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Insights #11 Dec. 14, 2013
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Fourth Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Our Prophetic Message
For the week of December 14, 2013

The following story is representative of what the 3rd Angel’s Message will produce in those who receive it by faith.

My niece Katrina* and I are not blood related. In fact, I met 16-year-old Katrina when my adopted sister married her father, a man who already had children. Soon I became her father’s friend and Katrina's uncle. In fact, Katrina and her sister Katherine* have both become my nieces. There is nothing in our relationship which indicates that we are not related by blood. The fact that I'm Caribbean-born and they are American-born doesn't seem to make a difference.

When Katrina was younger she studied my home country for her research paper. In college, she went abroad to study the language and customs, which provided a common ground between us. As young women, she and her sister worried about disappointing me and sought my company often. Today they have graduated college, and grad school respectively, and I'm the uncle they call when they need to pray about work projects or have questions about the latest Latin dish they are trying to prepare.

God’s demonstrated love has created a love and closeness between us which has erased every hint of difference. We are family.  So it is when God's people allow themselves to become one together with Him. In identifying with Him, our aims, and purposes become united and we become one family, one body. Although God's family comes from all parts of the world, our different languages, complexions, features and cultures should merely serve as a memorial to God's creativity -- nothing else. God has called us together as one body to serve Him and to invite others to serve with us. How will the world respond to our invitation if we are scattered by our differences?

In God's kingdom there are no rich or poor, no educated or ignorant, no great or small. We are all children of the Almighty in His Son. Through Him we understand that we have been enabled to work with each other in order to prepare others for His kingdom. "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col. 3:11, NIV). No matter how different we are, God wants us to function as one. As a part of His body He gives us His Spirit -- of Agape-love, peace and joy, which is demonstrated in caring for the needs and wants of others, all sharing in the hope of Jesus Christ. You may be asking yourself, “What does this story about God’s love as a uniting factor have to do with the message of the three angels”? Simply this: you cannot love those with whom you do not identify.

Christ’s identification with us is the foundation of the gospel, the cornerstone of the doctrine of Justification by Faith; it itself is the gift through which every other gift flows. Christ’s death on the cross was merely the out-flowing of His agape which was first found in His identifying Himself with us from the foundation of the world.

To be justified is to be made right with God legally and forensically as well as morally. The moral law rests on this – Agape – Supreme love to God as our response to His wooing, and love to man as He has loved us. To be justified (by faith) then, is to recognize in heart and mind that I am all men and all men are me. We are all one humanity, and in Christ all one body. The loss of any part through ignorance, willfulness or neglect, is the loss of me – part of me.

To those who wonder what justification has to do with the three angel’s message, Ellen White said this, “Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message in verity"-- Review and Herald, April 1, 1890; {Ev 190.3} (Emphasis author’s).

The three angel’s message is a prophetic message, and traditionally we have taught that this message of commandment keeping -- particularly Sabbath keeping or worshiping, is paramount to being saved; and likewise, that those who do not heed the warnings, will receive the mark of the beast, and be lost. Sadly, many of us have equated our positive performance of keeping the law, attending church, attending and promoting evangelistic series and AY’s along  with camp-meetings and the like with not being found wanting in the judgment. To buttress our position, we’ve used texts which seem to say that we are saved by our faith in Jesus and judged according to our works.

We quote Romans 2:13 – “Not just the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” But perhaps our understanding of hearers and doers is not accurate. The hearing which Jesus has in mind is active, eager focused listening with the intent to understand and receive what is being said (because the speaker is intimately known), willing to do, even before knowing what (content) is being spoken. While here on earth, Jesus Himself said, “I of mine own self can do nothing…as I hear…” (John 5:19, 30). It is He who brings everything secret and hidden into judgment – words, thoughts, motives and actions. The man or woman, whom He justifies, has the law engraved on the heart and mind. Why? Because the Holy Spirit who is residing inside and embodies the law, gives the gift of love, peace, joy, faith… (Gal. 5:22, 23). Works of the flesh, no matter how good they seem are condemned as sinful, because they are not done by those whose hearts and minds have been filled with the faith of Jesus, which works by agape- love, and by which the soul is purified.  

Friends, the basis of the three angel’s message of warning is the everlasting gospel. It is the pleading of the prophetic body of messengers – to accept by faith the good news of Christ’s deep and abiding self-denying love which was demonstrated in His identification with us – His taking on our sinful nature -- and His death on the cross in fulfillment of the wages of sin.

I Peter 4:17 says “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached (margin: the word of hearing) did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” Heb. 4:2. The hearers did not understand that the “works” they were to do, had been finished from the foundation of the world” Hebrews 4:3. Have we understood?
-Raul Diaz
(*Real names have been changed.)