Friday, September 24, 2010

Commentary: What God Cannot Accept

What God Cannot Accept


Thomas was a very happy father.  He loved his son very much.  There was nothing he would have not done for his son.  So, when he found out his son was sick, he was of course very disturbed.  It hurt him deeply.  He could not sleep nor eat.  The situation was even worse when Thomas found out his son's disease was highly contagious.  "Is there anything I can do to help restore my son to health?" he asked.  The Doctors said, "No.  Your son must be quarantined.  No one can be in contact with him.  No one can touch him, not even breath the air he breathes.  Even the plates and utensils he eats from must be decontaminated or destroyed."  Thomas' heart was broken.  How could this be?  In this time when his son needed him most, Thomas could not be near him.    Thomas loved his child.  He loved him no matter what: disease or no disease.  But, he could not accept the condition his son was in. 


The lesson makes the statement that Paul needed to define to the church in Rome – and us – what are the grounds upon which God accepts us.  So, we ask the question, what are the grounds upon which God accepts us?  What is it that Paul says? 


In the beginning of the letter Paul addresses the Gentiles and tells them that their unrighteous behavior shows how ungodly they are.  Before the Jews got too happy, he told them that their righteous behavior was still not pleasing to God; which meant that they – the Jews - were also ungodly.  In fact, Paul added that the fact that they descended from Abraham was not enough.  He reminded them that Abraham – a former pagan – believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).  Paul says in Hebrews 11: 6 that without Faith it is impossible to please God.  So, faith must be the answer; God accepts those who have faith.  But, there is a problem with this answer. 


Paul says in Romans 5: 6 that "in due time Christ died for the ungodly."  Why would Christ do this?  Paul says in Romans 5:8 that "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  The reason why God sent His son to die for the World was His love for us (John 3:16).  Love is the ground upon which God accepts us.  But, He cannot accept our Sinful condition.  Jesus was sent to take care of that condition; He is the cure.  God wants to cure us all, but only those who accept the Cure, will be restored.  Only those who accept the Cure will be truly righteous.  This is the cure that Abraham accepted, and it was counted to Him as righteousness.  It is the cure that the Jews rejected, but the Gentiles accepted (Romans 9: 30 – 31: 10: 2 – 3).  In Romans 10: 4 Paul concluded that the Cure – Jesus – "is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."  The end here means the fulfillment.  So, although the cure is given to all men, only those who accept the Cure fulfill the law; which means that those who accept the cure are righteous.  And, if they are righteous they are Godly. 


God accepts all men.  But, only those who accept the "Cure," will enjoy God's acceptance. 

Raul Diaz

Friday, September 17, 2010

Commentary:Living on the Altar

Living on the Altar


Sacrifices normally take place on an altar; which is pretty much a kind of a modified and dedicated table.  The animal is placed on the altar and it is stabbed to death.  So, Paul invites us to become living sacrifices.  We read in Romans 12:1, 


Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.


Let us consider what this would mean if it were literal.  Once on the altar you stay there. 

Since we die to self every day, we are stabbed every day.  In fact, anytime self rises we are stabbed.  What is required of us is willingness to let the Lord to stab us.  We need to trust Him.  This process is continued until we die the sleep death or are resurrected.  This is necessary because in conversion only our mind changes our nature does not.  The more we let the Lord stab us, the more we trust Him and love Him.  When we repent our mind and our nature part ways; they are at war.  This is a source of grief and suffering.  Paul calls it a reasonable service. 


It is in this continual process that our minds are renewed or transformed (Romans 12:2).  In this process we offer proof of the goodness, perfection, and acceptable will of God.  Others will see that although it is Christ doing the stabbing, He is doing it for our sake.  They will see the results in us.  It is what is necessary to save us.  They see His love and compassion in His eyes.  They see the stab wounds in His flesh.  They realize He went through it, too.  Paul says of Christ in the book of Hebrews,


Hebrew 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Hebrew 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.


He went through the same process he puts us through.  So, that he could be our help when we go through it.  And, Paul adds in Hebrew 4:15,


Hebrew 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.


So, He went through the process successfully.  Those who are watching know that He can be trusted.  When they see this they will crawl on the altar also. 


Now, many answer the call, but once on the altar they get tired of the stabbing, struggle to set themselves free and crawl out of the altar.  But, it is not really the stabbing that makes them leave.  It is their distrust of Christ; it is unbelief.  Most Israelites and Jews left the altar, because of unbelief (Hebrews 3: 19).  Only a remnant stayed and the Gentiles were gladly climbing and staying on.  The question to us, will we get on the altar and stay?



Raul Diaz

Friday, September 10, 2010

Commentary The Restored Tools

The Restored Tools


The following story is found in the teacher's comments for this week lesson,


One night, while the carpenter was away, the toolbox opened, and the tools began to discuss their existence and purpose. The screwdriver lamented that she quietly was used and seldom noticed. The saw also was disenchanted with his purpose, noting that other saws had gone on to become musical instruments and did not have to put up with the sawdust. The wrench complained that he outshined many hood ornaments and felt denigrated when used to work with nuts. The hammer boasted that she had the highest pedigree, being crafted of the finest hickory and stainless steel. Why was she subjected to constant contact with the common iron found in nails? Other tools spoke about their superiority or how the carpenter favored them. None, however, wanted to be used for the purpose for which they had been created. Eventually, many tools plotted their escape. In the morning the carpenter noticed that many of his tools were missing. Of course, this slowed his work. Months passed. Gradually, the carpenter found his tools. The hammer was rusty. The saw was dull, and the screwdriver was bent. The wrench never was located. Meanwhile, the carpenter had replaced some of the missing tools but was unwilling to throw the rusty, bent, dull ones away. He painstakingly restored them. One night the tools were overheard. There was sadness over the wrench, who never had come back, but more rejoicing over the carpenter who had restored the others to usefulness.


