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Friday, December 19, 2014

Insight: The Elijah Solution

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Elijah Solution

In the days of Elijah the people of Israel had turned their hearts from God. They were worshiping other god's, instead of Jehovah. Evil reigned in Israel, and broke Elijah's heart. Determined to stop the national evil of idol worship, the Lord weighted Elijah's heart with a message of repentance designed to turn the hearts of the people back to God. In allowing these wicked traits of character to go unchecked, King Ahab was directly responsible, for he himself set the example which his people were following. Thus the people had turned their hearts and minds away from God, while assuming that they were still following Him. You see, Baal worship was similar to the worship of the true God, Jehovah. After all, Baal only meant 'lord,' or 'husband.' So the people thought they were calling on God the way they had always done. Yet in reality, they had switched allegiances unaware. They could have known but by choice they did not. In the days of John the Baptist, evil also reigned in Judah in the form of greed, selfishness, sensual pleasures, and nationalistic pride.

At present -- the last days to be exact -- the Lord has said that people would be "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power." We were further admonished to 'have nothing to do with them' (2 Timothy 3:2-5 NIV). Isn't this precisely the case both with professed Christians in various churches, as well as with the unbelievers and the unchurched? Sadly, God's evaluation of the condition of the last church as stated in Revelation 3:15 -17 (NIV) is accurate --

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I
wish you were either one or the other!
Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold --
I am about to spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not
need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are
wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Professed Christians think themselves 'good,' because they do not behave in the obviously wicked ways that 'bad' people do. Our problems however, are deeper and greater than our behavior indicates. At issue is our human nature which, naturally bent towards evil, is manifested in evil imagination, attitudes and thoughts, continually. Human nature is filled with iniquity which naturally pulls us as a riptide pulls its victim downward and outward to the sea. As this is true of all human beings, the only possible difference between the 'good' and 'bad' people is the supernatural power which controls them. Not one of us in and of himself or herself is righteous, for as the Lord stated through Apostle Paul, good people are as bent toward evil as bad people are. "Good" people have learned to hide their evil ways. Living in denial they are deceived as to their true condition. Furthermore, they disbelieve any evaluation that is contrary to their opinion of themselves.

In the days of the prophet Elijah, God sent him to spare the people from suffering a three-year drought. God's solution was Elijah's message, and that is what Elijah preached. "Repent for judgment is near," was his constant cry; yet it was to turn the hearts and minds of the people back to the true worship of God. In the days of Jesus, John the Baptist was sent to "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him" (Luke 3:4 NIV). John the Baptist was given the privilege of preaching the message of repentance ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near," Matthew 3:2 NIV) just as Elijah was sanctioned to preach to his generation. Both messages were not only proclaimed with authority, but the power to transform human hearts and minds was inherent within the Word itself. So potent was this message that hard hearts were melted, while lukewarm ones were heated up to white hot. Folks, the hearts and minds of those who genuinely accepted the message were turned to one another, "the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts and minds of the children to their parents." Thus the people were prepared to receive Jesus as their long awaited Messiah. Those who rejected the message ultimately rejected not only Jesus, but His Father whom they professed to serve. As the scripture says, to be without Jesus is to be without the light and life. Thus the majority of Jews, indeed the Jewish nation itself, sealed their personal and national eternal condemnation.

In our day, the last great message to go out to the world is the message of the righteous character of God's agape - love. Bound up in the good news of the righteousness of Christ is the three angels' message of Revelation 14: 6-12 in verity (EGW). This message has of necessity been given to the Elijah's of this time. And as in the days of old, inherent in the message is the power to change the hearts and minds of the people to Christ, to one another, from children to parents and vice versa. This is the power that is lacking in our Laodicean churches. The solution is therefore not more and better programming; it is not more dollars thrown at the various outreach ministries, nor is it greater local, national or global recognition. The solution is in the message. Hearts and minds who willingly, eagerly and attentively listen are transformed by the Agape - love of Christ. False worship is put aside, and the genuine article of faith comes to reside in the souls of the people, causing them to light up the globe with the splendor of Christ's character (His glory) as they go from place to place sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My friends, the Elijah solution has been given to all. Just how many years do we have to go on in barrenness, weary and wilting? If we are willing to receive the message as God desires us to, it will do the work He has designated, for He has said, "So shall My Word be that goeth forth 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 where to I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

Raul Diaz

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sowing and Reaping


This commentary was originally published on Friday, December 23, 2011.  

