Friday, July 21, 2017

Sabbath School Insights: Commentary: Remission

Commentary: Remission

Remission 


I have met several patients of cancer in my life.  Some of them have gone through surgery or other kinds of therapy to get rid of the cancerous tissue.  On more than one occasions the treatment was successful.  But, the doctor's never said that the patients were cured.  The doctors always said that the patients were in remission.  I wondered what that meant.  And as I found out, I realized that remission from a disease is very similar to how God deals with Sin.  Let us talk a little about cancer and remission, and after this we will make the parallels between Sin and cancer, and being in remission from a disease and Sin.


Cancer refers to a class of diseases.  Therefore, it is unlikely that there will ever be a single "cure for cancer" any more than there will be a single treatment for all infectious diseases.  Cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy or other methods. The choice of therapy depends upon the location and grade of the tumor and the stage of the disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance status).  There are challenges inherent in some of the treatment that can limit its effectiveness.  The effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can also cause damage to normal tissue.  Complete removal of the cancer without damage to the rest of the body is the goal of treatment. Sometimes this can be accomplished by surgery, but the propensity of cancers to invade adjacent tissue or to spread to distant sites by microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness. 


That is why it is not said that a person is to be cured of cancer, but that the cancer is in remission.  A remission is a temporary end to the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease.  Remission is the state of absence of disease activity in patients known to have a chronic illness that cannot be cured. It is commonly used to refer to absence of active cancer or inflammatory bowel disease when these diseases are expected to manifest again in the future.  


Sin, this side of eternity, is like cancer in that it can be treated but it does not disappear.  As long as we live in this earth, those who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however their sinful nature is still alive.  As long as we live in this Earth, Sin is always a threat.  Just like cancer can show its ugly face when and where you least expect it, so can Sin when not held in check.  It is always present and always fighting for the upper hand.  But, as long as we subject ourselves to the Jesus treatment, Sin will be in remission.  This is what Peter talks about Jesus in Acts 10:43,


Acts 10:43 To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.


There is a similar expression in John 3:16, "…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  The verb believeth in the Greek is in the continual present.  This means that it should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him …" Also, the Greek word for believe here is the same for faith.  So, "whosoever continually has faith – believes, trust, has confidence …" So, the remission of Sin comes through believing and so does righteousness.  We know this from Genesis 15:6,

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.


Ellen White said that "The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain righteousness is through faith" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367).  So, now we see that there is a relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, but having everlasting life," and being righteous.  Believing causes all three.  So, this means that those who are righteous by continually believing, experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).  


The word righteous is a synonym for just.  So, the expression justification by faith means, made righteous by continually believing.  So, Paul tell the Galatians,


Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.


True justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians.  And, since the law is summed up (fulfilled) in Love (Romans 10:13), true justification by faith always produces people that love God above all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).


https://sabbathschoolinsights.blogspot.com/2011/10/commentary-remission.html

Friday, July 14, 2017

Did Peter know he was wrong?

Did Peter know he was wrong?

One Sabbath School class was discussing the life of Peter. The class
gave Emphasis to Peter's life before conversion and after conversion.
Before conversion, although Peter was boisterous and short tempered,
he denied the Lord; After conversion, Peter was the opposite. After
this, they briefly discussed Paul confronting Peter about his
prejudice behavior as recorded in Galatians 1. The teacher then
asked the class, "With which Peter do you identify: the one before
conversion or the one after conversion?" There was murmuring in the
class. Tony, who was sitting in the back raised his hand and said, "I
identify with Peter." The teacher and some of the students turned
around and asked him to clarify, "which Peter, the one before
conversion or the one after?" The student referring to the event of
Paul confronting Peter, answered, "I identify with Peter in that even
though I know, as he knew, that the crowd is wrong, I see myself
following them." The class hushed for a few seconds, and then there
was murmuring again. Tony looked around and saw people nodding. The
teacher sighed but did not speak. A sister in front of Tony smiled
and nodded at him. Another sister, walking down the aisle, smiled and
touched his arm. It seemed that many agreed with him. They saw
themselves drifting the wrong way knowingly. Now, just because many
people do this does not make it right?

Paul found that this was wrong, which is why he confronted Peter. Did
Peter know He was wrong? Peter was present at the Jerusalem Council
when the Apostles declared that circumcision was not necessary to
salvation and (Acts 15:1-24). He had encountered this situation
before when God had clearly revealed to him that he was not to
consider any one class of people as "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).
He had even declared that he understood "that God is no respecter of
persons: But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh
righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35). The Holy
Spirit bore a Clear testimony by the other apostles, and the corporate
church body that there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile and
that righteousness is by faith alone in Christ Jesus. In light of all
this, Peter and others withdrew themselves from the uncircumcised
Gentile believers. This discrimination was in effect saying, "Except
ye be circumcised... ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). This action on
the part of Peter and the others was not only a denial of the gospel,
but it was a virtual denial of Christ. Based on the statements stated
above we can conclude that Peter knew better. But, he allowed himself
to be carried away by the influence of the other Jews, "fearing them
which were of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:12). Peter's attitude
grieved God. Ellen White says,

"Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will make grave
blunders. The more responsibilities placed upon the human agent, the
higher his position to dictate and control, the more mischief he is
sure to do in perverting minds and hearts if he does not carefully
follow the way of the Lord. At Antioch Peter failed in the principles
of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to
face; This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the
lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they
may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle."—Ellen G.
White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108.

We too can fail in integrity and violate the principles laid out by
the Gospel. Even so, Peter should still be an example to us in that
he was humble. The fact that Peter died a martyr for Christ tells us
that Peter repented. In that sense, we should be like Peter after
conversion.
--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com
RR
Raul Diaz
https://about.me/raul.diaz
Posted by Ulee at 3/31/2017 07:29:00 PM

--



Raul Diaz
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Friday, July 07, 2017

What exactly IS righteousness by faith?


What exactly IS righteousness by faith?


This article from Advent Review and Sabbath Herald is an excellent foundation for this quarter's lessons.  



"Studies in Galatians"

What exactly IS righteousness by faith? -- 

Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 37 , pp. 588, 589.
IT was "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" who had caused all the trouble in the churches in Galatia, and called forth a letter to the Galatians. It was these also who had troubled the brethren at Antioch, and raised there the controversy abroad on the council Jerusalem.  It was these who, even after the council, had caused Peter to swerve, at Antioch, from the truth of the Gospel, which, in turn, forced Paul to withstand him to the face. It was these of the sect of the Pharisees who spread a false gospel against the true, and subverted souls who were even already saved—as at Antioch and in Galatia. In a study of the Book of Galatians, it is, therefore, essential to know just what the sect of the Pharisees did hold.

When Jesus would give an illustration of "certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others," he chose "a Pharisee." And this Pharisee, even in praying, first thanked God that he was not like other men; and then presented himself to the Lord for approval upon what he had done. Luke 18:9-12. It is therefore perfectly plain that the one great peculiarity of the sect of the Pharisees was self-righteousness—claiming righteousness upon what they have done.

Consequently everything that a Pharisee did, was done that he might obtain righteousness by the doing. And if there was anything that he was not inclined to do, he must force himself to do it, by a direct vow, and then still claim the merit of righteousness in the doing.

And it was the very righteousness of God that was claimed as the merit and the result of the doing; because it was the word of God that was followed, it was the command of the Lord that was obeyed, in the doing.

The word "Pharisee" is from "parash," which signifies "separated," or "set apart." The Pharisees were those who were separated, set apart, from the rest of the people by their superior righteousness, which was because they had done more than any others; and they were separated, set apart, unto God because it was in the doing of the law of God that their righteousness consisted.  Everything that God had commanded, required, or directed, must be done in order that righteousness may be obtained in the doing.  And to be perfectly certain that they could rightfully claim the righteousness when the thing was done, it was essential that every obligation must be performed so exactly right that there could be no question. And in order that this might be so, every requirement in the word of God was drawn out in divisions and subdivisions to the smallest minutiae, even to each particular letter of each word, each one to be scrupulously and ceremoniously performed. "The very raison d'etre of the Pharisees was to create 'hedges' of oral tradition about the law."—Farrar's "Life of Christ," Excursus 9, par. 1. These "hedges" were of course to protect the law from violation. They were assurances to the doer of them that in the doing of them he was preserved from violating the law, and that so he was a doer of the law.

This led to an utter perversion not only of every commandment and ordinance of the Lord, but of the very idea of every commandment and ordinance.

God had given the ten commandments, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by the doing of them, but (1) to give the true knowledge of sin, that forgiveness and salvation might be found by faith; and (2) to witness to the righteousness obtained by (that) faith.

This was shown (a) in the service that was commanded, and (b) in the very terms used in speaking of the tables of the law. (a) In the service commanded it was plainly said that when they had done anything against the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and were guilty, they were to bring a sacrifice of a young bullock, and confess the sin, and with the blood the priest should make atonement for them, and it should be forgiven them. Lev. 4:13-21. Here were the ten commandments to give the knowledge of sin, and of the guilt; here was forgiveness and at-one-ment with God without the doing of the law, but solely through faith. (b) The term used in speaking of the was "the tables of the testimony;" the ark, in which was the law, was called the "ark of the testament;" and the tabernacle, in which was the ark, was called the "tabernacle of the testimony." Now testimony is the evidence borne by a witness; and that this is the meaning of the word here is certain by the fact that the tabernacle was plainly called "the tabernacle of witness." Num. 17:7, 8; 18:2; 2 Chron. 24:6. The tables of the testimony were the tables of witness, which in itself testified that the law was intended, not to be a means of the righteousness of God obtained by it, but to be witness to the righteousness of God obtained without it.

God had given the ordinances of sacrifice and offering and burnt offering and offering for sin, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by them, but as expressions of the faith that obtained the righteousness of God without them—faith that obtained the righteousness of God through a sacrifice and offering already made by God, and promised to be sent in due time.

God had given circumcision, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by it, but as a sign of the righteousness of God obtained by faith and held by faith before circumcision was performed.

Thus the Pharisees perverted into works and righteousness by works, all that God had given to be of faith. All that God had given to be a blessing and a delight they turned into a burden and a yoke of bondage. And when it did not give peace to the straining and toiling workers, as it could not, to the many fine-spun distinctions drawn upon the plain word of God they yet further added a multitude of exactions of their own. To the Sabbath commandment alone there were added four hundred and one requirements. A whole treatise was devoted to hand-washings (Mark 7:1-5); another whole treatise was occupied with the proper method of killing a fowl. "The letter of the law thus lost its comparative simplicity in bound-less complications, until the Talmud tells us how Akibba was seen in a vision by the astonished Moses, drawing from every horn of every letter whole bushels of decisions."—Farrar.

Another evil was wrapped up in this: The facility of interpretation that was developed in drawing out the infinite variety of distinctions in sentences, in words, and even in letters, in order to discover the exact degree of obedience required to attain to righteousness, was readily employed in evading any obligation of the law of God that the covetous heart might desire. Mark 7:9-13; Matt. 23:14-28. "We know the minute and intense scrupulosity of Sabbath observance wasting itself in all those abhoth and toldoth,—those primary and derivative rules and prohibitions, and inferences from rules and prohibitions, and combinations of inferences from rules and prohibitions, and cases of casuistry and conscience arising out of the infinite possible variety of circumstances to which those combinations of inference might apply,—which had degraded the Sabbath from 'a delight, holy of the Lord, honorable,' partly into an anxious and pitiless burden, and partly into a network of contrivances hypocritically designed, as it were, in the lowest spirit of heathenism, to cheat the Deity with the mere semblance of accurate observance. . . .

"Teachers who were on the high road to a casuistry which could construct 'rules' out of every superfluous particle, had found it easy to win credit for ingenuity by elaborating prescriptions, to which Moses would have listened in mute astonishment. If there be one thing more definitely laid down in the law than another, it is the uncleanness of creeping things; yet the Talmud assures us that 'no one is appointed and member of the Sanhedrin who does not possess sufficient ingenuity to prove from the written law that a creeping thing is ceremonially cleaned,' and that there is an unimpeachable disciple, at Jabne, who could produce one hundred and fifty arguments in favor of the ceremonial cleanness of creeping things.  Sophistry like this was at work even in the days when the young student at Tarsus set at the feet of Gamaliel."—Ib., "Life and Work of Paul," chap. 4, par. 2-6.

Thus the Pharisees in their exactions and ceremonialism had developed to perfection the self-love of self-righteousness in the merit of their own doings. A perfect illustration is found in what Rabbi Simeon, the son of Jochai, said: "If there were only thirty righteous persons in the world, I and my son should make two of them; and if there were but twenty, I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but ten, and I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but five, and I and my son would be of the five; and if there were but two, I and my son would be those two; and if there were but one, MYSELF should be that one.:—Emphatic Diaglott, at Luke 18:11.

"They had received unsanctified and confused interpretations of the law given them by Moses: they had added tradition to tradition; they had restricted freedom of thought and action until the commandments, ordinances, and services of God were lost in a ceaseless round of meaning less rights and ceremonies. Their religion was a yoke of bondage." "The views of the people were so narrow that they had become slaves to their own useless regulations." "This confidence in themselves and their own regulations, with its attendant prejudices against all other nations, caused them to resist the Spirit of God, which would have corrected their errors." "Thus, in their earthliness, separated from God in Spirit, while professedly serving him, they were doing just the work that Satan wanted them to do—taking a course to impeach the character of God, and cause the people to view him as a tyrant. In presenting their sacrificial offerings in the temple, they were as actors in a play. The rabbis, the priests and rulers, had ceased to look beyond the symbol of the truth that was signified by their outward ceremonies." They expected to derive righteousness acceptable to God from the performance of the ceremony of offering a symbol which, to them, was meaningless for any other purpose than as a means of gaining righteousness in the performance of the ceremony. The beginning and end, the all in all of the religion of the Pharisees, whether it related to the moral law, to the God-given ceremonial law, or to their own traditions, was ceremonialism, and ceremonialism alone. And Paul had been one of these Pharisees, of "the most straitest sect."

And this is what those "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" thought to drag over and fasten upon Christianity. They wished to force even the divine faith of Christ into their low, narrow human ceremonialism. Oh, yes! it is well enough to believe in Jesus; but that is not enough: "except ye be circumcised and keep the law [their whole boneless system of interpretations of the law, moral and ceremonial, there whole mass of ceremonialism], ye cannot be saved." And that even when they had done all that the system of the Pharisees supply and demand it, they could not be saved, was confessed in the despairing cry of the rabbis: "If but one person could only for one day keep whole law, and not offended one point,—nay, if but one person could but keep that one point of the law which affects the due observance of the Sabbath,—then the troubles of Israel would be ended, and the Messiah at last would come."—Id., par. 3. And from every really conscientious heart it forced that other despairing cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7:24.

But in his great mercy and his divine goodness, without requiring all the burdens and toil of the Pharisaic ceremonialism, and in answer to the longing cry of every burdened heart, the Messiah came, and brought to all men the free gift of the righteousness of God, and of his full salvation. This righteousness and this full salvation, Saul the Pharisee found, and it made him forever Paul the Christian, nevermore desire in the "righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And then, having in Christ perfect righteousness, full salvation, and the power of an endless life; having found in Christ the living gospel instead of the dead form of law; because he would never more admit the multitudinous exactions, the vain strivings, the hollow self-righteousness, and the false gospel of the Pharisees, he was persecuted, and his work in the gospel of Christ was opposed, till the day of his death, by "the Pharisees which believed," as well as by all the Jews, who did not believe, by false brethren as well as by open enemies.

And this it was that called forth the book of Galatians. 
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 30, 2017

What can we learn from Paul?

What can we learn from Paul?

There is much we can learn from the life of the Apostle Paul. Far from ordinary, the Lord gave Paul the opportunity to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. The story of Paul is a story of redemption in Jesus Christ and gives testimony that no one is beyond the saving grace of the Lord. However, to gain the full measure of the man, we must examine his dark side and what he symbolized before becoming "the Apostle of Grace." Paul's early life was marked by religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church. Fortunately, the later years of Paul's life show a marked difference as he lived his life for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. 

Paul was actually born as Saul. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia in a province in the southeastern corner of modern day Tersous, Turkey. He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry. His parents were Pharisees—fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses. His household probably spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, which was the official language of Judea.  Saul and his family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city. 

Saul was probably sent at the age of thirteen to Palestine to learn from a rabbi named Gamaliel, under whom Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years as Saul learned such things as dissecting Scripture.  Saul went on to become a lawyer.  Paul says in Galatians that he excelled more than any of his contemporaries. 

In Acts 5:27-42, Peter delivered his defense of the gospel and of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, which Saul probably heard.  Gamaliel was also present and delivered a message to calm the council and prevent them from stoning Peter.  Ellen White says about this event, 

So enraged were the Jews at these words [of Peter] that they decided to take the law into their own hands and without further trial, or without authority from the Roman officers, to put the prisoners to death. Already guilty of the blood of Christ, they were now eager to stain their hands with the blood of His disciples.  But in the council there was one man who recognized the voice of God in the words spoken by the disciples. This was Gamaliel, a Pharisee of good reputation and a man of learning and high position. His clear intellect saw that the violent step contemplated by the priests would lead to terrible consequences. Before addressing those present, he requested that the prisoners be removed. He well knew the elements he had to deal with; he knew that the murderers of Christ would hesitate at nothing in order to carry out their purpose.  {AA 82}  
It is possible that from that moment on, Saul became even more determined to eradicate Christians as he watched the Sanhedrin flog Peter and the others.  Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism. 

After this incident, Stephen comes into the picture.  Those arguing with Stephen could not hold their ground against him, so they took him to the Sanhedrin, where Paul was enlisted to show that Stephen was wrong.  Ellen White says, 

Saul of Tarsus was present and took a leading part against Stephen. He brought the weight of eloquence and the logic of the rabbis to bear upon the case, to convince the people that Stephen was preaching delusive and dangerous doctrines; but in Stephen he met one who had a full understanding of the purpose of God in the spreading of the gospel to other nations.  {AA 98}  
Stephen's voice and words were like the screeching of fingers on a black board to the listeners.  They covered their ears.  Also, Stephen radiant face was offensive to onlookers.  They decided to take Stephen out of the city and stone him.  Saul was present for his stoning and death.  The Bible says that he held the garments of those who did the stoning (Acts 7:58).  The Jews saw themselves as victorious.  Paul was rewarded for his role in the Stephen trial. He was made a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion (Acts of Apostles 102). 

Saul became more ruthless in his pursuit of Christians as he believed he was doing it in the name of God.  Arguably, there is no one more frightening or more vicious than a religious terrorist, especially when he believes that he is doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. Acts 8:3 states, "He began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison." 

But according to Ellen White,

The martyrdom of Stephen made a deep impression upon all who witnessed it. The memory of the signet of God upon his face; his words, which touched the very souls of those who heard them, remained in the minds of the beholders, and testified to the truth of that which he had proclaimed. His death was a sore trial to the church, but it resulted in the conviction of Saul, who could not efface from his memory the faith and constancy of the martyr, and the glory that had rested on his countenance.    At the scene of Stephen's trial and death, Saul had seemed to be imbued with a frenzied zeal. Afterward he was angered by his own secret conviction that Stephen had been honored by God at the very time when he was dishonored by men (AA 101).

Ellen White adds,

Saul had taken a prominent part in the trial and conviction of Stephen, and the striking evidences of God's presence with the martyr had led Saul to doubt the righteousness of the cause he had espoused against the followers of Jesus.  His mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and judgment he had full confidence. The arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right.  Not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion. But in the end his education and prejudices, his respect for his former teachers, and his pride of popularity braced him to rebel against the voice of conscience and the grace of God. And having fully decided that the priests and scribes were right, Saul became very bitter in his opposition to the doctrines taught by the disciples of Jesus. His activity in causing holy men and women to be dragged before tribunals, where some were condemned to imprisonment and some even to death, solely because of their faith in Jesus, brought sadness and gloom to the newly organized church, and caused many to seek safety in flight.  {AA 113} 

The passage about this pivotal moment in Paul's story is in Acts 9:1-22, which recounts Paul's meeting with Jesus Christ on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, a journey of about 150 miles. Saul was angered by what he had seen and filled with murderous rage against the Christians.

Before departing on his journey, he had asked the High Priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for permission to bring any Christians (followers of "the Way," as they were known) back to Jerusalem to imprison them. On the road Saul was caught up in a bright light from heaven which caused him to fall face down on the ground. He heard the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you Lord?" Jesus answered directly and clearly, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (vv. 4-5). Ellen White says,

     Now Christ had spoken to Saul with His own voice, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And the question, "Who art Thou, Lord?" was answered by the same voice, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Christ here identifies Himself with His people. In persecuting the followers of Jesus, Saul had struck directly against the Lord of heaven. In falsely accusing and testifying against them, he had falsely accused and testified against the Saviour of the world.
     No doubt entered the mind of Saul that the One who spoke to him was Jesus of Nazareth, the long-looked-for Messiah, the Consolation and Redeemer of Israel. "Trembling and astonished," he inquired, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."  {AA 117.2}  
From this moment on, Saul's life was turned upside down. The light of the Lord blinded him, and as he traveled on, he had to rely on his companions. Saul stayed with a man called Judas.  In the meantime Paul had time to think through what happened.    
For three days Saul was "without sight, and neither did eat nor drink." These days of soul agony were to him as years. Again and again he recalled, with an anguish of spirit, the part he had taken in the martyrdom of Stephen. With horror he thought of his guilt in allowing himself to be controlled by the malice and prejudice of the priests and rulers, even when the face of Stephen had been lighted up with the radiance of heaven. In sadness and brokenness of spirit, he recounted the many times he had closed his eyes and ears against the most striking evidences and had relentlessly urged on the persecution of the believers in Jesus of Nazareth.  
During the long hours when Saul was shut in with God alone, he recalled many of the passages of Scripture referring to the first advent of Christ. Carefully he traced down the prophecies, with a memory sharpened by the conviction that had taken possession of his mind. As he reflected on the meaning of these prophecies, he was astonished at his former blindness of understanding and at the blindness of the Jews in general, which had led to the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. To his enlightened vision all now seemed plain. He knew that his former prejudice and unbelief had clouded his spiritual perception and had prevented him from discerning in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of prophecy.  {AA 118 119.1}  

Jesus instructed a man named Ananias to meet Saul.   He was at first hesitant because he knew Saul's reputation as an evil man. But the Lord told Ananias that Saul was a "chosen instrument" to carry His name before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (v.15) and would suffer for doing so (v.16). Ananias followed the Lord's instructions and found Saul, on whom he laid hands, and told him of his vision of Jesus Christ. Through prayer, Saul received the Holy Spirit (v.17), regained his sight and was baptized (v.18). Saul immediately went into the synagogues proclaiming Jesus and saying He is the Son of God (v.20). The people were amazed and skeptical, as Saul's reputation was well known. The Jews thought he had come to take away the Christians (v.21). Saul's boldness increased as the Jews living in Damascus were confounded by Saul's arguments proving that Jesus was the Christ (v.22).

As a result of this miraculous transformation, Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25). Interestingly, the Christians driven out of Palestine by Saul of Tarsus founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19-21). Paul took his first of three missionary journeys in the late 40s A.D. Paul wrote many of the New Testament books. As previously noted, the book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul's life and times. The Apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). It is assumed that Paul died a martyr's death in the mid-to-late 60s A.D. in Rome. 

So, what can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul? First, we learn that God can save anyone.  Second, we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a powerful and humble witness for Jesus Christ. Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God. Paul was fully "sold-out" for God. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear" (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, yet he was still praising God and sharing the good news. Through his hardships and suffering, Paul knew the outcome of a life well lived for Christ. He had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Can we make the same claim?
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 23, 2017

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18)."

John is a garbage truck driver in a large suburban city. During the winter, his garbage truck doubles as a snow plow, and after every snowfall, John drives around the city to remove snow from the roads. Since John's employer added snow removal to John's garbage collection duties, John's company pays him overtime wages.  Naturally, John welcomes the extra money. With extra pay in mind, unlike many people who dread the forecast of snow, snowfall to John is good news. Most school children agree with John that snow is good news but for different reasons. After all, it usually means outdoor fun and the likelihood that the school officials cancel classes. As expected, parents, however, may not be so happy. Thus, it can be said, snow is only good news to some, not all.

The Greek word translated as Gospel means good news or glad tidings. In Luke 2:10, the angels said unto the shepherds, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Unlike snowfall which is good news for some people, the Gospel - here referring to the birth of Christ - is good news for all individuals.  In contrast, Christ's second return cannot be the gospel, because it is only good news to those who believe - and expect it - not those who do not believe. Why is this so? Why is the birth of Christ good news to all, while His second advent is not? Does the Bible shed any light on this? Ellen White says that "The Bible is its own expositor. Scripture is to be compared with scripture. The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts" (Ed.190).  In that light, let us go to Scripture to see how the Gospel is defined.

First, we should note that the Apostle Mark introduces his book as the Gospel of Christ; while (Apostle) Paul declares in the first few verses of Romans chapter one that "… the gospel of Christ: … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Vs. 16). No less than approximately a dozen times, Apostle Paul relates the Gospel with God or Christ. Therefore, according to these texts, we can ascertain that the Gospel refers to Christ. Paul is not saying here that salvation is only for believers, but that it is only effective to believers. So, it is the power of God that saves. And, this power of God refers to Jesus and his birth.  In 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18 Paul goes a step further. Let us read,

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

This text associates the preaching of the Gospel with the preaching of the cross, on which Christ died. Furthermore, it equates them by calling them both: the power of God. Therefore, the Gospel, which refers to Jesus and His birth (which is the power of God unto salvation), is also the preaching of the cross.  So, now, we incorporate in this definition of the Gospel the death of Christ on the Cross.  Why is the cross so important?  We read in Philippians 2:8 concerning Christ,

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 The Jews  considered The death of the cross as hanging from a tree, of which Paul says in Gal 3:13, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Christ's death was the final death: complete annihilation. But, it is through this death that we were reconciled to God. We read in Romans 5:10,

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Notice in this verse, that Christ's life is now part of the equation, as opposed to only His birth and death.  The Gospel refers to Jesus. It entails His incarnation, birth, life, and death. And, in it is the power of God to save every man. Christ did this for the whole world. We read in 1 John 2:2; and 4:14,

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

What about the resurrection? Paul addresses that also in 1 Corinthians 5:12 -14. Let us read,

Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.

The resurrection of Christ gives the Gospel certainty and makes the Gospel effectual.  It guarantees our freedom from Sin.  And, how exactly are we implicated?  We read in Romans 6:3-5,

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

Christ took us - the whole world - unto Himself and lived a life of perfect obedience.  Consequently, His life of perfect obedience is ours. His victory is ours. What our Saviour would like for us to do, is, to receive His gift wholeheartedly. In summation, this is the good news to all people: salvation for all men 'in Christ'.
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Delay

INSIGHT #12 JUNE 17, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Day of the Lord"
June 17, 2017
 
The Delay
 
One day a group of friends were (laughing and talking) on their way to visit another friend who lived some distance away. Everyone was looking forward to getting together as they hadn't seen each other in a while. As they drove along, they soon began singing. When one song would end, another would begin, until before you knew it, all five of the friends were engaged in singing the songs they'd sung together in their choral group. They were having such a good time. Suddenly, one of the guys noticed they'd missed their exit, and that the next one was 15 miles farther down the road. Since there was construction, the opportunities for a U-turn had been blocked; so, on they went through the dusk into the darkness of night. Of course, the singing wasn't as enthusiastic as it had been in the beginning, and the laughing and talking gradually died down too. What was once an exciting trip became an excursion filled with barely concealed anxious thoughts.
 
You see, the friends knew the road they'd been on, and they knew where the exit was, but not beyond. Furthermore, they were uncertain about the upcoming exit, since it was in an unfamiliar and dangerous part of town. Consulting the map led to one set of conclusions about the best way to proceed -- some were in favour of back tracking, while those who consulted the GPS thought that turning around was a waste of time. After a bit of discussion, in which some blame was cast, it was eventually determined that it would be better to follow the GPS. Those who wanted to follow the map were ill at ease, as they felt the map was more reliable, but they kept it to themselves. One hour later, the group of friends finally arrived at their destination. Still eager to see their friend, there was none-the-less, the undercurrent of disaffection, as the seeds of discord had been sown among them. It's interesting how delays with their inherent uncertainties reveal our temperament, our ways of thinking, and ultimately our characters.
 
In the book of Numbers, God told the children of Israel to go and conquer the Promised Land. However, their focus (how long their journey had been already, as well as the taste of the leeks and garlic of Egypt, etc.) distracted them and led them to unbelief in God's promise. Looking at their lack as well as the difficulties along the way caused them to murmur, complain, and falter in their trust. Thus they refused to conquer the land He had given them by promise. The Hebrews just would not in confiding faith trust Him, so instead they took Him by the hand and led Him where He would not go, which was into their 40 year sojourn going nowhere. Their choices were to trust God and go forward into Canaan in faith, or retreat to the wilderness in unbelief. There were no other options. In pain Himself, God let them have what their hearts were set on – their fears. Yes, they had the freedom to choose, they had the right to choose, but they just didn't know what was attached with their choice.
 
According to 2 Peter 3:9 – "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." In other words, the Lord is not slow to fulfill the promise(s) He's made, and neither is He remiss, negligent, careless or unaware of how the waiting seems to us. Actually, in the context of Second Peter chapter three, Jesus, speaking to His people through Apostle Peter calls us His beloved five times. In essence, He is using these terms of endearment - Darling, Sweetest, Precious, My adored one, much loved and cherished – to say, "I have not forgotten you." "How could I forget you whom I have engraved upon Myself?" "I have given My life for you – for us to be together. How could I forget what I've promised you?" "I know it's taking a long time, longer than you expected. I know you're disappointed, and weary, but remember I will never leave or forsake you, I will always love you. Just rest in Me, and I will carry the burden you're bearing, and fulfill My promise to you."
 
What if the Israelites had in heart gratitude, and thankfulness according to the Word (which is faith) seen this reality and accepted it? What a world of difference it would have made. And what if we, individually and collectively were to receive God's promises to us in this manner – what a testimony to God's (character of) love and faithfulness we'd be.
 
Delays almost always both test as well as display the character of the one(s) who are waiting. There were those who believed in the warning that a worldwide flood was coming. Yet when the flood came -- for various reasons, they entered not in. What could be said was the root cause? Unbelief. Perhaps they listened to the scoffers, and the skeptics (2 Peter 3:3-6) and came to disbelieve. Perhaps they were just weary and gave up. Whatever the case, because they did not believe, they were unable to take part in the promised deliverance -- the ark of safety.
 
I heard a story long ago, as to its credit, I do not know. However, it goes like this. "In 1776 the King of England, after a long day, and just before retiring to bed, wrote in His journal, "Nothing of any significance happened today." But that was the day that the Declaration of Independence had been signed (in America)."" Just because the fulfillment of the promise doesn't seem to be happening, doesn't mean that God has forgotten or is powerless.
 
We who are living in these last days would do well to note that the Word of God is His pledge to us. He has said it will not fail, but will prosper in the thing to which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). He has said He is God, forever the same, not a man who will lie (Num. 23:19). Therefore, let's not become weary in the well doing of waiting for Him (Gal. 6:9); He is, after all, faithful who has promised (Heb. 10:23).
 
