Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reward versus Gift

Reward versus Gift

There is a difference between a gift and reward. A gift is something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation. A gift is given because the giver feels like giving it whether the recipient deserves it or not. A reward is something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior or in retribution for evil acts. For example, a reward can be Money offered or given for some special service, such as the return of a lost article or the capture of a criminal. In psychology a reward is the return for performance of a desired behavior; positive reinforcement.

Upon reading the below verses we can think that the promises in these verses are rewards. Let us read the verses.

1Cor15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1Cor15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1Cor15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1Cor15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Heb9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
Heb9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

When God gives us something it is important. God is not trivial. When God gives promises they are important. They are not just things to fantasize about. His promises are not dreams that will never be accomplished. When God promises you should consider it done. This is true of the promises given in the two verses above. However, we are not to confuse promises with rewards. While God’s fulfillment of promises may be conditional, they are not rewards for good performance, but rather gifts of love. If you earn it is not a gift, it is a purchase. Salvation is after all a gift; it is by grace through faith (Romans 5:15-18; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8).

The author of the lesson derives four gifts out of the promises given in the above verses. Summarized they are: first, bodies (and mind) will be transformed, and, will not die again. Second, we will no longer Sin nor suffer its consequences. Thirdly, we will See Jesus eye to eye forever. Lastly, there will be social implications - we will not mistreat or abuse one another.

These are very encouraging gifts to look forward to. But, perhaps with the exception of number three, all are selfish reasons to want to be saved if we see them as rewards. They are part of the main reason to be saved. The main reason to be saved is to be united with the One, “Who loved our souls” so much He’d rather die than to live without us. The main reason to be saved should be that we are so grateful to Him for what He did for us, that we love Him so much we’d rather die than to live without Him. And, even this love is a gift. Are we receiving it?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adoption in Christ

Adoption in Christ

The lesson says that, “Both the Old Testament and the New Testament offer hope set in real life stories.” It adds that in this way, “God seeks to reclaim his Children.” This shows that God uses our reality to try to teach us His truth. He does this so that we can relate to His teachings, so that we can understand Him. More specifically, He does this so that we can understand how He feels about and for us, and also about Sin.

What are some examples of our reality He uses? He uses the example of a lover. One good example is Jeremiah 3: 1 – 10. Let us read parts of that passage,

Jeremiah 3:1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 3:7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
Jeremiah 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
Jeremiah 3:9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
Jeremiah 3:10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.

As said above, He also uses the example of a parent. Consider Jesus plea to the Jews in Matthew 23:37,

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

When you, in fact, read Deuteronomy 30:15 – 16, the language comes across as very paternal. Let us read the passage,

Deuteronomy 30:15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
Deuteronomy 30:16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

He wants us to listen to Him. He has our best interest at heart. He loves us. He wants to spare us from the consequences of our bad choices. Paul talks about this Hebrews 12: 5 – 11,

Hebrews 12: 5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Hebrews 12: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Hebrews 12: 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Hebrews 12: 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Hebrews 12: 9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
Hebrews 12: 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
Hebrews 12: 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless a fterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

So, He chastens those He loves. When we do not listen He chastens us, as a father or mother would. It is not a desire to punish, but a desire to correct and show the right way; a way that will bring us closer to Him, the Lover of our Souls.

Yes, God hates Sin to the point of He would rather die, than to live with it. But, He does not hate us. We all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Not one of us is righteous or just. We all fall short of the glory of God. However God wants to remedy that. That is why He sent His Son. And, sending His Son is the biggest proof that He loves us. This is evident in Galatians 4:1-7,

Galatians 4:1-7
Galatians 4: 1Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
Galatians 4: 2But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Galatians 4: 3Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Galatians 4:4But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Galatians 4:5To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Galatians 4:6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Galatians 4:7Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Because of Christ, we can be adopted. God has not disowned us. This is what the world needs to know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Watching Versus Waiting

Watching Versus Waiting

There is a difference between waiting and watching. Waiting is to remain or rest in expectation or to be in readiness. Watching is to look and wait expectantly or in anticipation. To wait can be done while doing something else. To watch requires full attention from the watcher. In waiting, we can miss what or whom we are waiting for; not in watching. This story illustrates the difference.

