Saturday, June 29, 2013

Eschatology vs. The Matchless Charms of Jesus

A hurdler who focuses on the obstacle instead of the execution of stride length, timing, lead leg and body position, trail leg recovery and breathing, likely will not only lose the race but may collect the object of their focus as they go down in a heap before crossing the finish line.

As I study to understand our church's position on Christ's Righteousness, Justification and Righteousness by grace through faith, I continue to discover camps and staked out positions that create division and stress among the faithful. Last Generation Theology is one of those narratives that engenders passion. It is legitimized not through formal church doctrine but by the weight of adherents, like Herbert Douglass, Joe Crews and GC president, Ted Wilson.

Leaving aside the ubiquitous Ellen White, whose writings have blessed me greatly but who by virtue of the sheer volume of her work has been used to support and deny the Trinity, to support the pre-fall nature of Christ's human nature as well as the post-fall nature of Jesus' humanity, to predict 911 and the Miami Heat repeat, what does a focus on eschatology produce?

Once the hurdler understands the dimensions of the hurdle, height, width, mass, structure, spacing, etc., should they watch film of the stationary object, become obsessed with the color, construction, materials and craftsmanship of the hurdle or should they work on stamina, speed, strength, timing, breathing, technique, etc?

The Last Generation Theology adherents may be accurate in their eschatology, perfectly so, in fact. I can't argue that the bible makes it plain that there will be a witness to vindicate God as overcomers. Their logic that it's possible for justification and sanctification to be so thorough as to produce believers who are completely free from sin is unimpeachable. They may have painted the perfect picture of the hurdle.

But the prophet Jeremiah asks one of the most critical questions recorded in the bible:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 KJV)

How do we run this race? Can we perfect ourselves or help God in the effort? Should that be the objective or even a casual thought? I take no issue with descriptions and accurate prophesies regarding end-time events, it is a crucial part of the landscape. However, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus'  name. On Christ The Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Besides, John tells me that in addition to the 144,000, there is a multitude that no man can number who cross the line to victory. As my wife might say, I ain't studyin' no hurdle!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Having Been Justified By Faith, We Have Peace With God...And?

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:1, 3-5, 9-11 NASB) 

In Justification, the legal declaration of right standing with God, are contained all the benefits of The Gospel. Salvation from sin, Righteousness, Sanctification, Glorification, Eternal Life, Agape. Without Justification, none of the benefits are available and cannot be accessed by any other means. It is also the only point in the continuum where we can participate by beholding, through study of the Word and prayer that results in an intellectual, wonder-inducing, heart-rending appreciation that leads to active, ridiculously addictive belief in the matchless charms of Jesus. Well, it's true in my case anyway.
Too often, we look for behavioral outcomes, proof, "manifestations," "fruit." The focus on these, from my observation, leads to legalism, rigidity, discontentment and self-righteousness. The acquisition of righteousness, however, requires a knowledge of and experience with God's grace, that exists outside of your behavior's capacity to encounter or even comprehend.
But Jesus tells us, as Paul did in Romans 5, first things first - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness; AND all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Law & The Gospel

Lutherans and Calvinists have an approach to the relationship between the moral law and the gospel. With all deference to the subtlety of differences of opinion between them, the three uses of the (10 commandments) law as they see it are:
  1. As a non salvific restraint on human behavior
  2. As a means to turn sinners toward Christ
  3. As a standard of Christian living
Before 1888, Seventh Day Adventists were focused on the law as a standard of Christian living with a shout out to the Holy Spirit's "help!" For a brief period after the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference, we were redirected to "the matchless charms of Christ." But the subtle, insidious thought that Satan sewed in heaven and then Eden continues to come back like a bad check. So, while we increasingly hear about grace, grace, our emphasis remains overwhelmingly law and behavior (modified self-righteousness). We are seeing the fruit of that emphasis played out in the lives of our members, too many of whom have no victory.

Points 2 and 3 of the Lutheran/Calvinist understanding roughly corresponds to a certain view of justification and sanctification; once you're saved, you gotta live right. Doesn't this thought take us right back to a performance based approach? If this isn't true for Lutherans and Calvinists, it's certainly true for a lot of Seventh Day Adventists. The Good News Paul describes, in my reading, is that Christ in me, is the hope of glory, not my effort to abide by what we all agree is good, even after I'm justified.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is She Right? If so....

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.  Testimonies to Ministers page 91

Compare and contrast this with the counsel given to the last church in Asia, the church with which the Seventh Day Adventist church openly identifies.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (Revelation 3:14-22 NASB)

We often profess an intellectual acknowledgment in Christ's righteousness yet we emphasize behavior; "Yes but..." In my experience, there is no overcoming power after the "but." Before we can deliver the message, we must believe and experience this power for ourselves. The key for me has been a change in my belief in who Jesus is and what he did and is now doing. Jesus asks you, "Whom do you say that I am?" Your answer determines when Sister White's statement is operational in your life and when the message goes forth to a dying world waiting to hear from The Good Shepherd.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let's Get Ready to Rumble....

Editor's note:

I've started this blog because I'm a student wanting to know more. It is the desire to know and understand as much as for any reason, save sharing the everlasting gospel. Jesus has hooked me and is reeling me in! I am not a theologian, never attended seminary and am not all that familiar with what Ellen White wrote on many topics.

As I looked for resources to inform the discussion and my understanding, the issue of the nature of Jesus' humanity seems to be one of the more controversial topics in our church (I didn't know!). The reason for this is that there are heavy theological consequences that logically follow from your conclusion on whether Christ took on the nature of Adam (whose name means mankind) before he sinned or his nature after he sinned. Based on my reading of the bible, I side with those who say that Jesus took on our fallen nature.

Though not exhaustive, here are some relevant texts:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the fleshGod did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NASB)
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:14-18 NRSV)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)
What do these texts tell us? What are the implications for the believer (which must incorporate an understanding of the nature of Christ's divinity, which we'll address later)?

Though all serious people agree that Jesus did not sin, how could he satisfy the righteous requirements of the law if he came in Adam's pre-fallen state?  Here is the law:
If there is a dispute between men, they are to go to court, and the judges will hear their case. They will clear the innocent and condemn the guilty. (Deuteronomy 25-1 Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Unless he took on my fallen, guilty nature, even though he did not sin, he could not be condemned for my sake. Behold The Lamb of God!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Is The Message?

There are many aspects to the message Ellet J. Waggoner and Alonzo T. Jones delivered to the Minneapolis General Conference in 1888. In essence it is what most Protestant Christian denominations believe regarding justification and righteousness by grace through faith with eternally consequential differences (and meaningful differences for 7th Day Adventists who then needed to be redirected toward the Uplifted Savior - TM p. 91). Each precept is taken directly from scripture and has stand alone significance but when viewed in the beauty and grace of the agape whole, it is singularly winsome, it is an encounter with God, an experience!

Some authors who have taken on this topic, vary to a degree in emphasis but here are the broad contours which can also be described as The Everlasting Gospel:

  1. It addresses the nature of Jesus' divinity and His humanity.
  2. It directs you toward the agape of the second covenant.
  3. It refocuses attention to the cross, the price Jesus paid to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law that set everyone, saint and sinner alike, permanently free from the law of sin and death.
  4. It describes the power available through His righteousness.
  5. It harmonizes and reconciles all of scripture to this gospel.
In subsequent pages, we will go into greater depth and detail. We will also consider whether we, as a church, should repent because we thwarted this gospel given to us by the Holy Spirit which was and is to be shared with a dying world. Please share your thoughts now and as we proceed.