Thursday, January 27, 2005

SIN or sins?

Today was one of those days, when I saw the truth of a horrible human tragedy, and it
was hard to bear. Reporter Lisa Ling, (formerly of the TV show "The View")was on assignment in the Congo, with the Oprah camera men taping. There she covered
the story of the genocide of the Congo people. According to the known reports, approximately 4 MILLION people have been murdered in the Congo as a result of its the warring factions. These people are innocent victims who are torn from their homes in the middle of the night. Their homes are burnt to the ground, their vegetable fields plundered, their cattle stolen, and their wives and mothers gang raped all while they are forced to watch. Most often the women are raped on their homestead.

On other occasions motivated by God only knows, the soldiers of the warring factions,
take the women into the forest and use them as sex slave for months. A woman, if she survives, is sometimes able to escape and return to her burned out village, where
she is likely to be ostracized by her husband. According to Lisa's report, many of the men stated on camera that they are afraid of catching a disease from their wives, so they don't want to have anything to do with them. One man said, "I know it was not her fault, I know she is suffering, and the children too, I will forgive my wife and accept her back."

Occasionally women are impregnated by one of the rapists. As anguished as the woman
may have felt because of the rape, her feelings are now intensified because of the pregnancy. To add insult to injury, she is further stigmatized and ostracized. Many of the husbands take the babies and murder them, or leave them to die, as they area reminder of the family's degradation and hopeless situation. Although these crimes are reported to the authorities, there is nothing that is done to alleviate the pain. No protection is provided, and the crimes against humanity go on unabated, and unnoticed by the world; but God notices.

As I heard this report, it occurred to me how easy it is for me and for those in Oprah's audience to look down with contempt and disdain upon the guerilla soldiers for what they have done. It would be normal even to feel hatred for them, and pity for their victims. Unfortunately it is a simple matter to think that we are better than our fellow sinners in the Congo, because we have never raped or killed anyone. Yet, according to Ephesians 4:26 we are to: "Be ye angry, and sin not... ." The anger generated as a result of these atrocities is righteous, but the contempt,
and disdain are not. I John 3:15 says, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:... ." So while we are not to hate our brother, it is not sinful to experience anger for the evil actions of the guerilla soldier. Furthermore, according to Ephesians 4:15 & 25, we are to "speak the truth in love ... every man to his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Therefore though exposure to the atrocities of the Congo is painful to us, it is imperative that we not hide our heads in the proverbial sand.

Thinking we are better than others is a chronic problem we humans have. Unfortunately, we hold ourselves above others, thinking or saying, " I would never do that." Yet, without a Saviour, there is nothing we would not do, no level we would not sink to in sin. Because Sin is at its core, Self-Love.

Sadly deep in our belief system, 'sin' is still about what we actually do, and not about our true motives for action (which are often hidden), or the words we speak. Yes, being tempted is not a sin, but cherishing it, imagining, tasting it-- ah, that is sin. Dwelling on temptation while conceiving of a way it could be carried out without anyone's knowledge, constitutes sin. Christ died to take away our Sin,
the Sin of mankind, which at its root is self-love. According to John 1:29, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the Sin of the world." He took away (past tense) the Sin of the world at the cross. He takes away the Sin of each individual as we subjectively accept His principles, and He will ultimately take away (blot out) our Sin at the sentencing, and destroy it at His coming. Yes friends, the truth is
that He is our complete saviour from Sin and accompanying sins. You know, we tend to view the world through our system of beliefs, and as such, there may be other ideas about sin which we have that may not be true. The truth is that like many of my fellow sinners, I read John 1:29, which says: '“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and I too thought it stated, "... Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the 'sins' of the world." As a result, I lost perspective on what the verse was truly telling me. By making the word 'sin' plural, we are led to define it merely as transgression of the law. This means that we end up thinking of 'sin' primarily in terms of wicked behavior, and perhaps wicked thought life, but rarely about the words we speak, or our desires. Yet, a true knowledge of just what constitutes Sin is imperative, for the scripture has said that the truth will set us free. Sin is principle of self-love, and sins are our individual words, thoughts and actions depicting self-love.

