Friday, March 27, 2009

God always takes the initiative

God always takes the initiative

God always takes the initiative to look for us because it is not in our nature to look for Him. This is why Paul writes in Romans 5:

Romans5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
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.

God set up a plan from the beginning of the world to save us if we sinned. John says that “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The plan was put in effect when Adam fell. Adam did not ask for it. But, at finding out about it Adam responded with gratitude. According to Luke 15 all of us fall in three different categories of how we are lost and each needs a different solution to find salvation.

The first category we can fall in is described in the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 4 – 7). The sheep is lost, knows that is lost, but does not the way back, and does not know how to find it. It may wander in the wilderness until it dies trying to get back or just gives up. The sheep need the shepherd to look for it and bring it back. The shepherd takes the initiative to find it. But, to make sure the sheep does not wander again the shepherd may need to resort to extreme measures like breaking its legs. The shepherd brought the sheep back, and with joy restored it to the fold, as if the sheep had never wandered away.

The second category we can fall in is described in the parable of the lost coin (Like 15: 8 – 10). The coin was lost in its own house. The coin, of course, did not know it. Therefore, it had no clue about its need to be rescued. The woman takes the initiative to find the coin and does everything in her power to do so. The woman in the parable cleans the entire house just to find the one coin, even when she still had more. The woman rejoiced as she restored the coin to its proper place as if the coin had never been misplaced.

The third category we can fall in is described in the parable of prodigal son. After wasting a fortune reluctantly given to him by his father he ended up working at a pig sty feeding the pigs. This was something not only humiliating to a person of means but also an abomination for any Jew. This is an example of how low Sin takes us. But, the prodigal son remembered his former life in his home, and how good even the servants had it. The prodigal son remembered his way back home. He needed no outside rescue. However, his father was waiting for him by the entrance of the home. He received his son with open arms and restored to his former position as if the son had never left. (In real life, when the “prodigal sons’ remember their way it is the Holy Spirit reminding them.)

These parables not only show how we are lost, they also show God’s grace and mercy. God does whatever is in His power to save us. We see that in the parables. And, He receives us with His unconditional love. All the process of Salvation is always God’s initiative. We just respond, hopefully with gratitude – heartfelt appreciation – for what he has done for us. As He works in us He awaits for that response to restore us to the position we had before the fall. Sister White says about this. “Whatever may have been your past experience, however discouraging your present circumstances, if you will come to Jesus just as you are, weak, helpless, and despairing, our compassionate Saviour will meet you a great way off, and will throw about you His arms of love and His robe of righteousness.”—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 9.

When there is a desire to come to Him – however faint – there is still a chance. This desire is wrought from God trying to woo you to Him. Are we responding to Him?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The health message

The health message

When told to not eat something that would be harmful to their health, some people reply, “You got to die of something.” You could take the argument even further by saying that since Christ is returning, why should we strive to be healthy? On this side of eternity we will always have sinful bodies. And, these bodies will decay and get sick. Our bodies are corruptible and mortal. The argument could be, “Who cares if in heaven we will not have this body anyway?” After the resurrection we will be given new bodies. These bodies will be incorruptible and immortal. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15,

1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1 Corinthians 15:52 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.
1 Corinthians 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:54 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.

Many oppose this line of reasoning by saying, “We need to be healthy because of the Hoy Spirit dwelling in us.” Again, Paul writes to the Corinthians,

1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

He reiterates this in 2 Corinthians, let us read,

2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In other words we cannot do with our bodies whatever we want, because the Spirit owns it and dwells in it. They cite this as the reason why we should not smoke. You are damaging something that does not belong to you and is the dwelling place of another being. The logic behind this is that if you do what is right He will stay, if you do not do what is right He will leave. However true, there is a subtle motivation for reward and or fear of punishment, in this reasoning. It is not based on love - agape. God loves us so much that He wants to live intimately close to us. That’s why He wants to dwell in us. So what does this have to do with being physically healthy?

It is an issue of character building. To live eternally with God we need characters that are used to yielding to the Holy Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit is prompting us and training us to choose to develop habits and practices that we will do in eternity. He will lead us to go back to the original diet - eating what Adam and Eve ate before the fall. As we read in Genesis 1:29,

Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

He will lead us to live the pure and simple lives that we will live in eternity. So you stop smoking not only because it is bad for you and the Holy Spirit will depart from you if you do not. You primarily do it because you know He loves you and you want to love Him back. You do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit’s heart. There is a difference between wanting Him to stay dwelling in you because, you know that His departing from you breaks His heart and wanting Him to stay because you feel safe that He is in you. The former is based on agape and that latter is based on self love. Which one do you prefer?

