Friday, May 26, 2017

The Best Thing That Happened

The Best Thing That Happened

When asked, "what's the best thing that ever happened to you?" how would you respond? After pondering for a time, some of you may answer, when I got this job", or when I got together with my new boyfriend (or girlfriend)." Others reading this might answer, "when I got married," "had my baby," or even "when I went on this fabulous trip." Answers that sound negative such as "when I had this accident," or "when I went through this particular trial" aren't going to be too forthcoming are they? Although you may recognize that a period of trial facilitated the greatest period of growth in your life, it is unlikely that you would characterize that experience as "the best thing" that ever happened to you. Let's say that retrospectively you're aware that what was intended for evil ended up being for good in your life, and perhaps you've even observed that it boded well for the lives of others. Still, even then, it can be difficult to accept that negative trial (or trials) as the best thing that could have happened to you. You might see it as beneficial-- yes, but as good--no way. Are you then likely to see it as the best thing that could have happened? Sadly, it is unlikely. Why? It is in our human nature to see things as they are temporarily, not as what they are spiritually. 

Here's an example for you. Recently I was diagnosed with diabetes, and it was a blow to me. I knew that friends and family were praying for me regarding my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle which resulted in obesity. But what I could not have known is how the Lord would answer their prayers by allowing me to become diabetic.  It was the diagnosis of diabetes and not its simple physical complications such as intense thirst, skin rashes, and hypoglycemia that caused me to yield my will to Christ regarding my poor health habits. Once my doctor placed that sticker labeling me diabetic on my chart, I knew it was all over. What was over you say? My struggling to do it on my own, that's what. No more eating whatever pleased me in whatever proportions I desired at the time. No more late night eating, and snacking.

More importantly, no more sedentary lifestyle. Since that diagnosis eighteen months ago, by God's grace and power, I have lost more than one hundred pounds, and now wear clothing three sizes smaller than I used to. My blood sugar levels and other bio-chemicals are back to normal; I'm still losing weight, and feeling great! I say all of this to give God praise, and to use my story as an example. What Satan meant for evil -- my cultivated and inherited tendency to poor health choices and thus slow death, God turned around for good. Thus what was supposed to be a negative event or trial in my life is indeed one of the best things that ever happened to me. 

For the disciples, the worst thing that could ever happen was that Jesus was being put to death by the ruling powers. His impending death was unfathomable to them. The subject was so frightening, that whenever Jesus spoke concerning it, they quarreled with each other about who would be the greatest in His (temporal) kingdom. Their sizeable fears were activated at the prospect that never would their fondest dreams or goals for themselves or their nation be reached. Ultimately, Christ's death engaged even their doubts about His Messiahship. Christ had said to them to prepare them, "it is good for you that I go away, so you may receive the comforter (John 16:7)." Can you imagine being told that what you least want is best for you? Can you imagine what the disciples must have thought of Him? Yet, it was good that Christ died; it was good that He go away. Sometimes the thing that we believe is the worst thing that could happen is the best that could happen.

The disciples did not understand that Christ's death "as the lamb slain" had been determined "from the foundation of the world." They did not understand the will of the Father, the scope, and nature of sin, nor its cure. Without the death of Jesus, we would neither have communion with the Father and the Spirit, nor Salvation, nor the hope of the resurrection and life anew. InI Cor. 15:14-22, Paul elaborates on the concept of the validity of the resurrection, and what would occur if it were untrue.

I Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
I Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we
have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
I Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
I Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
I Corinthians 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
I Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
I Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
I Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Here Paul is saying that if Christ did not rise, our faith, preaching, the testimony of Him, and hope of life in Christ is futile. Worst of all, we are still in our sins, and all we have to look forward to is the second death which is the wage of sin. But, thanks be to God who gave us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor. 15:54). As Sister White says, 

"Christ has conquered death, and led captivity captive. Men had looked upon death as a terrible thing; they had looked to the future with foreboding; but the resurrection of Christ from the dead changed the aspect of death" (E. G. White Notes, page 66). 

Friends, since Christ died and was resurrected our hope is real. Not only can we rise to life anew, but so can those whom we love who have died or will die in the Lord.

