Friday, December 30, 2005
I like swords. Even as a child swords fascinated and filled me with awe as I viewed their workmanship and ornamentation -- oh how they shone, drawing me to them. Consequently, fencing completely captured my attention, and I watched it every chance I got. It's amazing how such a potentially deadly game could be composed of such elegant and graceful movements, almost like those of a dance. Yet, despite these attributes there is a swiftness and an aggressiveness to fencing, and to sword use in general.
No matter how often as a child I watched sword-fighting films, I always came away with the same impression, swords are not merely weapons of offense, and they are also weapons of defense. For while your opponent is attempting to disarm, maim, and perhaps kill you, you may often only be attempting to keep his sword at bay. In the old days when swords were used to handle disputes, those who were better skilled, lived; while those who were not, died. How appropriate that Paul calls the word of God the Sword of the Spirit, for it too is both offensive and defensive. Individuals who are skilled and empowered by the (Holy) Spirit to handle the Word of God, not only possess a superior weapon with which to defend themselves against Satan’s attacks, but also with the same weapon will come off the victor against the attacks or clamoring of their own sinful nature.
Lest you protest, we are not talking here about those who have an incredible ability to memorize scripture. We are not talking about those gifted with the eloquence to preach. We are talking of those who allow the Holy Spirit to teach them how to use the Word of God as a great warrior uses his sword. Not so sure you agree? Let's look at what the writer of Hebrews says in the 12th verse of the fourth chapter:
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Notice that in this verse, Paul says nothing about attacking the devil. It's not that the Word cannot be used to attack the enemy of souls, it can, such as when we go into his territory, and take souls prisoner to Jesus Christ. However, Paul in Hebrews, is saying that the Word of God goes deep into our inner minds where our most hidden thoughts and desires dwell-- yes folks, sometimes hidden even from ourselves -- and that the Word of God exposes us to ourselves as we really are - sinners. In essence, the Word serves as a judge of our ideas, thoughts, motives and feelings, as well as our actions. But, and this is the great part, the Word doesn't leave us languishing in the prison of discouragement, under accusation and despair; no, it sanctifies (meaning purifies) the mind, if we consent (John 17:8, 14 & 17). The Word of God cuts through the hard and stony heart of pretense, taking away the Sinfulness of self, with its lustful desires, pride, and childishness. Unlike a physical sword, which is brandished outwardly, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, must be taken internally (eternally). Jesus said He had meat to eat that the disciples knew not of. He also stated that He is the Word of God, and that we live by every Word that “proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (John 4;35; Matt. 4:4; John 6).
Thus those who carry the Sword, are living by every Word, and pray living prayers. If you happen to find yourself in the presence of a pray-er who prays living prayers, listen closely, for the Words are with power. "I don't see or hear anything special," you say? Well, though these prayers are simple, yet they are profound. Haven't you noticed they move the hand of omnipotence? Haven't you ever read the scripture that says, "... The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."? Filled with the righteousness of Christ in God, these prayer-ers manifest humility, and heartfelt devotion and gratitude to Christ their Saviour. Consequently, their prayers are non-repetitive, vain, proud, or superficial. To wield the Sword of the Spirit is to pray living prayers; for it is the Spirit through the Word, which actually informs the prayer.
Scripture has said that by obeying the truth (of the Word) through the Spirit our souls (minds or consciousness) are purified. Furthermore, it says that we become born again or renewed in mind by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever; and that the Word is the Gospel preached unto you (I Peter 1:22-25). There are only one or two purposes of the sword in a fight, one is to preserve life, and the other is to take it. Satan's plan is that when we're attacked, our sword will be rendered useless, and that he'll come off the victor, having stolen our birthright. On the contrary, Christ has come that we might have life more abundantly. Furthermore He has stocked His arsenal and left it at our disposal with an expert Teacher at hand (who can never be separated from us unless we consent). Folks, the Godhead intends that we may have life now and in the Kingdom to come. In light of the victory already won on behalf not only of the human race, but also specifically for you and me, doesn't it make sense then to live by the Word? It did to Jesus 2000 years ago as He fought with Satan, and it does to me. The battle is raging, let's not be caught unprepared!
Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz
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Thursday, December 22, 2005
Recently, a uniformed local police officer walked into a supermarket to buy a few items. As the officer paid for her groceries, she was frantically accosted by a civilian shopper. "The bank down the aisle is being held up, you've got to do something!," the civilian shopper yelled. The bank was on the premises of the supermarket. Unaffected by the civilian's plight for help, the officer responded sarcastically, "and, why are telling me?" The civilian answered, "Aren't you a police officer?" Scoffing, the officer replied, "call 911, I'm off duty." Astonished, the shoppers looked at the officer in dismay, as she walked away. "How could she be so callous and unconcerned?," they asked one another in disbelief, while the bank robber fled the scene.
Has a situation like that ever happened to you, where you thought the person in charge should have helped, and instead they left the scene? How did you feel? Do you think the officer's response was correct? Or were the shoppers wrong to assume she would help because she was uniformed? What if she had been wearing civilian clothes, do you think she would have identified herself as an officer of the law? Is she under obligation to do so, and anyway, how do we know when a cop is off duty? Is there even such thing as an off duty cop?
Our lesson tells us that each Roman soldier wore a belt around his waist, mainly to hold his flowing robes firm to his body lest they get in his way during a fight. An off duty Roman soldier was easily identified because he was not wearing his belt. As a private citizen, yet an employee of the government, he was allowed off-duty time. But, and I say this gingerly, can a Christian soldier ever take off his belt of truth and go on a weekend pass or vacation? Is there such a thing as an off duty Christian? Is it possible that a Christian can loosen his belt of truth and still remain a Christian? Perhaps he can, but each time he does, he runs the risk of never being able to put it on again. For each time the Christian ventures out without the truth, he is in the camp of Satan; in that moment he is believing -or causing others - to believe in a lie. Thus returning to the pure, unadulterated belt of truth becomes more difficult, precisely because other belts have become more attractive.
If Paul says the belt of truth should be put on, before any other part of the armor, it must be important. In actuality, the truth is the undergarment of our experience. As a part of our amour, truth is so important, that God commands us to know it: "And ye shall know the Truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:23). Furthermore, the scripture not only says that we should only know the truth, but that Christ Himself is the truth, "... I Am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). So to study 'truth' is to study Christ. In the 1st three chapters of Ephesians, we learned that the Father put us all in Jesus, making Jesus the last Adam. Consequently, in Jesus we live, have died and are resurrected. Thus when we accept the Gospel by faith, the Father puts Christ in us. This process which is called Justification / Sanctification, means that as we focus on the glorious truths 'in Christ,' our minds progressively become infused with His mind, and as a result, we are progressively cleansed from Sin, and enabled to reach the fullness of the measure and stature of Christ. What wonderful and powerful truth to us has been made known! Let's keep the belt on folks!
In conclusion, a Roman soldier was known to be on duty because he wore the belt. By the same token, a Christian soldier is known to be on duty because he / she wears the belt of truth, and goes forth to the fight filled with the Agape love of Christ (John 13:34, 35). This Christmas season it is my prayer that we will not forget this scriptural belt of truth, and tie up our garments instead with a flimsy cord of rope.
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Thursday, December 15, 2005
War is a frightening prospect, even if you've been assured that you'll win. Most of us would avoid going to war unless we were forced to do so. Yet there are ambitious, driven individuals who look forward to war. Not so much because they want to fight to prove their physical prowess, but because there are vast fortunes to be gained by those who are in the know, and are looking. "How can such a wicked thing take place," you say? Well, who do you think funds wars? There are merchants, arms dealers, and business owners who know how to make a killing, financially speaking of course, on the business of war. Never thought about it that way? All you have to do is look at the film Schindler's list -- and not the whole film either, to visualize that for the very select few, war is profitable.
What place does this admission have in the light of this commentary? Just this, for Satan -- war is profitable too. And by profitable, we don't mean the spoils of war, no friends, what is meant is that the profit by which he enriches himself, is your soul, and my soul. This is why the scripture says, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world -- which lies under the condemnation of sin -- and lose his soul" (Mark 8:36)?
Our lesson highlights the twelfth verse in Ephesians chapter six, which reads thus:
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.
