Friday, March 26, 2010

Commentary: Christ our Power Steering.doc

Christ our Power Steering


Nowadays anyone can drive any vehicle without much struggle.  There are technologies that have been implemented in our vehicles that pretty much make our steering them easier.  One such technology is power steering.  In a vehicle, power steering is a system for steering which uses power from the engine so that it is easier for the driver to steer the vehicle.  This technology makes it possible for a 120-pound woman to drive an 18-wheeler truck.  She may choose to ever so slightly move the steering wheel to the right or left and the oversized tires will respond as the power steering goes to work. Power steering makes the seemingly impossible possible.


The Bible is very clear about what we are and what is expected of us.  We are in a spiritual sense a 120 pound woman driving an 18 wheeler truck.  The question is, is there such a thing as Spiritual power steering?


Christ is very specific about our condition:  "Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23)


Paul restates this in Romans 3: 9 - 18,


Romans 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Romans 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

Romans 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Romans 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.


This gives a dire picture of our condition.  It is one that goes along with 2 Timothy 3: 1 – 5, and Revelation 3: 17.  Is there any hope for us?  How can we bear the fruit of righteousness under this condition? 


The answer to the first question is yes.  The answer to the second question is in John 15.  Christ says in here that He is "…the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John15:5).  So, when our focus is in abiding, the fruit will grow.  Our focus is on seeking "… first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness," then "… all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  What shall be added?  The things we need.  But, to get to live in the New Earth we need a righteous character.  When seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the Holy Sprit adds "… goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; to your godliness add brotherly affection; and to your brotherly affection add love" (2 Peter 1:5-7, TEV).  In other words, when we seek His imputed righteousness, the Holy Spirit will add His imparted righteousness to us.  


We know that when Paul told the Philippians "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13), it is the Holy Spirit working because, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to be our walking companion (Comforter), even to dwell in us( John 14: 16 – 17) .  It is the Holy Spirit giving us the power to do God's will.  He is our spiritual power steering, if we let Him be. 



Raul Diaz

Friday, March 19, 2010

Commentary: Truth


A man is standing on a cart that is moving in a certain direction at a certain speed.  On this cart there is a launch pad.  The idea is to launch a ball while the cart is moving.  When the ball is launched in the air, the man looks up and sees the ball go up and down.  Another man is observing what happens from a distance.  He sees the cart move, the ball launched, but to him the ball does not just go up and down.  The ball flew in the same direction and speed as the cart.  Both men argue saying that since the other man did not see what they saw the other is wrong.  We have one event and two different stories.  Which of the two men is right or wrong?  What really happened?

Both men saw what they saw, so both are right.  But, what they saw was based on where they were standing or positioned.  It was dependent on their perspective.    Their view was relative or subjective.  Although, both thought they had an objective and absolute view.     

Our lesson states that the Greek word for truth, aletheia, has two meanings. One is objective truth (actual facts, verity, or principle), and the other is subjective truth (truth as a personal excellence—a candor of mind that is free from affectation, pretense, dissimulation, falsehood, and deceit).  An objective fact means a truth that remains true everywhere, independently of human thought, feelings, and tools or calculations capable of being skewed by subjective means.  A subjective fact is one that is only true under certain conditions, at certain times, in certain places, or for certain people.  Truth, then, is what we know, the objective "facts on the ground," as it were. But there's the subjective element of truth, as well, which entails how we individually respond to what we learn.  

There must be the same two elements to the Gospel, since it is truth.  There is an objective Gospel, and a subjective Gospel.  The objective Gospel is the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ and what it means to us.  How this objective truth in turn affects us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ, and how we express it to others is the subjective Gospel. 

The objective Gospel is independent of us.  It is true whether we know it or not.  The subjective gospel is then dependent on us and only true when we know it.  For the subjective gospel to be true in us it is dependent on us believing that the objective gospel is true.  This can only be possible if the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – reveals it to us. 

Ellen White wrote about this,

… Paul teaches that believers are to be "sanctified by the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:16). What is the work of the Holy Spirit? Jesus told His disciples: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). And the psalmist says: "Thy law is the truth." By the Word and the Spirit of God are opened to men the great principles of righteousness embodied in His law (Maranatha 231).

