Friday, December 25, 2009

Commentary: God’s Theocracy (part 2)

Commentary: God's Theocracy (part 2)


Last week we saw how God's government is not a democracy, but a theocracy.  We also saw that God's theocracy is different from man's version of theocracy.  Man's theocracy is imposing the religious values of a group of clerics on all inhabitants of the land.  God's theocracy is based on agape.  God has our best interest at heart.  This week's lesson shows more proof of God's theocracy.  Chapter 33 of Numbers starts with these words,

 

Num33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Num33:2 And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.

 

It's really an incredible history, if you think about it. An entire nation flees its captors after centuries of oppression and survives for four decades wandering in the hostile environment of the Sinai wilderness. This happened only by the grace, power, and miracles of God.  Notice, too, how the text in Numbers 33:2 stressed that they moved place to place "by the commandment of the Lord." The Lord wanted them, and future generations, never to forget that the whole story of the Hebrew people on the move in the wilderness was, really, the story about God and His dealings with sinful human beings in an effort to save them and to bring them into the Promised Land.  So, God commanded the people to go and stay at His command.  Remember back in Numbers 9 when the Lord instructed Moses about this,

 

Num9:15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

Num9:16 So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.

Num9:17 And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

Num9:18 At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

Num9:21 And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

Num9:23 At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

 

In the next chapter Moses narrates the first time they started this process,

 

Num10:11 And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.

Num10:12 And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.

God decided where they went and when.  It was not Moses' decision; neither Aaron, nor Miriam's.  It was not the people's consensus.  No elections were held.  In fact, they did not even send spies to gather intelligence on the land.  They followed the cloud by faith. 

 

You may be asking yourself, "where is my cloud?"   The cloud shows God's mercy, but it is a visual sign, and "faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word" (Romans 10:17).  God gave the children of Israel visual signs because of their unbelief.  When you believe the Word you hear, you do not need a cloud.  Are you hearing and believing the Word? 



--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Commentary: God’s Theocracy

God's Theocracy

 

There are different kinds of government.   There are those who have studied them, and come up with different ways to categorize them.   IN the past monarchies and aristocracies were popular.   The monarchy is where a king or queen governs.  The aristocracy is where elite governs.  In our time democracies are more popular; the word "democracy" literally means "rule by the people." In a democracy, the people govern.  This is only an ideal, because a literal democracy is impossible in a political system containing more than a few people. All "democracies" are really republics. In a republic, the people elect representatives to make and enforce laws.  Then there are dictatorships.  A dictatorship consists of rule by one person or a group of people. They are not monarchs or aristocrats per se, but act as if they are. 

 

Among many predominantly Islamic nations theocracy is a growing form of government.  Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler, or in a higher sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In Common Greek, "theocracy" means a rule [kra′tos] by God [the.os′]. For believers, theocracy is a form of government in which divine power governs an earthly human state, either in a personal incarnation or, more often, via religious institutional representatives (i.e., a church), replacing or dominating civil government.  Theocratic governments enact theonomic laws.  Theocracy should be distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held "By the Grace of God".

 

A theocracy may be monist in form, where the administrative hierarchy of the government is identical with the administrative hierarchy of the religion, or it may have two 'arms,' but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy.

 

Iran's government is described as a "theocratic republic".  Iran's head of state, or Supreme Leader, is an Islamic cleric appointed for life by an elected body called Assembly of Experts. The Council of Guardians, considered part of the executive branch of government, is responsible for determining if legislation is in line with Islamic law and customs (the Sharia), and can bar candidates from elections, and greenlight or ban investigations into the election process.

 

The main difference between a theocracy and democracy is that in democracy the leaders are supposed to do the will of the people.  

 

What type of government did the Israelites have before adopting a monarchy (and rejecting God in the process)?  They had a theocracy.  God spoke His will through the prophet, the priest and the judge.  Of course it was different than modern theocracies; God's theocracy is based on agape.  This week's lesson is perhaps the best demonstration of that.  Who chose how the land should be divided?  As we see in Numbers 26:52-56. God did.  Even when the daughters of Zelophehad came to petition Moses their father's inheritance (Numbers 27: 1 – 11), Moses prayed to God with the question and did as God commanded.  Who chose Joshua as Moses successor?  As we see in Numbers 27: 12 – 23, God did.  God told Moses his time was soon to come.  Moses asked God, to not leave the people alone; they needed someone to lead them.   "And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him" (Numbers 27:18).  Moses did as God ordered.  Who designed the Israelites worship service at the sanctuary?  As we see in Numbers 28: 1 – 8: God did.  All God did was remind them of what He told them in Exodus and Leviticus.  Everything was done according to God's plan. 

 

Who is making the choices in your life?  Are you the monarch or dictator?  Are you living by democracy?  Or are you yielding to Heaven's theocracy?




--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Standards alone do not help1.doc

Standards alone do not help

 

I recall as a child hearing the expression, "the taller or bigger they are, the harder they fall."  Typically, it was short guy bragging about how he could beat a taller or bigger person.  The expression has also been used to describe buildings falling.  Some seem to modify it to address the fall of value of stocks.  In such a case I would I would modify it to say, "The higher they go the harder and lower is the fall."    This is very true in moral issues.  The list of public personalities that have fallen in disgrace is endless, and it continues to grow.  At the writing of this commentary the latest victim was golfing great Tiger Woods.  His fall, and that of others, however was not overnight.  This phenomenon is not new.  And, it is perhaps the major them of this week's lesson.

