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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus


“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:9).

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” (Rev. 1:1,2).
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12:17).
“And I fell at his [John’s angel’s] feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10).

Here we see two avenues to know God’s will: the Law, the commandments, word of God; and the Testimony of Jesus.

The word of God is written, canonical, proven by the prosperity of God upon all who have obeyed it and who did not allow temptation to let it to slip away. “For the word of God is quick [pointed], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in HIS sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of HIM with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:12,13). “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” (Rev. 1:3). “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” (Heb. 2:1).

Then there is the Testimony of Jesus, the anointing. “But the anointing which ye have received of Him [Christ] abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” (1Jn. 2:27). And if we don’t have the anointing, then we can pray for the Lord to send someone else who does have the anointing. “…ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.” (2Cor. 13:3). “Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (2Chron. 20:20). Or, if per chance the Lord raises up someone to have the anointing, as He did with Paul, Samuel, Ellen White, or the other prophets, we had better heed their counsel (verifying it with the written word of God). In Mark 12:1-9 Jesus makes it clear that for us to not take heed is tempting the Lord to cut us off.

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20). Both Law and Testimony come from the same source and are fraternal twins. Both are hard-charging and have zero tolerance for disobedience to God. “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience.” (2Cor. 10:4-6). Without Christ’s ministry of mercy, the Law and the testimony of living messenger are hard to live with. With the grace of Christ upon a humbled sinner’s quickened spirit, both are very beloved and highly appreciated. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [trust in Christ].” (Gal. 3:21,22). “We have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by [‘his own works’] of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal. 2:16;Heb. 4:10).

Joined together and never one without the other, the primitive Law of God (or the established word of God) and the present Testimony (of Jesus) have always been the two channels of communication for God to give His will to His people. The Testimony of Jesus is an ordained mediator of the Law of God. This we see with Moses on Sinai. “It [the Law] was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator [Moses].” (Gal. 3:19). This we see with all the prophets throughout sacred history; they never veered from the principles of God’s Law. And vice versa; the Law (including all ordained additions to it) is the mandatory reference for the Testimony. We see this in the Bereans. “They received the word [the sermons from the Lord’s messenger] with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11). In another place, apostle Paul counseled that the current, verbal prophets must speak in line with the canonized, written prophets. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (1Cor. 14:32). And in the inspired counsel of the apostle John, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1Jn. 4:1). And straight from Jesus, “Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” (Rev. 2:2).

“The Spirit was not given―nor can it ever be bestowed―to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Says the apostle John, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.’ 1 John 4:1. And Isaiah declares, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20.
Great reproach has been cast upon the work of the Holy Spirit by the errors of a class that, claiming its enlightenment, profess to have no further need of guidance from the word of God. They are governed by impressions which they regard as the voice of God in the soul. But the spirit that controls them is not the Spirit of God. This following of impressions, to the neglect of the Scriptures, can lead only to confusion, to deception and ruin. It serves only to further the designs of the evil one. Since the ministry of the Holy Spirit is of vital importance to the church of Christ, it is one of the devices of Satan, through the errors of extremists and fanatics, to cast contempt upon the work of the Spirit and cause the people of God to neglect this source of strength which our Lord Himself has provided.
In harmony with the word of God, His Spirit was to continue its work throughout the period of the gospel dispensation. During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred Canon. The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God.
God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language, yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.” Great Controversy, p. vi-vii.

But, though we can rely on another’s Testimony of Jesus, it eventually comes down to everyone being required to have his own. It was always the Lord’s will for the whole nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests and prophets, and likewise for His church. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Rom. 8:9). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2Cor. 13:5).

The warning here is that without the living connection with heaven, without ever striving to be humbled by the grace of Jesus and to fear the truth of God, we cannot trust that we are in the heavenly kingdom of God; we are in danger of being cut off completely. Salvation is a serious issue, and not one to play around with. “Doing church”, or just going through the religious motions, should never give a person the idea that everything is good between that person and Christ. There is much in the scriptures in regard to this. Many people are deceiving themselves that they are safe and sound and bound for the promised land. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14). “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18). Self-deception was a long-standing problem in Israel, in their neighboring cousins, and in the whole pagan world. So, let’s not kid ourselves that such an age-old, persistent, globally pervasive problem is not a problem in the church, and even among the remnant people. Thus, the ever present need for the pointed, appealing overtures by the Testimony of Jesus, not provoking His “children to wrath” (Eph. 6:4), but certainly provoking them “unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). A provocation that has led to the death of many prophets.

“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God….
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (Heb. 5:11-6:1, 4-9).

True spirituality leads to the love of reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:... that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” (Phil. 3:8,10). Genuine spirituality is the true spirit that accepts the Spirit of truth. The reception of Jesus’ truth and grace is the reception of Himself. It is the adoption of His influence, superimposing itself, spoken of in the scriptures as a robe, onto all who receive Him. It made Balaam speak words that he didn’t want to speak, but feared to not speak. It transforms every nature that it enters, and takes control of our wicked, fallen nature, moving it to do righteousness. As we read from John 6:63, it is the spirit in us that must accept the pointed, quickening spirit of Jesus’ words. His words testify of Him; His pointed words empower the receiver, and we come to Jesus for life as we let His words enter our conscience, “by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). The tonic testimony of Jesus imparts life to all who stand before it, as the tart fruit of the tree of life did to Adam and Eve.