And from this text we glean that like it or not, we are at war -- or in the very least we are in the midst of war. Furthermore, the war is not with individual human beings per say, such as that miserable colleague, that thoughtless family member or that driver who just cut you off in traffic and proceeded to drive slowly in front of you. On the contrary, the war is with our thought life, and our verbal or behavioral response to the wickedness that has been displayed. This concept is not only believed by Christians, there is even a popular saying which non Christian businesses use to encourage their employees to consider that the problem is usually attributable to their thinking: "It's not what happens to you that matters, it's your attitude about what happens that matters; for your attitude can determine your altitude."
If you remember, when Adam sinned, he plunged the whole world into sin, and bequeathed to us a sinful nature incapable of living by the law of love. Instead our greatest drive is to preserve the flesh at all costs, which entails living by the law of sin or selfishness. Satan our adversary, knows not only the history of our fall -- as he caused it, but he has also studied us for thousands of years, knows our weaknesses and frailties as human beings, and as individuals. Even Paul confronts this issue personally, and shares his struggles with us in Romans chapter 7, verses
Romans 7:15 For that but what I hate, that do I.
Romans 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that so do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Romans 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of
my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I
myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Why such a long passage on Paul's struggles? Because it is the struggle of all who have accepted the validity of the holy law, and who are trying to keep it in their own strength. This includes those of us who in discovering some very unpleasant little habit or way of dealing with a situation that we have, try to stop it by will power. The struggle is not only with Satan, our outward foe, but with ourselves and the law of sin that reigns in us. Satan's war with us, his attacks on us are not merely to make our lives difficult, but to cause us to choose our own way instead of God's. His goal and determined effort is bent to cause us to pull away from Christ even while we think we are yielding to Him.
According to the scripture, the battle is not to the swift, nor to the strong, but to the man (or woman) who puts his /her trust in Christ; for it is "... Not by might (or army, per marginal reference), nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts" (Zech. 4:6). Folks, the war between Christ and Satan has been won! The victory is assured us, let us enter in by faith, and receive not the spoils of war, but the beautiful, peaceful, eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord, Saviour and conquering King!
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Thursday, December 08, 2005
Kevin was concerned about his car. Recently he'd noticed, that after starting his car, and putting it in gear, the car would not move. Mildly alarmed, he would depress the accelerator to the floor, and still nothing would happen. "What is wrong with my car?" he thought. "I can hear the motor roaring as the engine revs, I see the tachometer needle rise, and still, this car won't move -- I've got to get to work -- what am I going to do?"
After a few minutes of this, the car would suddenly jerk and abruptly move forward. Because the car would eventually move into gear and take off, Kevin was lulled into doing nothing about his situation. Day after day he drove his car like this, until one day there was a grinding sound from under the hood. "What in the world is that," he thought. "Man it sounds like metal grinding against metal -- I'm going to have to take this car in, and I don't have the money or the time." "Life sucks." Now he was really worried, so he hurriedly took his car to a mechanic. Puzzled and concerned about the cost, Kevin met with the mechanic, and briefly described the sounds and jerking motions his car made. Just by the description Kevin gave, the mechanic immediately knew what the problem was. Nonplused, the mechanic pulled the car into the garage, opened the hood and pulled out the transmission dipstick to measure the fluid. With the noise that the car was making, the mechanic was not surprised to find that the transmission was bone dry with no fluid. Incredulously he asked Kevin, “When was the last time you put oil in your car, and checked the transmission fluid?” Kevin not being mechanically inclined, sheepishly responded, “I really don’t know anything about that -- uh, I just got the car.” In disbelief, the mechanic explained to Kevin, “your transmission is what transmits the power of your engine to the wheels, and inside the engine are metal parts called gears." "These gears mesh well with each other when the oil flows between them." "Without the oil between those parts, your gears grind, become noisy and overheat." "Eventually this will cause your transmission to break down -- man are you lucky you came here when you did, but it's gonna to cost you $150.00 to fix your problem though." Humbled and broke, but wiser, Kevin agreed to have the mechanic fix his car.
After hearing this story, it dawned on me that human relationships are like the gears in a car transmission. We are constantly meshing against (or rubbing up against) one another. This meshing causes friction between us, which if left un-lubricated, grinds and causes relationships to breakdown. Just as Kevin's transmission required oil for the smooth flowing between parts, we too need relationship oil to flow in and between us. Thankfully God has provided the perfect oil -- the oil of the Holy Spirit. So how does the Holy Spirit prevent the friction from occurring between our neighbors and us? It is chiefly through the gifts He brings when He indwells us (Gal. 5:22, 23), such as agape, peace, joy, long-suffering, patience, meekness, goodness and gentleness. Chief among these gifts is Agape -- God’s unconditional love -- for the Holy Spirit is not only the source of Agape - He Himself (& the Godhead) is Agape. Consequently, whatever may have caused the fracture in the relationship between others and us, whatever may be the source of the alienation, and the inflow of agape is the solution. It alone eliminates the friction. An enlightened man of God had this to say regarding the transmission illustration, “Now we ‘mesh’ one with another like well-oiled gears in a transmission, with this “oil” of the love of Christ making it possible for us now to “transmit” the blessings of heaven to the needy people of the world (your transmission is what transmits the power of your engine to the wheels!). Think of our vehicle as the world’s only “ambulance.” That’s what Christ has called His church to be; Paul says that “the gospel of Christ” is the powerful “engine” of the vehicle (the church), “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
What is it about agape that causes human friction to cease? Let’s go to I Corinthians 13: 4-8, for the answer.
I Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
I Corinthians 13: 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I Corinthians 13: 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13: 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13: 8 Love never fails…
In this text, we see a description not only of the Character of God, but also of human beings when they are filled with His love. While it is not the nature of human beings to agape God or others, our minds, when under the well-oiled control of the Holy Spirit, function as His does. This means that His love -- the love of Christ as demonstrated in I Corinthians chapter 13, and as demonstrated on the cross, is embodied in us, and makes it possible for us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). How do we submit to each other? Well, the process is twofold.
In John 13:4-12, we have an example of both processes functioning side by side. Let's take a look at verse 4 and 5, where Jesus arises from the supper table, girds Himself and washes the disciples' feet. In verse 6, He comes to Peter, and Peter doesn't want Christ to wash his feet. Note him saying in verse 8, "... Thou shalt never wash my feet." How did Jesus respond? By saying, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part of Me." And in verse 10, and 11 we have the first process of submission: "Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." To which Jesus replies, "... He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean...” So what is the first process? It is allowing the Lord to wash you and me from the sludge of turning to our own way to preserve self.
For the second process of submission, let's look at verses 12 through 16.
John 13:12 …He said unto them, “Know ye what I have done to you?
John 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
John 13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”
In this set of verses, we see Christ humbling and submitting Himself unto His disciples through washing their dusty, dry feet. This as we well know, was the task of a servant and as such, none of the disciples intended to carry it out, for in their minds, it was beneath them. Instead, they had been quarreling about who would get those coveted cabinet positions in Christ's kingdom. In their self-serving frame of mind, they were unprepared to enter into His sufferings, as well as into His kingdom, for their hearts were hardened to one another. Are we guilty of striving for the chief seats in the kingdom (or board room)? Are we guilty of attributing to others the motives upon which we operate? Oh, where is the oil of the Holy Spirit in your heart? If we are guilty in any way of seeking to preserve self at the expense of another, then our transmission is dry -- without oil.
Paul's admonition in Philippians 2:3 is that we, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” What we think and how we feel impacts how we treat others. If our minds are uplifted in gratitude to Christ, the oil of the Holy Spirit will ease the friction we experience relationally. Friends, let's allow the Holy Spirit to prepare a table before us in the presence of our friends and enemies, and anoint our heads with the oil of gladness. We'll rejoice with the Savior that we did.
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
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Friday, December 02, 2005
In the last few years the term "ethics" has become very popular. The concern however, is not for the philosophical study of right versus wrong; no, that dear friends is not the focus of our current societal emphasis. To the contrary, ethical conduct has become the popular focus precisely because it proscribes how people should behave. In a very real sense, the concept of ethical conduct has arisen from our societal attempt to rid ourselves from the very idea of right and wrong. So instead of viewing an official as a wrong doer because he utilized his position for personal gain, we refer to what he did as unethical. As a consequence, there has been an outcry from the masses, with a clear, clarion call for a code of ethics consisting of a list of rules and regulations for ethical conduct. Furthermore, "the masses" want this code to be instituted now, with grave legal penalties for those who abuse it. How sad that fallen human beings usually insist on an external list of do's and don'ts to control behavior. How much better it would be, if we were controlled by the principle of love dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.