 

The author of our lesson says that the Israelites didn't fall into sin overnight. It was a step-by-step process.  Indeed, Sister White agrees with his assessment, she says,

 

"It was when the Israelites were in a condition of outward ease and security that they were led into sin. . . . They neglected prayer and cherished a spirit of self-confidence. . . . A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 459.

 

Rightfully concerned about the church today, the author asks, "What about us as a church today? Are we letting down our guard regarding things that could, ever so slightly, allow us to become hardened to what will lead us into Satan's traps? What role does the issue of standards play in this important area? How can standards help protect us against this slow and steady move toward apostasy and ruin? Or can they at all? Or, if they can help us, how should they be applied?" 

Can we fall as the Israelites fell?  Can knowing that something is wrong stop us from engaging in it?  The Israelites knew the law.  God through Moses had given it to them.   This, however, did not stop them from indulging in Sin.  So, again the question is: Are we in the same danger?  Will knowing the standards prevent us from falling? 

 

Paul seems to think so.  In 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 14 he warns the brethren,

 

 1Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

 2And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

 3And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

 5But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

 6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

 7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

 10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

 11Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

 12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

 13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

 14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

 

The passage gives us a warning and a promise.  We are not immune.  We can fall as the Israelites did, but if we stand in faith God gives us a way out of temptation.  This is our only way out of Sin and idolatry. 




--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, December 04, 2009

Commentary: A Lack of Due Diligence

  A Lack of Due Diligence

Two teenage girls had become enemies.  No matter how hard they tried to end their animosity it continued to grow.  At one point they gave up trying to find peace.  One of them, Theresa, decided to stay away and avoid any kind of contact.  Linda, the other girl, did not react well to Theresa's avoidance.  Linda said she now felt disrespected.  Linda thought that she had to do something to show Theresa not to mess with her. 

Linda talked to Tommy, an aggressive young man.  She offered to pay him a few dollars to beat Theresa up.  Tommy accepted.  So Tommy showed up at Theresa and Linda's school.  He asked for Theresa, someone pointed him to her.  Tommy was puzzled.  The young lady they pointed to him was his cousin, whom he knew as Tia.  Linda did not know the young man she hired was Theresa's cousin.  And Tommy was not about to beat up his cousin.  Now he wanted to beat Linda up.  Theresa was surprised to see him and walked up to him excitedly.  "Hey, Cuz, what are you doing here?"  "Not for anything good, but my plans changed.  Cuz, we're family and I didn't know your first name," Tommy replied.  Theresa said, "What's wrong Tommy?"  "Where is Linda", Tommy asked.  Tommy looked angry.  Theresa again asked him, "Tommy, how do you know?  Why are you here, what's wrong."  Tommy told Theresa the story, and added, "But I am gonna beat her up, instead."  Theresa then grabbed Tommy's arm, and begged him, "Tommy, No!  Let's go talk to the head mistress.  Tommy reluctantly obliged Theresa.  The head mistress convinced Tommy to let her and Linda's parents take care of Linda, in exchange of her not calling the police on him.  Tommy agreed and left the school. 

What saved Theresa?  Linda did not know that Tommy was Theresa's cousin.  Linda acted on incomplete information.  What saved Israel from Balak's intention of using Balaam to curse Israel?  He did not know that the God behind Balaam's power to bless or curse was the same God blessing Israel.

Balak was an idolatrous king.  Like most idolatrous king's he thought that the god's were behind the fates of war.  Instead of arguing like boys do today, "my dad can beat your dad", they argued my god can beat your god.  In their mind, whoever won the war had the stronger god.  In Numbers 21:25 - 26 we read,

Num21:25 And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.

Num21:26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.

Although Israel was at the very borders of Moab, Israel had not bothered Moab.  It is not clear whether it was God's intention for them to do so.  We could assume it was not.  Balak reasoned that if the God of the Israelites was stronger than the god of the Amorites, then most definitely the God of the Israelites was stronger than his god.  He feared the Israelites would attack his kingdom so he thought he should act before others did.   Balak's assessment of God was partially correct, making him completely wrong.  He thought that maybe there was someone with more power than the Israelite's God.  So, Balak had called Balaam, a man known for influencing the outcomes of wars.  As Balak said of Balaam, "… he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed" (Numbers 22:6). 

Balak thought that Balaam was a sorcerer, which would explain the diviner's fee (Numbers 22:7).   He was unaware that Balaam's power came from God.  Therefore, Balak was unaware that he sought to secure a blessing from the very God of the people he sought to destroy.   In conclusion, Balak was unaware that he thought he could buy God's favor.  (Of course, it did not help that Balaam was inconsistent in his relationship with God. How different would the story have been, had Balaam been faithful to God?  I can only speculate, but had Balaam been faithful, the Gospel could have been preached to the Moabites and many including Balak could have been converted.) 