And obedience to His words is part of the equation for working His words in us. His children will keep themselves from idols, and all who do will grow up more and more into sons of God, “Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17). But, all who let His words slip away become whelmed in idolatry, weakened vessels, and spiritually effeminate. They have no real reliance on Christ. Christ’s love is not their primary object of search, and God and His Son’s words and Spirit (see Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6) cease to be their guide. To be a Christian we must walk with the constant witness of THEIR Spirit. (Here I will say that in order to distinguish pronouns for the Father and Son, I will capitalize the first letter of the Son (His); and I will capitalize all pronoun letters for the “greater” Father (HIS), as well as the pronouns for both of Them joined together (THEIR). And also, in order to help the Testimony of Jesus to stand out, I will use the Strong’s numbers for the variously translated words which signify the required witness of the Spirit that every Christian needs and must strive to have: G3140, G3141, G3142, G3144.)

“This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witnessG3140, because the Spirit is truth.
For there are three that bear recordG3140, …the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
If we receive the witnessG3141 of men, the witnessG3141 of God is greater: for this is the witnessG3141 of God which He hath testifiedG3140 of HIS Son.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witnessG3141 in himself: he that believeth not God hath made HIM a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of HIS Son.
And this is the recordG3141, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in HIS Son.” (1Jn. 5:6-11).
“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (Eph. 2:18;1Cor. 12:13).
“And HE that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:27). “If we walk in the light, as HE is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ HIS Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1Jn. 1:7).
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit….Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testifyG3140 that we have seen.”(John 3:3,5,6,11).
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witnessG3141 in himself.” (1Jn. 5:10). “The Spirit itself beareth witnessG4828 with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16,17).
“Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witnessG3140 to us: for after that HE had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:15-7),“by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Rom. 5:11).

To have the Testimony of Jesus is a highly prized gift. Those who possess it have sold everything earthly for that heavenly treasure. They have inclined their ear for God’s acceptance; they have applied their heart for a view of HIS grace, and have cried for that heavenly wisdom; they have lifted up their voice to HIM; they have sought reconciliation with Him as silver, and searched for HIS SPIRIT of adoption as for hid treasures (Prov. 2:2-4). Now they have the gift of God; they have the Testimony of Jesus. But, with the great privilege and prize as is the Testimony of Jesus, comes a life of hardship. The testimony is death to self; it is the confession from one whose mind is fixated on Jesus.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isa. 26:3).
“My heart is fixed [H3559 kûn, “fastened”], O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise.” (Ps. 57:7).
“Surely he shall be be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Ps. 112:6,7).
 
The Testimony of Jesus is the blessedness that Paul wrote of in Romans 4:6 and Galatians 4:16. And although it is sweet in the mouth and bitter in the belly, the vulnerability that comes from its death to self is worth every second of its sweet love, joy, and peace. The Greek word for testimony is: G3141 martureo (testify, bear witness/record); G3140 marturia (testimony, witness, record); 3144 martus (a witness). As in:

“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyrG3144, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” (Rev. 2:13).

And those difficulties and tragedies associated with the Testimony of Jesus also apply to other verses.

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimonyG3141 of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:9).
“And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimonyG3141 which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (Rev. 6:9-11).
“And I will give power unto My two witnessesG3143, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
And when they shall have finished their testimonyG3141, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” (Rev. 11:3-7).

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimonyG3141; and they loved not their lives unto the death….And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimonyG3141 of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12:11,17).
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witnessG3141 of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4).
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimonyG3142 of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” (2Tim. 1:8).
“I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessedG3140 a good confession.” (1Tim. 6:13).
“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witnessG3143, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Rev. 1:5).
“But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimonyG3142 against them.” (Mark 13:9).
“But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimonyG3142.” (Luke 21:12,13).

But, the first aspect of the testimony of Jesus is very wonderful to consider. Preaching Jesus was forbidden from the developing, embryonic and fetal church during their discipleship.

“And [Jesus] saith unto him [the healed leper], See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimonyG3142 unto them.” “And her parents were astonished: but He charged them that they should tell no man what was done.” “And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.” (Mark 1:44;Luke 8:56;9:21, cf Matt. 8:4;Mark 7:36;9:9).

But, after His departure, everything the disciples had seen and heard was no longer to be kept to themselves, but was to be preached from the housetops.

“Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” (Luke 12:3). “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear HIM which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Matt. 10:27,28).
“And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnessesG3143 of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:46-49).
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence…. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnessesG3143  unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:4,5,8).

The 120 witnesses searched the scriptures, recalling to themselves and rehearsing everything they had witnessed, beginning with John the Baptist.

“The same came for a witnessG3141, to bear witnessG3140 of the Light, that all men through Him might believe.” (John 1:7).
“And I saw, and bare recordG3140 that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34).
They reorganized with 12 ordained apostolic leaders. “Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1:22). No one could be a witness to something they had not seen, especially the leadership of 12 men. The whole story must be told. This was the turning point of Earth’s history, and their presentation must be faultless. Then at Pentecost, the Holy Ghost fell like the Early Rain, and, no longer held back by Jesus, they went forth testifying as witnesses of what they had seen and heard.

“Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, HE would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnessesG3143. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2:30-33).

“The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified HIS Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnessesG3143.
And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And HE shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto Me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you.
And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
Unto you first God, having raised up HIS Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Acts 3:13-26).
“And with great power gave the apostles witnessG3142 of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”(Acts 4:33).
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with HIS right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnessesG3143 of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” (Acts 5:30-32).
 
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnessesG3143 of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnessesG3143 chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:38-43).
“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre.
But God raised Him from the dead:
And He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnessesG3143 unto the people.
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art MY Son, this day have I begotten Thee.
And as concerning that HE raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, HE said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” (Acts 13:29-41).

From His station on the throne of God, Jesus’ shepherding was real to His people. They heard His communications in their thoughts. Their beloved Master had gone away, but He was still near! He was the living God and with the living GOD! “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye.” (Ps. 32:8). “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isa. 30:21). We see His guidance in the figurative pictures of Revelation. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and He that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto Him: and He went forth conquering, and to conquer.” (Rev. 6:2).

“And he [Paul] said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know HIS will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth.
For thou shalt be His witnessG3143 unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” (Acts 22:14,15).
“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witnessG3143 both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” (Acts 26:16-18).
“(For the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witnessG3140, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)” (1Jn. 1:2).
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnessesG3143. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” (1Tim. 6:12,13).
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witnessG3143 of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” (1Pet. 5:1).

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witnessG3142 unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14).
“Even as the testimonyG3142 of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor. 1:6-8).
“Who bare recordG3140 of the word of God, and of the testimonyG3141 of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” (Rev. 1:2).
“I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testifyG3140 unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” (Rev. 22:16).
“Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testifiedG3142 in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”(1Tim. 2:6,7).
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimonyG3142 of God.” (1Cor. 2:1).

The following references of the Testimony of Jesus are examples of other aspects of the testimony that relate God’s will to others.

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?... He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all…. He that hath received His testimonyG3141 hath set to his seal that God is true. For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.”(John 3:12,31,33,34).

“For our rejoicing is this, the testimonyG3142 of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” (2Cor. 1:12).
“When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimonyG3142 among you was believed) in that day.” (2Thess. 1:10).
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnessesG3143. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” (1Tim. 6:12,13).
“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witnessG3143, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Rev. 1:5).

The testimony of Jesus, although spoken from weak mortals, is recognized by heaven for its divine origin. The testimony is Christ’s righteous indignation flashing forth through their robe of His righteousness and piercing the conscience of the armies of the alien. The testimony, received or rejected, as such goes into the Book of Life. Changes in that eternal entry of the Book of Life can happen through repentance; but changes are rare.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testifyG3140 that we have seen; and ye receive not our witnessG3141….And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifiethG3140; and no man receiveth His testimonyG3141.” (John 3:11,32).
“But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testifyG3140 of man: for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24,25).

We are made to drink of one Spirit, which is Jesus’and which flows from Him. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39).
“Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:12).
“All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that HE shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:15).
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb…. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:1,17).

And in the Spirit of God and His only begotten Son, we all have perfect fellowship and unity.
“And the glory which THOU gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one.” (John 17:22).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1Cor. 12:12,13).
“Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” (John 7:37).
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:13-18).

“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:2-6).
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake;
Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil. 1:27-2:3).

The testimony of Jesus is the voice of God’s Spirit to the conscience of the hearers, sometimes the last voice they will ever hear.

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimonyG3142 against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Mark 6:11).
“But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimonyG3142 against them.”(Mark 13:9).
“But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.
And it shall turn to you for a testimonyG3142.
Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” (Luke 21:12-15).

“And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimonyG3142 against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matt. 10:18-20).

The baptism (G907 baptizo, “wash”) of the Spirit of Christ was a washing, inside and out. No one who received the blessed Spirit of prophecy regretted it. To testify of Jesus was a confession of the heart, and an opportunity for the Spirit to flow through them.

Monday, December 14, 2015

His name is Jesus, for He will save

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21).
“For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56).

Jesus came not to destroy men’s lives but to salvage their lives. His words were never intended to be destructive, but corrective. He only sought to be of help and save us. In the above verse, the disciples still had the spirit of the Dragon, which only desired to devour men. They had not learned the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that He wanted to impart to them.
How often we forget this fundamental in the nature of Christ. He was always working to save, even His enemies. This is true when He was before Herod; even while “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted…yet He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7). But, this is not because He hated Herod. He hated Herod’s wickedness and murders, and His silence was the only thing He could use to try to help that wicked man.

“And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. And Herod with his men of war set Him as nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a goreous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate.” (Luke 23:8-11).