The selfish grasping mentality of those in leadership positions should not surprise us. For we all bear the same human nature which yields the same fruit -- and without a vital abiding union with God, we will do no less. According to Sister White, the nature of the Pharisee --which is self-righteous and self-exalting, is the nature of all human beings. The Pharisee like the Romans utilized external means of force or coercion to maintain control of self, as well as control of the masses. Unfortunately, when we are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit, even though we are Christians --we too tend to rely on external means of self-control. In this state as we read Ephesians 5, we are likely to think that Paul has written a sort of Christian code of ethics. And while Paul did write a list of behaviors that we should not engage in as Christians, that was not his primary purpose in drafting this letter to the Ephesians. On the contrary, Ephesians 5 is a word picture of how the life of Christ would look, if we allowed the Holy Spirit to make the mind of Christ, a reality in us. Ephesians 5 portrays in a written manner the final product of restoration and renewal of our hearts by the Indwelling Spirit of God (Titus 3:5).
Unfortunately, many of us are still tempted to believe that by striving to follow Paul's list to the best of our ability, we avoid eternal death, and gain life forever. This assumption is not only incorrect, but if followed, will lead to boasting and self-exaltation (Romans 3:27). Even the idea of "with the Holy Spirit's help, I can do it," is a fallacy. Because the focus is not about you doing something -- for instance, behaving ethically, rather, the heavenly focus is on you having the mind of Christ-- the mind of unconditional love, through union or oneness with Him.
Apostle Paul encourages us to walk in the Spirit. But what does this mean? Well, when the Spirit dwells within, He prompts us to listen and yield to His leading. As we hear and follow, moving at His prompting, we are enabled to walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit, we walk in Love, for the scripture says, that God is love. Not that one of His characteristics is love, but that He is love. An hereby we know that we have the love of God, we keep His commandments, and they are not grievous, we bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of love; and we love our neighbors as He has loved us. Folks, to walk in the Spirit, is to walk in Love (John 13:35), and to be prompted from within as to Christ like-behavior. Ethics does not conquer greed, it merely sets outward limits as to it's _expression. Only the love of Christ, abiding in the soul vanquishes greed and desire for personal gain at the expense of others.
Good behavior only comes from a heart that is good. Jesus Himself stated this point when He said to the young ruler, "why callest Me Good, knowest thou not that only God is good?" Ultimately, only those persons in whom the Spirit dwells will manifest Good behavior. Motivated through Agape, these persons will follow the Spirit's leading that the character of Christ and His Father may be vindicated in the controversy. For such persons, a Christian code of ethics would merely be a prescription to alleviate the symptoms of Sinful desires manifested in greed, selfishness, lustful satisfaction, and self-exaltation. Actually, the only thing a code of ethics could be 'good' for, would be to let its adherents know the way in which society finds it acceptable to quench the thirst and satisfy the need to glorify self. Walking in the Spirit is so much more satisfying to that for which your soul yearn. Which one would you rather be, satiated, controlled and walking in the Spirit, or hungry, lustful and lean, walking in the flesh controlled by the changing standards of human ethics?
Maria Geaves-Barnes & Raúl Díaz
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Friday, November 25, 2005
In Ephesians 4:30, Paul admonishes us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. But what is it meant by grieve, and why are we urged so strongly against engaging in this behavior towards the Holy Spirit? You know, the dictionary is quite handy when it comes to discerning the most accurate meaning of a word. So I looked up the definition and this is what it says: 'grief' is distress caused by loss or disappointment, which often leads to intense sorrow. Ok, well intense anguish and pain is not what we consciously want to cause anyone, let alone the Holy Spirit. But is it possible that while caught up in difficult circumstances over which we feel we have no control that we might revert to our old way of behaving?
The scripture says that we are like the children of Israel, in that the proclivity of our human nature is the same. Let's look at their story as recorded in Exodus 17, for clues as to the way in which they grieved God. According to verse 1, the children of Israel journeyed according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched their tents in Rephidim, were there was no water for the people to drink. Now just consider, how would you behave if you arrived home after having a long day dealing with traffic, and were hot, tired, and thirsty. Just imagine, the only thing on your mind after such a trip home, is a glass of cool, refreshing water. Walking into your kitchen, you turn on the faucet, only to discover that your water has been turned off. Not to worry you think, "I can get water from the water dispenser on the fridge door.' So with glass in hand you approach the fridge, push the lever, and out comes brown liquid. Uugh! The water dispenser is not working. Disappointed, but not terribly discouraged, you opt for juice or milk instead. Opening the fridge, you remember you meant to go to the store but didn't and now you have nothing to drink. If you can imagine how you would feel, and what you would say to yourself in the recesses of your mind, then you have an understanding of how the children of Israel are likely to have felt. So, what did they do? Why, they silently accused Moses of course. And when, after sharing their private thoughts and feelings with one another, they found that they all felt the same, they murmured and complained loudly. Their discontent finally reached its zenith, in accusing Moses of taking them into the wilderness to kill them with thirst, and steal their goods (Exodus 17:2, 3). The Lord was displeased, but told Moses, take this rod that you used to smite the river (the Red Sea) and go to the rock in Horeb. Smite the rock there and water shall come out of it, so the people may drink (Exodus 17: 5, 6).
This is what is written in verse 7: "And he (Moses) called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, 'is the Lord among us, or not?'" Guess what Massah and Meribah mean? According to the reference in the margin, they mean -- respectively -- contention and chiding or strife. Now, if this lesson is not enough -- remember that the children of Israel had experienced a miraculous deliverance from Egypt. They did not suffer the plagues, the Egyptians did. They did not suffer drowning in the Red Sea, it was parted for them, not so for their enemies -- the Egyptians who drowned. In addition, God even went before them by day in a cloudy pillar, and protected them by night with a fiery pillar. So they had ample evidence that God not only could but also would provide for them, if they trusted Him. But what did they do? Instead of choosing to trust, they looked at and magnified their difficulties until they were led to murmur, complain and tempt God. Is it possible we are guilty too of tempting God?
Now you would think the Israelites had learned a lesson in trust, but it was not so. A repeat performance is found in Numbers chapter 20. The people are again without water while in Kadesh, and again they chide Moses (Miriam has died) and accuse him of bringing (us, the people) 'of the Lord out into the wilderness so that we and our cattle should die here.' So they did not learn, and Moses and Aaron were led to sin because of their tempting. This is what the Lord had to saying Hebrews chapter 3.
Hebrews 3:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear His voice,
Hebrews 3:8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
Hebrews 3:9 When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.
Hebrews 3:10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways.
Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief ...
As we can see from the above texts, God not only feels deep anguish, disappointment and intense sorrow, but also suffers greatly because of the hardness of His children's hearts. So what was it that grieved God? Well according to scripture, it was the unbelief of the people (see Heb. 3:6, 8, 12, 15, 19; 4:2, 3, 6, 7 & 14). Our choice not to believe God's word -- not to trust in Him for the fulfillment of His promises to us is so painful to Him that He is grieved beyond what we can comprehend. And while we cannot understand the depth and magnitude of His sorrow, we can understand this, if we who are finite can experience such intense sorrow, how much greater must His sorrow be, since He Himself is immeasurably greater than we?
Now that we have looked at what the children of Israel were doing that caused the Holy Spirit (the Godhead) pain, now let's look at Paul's exhortations to the Ephesians to prevent them from falling into the same trap. According to Paul, after having accepted Christ, they were as God's children, to receive the Spirit's wisdom, revelation and acknowledgment of Christ (Eph. 1:17); and were not to defile their body, which is God's dwelling place (Eph. 2:22). Furthermore, they were to nourish and cherish the members of the church, and not disrupt its unity (Eph. 5:29, 30), by returning to the life of the old man (Eph. 5:3-8). The old man naturally indulges in lying, resentment, thieving, and corrupt speech (Eph. 5:3, 4). Why would someone who had received the Holy Spirit engage in the behavior of the old man, when he or she had such power at hand to overcome? It is because of unbelief.