Balak let fear cloud his judgment.  Any reasonable person would have at least suspected that Balaam's power came from the God of the Israelite's.  Let's look at it logically: you have a man that vetoes the decrees of the gods and a people whose God delivers all other kingdoms to them.  Could it be the same power source?  Balak failed to do his "due diligence".  Due diligence is research or analysis that is done to acquire accurate and complete information, especially before entering into an agreement or a transaction with another party.  If Balak would have done due diligence then he would have found out if Israel was planning to attack.  Also, he should have asked questions about the Israelite's God.  I am pretty sure Moses and Eleazar would have been more than willing to share with him.  If he still wanted to inquire from Balaam, he should have asked where his power came from.  And since, Balaam was a "diviner" in Balak's eyes, he should have asked him about the Israelites and their God.  In fact, had Balak started by asking the probably prevented a lot of what happened next.  

Are we like Balak: jumping to conclusions with out doing due diligence?  Do we judge a situation before finding out whether what we think is true or not?  Could we be fighting against the God we profess to worship because we are fighting against those whom He called to service?   Are we letting fear, or any other emotion, control our thoughts and actions?  I pray that we learn from Balak's example.  Let the Indwelling Spirit of God give you victory where Balak failed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Escape Valve

The Escape Valve

 

A pressure cooker is a special cooking pot with a locking, airtight lid and a valve system to regulate internal pressure. Pressure cookers operate on a principle whereby the steam that builds up inside the pressurized pot cooks food at a very high temperature; the more pounds of pressure, the higher the internal temperature and the quicker the food cooks.  This reduces the cooking time by as much as two-thirds without destroying the food's nutritional value. Traditional models are equipped with detachable pressure regulators that can adjust the pressure.  Newer pressure cooker designs feature built-in valves and indicator rods that indicate the pressure.  So, pressure cookers have a safety valve, which will automatically vent the steam should there be a malfunction.  Safety valves are also called escape valves.  It is a valve in a container which opens automatically when the pressure reaches a dangerous level. 

 

The term pressure cooker is also used as a metaphor for social situations or atmospheres of difficulty, stress, or anxiety.  The challenge is to have also a metaphorical escape valve.  The truth is all of us have been in situations or circumstances were we have snapped or exploded.  We have dealt with it out of our frustration or irritation, in other words in anger.  Such was the case of Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20.  In verse 1, we read that: "…Miriam died and was buried."  Moses and Aaron at this point are 120 and 123 of years of age, respectively.  And, they had just buried their Sister.   The unsympathetic crowd only thought of themselves.  We read the rest of the story in Numbers 20: 2 - 13

 

2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.

3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: "If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

4 Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?

5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink."

6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

8 "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals."

9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?"

11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them. 

 

On a human level, it's easy to understand Moses' frustration. First, as mentioned above, he just had buried his sister, and no doubt was feeling pain over that. And then to hear these people utter, basically, the same complaint that their forefathers had made years ago? Nevertheless, in the Lord's eyes, none of this excused his behavior.  The Lord's rebuke toward Moses and Aaron in verse 12 was very strong.  God also gives them the reason: "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them"   Moses and Aaron sinned because in that moment they lacked faith.  This displeased God.  Sister White says their bad example affected the whole congregation,

 

"The water gushed forth in abundance to satisfy the host. But a great wrong had been done. Moses had spoken from irritated feeling. . . . When he took it upon himself to accuse them, he grieved the Spirit of God and wrought only harm to the people. His lack of patience and self-control was evident. Thus the people were given occasion to question whether his past course had been under the direction of God, and to excuse their own sins. Moses, as well as they, had offended God. His course, they said, had from the first been open to criticism and censure. They had now found the pretext which they desired for rejecting all the reproofs that God had sent them through His servant."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 417.

 

All it took was one irrational act to destroy everything done up to that moment.  We may think it was little and of no consequence, but the ramifications were felt negatively within the future generations.  This is a lesson for all of us.  What we do not only affects us but those around us as well.  It would do us well to have an escape valve, so our anger and frustration do not reach dangerous levels in which we explode, thus destroying ourselves and those around us.  Of course, that escape valve is Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  But, it only works if we believe (have faith).  The Apostle said, "Be ye angry, and sin not …" (Ephesians 4:26).  Only the Holy Spirit can help us do that.  Do we believe He can?  Will we let Him? 



--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

Accusers

Accusers

 

Young Cecilia lost her mother when she was 3 years of age.  Since then she stayed with her grandmother.  Her Aunt Heather looked after her.  Aunt Heather mad sure she had enough money for things.  She paid for Cecilia's school, bought her clothes, and bought her expensive gifts.  All other Aunts pitched in occasionally but not as much as Heather. 

 

One day when many of the Aunts were home.  They approached Cecilia and started asking her about her relationship with Heather.  In doing so, they started to tell her things about Heather so as to question Heather's best interest in Cecilia.  Cecilia was now confused.  Could they be right?  Aunt Heather was like a mother to her.  All the things they said made sense, but how could it be?  How could Heather have deceived her all these years?