His silence on the cross, against the cat-calls of the chief priests and elders, was the only way to send a message to save them. Not before judgment day would He turn against them, but would pray for God to forgive them. But, He will leave all judgment up to His Father to decide. His Father’s decision Jesus will execute; but, then only because He will have to destroy sin. They will have refused to detach their hearts from sin. As incomprehensible as it sounds, Satan will have convinced them to prefer eternal destruction rather than to spend eternity with God and His Son. But, Jesus would afford them every moment until the end of their mortal life to mourn for their hatred toward Him, and toward His honor to God and goodness to men. He would give the religious leaders every advantage of His justice and mercy, the same advantage He had been giving to the publicans and sinners. Although His words and deeds appeared different toward the leaders in contrast to His words toward the people, He gave to all what each character needed. He tailored His grace to each individual, as a seamstress does a suit or dress. He came not to destroy any, but to save all. But, He must also bring to each one the truth in relation to that one’s sinfulness. They all, high and low, moral and immoral, must be brought to decide for or against His eternal kingdom of holy love. He couldn’t have it any other way. But, He wanted every last one to be saved into His future kingdom.

Love was ever Jesus’motive—love to God and to man. His love for His Father came from His being begotten of God, from being loved by His Father. That constant flow of love from His beloved Abba constrained Him to give every moment of His life to those around Him and to those afar off. Many folks Jesus drew to Himself by sending His angels to whisper in their minds that the long awaited Messiah of the Jews had arrived to bless the world.
Jesus could easily repeat, “I am a Man under authority, having [My heavenly army] under Me: and I say to this [angel], Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to My servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” (Matt. 8:9). All Jesus had to say to His holy ones was, “Go.” (Matt. 8:32). Even the wicked angels obeyed that command.

“Bless the LORD, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” (Ps. 103:20). The angels were the star that called the Magi from the east. And surely the men came, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”(Matt. 2:2).

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!... And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1:47,51). He gave the rich, young ruler all the encouragement that the prince needed—all of what he should have. He gave him grace, “Jesus beholding him loved him”; and He gave him truth when He “said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21). Jesus had to give truth with His grace. To give grace without truth would have been unlike His Father, and irresponsible. But, the truth that He poured out to the young man came packed in excitement, grace, and kindness—divine love.

Jesus didn’t say what He did to destroy the man. His answer was the perfect antidote for all of the man’s ills. It would have salvaged his life of selfishness and self-exaltation. The young man had the opportunity to stand next to Lazarus as another disciple outside the apostolic twelve. He could have been a candidate to replace Judas, if his will had fallen before Judas’ same demons of self-aggrandizement and pride.

It was Christ’s joy to always dispense both grace and truth, knowing that together those two pillars of eternal love never destroy, but only save. But, separating them can never save, and they can only destroy, which is the purpose of the great red Dragon. The mysterious work of iniquity is to take those two aspects of divine love, and to split them up. Then, dispensing truth alone can look like the will of God; and dispensing grace alone also can appear to be God’s will. To the proud, power-hungry leaders the vengeful effects of purely abusive justice (upon the non-religious, sin-loving, self-pleasing, idolatrous multitudes), and the bewitching effects of purely enabling mercy (upon their own enervated, religious, but carnal hearts) seemed to be “the great power of God.” (Acts 8:10). But, rather than justice alone or grace alone being strength, they are only drunkenness. Thus, Satan’s favored earthly agency terrorizes the world’s multitudes, tongues, and kingdoms so that he can “[smite] the people in wrath with a continual stroke”, “[ruling] the nations in anger”(Isa. 14:6), until they bow to the great Queen of heaven who will prostitute herself in their hearts, “whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.” (Acts 19:27).

But, Jesus will command to the world that His Father’s fraternal twin pillars of grace and truth “are no more twain, but one…. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:6). The warning is against men and devils putting divine love asunder.

Separating God’s two pillars of eternal love never satisfies us, but always deranges our soul. Disobedience to God’s Law and will has always left a confusing condition, especially when spiritualism brings an end to the scripture’s “reproof, … correction, …instruction in righteousness.” (2Tim. 3:16). “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee.” (Dan. 9:7).

Satan has sought every devious means to destroy and to bring to ruin the saving, unchanging covenant from our Creator. Through subterfuge the devil has been a murderer of billions from the beginning. “Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.” (Dan. 8:11,12). We see this mysterious source of iniquity against the Prince of the heavenly hosts in the political and legal intrigues to destroy Daniel and the excellence of his influence in King Darius’ court. And, in the dungeon of lions Daniel gave us a picture of Christ surrounded by the demonic hosts during the 33 years that He lived as one of us, right in His ravenous enemy’s territory. “The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Pet. 5:8). And we see God the Father in King Darius, who left His Son in His Gethsemane den of demons, not because He wanted to, but because He had to for our sakes. The Law of God demanded it. His Law could not be changed; but, Satan must be exposed and his captives must be delivered. Nevertheless, the Father was encircling His Son in His arms of love, helping Him to bear it. And no sooner was Christ’s dark testing time past, than His Father brought Him up out of that horrible pit in glory and put a new song in His mouth. Daniel’s experience, which typified Christ’s, must be ours too.

By daily surrendering to Christ’s death and living for Him as Daniel did, we also, as a shadow of Christ’s greater things already past, can glorify and typify His death in Gethsemane and Golgotha through the eternal Spirit, and be pulled heavenward as Daniel was when he was pulled up from the den.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).

“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of Thy countenance.” (Ps. 89:15).

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14).

“Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin….
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (Rom. 6:4-6,11,12).

Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” (Mal. 4:2).

Good fruit before conversion?

Most of us know the saying,“Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:16).

And that should go for us, too; not only “them”, we will be known by our fruits. So, we look at ourselves, comparing ourselves to the publicans and sinners, pimps and drug addicts all around, and say, “We must be children of God.” We think that we must be converted and saved, that God is at peace with us. Compared with the social outcasts and obvious enemies of God, we look like we have good fruits. But, it may be unsettling for us to hear that many apparently sanctified, Christ-like traits of the character, which pass as fruits and gifts of the Spirit, of themselves contain no definite evidence of salvation. Listen to how apparently righteous and apparently character-developed Jacob was before his conversion.

“Jacob, thoughtful, diligent,and care-taking, ever thinking more of the future than the present, was content to dwell at home, occupied in the care of the flocks and the tillage of the soil. His patient perseverance, thrift, and foresight were valued by the mother. His affections were deep and strong, and his gentle, unremitting attentions added far more to her happiness than did the boisterous and occasional kindnesses of Esau. To Rebekah, Jacob was the dearer son [all emphasis mine].” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 177.

“Jacob had learned from his mother of the divine intimation that the birthright should fall to him, and he was filled with an unspeakable desire for the privileges which it would confer. It was not the possession of his father’s wealth that he craved; the spiritual birthright was the object of his longing. To commune with God as did righteous Abraham, to offer the sacrifice of atonement for his family, to be the progenitor of the chosen people and of the promised Messiah, and to inherit the immortal possessions embraced in the blessings of the covenanthere were the privileges and honors that kindled his most ardent desires. His mind was ever reaching forward to the future, and seeking to grasp its unseen blessings [all emphasis mine].
With secret longing he listened to all that his father told concerning the spiritual birthright; he carefully treasured what he had learned from his mother. Day and night the subject occupied his thoughts, until it became the absorbing interest of his lifehe thus esteemed eternal above temporal blessings [all emphasis mine].” Ibid. p. 178.

Ellen White goes on to say of this son of redeemed and heaven-honored Isaac and Rebekah, their son who apparently was born holy: “But while he thus esteemed eternal above temporal blessings, Jacob had not an experimental knowledge of the God whom he revered. His heart had not been renewed by divine grace [emphasis mine]. He believed that the promise concerning himself could not be fulfilled so long as Esau retained the rights of the first-born, and he constantly studied to devise some way whereby he might secure the blessing which his brother held so lightly, but which was so precious to himself.” Ibid.

That is quite a reversal of eternal destinies for Jacob. Despite all those good qualities and manifestations of excellence, instead of being in the kingdom of God, Jacob was really outside the kingdom. Or, maybe Jesus could have said to Jacob as He did the scribe, “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34). But, is being not far outside of the kingdom real bad? Isn’t it pretty good? Isn’t it not real bad and despicable, like the real bad publicans and filthy prostitutes?

“…They never know what it is to have peace and harmony in the soul; for without entire surrender there is no rest, no joy. Almost Christians, yet not fully Christians, they seem near the kingdom of heaven, but they do not enter therein. Almost but not wholly saved means to be not almost but wholly lost.” Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 399.

This brings a serious indictment to us good church people who have grown up around the Bible. Are we sure we are safe and in the kingdom? Do our good works and big achievements come from a natural, carnal heart, a heart empty of the grace of Christ? Or do they flow from the Spirit of grace and truth; do they come from a heart and mind that are born again with a new source of life? Are we examining our works to know which of the two kinds we have? Are we putting ourselves to the test? This is what Paul recommended to the saints of Corinth.“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2Cor. 13:5). Once we have examined our own heart, and bowed before the conviction of God and the mercy of Christ, then we can assist others to examine their heart, as a friend did to help Charles Wesley secure his conversion.

“When Charles Wesley at one time fell ill, and anticipated that death was approaching, he was asked upon what he rested his hope of eternal life. His answer was: ‘I have used my best endeavors to serve God.’ As the friend who had put the question seemed not to be fully satisfied with his answer, Wesley thought: ‘What! are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to.’ ―John Whitehead, Life of the Rev. Charles Wesley, page 102. Such was the dense darkness that had settled down on the church, hiding the atonement, robbing Christ of His glory, and turning the minds of men from their only hope of salvation―the blood of the crucified Redeemer.” Great Controversy, p. 253.

The standard is high. Even for us church members—especially for us righteous churched people—we must ask ourselves the searching question: Have we or have we not surrendered all of our heart to God?

“Whitefield and the Wesleys were sincere seekers for the favor of God, and this they had been taught was to be secured by a virtuous life and an observance of the ordinances of religion [emphasis mine].” Ibid. p. 253.

It is not enough to perceive the loving-kindness of God, to see the benevolence, the fatherly tenderness, of His character. It is not enough to discern the wisdom and justice of His law, to see that it is founded upon the eternal principle of love [emphasis mine]. Paul the apostle saw all this when he exclaimed, ‘I consent unto the law that it is good.’ ‘The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ But he added, in the bitterness of his soul-anguish and despair, ‘I am carnal, sold under sin.’ Romans 7:16, 12, 14. He longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:24, margin. Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all, there is but one answer, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29.” Steps to Christ, p. 19.