The author of our lesson encourages us to look at another powerful insight:

"The preaching of the word will be of no avail without the continual presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. One might be able to present the letter of the word of God, he might be familiar with all its commands and promises; but unless the Holy Spirit sets home the truth, no souls will fall on the Rock and be broken."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 671, 672.

What we see in the work of the Holy Spirit is both the objective and subjective aspect of Truth. The Spirit comes, and He testifies of Jesus and reproves " 'the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment' " (John 16:8).  As it says above, the work of the Holy Spirit doesn't end simply with teaching us these truths. If we allow Him, our lives will be changed by our understanding of them. These objective and eternal truths will do us no good unless our lives are transformed by them, and part of that process (perhaps even the most important part) is for us, as she wrote, to be broken on the Rock (see Ps. 51:17).  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the true witness of Christ.  He does not bring to us a subjective view of the events, but an objective view.  He will then show us and guide us into how these truths will affect us subjectively.  As always the question is, will we let the Holy Spirit do His work in us?

Raul Diaz

Friday, March 12, 2010

Commentary: Bible Jeopardy

Bible Jeopardy

In the TV game show Jeopardy, a group of contestants are given a series of words and statements.  These words and statements are to be treated as answers to questions the contestants are suppose to know (or guess) the answer to.   So the object of the game is not to answer the question, but to find the question to the answer. 

Sometime in the Bible we have to do the same thing with certain verses.  They may seem to contradict each other, because they seem to be dealing with the same subject.  But, upon further study – studying the context, for example – we find that the verses actually answer different questions. 

Such is the case with the relation between works and faith.  Many are confused by the apparent difference between the expressions of Paul and James.  Yet, the Holy Scriptures penned by Paul and James both originate with the same Author. They reveal no diversity of viewpoints.  James and Paul were both inspired by the same Person (i.e. the third Person of the Godhead) and they both taught the same view.  The false perceptions are rooted in the failure to realize that Paul and James are not addressing the same problem.  Therefore, their "answers" must not be applied to the same question. This mistake has produced false perception and misunderstanding.

Paul's issue is justification before God.  The lesson calls this imputed righteousness, others call it justification by faith. 

"What  then  shall  we  say  that  Abraham  our  father  has  found  according  to  the  flesh?    For  if  Abraham  was  justified  by  works,  he  has  something  to  boast  about,  but  not  before  God.  For what does the Scripture say?  'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:1-3).      

James is dealing with justification before man.  The lesson calls this imparted righteousness.  Others call it sanctification by faith.  This is why he cites the example of a brother who destitute and hungry and asks the questions "what does it profit." 

"If  a  brother  or  sister  is  naked  and  destitute  of  daily  food,  and  one  of  you  says  to  them,  'Depart  in  peace,  be  warmed  and  filled,'  but  you  do  not  give  them  the  things  which  are  needed for  the  body,  what  does  it  profit?"  (James 2:15-16).  

James argues for justification by works in the eyes of man.  Paul argues against justification by works in the eyes of God. Yet, James would agree with Paul that we are not justified by works in the eyes of God and Paul would agree with James that we are justified by works in the eyes of man.  James is describing how will men who live by faith - walk in the Spirit, abide in Christ - look to other men.  Men who live by faith continually believe that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to them.  This is something the Holy Spirit works in them.  The Holy Spirit reminds them of this, as He convicts these men of Sin and righteousness.  As the men repent, remembering the righteousness of Christ, the Holy Spirit renews their mind transforming them into the likeness of Christ. 

So we can conclude that those who walk by faith will show their faith with agape toward others.  Therefore we should agree that justification is "without works". And our works contribute nothing toward our salvation, even though genuine works of faith are an evidence of the reception of the gift of salvation from sin (i.e. the righteousness of Christ).  In other words, continually believing that we are saved by grace through faith produces in and through us the works of righteousness (which is really a display of God's love).  So, accepting imputed righteousness enables and produces imparted righteousness, in those who believe. 