Christ's died to put away our Sin, the root of which is self-love, demonstrated by self-seeking. It stands in contrast with His nature and character of self-denying love. He accomplished the putting away of our Sin, not through the physical suffering with which Satan tortured Him, but through the eternal separation of
Himself (and us corporately in Him) from His Father. As such, He delivered the entire human race from the guilt and punishment of Sin (the second death), the power and slavery of Sin (its driving force), and the very nature of self-love and its accompanying presence in our lives.

The sins which we commit do not occur because we have a 'bent' to sinning -- a leaning toward it. Yes, a sinful nature is our inheritance from Adam, but it is not why we sin, for if it were, we'd have an excuse to sin. No, rather we have a pull in that direction, but our missing the mark (sin) or deliberate willful violation of His
Word (transgression), our perverse, crooked behavior comes as a result of not allowing Christ's principles (His Word, and Spirit) to remain in us--subjectively.

The greatest truth is that Christ died the second death to put away the Sin of humanity. Subjectively as we receive His gift, we are raised to newness of life in Him. We no longer want to keep sinning and asking for forgiveness, we want to overcome. We do this, not because we want to be saved, but because we love and
believe Him. As a result, we desire our deep, dark hidden areas of self-will, that which is still unknown to us, where self still reigns, to be blotted out.

In Psalms 32:1 & 2, David under divine inspiration addresses all three categories where self is displayed, and states:

Psalms 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Psalms 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”

Oh, what good news! Christ has redeemed us from all three categories of self-will. Through the union with Him, we are perfect, delivered from every aspect of the Sin problem. Jesus has said in John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up ... will draw all men unto Me." What a great and wondrous truth this is--He draws us and blesses
us! How much better can it get? Won't you join me in lifting up and celebrating (through word, thought and action) our complete Saviour today?

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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:

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Sin-Bearer a Substitute?

A paradox is a statement that seemingly contradicts itself. It often goes against (accepted) popular opinion. It is nevertheless a true statement. One example of a paradox is he who never erred never tried. We live in an imperfect world where we all have made mistakes, if you have not made mistakes it is because you have not done anything. One paradox I lived with was the concept that comfortable shoes need replacing. See, as a child, I loved it when my shoes were old because that's when they felt the most comfortable. Yet I was told it was time to replace them. This never failed with me. It was at the time when my shoes were the most worn out, that it was time to discard them and replace them with new ones. Notice I said replace, not substitute. No one would think of substituting his or her shoes; replacing them yes, but substituting them, no. Although the words "replace" and "substitute" are synonyms, they carry different connotations. Substitution is about taking something or someone’s place. Implied in the concept of substitution is the idea of inferior quality, or second choice. To replace something is to put another item of equal value in its place. So, can a Sin-bearer be a substitute? When we refer to Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross as “substitutionary,” what are we really saying? Are we saying that Christ's sacrifice was of inferior quality? I doubt that. Are we implying that the Father really would have preferred us to die the second death, but because Christ interceded, He (the Father) was persuaded to accept His death instead of ours? Did the Father really need to be persuaded to love and save us? And furthermore, did Christ replace us on the cross?

From the time before Sin, there was a Sin-bearer, to bare the burden of our punishment-- the second-death-- in His own body on the tree (I Peter 2:24). As we know from scripture, the Godhead, having forseen Sin, entered into council to deliberate the salvation of mankind. In that council, Christ chose to be the lamb of sacrifice, slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). He chose to bear the Sin and suffer the consequence of eternal separation from His Father which of course is the second death. But, did He forfeit His life for ours? Are we living instead of Him? Did He replace us on the cross, and if He did, is He going to replace us in heaven too? Naturally we know that He was resurrected and has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us that we might live in our own mansions, and be with Him forever (John 20:15-18, 26 & John 14:1-3). Therefore it is likely that He did not truly replace us. Still the question lingers, was Christ our substitute, and by that we mean, did He die as punishment for our sins instead of us?