Wrestling in our own soul-anguish and despair, and beholding the Lamb of God, is the only way to full surrender, to a changed nature, and to peace with God. Our natural born qualities—even good qualities—can never come close to recommending us to God, or restoring us to Him and His peace. Only a Mediator can make us commendable before God who we have assaulted.

“Many are the figures by which the Spirit of God has sought to illustrate this truth, and make it plain to souls that long to be freed from the burden of guilt. When, after his sin in deceiving Esau, Jacob fled from his father’s home, he was weighed down with a sense of guilt. Lonely and outcast as he was, separated from all that had made life dear, the one thought that above all others pressed upon his soul, was the fear that his sin had cut him off from God, that he was forsaken of Heaven. In sadness he lay down to rest on the bare earth, around him only the lonely hills, and above, the heavens bright with stars. As he slept, a strange light broke upon his vision; and lo, from the plain on which he lay, vast shadowy stairs seemed to lead upward to the very gates of heaven, and upon them angels of God were passing up and down; while from the glory above, the divine voice was heard in a message of comfort and hope. Thus was made known to Jacob that which met the need and longing of his soul―a Saviour [emphasis mine]. With joy and gratitude he saw revealed a way by which he, a sinner, could be restored to communion with God.” Steps to Christ, p. 19.

To Paul’s cry, “‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:24, margin….there is but one answer...” Steps to Christ, p. 19. “God through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:25); that is, the limp, tormented and wasted, bloody, and dead “body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4), “God…in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2Cor. 5:19). “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6). A Saviour alone, a Counselor and Friend before the great Father who we have offended, meets the need and longing of our soul.

The Christian examining himself or herself must require a close investigation. One time my cousins and I hiked through a marshland park. The trail was a boardwalk from start to finish. And because it was a wetlands area much life abounded. Soon, we saw what we thought to be a Hummingbird. It seemed to keep near us, so we watched it and watched it, happy to have its company. Then, someone in the group said, “Maybe it isn’t a Hummingbird. It just doesn’t seem like one.” But, we couldn’t put our finger on just wasn’t right about it. It hummed; it hovered in the air, just like a Hummingbird. It was the exact same size as a Hummingbird; its wings were invisible in their hyper-speed as it kept perfect altitude. It darted here and there. It ate nectar from the flowers and blossoms. All just like a Hummingbird. Yet, something just didn’t look right. Finally, we realized what was missing. It had no beak! And the typical moth proboscis curled up on its face was very difficult to see. Most of the time it had kept its rear end to us and its distance a minimum of 6 feet, so we couldn’t quickly spot the discrepancy. Now we all knew it was not a Hummingbird. But then, what was it? Not long afterward I found out from the internet what it was―a Hummingbird Moth.

And if anyone has ever seen a Hummingbird Moth, they’ll agree that the two appear nearly identical except for the mouth. But, appearances aside, the two are vastly different. One is of the animal kingdom and the other is of the insect kingdom. The bird has skin and tissue and organs; but the insect is everything mucous surrounded by a thin shell. The bird has muscles, but the insect has something else much more inferior. The bird has a brain far in advance of the insect; the bird has a conscience and some intellect, while the insect has none. The bird was clean, while the insect was unclean. The Hummingbird is in every way more advanced than its moth counterpart.

Likewise, every good work before conversion may appear to be no different from the similar good work after conversion. But, the good works that flow out of a converted heart have unselfishness and a new capacity to love, which are of much greater worth in the sight of God, and bring Him great relief and joy. Self is no longer the central motivation; the Spirit has laid it to rest. A person’s alienation from God and the resulting aggravation in his soul come from the “wrath of God”. And, God’s wrath that “abideth on him” (John 3:36) because he “believeth not the Son”, reflects his every thought, word, and act, and is manifested in them. “He…shall not see life.” (Ibid.), while “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” (Ibid.). “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13).

And God must treat the unbelieving one with wrath, even to an extreme measure as He did to Martin Luther, Ignatius Loyola, and Ellen White, because every soul represents a potentially new citizen for a future eternal kingdom that cannot admit any sin. The sin problem will never cause the same great suffering again, ever! The Father deems that His condemnation of sin, which poses as a great test to the heart’s desire, must happen despite its terrible ordeal upon the body, mind, and soul of the seeker for peace with Him. The wrath of God ensures that we honestly recognize and admit to sin, and that we need His Son for a Saviour from sin. No one can repent or surrender from his own will or by his own self-made sorrow; such self-made repentance needs to be repented of. We must be brought to heaven-born repentance by bowing to the Father’s condemnation of sin and then to the Son’s acceptance of sinners. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Those who have not humbled their souls before God in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet fulfilled the first condition of acceptance [emphasis mine]. If we have not experienced that repentance which is not to be repented of, and have not with true humiliation of soul and brokenness of spirit confessed our sins, abhorring our iniquity, we have never truly sought for the forgiveness of sin; and if we have never sought, we have never found the peace of God. The only reason why we do not have remission of sins that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts and comply with the conditions of the word of truth.... The confession that is the outpouring of the inmost soul finds its way to the God of infinite pity. The psalmist says, ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.’ Psalm 34:18.” Steps to Christ, p. 37. Only “the confession that is the outpouring of the inmost soul finds its way to the God of infinite pity.” That confession is a gift from God’s condemnation and His Son’s mercy.

