced would differ. In the end, Archimedes determined that the craftsman cheated the King. The gold in the crown was weighed and found wanting.


With this in mind, we look at Daniel 5. But, first, We use the expression, "the writing is on the wall," to mean the signs are apparent. In Daniel 5, the biblical passage for this week, it means that you have crossed the point of no return, and judgment has been rendered. If Belshazzar were a crown, Archimedes would have found him lacking gold. Belshazzar was, at best, a gold plated crown. What type of Christians are we? Are we pure gold or gold

plated? Pure gold will not tarnish and become purified in the fire. Gold plated will tarnish and completely melt in flames. How can we become pure gold Christians?


The author of Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). So to become pure gold Christians, we need faith. Where do we get faith? Roman 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." But it is not just any faith or belief in God. James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The faith we are talking about here it is humanly impossible to develop. Human faith is corrupted by sin, imperfect, and finite. Revelation 14:12 describes the multitude that God saves as having the faith of Jesus; this is pure gold faith. Human faith is a gold plated faith.


Belshazzar lacked this faith of Jesus. His problem got worse because he had opportunities to acquire it, but chose not to, against the convictions of his heart, despite all the evidence God had given him. Daniel points this out to Belshazzar as Daniel interprets the writing on the wall:


Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Daniel 5:19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before Him: whom He would He slew; and whom He would He kept alive; and whom He would He set up; and whom He would He put down.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:

Daniel 5:21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

Daniel 5:22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:


Ellen White states concerning Daniel and Belshazzar,


Daniel did not swerve from his duty. He held the King's sin before him, showing him the lessons he might have learned but did not. Belshazzar had not heeded the events so significant to him. He had not read his grandfather's history correctly. The responsibility of knowing truth had been laid upon him, but the practical lesson he might have learned and acted upon had not been taken to heart; and his course of action brought the sure result. (Ellen G. White Notes, 36)


God will also find Those who like Belshazzar reject the opportunities that God grants them found wanting. They are gold plated Christians. 2 Timothy 3:5 describes them as, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." Revelation 3 calls them Laodicean--


Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


Ellen White explains regarding those who follow the steps of Belshazzar,


In the history of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, God speaks to the people of today. The condemnation that will fall upon the inhabitants of the earth in this day will be because of their rejection of light. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have lived in error, but from the fact that we have neglected Heaven-sent opportunities for discovering truth. The means of becoming conversant with the truth are within the reach of all; but, like the indulgent, selfish King, we give more attention to the things that charm the ear, and please the eye, and gratify the palate, than to the things that enrich the mind, the divine treasures of truth. It is through the truth that we may answer the great question, "What must I do to be saved?" (E. G. White Notes, p. 33)


God offers us-- Laodiceans, an opportunity to become pure gold faith Christians. He says to us in Revelation 3:18,


I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.


Will we accept His invitation?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Worship in Genesis: Two Classes of Worshipers

Daniel's friends had the faith of Abraham.


Worship in Genesis: Two Classes of Worshipers

" 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!' " (Genesis 28:16-17, NKJV).

The Dictionary defines worship as an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more deities. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something. As we can see, the word has changed meanings. In our understanding, God gives value to us, and we acknowledge His. Based on this reality, someone defined worship thus: "The absolute acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us—the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth, to God; however, they may think of Him or recognize Him. And, whether He be realized through religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character." 

But, God is more than Creator. He is redeemer. So, in true Christian Worship there is an acknowledgement of God as redeemer. Thus, there is a heartfelt appreciation for what He is and what He has done, is doing and will do. True worship entails gratitude for creation and redemption. 

Now, the word we translate from the Hebrew as worship means to bow down. In the Hebrew culture, you typically bowed down to your superiors. Servants or slaves bowed down to their masters and subjects to their king. There is an acknowledgment of submission. Now, just because we submit to God, it does not mean there cannot be friendship. Jesus called His disciples friends (John 15: 15). In worshipping God, we willingly submit to One Who gave His life to save those who considered Him an enemy (Romans 5:10). The idea was to show them that God is not an enemy but a Loving Master. A Master that would do anything - even give His life - for His servant's well being. When we truly worship God, we are serving friends. 

Can we reconcile worship with the Hebrew word "to bow down"? How about through submission, we acknowledge not only God's superiority but His love for us. Through submission, we demonstrate our gratitude or heartfelt appreciation for what He has done for us. Through submission, we show gratitude for how much worth He has put on us. 

