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Insight #9 March 4, 2017
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First Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson
"The Holy Spirit and The Church"
March 4, 2017
 
Throughout God’s work for His people, He has had to deal with them (us) either running ahead, or falling behind.
 
At the banks of the Jordan, when God wanted to lead Israel into the promised land, they weren’t ready to enter in.  Fear was their fundamental motivation, not faithfulness and love (Num. 13 & 14).  They were falling behind the Lord.  However, when they heard the consequence of their decision – that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years – they were immediately eager to run ahead of God and take Canaan – that too was a failed response.
 
At the time of Christ, His church was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah.  But when He came, they were behind again.  They didn’t recognize Him when He came.  They chose Roman ruler ship over God.  “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
 
Lest we be tempted to believe that if we had lived in the days of our spiritual fathers, we would have done differently, we have our history in 1844 and 1888 to remind us that we too run ahead (1844), and fall behind (1888), the Lord’s perfect leading.  In 1844, we felt it was time for the Lord to come, but He saw that all things weren’t ready.  In 1888, as we looked hopefully and expectantly for our Messiah to come, for the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower us, when He did come, we didn’t recognize Him – just like our spiritual fathers didn’t recognize the Messiah when He came to them.  We were falling behind His leading.
 
We need that lesson of 1888 – to remind us – that modern human nature, our human nature, is no different than human nature 2000 years ago, and no different than the human nature of the Israelites on the shores of the Jordan.  If we had been there, would we have believed Caleb and Joshua and Moses, or would we have believed the majority report?  If we had been at Calvary, would we have been standing up and saying we were followers of Jesus and pleading with the Jewish leadership to turn from crucifying the Messiah, or would we have been with the majority saying crucify Him, or perhaps worse, would we have been running and hiding with Peter and the other disciples?
 
This is what Jesus was saying to the Jews 2000 years ago, and is saying to us today – don’t say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets” (Matt.23:20). Don’t look back at the SDA leadership in 1888 and say, “if we’d been there, we’d have responded to A.T. Jones and E.J.Waggoner’s message – I mean, they were endorsed by a prophet!”
 
The 1888 history is a reminder, a cautionary story, a piece of history that gives us insight into our corporate heart and attitude towards God and the Holy Spirit, that we today could still – again – reject the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when we encounter it today – even if we are praying for it!
 
Our lesson this week is about the Holy Spirit and the church.  The lesson reminds us repeatedly how vital the work and truth and power of the Holy Spirit is for the success of the church in carrying out God’s hopes and plans for the finishing of the great controversy.  But we need to step back for a moment and ask ourselves, is it possible that our superficial conscious desire for the Holy Spirit, masks a deeper unconscious resistance to the Holy Spirit – just like the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, just like the Jews at Calvary, and just like our church fathers in Minneapolis in 1888?
 
The lesson reminds us about unity in the Spirit, about the work of the Spirit in inspiring the Bible – which is the basis for unity, about being baptized with the Spirit, etc.  These are all valid expressions of the work of the Holy Spirit.  But the idea that we could inadvertently be resisting the Holy Spirit as individuals and as a corporate body, while at the same time believing we really want Him to be poured out, is foreign to our consciousness – even while our SDA history and Bible history tell us that that is what has happened repeatedly.
 
“There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord (the Holy Spirit), not because God is not willing to bestow His blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us his blessing” (RH 3/22/87).  Notice, the problem is not a resistance or busyness or lack of concern on God’s part.  The issue is a lack of preparation in us!  We are unprepared to receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit.  Our history tells us how true this statement is.
 
But we are not left without the remedy we need for our historic and collective healing.  Confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, will allow God to send us the Holy Spirit again – and this time, He will be received and appreciated unlike He has ever been before - except at Pentecost.
 
Remember, after the crucifixion, there were 50 days before Pentecost.  Those 50 days are important for us to understand.  The same “formula” that Ellen White applies in the above quote, is what the disciples went through to prepare them in heart, mind, and character, for the early rain.
 
The 50 days are divided up into two periods – the 40 days between the crucifixion and Christ’s ascension, and the 10 days between His ascension and Pentecost.  The forty days were occupied in Bible study with Jesus and with each other.  “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scripture” (Lk 24:44-45).  Notice, that for those 40 days, Jesus was taking them to the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, to educate them about what His mission and kingdom were all about – what His life, death, and resurrection were meant to accomplish – way beyond their mundane concerns about freedom from Rome.
 
The next 10 days were critical.  The knowledge of the plan of salvation which Christ had just given to them, led them to repentance, confession, humiliation, and earnest prayer.  The love of Christ constrained them to these behaviors (2Cor.5:14).  “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).  Notice the statement below from Acts of the Apostles that expresses what the experience was that the disciples were going through in the upper room during this 10 day period, and see if it doesn’t match up with the Ellen White statement above and the Scriptural references, to reveal the same “formula” for what is missing in our experience that will allow God to finally “re-send” the latter rain.
 
“As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief. As they called to remembrance the words that Christ had spoken to them before His death they understood more fully their meaning. Truths which had passed from their memory were again brought to their minds, and these they repeated to one another. They reproached themselves for their misapprehension of the Saviour. Like a procession, scene after scene of His wonderful life passed before them. As they meditated upon His pure, holy life they felt that no toil would be too hard, no sacrifice too great, if only they could bear witness in their lives to the loveliness of Christ’s character. Oh, if they could but have the past three years to live over, they thought, how differently they would act. . . .they determined that, so far as possible, they would atone for their unbelief by bravely confessing Him before the world.
 
The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to meet men and in their daily intercourse to speak words that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship. They drew nearer and nearer to God, and as they did this they realized what a privilege had been theirs in being permitted to associate so closely with Christ.”  AA35-37.
 
This week’s lesson, makes very earnest and appropriate calls for unity in the Spirit, for fellowship in the Spirit, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  But without the preparatory steps outlined above of confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, we will continue to openly ask for but subconsciously oppose the work and outpouring of the Holy Spirit
 
Just as the disciple before the outpouring of the early rain saw the part they played in the rejection of the Messiah, so we must see the part we individually and corporately have played in the opposition to the latter rain.  Until we do this, until – under the constraining power of the love of Jesus – we personally and corporately experience humiliation for our part in the death of Jesus, repentance and confession for our part in the crucifixion, and earnest prayer to deliver us from hearts and minds that would crucify Jesus afresh, we will continue to “wait” for the outpouring that God sent us over 120 years ago.
 
I pray for myself and for you, that God will give us the gift of repentance by revealing more fully His goodness, that the opposition of our carnal hearts will be healed.  May this be your prayer for me and for our beloved church also.
 
“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. . . .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”. – {TM 91.2}
 
~Bob Hunsaker