What can we do if we examine ourselves and find that we are not far from the kingdom, but not inside it? Should we immediately despair? No, but we will tremble before Him. First, we can know that if we willingly looked into the Law of life, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our devices. Secondly, if we are sincerely seeking Him with all our heart, we will find Him. “God...giveth all life, and breath...that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring.” (Acts 17:27,28). The first thought of the sinner guilty before the Law is that he has committed the unpardonable sin. But, let’s remember that “the Lord…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pet. 3:9). (There is nothing like the power of God’s Law that can drive us to find all the precious promises of His mercy and grace and long-suffering.)

    “It is true that men sometimes become ashamed of their sinful ways, and give up some of their evil habits, before they are conscious that they are being drawn to Christ. But whenever they make an effort to reform, from a sincere desire to do right, it is the power of Christ that is drawing them. An influence of which they are unconscious works upon the soul, and the conscience is quickened, and the outward life is amended. And as Christ draws them to look upon His cross, to behold Him whom their sins have pierced, the commandment comes home to the conscience. The wickedness of their life, the deep-seated sin of the soul, is revealed to them. They begin to comprehend something of the righteousness of Christ, and exclaim, ‘What is sin, that it should require such a sacrifice for the redemption of its victim? Was all this love, all this suffering, all this humiliation, demanded, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life?’
     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; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son.
     The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest―the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. To all these souls, who are vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine message is addressed, ‘Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ Revelation 22:17.
     You who in heart long for something better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to your soul. Ask Him to give you repentance.” Steps to Christ, p. 27,28.

The gift of repentance does not come without a cost from the seeker after Christ. We must endure the divine curriculum that leads us to repentance. That curriculum is a crucible that requires of the sinful heart abundant grief and sorrow before it can, of its own accord, humbly bow in shame and guilt. Depending on the sinner’s environment, from birth to the present, Satan can have created high walls of prejudice against the God of strong love. Still, the God of goodness is very patient with the sinner; but, will the sinner be equally patient with the God of goodness? Will he stay in the crucible until his pride is cooked off? We must remain under the fire of the heated battle raging over our heads until we hear the hopeful words from above, “The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:2). Just like Joshua the high priest, we must remain in the fire of guilt and remorse and sorrow for sin until God plucks us out. We must endure to the end of His process if we truly want peace with God and freedom from Satan. Only “he that endureth to the end shall be save.” (Matt. 10:22). But, the process of conviction and repentance ends in peace with God and a metamorphosed new creature! “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11).

“The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1Tim. 1:5). “The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” (Gal. 3:24). “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4). “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), “that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” (Rom. 8:4).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.… But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Rom. 8:1,9).

Once surrendered to the righteousness of God and justified by trusting in Jesus, the soul has peace with God; and all of its works are touched with His Spirit. The justified soul’s works are transformed from the slimy moth goo that makes up the creeping works of the flesh, to the strength and firmness, and the blood of life that make up the soaring works from the Spirit of Christ. The Christian knows the Spirit of Christ, and Christ does not call him a worker of iniquity because He has his heart; and his heart is now a humbled and happily dependent heart. Because of the reforming power of conversion, the heart loves to think of Christ and to dwell upon Him.

“Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:17-20).

“A selfish heart may perform generous actions. By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on?
Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.” Steps to Christ, p. 58.

Here is where we distinguish the true Christ-likeness from the unwitting fake. Here is where we distinguish the beautiful, feathered bird from the (cute?), hairy bug. Here we distinguish them that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. With Jesus at our helm, we will be given the same thing through His Spirit that Jacob received when he found his fathers’ God; that is, the guiding principles which would lead him to the new life of holiness with God, and the discernment to see the false works from the true.

“The knowledge that through him the purpose of God was reaching its accomplishment, would constantly prompt him to faithfulness.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 184.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Prayer

“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” (Ps. 91:5).
 
What does God want in our prayers? Does He desire a dead silence from us for weeks and months until we give Him a constant stream of “Oh, Lord, get me out of this mess/danger/threat”? Or, “Oh Lord, help so-and-so out of his mess/danger/threat”? Or, “Lord, I/we need You to do this or that for us/them/him/her”? I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t cast all of your worries and concerns upon our Father. “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (1Pet. 5:7). Notice that He says “casting”, and in a continuous action. That word implies a constant unburdening of the heart to Him. Casting our cares upon Godis the privilege of all the 7 billion sons and daughters of Adam today. And it makes sons and daughters of God.
 
But, there is more to prayer than only casting our cares upon God. Look at Psalm 91. All the psalms of David were prayers. Is casting cares upon God what Psalm 91 sounds like? David knew what danger was. He fought the battles of the Lord. David knew what it meant to be in the thick of battle; he knew about arrows flying from every direction, and ambushes in the night. But, in this psalm do we hear David begging God to protect him? No, we don’t. We see him calmly thanking God for His protection; and we hear him joyfully encouraging his men to be thankful also.
 
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.
Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” (Ps. 91:1-7).
 