You know, Christ's death and resurrection gave us so much more than can be imagined. First, we can receive the Holy Spirit who will tell us of the future, guide us, teach and remind us of all things, convict us of sin, righteousness and of judgment (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 8, 13). Second, according to Hebrews 4:14 -16, we have intercession through Christ's mediation in the heavenly Sanctuary by Christ Himself who has been tempted in all points as we and yet did not sin. Third, we have a home in a heavenly mansion with the Godhead, the heavenly host, and the 24 elders (John 14:1-3). And last but not least we don't have to live a life of sin. Sin does not have to have power over us, for objectively, our human nature was corporately in Christ and when He died to sin, so did we. Subjectively, when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are baptized into His death to sin. Subsequently, we are raised to life from the dead (dead in trespasses and sins-- Eph. 2:1, 5) like as Christ was raised up from the dead. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from (the power, presence, and condemnation of) sin. For the wages of Sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:3-7, 23). Thank God for such a wonderful Saviour.

Yes, sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen ends up being our choicest blessing. The Lord has said through His servant Paul in Romans 8:28, and Isaiah in Isaiah 29:11 respectively, 

Romans 8:28 For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." 
Isaiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." 

Friends, many good promises, and experiences in righteousness have come to us through Christ's death, should we trample under foot this beautiful gift He's given us?
Raul Diaz

Friday, May 19, 2017

Christ, Our Sacrifice

Christ, Our Sacrifice

In a previous lesson the sanctuary and its sacrifices was the focus of study.  There are two aspects of sacrifice that shined out in the lesson: the death and the blood.  The sanctuary had three compartments. In each of them something happened that pointed to Christ as a sacrifice.  In each event an animal was killed and blood was shed, and sprinkled in certain part of the sanctuary.   In all of these sacrifices Christ is prefigured.  They were a representation of what Christ would accomplish at the Cross.  He is the lamb that was slain from the beginning to take away the sin of the World.  How did He take Sin away?

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24, NASB).

 This verse is a reference to Isaiah 53.  Here are some excerpts,
 Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…
Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 53:6 … and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isa 53:7 … he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, …
Isa 53:8 … he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken…
Isa 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, …
Isa 53:11 … by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Ellen White says,

"Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed.'"—The Desire of Ages, p. 25.

It was an exchange: the priceless for the worthless trade.   He died, so we would live.  Ellen White says,

"Nothing less than the death of Christ could make His love efficacious for us. It is only because of His death that we can look with joy to His second coming. His sacrifice is the center of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
Simply, in order for humanity to be saved Jesus had to die.  There was no other way.  Paul says,

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

 Christ's death reconciles to God.  Paul says in Rom 5:10, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, …" We are reconciled to live with him.  Let us read Romans,

Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Notice the language: baptize into Jesus, buried with Him, planted together…We were in Him, when he died and resurrected.  And, now we are in Heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 2: 6).  
Raul Diaz

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Originally published on Thursday, January 20, 2005

Spiritual Metamorphosis 

Who does not like butterflies? They are beautiful. However, I bet if you answered yes to the question you will answer no to the question, Who likes caterpillars? No one would believe that such a beautiful insect could come from that ugly looking leaf eater. But,upon carefully observing the life cycle of this insect, we realize that the creator formed the larva to enclose itself into a cocoon. There it metamorphoses or is transformed into a butterfly. Thus the reviled becomes something beautiful. 

The word metamorphosis means: 

1. A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function. This is 
also known as transformation. (The scripture refers to this as transfiguration.) 
2. A change in the form and often the habits of an animal during normal 
development after the embryonic stage. Examples of Metamorphosis include,in insects, 
the transformation of maggots into adult flies; caterpillars into butterflies and, 
in amphibians, the changing of tadpoles into frogs. 

Meta is a Greek prefix for beside or after. Morph is a suffix which means form, shape or structure. So in essence the word metamorphosis points toward the form an object will take after the transformation. The word trans, is a prefix that means 
across, on the other side or beyond. It can also mean to go through a Change or make 
a transfer. So, in the case of the caterpillar, it changes form and structure, so 
much so, that its appearance and function change beyond recognition; how like Christ 
when He assumed nature 4,000 years after the fall.  

Isaiah 53:2 says, "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." When Jesus became a man, it was a big change for Him, and perhaps for others who had seen Him before the incarnation. Whatever physical characteristics God has, Jesus no longer had. He was transformed into a human being, small and weak, in comparison to God. He had the same frailties, needs and weaknesses we have. Accordingly, He covered His divinity with sinful humanity, yet did not sin, and according to Ellen White, "He was afflicted in all the afflictions of humanity." It is this combination of natures that qualifies Christ to be our Saviour. 

Furthermore, Ellen White says of Him: 

To save fallen humanity, the Son of God took humanity upon Himself, laying 
aside His kingly crown and royal robe. He became poor, that we through His 
poverty might be made rich. One with God, He alone was capable of 
accomplishing this work, and He consented to an actual union with man. In 
His sinlessness, He could bear every transgression ... Christ did in reality 
unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by 
this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in 
behalf of the fallen race. (E. G. White Notes, page 29.) 

