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
The Special Insights web page resides at:
Saturday, September 17, 2005
The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Sister White stresses the importance of this by telling us to study the lessons in nature. She says in Our High Calling, page 253: “Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, and of His laws that govern nature and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth.” Let’s take a tree as an example. A mature tree uses precious earthly resources: it occupies space, utilizes air (Carbon-dioxide we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree exhales, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, is not only tasteful to our palate, but it is good for our health. Trees cannot consume fruits, as can we. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as the leaves and the wood of the tree for papers as well numerous other products. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then the three do from us. So, all the resources that trees use, end up being for our benefit. And, it seems that trees do this – that is: serve us – selflessly. Well wouldn’t you say, If trees were stewards they would manage God’s entrusted resources to benefit us, mankind.
Our analogy of the tree is really on of stewardship and serving others. When a steward is faithful to God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves. When we give to others or do for them it is because we expect the service to be of benefit for us. Often we expect a tangible return, such as money or other favors – tickets, meal, gift certificate, etc. Other times the benefit we derive from serving others is intangible. We want to be seen to gain favor. Frequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear. We hope to be relieved from doom. Thus we misuse God’s resources for our own benefit, even though we claim we are using these resources to serve others.
A true Christian - at whatever level - is a faithful Steward. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will yield fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). The Spirit of God that dwells in him springs forth this fruit, because the fruit is the character of God himself. Therefore, service is not out of guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or peace. The service of a true Christian, in whom the Spirit dwells, is motivated by Agape – God’s unconditional love – and the driving force is really gratitude. A true follower of Christ gives and serves freely, for he has received freely (Matthew 10:8).
Typically we do not equate stewardship with the selfless serving of others. As a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, he does as the Master wishes. What are the Master’s wishes? “…but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the following text from Matthew 25 will illustrates what this means:
Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
Matthew 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Matthew 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Matthew 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Matthew 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Matthew 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Faithful stewards are sheep who unknowingly serve their Lord by serving those in need. Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain. What is the difference between the two? It is Agape – God’s unconditional love. The type of love that the Father is, which drove Him to give to all human beings “…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This love made Jesus weep because of the harm Sin had done to His humanity (John 11:35). This love can only be found in us when we permit the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This love makes us faithful stewards who serve others, as they are needful, as we were serving Christ Himself. Will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward serving others as the Lord wishes?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
The Special Insights web page resides at:
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
A very successful businessman named Tim, was once giving a talk on the importance of treating others well. He spoke at great length on showing genuine interest to both clients and employees. According to Tim, “If you treat people well, they will be pleased to see you and if you make yourself approachable they will come to you and be more than willing to do business with you." Tim then related a personal anecdote about his wife, his dog, and himself. He said, “Over time, I observed my wife, Lisa, at various social affairs, so affectionate with others that she drew them to herself. The host, guests, and even the hired help all greeted her warmly while I got the usual treatment of, ‘Good Evening, Mr. Hill.’ While I was glad that everyone loved Lisa, I realized that that I also felt angry. 'Maybe,' I thought to myself, 'I'm just being selfish.' However, later that evening, as I was reflecting on the day, I realized that what was really bothering me was that my wife did not respond to me in the same loving was as she treated strangers. That angered me. To make matters worse, upon arriving home, our dog ran straight to her, wagging his tail, and licking her hands, as she made lovey-dovey comments to him, calling him by his pet names. I stood in the doorway observing this Kodak moment with anger. Lisa must have noticed, for she asked me, ‘what’s wrong dear?’ Frustrated, I answered, 'Why aren't you ever affectionate like that with me?' 'What do you mean?’ she asked. Begrudgingly, I explained, ‘you greeted everyone at the party with a smile, and you even hugged and kissed them, and now this; even our dog gets more attention from you than I do.’ Looking at me mischievously, Lisa then said with the sweetest possible voice, ‘If you acted like the dog does when he sees me, you would get more of what he gets.'
You see, Tim's wife, and their dog had an ongoing relationship of trust. Tim however did not seem to have ongoing intimacy with his wife. As such, he became needlessly jealous of the dog's place of affection in his wife's heart. He was even envious of the attention and affection others had for his wife. Poor Tim, he is entitled to so much more of his wife's love and care, yet is willing to settle for that given to strangers and pets. As adults in a loving union with Christ, our adoration and attention should be His. Anything that steals the affections rightly belong to Him, has no place in our hearts. A heart filled with gratitude and praise to Christ is a heart that naturally spills over to others in works of mercy. This is the ultimate demonstration of worship.
