Insights #8 Nov 24, 2012
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Insights #8 Nov 24, 2012
Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
The Church:  In Service to Humanity
For the week of Nov. 24, 2012
The Gospel is a gift won for man through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who ascended to Heaven to intercede for us, to write His laws in our hearts, to send His Holy Spirit to us, and to unify us as a Body, to stand against the wiles of Satan.  The Church is the outcome of the Gospel, a remnant, a group of people unified in Spirit and in Truth, who uphold the truth (pillar) and are founded upon (ground) the truth.  The Truth, ultimately, is Christ, His matchless charms, and His love for a fallen world that does not perceive the depths of their sinfulness, nor the boundless depths of His love.

The church is often disparaged today, not merely the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but the concept of church.  The other day I heard someone say, “I don’t have to join a church to be saved.”  True, salvation is a gift from God, through His grace, through His act of redeeming the race, and granting them probationary time to receive the gift, in spiritual experience, resulting in transformation of heart and mind, as the principle of love filters through our entire being.  But since the gift to the heart is love for God and man, church is the natural result of that gift.  We love God and worship Him. We love people and worship, fellowship, pray, and work with them.  God is calling us into Christian community, for we will then begin to emulate the experience we will have in Heaven, as we all stand before the throne, on the Sea of Glass, praising Him for His unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus.  By this all will know we are His disciples, if we have love one for another.

The word church comes from “ecclesia”, or the “called out” ones.  Called out from what?  Called out from the world, called out from Babylonian doctrines, ecclesiastical structures, and spirit, called out to service, worship, and fellowship.  Called out from selfishness, from evil, into the light of His love and grace.  Cain’s attitude was “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  God’s attitude is, love one another, bear each other’s burdens, pray for one another, and be a light, one to another.  Out of those truths flows a natural result, the Church of God.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16 

In I Peter 2:9, we are called a “royal priesthood.”  The priesthood served God and their fellow men, in bringing to them the possibility of the sacrificial system, and the fruits of that event in the form of a Day of Atonement in which, finally, all aspects of the sin problem are finally moved out of the sanctuary, and seen by the universe as having been the result of the rebellion in Heaven by the arch-enemy.  The Bible also calls us the “body,” and as we study Paul’s usage and understanding, we realize that the body needs all of its parts. In like manner, the physical heart, without vessels, a nervous system and the gift of life itself, etc. would never result in a functioning human body.  That heart would never beat.  Thus, we need the gift of life, the power of the Holy Spirit, the Head, which is Christ, and the body with all its parts, all its diversity, all its gifts, to function in harmony with the Will of God.  Embrace diversity, listen to all aspects of the body, gain perspective and the use of the gifts of the entire body will function as one. We will then see the “edification” of the church unto itself in love. 

Gal. 6:10  “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

Especially unto those who are of the household of faith.  We edify the body.  Why?  It has to do with the final temptation shown to Christ on the cross.  “Save yourself.”  How does that manifest itself today?  The clarion call of many is, “Leave the church,” “break up into smaller organized groups which are the “true church,” get out of “Babylon.” And in so doing--in judging a body, and working to “save yourself,” Satan is tempting many to exercise “self” instead of agape or self-sacrificing love, in the belief that salvation is dependent upon leaving a church instead of abiding in a faith relationship with Christ.  Satan then, at the end, will come to them as He did Peter and say, “Are you one of them?”  They will be tempted to reject identification with the Visible Church, thinking they are the “true ones,” and miss the fact that Christ did not refuse to come amongst us for our sins, but was Immanuel, God WITH us.  Christ “tabernacled” with man, to experience all our infirmities, all our trials, all our rejection. Instead of rejecting us, judging us as did the Pharisee (“thank God I am not like other men”), He was “like” us in that He combined His divine nature with our fallen human nature, tempted in all points just as we are, and when faced with death, rejection, abuse and ridicule, He cried out in infinite love, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He loved them till the end, died to redeem and purchase every human being, and calls for us now, in the church, and in the world, to demonstrate the same sacrificial love: “love your enemies.” 

The argument that the church is under covenant curse corporately, has truth in it, but if salvation was dependent upon leaving it, then Joshua and Caleb should have been lost, instead of being allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Moses, etc. all should have been lost in the midst of a “stiff necked people.”  Most of all, Jesus, who was a Jew, should have been lost by being a part of an apostate system.  But therein lies the great truth.  In human nature, sin was condemned in the flesh. Jesus experienced the second death--the corporate curse for all humanity--so that we might live.  Praise God for His unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus.

We have a Mission.  We define that mission as “casting a vision,” “empowering the laity for service,” “equipping the laity,” “saving the lost.”  Those all have truth, but ultimately I personally disagree.  Our mission is based on our calling.  Isaiah 43:7.  We have been created for His glory.  The other activities are the “fruit” of living faith, and the result of Christ living out His life in us.  “It is not I, but Christ, who lives in me.”  If we abide in Him, and He in us, we WILL bear fruit naturally, as the fruit of the Spirit is reflected into the darkness of this world.  The Church was called to be “without spot and blemish”, to see Christ revealed, the hope of glory.  We have the promise that He will not only forgive us, but “cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”  The church is to be the antidote to the Satanic lie from the Garden of Eden. “You will not surely die. You will be as Gods, knowing good and evil.”  The church is to call itself, and then the world, to repentance, and to dispel the satanic lie by telling the truth, that “The wages of sin is death.”  We are called to be overcomers.  As we live in the spirit, in obedience to God out of love, the Spirit of God flows through us and the world perceives Christ.  This is our mission.  God wants to demonstrate through the power of Love the victory we may have, today, every day, in Christ.  Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from evil. 

We practice unity in diversity, for the mercy of Christ shown to us is then to be shown to others.  The patience of Christ shown to us is to be shown to others.  The leading of the Spirit into all truth by Christ is to be shared with others, till Eph 4:13: Until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

We are called out of the Babylon system of hierarchical governance, to a “representative” governance, in which we as leaders are “servants” to the flock, and not “lording it over the flock.”  Christ retains the headship of the church and we live under His authority.  However, I believe we have insidiously retained many of the components of the Babylonian system.  For example, why would a conference president head up an academy board? Should not one of the educators hold that position?  Why would a conference president head up the executive committee?  Should not the people under the advice of the officers, particularly a businessman, lead the executive committee?  Why not have the people organize camp meeting according to their perceived needs?  Why not have the elders, according to the biblical model, lead on church boards?  Should a constituency meeting be comprised of fifty percent workers, when they represent a much smaller percentage of the actual conference membership?  I have been reflecting on these things and am challenged to believe that on a systematic level we need to grasp how the church should operate--based on a Biblical model. 

The mission of the church is simple.  Follow Me.  Let He who would be my disciple pick up His cross, deny himself, and follow me.  We are to show the love of God to a fallen world through His living out His love in us, and the world will hopefully “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  God bless you, my brothers and sisters. 
-Thomas Cusack