Christ assumed the human nature of sinful man, the nature which is defined through 
Sin as self-love. This human nature, united with His divine nature of selfless-love 
did not Sin in word, thought or action. In Him the battle was fought, and selfless 
love won out on the cross. In Himself, He redeemed the corporate life of humanity. 
What a wonderful Saviour, willing to condescend to the depths of degradation to save fallen human beings. 

In Philippians chapter 2, from the NASB we read: 

Phil. 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 
Phil. 2:6 Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with 
God a thing to be grasped, 
Phil. 2:7 But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in 
the likeness of men. 
Phil. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient 
to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

So when Paul says, "Let this mind be in you" or as it is said in the NASB, "let this 
attitude be in you," He meant that just as Jesus submitted to the Father even unto 
the death, so should we be willing to submit to the authority of God's indwelling Holy Spirit in us, as we die to the death of self. 

The mind of Christ, or the attitude of Christ was that of self-denying love. This 
form of love (agape) is the only true love. It alone is willing to lay down its life 
for another, and in Christ's case, for His enemies. The principles of God's kingdom 
are those of His nature and character: that of un-conditional, self-denying love. It is the desire of the Father for us to have the mind of Christ, and He is more than willing to give it to us. What do you say, let's be about our Father's business-- shall we? 
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes 

The Special Insights web page resides at: 

Gold tried in the Fire

Gold tried in the Fire

Gold tried in the Fire 

In 1 Peter 4:12-14, Peter uses the metaphor of fire for the trials that Christ's followers will experience. As long as Christians exist in this world, fiery trials and persecution will be the norm. This is why Peter warned us not to be surprised. Fire was a good metaphor to use for at least two important reasons. Depending on the object experiencing the fire, the result can be devastatingly destructive such as in the loss of life as well as property, which sometimes happens in forest fires. Contrarily the effect can be constructive, such as in the removal of impurities from silver and gold.
Although there are varying methods for refining gold, typically either chemical or high-temperature flame is utilized, which is determined by both the quantity of gold and, the level of purity desired.
Refining by flame is one of the oldest methods in existence. It is even mentioned in the scripture, and is the preferable method for purifying larger quantities of gold. The tradition remains virtually unchanged today, except for a few advancements in safety and precision. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a fire with temperatures reaching more than 1000 degrees Celsius (1832° F). The intense heat made this job a dangerous occupation for the refiner, as he sat next to the heat with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross which rose to the top of the molten metal. Once the dross was removed, what remained in the crucible was the pure gold.
God, who is the master refiner, says, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" (Isaiah 13:12). Clearly, there is a parallel between making gold pure and making man as pure as gold. Sin is the dross that makes us impure. God uses and allows trials and affliction as the fire to purify us.
The gold of faith and love shines brighter as a result of the purification. Thus will it be for the feeble human being who puts his trust in Christ. "He" will make the man's character precious as a consequence of abiding with Him, through the Holy Spirit (YRP 131). The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but it will only consume the Sin. That fire produces death to selfishness, sensuality/carnality, love of the world, pride, and arrogance. It is death to lukewarmness as well. The fire consumes the impurities of the sinful character; only God's character, now indwelling in our souls, remains.
Our Lord Jesus suffered through the fire of affliction. As the Sin-bearer, Christ was subject to the lightning bolts of wrath for the universal law demands death to the sinner. Jesus experienced "the wages" of the second death for sin on the cross. He went all the way to hell for you and me. Ellen White elaborates further on this by saying,
"Greater is He that is in the heart of the faithful, than he that controls the hearts of unbelievers. Complain not bitterly of the trial which comes upon you, but let your eyes be directed to Christ, who has clothed His divinity with humanity, in order that we may understand how great His interest in us since He has identified Himself with suffering humanity. He tasted the cup of human sorrow, He was afflicted in all our afflictions, He was made perfect through suffering, tempted in all points like as humanity is tempted, in order that He might succor those who are in temptation" (YRP 131).
The words of Peter are then not only to warn, but to encourage us. Let us read 1 Peter 4:12–14,
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part, He is glorified."
Christ is not asking us to go through anything He has not experienced. Neither is He asking us to endure our trials alone, in our own strength. He has pledged Himself to us, and we can trust Him! He will never leave nor forsake us and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We have in Christ, "a High Priest who [can] sympathize with our weaknesses, [as He] was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 13:5; 4:15 - 16; 2 Cor 12:9

~Raul Diaz