This thanksgiving season, let us be willing to follow Paul's admonishment in Ephesians 4:30 that we ... grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, for He's sealed us unto the day when we shall at last receive redemption in full. In other words, let's allow the Holy Spirit to remind us with Psalms -- of His goodness and mercy which endure forever (Ps. 107:1); through hymns and spiritual songs -- of His steadfast love and kindness, so that we may give thanks to God always, for all things, with a melody in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19, 20).
We're wishing you all a Happy Thanks Giving folks -- and while you are being thankful and grateful today, if the Holy Spirit convicts you of unbelief, respond as did the father in Mark 9:24, who cried out with tears, and said, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." You'll be glad you did.
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Thursday, November 17, 2005
There is an amusing story that says that different members of the body got together to talk one day. As normally happens when individuals get together, they start bragging about who is the best. Each member of the body spoke very highly of himself and gave reasons why he was the most important part of the body. After each member had spoken, all were at odds. (The Brain was not mentioned in this story) Through all the bragging, the colon remained silent. Appealing to the colon as to a referee, the other members of the body decided that the colon should decide who was the most important. Much to their surprise, the colon answered, "I am the most important part of the body." Stunned, they all burst into spontaneous laughter, and began deriding and humiliating the colon. "You only deal with waste," said some members. Others cried out, "You are in the darkest part of the body." Confident of his claim, the colon remained calm. After a moment or two, the other members became silent, and only then did the colon speak. Still unruffled, he said to them, "I will show you." So, for the next three days, the colon closed itself off, so that no waste would leave the body. Of course, the excrement backed up, the digested food had no place to go, and the other members started complaining that they were not getting their nutrients, so they too had to shut down. By the fourth day, all the body members clamored, "please, open up, we agree with you, you're the most important part of our body." After this, the colon opened up, and the body returned to normal in a short time.
I submit to you that this scenario could only happen if the members of the body talked only to each other, and stopped communicating with the head (the brain or mind). The members of our body seem to cooperate rather well with one another, however, upon closer inspection, it is apparent that they really work together only in cooperation with the brain. The brain is the headquarters, where each of the members sends his concerns. The mind is the one that gives instructions which, if carefully followed, alleviates the concerns. The hands do not talk to the eyes or legs. When the stomach is hungry, it signals the brain. The brain in turn tells the legs, “go to the refrigerator,” and then tells the hands, “open the door,” and so on. The stomach did not talk to the legs or any other part of the body. Not one member of the body consulted with another, instead, all concerns (and desires) go to the brain. The decision to eat is not a community decision; it is the brain's decision. The brain is the one that is in charge of the bodily system. The community (of bodily members) is not. This is the system that God has designed, and it works effectively and efficiently to carry out the tasks that He has designed.
The Apostle Paul very aptly compares the Christian Church with the body of Christ. In this metaphor, we -- the believers, are the different members of the body, while Christ is the head. Christ sends His Spirit to our minds, and in conjunction with the Godhead, He controls the mind (if we allow Him to). As a consequence of receiving the Indwelling Holy Spirit, we receive the attributes of "lowliness and meekness (humility), with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2, 3). And the Holy Spirit gives to each of us, spiritual gifts according to His discernment. As Ephesians 4 says:
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
You see, as long as we remain connected to the Head, the Spirit remains in us. As long as the Spirit remains in us, we have the attributes (love, peace, long-suffering, patience, meekness, humility, etc.) and the gifts. However, when we start consulting with one another as if we were a community, than we lose the attributes, which is what brings cohesion among us, and we lose (or misuse) the gifts. The attributes and the gifts come from the same source, and they are part of one package. You cannot have one without the other.
For the church to function as a body, we need to behave more like a body, by communicating with the Head (through prayer, devotions, and bible study). As long as the church acts like a community, it ignores the Head, works in its own strength, and loses the blessings of the attributes and the Gifts, and fails. For the Church to be an effective body, it must stop behaving like a community, and it starts by allowing Christ - the Head - to coordinate and order all things.
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Thursday, November 10, 2005
George Orwell's story, Animal Farm, paints an accurate but disturbing picture of Human nature. The tale delineates what happens when those entrusted to serve believe that the privilege given to them is theirs by natural right. Early in the story, the animals, disgruntled by their treatment at the hand of the human farmers, band together, run off the farmers and take over the farm. Excited by their easy conquest, the animals realize that they must organize themselves and complete the various chores that need to be done. To carry out these tasks in an orderly manner, all of the animals meet and request a particular type of animal take charge of running the farm. The motto chosen by the animals in charge and agreed upon by all is, "All Animals are equal." As soon as the animals in charge become comfortable in their positions, they begin believing they are better than the rest of the animals, and that the other animals owe them homage and respect. Late one evening under the guise of darkness, the animals in charge re-write the motto to say, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." Needless to say, the rest of the animals revolt, and chaos and death ensue.
God chose Abraham to be the messenger of His good news to the world. He told Abraham that in Him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 18:18). Because Abraham overcame by the faith of Jesus -- by seeing Him who is invisible, he qualified to become the Father of the faithful. He represented those who accept the promises of God, and are faithful by and through the faith of Jesus. It was God's desire to fulfill His promise to Abraham - of being a blessing to all nations - through the Israelites. However, the Israelites, * who were to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6) - hoarded the blessings God had given them. They not only failed to share the Light, but hated anyone who even suggested that the Light should shine upon the Gentiles. After the Israelites were separated from the Jews, the privilege of being a Light to the Gentiles was given the Jews. But like their predecessors, the Israelites, the Jews hoarded the gift and never shared it. In fact, the Jews began to believe that Salvation was for the Jews only. And the term Gentile, which meant 'dog' and purportedly referred to unbelievers, became a term for anyone who was not a Jew. Of course, the Jews with money, land, political connections and power believed that they were elite, and therefore entitled to the special privileges given to the elite. Thus, not only did the Jews block the light from the Gentiles; the elite also blocked it from the lower strata Jews. Into this proud and boastful people came the Saviour, illuminating the character of His Father and setting forth as a bright gem, the principles of His law.
Although, Christ ministered to individual Gentiles (unbelievers) during His ministry, predominately His ministry was to the Jews. Through Peter and Paul, Christ taught the other disciples and we who were to follow, that Salvation is for the Gentiles (Acts 10; 13:46). This apparent new direction, was not an afterthought, but had been intended from the very beginning. In Isaiah 42:6, God had promised Christ to His people, "I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light to the Gentiles." In Christ, God saved not only the Gentiles, but the whole world.
Many Jews believed that the only way for a Gentile to be saved was for the Gentile to become a Jew. This meant baptism, circumcision, and other Jewish religious rites of passage. This belief also continued with some of the Christian Jews (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to correct the matter. After prayerfully considering the matter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the brethren decided that circumcision was not only not a pre-requisite for salvation, but that to require it actually nullified salvation by grace. Consequently, the hidden truth that Christ came to redeem the world (which included the Gentiles) was revealed, and confirmed. This is one of the Divine mysteries of which Paul spoke, that God gave his Son to save the World, and in Him we die, are resurrected, and live. Thus by default, the Gentiles are included. Paul tells the Ephesians in chapter 3 --
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Ephesians 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Ephesians 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:
It's obvious to most Christians, that the Jews were wrong in thinking that to be saved one must become a Jew. Yet, do we believe the same way? To Seventh - Day Adventists has been given the Divine privilege of being a Light to the World, reflecting the light of the Character and law of God. Are we allowing Christ's light shine in and through us? Are we allowing others to see the Divine mystery as revealed to us, by the Holy Spirit? God put us all in Christ, and through His merits we were justified. We keep the Sabbath, because we are led by the Spirit to do so, not to be saved, but as a demonstration of the salvation already won in Christ. Do we believe that the sheep in other folds must become 'Seventh day Adventists' to be saved? Pleasing to God? Have we been guilty of teaching others that to be saved they must keep the Sabbath, or become not only vegetarian but vegan? Unfortunately, some of us have thought this way, and in so doing, we've forgotten that God's grace applies to all the same. His sheep in other folds hear His voice and become Seventh Day Adventists not in order to be saved, but because the Spirit leads them to do so. God sees no distinctions in the human family, ultimately there are only those who choose to believe and follow, and those who don't.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005
Remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard? Christ told it to illustrate that God the Father is not only fair, but impartial in His dealings with mankind. The story opens with a householder hiring day laborers to work in his vineyard. Typically, the men were hired early in the morning and worked all day for the agreed upon day's wages. However this householder deviated from the typical custom in that he had not only hired workers at varying times during the day, but had promised to pay each of them the same standard wage. At the end of the day, the workers gathered together to receive their pay. When the workers who arrived early realized that they were going to receive the same pay as the latecomers, they became angry. Confronting the householder, they accused him of fraudulent and unfair practices. Let's read the householder's reply in Matthew 20:13-16:
Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Matthew 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Let's make application of our story, first to the ancient Jews, and then to ourselves. The Jews felt entitled to a greater position in the Kingdom of God, than the Gentiles, because they had been chosen to 'bear the oracles of God.' Furthermore, the Jews felt that their religion was superior to the religious beliefs and practices of the Gentiles. After all, they believed in the one true living God, were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, had the temple, and the best sacrificial system, all unlike the Gentiles. As a result of their first comer status, the Jews felt that their reward should exceed that of the Gentiles. In the book of Ephesians chapter 2, Paul indicates that he is aware of this attitude.
