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Archive for July, 2011

Lesson 5: “Happy Are You, O Israel”

Sabbath School Today

Worship

Lesson 5: “Happy Are You, O Israel”

What makes people happy? There are as many different answers to that question as there are people. Probably the list would include both frivolous and thoughtful things, but one of the last things for many would be “worship.” Yet, properly understood, it is the only thing that can bring real happiness and contentment. When David was trying to find something that brought true joy to his heart, he compared dwelling together in unity of the Spirit with the happiness brought by the oil of dedication that ran lavishly down Aaron’s beard, even to the hem of his garments. Notice, the unity was because the Holy Spirit was present and allowed to participate in the worship service of the temple dedication (see Psalm 133).

This week’s lesson takes its title from Deuteronomy 33:29: “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places” (NKJV). Notice what is to make Israel happy: they are a people saved by the Lord, and good things flow from that.

Obviously the concept of worship involved here is different from putting in time once a week at church. All worship involves communication with God. Notice that Moses reminds Israel of what God has already done for them (saved them) and what He will do for them in the future (shield them), and what the result will be (enemies submit, and Israel will destroy false worship). That last point is interesting. Israel kept falling into the worship styles of people around them. Usually, this involved intimate physical acts in groves built in high places. Apparently, God knew this kind of worship would not bring them happiness and they needed to destroy the places where it occurred.

It might seem obvious that God prohibited this kind of worship because it was focused on heathen gods, not Jehovah. Certainly that was part of it, but maybe we can learn more. Generally in pagan worship the affection and allegiance to the deity is expressed by actions of sacrifice, the bigger the better. Since the god is not expected to be able to read the mind, it is not expected that the heart and mind be humbled in submission. It is enough that the act is performed. Whether the god is actually thought of during the act of “worship” is immaterial.

For centuries, Israel had performed the rituals of the sanctuary service in the most exacting manner. So caught up in the details of the ritual, they had forgotten the real purpose of the service. God told them that they were to build Him a sanctuary so He “may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8), but they had come to consider that what really counted was the doing of the various rituals. This same mind-set can be our peril. God does not live in the rituals. Unless aided by the Holy Spirit, the human mind is incapable of recognizing God. Humans can perform the rituals of worship without ever submitting the heart to God and never recognize it.

God gave the services of the sanctuary because of the sin problem. God and sin could not abide together. The Lord made the sanctuary plan to explain this and provided that even the illiterate could understand. Different kinds of offerings were ordained, each with a specific application to the overall plan which was designed to demonstrate what it would take for God to restore the original Edenic face-to-face communication. The services were to impress minds that the ultimate conclusion of sin is to kill their Life Giver.

Most pagan worship is manipulative, that is, intended to induce the god to provide something beyond the capability of the worshiper(s). If the crops were dying because of drought, the sacrifices were to induce the god to bring rain. In addition to daily necessities, gods were also asked to protect worshipers in the afterlife. Israel had reduced the rituals of the sanctuary to a manipulative pagan level. When Christ, the great antitype, was born in Israel, they were so invested in the virtue of their rituals, they failed to recognize Him.

But there was one, a Boy of 12, who understood. Even at this early age, it dawned on Him that all these lambs and sacrifices “cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience” (Heb. 9:9). He reasoned that it was all a type of things to come, and eventually Someone sinless, innocent, holy and undefiled must die as the Lamb of God if lost human hearts were ever be reached! His youthful soul surged with a mighty resolve to fulfill His destiny to be that Lamb. He resolved to fulfill Isaiah’s prediction that “His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, and it sustained Him” (Isa. 59:15, 16). This 12-year-old Boy chose to go to the cross.

All worship is centered on the sacrifice of Christ which He ministers to us from the heavenly sanctuary. Worship that falls short of being cross-centered is counterfeit worship. The sacrifice of Christ effected an atonement for the world as He “taste[d] death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Now the race stands as it were neutral before the law of God since Christ received the penalty of eternal death on their behalf. Thus Christ has given a “blessing” of temporal life, unmerited grace, forgiveness of sin, and all good things that follow. All of this was taught by the sacrificial tabernacle services of ancient Israel.

