Friday, August 26, 2016

How Jesus Spent "His" Time

How Jesus Spent "His" Time 

Balance as an adjective is a state in which opposing tendencies are equal. To balance an object means to position it with its center of gravity above its supports in such a way that there is no tendency for it to topple over to one side rather than to another.  The forces of gravity are equal on each side.  

In acoustics, balance is the condition in a stereo system wherein both speakers produce the same average sound levels.   In aerospace engineering, it is the equilibrium attained by an aircraft, rocket, or the like when forces and moments are acting upon it so as to produce steady flight, especially without rotation about its axes.  In chemistry, balance is to bring a chemical equation into a state wherewith conservation of mass and charge.   

We could say that balance in social terms is the point at which you can give time to all parties and activities, and they all are satisfied.  Something humanly impossible to do, but that we believe we should be able to do.  Because it is impossible, many experts say that we should learn to say, "No."  You cannot please everyone and do all things well at all times.   

From our human perspective Christ lives an "unbalanced" life.  (He said, "No," sometimes.)  He "neglected" and "ignored" His family (Matthew 12: 46 – 50).  He did not eat at times (John 4: 31 – 33).  All so that He could do the things stated in the verses enumerated in our lesson  - Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:16, John 2:1-11, John 12:2.  These examples give us four different categories of work: preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding.  We should note that Jesus repeatedly said that it was not He that did the works, but His Father.  Let us read from John 8: 28, 29; 12: 49, 50; and 14:10,   

John8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

John8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 

John12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

John12:50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. 

John14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 

Jesus spent the time given to Him doing the Father's will.  To be able to do this Jesus prayed - sometimes all night.  Here are a few verses talking about that,  

Mark1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 

Luke5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed. 

Luke9:28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 

Luke6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 

The prayer enabled and empowered Him to lay aside His will so he could do His Father's will, which in His case was preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding.  Christ died to self daily.  He said, "No," to Himself to say, "Yes," to the Father.  To live as Jesus lived then is to live a life doing the Father's will.  What is the Father's will for us?  The following is an excerpt of a sermon by a prominent Pastor which answers this question from Romans 12: 1 - 2.

"The question I want to ask you is, "Are you willing to present your bodies a living sacrifice?"  Romans 12:1:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
In other words, for me now onward is not to live for myself but for Christ.  Because of this, Paul says in Romans 12:2:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In other words, "do not fit yourself into the world's mold."  This is one of the biggest problems we face here.

It wasn't long after coming to America I discovered this was one of the major problems that we face here in America.  I'll tell you why.  When I go and preach the gospel to the pagans in Africa, to the Animists, and they become Christians, they know that they are saying good-bye to paganism in exchange for Christianity.  Sso it is a common practice among Africans when they are baptized to actually change their names.  They actually change their names, just like Paul did when he was converted from Judaism.  He changed his name from Saul to Paul.  What does this signify?  It means that they are no longer belonging to the world.

But here is the problem in this country.  For years in school every morning, public or private school, we have to say, "This is one nation under God."  So it has caused a problem because we make no distinction between our culture and Christianity.  Because it's "one nation under God."  But let me ask you a question.  In practice, is this really one nation under God?  Because we have not made a distinction between the cultural patterns of our country and the Christian lifestyle, whatever the trend is of the culture, the church follows.  You look at the culture of the country and look at the direction of the church.  It doesn't take long for the church to change.  And we follow in the same footsteps, whether it's divorce, lifestyle, you name it, and this has caused a major problem.

I want to repeat there are two things of which you must be aware as a Christian.

You have died to the world.
You no longer belong to the world system.
You are living in the world, but you are not of the world.  When Jesus prayed, in John 17:15, He said:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
Now what's the difference.  Is the difference only in outward acts?  No.  We need to go deeper than that.  I want to give you some texts.  First go to 1 John 2, where we see the difference between the world and the church.  I will expound on this in more detail as we go along but I'm just laying the foundation.  What's the foundation?  Every Christian must realize that when you is born in the kingdom of God, you are born crucified.  That's the title of this chapter.  I've taken it from a French theologian.  He said, "Every Christian is born crucified."  1 John 2:15,16:

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.
Now what did he mean by "Do not love the world"?  He did not mean don't love the people of the world.  We must love the people of the world because they are children of God at least by by the cross, even though they don't recognize it.

You cannot belong to this worldly kingdom and the kingdom of heaven at the same time.  They are two opposite kingdoms.  What does he mean by "the world"?  Verse sixteen mentions the three driving forces that control the worldly person.