According to the Greek lexicon, the word "Worship" means "to kiss The hand," which could certainly conjure up a picture of a dog licking his master's hand. For those of you who don't like or have pets, this could be a very unpleasant analogy. But here's a question for you, "Have you thought about the way in which you welcome God?" Are you as happy to see Him, as a pet (dog) is happy to see his master? Dogs may not agape their masters, but most tend to be very affectionate, loyal and forgiving; no matter what, they tend to come back to you. As human beings, God made us to have dominion over the animals. As such I am sure He wants more than simple-minded worship from us. Yet, many of us don't even adore Christ as much as these 'dumb' animals do. Lest you be offended by the use of the term 'dumb' to describe animals, remember, that as human beings we were made a little lower than the angels. We can feel and think, animals can feel and intuit; and there's a world of difference between the two.
In the New Testament, the word translated as "worship" means "to kneel or prostrate oneself in homage through obeisance, as a method of expressing respect or making supplication. The idea of kneeling or prostrating oneself implies the concept of inferiority and superiority in terms of rank; The one who kneels or lays prone is of lesser rank. In a very real sense, when we bow down and worship, we are acknowledging Christ's superior rank. Yes, it is possible to submit to Him merely because He has greater rank and stature than we do, however this is not the worship that Christ desires. Christ longs for mature worship springing forth from hearts softened by grace, bathed in the memories of His loving care. Such a heart has bright hopes for a future with Him. No bridegroom wants his bride to await him begrudgingly, thinking that this is the best deal she is going to get, so she'd better take it. What an affront that would be to an intelligent, mature and loving
Folks, through the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 55:1, the Lord invites all who hunger and thirst for the bread and water of life to come freely that they may partake, yea, without cost. In John 4:13, 14, Christ says, " Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again (this He said to the Samaritan woman at the well): But whosoever drinketh of this water that I shall give him will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Folks, we are not like the Samaritan people who worshipped they knew not what (vs. 22). No, we are those who know that although the Father is Spirit, Christ is flesh and blood, having put on humanity like ours. As such, we understand that God is seeking those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth. We understand and have partaken of the living bread of life who has given His flesh as a ransom for the human race (John 6:51). In light of this we not only have been made righteous and are growing up to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ (Romans 5:19, Eph. 4:13), but we along with 'Spirit,' are the 'bride' who together "say 'Come,' and let him that heareth say 'Come,' and whoever is athirst, 'Come;' And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely" Rev. 22:17).
Come all who are listening, come all who are reading, come and take the water of life. Come and praise the One who gave His life a ransom for the many. Come and praise with the heavenly host, and the twenty-four elders, and the angels, the One who was found worthy to open the sealed book and commence vindication of Himself in His people. And, the Spirit and the Bride say 'COME.' Folks, with such a great invitation, what is stopping you? COME!
Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz
The Special Insights web page resides at:
Friday, September 02, 2005
A young man approached a group of men who were working diligently and silently on a construction site. As the project was in its initial phase, and had no sign apparent, it was nearly impossible to determine the type of building which would be constructed there. The young man - a passerby -looking at the project commented to himself, "I wonder what they are building here?" Deciding to find out, he approached one of the workers and asked him, “Sir, I am not from this area, but I see that your company is constructing something. Can you tell me what you're doing?" Irritated by the interruption, the construction worker stopped, looked at the visitor sternly and said briskly, “What does it look like I am doing? I am laying bricks!” Taken aback, the young man thought, "although he answered my question, I still don't have any idea what they are constructing -- guess I'd better ask someone else." So, upon thanking the workman, he stepped away. Still curious, the young man approached a nearby workman looking for a better response. Having overheard the previous conversation between the young man and the other construction worker, this worker replied, "I'm putting in the supporting structural beams." Still curious as to the type of building being constructed, the young man moved on. Spotting another worker some distance away, he approached and asked the question, "may I ask what you are working on?" Smiling, the older worker responded, "I am building a cathedral." At last the young man walked away thinking, "this is simply amazing, one building project, three different answers, and only one of the three knew what he was really doing." And indeed it was true, for of the three men, two had answered based on the narrow focus of the job itself. Only one saw the big picture and responded as such. In hearing this story, I wondered, "is this how I'd respond if I'd been working there and was asked about the work I was doing?" So my friends I ask you too, "how would you have
So what is work anyway, and why do we do it? Its quite likely that the majority of us view it as something to be done to make a living, and believing this, we do it in exchange for a salary, paycheck, stipend or profit. Yet, if we turn to Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15,19,20, we see the Godhead not only agreeing to create Adam -- the progenitor of the human race -- in Their own image, but commissioning Adam to his work. It is not until after the fall, that work becomes cursed and laborous. In Genesis chapter 3, we see the extent of the curse. But prior to this curse, 'man did not eat by the sweat of his brow, the earth did not yield thistles and thorns, and neither did man have sorrow.' According to Romans 8:23, "... the whole creation (all creatures) groan and travail together in pain... ." So for those of us who've believed that work is a necessary evil as a consequence of the fall, we've been deceived. Work was given to mankind before the fall, and from what we read in Genesis, it seemed pleasurable. (See EGW Notes for this lesson, p. 68).