Well, one of the ways to look more deeply at this subject which is so complex, is to look at just what constitutes Sin. As we all know, the scriptures provide these definitions:

* Sin is the transgression of the law -- I John 3:4
in word, thought or action Eph. 4:22-32, I John 2:6,
Eph. 5:19-21, Matt.5:21, 22, 27& 28
* Whatever is not of faith is sin -- Rom. 14:23
* To know good, and do it no is sin -- James 4:17
* All unrighteousness is sin -- I John 5:17

But ultimately, Sin is outworking of the principle of self-love, in contrast to principle of Heaven, which is self-denying love. Christ came to earth not to show us how to live, nor even to demonstrate that we could keep the law as He did. His primary reason was to save the world, or in other words, to save all of humanity (John 3:16). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ's divinity (with it's nature of self-denying love) was united with the corporate nature of humanity (which operates on the principle of self-love), yet Christ remained sinless in Character (Heb.4:15).

The uniting of natures, qualified Christ to be the second Adam. Through the first Adam, Sin, or the principle of self-love entered the world, and death was the result. Thus death was bequeathed to all men through the first Adam--and through mankind's sins. Even though we (his off-spring) did not sin as he did (Rom. 5:12, 13), yet our sins have brought condemnation and death--for all have sinned. As the second Adam, Christ developed both an intimate personal knowledge of the Father's character /nature of self-denying love, and the principle of self-love, which is at war in humanity (I Cor.. 15:45; Is. 53:11). (Remember, our character is what we develop by the choices we make, and our nature is our essence). When Christ assumed our nature, all the pressures of the principle of self -love clamored for His attention. Yet, through suffering the constant denial of self, He learned to listen even more closely and attentively, with a willingness to do His Father's will (Hebrew definition of obedience; Heb. 5:8 & Luke 24:46). Thus Christ's character was blameless, and without the stain of words, thoughts / motives or deeds of sin-- "though tempted in all points as we are, yet He did not sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

How could Christ die instead of us, or as a substitute for us? This is a most perplexing question, for Ezekiel 18:4 & 20 says, "... the soul that sinneth, it shall die," and "... the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Furthermore, 2 Chronicles 25:4 states, "... the father shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin." These texts make the thought of Christ dying a substitutionary death on our behalf, questionable indeed. Instead, is it possible that as Adam was the progenitor of all humanity, that Christ was the spiritual progenitor (See I Cor. 15, 44-47), and that when He died, all died in Him?

You know, when an American wins an Olympic a gold medal, he or she is not the only person who celebrates. The person's family and friends celebrate, and so does America, for that gold medallist represents America. Therefore, when Christ died, He died as one of us (not vicariously). And, just as all humanity sinned in the 1st Adam, so all humanity died in Christ, the 2nd Adam. "For as by one man's obedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall the many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). "For We have been Planted Together in the likeness of His Death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: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 sin. Now if we be dead With Christ, we believe that We shall also live with Him" (Romans 6:4-8).

So, just as Adam carried us in his loins as he chose to sin, Jesus carried all of humanity in Himself as He chose to remain obedient. This is how Christ can be our Sin Bearer. He bore our nature, not vicariously, but in actuality, yet without sin. Since, Christ bore us as He died on the cross, when He died, we died. So corporately, we were not truly spared from eternal death. Christ took us into Himself, and as He conquered death so did we; as He was resurrected, so were we.

Friends, a sin bearer cannot be a substitute or a replacement. Instead, as our Sin-bearer, Christ was one with us, one with humanity, and conquered. Let's thank God today for that.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Willing to Hear

In Genesis 22 the story is told of God calling Abraham. Responding, Abraham says, "Behold me," or "see I am here." In their dialogue, God instructs Abraham to take Isaac his son, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. God told Abraham that he'd tell him which mountain upon his arrival. Interestingly enough, Moriah means "God instructs." Furthermore, upon coming to the place of sacrifice, Isaac states, "I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham replies, "my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering... ." Abraham later names the place of sacrifice on Mount Moriah, "Jehovah -Jireh," which means God Himself will see and provide. Indeed there are important lessons to be learned from the call of Abraham to sacrifice his only son of promise, Isaac. One of the main lessons is how to respond when God calls, so that we are willing to hear Him. The other lesson is that by faith, if we will allow Him, God will see and provide for our needs. According to Ephesians 3:20, "...God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," and in John 10:10 Jesus says, "... I am come that they might have life, and that they might
have it more abundantly."

