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Insight #7 February 13, 2016
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First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Jesus' Teachings and the Great Controversy”
February 13, 2016
 
The 1888 Message in its richest depth of meaning is the answer to the issues raised in the Great Controversy, and the means by which we deal with practical areas of daily life as we all encounter, and hopefully, overcome the issues that sin has brought into the human sphere. 
          
          Sin brings guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and a sense of condemnation.  Satan’s strategy remains, as it did in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God and tried to ameliorate their situation through self- righteously trying to cover themselves.  God, of course, provided the remedy in the promise of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15.  I worked for eleven years as a psychologist, and that experience, as well as my almost 30 years as a pastor, has led me to recognize one major conclusion, and that the one thing that man wants most of all is peace. Jesus calls to us to Come to Him, and we will find rest and peace.  The good news of the Gospel is that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ the redemptive price of our salvation has been paid, the world was Justified unto Life, and thus legally saved from the second death, to be given probationary time to hear the Good News of the completed work of Salvation and to receive that gift in living faith.  There is nothing we can do on our own to remedy our situation, and when we come to God, through Christ, as we are, confessing our sins, we may find rest in His love.  Righteousness by faith is a gift, a miracle, outside of human contribution, and received as a result of learning of and appreciating the unconditional love demonstrated toward the corporate world in Christ, the Second Adam, the Head of Humanity.  When we are Justified by faith, alone, we have peace.  Romans 5:1.  Rest is a broad concept in Scripture, always associated with unity with God, walking in faith, basking in His love.  

          The Sabbath is a part of the total rest God offers, and most do not understand the point of Hebrews 4, where as God rested the 7th day, we are to rest from our works.  Paul is saying that a Sabbath Rest remains for the people of God, because the Jews did not enter into God’s gospel rest, through unbelief, and thus could never really experience the true rest of the Sabbath.  God rested, before He blessed and sanctified the day.  We must find rest in the Gospel of Grace, so that the walk with God on the Sabbath is a restful experience, because we trust Him and are comfortable in His presence. The Jews never combined the Gospel with faith, which alone brings peace, and freedom from bondage, a bondage which fear always engenders.  Hebrews 2:15.  Christ took the nature of man, the Seed of Abraham, so that He could defeat Satan and condemn sin in the flesh, and He won the total victory. When we grasp that the whole world was legally redeemed or saved, in Christ as their representative, and this act is a gift meant to restore the whole human race, obedience is seen as a “fruit” of love and faith, or “Only by love is love awakened.”  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, who are lost because they have not either heard, or believed, the incredible gift of salvation won for all, and experienced by those who believe.  I Tim. 4;10. 
         
          The parable of the Sower and the Seed represents this truth that the seed or the Gospel in the Word of God is sown everywhere, but the reception by each heart differs, represented by the different conditions of the soil.  God draws us all to Him in everlasting love and kindness, (Jeremiah 31:3), but out of that love, He allows free will choice, and each person has the opportunity to grasp and experience the Good News.  When sowing gospel seed, human effort is always limited. We must sow everywhere. We are not the judge of what is good and bad soil. The appearance of weeds simply indicates that we are just unable to prevent evil from springing up in the least expected places. It is the Lord of the harvest working in the background who ensures that all who can be saved will be saved. We do our job and must learn to trust Him to do His.  I am surprised, saddened at times, and joyful at other times at how differently people react to the proclamation.  I pray that I am faithful in sowing, along with many others, so that the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the entire world.

          The reality of sin and our need for a Savior also implies that we do have, in human nature, a tendency to resist the goodness of God.  Because this spiritual reality is true, we need to build a foundation on Christ and His Word, not on our own ideas.  The righteousness of Christ should lay the glory of man in the dust.  We need total humility, surrender, implicit trust, and faith in the promises of God.  This personal battle against evil can be won, but only if we build our lives firmly upon Him, and we can build upon Him only through obedience to Him. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock" (Matt. 7:24). It's that simple. However much faith is a crucial component-faith without works, the Bible says, is "dead" (see James 2:17, 20, 26), and in this parable we see just how dead it really is.  The Bible is clear that if we only hear, and do not “do” God’s will, we are deceiving ourselves.  The 1888 Message addresses “how” we have such an experience of faith and victory.  By beholding the love of Christ, in His purity of character, we become changed.  Faith “works by love” (Gal. 5:6) and “purifies the soul.”  ( II Cor 7:1) Much of the change in us is unconscious to us.  Righteousness by faith is ultimately a miracle, and while God requires our cooperation, our decision of the will to obey Him, we are totally dependent upon Him for the ultimate carrying out of His will.  It is not I, but Christ, who lives in me.  Christ in me, the hope of glory.  Without Jesus, we can do nothing.  John 15:5. 

          The reality of the corporate human race having sinned, and thus continually coming short of the Glory of God, implies that we need to be very careful regarding judging others.  Man looks at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart.  We can judge fruits as to behavior, but judging heart, or ultimate salvation, is God’s domain.  We have clear counsel to take the plank out of our own eye first, and the point of the antitypical Day of Atonement is to “afflict our souls”.  We need to be gentle with others, and strict with ourselves, and not leave one sin or character defect excused.  There is no excuse, at all, ever, for sinning.  Galatians 6:1 is clear that if someone is taken in a fault, we which are spiritual, having first dealt with our own heart and life, are to help to restore others, in a spirit of meekness and humility.  The Golden Rule is the essence of Christian Character development, and we are to love our enemies, to overcome evil with good, pray for others, even repent for others, and to place the welfare of others as more important than our own, thus reflecting the agape love of Christ. 

          As we go through the trials of life, as the Great Controversy is waged in our own minds and lives, we will at times feel discouraged, troubled, perhaps tempted to believe that God has left us.  Yet we have the promise that Christ will never leave us or forsake us In those times, we must believe His promise, continue to walk and talk with Him, and believe that eventually all will be made right.  There are many to speak of “getting perfect” so they can go to heaven, and while the Bible promises victory over sin for those who learn to cling by faith, we are not to worry about “tomorrow”.  Today is the day of salvation.  No one ever lived, or will ever live, in “tomorrow.”  If we are right with God today, we are ready if He comes today.  If we keep His promise of His eternal presence, and keep our eyes on Him, we can have perfect peace, which makes all trials victories.  May this be your experience in Christ Jesus.

~Pastor Tom Cusack