Before the fall, Adam and Eve had their work, just as the Godhead, and the angels had their work (for heaven is not a place of inactivity). And on the Seventh-Day, all rested. Why, were they weary from the burden of heavy labour? No, of course not. Rest on the Sabbath was not a cessation of labour due to weariness, for there was none. In heaven and on earth there existed perfect balance and completeness in the cycle of work and of rest. What a wonderful concept.
After the Fall, the principle of unconditional (Agape) love died in man, and the principle of "self" reigned instead, degenerating and enfeebling the nature of every living thing. Thus work became irksome and tiring, and we began to think of it as a curse. Men and women no longer worked for the benefit of others, but grudgingly because they had to. Men schemed to work less and profit at the expense of others' labour. Mankind became bound to work in order to eat; 8, 10, 12, 16 hours of labour became the norm. There was no regard for age. If you were old enough to walk and talk and feed yourself, your life became one of unceasing toil. Then the Lord in his mercy enabled not only the passing of child labour laws, but the almost worldwide legislation of other laws to prevent the abuse of common labourers. Given the history of work, it is no wonder we've thought of it as drudgery!
Yes work is tiresome, for if it weren't Christ would not have said in Matthew chapter 11:
Matt. 11:28 Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matt. 11:29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Matt. 11:30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
At the Cross, Christ redeemed us from the real curse, which is the second death--'or good-bye to life forever.' Thus we belong to Him twice, once by creation, and once by redemption. All that we have is His by right of these two grand acts. The principle of the Kingdom of God is unconditional, self-denying love, and it is opposed to the principle of "self" -- selfishness, self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement. As we follow Christ, the Word changes our priority. No longer seeking our own, we seek His righteousness, and all (these) things are added unto us (Matt. 6:33). When we understand the love of God as displayed on the cross, its principles will actuate us in all our undertakings. What does this mean? It means that we work as He worked, with the bigger picture not only in view, but stamped on our hearts and minds (and I will put my law in your hearts and minds--(Heb. 8:10). What is the law? It is the law of love (for all the law hangs on these two principles, namely -- "Thou shalt love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and that ye shall love one another as I have loved you" Matt. 22:37, 40 & John 15:12).
"So what does this have to do with work," you say? Just this, much of our work and earning money is really about covetousness, and not about love. We want the things we see around us and often feel that if we've worked hard, we deserve them. Yes, some save for their expenditures, and others borrow; but both alike feel that they are within their right to make purchases as they will. They've paid tithe, and offerings (perhaps), so now the other 90% or so is theirs to do with as they please. Christ has said, "Take heed; and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or What shall a man give in exchange for his soul" (Matt. 16:26)?
As followers of Christ, we will do the works that He did, not our own, and not for fear of reprisal nor desire for reward. Jesus said that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, and that of Himself, He could nothing. In light of this, how disappointing it must be to Him that we think "I can choose to do whatever I put my minds to - as long as I'm not hurting anyone," and still call ourselves Christian? Whatever happened to the big picture we're to keep in mind -- that we're strangers and pilgrims passing through on our way to the kingdom of heaven?
Friends, where our treasure is -- whether it be work itself, or the money, perks and benefits we derive from work -- there will our heart be also (Luke 12:24). Christ saw the big picture. He said of His life here on earth, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me...," and "My Father works and hitherto, I work" (John 4:3, John 5:17). Considering His claims of love, can we really choose to do any less than He has done? It is merely unbelief that causes us to think that
Christ does not mean us good. Mary Magdalene stands in stark contrast to the measly gifts of love we offer our Saviour. In purchasing that "ointment" which cost her one years' wages-- and pouring it out on His feet, she gave her all to the Master whom she loved. She knew she was forgiven much, and therefore loved much. So, the question comes to us today, will we choose to let the Master show us the big picture, and work His work of love in us, or will we continue to work as we have?
Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz
The Special Insights web page resides at: