Thursday, May 27, 2004

Promise Of Delivery Through Service

Comments to Sabbath School Quarterly #8, 2nd Qtr.

Ever since the fall there has been war on our planet almost every day. Someone calculated that there had been only a few hundred days of peace in our six thousand year history. With war comes the conquering of people. Those who are conquered are forced to serve their new masters. Some are forced to serve where they live and others are captured and taken to the land of their new masters to serve as slaves there.

As a slave or servant, you are to do what your master wants. You are to do it when, how and where your master wants it done. More often than not there will be no rewards for faithful service. On the contrary, whether you serve well or not, there will be punishment, mistreatment, abuse, and even torture. Nothing you do will be good enough, and when it is others will take the credit. You will be demeaned and humiliated in all possible ways.

Occasionally, some slaves find freedom. Many escape hoping to find a place of refuge where they are no longer enslaved. There are many slaves who have used force by revolting against their masters. Others, in the case of Nations, formed a revolution against their masters. In the minds of the slaves, they would rather die fighting for freedom, than to live enslaved. Some use political movements to achieve their freedom. Such was the case of Gandhi in India. Some masters feeling pity for their slaves and guilty for their treatment freed them.

When Adam and Eve fell all mankind became servants or slaves to Sin. In order to be freed or saved we needed a Deliverer or Savior. God anointed His own Son for this. It says in Isaiah 42 about Jesus:

Isa 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Isa 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

The word for anointed in the Hebrew language is “Mashiah,” which includes a connotation of being set apart. It is from this word that we get our word “Messiah.” In the Greek it was translated to “Christos.” But, Christ did not stage a revolution or uprising. On the contrary, to free us, He became one of us. Paul says regarding Christ in Philippians:

Phi 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Phi 2:7 But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Phi 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Christ, because He loved us, became a slave to the Law of Sin and yet He never obeyed the Sin Master. Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians:

2Cor 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Christ defied all logic and worldly sense. While sinful humanity fought for Freedom, Christ served to be free. Godly love is servant-love. It is Love for God and others. This is where we find freedom from what enslaves us to this world. For this reason Christ was rejected. It says in Isaiah:

Isa 49:4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.
Isa 49:7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose thee.

If you ask anyone if they want freedom, the answer will be yes. Will they pick up their cross and follow Jesus? Many are called, but few choose to follow Christ. Christ’s death on the cross, gives us all freedom and delivery from Sin. However, few actually enjoy it. Christ wants to free us all from the Law of Sin and its power. And He has. But, only those who become slaves to righteousness will enjoy that freedom.

This means that we are to allow His Spirit to develop Christ character in us. What character you ask? Read 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22,23. We are to develop every talent, ability and gift the Spirit gives us to serve God and others. Matthew 25 says:

Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

When we serve God we serve others. When we love God supremely, He enables us to love others as He loves us. Love is the fulfillment of the Law (Roman 13:8.) This is what it means to keep the Law by Faith. This is the way to rebel against Satan and Sin: by serving and loving God and others. Will you respond to Christ’s love for you today? Or will you despise and abhor Jesus Christ?

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #8

You could say there are two types of people in the world. There are those who know and those who do not know. There are those who have heard and those who have not heard. Of those who have not known nor heard, the worse off are those who chose not to know or hear. Those who do not know nor hear because it has not reached them may be spared by grace, but those who chose not to know or hear have rejected what has reached them, which is rejecting He who sent the message.

What is it that we need to know or hear? Have you not known or heard Handel’s Messiah? Especially, the opening songs, which are mostly based on the first nine verses of Isaiah 40:

Isa 40:1- Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Isa 40:2 - Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
Isa 40:3 - The voice of Him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Isa 40:4 - Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
Isa 40:5 - And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Isa 40:9 - O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

We can find comfort, at last. The war is over. “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Christ has risen victoriously, and now we are assured forgiveness: twice as much as we have sinned. The salvation made possible by the death of Christ is not made available to us; this salvation is ours. It is given to us by grace. Does this not make you joyful? Cry it out loud! So let’s prepare the way for He who shall return for us, for the same way the apostles saw Him rise we shall see Him return (Acts 1:11), and every eye shall see Him (Revelation 1:7).

How did Christ do this? He took our Sin by partaking of our sinful nature, yet without sinning. With this Sin He took our suffering and all its consequences, including the second death. This death is eternal separation from our Father God. That is the wage of Sin (Romans 6:23). He paid our debt. Now we can live eternally, if we by faith believe this is Truth. Christ redeems our sinful nature, our heart of stone, into a pure nature, a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:9). Through the Comforter He sanctifies our characters until they reflect Christ’s character. Such is His merciful love. Such is His power.

So now, what use to be a mountain, is a molehill when He indwells in me. What is impossible for man is possible for God (Matthew 19:26). The biggest problems are to Him trivial. Our biggest foes are nothing to Him. Such is His Power, that Babylon, although we still see it standing, He has declared it fallen (Revelation 14:8). And, what He “declares to be, is!” For in His word there is power. We are fading like grass, but God and His Word stand forever. This gives me comfort. I can count on God.

What use to make me weary, no longer does. In Christ I receive new strength, new energy, new life. Now by faith, and when He comes in reality. Have you not known? Open your heart. Have you not heard? Open your ears. The Voice cries out in our wilderness, repent, “Come out of Her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sin” (Revelation 18:4). “For the hour of His judgment is come” (Revelation 14:8) and the ending is near. Will you choose to know and hear or will you choose not to know nor hear?

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Testimony Of Faith

There are times when we need to pay closer attention to the historical context of an event in order to understand it better. I believe this is one of those times. The way in which the Assyrians talk about God is disturbing. Ellen G. White says that had the Jews and Israelites remain faithful to God, none of this would have happened. In the days of Hezekiah, it was believed that many gods existed. They believed that each nation had their own god whom they worshiped and served. It was also believed that some god’s were more powerful than others. This was seen best by who would win wars and conquer all other nations. The Assyrians and all other nations thought that they had the most powerful gods in Hezekiah’s day. Since they were the most powerful nation in their day, and the Jews were paying tribute to them, they thought that their wooden idols were more powerful than the living God. Hezekiah knew differently. We read in Isaiah:

Isaiah 37:16 O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: Thou hast made heaven and earth.
Isaiah 37:17 Incline Thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open Thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.
Isaiah 37:18 Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,
Isaiah 37:19 And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
Isaiah 37:20 Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even Thou only.

This is an inspiring prayer. In verse 19 Hezekiah speaks of all other gods as no gods, but the work of men’s hands. This truth was evident to all those who were faithful to God. But, to those who apostatized it had been veiled. They were the reason the Assyrians felt they had license to insult and blaspheme against God. They challenged God. God took the challenge, and we read the results in Isaiah.

Unlike his father Ahaz, Hezekiah was a faithful king. He submitted himself to God and reformed what was left of the nation. He led the people to worship God once again. When faced with the threat of an invasion by the Assyrians, he decided to trust God. He fortified the city walls. He armed the men for war. Then encouraged them by saying:

2Chronicles 32:7 Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:
2Chronicles 32:8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles

Hezekiah fasted and prayed. He placed Sennacherib’s letter upon the altar and prayed more. Hezekiah’s faith encouraged and inspired Judah to trust and have faith in God. In the beginning we see Sennacherib king of Assyria mocking and making fun of Hezekiah’s faith in God. But after God defeated Him in such a humiliating way, it seems he never tried to conquer Judah again. God demonstrated to all the people in Hezekiah’s day, which was the most powerful God.

Each time we follow the world’s counsel we say to the world, “your gods are more powerful.” Each time we do as the world does we say to the world, “your gods are more powerful.” How do we do this? When we file for divorce or sue, when we get in debt unnecessarily, when we use worldly marketing techniques, when we follow worldly health advice, when we try to get jobs the way worldly people do, and when we go about our relationships the way the world does. We tell the world, “My God is all powerful,” when we pray about our circumstance and wait for God to solve the issue. Then after God solves it we give Him the glory. We do this when we find out from God what is His will; then we do it God’s way and in His timing. This includes the most minor details of our lives. Some may laugh at praying for what cereal to eat. But does not God know our body, better than we do? Some feel it is scandalous to let God chose our mate. But, since God knows us best, would He not know who would be a perfect complement for us? How about allowing God to direct us on which career to chose? How about allowing God to guide us on what, when and how we purchase? You may laugh at my friend who says he prays for which clothes to buy. But, he is one of the most sharply dressed men I know.