 

Cecilia decided to approach Heather and ask her.  Needless to say, Heather was hurt that Cecilia would question her intentions.  Wise grandmother was overhearing the conversation.  She called Cecilia.  Cecilia reluctantly came to her.  Then grandmother said to Cecilia, "Some of the things that you're Aunts said may be true.  I know.  I raised them all.  I also know that about sibling rivalry.  I have siblings myself, and a few of us do not get along until now.  My daughters are no different.  It hurts me that they do not get along.  It hurts me more that they are trying to use you to play games with each other.  Aunt Heather loves you.  The others are jealous of her.  Where were they when you needed help and nurturing?  Where were they when you needed someone to look after you?  Never forget that.  Aunt Heather has always been here for you.  They have not.  I love my daughters, but the truth is the truth."  Cecilia cried and ran to Aunt Heather, hugged her and asked for forgiveness. 

 

Behind many an accusation there is a hidden agenda.  On the surface the reasons for the accusation may seem rational and logical, and even altruistic in nature.  But, more often than not, there is underneath a self serving reason.  Typically, the accuser is trying to position him/her to gain something.  Even when the accusations are false the accuser is trying to gain something. 

 

Such seems to be the case with Korah.  We read in Numbers 16: 1 - 3,

 

Numbers 16

 1Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:

 2And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:

 3And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

 

From an outsider point of view it may seem that way.  Of course the accusations were false. God was not with them in the same way He was with Moses, had this been true they would have never rebelled against Moses and accuse him that way.  It was not Moses decision to create a division of labor.  It was God's decision based on the people's rejection of God's plan to make them all priests.  It seems Korah thought that what God had appointed him to do was beneath him.  Korah wanted more.  This is what Moses implies in his response to the accusations in Numbers 16: 9 - 11,

 

Numbers 16

 9Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?

 10And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?

 11For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

 

Moses unmasked Korah's real intention.  Moses also told Korah that although he is accusing Moses and Aaron, Korah's rebellion is really against God.  When the people rejected the prophet Samuel as Judge and asked for a King God told Samuel "… they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).   It is the same today.  The same two things happening with those accusing God's appointed servants of wrong doing: 1. they have a hidden agenda and an ulterior motive, and 2. they are really rebelling against God.  Next time you are accusing or accused keep this in mind. 

 



--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fwd: Sincerity.doc

A Sincere Christian

 The Etymology (origins) of the word sincere is not clear.  Scholars are divided in this issue.  The Oxford English Dictionary and most scholars state that sincerity from sincere is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound (1525–35). Sincerus may have once meant "one growth" (not mixed), from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow).  Crescere is cognate with "Ceres," the goddess of grain, as in "cereal."  According to the American Heritage Dictionary[6], the Latin word sincerus is derived from the Indo-European root *sm̥k─ôros, itself derived from the zero-grade of *sem (one) and the suffixed, lengthened e-grade of *ker (grow), generating the underlying meaning of one growth, hence pure, clean.

It does not help that there is n often repeated folk etymology proposes that sincere is derived from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax. According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture "without wax" would mean honesty in its perfection.  Another explanation is that without wax etymology "is derived from a Greeks-bearing-gifts story of deceit and betrayal. For the feat of victory, the Romans demanded the handing over of obligatory tributes. Following bad advice, the Greeks resorted to some faux-marble statues made of wax, which they offered up as tribute. These promptly melted in the warm Greek sun."

Regardless of the true origin of the word sincere (which means free from hypocrisy, honest, genuine, and/or real), it seems to mean that inside and out is made of the same material: no blends, no mixes, no filling.  This reminds me of how the Lord ordered some things to be done in the sanctuary.  The sanctuary's lamp was made out of pure gold.  Everything in this lamp was to be gold.  We read of this in Exodus 25:31 and 39,

Exo25:31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.

Exo25:39 Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels.

Also the silver trumpets in Numbers 10:2,

Num10:2 Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.

 The trumpets were made out of a whole piece of silver only.  It is this kind of integrity that Christ had while on earth.  Through and through He was all the same.  His intentions, His thoughts, Words and His actions were in harmony.  All were clean, pure, sound, and not mixed with self (sin).  This is why many considered Christ different than any other man (John 7:46).  This is what men are looking for in us.  This is what the Holy Spirit is trying to produce in us.  It is not only what we say, but how we live, and this requires sincerity.  Sister White says why,

"Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven's chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christ-like life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 347.  

True sincerity in a Christian is when the intentions of the heart, the words of the mouth, and the actions perform in perfect alignment with agape.  Like the lamp and the trumpets they are made out of one "one whole piece" of agape. 

 

 

 




--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, October 30, 2009

Faith: The limiting reagent

Faith:  The limiting reagent

The lesson asks, "In what ways, even subtly, as we await the Second Coming (which seems to be taking so long), could we be in danger of displaying the same attitudes we find so repugnant as manifested by the Hebrews here?"  To answer this question let us read the following illustration. 

 Let us say that you want a certain amount of a chemical substance.  To do this you have to mix a certain amount of the chemical substance that make it up.  Simply put you follow a recipe.  If you do the right thing you will produce the right amount of the right substance.  But, let's say that after a few hours you end up short.  The chemical reaction stopped working.  It could be that you did not have enough of the limiting reagent.  What is this?  In a chemical reaction, it is the reagent that controls the quantity of product which can be formed.  Put differently, it is the chemical that determines how far the reaction will go before the chemical in question gets "used up", causing the reaction to stop.  There are ways to calculate this even before the reaction is working.  It is called limiting regent because it limits the amount you can produce. 