When the love (agape) of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we choose the way of the cross as readily as the Son of God chose it. By identifying with His death, we also identify with His resurrection. “He who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal” (John 12:25).

His church, God’s house-tabernacle, comprises humble, submissive people who understand their great need for communion with God to cleanse their heart-tabernacle. This house remains the object of God’s interest, and the ultimate purpose of the entire sanctuary service now continuing in heaven is the final cleansing. In this final work, the whole universe is to see the power of the gospel displayed.

The 1888 message brings a special understanding of the final work of the Holy Spirit at the end of time. Rituals are only useful if we allow them to point the mind to God and the cross of Christ. We must understand our true condition of even unknown sin. At the end, the church on earth will begin to understand the whole truth in seeing not only conscious but unconscious sin. The old covenant dealt with the external rituals and ceremonial cleansing, but the new must deal with internal cleansing, having the law put in the mind and written on the heart.

Those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts are those who are waiting for the second coming of Christ. The power of His word in their hearts will demonstrate that power so fully that their message will “lighten the earth with glory.” The message itself, not their personalities nor any goodness in themselves, will call believers to “come out of Babylon, My people,” and honest-hearted people will respond to the “voice” from heaven (see Rev. 18:1-4). Nothing will be able to hold them back from stepping out boldly to honor Christ in the closing work of the gospel.

Arlene Hill

Lesson 4: “Rejoicing Before the Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship”

Sabbath School Today

Worship

Lesson 4: “Rejoicing Before the Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship”

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The reason for our existence as Seventh-day Adventists is the sanctuary truth. “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith” (Evangelism, p. 221). Our unique contribution to the Christian church in understanding righteousness by faith is our worship centered in the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. What makes us fall in love with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth is the 1888 contribution of uniting it with the message of Christ’s cross-reconciling heart-appeal in justification by faith.

The sanctuary truth has for all practical purposes fallen on hard times in the Adventist church. It is now viewed as a mathematic puzzle to be solved. Daniel 8:14 has become a cold, dry, meaningless historical antique. And yet Ellen White writes that what makes “our faith” unique and different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches is the sanctuary (ibid.). If our worship centering in the heavenly sanctuary becomes an ineffective doctrine, then we surrender our only contribution to the Christian world and we might as well become Seventh Day Baptists.

The 1888 message lifts the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message out of confusion and perplexity and clothes it in the bright garments of Christ’s righteousness, that is, the gospel seen as very good news. The heavenly sanctuary can never be “cleansed” until first of all the hearts of God’s people are cleansed. That’s simple! And it’s far more than a legalistic accounting trick whereby God looks the other way while we continue sinning. The missing factor is supplied by a new and clearer grasp of justification by faith, which Ellen White saw makes the 1888 message become “the third angel’s message in verity” (Last Day Events, pp. 199, 200).

How does the 1888 message lead us to fall in love with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth? First, the “cleansing” or justification of the heavenly sanctuary involves our High Priest convicting us of previously unknown sin (Dan. 8:14). It is our “knowest not” condition that makes us so “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

Second, when it is declared: “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” it is not a mere legal justification contrary to reality (Rev. 14:12). What was a pardon for sin now becomes a “blotting out of sin” in the hearts of a remnant who have fallen in love with Jesus. There is a reconciliation with Him of hearts that have previously not been in sympathy with His diagnoses of their condition. It is character perfection.

Third, we let our High Priest cleanse us in our Day of Atonement. Ancient Israel never did the work of reconciliation on their annual Day. The High Priest made the atonement (Lev. 16:33). The 1888 idea is that we stop resisting what Jesus wants to accomplish in us. “The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus … in repentance for his sins” (Steps to Christ, p. 27).