Commentary: Sowing and Reaping


Sowing and Reaping 


What is sowing?  It is to plant seed for growing, especially by scattering.  What is reaping?  It is to cut or clear with a scythe, sickle, or machine; to gather by or as if by cutting the harvest.  Another definition is reward.  What is a harvest?  As a noun it can be the mature crop of what was sown.  It can also be the act of gathering the crop.  It is also the season in which the crop is ready to be gathered. Also, it is the product or reward of effort.  As a verb it is to gather in a crop; a synonym of reaping.  How do the concepts relate?  One is the cause the other the effect.  The harvest is the product of what is sown.  So you reap or harvest what you have previously sowed.  If you sow wheat you will harvest or reap wheat.  If you sow orange seeds, you will harvest oranges.  Less we take it for granted: you cannot sow cherries and expect mangoes. 


Another thing is that there is a process for the seed to grow into what will be harvested.  This means that time has to pass by.  This implies then that there is a season to sow and a season to reap.  Sow outside of that season and your harvest will be affected.  There are other considerations: type of soil, climate, moon phase, etc.  All of these will affect the harvest you get from what you sow. 

 

The following illustration (found in our lesson study) reveals the relationship between sowing and reaping. Some potato farmers decided to save the biggest potatoes for themselves and to plant the smaller potatoes as seed. After a few disappointing harvests, they discovered that nature had reduced their potato crops to the size of marbles. Through this disaster, those farmers learned an important law of life.  They could not have the best things of life for themselves and use the leftovers for seed. The law of life decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting (sowing). Small potatoes will yield small (or even smaller) potatoes.  They reaped what they sowed.

 

There is an application to life.  "In another sense, planting small potatoes is still common practice. We take the big things of life for ourselves and plant the leftovers. We expect that by some crazy twist of spiritual laws, our selfishness will be rewarded with unselfishness."—International Student Fellowship Newsletter, March 2007.

So let's consider this: whenever believers' lives are dominated by secular media—television, radio, Internet, and so on—how can they expect signifi­cant spiritual progress?  What if on the other hand the believer spent time praying and studying the word of God?  There are higher chances of spiritual progress.

 

Paul seems to understand this.  It is probably why he applies this principle in Galatians 6:1–10.  Spiritual attainments are proportionate with spiritual investments. Those who desire greater spiritual strength must engage in spiritual exercise and avoid spiritual fast food. Little investment equals little advancement. Spiritual profitability arises from investing time with spiritual things. Now Paul's metaphor about sowing and reaping is not unique. It is a fact of life that appears in many ancient proverbial sayings. What is significant, however, is how Paul uses it to highlight his previous comments about the flesh and the Spirit.  Let us read Galatians 6:  7 - 9

 

Galatians 6: 6-9 (NKJV)

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he       will also reap.

8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

 

A modern colloquialism that is based on this concept is, "no pain, no gain."  Another similar one is, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."  James D. G. Dunn notes, "A modern equivalent is that we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our choice."—Galatians, p. 330.  

Ellen White comments on this,

 

"The Spirit of God keeps evil under the control of con­science. When man exalts himself above the influence of the Spirit, he reaps a harvest of iniquity. Over such a man the Spirit has less and less influence to restrain him from sowing seeds of disobedience. Warnings have less and less power over him. He gradually loses his fear of God. He sows to the flesh; he will reap corruption. The harvest of the seed that he himself has sown, is ripening. He has a contempt for God's holy commandments. His heart of flesh becomes a heart of stone. Resistance to truth confirms him in iniquity. It is because men sowed seeds of evil, that lawlessness, crime, and violence prevailed in the antediluvian world.

"All should be intelligent in regard to the agency by which the soul is destroyed. It is not because of any decree that God has sent out against man. He does not make man spiritually blind. God gives sufficient light and evidence to enable man to distinguish truth from error. But He does not force man to receive truth. He leaves him free to choose the good or to choose the evil. If man resists evidence that is sufficient to guide his judgment in the right direction, and chooses evil once, he will do this more readily the second time. The third time he will still more eagerly withdraw himself from God and choose to stand on the side of Satan. And in this course he will continue until he is confirmed in evil, and believes the lie he has cherished as truth. His resistance has produced its harvest (MS 126, 1901)."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1112.

 

So, as Paul says in Romans 1: 18 – 32 that God has to let those who

refuse His grace go.  Not as punishment, but because they chose to

leave.  So, in making their choice they also chose the consequence.  It

is not God who punishes them; they are suffering the unfortunate

consequences of their own choices.  Our eternal destiny will reveal the

choice we made.  It will reveal what we sowed.  In the end no one will

be deceived. 

--

Saturday, December 06, 2014

“Weep and Howl!”