Let's read Ephesians 2:11, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;" Here, Paul is saying, although you Jews are boasting of your circumcision and belittling the gentiles because they are uncircumcised, know this, circumcision is of no value if it is merely in your flesh and not of your hearts. Although in the next verse Paul describes the Gentiles as: "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:" (Ephesians 2:12), he does not attribute this condition to them alone. Instead, he tells the Jews, you too were once aliens and strangers from the covenant and without hope. You see, although the Jews, thought themselves righteous, they were still in need of Christ just as were the Gentiles. In Romans 3:23, Paul states that all have sinned and come short of the glorious character of God. As we continue reading in Ephesians chapter 2, we see him saying, 'you Gentiles, it's true, you were far from God, (and so were we), yet now, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have all been drawn into union with one another -- we've been made one.' Let's look at Ephesians 2, verses 13-22 to see the full picture.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Ephesians 2:16 And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
Ephesians 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone;
Ephesians 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Ephesians 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
As can easily be seen, it is only 'in Christ' that the Jews became truly close to God. It is 'in Christ,' that they became "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." And, it is 'in Christ' that they "have access by one Spirit unto the Father." 'In Christ,' they became "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Objectively, 'in Christ,' they had all of these things, and so too did the Gentiles. Thus they became one with each other. Yet, many of the Jews and Gentiles probably never accepted this great truth. And unfortunately, many of us fail to accept this truth as well. Because of our status 'in Christ,' we have all been made equal in God's sight, we have become one. As such, there are no discriminating or distinguishing negative differences-- no distinctions between male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, black and white; for objectively, 'in Christ,' we've become one.
Are there any of you out there that feel superior? If so, then you've not accepted the 'in Christ,' idea. If you find yourself saying, 'well I would never,' or 'how could he (or she),' then you've not believed the truth as it is 'in Jesus.' Of course accepting this truth doesn't mean you won't be tempted, because the enemy knows our human nature which is sinful, naturally he'll tempt us on this point. However, if you find yourself constantly giving in, or with a mindset of prejudice, then perhaps you're missing the wonderful and joyous truth, that Christ has already made us one in Himself.
As Hymn #587 says,
'In Christ' there is no East nor West, 'in Him' no South nor North;
But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.
This great truth can also be found in Galatians 3:28, which says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one 'in Christ Jesus.' Join the heavenly host today in the sweet knowledge and experience of that fellowship, and watch your '-isms, and prejudices melt away.
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Friday, October 28, 2005
The title of this commentary is the question we ask when we are told something is free. Another expression is “Read the fine line.” Somehow we know that when we are told that something is free it does not really mean free - and, justly so. Free really means - Not imprisoned or enslaved; being at liberty; not controlled by obligation or the will of another; without restraint nor confinement. A more correct word would be Gratis, which means - Without charge, out of kindness, costing nothing, complimentary, gratuitous, free. Maybe that is just the point – nothing in this world is without charge and out of kindness. Maybe that is why we use free instead of gratis. The fact is - for the most part – that in our world, when things are free they come with strings attached or there is an angle or agenda somewhere. We would not have the aforementioned expressions if this were not so. Take for example, the advertising, “Buy one and get one free.” There is an expectation that unless you can comply with the first half of the statement, then you cannot receive the second object free. Since Gratis would really mean free of charge, and with this scheme it is not, the term free is used to hide the fact that we are being lied to, when that marketing scheme is used. Another example is when we are offered free money as in a grant or scholarship. To get the money we must qualify, so there is somewhat of a cost involved in obtaining what it is given for free. Furthermore, very often you not only need to qualify, but the donating party has some expectation from you the receiving party. And the donator’s will make sure you live up to those expectations. This does not seem without cost or out of kindness, either.
No wonder when we hear, “Salvation is free,” we may then ask, “what’s the catch?” We wonder how will we have to prove that we qualify, must we have to purchase or do something in order to get the free part, or is God expecting something in return for what He did for us? We may ask if salvation by subscription? If so, will I have to renew every year? And, if I allow my salvation subscription to lapse, will I have to pay extra to be reinstated? We may think this to be silly. However, this is exactly, what we are being taught. When we say that salvation is only for believers, we say it only for those who qualify. When we say that Salvation is only for those who keep the law, then it is also by qualification. Then if we say that salvation is free but if we do not follow certain historical tenets or traditions than it will be stricken from us, then it is also not free. When we preach that every time we Sin we must be justified again, then Salvation is not free.
Ephesians 2 says that it is by Grace that we are saved. Let us read this passage in Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We know this, yet do we know what it truly means? Grace means unmerited favor. Grace is a gift we do not deserve. The Dictionary defines grace as, a disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill; mercy; clemency; a favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence. God out of generosity, mercy, and goodwill sent His Son to die, ”that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16.) God did not have to do so. He did it because He loves us unconditionally. Verse 17 continues, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” And, how does God save us through His Son. Ephesians gives us the answer. He put the whole world in Christ, so that corporately, we lived in Christ, we died in Christ, and resurrected in Christ.
This means that Salvation is at no cost to the whole world. We do not have to buy anything, we do not have to qualify, nor prove we are using well what is given to us to be saved. (In fact, outside of Christ we cannot do this no matter how hard we try.) Christ accomplished all that on the Cross – past tense. This fact is objective truth. This fact is Justification by Faith. And, no one can take that away from us. (We can, however, choose to reject the gift.)
Friends, God is not a man that He should lie, when He says salvation is by Grace it means it is at no cost to us. So it is, indeed, free or if you prefer gratis – at no cost with no fine lines, and no catches.
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Friday, October 21, 2005
The term quarantine refers to the isolation of persons, animals, places, and effects that are harboring or are suspected of harboring a communicable disease. Quarantine originally referred to the 40 days of offshore waiting, during which time incoming vessels could not discharge passengers or cargo. This was during the era when plagues of epidemic proportion swept across Europe killing untold numbers of persons. For most of these communicable diseases, there was no cure, hence the need for quarantine. The idea behind this practice was to allow the disease to run its course without the infection of other individuals or populations. If the quarantined individual survived, he or she was usually free from that particular communicable disease. Chicken Pox is an example of such a disease for which there is no cure. When a pustule ruptures, the disease becomes contagious. Hopefully, the infected individual has been diagnosed by this time and has followed the suggested precaution of isolation. After the disease runs its course, the quarantine is lifted for the individual no longer poses a threat to others. Naturally, if a cure existed for Chicken Pox there would be no need for quarantine.