Fourth, what is the difference between Jesus’ first apartment ministry and His second apartment ministry subsequent to 1844? For eighteen hundred years Christ prepared Christians to die and be “accounted worthy” to come up in the first resurrection at His coming. Now He is preparing a people to be translated at His coming without seeing death. They can be “alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15, 17).

Fifth, what is Christ doing in the sanctuary since His ascension? Our minds can be relieved of the idea that He’s been on an extended vacation. He’s the General in the Pentagon war room of heaven involved in winning the great controversy with Satan. The battle of eliminating sin and self-love from the heart is far more than using conventional weapons. It is intense psychological warfare.

Sixth, fear of the investigative judgment is cast out, for agape gives “boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17). A concern for Jesus’ victory in the Day of Atonement causes us to “own” the Judgment and walk right past all the holy angels in the confidence of standing with Him.

Seventh, this “oneness” is something that has never happened in all past history–“the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” Something special is ready for those who are invited to “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:6-9). As a corporate body, the church of the great Day of Atonement becomes the Bride of Christ.

Eighth, the 1888 message of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth turns out to be the message of the True Witness to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans. “The message given us by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).

Ninth, of necessity Jesus is ministering the gift of repentance to His dilatory Bride. They overcome even as He overcame (Rev. 3:21). As He corporately repented for the whole human race, so His Bride enters into corporate repentance in sympathy with Him.

Tenth, the Lamb is in need of a wife who “hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Although He gives her the garment of righteousness she must choose to repent of her past rejection of His overtures and learn from her history. She finally grows up in His agape and is a worthy mate to stand by His side (Eph. 3:17-19).

Eleventh, she finally learns that all her prayers for the Lord to give us repentance and the latter rain are an insult to Him. He has already given us the gift of repentance (Rom. 2:4). And He has already poured out the “beginning” of the latter rain in 1888 with the message of “Christ our righteousness.” “The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth” (Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892).

The Sanctuary message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” to us, must yet lighten the earth with glory (Last Day Events, p. 200). Mankind has a clear choice to worship Him (Rev. 14:7).

Paul E. Penno

July 2-8 Lesson 2: “Worship and the Exodus: Understanding Who God Is”

Sabbath School Today

Worship

Lesson 2: “Worship and the Exodus: Understanding Who God Is”

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The monotheism of Islam’s god (Allah) is a great improvement over the polytheism of the heathen. But despite the fact that Moslems acknowledge Christ to be a prophet like Abraham, Moses, and Mohammed, they reject the message of the cross. In so doing they reject the righteousness of God and His agape as the Saviour of the world.

A right “understanding [of] who God is” involves worshiping Him as the God of agape (1 John 4:8). This undeniable character of God is revealed in Moses’ worship experiences in the book of Exodus.

Walking through the desert and seeing a burning bush that was not being consumed was a phenomenon worthy of Moses’ attention. It was Christ “the Angel of the LORD [who] appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush (Ex. 3:2; The Desire of Ages, p. 23). God told Moses to put off his shoes for this was “holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).

Christ in His humanity was represented to Moses by the unconsumed burning bush. At Moses’ commissioning for the leadership of Israel he was assured of the fellowship of Christ. Moses worshiped and served God with a right understanding of the humanity of Christ who was “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Commenting on Exodus 3:5, Ellen G. White makes the following classic statement: “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. … Christ was a real man” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 244).

To Mary the angel spoke these words at Jesus’ birth–“that holy thing” (Luke 1:35). Christ took our mortal, self-centered, sinful nature to His holiness and condemned it in the flesh right up to the final “one just [righteous] act” of the cross (Rom. 8:3; 5:19, NEB). In all of human history there has only been One righteous person, and that is Christ.

Christ’s holiness was tested and tempted by the fires of persecution, but was not consumed. “The burning bush in which was the Lord’s presence did not consume away. … The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but only the dross will be consumed” (Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 131).