If our relationship with God was a chemical reaction what would be the limiting reagent.  If Christ's soon return was dependent on this chemical reaction what would be the limiting reagent?  When we looked at what happened to the Israelites in Numbers 13 and 14, we realized that they could have reached the Promised Land at that very moment if their relationship with God was one of Faith.  But, as Paul said in Hebrews 3: 13 - 19, their unbelief kept them away.  Now, instead of possessing the land they would wander 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14: 28-35; Hebrews 3:17).  Their "limiting reagent" was Faith.  The lack of this ingredient – Faith - caused the 'reaction' to stop.  So, it delayed the 'production" of God fulfilling His promise to the Israelites of giving them the promise land.    

 The original question was: could we be doing the same thing the Israelites did?  But first we have to ask ourselves: is there a delay?  Sister White answers both questions.  She says clearly that there is a delay because we are in a same position of the Israelites.  Because of our own unbelief the Father has delayed His Son's return.  In page 694 of Evangelism the Editor's quote her saying says that it is an act of mercy,

The long night of gloom is trying, but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come, so many would be found unready. God's unwillingness to have His people perish, has been the reason of so long delay.

The editors of Evangelism quote -also in page 694 -what she said about what would have happened if the work might have been done,

Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.  

I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would today be in the heavenly Canaan. -

The editors of Evangelism then quote Sister White in page 695 saying that there is No Failure of God's Promises, it is our fault,

The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional.  

     God had committed to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel's message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement for His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth, and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming.  

     Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!  

It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in "because of unbelief." Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.  

For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.

"Ye have not, because ye ask not" (Matthew 7: 7, 8; James 4:2).  An unlimited supply of faith is at our disposal if we want it.  With faith all things are possible (Mark 9:23).  Without it nothing but Sin is (Romans 14:23).  

--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Third Culture Christians.doc

Third Culture Christians

Years ago I went to a conference where I met a lady called Ruth Van Rekken.  We did the usual small talk.  After I told Ruth that I was raised in the United States in a Puerto Rican home – in other words I grew up between two cultures - she told me I was a Third Culture Kid.  I thought she meant that Puerto Rico was a third world country.  But, before I could ask her, Ruth explained to me what she meant, prefacing that this is a common phenomenon. 

This phenomenon was discovered by Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem.  She coined the term "Third Culture Kids" (TCK) after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, in the early fifties. Initially they used the term "third culture" to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture; in time they started to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture as "Third Culture Kids." Useem used the term "Third Culture Kids" because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique "third culture"

Sociologist David Pollock describes a TCK as "a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background."The question, "Where is home?" to a TCK is hard to answer.  Is it where they grew up, where there parents grew up, or wherever they are living now?  Imagine a young TCK being told, "You are going back home," and home is a land you have never seen with people you have never met. 

We read in the book of Genesis that Jacob and his sons - and their families - left Canaan to live in Egypt.  This clan grew into a few million 400 years later, while living in Egypt.  Moses showed up one day and told them, "I'm here to take you back home."  To these people whether for good or bad Egypt was home.  Now, God was taking them to a land they had never seen to live among a people they had never met.  God miraculously takes them out of what they know as home to take them to their new home.  We read from Exodus to Deuteronomy what God had to do to accomplish this.  The beginning of the journey as an organized nation starts in Numbers 10: 11 – 36.  Because of their resistance to God's plan it took God more than a year to get them organized as a nation to go home. 

In a real sense true Christians are in the same predicament.  Christ came to this world telling us that He would be back to take us home.  We read this in John 14: 1 – 4,

 John14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

John14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

To all of us born and raised in this planet: this is home.  We know nothing else.  But, it was not meant to be our home.  Also, God is destroying it in the near future (Daniel 2:44, 45; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20).  (We have a new Land Lord.  He is rebuilding our dwelling place.  Our lease is not being renewed, we have been evicted.  But, we have a new lease, signed and paid for by Jesus.  We can be His room mates for eternity.)

When the Holy Spirit makes your heart His home (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17), you are gradually and increasingly transformed into a new way of thinking (Romans12:2).  You acquire a new culture.  This culture does not fit anywhere in this planet.  You do not even fit or have a sense of belonging with those with whom you grew up with.  You develop a new sense of identity.  One, which "… sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background."  You only feel you belong with people of a similar (parallel) walk of Faith.  You sense you belong only with those who are learning and are striving to live lives controlled and dependent on Jesus.  When we get to our new home we will fit right in, because this is how those who are there live.  --

Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Third Culture Christians

Third Culture Christians

Years ago I went to a conference where I met a lady called Ruth Van Rekken. We did the usual small talk. After I told Ruth that I was raised in the United States in a Puerto Rican home – in other words I grew up between two cultures - she told me I was a Third Culture Kid. I thought she meant that Puerto Rico was a third world country. But, before I could ask her, Ruth explained to me what she meant, prefacing that this is a common phenomenon.

This phenomenon was discovered by Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem. She coined the term "Third Culture Kids" (TCK) after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, in the early fifties. Initially they used the term "third culture" to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture; in time they started to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture as "Third Culture Kids." Useem used the term "Third Culture Kids" because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique "third culture"

Sociologist David Pollock describes a TCK as "a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background.”