I wonder if quarantine would work for the contagious disease of discouragement? After all, I've never heard of a cure, have you? Yet, this disease is so deadly, that the majority of persons, who are infected with it, just give up. In fact, not only is discouragement deadly to the individual who is carrying it, but it is just as lethal to those with whom the individual associates. You're not sure you've heard of this disease, much less experienced it,' you say. Why certainly you have. You know, it's that feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. 'I have never felt despair,' you say. Well what about disheartenment, or dismay, or just plain feeling down or blue? Sure you have, we all have. You know, in Paul Bunyan's book, "Pilgrim's Progress, the main characters -- Christian and Faith, land in the dungeon of despair, in the Castle of Despondency. Why did that happen to them? Well, in the land of Enchantment they laid down to nap, and were lulled into a wonderfully deep sleep. What a pity! For in this land was the rather large, greasy ogre, who had captured many a trespasser, and never let them go. Now friends, Christian and Faith were isolated from everyone else. (That means they were quarantined). So, although they could hear the moans of the other prisoners, they could not help them, even if they wanted to. Furthermore, Christian and Faith didn't even have the energy to try. What were they to do? They tried jumping up to reach the only window in the cell, but they couldn't jump very high, and soon tired. They were so cold and hungry. Furthermore the cell was dark and damp. Cheerlessly they tried to sing, but that didn't help either, for neither of them could remember the words, nor the tunes.
Just then, Faith remembered the rather rusty little key that hung from Christian's neck. Given to Christian on his journey, he had faithfully worn it around his neck. Faith remembered another thing too, he remembered that the key was especially useful in emergencies and he told Christian so. But Christian was so cold and hungry and tired, that he just groaned and moaned the louder. "Perhaps," thought Faith, "this is such a time." and with that he asked Christian for the key. Christian had trouble getting it, so Faith helped. With some difficulty, out came the rusty little key. It was so small, Faith was afraid he would drop it, but he held on tight. "What are you going to do with that rusty little key Faith?" "Why I'm going to open the lock." "But", protested Christian, "the lock is so large, and the key is so small it won't fit." "Well I'm going to try," replied Faith, and with that he stuck the little key in the big lock. In the lock it seemed to grow a little larger and heavier. "Hmm," thought Faith, just then an almost audible thought came to mind, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move,' and it will move." "Hey, said Faith, the key grew, but it is still not big enough yet." Just then another thought came to mind, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word." Faith was so excited by now, that he said the verse out loud to Christian. And the key grew larger, and stronger. "Look Christian, look, the key is growing," whispered an excited Faith. Suddenly, the thought that came to mind was even louder and more insistent than all the others had been. "Prayer is the key in the hand of faith that unlocks heaven's storehouse." With that, the key turned in the lock, the jail door opened, and Christian and Faith were able to make their narrow escape.
What is faith? It is believing that Jesus means just what He says in the Word. It is believing that He is faithful and keeps His promises. Above all, faith is knowing what Christ has specifically promised you, and choosing on a daily, even hourly basis to live by those promises. Simply put, faith is your heart and mind's response to believe Christ's Word to you. Accordingly, the Apostle states in 2 Peter:
2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises:
that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having
escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
If these promises are great and precious, should we not receive them from our Lord? I Corinthians 16:13 says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith... ." And I Peter 5:9 says that we are to "resist (Satan) steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." And lastly, Galatians 2:20 reads, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." What wonderful promises. Why don't you ask the Lord which ones He has for you today? He will be very to pleased to answer you.
In the above adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress, Faith and Christian were not the only persons overtaken by discouragement. Others were present, moaning and groaning in the same dungeon of despair, for they all had the same disease. Yet only Faith and Christian were cured and able to escape. What was it that freed them? Was it being quarantined, (or isolated) from their peers? No, it wasn't. It was faith in the promise that the key was the solution. Here is a reminder, Ellen White has said, "prayer is the key in the hand of faith ..." (Steps To Christ, p. 94-96). When we feel down and isolate ourselves, we are going contrary to scripture, for nowhere in scripture is it said that isolation is the solution for discouragement.
Scripture establishes that Paul is the author of the letter to the Ephesians, and that it was written while he was in prison. You will no doubt note that the word discouragement does not appear in the letter to the Ephesians. You see, Paul had heard good reports of the church in Ephesus, and was pleased to learn of their continual Faith in God and their unconditional love for others. He wrote in Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Ephesians 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
And yet if the Ephesians were so strong in faith, and love, why write to them? The entire epistle seems like a good bye letter, written as if Paul knew he would not return to their midst. As such it is likely that he sought not only to encourage the Ephesians to continue living 'in Christ,' but to remind them of the doctrines he had taught them. By writing this letter, it is likely Paul desired to forestall the discouragement that is most probably going to come upon them when they realize
that not only is he imprisoned, but that he has gone for good. You see, the members of Ephesus had probably unwittingly become attached to Paul's ministry. After all, he was the greatest example of Godliness they had heretofore seen. Furthermore, he had founded their church. Just imagine how you would feel if an important and tireless leader in your church were to suddenly be taken from you. Imagine how others in your church would feel, particularly if they thought that person was irreplaceable. Not only would the church suffer, but what would happen to the preaching of the gospel? Oh, to the Church at Ephesus, Paul's imprisonment was frightening.
And yet, it was Paul that was imprisoned, it was he that was isolated (or quarantined) but not discouraged. Paul was not without hope for he knew that he had already died 'in Christ,' and was living in Him. Therefore death held no fear for Paul. And so in the midst of prison, he prayed, interceding for the saints at Ephesus. In his hand, Paul held the key to faith. For through the Word, he had the faith of Jesus. Remember the scripture says, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word..." (Rom. 10:17).
What does this mean to us today who may be tempted to give up? Remember, the Word is your friend, it will: lift your eyes from the view of burdensome daily cares to Jesus; and take your mind off of yourself to joyfully and gladly help others in need. Whatever may be your trials, whether family, work, finances, church issues or health problems, remember, The Faith of Jesus is your answer. You don't need to quarantine or isolate yourself, for if you have this, you will 'never, never, never, never give up,' and the victory that Christ has already won for you will be yours at last.
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Thursday, October 13, 2005
Robert and Gina were siblings who were destined to bounce from home to home. You see, they didn't want to be adopted, they wanted their mommy and daddy back. But mommy and daddy had forfeited not only their right to have Robert and Gina in their custody, but were not even allowed to see them. Their rights as parents had been terminated, and it was permanent. But how Robert and Gina missed them. Yet, there was no going back. Well, you may ask, "did the parents really deserve not even being allowed to see their children?" Sadly, Robert and Gina's parents received exactly what they wanted, for neither parent desired the best for the children. Neither parent called or wrote or attempted to visit the children. They not only never remembered Robert's or Gina's birthday, but they never attempted to financially support them, did not send them to school or feed them. To the parents, Robert and Gina were unwanted burdens and so they left them to fend for themselves. In a heightened state of anxiety and anticipation, Robert and Gina waited and waited for their parents to return, but they never did. Instead someone called the local child and family agency, and the workers came out and rescued them. Robert and Gina were so sure their parents would return, that they did not want to leave. Angry, sullen and reluctant, they were taken out of the home and placed in foster care, as no relatives existed. Still angry at being taken, and hopeful that their parents would return, they refused to cooperate. Young as they were, they thought that if they were bad enough, no one would keep them, and then they could go home; until then, they had decided they could take care of themselves. The day finally came when the workers thought they were old enough to be told that their parents' rights had been terminated by the state. They were so angry that they determined to behave worse than before.
But this foster home was different. The foster parents were gentle, but firm and kind and loving. Furthermore they had determined that they would adopt Robert and Gina. The foster care workers spoke at length with the foster parents, the court and finally with the children, and drew up the papers. All was made in readiness, but still the children resisted. What more could be done for them? It was out of the question for Robert and Gina to return to the place where their parents had left them, for the drug and rodent infested apartment buildings had been razed. There were no other foster homes that wanted them, and they were too young for group home living or emancipation. What could be done? Finally, the foster parents requested Robert and Gina to come into the living room together. There they spoke with the children at length. They told them, "we know that both of you have been waiting for your mom and dad to return." "We also know that you have been angry that their rights have been terminated, and that you don't know where they are or even if they're alive." "We want you to know that we don't want to take your parent's love away from you, and that we will never try." "We just want to adopt both of you and give you the benefits and privileges to which you'd be entitled if you'd been born to us." "We love you and we hope you'll eventually come to love us, but it's your choice." If you were Robert or Gina, what would you choose? Would you choose to be adopted or would you choose otherwise? I'm happy to be able to tell you that both Robert and Gina chose adoption, and came to love their adoptive parents.
