Friday, September 23, 2016

Watching Versus Waiting

Watching Versus Waiting

People use the words 'watch' and 'wait' synonymously.  However, there is a subtle difference between the two. To wait means to be in readiness or to remain at rest in expectation. To watch is to look and wait expectantly or in anticipation. You can wait while doing other activities.  Watching encompasses the concept of waiting and requires full attention from the watcher. A person may be waiting and still miss the thing they are waiting for, but this is unlikely to happen if they are watching. The following story illustrates the difference.

Gina, a young girl, asked her grandmother to watch for her as she was coming to visit that day for the weekend.  And naturally, Grandma Lisa promised she would. Wanting to stress the importance of her request, Gina repeated it several times to her grandma, asking, "You'll watch, won't you? You'll watch for me grandma, right?" Lisa, who was now becoming exasperated, responded several times that she would. On the day that Gina was due to arrive, Grandma Lisa thought, "I still have time to complete a few chores before Lisa visits, so I'll just do them and then go outside and wait for Gina and her parents." However, despite Grandma's best intentions, she became engrossed in her tasks and lost track of time. Suddenly, Grandma Lisa heard the bell. "Oh no, she thought, that can't be Gina already."  Running to the door, Lisa opened it expecting to see an excited Gina. But instead, Gina was sorrowful. "Why the sad face Gina, aren't you happy to see your Grandmother?" Grandma Lisa asked. To which her granddaughter responded, "Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you." "Honey," said Grandma, "I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you." "But Grandma," replied Gina, "I did not want you to wait for me; I wanted you to watch for me." She wanted her grandma to be outside expectantly looking for her.

This story reminded me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25).  Christ portrayed them as standing or sitting expectantly awaiting the groom who could appear at any time.  As the night grew old, the bridesmaids fell asleep.  While asleep a loud cry woke them in the middle of the night, "The Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him."  As they opened their eyes, the night was dark, and they could barely see, so they rushed to light their lamps.  We know the rest of the story; some could light their lamps because they had extra oil. Others, unprepared with extra oil, could neither light their lamps to herald his coming nor enter in with the Bridegroom. What is represented by the oil?  Ellen White is quoted in the devotional, "That I May Know Him," with an answer to this question.

In the parable, the foolish virgins are represented as begging for oil and failing to receive it at their request. This is symbolic of those who have not prepared themselves by developing a character to stand in a time of crisis. It is as if they should go to their neighbors and say, 'Give me your character or I shall be lost.' Those that were wise could not impart their oil to the flickering lamps of the foolish virgins. Character is not transferable. It is not to be bought or sold; it is to be acquired (That I May Know Him, p. 350).

In contrast to the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had righteous characters.  So, although the wise virgins appeared to be as indolent as the foolish ones - none of them were watching for the Groom - the wise virgins had retained oil, and therefore were prepared for the wait. Living by faith, they were enabled to receive the groom.  With that said, what would have pleased the Bridegroom more: if the virgins had been waiting or watching?  Or both?

As the Groom approached the bridesmaids, he must have noticed that they had been sleeping and that five were missing.  We can only imagine his perplexity and disappointment, as he questioned, "Weren't they supposed to stay awake and light the way to the banquet hall? How is it they all fell asleep? And why were only five prepared for the delay?"  "They all knew I could come at any time. …" It did not look good.
Was this a sign of things to come?  This incident revealed that the bridesmaids became weary after the long delay. And that while they anticipated a delay, they did not expect an extended wait period.

There are things hidden deep within the recesses of each of our minds, things which only the Holy Spirit through time and circumstances can reveal to us, that we may through repentance and forgiveness, receive its blotting out. Whenever the Lord gives a promise, a period of waiting ensues before He fulfills His promise to us. His goal is neither to drive us to distraction nor to frustrate us. Instead, He desires us to wait patiently, expectantly, watching, enduring and persevering until its fulfillment.

Waiting is not a natural human tendency. We want whatever it is right now. And our selfish natures find many ways of attaining our desires. Often subconsciously we present our thinking or behavior in the most moral or rational light, as we attempt to conceal our true purpose, for self to gain the promised blessing now.

Jesus implied that in the Christian's life, waiting patiently would be an issue; that's why He went so far as to say, "When I come, will I find faith on the earth?" The delay which He is using for our good, to reveal our true hidden state to us while there is time to repent, is instead used by many to fulfill self's goals, which is to avoid true self-knowledge.

By remaining in union with the source of renewing energy or power, the Holy Spirit, we are enabled by faith to 'be renewed in the Spirit of our minds' (John 15, Romans 12:1). The battle, after all, is for our minds as well as our affections. Watching and waiting patiently are not inactive pursuits; they require vigilance, as well as resting and reposing in the Father.

"Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek (inquire of) Him."  "You therefore beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness" (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:17).

-Raul Diaz
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, September 16, 2016

She Needs a Savior

The following commentary illustrates this precious truth quoted in our lesson, "According to the Word, Christ's death was universal: it encompassed all humanity..."


She Needs a Savior

After a shipwreck, a lone female survivor was stranded, treading water in the sea with neither food nor drinking water at hand. As far as the woman could see, there was no dry land in sight. Not wanting to waste her precious energy by swimming in the wrong direction, she considered her options. Even though the crew sent a distress signal before the ship sank, anxiety arose as she realized that several hours had passed, and help had not arrived. Immersed in salty water, exposed to the harsh heat of the sun, and without food or water, she knew her chances of survival weren't good.  She, however, determined not to dwell on the likelihood of her fate if help did not arrive soon. Fighting despondency, she thought, "My only hope is that those who can rescue me heard the ship's distress signal, are on the way." However, adding to her predicament was the gnawing fearful thought that, "even if those who come rescue me, will I have the courage to get on board another ship? What if it malfunctions and sinks again? What should I do? "

Lost in her thoughts, she suddenly realized that a strange fish-like creature had been swimming around her, and to her surprise, it seemed to have been protecting her by warding off advancing predators. Cautious but curious, and with waning energy, she began to watch the creature. Eventually, as if sensing her exhaustion, the being positioned itself under her, so she could take a break from treading. Amazed, by this turn of events, yet still somewhat afraid, she decided that the creature was not there to harm her, and gratefully allowed herself to rest.

After a few moments, the creature unexpectedly brought its torso out of the water so it could face her. To her astonishment, the creature looked like a man, not a fish! Bewildered, she didn't know what to think. It was then that he spoke to her. "You need to go back to dry land, but you have a dilemma; you no longer trust sea-going vessels, so if one should come, you may not get onboard, neither can you stay in the water and survive, unless you are like me."  Slow to respond to his words due to her confusion; she eventually asked the creature, "What are you?"  To which he replied, "I am a merman."  "Well," the woman, having regained her composure somewhat, replied, "unless you have some magic to turn me into a mermaid, death is inevitable" (Implying that she wouldn't get into a rescue vessel). "There is a way," affirmed the creature.  "If I swallow you, our bodies will rest in a cocoon. After three days, we will be released from the cocoon as a newly formed me and a newly formed you."  In gratitude, she consents.

Notice, although the woman's survival in the water was impossible, the solution did not involve getting rid of the water; they found a way to live with and in the water. In this story, the woman is the individual, the water is the law, and the merman is Christ. The story is given to illustrate how we relate to the Law in our sinful condition and contrast how we relate to the Law once we choose to die and be resurrected in Christ. Paul's use of the woman in the beginning of Romans 7 (verses 1-3) is similar to our story above. Take note, however, that this survivor story represents the subjective truth of the Gospel. The objective truth, in a nutshell, is that without man's consent, Christ saved the entire world from sin.

What Paul is doing in Chapter 7, is using a story, just as we are using a story, to illustrate an event that occurred in the past, so that we can make a decision in the present to allow Christ's objective history to be ours subjectively.

The married woman in Romans 7 finds herself attracted to a single man, for whom she wants to leave her husband. In fact, she desires to marry this man instead but knows she cannot for she is already married. Perhaps we can infer from the verses that follow Romans 7:3 that her current husband is a cruel man whose intent is to kill her. But no, that would not be accurate, for, in fact, he is a loving husband. It is just that he can neither sympathize with her weaknesses in not carrying out his commands nor can he help her carry them out.

Similarly, her new love interest is a sweet, kind and loving man who not only wants her to be His but unlike her husband, he sympathizes with her regarding all of her weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). This man is also able to help her do what she is incapable of doing on her own (Hebrews 2:17, 18). Unfortunately, our woman of Romans 7 has a dilemma.  She cannot leave her husband, and she cannot stay. Daily she is suffering a tortured existence. She cannot leave her current husband and marry her new found love without breaking the law of marriage which says "until death do you part."

The only way out is through death; but, it cannot be through murder. She cannot murder her husband, for that is illegal. And of course, if he kills her, she will not be free to marry, as she would be dead, deceased, gone, and non-existent!  So, going to her new love interest, she presents her dilemma. It's true that neither of them can do away with her husband, which represents the law, for it is "just and holy and good" (Romans 7:12).  Thus, the new love interest cannot nail her spouse (the law) to the cross. But He and she can die together, thereby freeing her from her first marriage. In effect, He tells her He will nail her (humanity) to the cross in Himself, and when He dies, she will die, and when He is resurrected, she will be resurrected in Him. This solution fills her with hope. In gratitude, she consents.  As Paul has said, "Therefore my brethren, you (the wife) also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ." It is not the law (former spouse) that dies on the cross. It is us (the entire human race) that perished in the second Adam, Jesus Christ (cf. I Corinthians 15: 21, 22; 44-47).