The story is used as a parable.   Each tool represents how we feel about our lives.  According to the story most of us fall in one of the following categories: underused, overused or misused.   Like the tools we blame whoever represents the carpenter – boss, parents, teachers, coach, etc.   The Jews were no exception. 


Like the tools in the story the Jews somehow believed that they were underused, overused or misused.   They thought that God did not certainly mean for them to deal with Gentiles; certainly God chose them because of their superiority.  So they set out to prove, on their own, how superior they were to others.   Paul says of them in Romans 10:2-3,


Romans 10: 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Romans 10:3  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.


Like the tools that ran away and found that they could not live successfully on their own, the Jews found that it was impossible to be righteous.  Even so, they deceived themselves by establishing their own standards and rules to enforce those standards.  Even then they found that it was impossible for them.  So, they created loopholes in their rules so they could bend them while still keeping them.  Christ was very stern with them.  He said they were like white washed tombs (Luke 11:44).  They looked beautiful on the outside but only death inside.  Christ also compared them to barren fig trees (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11: 13; Luke 13: 16 – 19).  They were looking as if they should have fruit even outside of the harvest season, but not once bearing any fruit.  No wonder Christ told the disciples that their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5: 20). 


In Romans 9: Paul contrasted the Jews with the Gentiles who had accepted the knowledge of the Gospel (which the Jews rejected).  He says,


Romans 9: 30  What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

Romans 9: 31  But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Romans 9: 32  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;


Presented with the Gospel, many Gentiles realized that they were rusted, bent, and dull - something many Jews would not admit of themselves.  Those who accepted the Gospel God brought to His "tool shed" where He restored all who accepted the Gospel to their true purpose and proper usefulness.  They rejoiced in heartfelt appreciation over "The Carpenter" who rescued them and now cared for them.  Slowly "The Carpenter" got rid of the rust on the hammer, sharpened the saw, and straitened the screwdriver.  It may have felt painful, but in the end the "tools" were grateful.  Would you be grateful to you "master carpenter" that he chose you to do his great work?  What will it take for you to know your Master Carpenter's good and loving character and His caring nature?  Again I ask the question: which tool are you?  I just pray we are not like the wrench.

Raul Diaz

Friday, September 03, 2010

Commentary: God’s prerogative

God's Prerogative

In the late 1980's a young singer released a song called "My Prerogative."   Some the lyrics of the song, I believe summarized, the attitude of most in the world when it comes to how they make decisions about how they live their life.  Following are the lyrics I am referring to,

Everybody's talking all this stuff about me
Now now why don't they just let me live
Oh oh oh i don't need permission
Make my own decisions oh
That's my prerogative

It basically says, "How I choose to live my life is my decision.  I can do what I want to do, without having to answer to no one.  People should mind their own business."  That is what the word prerogative has come to mean.  In the dictionary it is defined as: a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class; an exclusive or special right, power, or privilege: as (1) : one belonging to an office or an official body (2) : one belonging to a person, group, or class of individuals (3) : one possessed by a nation as an attribute of sovereignty.  The word comes from the Latin praerogativa, it referred to a Roman century voting first in the comitia, and it was a privilege.  It came from the feminine of praerogativus which meant voting first which came from praerogatus, past participle of praerogare which meant to ask for an opinion before another or "to ask before others," (from præ-  "before" + rogare  "to ask").  So the word prerogative, used as a noun, originally referred to the one whom was asked first.  It seems that the ones asked first got used to it, felt important, and thought that this is the way it should always be.   You can see how if everyone is asking you for your opinion first, you can get to feel as if you do not have to ask others for their opinion.  Therefore, they can do whatever they want without any repercussion.   However, they tend to do so irresponsibly, arbitrary and whimsically. 

In chapter 9 of Romans we see God stating that He acts according to His prerogative.  Let us read certain texts where God speaks of this,

Rom9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Rom9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Rom9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.


God not only tells us that that He acts according to His prerogative but asks those who dare to question Him,

Rom9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Rom9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Rom9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?


Is it that God does not like questions?  Or, is it that God does not like to be questioned?  Is there a difference?  God wants to be trusted as the true and only "praerogativa."  He wants us to go to Him first.  The issue is not asking questions, but not trusting Him.  The issue is not so much that God does not like to be questioned as much as that when we do not trust Him we harm ourselves and others more than what we think.  As it says in our teacher's comments for this lesson, "When humans try to frustrate God's purposes, God never loses; only disobedient humans lose out. Therefore, when He chose to save our world, the outcome was never in doubt. Those who try to frustrate that pur­pose are the only losers."  Ellen White elaborates on this,

"No finite mind can fully comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. We cannot by searching find out God. To minds the strongest and most highly cultured, as well as to the weakest and most ignorant, that holy Being must remain clothed in mystery. But though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judg­ment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. We can so far comprehend His dealing with us as to discern boundless mercy united to infinite power. We can understand as much of His purposes as we are capable of comprehending; beyond this we may still trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love."—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 169.

Paul echoes her sentiments in Romans chapter 8, after telling us that we are in Christ in verse 17 "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…"  He then proceeds to tell us that, "if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8: 17 – 18).  Paul encourages us to trust God's purpose even if we do not understand it.  Paul reminds us that nothing will separate us from the Love of God.  We read in Romans 8:


Rom8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Rom8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Rom8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Rom8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Rom8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Rom8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


In Christ God casted the first vote for us.  Let us cast our first vote for Christ.  Let us trust Him to finish His work until the end.

Raul Diaz