Our lesson this week is focuses on 'what God has done.' If someone were to ask you what has God done, what would you say? Would you be able to tell them that every human being that had ever lived, is living or would live (the whole human race) was placed into Christ -- the 2nd Adam -- and that when He lived -- we lived and when He died -- we died in Him and when He was resurrected -- we were resurrected, and that through His blood we have the forgiveness of sins, redemption and have been accepted in the beloved by the Father (I Cor. 15:45, Rom. 5:12 -21, Eph.1:6)? Would you say that by Christ's redeeming blood, He has given every human being the gift of choice, and that who ever would like to be adopted into God's family now has the privilege to do so? The apostle Paul certainly would say these things if he were alive and were asked. How do we know? Because He has said so, in his writings.
In Ephesians 1:4, Paul says that the Father chose us 'in Christ' before the earth had a foundation. Brothers and sisters, this was prior to sin even entering our world, as our world wasn't yet created. How could we be chosen before earth's foundation when we weren't even alive? Well, scripture says that God foreknew us (see Ps. 139 the whole chapter and in particular, vs.14-16). Not only did He choose us, but He placed us 'in Christ.' By the way who is the 'us' He placed in Christ? Why it's the whole world -- not just believers, for by the offence of one -- Adam the 1st -- sin entered the world, and the wages of sin is the second death. In contrast, by the abundant unmerited favor of the Father, the gift of the righteousness of Christ came upon all men so that all were justified and received the gift of life. Just as by the disobedience of one, the many (all) were made sinners -- by the obedience of One, the many were made righteous, and we judge thus, "if one died for all, then were all dead (Romans 5:10-19, 2 Cor. 5:14)." So, in Christ, we -- the human race -- were made right with God. Going back to our true story in which the names where changed, the papers were prepared without the children's consent. They had no say in the preparation, or rectifying of the wrong their parents had done. Just so, we had no say in what the 1st Adam did, which was to plunge us into sin and no say in what the 2nd Adam -- Christ -- did which was to rectify the wrong which our first parent had done.
In our story, did Robert and Gina have a say so as to whether they were adopted or not? Sure they did, and so do we. If Robert and Gina refused to be adopted, no court of law would dishonor their wishes and proceed with the adoption. By the same token, the court of heaven will not dishonor our choice regarding heavenly adoption, it is ours alone to make. Yet, as the prospective adoptive parents attempted to persuade the children to accept the adoption as in their best interest, so the Holy Spirit attempts to persuade us that the Father loves us and would be delighted to adopt us as His sons and daughters. According to Galatians 3:5, Paul says that Christ was sent to redeem all of us who were under the condemnation of the second death (the law), that we might receive (if we so desire) the adoption of sons. (Vs. 6) And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Holy spirit into our hearts that we may cry, 'Abba -- Father.'" Galatians 3:26 says "For ye are all the children of God by faith 'in Christ Jesus'." Who are referred to here as the children of God? Those who choose by faith.
Romans 8:15,16 also reiterates the same message. Let's look at verse 15, "For ye've not received the Spirit of bondage (to sin / Satan) again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby ye cry Abba, Father." Verses 16 and 17 add valuable information too. They say, "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the Children of God: And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and Joint-heirs with Christ..." Wow, what a wonderful gift has been given to us, and sadly how little we think of it. Many of us are often wondering if the Father truly loves us. Some of us even question whether or not we're really saved. How sad that we think God is far away from us, and has forgotten us. How could a parent who is in his right mind, forget his children? Sometimes human parents do when they're preoccupied, but for the most part, parents do not forget their children. If a loving parent thinks about his or her children and plans for them, wouldn't a perfect God? How could He forget when He does not suffer from the effects of sin?
It seems as if one of the reasons we forget that God loves us is that we resist being led by Him. Somehow, we're still convinced that we can go it alone -- that as long as we live Politically Correct lives, as long as we're nice to people and live a social gospel, we'll be all right. But Romans 8:14 says, "For as many as are led by the (Holy) Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God. Could it be that we're still under the dominion of our first parent (Adam the 1st) -- and that we're trying to obey the law so we won't be condemned? What a waste of perfectly good energy. For there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are 'in Christ Jesus,' who walk not after the flesh, but after the Holy Spirit. For it is only the law of the Spirit of life 'in Christ Jesus' that has made us free (already) of the law of sin and death. Brothers and sisters, we've been freed from the condemnation of the second death, by dying 'in Christ' and being raised with Him to sit in heavenly places. The Father has chosen us to be a part of His family 'in Christ,' and our adoption papers have been prepared and signed in His blood. Freely He has given us this wonderful gift, hoping against hope that we will choose to receive and share it with others. He is waiting for our smile of recognition and understanding, anticipating and hoping that we'll choose to love Him in return. The Holy Spirit is prompting us, let us not resist -- for as many as are led by the Holy Spirit -- they are the sons of God.
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Friday, October 07, 2005
A number of farmer's from the same area, decided to have a business meeting. Of particular issue in the discussion, was a group of fruit trees which had failed to yield the expected crop. It wasn't that the trees yielded pears or even apples instead of peaches. No, the trees yielded peaches alright, but they were consistently sour. Nope, nobody was happy, and everybody wanted something done -- right away. So, the farmers were all meeting this day, to decide the fate of their peach trees. You see, they were all concerned because collectively, year after year the farmers had attempted various things to remedy the problem with their trees but to no avail. Now, every farmer was fed up, and each came to one conclusion -- they had all purchased the sour peach seeds from the same shop.
A traveling consultant, having heard of the farmers' dilemma offered his services. He indicated that if allowed, he would study the situation and present his findings at the end of a specified time. Hopeful, all of the farmers agreed and the consultant began his analysis. Today however, was presentation day and the farmers were eagerly awaiting the results of the study.
At the opening of the meeting, the consultant stood to speak and said, "after analyzing your situation it has been determined that all of you have utilized sour seed." Irritated because they knew this, the farmers urged the consultant to tell them something they didn't know. Unfazed, the consultant continued, "there are a number of remedies available, and each is pricey." "One is to treat the trees with additives to increase the fruit size which probably change it's taste." "Another is to uproot the trees, and sow new seeds." At this point one of the farmers asked, "If we go for the first solution, would we have to do this every year?" The consultant nodded and answered, "Yes, sir, you would." Looking at their copy of the report, the farmers silently estimated how much the intervention would cost them. Then another stated, "but, if we uproot the trees wouldn't that mean we would have to replant?" "And if we do that, there won't be a harvest for several years -- that doesn't sound good to me --you know what they say, 'no harvest, no produce, no produce, no money." Frustrated, the farmers began talking amongst themselves. After they quieted down, the consultant answered, "Yes, what you've said is true -- but.." Just then another farmer asked the question they had all been thinking. "What guarantee do we have that the new seeds will not be sour?" Simultaneously, all of the farmers started talking again. After they quieted down, the consultant responded, "unfortunately, there are no guarantees -- you know about that more than I do." "Apparently, not as much as we should," said another farmer joking. They all laughed. Suddenly one of the quietist farmers said softly, "I think what we need is brand new seed -- from another source." Slowly the laughter subsided, and all agreed, brand new seed is just what was needed.
In this story human beings are the trees that produce sour fruit, having come from bad seed. The seed's name was Adam. When God created Adam, He created all of us in him. The Bible says in Genesis 2:7, "And the LORD God formed man of the
dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In the original, the text says that God breathed the "breaths of life into man ... . " Surprisingly, the plural form of the word is used, and not the singular. So, the text reads "breaths" and not "breath," as is written in most of our bibles. From this we can understand that God breathed into Adam the breath of lives -- all of mankind's lives. So the lives of the whole human race were created in one man: Adam. (Adam in Hebrew actually means mankind.) Acts 17:26 confirms this thought: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." So it is no surprise that if God created all human beings out of one man, when this man sinned, we all sinned. Romans 5:12 says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" This is the basis of the biblical principle of "Solidarity" or "corporate oneness." This principle is also illustrated in the book of Hebrews where we find Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek, despite the fact that Levi was not yet conceived. See Hebrews 7:1-10. How did Levi pay tithes to Melchizedek? Let's take a look at Hebrews 7:
Hebrews 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes to Abraham
Hebrews 7:10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedic met him.
How does this fit our situation today? How does the concept of "corporate oneness," or "solidarity" affect us? Well, although we were not yet conceived -- we were in the loins or in the body of Adam -- so when he (Adam) sinned and his nature was changed, all he could bequeath to us was his nature of sin, therefore we became sinners also. Because of this we suffer the consequences of Sin, and must pay the penalty of the second or eternal death which as we know is not a sleep. This death is eternal separation from God.