The question, “Where is home?” to a TCK is hard to answer. Is it where they grew up, where there parents grew up, or wherever they are living now? Imagine a young TCK being told, “You are going back home,” and home is a land you have never seen with people you have never met.

We read in the book of Genesis that Jacob and his sons - and their families - left Canaan to live in Egypt. This clan grew into a few million 400 years later, while living in Egypt. Moses showed up one day and told them, “I’m here to take you back home.” To these people whether for good or bad Egypt was home. Now, God was taking them to a land they had never seen to live among a people they had never met. God miraculously takes them out of what they know as home to take them to their new home. We read from Exodus to Deuteronomy what God had to do to accomplish this. The beginning of the journey as an organized nation starts in Numbers 10: 11 – 36. Because of their resistance to God’s plan it took God more than a year to get them organized as a nation to go home.

In a real sense true Christians are in the same predicament. Christ came to this world telling us that He would be back to take us home. We read this in John 14: 1 – 4,

John14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

John14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

To all of us born and raised in this planet: this is home. We know nothing else. But, it was not meant to be our home. Also, God is destroying it in the near future (Daniel 2:44, 45; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20). (We have a new Land Lord. He is rebuilding our dwelling place. Our lease is not being renewed, we have been evicted. But, we have a new lease, signed and paid for by Jesus. We can be His room mates for eternity.)

When the Holy Spirit makes your heart His home (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17), you are gradually and increasingly transformed into a new way of thinking (Romans12:2). You acquire a new culture. This culture does not fit anywhere in this planet. You do not even fit or have a sense of belonging with those with whom you grew up with. You develop a new sense of identity. One, which “… sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background.” You only feel you belong with people of a similar (parallel) walk of Faith. You sense you belong only with those who are learning and are striving to live lives controlled and dependent on Jesus. When we get to our new home we will fit right in, because this is how those who are there live.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A pleasing attitude

What Pleases God

Two children are called by their mother.  One, sprung up to her immediately.  He always expressed how grateful he was for his mother.  With a smile in his face, he says, "Yes Mom."  The other she had to call several times, angering his mother.  When he finally heard the anger in his Mom's voice he yelled back nastily, "What?"  The Mom then said, "I want to see you."  To which the child relied, angrily, "Then you come to me."    He always complained about his mother.  After, a few more exchanges, the child decided to storm in the room huffing and puffing, looked at his Mom defiantly, and told her sternly, "what do you want?"  Which of the two pleased the Mom?  Which of the two would please you more?  Which of the two would please God more?

In the book of Exodus God first addressed the people through Moses.  But, God had plans for them.  He told Moses to tell the people in Exodus 19: 3-6

Exodus 19:3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;

Exodus 19:4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

Exodus 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Moses followed God's instruction, told the people and they replied,

Exodus 19:7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

Exodus 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

The people made a promise to God they could not, and would not fulfill.  It proved to be a half hearted answer.  God wanted to be closer to them, but they refused God's closeness.  In Exodus 20:  18 – 21, after Moses gave them the Ten Commandments, it says that,

Exodus 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

Exodus 20:19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

Exodus 20:20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

Exodus 20:21 And the people stood afar off,

Their fear showed a lack of Faith, which displeased God (Hebrews 11:6).  Had He not shown Himself to them to be loving, merciful, and trustworthy?  So, again they refused to be close to God.  This distance they set for themselves between God and them, precluded God from making them a kingdom of priests.  God could not purify them to be priests unless they got closer.  To allow God to purify us we need to get closer to Him.  Yes, we will recognize that we are sinners as we get closer.  Only then can the Lord purify us for His service.  Consider Isaiah when taken in vision to God's dwelling place,

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 6:6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

Isaiah 6:7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Eventually, only those who came closer to God were cleansed for the service of Priesthood and Tabernacle service: Aaron, his sons, and the rest of the Levites.  We know the story.  After promising God they would do all everything God said, they forgot about His great work with them.  They murmured against God and Moses – showing their ungratefulness.  So they decided to worship another god.   Aaron fashioned to them an idol after the fashion of what they left behind in Egypt.  When Moses caught the children of Israel worshiping a golden calf, after they said they would do what God told them but did not, Moses addresses them and asked, "…Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" (Exodus 32:26).  Thus the Levites were chosen to be God's group the people serving the tabernacle (Numbers 3:41).  This was a privilege that all children of Israel could have had.  So, we read in Numbers 8: 16 – 26, how God asked Moses to dedicate the Levites for their service to Him.  As the lesson points out, they were a wave offering to the Lord, themselves (Numbers 8:13).  As if they represented the first fruit of the grain harvest. 

What is our attitude toward God?  Will we be like the Levites or the other children of Israel?  Will we let our fear, which casts away the love of God and causes unbelief, to keep us away from God, thus prohibiting Him from purifying us? 




--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Friday, October 02, 2009

Cooperation with angels

Cooperation with angels

 

The word harmony is defined as a pleasing combination of elements in a whole.  The word harmony is a derivative of the Greek word "harmos" which means joint.  The Greek word was "harmonia" and it meant: agreement.  It means that things match, they go or work together. 