"The cravings of sinful man," in some translations called "the lust of the flesh."  What he feels he wants.  He wants everything.
"The lust of his eyes."  What he sees, he wants.  He's keeping up with the Joneses.
"The boasting of what he has and does," sometimes called "the pride of life."  He always wants to go up and up and up.  He's not willing to go down.  If you don't believe me, ask an eighth grader, "How would you like to go to seventh grade next year?"  I have yet to see a young pastor of a big church who voluntarily wants to go to a small church.  Even in the church, we want to go up and up and up.
We have three kinds of missionaries.  I worked 18 years in Africa and observed three kinds of missionaries.  One is the "tourist missionary."  They are always carrying their camera.  Africa has a lot of game to offer them.  The second kind I call "political missionaries," because you cannot rise to the General Conference unless you have mission service.  So some come there for one term to qualify for promotion.  But there is a third group, "genuine missionaries" who come there to witness Christ and forget self.  That is the problem with the world.  It's looking for self.  Now turn in contrast to Galatians 5:24:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
That's the mentality of the Christian.  Please turn to chapter six of Galatians.  In Galatians 6:12 Paul says:

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly [legalists] are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Do you know what Paul is saying here?  Those who are legalistic are following rules because they want to give glory to themselves.  The gospel, the cross gives glory to God and, therefore, it means swallowing your pride.  But now look at verse fourteen.  Verse twelve is dealing with the legalist but verse fourteen is dealing with the true Christian.  Galatians 6:14:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
A Christian is born crucified.  Back to Romans 12:2-3:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Paul is saying, "Please, don't fit into the world's mold but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  What God wants to see in you and me is a transformation of the mind.  The performance will take care of itself.  There are too many Adventists who are trying to get perfection of performance in preparation for the second coming of Christ, or the time of trouble.

So one day I sat down and I spent hours looking at every statement in the Spirit of Prophecy where the word "character" appears.  I discovered that what Ellen G.  White also teaches — which is in harmony with Paul — is the perfection of the human mind-character.  In other words, the mind set needs to be perfected, the performance God will take care of.  She calls it the cleansing of the soul temple.  Not the performance, but the soul temple.

In other words, we need to have a mind that is totally surrendered to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The performance God will take care of.  So what Paul is saying here is, "Don't conform to the world but be transformed by renewing the mind."  Philippians 2:5:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
"Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus."  But also read verses one to four of Philippains 2:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the samve love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When you have the mind of Christ, God will reveal to you what is the good and acceptable service that He expects from you.  He doesn't expect the same thing from everybody.  Different people have a different measure of faith.  Therefore, he concludes (Romans 12:3):

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
What's the foundation of Christian living?  It's back to the formula, "Not I, but Christ."  That is what you need to remind yourself of daily.  A Christian is justified.  He stands perfect before God.  But when does he begin to live as a justified Christian?  Now!  Daily!  Renew your minds and pray to God, "Father, you have given me your Son.  I am crucified with Him and now I want Him to live in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.""

Raul Diaz
Raul Diaz

Friday, August 19, 2016

Compassion Of God

Compassion Of God

The author of the week in review of our lesson suggests that one of the objectives should be to "sense a desire to experience the compassion of God on a daily basis." At first sight, this sounds like a lofty objective. However, compassion is a deeper experience than what our author suggests. It begs to question: What is the compassion of God? Does God desire to sense or experience compassion or does it just happen? How does God sense or experience compassion? How can we experience it?

In the dictionary, the word compassion means a. Sympathetic feeling, b. Mercy, c. Pity, and d. an expression of sorrow for another's loss, grief or misfortune. The word used in the Bible is splagchna, which indicates no ordinary pity but the deepest emotion one is capable of, an emotion that arises from the very depths of one's being. It refers to "the inward parts," "the bowels," considered the seat of the emotions in the ancient world. Compassion goes beyond sympathy (which merely can be intellectual). Compassion comes from the inside, from the heart and even the very gut. It suggests an 'intensive' involvement with the other, like the love the father showed to the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the compassion exhibited by the Good Samaritan and what those who left the victim lying on the ground refused to feel (Luke 10:33). Both parables used the word splagchna, which is the compassion of God.

How does God experience it? Probably, the same way Christ did. Christ probably experienced in His body a revolt or wrench in His gut or stomach. He experienced something robust and intense. It was something He could not ignore. It moved Him to respond toward what He saw. Sometimes the response was just prayer, other times it was speaking words of comfort, and other times it was healing those for whom He felt splagchna.

In the Gospels, Christ is quoted feeling splagchna at least four times. In Matthew 9: 35,36 It says that Jesus felt compassion for the people "because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." In Mark 1:40, 41 it said that "moved with compassion" He touched a leper to heal him. In Matthew 20:29-34 it says that Jesus, moved with compassion, touched the eyes of the blind men to heal them. In Luke 7: 11-15 Jesus again moved with compassion touched the bier -the frame on which dead bodies were conveyed to the grave – to resurrect the child to his mother.

Can we sense a desire for something that God experiences? Again another question is the answer. Does God desire to feel compassion? The probable answer is no. If splagchna is God's compassion, then it is born out of agape. One can only desire what one does not have. God is agape. Thus this means that God feels compassion automatically. He has no need to desire it.