No one will deny that Abraham was a true worshiper. He lived by faith and is called the father of the faithful. He believed (same word for faith) God's precious promises, and because of this was declared righteous. Did Abraham live in submission to the God he loved? Paul says in Hebrews 11,

Heb11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Heb11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

Heb11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Heb11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

Heb11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

 "Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Abraham heard God's word and believed it. Abraham did as God instructed; he submitted to God. Abraham did it because he trusted that God had Abraham's best interest at heart. Now, if Abraham was a true worshiper, and therefore an actual submitter, then we can argue that only those who have faith submit and are true worshippers. 

 We have, in contrast, those in Matthew 7:21 - 23 that did works but not out of faith (which is Sin – Romans 14:23). So, they were insubordinate, even rebellious. They were not submitted. They were not true worshippers. Yet, they were deceived in believing they were. Are we deceived also?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Daniel and his Friends

Daniel and his Friends


How do we develop the enduring kind of patience? Our lesson quotes James 1: 2 – 4 to give us the answer, 


"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).


The word patience here is from the Greek hupomone, which means endurance, steadfastness, and courage of every affliction that one confronts on one's spiri­tual journey. The word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 is macrothumia – translated as longsuffering - which essentially means "long tempered" as opposed to short-tempered. 


Although hupomone is not part of the fruit of the Spirit, it is nevertheless essential in our walk of Faith. According to James, it is through trials that we develop the endurance to overcome unbelief continually and remain faithful to God. Our lesson states about this,


'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are to develop our characters.' Ellen G. White talks about this,


"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.


The previous quite doesn't mean, however, that every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete sur­render of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it would be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but God gives us this wonderful promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).


One good example of how trials help develop endurance is Daniel and his friends. It was through trials that they develop the enduring patience that gave them the victory. Now, when we think of Daniel and his friends going through trials, we probably immediately think of the fiery furnace and the Lion's den. And, these were moments in their respective lives when their faith was tested, and they were victorious by the grace of God. But, this trial was not there first one. The first trial was actually while still in Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 38: 17 – 21, Jeremiah tells the King of Judah to surrender to the King of Babylon and "it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live" (Jeremiah 38: 20). Those who did as God asked to surrender to the Babylonian King, it went well with them. Those that did not were either injured or killed. Daniel and his friends surrendered to the King of Babylon. 


You could argue that Isaiah prophesied the second trial. Isiah states that this happened after Hezekiah failed to give God glory for his miraculous healing, and instead took the glory for himself and showed the Babylonians all that was in the house. Isaiah predicted in 2 King 20:17 – 18,


 2Ki20:17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

2Ki20:18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.


Put bluntly, Daniel and his friends were castrated. Daniel then narrates how he and his friends refused to eat out the King's table. The foods were luscious and sacrificed to idols. They did not want their appetite to lead them astray. Reluctantly, the prince of the eunuchs agrees to make a deal give them a ten-day trial.  


Our lesson states that, "God honors the loyalty of the four Hebrew captives, and at the end of their ten-day testing period they look healthier and better nourished than the other students who have eaten from the royal table. So, God gives His four servants "knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom," and to Daniel alone, God gives "understanding in all visions and dreams" (Dan. 1:17, NKJV). " 


Furthermore, After three years of training in the "Babylonian University," the four Hebrews are brought before the King for the final examination. They are not only healthier than the other students, they surpass them in knowledge and wisdom. The King immediately hires The four.

Ellen White states, 

"Daniel and his companions in Babylon were, in their youth, apparently more favored of fortune than was Joseph in the earlier years of his life in Egypt; yet they were subjected to tests of character scarcely less severe. From the comparative simplicity of their Judean home these youth of royal line were transported to the most magnificent of cities, to the court of its greatest monarch, and were singled out to be trained for the king's special service. Strong were the temptations surrounding them in that corrupt and luxurious court. The fact that they, the worshipers of Jehovah, were captives to Babylon; that the vessels of God's house had been placed in the temple of the gods of Babylon; that the king of Israel was himself a prisoner in the hands of the Babylonians, was boastfully cited by the victors as evidence that their religion and customs were superior to the religion and customs of the Hebrews. Under such circumstances, through the very humiliations that Israel's departure from His commandments had invited, God gave to Babylon evidence of His supremacy, of the holiness of His requirements, and of the sure result of obedience. And this testimony He gave, as alone it could be given, through those who still held fast their loyalty". — Ellen G. White, Education, p. 54.