Isn't it amazing how Abraham was so ready to respond to God speaking to him? Don't we wish we were ready and willing to hear God? In Genesis 22:1, 7, &11, Abraham is addressed four times, once by God, once by his son Isaac, and twice by "the angel of the Lord." In each case, Abraham responds, "here I am." His response shows his willingness to hear what the person addressing him is going to say. You know, listening is really hard work for most of us. Often we are preoccupied with our own agenda-- our plans, our goals, our needs, and we really don't have the inner space to hear what's being said. Sometimes, we don't even want to hear the other person. That God spoke to Abraham should not surprise us, for we have the benefit of history via the scripture. Have we not read that His name is Immanuel, "God with us?" Have we not seen the scripture which tells us, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... ." This was so that He might speak to us in our language. Brothers and sisters, God enjoys our company, and it is His plan that we
might have intimate fellowship with Him (see John 14:1-3).

Another example of the listening ear is when God called little Samuel. (Yes, children can hear him too, for He wants to speak to them). Well, in I Samuel 3:3-10, we find that God not only calls Samuel three separate times, but He waits for Samuel to respond before going on in conversation. Let's follow the story. Thinking that Eli had called him, Samuel arose, went to Eli and inquired what he wanted. Of course Eli had not called him and told him so. Samuel returned to bed. A third time, Samuel heard his name called and went to Eli. This time Eli instructed Samuel to "Go and lie down: and it shall be that if He call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." In verse 10, we read that "... the Lord came, and stood and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth."

You know, many reading this may say, "but both Abraham and Samuel were prophets." "I'm not a prophet, and don't want to be." You are right. They were both prophets. However, in John 10:3, 4 - Jesus says "the sheep hear the voice of the true shepherd, He calls them by name, and they follow Him, for they know His voice." In verse 16, Jesus further says, " ... and they shall hear My voice..." And lastly, in John 8:47 He says, " He that is of God heareth God's words; ..." From these texts, we can conclude that God desires to speak with us through the means He chooses, and those who are His, who love Him, will listen attentively, and in hearing they will respond and follow Him.

Ok, so we may know that God wants to talk with us, but we're not sure we want to hear what He has to say, let alone listen attentively. Yet how many of us are going to church, paying tithe, and giving to the needy? You say "well, we're supposed to do these things, we just can't be takers in life and not give back anything--right?" Well--maybe those of us with this attitude are feeling guilty, maybe we are afraid that if we don't do these things we'll seem selfish-- and well, we don't want to be selfish right? Maybe those of us doing these good deeds who don't want to listen are missing out on something much better. Here is someone who knows us intimately, and who loves us deeply and passionately; someone who has given up everything that we might be together-- what might such a person want from us? Simply this-- that we might be together forever. By walking in the light, and loving one another (I John 1:5, 7; 2:6, 10; 3:11, 16, 18 & 23), we have fellowship with one another.

Yes, God knows our fears, secret and otherwise. He has said, "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (I John 17:18, see also verses 19, 17 & 21). Abraham by faith, listened attentively, heard and was willing to allow God to provide for his needs a lamb for the sacrifice. On the contrary, Cain did not. He provides us with an example of a person who was not willing to hear, listen or forgive. Hence his sins were not forgiven, and the occasion of his brother's sacrifice being accepted caused his covetous feelings to be made known. His secret sin was revealed. But God had made provision for even this sin, yet Cain would not listen, and thinking he knew better, did not avail himself of the gift.

How about us? Are we listening and paying attention? Are we quickly responding when our name is called; or are we delaying to answer, hoping the one speaking will just go away? Although not covered in our lesson for this week (or quarterly), Enoch is an example of a man who walked and talked, yes communed with Christ. He (like Abel and Abraham) was willing to listen attentively to what God had to say. He trained his ear so he would hear the nuances of God's responses to his questions and to his thoughts.

Listen to this thought. God is more willing to answer our prayers than we are to pray them. He has made provision for every one of our problems, and will gladly answer if we would but ask in faith not wavering (Phil. 4:19 & James 1:6). So let us no longer put off listening. He is speaking. Let's hasten to hear, and as the song says, "as He breathes, move --- closer."

Maria Greaves-Barnes

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