Raul Diaz

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Good News

The Good News

What is good news? It is information that will make you feel happy. What was good news to Mr. Grant? Mr. Grant was a garbage truck driver. He got paid well. But, it did not mean he did not like extra cash. Because, of his truck driving expertise, he was offered a job plowing snow. Every winter most people prayed for no snow. Mr. Grant, however, prayed for snow. Snow meant more work which meant more money. Snow was bad news for some, but good news to him.

We always say that the gospel is the good news of salvation. But to whom is it good news? To really be good news it must be good news to all, not just a few.

For 400 years, Protestant Christianity has been divided into two camps regarding salvation. The first, Calvinism, confesses that Christ actually saved human beings on the cross, but that this salvation is limited only to the elect, those whom God has predetermined to be saved. The implication of this view is that those who God chooses to be saved, cannot reject it. And those not chosen to be saved cannot do anything to prevent being lost. According to this gospel Christ only died for the elect. That‘s why this version of the Gospel is limited good news. (Prosperity gospel comes from this view.)

The second view, Arminianism, holds that, on the cross, Christ obtained salvation for all humanity, but that this salvation is only a provision; a person must believe and repent for the provision to become a reality. In this view Christ only died for those who believe. This view is only conditional good news.

But neither camp presents the full truth about salvation. The Bible teaches that God actually and unconditionally saved all humanity at the cross so that we are justified and reconciled to God by that act. Let us see Romans 5:10, 18,

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.
Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

And also 2 Corinthians 5:18-19,

2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

The only reason anyone will be lost is because he or she willfully and persistently rejects God’s gift of salvation in Christ. Let us see John 3:18, 36,

John 3:18 [he] that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 [he] that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

The two heresies – Calvinism and Arminianism - are the consequence of people taking the scriptures out of context and misinterpreting them. When you take the Bible in its right context and understanding you discover that the Bible’s true view on salvation is unconditional and unlimited good news. It is good news to all mankind. The question is: do you believe it?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Why Immortality of the Soul Makes No Sense

Why Immortality of the Soul Makes No Sense

Where does the idea of immortality of the soul come from?

The author of the lesson says that “the notion of human immortality is found in all primal, animistic, and polytheistic religions. It was also an important concept in Greek philosophy, which conceived of Hades (the world of the dead) as a ghostly, shadowy underworld, in which the soul lived a twilight existence. The Greeks viewed human beings as consisting of matter and soul. At death, matter and soul are separated, releasing the soul from the prison house of matter into an independent existence.” It is an idea that crept into the church in the early Centuries of Christianity.

Does the Bible teach immortality of the soul?

The Bible is clear, “only God is immortal” (1 Tim. 6:16) and it also says that human beings apart from God are subject to death.” The lesson quotes William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury saying about this, “Man is not immortal by nature or of right; but he is capable of immortality and there is offered to him resurrection from the dead and life eternal if he will receive it from God and on God’s terms.”—Nature, Man, and God, p. 472.

What makes us a living soul?

The Bible says that we are a unit not two different yet coexisting dimensions. We are the living souls.

Ge2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

That energy that God breathed in Adams nostrils that made his heart beat and the rest of his body functioned. When Adam died he was not a dead soul, he was just dead. Adam ceased to exist after death. The energy that kept him alive is now gone from him. This energy goes back to God, it is not a Spirit, and it is merely God’s miraculous life giving power. Before the fall we were un-fallen living souls and after the fall we are now fallen living souls evil by nature. Innate goodness is not biblical. The flesh is sinful bent toward evil and self will. It is perhaps this problem that forced the Greeks to come up (or borrow) the idea of soul dualism. Not wanting to admit they were evil by nature they decided to give up on the flesh as evil, but still put some goodness in their bodies which would come from a spirit or soul inhabiting the flesh.

How does immortality of the soul affect core Christian beliefs as the Cross and resurrection?

If we can get immortal lives just by living a “good” life and dieing then our souls will go to heaven, then

a. Christ’s deliverance is not needed. The cross would not be necessary if to die is all we had to do to go to heaven. It his is true then God could just kill us all or allow all us to die. This means Christ would not have to die for us to go to heaven. But, this would perpetuate the Sin problem, because as long as we are here procreating more human beings would have to die before they go to heaven.

b. If we had immortal souls we would not really die, because our flesh would be nothing more than a host for our souls which means we would not really cease to exist. But, the Bible says we do cease to exist after death. As it says in these following two verses,

Psalms 146:4 NKJV 4 His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 NKJV 5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.

c. Also, the resurrection- as told in 1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 55 - would be needless. If we can go to heaven after death, will we then come back for the resurrection? Why? If we are already there why should we come back? Just to get our glorified bodies? We would be already glorified. It makes no sense.