Raul Diaz

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Commentary: Samson versus Joseph

Samson versus Joseph

This week's lesson is about "self-control."  The term used in the Greek for this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is:  Egkrateia (γκρτεια), which means:  Continence, temperance, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions especially his sensual appetites.  Our lesson uses the term used by many Bible translations which call it, self-control.  But, self-control in this context is a misnomer.  "Self" control cannot be produced by "self" as long as the law of our nature (bent to self) is at war with the law written in our minds. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from Christ can accomplish the resolution of that war. So, instead of Self-control, it should be called: Spirit–control.  It is God who does the mastering of our carnal desires, passions, and sensual appetites.  We have two examples from our lesson: one allows God to control his carnal desires, passions, and sensual appetites and the other does not. 

The first one is Joseph.  Betrayed by his own family, sold into slavery, Joseph had very good reasons to doubt the love and care (even the existence) of the God that he had been taught about since childhood. That's not, however, what he did.  Let's read how he handled a temptation in Genesis 39: 7 – 9,

Genesis 39: 7And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

Genesis 39:  8But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

Genesis 39:  9There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Joseph showed that he was temperate.  He had allowed the Holy Spirit to control his carnal passions and desires.  Now, let us look at a contrast. 

In Judges 13-16, the Bible gives us the story of Samson.  If we read through the texts, keeping in mind the idea of temperance, we would discover there, plenty of powerful lessons that we can learn from Samson's example. How tragic that someone with so many gifts and so much promise could get so easily sidetracked.  God had great plans for Samson.  We read about them in Judges 13,

Judges 13:24-25 (King James Version)

 24And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.

 25And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

 The lesson asks, "Considering what we know about Samson, what important message, and warning, are found in those two texts?"  The following Ellen White quote sheds light on this subject,

"The divine promise to Manoah was in due time fulfilled in the birth of a son, to whom the name of Samson was given. As the boy grew up it became evident that he possessed extraordinary physical strength. This was not, however, as Samson and his parents well knew, dependent upon his well-knit sinews, but upon his condition as a Nazarite, of which his unshorn hair was a symbol. Had Samson obeyed the divine commands as faithfully as his parents had done, his would have been a nobler and happier destiny. But association with idolaters corrupted him. The town of Zorah being near the country of the Philistines, Samson came to mingle with them on friendly terms. Thus in his youth intimacies sprang up, the influence of which darkened his whole life. A young woman dwelling in the Philistine town of Timnath engaged Samson's affections, and he determined to make her his wife. To his God-fearing parents, who endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, his only answer was, "She pleaseth me well." The parents at last yielded to his wishes, and the marriage took place."—Ellen G. White,Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 562.

Despite his great promise, Samson allowed his passions and lusts to overcome everything good. Who hasn't struggled with the reality of this conflict? The great controversy isn't just a symbol; it depicts the battle between Christ and Satan that is waged, not simply as some cosmic conflict in the heavens but in every human being, as well. Though Christ paved the way for all people to share in His victory, the battle for our hearts and flesh is being fought, indeed, in our hearts and our flesh. Christ won it all for us, and because of His victory we can choose to claim His victory as ours all the time.  By the choices we make, we are deciding for one side or another in the great controversy.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts, and renews our mind, if we let Him.  Samson and Joseph display how both sides – accepting and not accepting – works. 

"Samson in his peril had the same source of strength as had Joseph. He could choose the right or the wrong as he pleased. But instead of taking hold of the strength of God, he permitted the wild passions of his nature to have full sway. The reasoning powers were perverted, the morals corrupted. God had called Samson to a position of great responsibility, honor, and usefulness; but he must first learn to govern by first learning to obey the laws of God. Joseph was a free moral agent. Good and evil were before him. He could choose the path of purity, holiness, and honor, or the path of immorality and degradation. He chose the right way, and God approved. Samson, under similar temptations, which he had brought upon himself, gave loose rein to passion. The path which he entered upon he found to end in shame, disaster, and death. What a contrast to the history of Joseph!"--Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1007.

Whether we end up like Samson or Joseph is our choice.  There is a warning to heed.  Following Samson lead does not mean you can repent in the end, as Samson did.  Many will not have that opportunity.  Let us not harden our hearts.  Let us respond to God's loving call, now and continually.

Raul Diaz