"Weep and Howl!"

We read in the Bible that Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness. In this verse we see the power of faith to produce righteousness.  Thus, the message preached by Paul was not a message that promoted faith alone, or that promoted righteousness alone, but a message that demonstrated to the world and the on-looking universe that faith actually does work through love.  Righteousness by faith is actually righteousness in the life, not merely righteousness "applied" to the life, or righteousness "covering" the life, but actual righteousness in the life.  Righteousness – the thoughts and feelings and behavior that are motivated by self-sacrificing love – is the goal of the gospel.
   
Ellen White was once asked if the message of righteousness by faith was the 3rd Angel's message. She replied that it was in verity.  She added elswhere that,

"... This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to his divine person, his merits, and his changeless love for the human family. All power is given into his hands, that he may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of his own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of his Spirit in a large measure."  {TM 91.2}

Did you see it?  It presented "justification by faith," that reveals itself in righteousness.  Faith isn't merely a fiduciary exchange whereby we purchase salvation with faith.  Faith isn't to accomplish a book-keeping hurdle that God has in the books of heaven.  Faith is a productive reality.  Faith is a causative agent.  Faith causes, it produces, righteousness – heavenly thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Our lesson this week talks about righteousness as it applies to financial matters.  How we acquire money, and how we use money.  Acquiring and using money in "right" ways are practical aspects of "doing" righteousness.  How we acquire and use our dollars and cents, reveal righteousness or selfishness.  It reveals love or evil.  It reveals compassion and wisdom, or ego and delusion.

And as we've already seen, the path that produces right use of money (righteousness) is the path of faith.  The path that produces Godly spending and giving of money (righteousness) is the path of a heart appreciation of the love of God as manifested in the life and death of Christ (faith).  Money, in and of itself, produces no value, but is a measure of how we value things.  If we value others, and if we value the sacrifice of Jesus, it will be manifested in the use we make of our money (righteousness) for His cause and His kingdom.  Ellen White wrote,

""Riches bring with them great responsibilities. To obtain wealth by unjust dealing, by overreaching in trade, by oppressing the widow and the fatherless, or by hoarding up riches and neglecting the wants of the needy, will eventually bring the just retribution described by the inspired apostle: 'Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.' "—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 682."

The Lord impressed James to write a scathing rebuke to "rich" people especially in "the last days" where in we live: "Come now, you rich weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! ... You have heaped up treasure in the last days" (James 5:1, 3). Writes Ellen White: "I saw that these fearful words apply particularly to the wealthy who profess to believe the present truth." [1]  Again, it is not that money in and of itself is evil, bbut how we relate to money reveal what is in our heart.  Christ did not say that mney is the root of all evil, but the love of money is ... We read again from Ellen White,

"Money has great value, because it can do great good. In the hands of God's children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and clothing for the naked. It is a defense for the oppressed, and a means of help to the sick. But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.
"Hoarded wealth is not merely useless, it is a curse. In this life it is a snare to the soul, drawing the affections away from the heavenly treasure. . . .
He who realizes that his money is a talent from God will use it economically, and will feel it a duty to save that he may give.-Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 351, 352.

Many feel safe in the accumaulation of wealth, But, one who discerns at least something of the economic significance of the cross of Christ discerns a deeper recognition: we don't deserve any of what we have--not even our next breath.  Is God telling us and the world something? Yes! If you have $26 million to spend a year, to do what you like, and you live in a palace, and you ride in the safest car in the world, you are not secure. You have nothing that you can call your own; your next breath is only by the grace of God.  Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the icon of the world, his name on everyone's tongue. God told him in Daniel 4:25, "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." Nebuchadnezzar, you are nothing.  All of Nebechadnezzer's wealth could not prevent him from living as a beast for 7 years. 

You may say, "I am not wealthy."  Well, the little you have is also a gift of God.  It belongs to God.  It is to be used for His glory.  The offertory response says,

We give Thee but Thine own,
What-e'er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.

May others see Jesus in us, even, on how we acquire and spend money. 

Raul Diaz






Raul Diaz

Saturday, November 29, 2014

“The Eschatological Day of Atonement”

"The Eschatological Day of Atonement"

The law sets the standard by which we are judged.  The judgment reveals how we do not meet that standard.  It is beyond an issue of performance, it an issue of condition.  Let us say that a play or movie requires a woman to play a role.  The only way a man can play it is if this man is transformed into a woman.  In the make believe world of acting they can give the illusion that that is done.  But, outside of that setting - and inside - the male actor remains a male.  The sinner can pretend he is righteous, but inside he is still a sinner.  For the sinner to be righteous, he must be transformed - born again.  The sinner must consent t be transformed by God.  Before he consents he must accept his condition, which means that he is revealed his condition.  God exposes the sinner to the Law, showing the sinner how the sinner fails to meet the standard of the law.  Then with the sinners consent God works in the sinner, to transform the sinner.  The follwoing commentary - Originally published Saturday, December 07, 2013 - elaborates on this subject.