The Ten Commandments are a revelation of the perfect model to “understand who God is.” Many look upon them as do’s and don’ts; that if you obey them you’ll be saved, and if you can’t, you’ll be lost. They perceive the law as a heavy burden, ten precepts carved in cold stone, heavy prohibitions that crush out all the joy of life. The Ten Commandments seem like roadblocks in the highway of happiness.

These people are overlooking three major facts: (1) no person ever has or ever will be able to keep one letter of the law of God–even through their best efforts; (2) the preamble to the Ten Commandments declares us to be already delivered from sin (the land of Egypt) and addictions (the house of bondage); and (3) the preamble is God’s continuing act of deliverance from the servitude to sin. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2).

We are born naturally self-centered thanks to the first Adam. But the Father has placed the entire race in Christ (for safekeeping) from “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). “In Him” we have all died and been resurrected. We are delivered from the land of Egypt (slavery to sin). “The faith of Jesus” has been given to everyone and if unhindered, makes them to be doers of the law of God.

The preamble reminds us that we have been delivered from Egypt (sin) for the purpose of worshiping the true God of love. The preamble is the good news of God’s New Covenant promise that transforms the Ten Commandments into ten great promises. God will never allow sin to bind us again.

Here is a simple example using the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal.” Without the preamble, this “shall not” leaves you as the one to keep yourself from stealing. However, with the preamble God initiates the saving, “I have brought you out of bondage and will keep you from stealing. It is My promise to you!”

The good news of the 1888 message is that when we understand and believe the inspired preamble to the Ten Commandments, when we appreciate what the Son of God has done for us, all this modern idolatry loses its charm. It’s not the gold, silver, or wooden crosses in churches that captivate our souls; it’s the understanding of the love of Christ that is revealed at His cross.

After God’s providential leading and deliverance of ancient Israel from Egyptian slavery, how could they worship the golden calf? It seems incomprehensible that they should be so stupid.

“The fall, it has been rightly said, was the transferring of man’s worship from God to self. … The gospel [which is the law in Christ] turns men’s worship back again from self to God. It shows men that self is nothing, and God is everything.” [1]

This was the reason for their calf worship. They invented their old covenant promise to God. “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8). We will do everything just right, Lord. Their confidence in themselves to do righteously was the basis of their old covenant (“feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness,” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372). This was the worship of self.

The result was “they broke their covenant with God” by worshiping the gold calf (Ibid.). It meant they were turning their backs on God’s plan of salvation and were deliberately going back into the sex orgies “worship” that was ruining the pagan world–self-worship.

The little book Steps to Christ tells why: “You desire to give yourself to the Lord, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you” (p. 47).

Here’s the problem! The memory of your frequent failures to keep your promises makes you feel that you are no good and “that God cannot accept you” or respect you. And that is horrible slavery.

A far better way is under the “New Covenant.” It was God’s New Covenant promise that was a personal deliverance from a life of drug addiction. There is nothing sinners bring to help God in saving us. Personal promises are of no avail.

Promising God that you will do better is the same as promising Him you will continue to ignore His words and promises while “trying” to replace them with your ineffectual efforts in an attempt to please Him. There couldn’t be a better definition of Baal (self) worship. Instead of promising God that you will do better, worship by thanking Him that He has promised to save you, that Christ has already given Himself for you and bought you with His blood, and that you are precious in His sight.

God only has good news for us. The new covenant opens before us new vistas of “understanding who God is” so that our worship may be in harmony with His character.

Daniel H. Peters

Endnote:

[1] E. J. Waggoner, “Right and Wrong Worship,” The Present Truth, Nov. 2, 1893.


EU is pushing Sunday as the universal day of rest

Information on the European Sunday Alliance spearheaded by the European Office of the Jesuits. This meeting is one step closer to the prophecy of Revelation, Chapter 14, Verse 6 – 10. The Sunday Law is prophesied to begin in the United States of America, However this is a glimpse of the beginning of the end and Sunday legislation in the Europe.

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Check out more HERE – the European Sunday Alliance website