As we look back through the history of the various stories in scripture (Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jesus, and so forth), and our own history as a people, we can see that faith and feelings always part ways. Jesus Himself said that there were promises He longed to keep (healings, and teachings, etc.) but He could not because of the unbelief of the people. Faith is believing that the Word will do (exactly) what it has said it will do – without our help.
So, while we wait longer than expected for what is to come, may we keep the faith of Jesus, not growing discouraged or dismayed with anxious care. May we, with anticipation and gratefulness, choose to accept and believe the Lord's promises despite what we see and hear around us. And may we allow the Lord to more fully enter into our hearts and minds, instead of hindering His Word in unbelief from fulfilling and finishing what indeed it said it will do.

~Raul Diaz
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 02, 2017

What is the prophet’s work?

What is the prophet's work?

Andrea had a disturbing dream about Julia.  They were friends for many years.  Julia was married and wanted children. Andrea thought it was a good idea at first, but after she had her dream, she changed her mind.  She prayed to find out more, to make sure this was from God.  The more she prayed she realized that it was not God's will that Julia should have any children.  Andrea approached Julia with the news.  Julia got angry, and said to her, "How do you know this is from God.   For all I know you could just be telling me this because you are jealous of me, you always have.  Besides, why did God choose you to tell me this?  He can tell me also.  And, why would he choose you, period?  With all that stuff you have done.  I know, because we did a lot of those things together.  I am going to have a child, and that is the end of it.  You are not going to take my joy away.  And, I know God certainly wants me to be joyful." 

Andrea and Julia did not speak for years.  Andrea did not stop praying for her.  And, often hoped they still would speak.  Julia had her child.  She was born with a rare genetic defect that led to mental retardation, seizures, and other symptoms.  Julia was now spending most of her time taking the child to doctors and hospitals.  These circumstances were putting a strain on her marriage.  Tom - her husband - understood the child's need for care, but he still felt that she was not caring for him enough. And, to make matters worse, she would not let him be involved as much, saying he did not know what to do.  Later she complained that since he was not involved, the entire burden fell on her.  At some point, he said, "I cannot take it anymore."

Andrea ran into Julia once.  Andrea approached her to talk.  Julia received her a little cold at first, giving her the usual response, "everything is fine.'  Andrea prayed and pressed further, Julia opened up slowly.  And, finally, she cried.  "Why would God do this to me?"  She said out loud.  With tenderness, Andrea embraced Julia.  Julia cried more.  Finally, Andrea told her, "Remember I told you about that dream I had, and I told you I that it was not God's will that you have any children.  God loves you and wanted to spare you from all of this"  "Oh, Julia, I should have listened to you.  I feel so bad. I love Tom, and I love my child.  What do I do now?"  Andrea had had another dream, and she knew she had to tell Julia.  God was using Andrea as a prophet, and this is what prophets do.  

In Hebrews 1:1 it says that God … "at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets."  In 2 Peters 1:21 Peter said that "… prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."  Prophets, in other words, were God's spokesperson.  A spokesperson is a man or woman who speaks as the representative of other or others.  The prophet speaks as the representative of God.

Most of the time, the prophets' work is revealing Sin.  The Bible is full of instances in which God called on these men or women to reveal the Sin of others.  However, it is not to keep you from "having fun," advancing in life, control you or to humiliate you; it is because of Love.  By Love, we mean agape – God's unconditional love.  

God wants to spare you and others from the consequences of Sin.    As Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16,

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

John puts it very simply in Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."

But, just as many misrepresent God and misinterpret His intentions, they also do His prophets.  In order not to feel the guilt and feel good about themselves they reject the prophet.  In many instances, they will say, "That is your opinion."  Ellen White addresses this issue in the next quote.

Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested Himself through the Spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind and I have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent, and arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years.  A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath? . . .
. . . In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne."—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 27.

This is what prophets do: Spread God's words of love (Agape).  The question is, will we heed them and their message?
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Best Thing That Happened

The Best Thing That Happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Christ, Our Sacrifice

Christ, Our Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

Ellen White says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Originally published on Thursday, January 20, 2005

Spiritual Metamorphosis 


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

The word metamorphosis means: 

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

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

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

Furthermore, Ellen White says of Him: 

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

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

In Philippians chapter 2, from the NASB we read: 

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

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

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


The Special Insights web page resides at: 
http://www.1888message.org/sabbathschool/ 

Gold tried in the Fire

Gold tried in the Fire

Gold tried in the Fire 

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

~Raul Diaz