In Romans 5:17, we (humanity) are represented both individually and corporately in Adam and Christ.  So, we were in Christ when He died and therefore, in Christ when He was resurrected (Romans 6:3–7). Accordingly, we had no say in what Adam did to plunge us into sin. We also had no say in what Christ, our Divine Lover, did to rescue us from sin.  Like our survivor story illustrates, the choice we do have, however, is whether or not to receive that gift by grace through faith individually.  In essence, when we acknowledge that we are part of Christ's body, one with Him, we begin to function in harmony with Him as the head (Ephesians 4:12–16).

You see, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). Christ as the divine lover has fulfilled all of that law. When our woman of Romans 7 died and was resurrected with Him (Christ), she also began to fulfill the law through Him. So, while we can neither obey the law in our weakness, nor can the law itself help us to obey, yet, when we accept Christ's history of obedience, His obedience becomes ours.

In sum, when by faith we accept our death in Christ, recognized through the symbol of baptism, we are liberated from the "dominion and jurisdiction‟ of the law. It is not abolished (as the water in our story couldn't be gotten rid of) but is placed in the mind and on the heart as promised by God (Jeremiah 31: 33; Ezekiel 11:19; Hebrews 8:10).  This is what it means to be under grace, in Christ. We can now bear the fruit of our union together. Glory be to God!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Temporizing

Temporizing

It was a very dark and cold night.  She had a dim candle to light her way to her bed.  In her days, the floors were bare ground covered with hay, which meant her feet were dirty before she went to bed.    By the side of her bed, there was a little bowl of water.  She sat on the bed, placed her feet on the cold water, and proceeded to wash them.  Immediately, she dried them with a small towel she had by a table - where she had placed the candle.  As soon as she dried her feet she put them on the bed; blew off the candle, and then she put the thick blankets over her whole body.  After a few minutes, she felt comfortable and warm.  Her body started to feel rested, and she began to feel the heaviness in her eyes.  As soon as she closed her eyes, she heard the knock at the door.  Her Beloved Lover wanted to see her.  He longed to be intimate with her and wanted to spend time with her.    She was annoyed that he woke her up.  She decided to stay quiet; perhaps he would go away.  He insistently kept knocking, and then spoke to her in a very loving way, "Please open the door, my love, and I wish to see you."  He continued to beg for entry into her room, so she finally, retorted, "Not now! The night is dark, and I already blew off the candle.  It is cold, and I am already warm under my blankets.  And, my feet are clean; I do not want to dirty them by going to the door."  Her lover was quiet for a few moments, and then said to her, "It has been a long day, I have not seen you, I long to spend time with you, and you will not regret it."  She replied to him with a stern tone, "Come back tomorrow."  There was silence for a minute.  She felt awful that she rejected him, moved with remorse, she got up, walked in the dark to the door.  After a few moments feeling her way, she found the knob.  She opened the door, only to find her lover had left.  She sobbed.  It would probably be days before she saw him again.  He may have left to see his fields far away, and would not return anytime soon.  

Does this scenario sound familiar?  If you have read Song of Solomon's, you may realize that it is a paraphrase of Songs 5: 2-6.  He left because she was temporizing.  What is temporizing?  It is to act evasively to gain time, avoid argument, or postpone a decision.  It is what we do when we do not want to be bothered, inconvenienced, or are caught unprepared.  In the latter case, we may be trying to buy some time to find a way out.  The woman selfishly and immaturely found more comfort in the warmth and cleanliness of her bed, then in the company and presence of her Beloved Lover.  She perceived she was better off in her condition, "in need of nothing" (Revelation 3: 17), by doing so she rejected the love, warmth, comfort and cleanliness that only Her Beloved Lover can offer.  

You may recall the Song of Solomon is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom - the Beloved Lover - and His Bride the Church.  Christ has not come back for us, because of we - His Bride the Church - have and continue to reject Him.  We do not love His return as much as we love the things of this earth.  It is only when His Bride becomes mature in Him that He will come for her.  