"The Eschatological Day of Atonement"

Eschatology is that branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world and the final destiny of mankind. This involves beliefs concerning death, the end of the world and the ultimate destiny of mankind. This includes the doctrines concerning the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the Judgment.  In our lesson for this week the vision of the 2300 days is referred to as being fulfilled "many days in the future" (Dan 8:26) from the time of Daniel. The vision was sealed until the distant future.
So, the title of our lesson is referring to a day of atonement in the final days of earth's history.   Since, atonement is the process of becoming one or reconciliation, it means that something is happening to remove what separated man from God?  What separates man from God?   What separated Eve from God?  Ellen White states,

"Eve believed the words of Satan, and the belief of that falsehood in regard to God's  character, changed the condition and character of both herself and husband. They were changed from good and obedient children into transgressors..." (RH, January 5, 1886 par. 8).

Ellen White elaborates on the danger of believing lies about God,

In rejecting the truth, men reject its Author. In trampling upon the law of God, they deny the authority of the Law-giver. It is as easy to make an idol of false doctrines and theories as to fashion an idol of wood or stone. By misrepresenting the attributes of God, Satan leads men to conceive of Him in a false character. With many, a philosophical idol is enthroned in the place of Jehovah; while the living God, as He is revealed in His word, in Christ, and in the works of creation, is worshiped by but few. Thousands deify nature while they deny the God of nature. Though in a different form, idolatry exists in the Christian world today as verily as it existed among ancient Israel in the days of Elijah. The god of many professedly wise men, of philosophers, poets, politicians, journalists--the god of polished fashionable circles, of many colleges and universities, even of some theological institutions--is little better than Baal, the sun-god of Phoenicia. {GC 583.1}

Here is one more quote from Ellen White where she again talk about lies about God,

In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner. {DA 761.4}
You will notice that Satan's claim is part of the creed of many Christian denominations.  So, these lies have infected Christianity.  Therefore, these lies have to be removed out of Christians, primarily.  How do these lies translate into our lives?  We believe we must be afraid of God or we see God as a sort of Santa Claus.  This then translates on how we treat each other.

For the most part we are unaware of how much we distrust God.  The judgment is to show us what is truly in our hearts.  As God told Laodicea,

Rev 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:

The judgment is to reveal it as a patient is revealed his condition, and once the patient knows his condition the doctor can prescribe a form of intervention.  Spiritually, the intervention is,

"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.
"Rev 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."

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit which reveals Sin to us and at the same time impresses Jesus in our minds (john 14: 16 -17; 15: 26; 16: 8, 14).   Because He indwells us, we are His sanctuary (1 Corinthian 16: 9).  In the Day of Atonement the cleansing of Sin from the Sanctuary was complete.  In the eschatological day of atonement the cleansing of Sin in us, must be complete also.  How clean should it be?

Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.  {COL 69.1}

If the records in Heaven are a perfect reflection of us, then when we are cleansed so are the records in Heaven.  According to Daniel 8, when does the cleansing start?  It has to be after all those empires spoken of in the prophecies either no longer exist or no longer have the power they held before.  This would take us to the year 1798.

The little horn of Daniel 7, which is also the beast in Revelation 13, is in power for 1260 years.  This is based on the time prophecy, in which the beast persecutes for 1260 days:  "time, times, half a time", or 42 months, which all prophetically are interpreted to mean 1260 years.  The time frame for this is historically said to be from 538 AD, when Justinian's general, Belisarius defeated the last of the Arian nations, the Ostrogoths, drove them out of Rome and turned over the city to the Bishop of Rome.  1260 years later, would be 1798, and that year, the French general Berthier, enters Rome, declares it a Republic, takes the pope captive, exiles him to France where the pope dies a prisoner.

With the Pope removed and the papacy no longer exerting the influence it once had, men felt at liberty to study and preach the Word of God without any adverse repercussions: it was no longer illegal.  The book of Daniel was opened to the mind of many men, including William Miller.  William Miller's message was the cleansing of the Sanctuary.  Although, the right interpretation escaped Miller, it set the foundation for further understanding: The cleansing of the sanctuary in Heaven is dependent on the cleansing of Sin from us.

Raul Diaz