Commentary on "Confidence"
Day 7: Friday, September 4, 2009
Today's lesson, entitled "Further Study," directs the reader to four passages from Ellen White.
The Desire of Ages, p. 266. In it she talks about praying for deliverance from sin and always having such a prayer answered by empowerment to live a holy life. She quotes 1 Jn. 5:14,15 and 1 Jn. 1:9, "we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (NASB)
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 149. Speaking of prayer for the sick she warns that such prayers must be accompanied by surrender to His will in each case. She says, "Our petitions must not take the form of a command, but of intercession for Him to do the things we desire of Him."
Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 147, 148. Readers are instructed regarding prayers of supplication. Mark 11:24, John 14:13 and 1 Jn. 5:14, 15 are included. She encourages the reader to trust God's faithfulness and to continue seeking until the answer comes. Among other things she makes these comments: "Like Aaron, who symbolized Christ, our Savior bears the names of all His people on His heart in the holy place. Our great High Priest remembers all the words by which He has encouraged us to trust. He is ever mindful of His covenant."
Prophets and Kings, p. 157. White points to various champions of faith in the Bible and admonishes her readers to lay hold of God's promises by faith. She suggests that faith will include acting on the promises.
Once again the lesson's author alludes to losing one's assurance of salvation thru doing things considered to be unacceptable to God. There is a floodlight trained on the believers' sin/sins. His questions: "Many have struggled with the question of ‘assurance of salvation.' What usually is the reason for this problem?" and "Considering all the wonderful promises in the Bible for victory over sin, why do so many of us still fall into the same sins again and again?"
In addition, the subject is redirected to the great controversy theme. He asks students to identify evidences of the great controversy in the world at large and in their own immediate environments. They are to ponder what they are doing, and can do, in the controversy to help "the cause of Christ in His battle with Satan."
Commentary on the Lesson
Cause or Effect?
The cause of human salvation and its' results are light years apart.
The Cause: Christ came to the Earth as a man and took upon Himself the sin of all. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5:21 (NIV) He took that enormous burden of sin to the cross and in one magnificent sacrifice, atoned for the sin of all humankind – past, present and future. "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." Romans 5:18 (NIV)
As we take hold of the staggering implications of Jesus' death on the cross, we say, "Yes, Lord. I accept Your death on the cross in exchange for mine." There is nothing we can add. He has already chosen us and He embraces us forever. We are His, irrevocably. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."John 10:28-29 (NIV) So, we will repeat the question the author asks in Sunday's Teacher's Comments: "What is the difference between this reality [assurance of salvation] and ‘once saved always saved'?" Answer: "None!" There is no difference. By faith in the blood of Jesus, we have become a new creation, born again. We cannot then become un-created or un-born. We belong to His family forever. "'Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.'" John 5:24 (NASB)
The Results: So, what about sin? Does this mean that sin has become less objectionable to God? Does it mean that once we are saved we take sin lightly and go about trying to rack up as many sins as we can? Of course not. When we are born into the kingdom of light we are given new hearts that love the things Jesus loves and hate the things Jesus hates. "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." Romans 7:6 (NIV)
Will we just automatically get it right all the time? No. We will fail and fall. Does that disqualify us from salvation? No. Our Father acts like the perfect father that He is. We are not disinherited since we already have eternal life. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.'" John 3:36 (NIV)
Instead, we are disciplined in the very best sense of that word – trained, taught, mentored and nurtured into a better way. "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." Heb 12:10 (NIV) Not for a moment are we separated from His patient, unconditional love. His acts of "judgment" toward us are acts of discipline and correction that do not lead to our condemnation. "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." 1 Cor 11:32 (NIV)
When we understand these truths, we do not live in fear that we will lose our assurance of salvation because of our own bad decisions or failures. We can live in peace because we have already been reconciled by the blood of Christ that can never be rescinded. Within this framework the word obey ceases to be a four-letter-word, and becomes a joy as we listen with new ears to the desires of our Father's heart.
That Covenant Thing Again
Ellen White often mentions God's covenant without specifying which covenant. These statements are often associated with reminders of duty in obeying the law. Because of those frequent associations it seems logical to conclude that she is speaking of God's covenant with Israel which the New Testament identifies as the Old Covenant (see 2 Cor. 3:14, Heb. 8:6). However, the covenant that we are under is a far different covenant:
"Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar…
"Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.'" Gal 4:21-25, 28-30 (NIV)
"He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Heb 10:9-10 (NIV)
Hebrews further characterizes living under the Ten Commandments as "weak and useless" (7:18). Peter calls it "the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers" 1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV) It is the New Covenant that encompasses the true assurance of salvation thru a far better covenant that we enter once and for all time thru faith in Jesus Christ. (Heb. 7:22)
For commentary on the great controversy theme in this lesson refer to the notes on Wednesday's lesson. In today's lesson the author asks what can we do to help "the cause of Christ in His battle with Satan"? I would propose that we can believe the words of Jesus on the cross when He said, "It is finished." His blood has overcome our captivity. God has never been on trial. The Judge cannot be judged. Before Satan ever rebelled, God knew and put in place a plan that would reveal His glory in ways never before seen or imagined. Rev 13:8 (NIV) In a sense, from God's perspective outside the confines of time, it was finished before it ever began.
Prayer of Faith
If you have never prayed a simple prayer of faith like the one below, we would like to invite you to do so out loud now. It’s easy to be carried along with church culture and school in ways that skirt around the central issues of faith. Assurance of salvation is not complicated. It is a promise of God that depends on His faithfulness, not yours. He has already done all that is needed to welcome you home – now.
Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus, believing that He is God and came to Earth as a man. I believe that He died on the cross for my sin and rose again, delivering me from condemnation for all time. I am a sinner, and I’m sorry for my rebellion. Forgive me. I accept Jesus as the substitution for my sin – He is my Savior. Forgive me for believing that my salvation could ever consist in anything else. By grace I gratefully proclaim, “I am saved and have crossed over from death into life, and there is nothing that can ever, from this moment forward, snatch me from Your hand.” In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
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