The term is used a lot in music.  In music it is a combination of sounds considered pleasing to the ear.  Specifically, it is the simultaneous combination of notes in a chord.  In Harmony, you add a different note or notes to the notes of the melody, giving it pleasant texture and feeling.  If the notes go together we call it harmony, if they do not go together we call it discordant.  Some other examples of harmony, are:  color harmony; the order and harmony of the universe. It also referred to A collation of parallel passages, especially from the Gospels, with a commentary demonstrating their consonance and explaining their discrepancies.  Sometimes we talk about being or working in harmony.  This means being in Agreement in feeling or opinion; being of one accord.  It is the act or state of agreeing or conforming.  Sister White uses this term referring to Angels. 

"Angels work harmoniously. Perfect order characterizes all their movements. The more closely we imitate the harmony and order of the angelic host, the more successful will be the efforts of these heavenly agents in our behalf. If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization. All who desire the cooperation of the heavenly messengers must work in unison with them. Those who have the unction from on high will in all their efforts encourage order, discipline, and union of action, and then the angels of God can cooperate with them" (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 28).

 

The last sentence of Sister Whites is very interesting. It refers to those who have the unction from on high who are these? We know that the unction refers to oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. So the sentence means that those who have the Holy Spirit will in all their efforts encourage order, discipline, and union of action, and then the angels of God can cooperate with them – work harmoniously with God, His angels and others.  Can any of us actually do these things? In fact, will we even have the desire to do them? Will the purpose of anything we do be to be in cooperation with the Angels? To all three questions the answer is, "I doubt it."  Not unless we are yielded ( in submission) to the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

 

Do Angels have the unction? Are Angels yielded to the Holy Spirit? Does the Spirit indwell them? As far as I know the Bible does not so they are yielded, but it does not say they are not. We assume they are, because the do they seem to willingly do Gods will. When you contrast them with the fallen angels you can assume they are, because the fallen angels are not doing His will.  The same reasoning goes for the indwelling Holy Spirit: if He does not dwell in the fallen angels then He must in the un-fallen angels. They must have the unction of God.

 

Paul elaborates Romans 8: 4 – 9,

 

Rom8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Rom8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Rom8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Rom8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Rom8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Rom8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

 

Those who in whom the Spirit dwells walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh.  They are not carnally minded, but Spiritually minded.  They are in harmony with God.  When He dwells in us and we do His will, we are doing as the angels do. So we are in sync with them or we are in phase with them.  When we have the unction – the Spirit dwells in us – we will work in harmony with God, and others. 



--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"John's Letter to the Chosen Lady"

There is discussion over whether this short letter (2 John) was written to a woman leader in a church or to the church personified as the bride of Christ. It seems John's second letter is directed to a woman and to a local church in which she served. One reason is because of the use of the pronoun "you." The letter opens and closes with "you" in the singular addressing the woman. This pronoun is used in plural form between the two singular uses. However, the point of the letter is not to whom John wrote, but rather it is the content that's important. Today, as well as when the letter was written, it speaks to us individually and corporately about two principles by which we are to live.

The two main principles, love and truth, are eternal and extend from John's time to ours and beyond. Loving and walking in the truth are related to commandment keeping. The essence of love is obedience to the law, and is from faith done in the spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. Obedience can be done only by those who are justified by faith. Love and truth are joined specifically to "the doctrine of Christ" in which the believer abides (vss. 9-10). It is about Him who came into human flesh as the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14, 1-3). His doctrine is also what He taught. He taught truth because He is the truth (John 14:6).

In verse 7 of John's second letter, he gives the reason for his urgent entreaty that the saints conduct themselves in the sphere of God's commandment to love one another--the presence of heresy in the Church. Truth must be proclaimed and maintained as well as lived. That heresy denied the foundational pillar of salvation: "the doctrine of Christ." This doctrine in which we are to abide is "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." The verb "is come" is a present participle and translated as coming, which describes Christ as still being manifested in our flesh. Earlier, in 1 John 4:2, we learned that the Incarnation was presented as a definite historical fact by the use of the perfect tense: "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." In his second letter John writes of Christ coming in our flesh as a continuing fact. Both facts the deceivers flatly denied. However, if Christ would not or could not and thus did not come in our fallen flesh 2,000 years ago, how can He, by His Spirit, dwell in our fallen flesh today? Only if He did come in our same flesh then, He can and does so now.

In 2 John 7 we have the application of the Incarnation applied to believers. They reveal in their lives the effect of believing the doctrine of the historical fact of the Incarnation. This calls for more than verbal acknowledgment. Those who believe that Christ came in human flesh will reveal a Christlike life of truth and love.

It is of interest to note that the word "love" is used in this letter both as a noun (vss. 3 and 6) and as a verb (vss. 1 and 5). The noun defines what love is while the verb describes what one does. For example, in 1 John we learned that "God is love" (noun) and that He "loves" (verb) (see 1 John 4:8, 16, 7, 11, 19). As the intended consequence of God's love, believers respond to Him in love and to others because He first loved us (4:19-21). The word used for love in both letters is agape. We are not to be deceived by anyone who mingles agape with the human self-exalting love of eros.