Was that lack of fear presumption on David’s part? No, it wasn’t presumption at all. He had long before made Jehovah his focus prior to the very first battle. He had written,
 
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the Law of the LORD; and in His Law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Ps. 1:1-3).
 
Prayer and meditation had become David’s habit during his childhood and teen years. David knew what it was to dwell in the bosom of God. Every morning his faith had been renewed, and he abode all his days under his Lord’s wings. (And if we behold David in this, his piety will be born in us, for his life testified of Jesus’ and by beholding we become “changed into the same image” (2Cor. 3:18, cf John 5:39).) David’s yearning for love, especially for the never ceasing love of the Most High God of love, and the study of His Law, brought the Spirit of the Most High to his heart. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8:16). David’s spirit resonated with the Spirit of Christ, and his communion with Christ was  far beyond everyone else’s comprehension. This is why Jesus answered David’s prayer every time—all his life. How would we like for God to answer our prayers all the time? If we stand before the perfect Law of liberty and let the Schoolmaster bring us to Christ, as David did, then our hopes and prayers will be “sanctified by the word of God.” (1Tim. 4:5). And, therefore our prayers will always be answered, even before we think of them.
 
Just as, in our thinking, the Law we meditate upon ceases to be a shallow list of dos and don’ts, so does our prayer life cease to be a shallow effort of begging for this and that, or pleading to get us out of this world’s problems. (This world and its woes are the most often used tools of the Lord to purify us, as He said in Isaiah 48:10, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” He is walking with us in the fire, and under His wings we are trusting and protected.) “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isa. 43:2). When we accept the “darkness” with “the light”, and the “evil” with the “peace” (Isa. 45:7) which He sends, then our hearts will say with David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4).
 
That is when we are as oblivious to danger as Jeremiah was. “I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.” (Jer. 11:19). Walking in communion with God, Jeremiah had no idea that assassins were plotting his death! Yet, he had God’s protection because his communion led him to obedience to God’s mission for him. Wouldn’t we have a peaceful life of no concerns as did Jeremiah, except for the sadness of seeing the people that he was trying to warn completely ignore him, and the suspense of knowing that the enemy was right around the corner. Nevertheless, then is when prayer becomes true communion, something that God enjoys, and something pleasant that we enjoy. Begging and pleading is not enjoyable—neither for us nor for God. He wants communion, like He had with Jeremiah and David and all the prophets. And He will have it with the 144,000, who also will fight the battles of the Lord—the final battle for the heavenly Land of Promise. For all who are numbered with the 144,000 are mature in their faith and are finishing up the “special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth” (The Great Controversy, p. 425), and they “are able to go forth to war” (Num. 1:3) against sin in the helpless victims of Satan.
 
Can we plead and beg for hours? No. We dislike it so much that doing so lasts 2 minutes. To plead and beg is to force out something that is loathsome to the image of God in us. And it is particularly undesirable to the holy God of love who longs for the restoration in His children all that He had with His first children, Adam and Eve. Did the holy pair in Eden pray by pleading and begging? Never. True, they yearned for Jesus’ personal presence again, which they had not had since the previous Sabbath. But, other than that, their hearts were filled with all the fullness of God and with the amazing splendor of their two trillion square foot garden home, which was the size of Oregon State. They had constant confidence in the love of God for them. They could trust God and Jesus perfectly, and each other implicitly. Why should they not make their prayers into converse with Jesus, and His presence the subject of their yearnings?
 
It was the disconnection from God that utterly overthrew the life-giving, effortless prayer life that they had so much enjoyed. Eating the forbidden fruit cut them off from their Creator and Life-giver. Constant love, their medium of life from above, stanched, and so did their communion. Deranged and in fear, they ran away from Jesus’ personal arrival, instead of toward Him as they had been daily longing to have.
 
Praying without ceasing doesn’t mean to be in a state of dread and of distraught necessity. It means to walk by faith in God’s love, to do our work, and to strive for increased obedience to the Law and to the gospel.
 
Like David going into battle, during our day to day experiences our hearts can be at rest. “We may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” (1Tim. 2:2). All the children of God can have this blessed experience “that with quietness they work.” (2Thess. 3:12). Through His immutable Law, the Schoolmaster has brought them to surrender before His condemnation of their sins. They have conceded to the battle of wills with the Almighty. Then He has led them to His Son, and they have bowed their heart to His mercy. They have “[laboured]…to enter into [His] rest.” (Heb. 4:11, cf vs. 1). Now, they are worthy of God’s communion and can walk in the confidence of His smile upon them.
 
“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of Thy countenance.” (Ps. 89:15). “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1Jn. 1:7).
 
“Then [says] Jesus to those [Christians] which [believe] on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31,32).
 
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Eph. 6:18). When we are at rest in God through Jesus, we are armed with the “whole armour of God” (vs. 13). We have our “loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 14); our feet are wearing “the preparation of the gospel of peace” (vs. 15). We have “the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (vs. 16). We have “the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 17). Therefore, our praying is not for the purpose of forcing God to do anything; it is not like the Roman soldier holed up in a siege, scared and praying for his life. Rather, our prayer’s content is thanking God for all that He has done and will do in His good will. The walk of faith is in the praying as much as in the meditations.
 
“The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ.” (Acts 3:19,20). “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing.” (Isa. 28:12).