Unlike the characters in our story, God is neither a farmer, nor a consultant. He foresaw our Adam's sin and therefore ours and before there was a need, he formulated a solution. We needed Brand New Seed in the form of Adam the 2nd. Among the many places in the Bible in which we find the solution, Romans 5:18 is one of them. It reads: "Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." God solved the Sin problem by putting us, all human beings, in Christ. The whole of the human race, you and I and every human being from Adam to the last person, were put into Christ. Christ became the second or the last Adam. Just as we were in Adam, God by His act of incarnation through the Holy Spirit, put us into Christ so that we were corporately in Him. In bearing us -- our corporate human nature, He bore our Sin /s.
How does this help us? Since we are in Christ, all that He did we did. His life's history has become our history. So when He died the second death, we died with Him, and as He was resurrected on the third day, so were we. Salvation complete and final has been provided in Christ. This is God's gift to Mankind. Why? So that none would perish. For in John 3:16 it says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It is the Father's desire that none should be lost. Abundant provision has been made and if we are lost at last, it will be because we have beat the Father off, and have fully and finally rejected His gift of love. So yes, Christ objectively justified and saved the whole world, but only your and my full and personal acceptance His gift (subjective salvation) will allow us the reward of being the new fruit from the incorruptible seed. Receipt of this Truth (by faith) sanctifies us from Sin's consequences and fits us for Eternal Life. In the personal knowledge of truth is power, for "you shall know the truth and it shall set you free." (John 8:32)
This _expression of "In Christ," is used in Ephesians 1:3-14 approximately ten times. Lets read this passage:
Hebrews 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Hebrews 1:4 According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
Hebrews 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
Hebrews 1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Hebrews 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Hebrews 1:8 Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Hebrews 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:
Hebrews 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:
Hebrews 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:
Hebrews 1:12 That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Hebrews 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Hebrews 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.
Based on this passage we can conclude that in Christ were are not: cursed, left to ourselves, to prove ourselves worthy, we are not lost and forlorn, hopeless, aimless, and excluded from God. On the contrary, we are in Christ: blessed, chosen, predestined to adoption, redeemed through His blood, forgiven of Sin, given wisdom and understanding, purposed to know the mystery of His will, first to hope, and included. Christ has justified all mankind -- qualified us for eternal life. So, Jesus is near us, not only in proximity and in sympathy, but also because He has chosen us in Himself. Now, through portal of our choice, He wants to be "in us," to make us fit for Heaven. If we choose to accept Him, one day we will be living with Him eternally.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
A king is a monarch, and in many cases, a sovereign. The concept of a sovereign monarch is foreign to those of us who live in democratic governments, where the political powers are divided into branches. In Biblical times, a king was also a judge. And as such, it was part of his duty to listen to claims of individuals or provinces against one another and make a determination to right the injustices that had occurred.
Christ has been given the title of King and Judge. However, unlike modern judges, Christ does not sit quietly, waiting to be convinced of guilt. Instead, He listens to the heart of the matter, and the inward motivations, while carefully observing both sides. His decision is not only binding, but is based in love for all concerned, and is accurate. He alone knows who is telling the truth. Unlike earthly judges, He is not swayed by the validity of any argument, nor is He corrupt; He cannot be bribed. A modern judge, after making his decision as to the guilt or innocence of the alleged offender, determines -- partly through the latitude the law allows, and partly through collaboration with his colleagues -- the punishment to be meted out. Often his decision not only penalizes the losing party, but rewards the winner. Unfortunately, many verdicts have been and are being bought from earthly judges who are corrupt. In the Jewish system, the Judge's duty was to advocate for the accused, and find the truth. It was his responsibility to submit his decision to the ultimate authority -- God-- for His ruling. With this in mind, we can understand Paul's context as He indicates that Jesus is the heavenly Judge who not only sets the record straight, but purifies and blots out the sins of His people who allow Him. And as in the Jewish economy which He set up, Christ is also our advocate. It is His objective to defend not only us -- sinful human beings -- against our accuser Satan, but to vindicate Himself and us before the onlooking universe . In so doing, He brings ultimate salvation, and deliverance from Sin to the oppressed and the exiled.
Christ sits as Judge in the Most Holy place as we speak, in this great Cosmic Age of Atonement. Our names are being called in the Investigative Judgment. Our lives are being investigated to determine if we are allowing Christ to live in us according to the profession we have made. What have, and are we professing? We profess that we have accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. We profess that we have welcomed God's Spirit into our mind, heart and body. Further, we've professed through baptism that we have chosen to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of cleansing, purging and blotting out of Sin. Can it be seen that we are surrendering to and totally depending on the Holy Spirit? Can it be seen that we're living according to the Spirit's will for us, as indicated by the Word and the Spirit of Prophecy? To allow the Holy Spirit to do His work is nothing less than 'Sanctification.' Simply put, the Investigative Judgment is the cleansing of the soul temple -- the hearts and minds of Christ's followers (collectively and individually) of known and unknown sin. It is also the cleansing and restoring of the gospel from the dust and cobwebs of neglect and decay.
In regard to the individual preparation needed to enter heaven Christ has said:
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?
Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
This week's lesson says of the above passage in Matthew 7, that our Savior is very clear: 'We can't separate a profession of faith in Him from a life of obedience to Him.' Christ says He 'never knew' those who 'through professing Him as Lord, and even doing deeds in His name weren't obedient to the will of God.' These statements demonstrate the futility of calling oneself a Christian while living the life of the sinner. To live as Christ lived, and to listen attentively, hearing eagerly with the willingness to do -- as Christ did (Obedience's true definition), is to die to self, daily. Living in Christ, is union with Him, and this is what Christ and the Father have described as salvation, which results in -- 'doing the will' of the Father. Unfortunately, many of us have described knowing and doing Christ's will in another way.
We've equated both salvation and His will with having a relationship with Christ. Unconsciously it has escaped us that to do so implies that each of us is both independent and equal with Christ. What has been lost can be found in John chapter 17, which says:
John 17:21 That they all might may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou has sent Me.
John 17:23 I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou has loved Me.
Ellen White says that individuals who profess but do not obey -- as in yield or surrender their will to the Holy Spirit's will --have no true love for God or man. Of them, she says, 'God called them to be co-workers with Him in blessing the world; but while in profession they accepted the call, in action they refused obedience. They trusted to self, and prided themselves on their goodness; but they set the commands of God at defiance. They refused to do the work which God had appointed them, and because of their transgression the Lord was about to divorce Himself from the disobedient nation (Christ Object Lessons p. 278).
Because of the Lord's great love for us, He -- as the 2nd Adam -- has saved the whole world in Himself. The judgment has been designed not to frighten sinful human beings into serving Him, but to vindicate our Saviour and His government. Remember, Satan has accused Him of creating selfish and unfair laws to curtail and restrict the freedoms of Angels and therefore men. Our Wonderful and Amazing Counselor is on trial before the universe. Don't you want to see and participate in His vindication? Yes, it's true that investigating, evaluating and cleansing human beings hearts and minds (and the gospel) is a part of the cleansing of the sanctuary. It is even more true that if we don't resist, we will not be found wanting. Friends, Christ is holding our hand. Our part, is simply not to yank our hand away, by choosing our own wills. Everyone who is not found in the judgment of the righteous has voluntarily chosen to cling to his Sin, and this will be made plain through the investigation. To cling to your Sin, while you await the various signs of His coming -- the close of probation or the passing of Sunday Law, will be to wait too late. For He has said, that when He comes, His reward is with Him to give to every man according as His work shall be (Matt. 16:27).
Friends, the Investigative Judgment is not an inquisition. It is a loving process to determine if the Bride of Christ is ready for Her beloved Groom. Christ is waiting with angst more deep and powerful than we've chosen to know. His pain and disappointment that His Bride is not ready is palpable to those who choose to feel. Friends, Christ is calling His Bride to choose maturity, choose to grow up into the woman He's been awaiting -- for so long. How long must we disappoint His hopes and dreams? Choose with me today to lovingly accept your Saviour's work in your heart. After all, His name -- character-- is definitely worth having.
Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz
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