A girl once asked her grandmother to watch for her the day she came to visit. Grandmother promised she would. This petition was repeated several times, and several times the grandmother promised she would watch for her granddaughter. The day the granddaughter would arrive Grandmother thought she had time to do a few chores before her granddaughter showed up. She thought that just before they arrived she would go outside the door. Grandmother got busy and lost track of time, and her granddaughter showed up while she was still inside. She heard the bell, ran to the door, and with excitement opened it up to greet her granddaughter. But, her granddaughter was very sad. Grandmother asked why the sad semblance. Granddaughter answered, “Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you.” “Honey, I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you,” answered Grandma. Granddaughter replied, “Grandma I did not want you to wait for me, I wanted you to watch for me.” Granddaughter wanted Grandma to be outside expectantly looking for her.

(Bear with me as I develop the point I am trying to make.) In Christ, and through His death, resurrection and ascension, God permanently united the world to Himself. But, only those who believe this will benefit from this fact. Only those who put their faith in His sacrificial death will benefit from this truth. This is a truth that is evident in Hebrews 9:28. Let us read,
Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

In the Bible the many refers to the world. Christ was offered to bear the Sin the world. As it is says in 1 John 2: 2

1 John 2:2 And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world

When He died He paid for the World’s penalty of Sin, in other words He paid the wages of Sin that that mankind owed (Roman 6:23). With His resurrection and ascension His death guarantees that death is not our final destination in this life. But, it does not guarantee that eternal life is our final destination. This is guaranteed only to those, who as said above, put their faith in His sacrificial death that will benefit from this truth. This is also evident in Hebrews 9:28.

There are two clauses on this verse, separated by a punctuation mark (A semi-colon in the KJV). The punctuation mark makes a distinction between the two groups: the many and the few who look up. The first statement talks about what Christ did for the many on the cross. The second clause stated that although all men are saved from the penalty of Sin only to “them that look for Him shall He appear.” These are those who are looking up. It is those who believe He will return a “second time without sin unto salvation.” These are those who put their faith in His sacrificial death. These are the ones watching for Jesus. Are we waiting for Jesus or are we watching for Him?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Christ’s Sorrow

Christ’s Sorrow

The lesson asks the question, “Have you ever been so overcome with sorrow that you felt you would not survive?” I would have to answer that I know of I have never been so overcome with sorrow that I felt I would not survive. I am pretty sure that in the midst of it I may have felt that way. But, after that I cannot recall it. How about you?

Two things come out of this. One, it is as pregnant women delivering. In the moment it is painful. After labor they forget. Let us read John 16:21

John 16:21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

Two, in reality, objectively, no sorrow we go through will ever be so much we cannot survive. God will not let us go through what we cannot handle. This is what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

So we could safely say that Christ was allowed to go as far as He did, because He could bear it. Not, necessarily because He was God, but because He surrendered Himself completely to the will of His Father. This is not to say that if we surrender ourselves completely to the will of the Father we could do what He did, in terms of being sin-bearers.
Sister White says it best,

“Man has not been made a sin-bearer, and he will never know the horror of the curse of sin which the Saviour bore. No sorrow can bear any comparison with the sorrow of Him upon whom the wrath of God fell with overwhelming force. Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world. The agony which Christ endured, broadens, deepens, and gives a more extended conception of the character of sin, and the character of the retribution which God will bring upon those who continue in sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ to the repenting, believing sinner.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1103.

Many claim that others suffer more than Christ, because He did not suffer as long as others. There is a problem with this thinking. They typically are talking about Christ’s physical suffering. Christ physical suffering was bad, but has noting to do with our salvation. Christ torment started in Gethsemane - at least it was evident by then - before the physical torture to which the devil put Him through. To say that this physical torture has anything to do with our salvation is to say that the devil had a role in our salvation, which we know is not true. When the Father “spared not His own Son” (Romans 8:32) and made Him a curse for us, He poured His cup of wrath without mercy on Christ (Galatians 3:13; Revelation 14:10). This meant a complete separation between Christ and the Father. Goodbye to life forever. This is what caused the sorrow of Christ, and what eventually killed Him.

While physically we could suffer longer than Christ, even to the point where we think or feel that we cannot survive, it will never be more that what Christ ever suffered. And, this is good news. While this does not mean that we will never suffer or bear any sorrow. To think this goes against scripture. Matthew 5:10 and John 15:20 is two examples,

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

It does mean that Christ enables us to bear any sorrow because He bore His and ours on the Cross. Are we not grateful to Him?