Let's look at it from Peter's perspective.  Let us read 2 Peter 3:9,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Peter tells us that if the Lord is slow, or if there is any delay, it is for our benefit.  Not wanting us to perish, He is waiting for all of us - His Bride - to repent, and turn to Him.  One day His Bride will grow up and mature from her selfish and self-centered ways.  She will by answering His loving call - I stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3: 20) - and accepting His Robe of Righteousness.   That day we will want Him as much as He wants us, and we will not temporize any longer.  He will come for us, and we will be ready to leave with Him.  Amen.

Raúl Díaz
Posted by Ulee at 9/28/2006 07:37:00 PM 
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, September 02, 2016

Jesus won their Confidence

"Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'" – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

From our Lesson:
After desiring their good, showing sympathy, and ministering to their needs, Jesus "won their confidence." Confidence in Latin is composed of the words con, meaning "with," and fides meaning "faith."
In the Greek of the New Testament the root word that is used to convey the Hebrew amn (faith, belief) is "pistis."

From Strong's Concordance:
4102 pístis (from 3982/peithô, "persuade, be persuaded") – properly, persuasion (be persuaded, come to trust); faith.
Faith (4102/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. In short, 4102/pistis ("faith") for the believer is "God's divine persuasion" – and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers, i.e. the persuasion of His will (1 Jn 5:4).

A Commentary on Faith:
Sewed from Jesus 
 
A woman went to buy a new dress.  She went first into a high-end store.  She saw a dress she really liked and it fit her very well, but it costs more than what she wanted to pay.  So she went into a store with more affordable prices.  She saw what seemed to be the exact dress; in fact, it was the same brand.  But it is not quite as attractive nor does it fit as well as the first dress.  How can this be?  Is it all in her mind?
 
This puzzled her so she decided before buying that she would investigate.  She contacted the company.  They told her that on the label, there is a number; the lower the number, the better the quality of the dress.  There were details considered in the production of the lower number dresses that were not taken into account in the higher number dresses.  Sometimes it was the kind and color of thread used, and the kind of stitch.  Other times it was how they cut the fabric, etc.  Two things that seem identical were not.

I find a similarity in our works. Works by faith and works from your effort may seem similar. But works of faith are different from works done in our strength. Let's consider Abraham as an example.
We know Paul opens Romans 5 with this declaration.
 
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

The word "therefore" tells us that this statement is referring to what was said before in chapter 4.  Paul says of Abraham in chapter 4 verse 3,
Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Paul used the Greek word episteusen, which comes from the word pistis for faith or belief. In essence, it is saying that Abraham had faith. We know that faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Abraham heard God's Word and believed it. When we replace "believe" with other definitions of faith, we get a better feel of what this means. Abraham heard God's word and felt appreciation in his heart. He heard God's word and trusted the word to do what it said it would; he waited and depended on the Word alone. God's word to Abraham was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. As a result of his belief in God's Word, Abraham was one of the elders that obtained a good report, and he pleased God (Hebrews 11:1, 2, 6).
 
The second part of Romans 4:3 says that His belief was counted unto him for righteousness. What is righteousness? Ellen White defines it as obedience to the law (1 Selected Messages, p. 367). We replace the word righteousness with the definition Ellen White provides, and it reads, "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for obedience to the law."  In believing God's word, Abraham obeyed the law.  Abraham's righteousness (obedience to the law) came from exercising faith in God's word.

In this context we should read Romans 5:1, where Paul reiterates what he explained in chapter 4.  Translators have interpreted it as "Therefore being justified by faith."  But, the transliterated Greek rendering of Romans 5: 1 seems to say, "Being-justified then out of-belief."  We know that the word justified means made righteous.  So we could interpret it as, "Being made righteous out of faith" -- thus there is a kind of faith that makes us righteous or obedient to the law.  Ellen White expresses the same thought in the following quote,
 
Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinners account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of mans failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. (Ellen G. White, 1 Selected Messages, p. 367)

The prophet Isaiah tells us that, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness falls short of the law's requirement.  We need a righteousness that is perfect since the law requires perfection.  Ellen White states that Christ's righteousness is what we are given to satisfy the laws demand of perfection. We said thus far that the only way to get this righteousness is by faith. Can our filthy faith produce a perfect righteousness?  The answer is obviously, "No, it cannot." Therefore we must obtain a faith that is perfect. That faith is the faith of Jesus. When we accept His faith, it produces in us His righteousness.  The faith of Jesus is the faith that characterized Abraham. It is the faith that those who overcome and endure until the end will have (Revelation 14:12).
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul says that "…whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).  Only works from faith are righteous.  So, just like the difference in the dresses, the works of those who have the faith of Jesus may look similar to those who do not, but there is a difference.  The former is built and sewed from Jesus, the latter from sinful flesh.  Furthermore, the character of those who have the faith of Jesus will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The question is which dress do we want to be?
 RR
Raul Diaz