Can we sense or feel splagchna? Not unless God gives it to us. You can try all you want to detect it; if it is not there, you will not sense it. The verb to sense has several meanings. According to the dictionary to sense can mean the faculty of perceiving using sense organs. TO sense can also mean to perceive by the senses.  Furthermore, to sense can be defined as a bodily function or mechanism (a sight, hearing, or smell) involving the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ. Lastly, to be or become aware of, and or to detect. Whatever you are sensing is either in your body, pressing against it (If it is touch or taste), or is within your range of detection (if it is seeing, smelling, or hearing). When one feels splagchna it presses against your body, like any biological need. It requires attention and response.   We release the need for compassion by submitting to what the Holy Spirit would have you do at the moment.

Then what should you do? You should pray that God fills you with a desire to submit to His righteousness and let Him fill you with His agape. As the lesson says the single force that moved Jesus was agape – agape from the belly or gut. Splagchna, as a byproduct of this, will flow automatically. You will see others suffering and immediately you will feel in your body an intense feeling that will move you to respond in the person's favor.
Raul Diaz

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Man That Came From God

"The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good." Likewise, the Lord sent Jonah to mingle among the Ninevites as one who desired their good.  We know the story, the Lord accomplished His purpose in spite of Jonah's refusal.  Will we be like Jonah or Jesus?  Following is a previously published commentary.

The Man That Came From God

In 1958, a small town Pennsylvania church pastor – David Wilkerson - was emotionally moved as he read a copy of LIFE magazine that featured details of the upcoming trial of 7 teenaged members from the Coney Island (New York) based 'Egyptian Dragons' street gang. The seven boys had brutally attacked and murdered an innocent 15-year-old polio victim named Michael Farmer in Highbridge Park, leading to one of the most publicized gang murder trials of 1950's New York.   He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958 to preach to them.  After being unable to secure visitation rights to visit the 'Dragon' gang members in jail, Wilkerson was detained while attempting to rush past security and police to gain an audience with the judge on the case. The press photographed the skinny preacher as court officers physically detained him; and by the next day, the picture would make the front page of more than one New York daily.

After this much-publicized incident, the young Pastor thought he had blown away his chances.  But, the Lord had other plans.  When Pastor Wilkerson returned to New York, his face is recognized everywhere.  God used this unusual circumstance to open the doors.  As a result of this incident, Pastor David Wilkerson became accepted by New York's toughest and most bloodthirsty street gangs as the preacher arrested for trying to help other gang members.  You could argue that gang members accepted Pastor Wilkinson as the man God sent to help them.

Jonah is also called by God to go to Nineveh.  We know the story.  He tried to escape.  But, God, in His providence, ordained circumstances to get Jonah back on track.  We know that a big fish swallowed Jonah and took Jonah to the shores of Nineveh, where the fish regurgitated Jonah out into dry land (Jonah 2: 10).  Any preacher would say, "Who would listen to a man that has spent three days in the stomach of a big fish."  Imagine how Jonah looked.  Seaweed all around him.  He was probably pale and discolored from exposure to the acid in the fish's stomach.  He probably smelled like fish.  Let us read Ellen White's narration of the events:

Once more the servant of God was entrusted with the commission to warn Nineveh. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This time he did not stop to question or doubt, but obeyed unhesitatingly. He "arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Jonah 3:1-3.

As Jonah entered the great city, he began at once to "cry against" it as he had been bidden. Lifting up his voice in warning, he declared, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." From street to street he went, all the while sounding this terrible note of warning.

God's message was not given in vain. The warning rang through the streets of the godless city, and was passed from lip to lip, until all the inhabitants had heard the startling pronouncement. The Spirit of God pressed the message home to the heart, and caused multitudes to tremble because of their sins, and to repent in great humiliation.

     "The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" Jonah 3:5-9.

     As kings and nobles, with the common people, the high and the low, "repented at the preaching of Jonas" (Matthew 12:41), and united in crying to the God of heaven, his mercy was granted them. He "saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Their doom was averted, the God of Israel was exalted and honored throughout the heathen world, and his law was revered."

God used the beliefs of the Ninevites to reach them.  One of the gods worshiped by Nineveh was the fish god Dagon. When the fish disgorged Jonah the coast of Phoenicia in the sight of the local fisherman on the shore, it must have been a most startling sight. The fisherman would convey what they saw to the people of Nineveh. No wonder Nineveh responded as it did, here was a messenger who was seen coming out of the mouth of a fish, one of their idols. Here was instant validity.

What is the lesson? The lesson is that God is in control, and His plans cannot be thwarted. Jonah was to preach to Gentiles, and his first converts appeared to be the sailors on the boat he was on to flee from speaking to Gentiles. God provided a fish to capture him and place him on the shore in the presence of people who worshiped a fish.

Isaiah quotes God saying,

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God's methods are different than ours and more effective.  Ellen White says,

Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.

Will we let Christ take the reins or will we not let go?
Raul Diaz