It was with amazement that I read pope Benedict XVI's very first pontifical encyclical, dated December 25, 2005. It is entitled DEUS CARITAS EST (Latin for "God is Love" or "Charity"). He expressed his doctrine of love (caritas) to his followers and to the world. For God's love He mingled eros with agape. This is what he penned: "God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape." For support of this amalgamation of agape and eros he references in footnote 7, Dionysius the Areopagite, who "calls God both eros and agape." This is wrong. The God of the Bible is agape. Never eros. Never!

Eros is self-exalting. It leads one to think that he is a god above the God of heaven (2 Thess. 2:4). But the God of heaven is agape--self-effacing. His love is not one of patronizing superiority. His way was stepping down in order to save us. The Sovereign and Infinite Holy God was manifested in human flesh! Christ who took our flesh upon Himself and Who continues coming in flesh is the truth of God. This is the supreme demonstration of the love of God. The deceivers and antichrists of John's day did not agree that Christ came in the sphere of human flesh.

This brings us more directly to the test of "the doctrine of Christ." The great question is: "Did God really become man in the Person of Jesus Christ?" At this point, John's discussion changes to the danger of false teachers. Believers must not simply love (vss. 5, 6); they must also maintain the truth (vss. 7-11). Consequently, they must be aware of heretical precepts. John previously described the "antichrist(s)" as people with an inadequate understanding of Jesus Christ, both in His divinity and in His humanity (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:2-3).

Not only does Rome mingle eros with agape, but she denies that Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature. Instead of "the doctrine of Christ" the papacy puts forth the doctrine of the "Immaculate Conception" of Mary so that Christ could take a sinless human nature from her, purportedly to exalt Him but not actually. Rome teaches that Mary was like us in that she got hungry, thirsty, and tired, but she was exempt from fallen human nature and thus was unique in the sinlessness of human nature and of life. This, in turn, directly drives Rome's doctrinal system especially concerning Christology and consequently soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. One of the stumbling blocks to Christians is the many deceivers who subtly blur the truth about the kind of human nature Jesus took upon Himself in the Incarnation.

Cardinal Gibbons wrote that Christ took His supposedly human nature from Mary: "... by being born of the virgin, thus taking to himself from her maternal womb a human nature of the same substance with hers" (The Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 198, 199; emphasis supplied).

Archbishop Fulton Sheen desolidarized both Mary and Jesus, separating them from fallen human nature: "Mary was desolidarized and separated from that sin-laden humanity. ... Had there been no Immaculate Conception, then Christ would have been said to be less beautiful, for He would have taken His Body from one who was not humanly perfect! ... How could [Christ] be sinless if He was born of sin-laden humanity? If a brush dipped in black becomes black, and if cloth takes on the colour of the dye, would not He, in the eyes of the world, have also partaken of the guilt in which all humanity shared? If He came to this earth through the wheatfield of moral weakness, He certainly would have some chaff hanging on the garment of His human nature" (The World's First Love, pp. 15, 16, 48; emphasis supplied).

These two men speak of a phantom humanity, an hallucination. If God could enter mortal human life only as a phantom human nature, the body stands forever despised; then there can be no real communion between the divine and the human; no real salvation. But on the contrary, Jesus became what we are to make us in His image.

In these last days, God sends a gospel message in love and truth to be proclaimed to the world. It involves Christ as Conqueror of the tendencies of fallen human nature as well as the Lamb of God who bore our committed sins. Of this A. T. Jones wrote: "O, He is a complete Saviour. He is a Saviour from sins committed, and the conqueror of the tendencies to commit sins" ("The Third Angel's Message," No. 14, General Conference Bulletin, 1895). Concerning the importance of "the doctrine of Christ," that is to say the fallen human nature Christ took, Jones taught that "... the salvation of God for human beings lies in just that one thing" (op. cit., No. 13).

E. J. Waggoner earlier made the connection between our justification and the human nature of Christ: "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh, that He might justify us" ("Bible Study in the book of Romans" #12, General Conference Bulletin, 1891).

As the Apostle John pointed out, not only are we to practice the truth in love, we are called upon to defend it in that same love. Never will a believer start supporting lies in the name of love (Phil. 1:9-11). Practicing the truth, walking in truth and love, requires a heart that believes in the truth of the message of the incarnate Christ and in a consequent lifestyle that reveals the message of the Incarnation by showing love to others (2 John 5-6). This can be accomplished only by Christ living in us--in our fallen flesh--today as the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Faith and action go hand-in-hand (see 1 John 3:23). The truth as it is in Jesus, "the doctrine of Christ," is something to believe, to love, and to live.

To summarize and conclude: In the first part of John's second letter, he wrote of truth and love; in the remainder of his letter he emphasized the need for truth in contrast to error. The two sections of his letter interlock. Departure from the truth results in a failure of love. So John presents a dark description of heretical secession and its consequences in verses 7-11. This forms the basis of John's warm appeal for love and unity in verses 4-6. May this so be with us.

From encouraging truth, John turned to opposing error advocated by deceivers. The word deceiver implies much more than teaching false doctrine. It also includes leading people into wrong living. John made it clear that truth and life go together. What we believe determines how we behave. Wrong doctrine and wrong living always go together. On the other hand, correct doctrine and correct living will likewise go together, if the love of the truth as it is in Jesus is present.

--Gerald L. Finneman