When we are faithful to God, the Rabshakeh’s of our world may scare us or shake us but we have assurance that God will deliver us. Who are these Rabshakeh’s of our world? They are not only nations, but also: government offices, corporations, churches, hospitals, schools, banks, utility companies, and telecommunication services. They are indeed large and resourceful, and they tell us that things are to be done their way or you will never accomplish anything. They tell you that unless you comply they will make sure you never buy, borrow, drive or worship again. You know they are capable of backing their threat, because you’ve heard stories of others who have suffered their wrath. You know people who have told you their horror story. In your distress you go to God, place your petition on the altar, and pray for deliverance. If God delivered Hezekiah and the Jews surely He can deliver you or help you through it. Will you believe Him or the Rabshakeh’s of our time?

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bethel and Babylon: A study in contrasts

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #6

Babylon is a familiar word in Christian circles. It is a name with negative connotations. To be called a Babylonian is not a compliment, it is something to be concerned about. What is Babylon? There are many answers to this question. Some would say an empire. Some would mention certain denominations. Others would say confusion. The origin of this name seems to come from the building of Tower of Babel. It comes from the Babylonian word bab ili, which according to our quarterly means “gate of god(s).” referring to the place of access to the divine realm. Compare Genesis 11, where people built the Tower of Babel (Babylon) so that by their own power they could rise to the divine level of immunity from any accountability to God. It is an attempt to overthrow God and His government. It is an attempt to reach God by our own self-righteous efforts.

In prophetic history Babylon is continually used to designate those who oppose God. Babylon has its own system of worship and beliefs. The goal is to replace God. Through out history they have repeated the same tactics to enforce their system and to deceive their followers. For example, you will recall the Golden statue fashioned after the statue in the dream. This golden statue represented various spiritual assertions. First of all, is that the Kingdom of Babylon and its King Nebuchadnezzar could join politics with religion, the church and the state. This went against God’s command. This was one of Saul’s sin’s, for which the Lord rebuked him through Samuel. It is still a problem today. Second is the idea that the Kingdom of Babylon and its King Nebuchadnezzar would be infallible. It would be perfect and immortal. (Where have we heard that before?) The third assertion is that those who hold the power can force anyone to worship as they fit. If there is anyone who refuses to worship, this power has the authority to take their lives. This is why Daniel’s three friends were thrown in the fire and Daniel was thrown in the Lion’s den. Most martyrs have refused to worship anything or anyone outside of God. Babylon, like it’s father Satan, is proud, arrogant, and rebellious. The writer of Proverbs says of the proud,

Pro 16:5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

There is no such thing as healthy or good pride. Whoever says that, is either deceived or needs to read their dictionary. The proud says, “I have no need of God. I am self-reliant. In fact, I can be God, myself.” The writer of Proverbs adds:

Proverbs 21:4 An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.

So what will the Lord do to the proud?

Proverbs 15:25 The LORD will destroy the house of the proud.

In contrast, we have Bethel. Bethel means "House of God." Which according to Jacob, is "the gate of heaven". The ladder that Jacob sees in his dream originates from heaven toward earth. God comes to man as Immanuel. This is the Gospel. The only true system of belief and worship. God, because of love sent “His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Also, in Romans 5:8,
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Other versions say that while we were yet His enemies, Christ died for us. God loves us and wants us to love Him back. He wants sincere, pure, agape love worship. It is God’s attempt to save us. We merely respond by faith, believing that His grace saves us. God supplies and enables our salvation. We accept and follow Him. Like its father Jesus, Bethel is humble, truthful and totally dependent on God. To be humble does not mean to be doormat. Humility means that you submit your importance, value or agenda to that of others. In this case you submit your importance, value or agenda to God and those whom He wants you to serve.

God through Isaiah appeals to us. Which of the gates do you chose? Which system will you follow? Babylon’s or Bethel’s?

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