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Not Under Condemnation

In commenting on the desperate feelings of the man in Romans 7:14?25, Paul said, ?Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? (Romans 8:1; emphasis added). We learned from Romans 5:18 that justification and condemnation are opposites, so if the man of Romans 7 is not under condemnation, then he is justified?covered with Christ?s righteousness.

When we first come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, we have many sins and character defects to overcome, and He knows that we aren?t going to gain the victory over them in an instant. It will take time. So He accounts us as righteous in His sight and then helps us to grow. What He requires is that, like the man of Romans 7, we take sin seriously, commit ourselves to overcoming, repent when we do slip and fall, seek forgiveness, and determine to continue our pursuit toward victory

And with this strong commitment to overcoming, despite slips and falls, the sinner gets up intact and is more determined to continue on the path toward victory. The word for this is sanctification, which I will discuss in the next several chapters.

But we can?t overcome on our own. We need God?s help. And that?s the role of the Third Member of the Trinity, which is exactly what Paul said next: ?Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death? (Romans 8:2, NIV; emphasis added).

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Christian Reconstructionism

I described Christian Reconstructionism at some length in my book Could It Really Happen? Most Americans, including the majority of both Christian and secular-minded people, are unaware of Christian Reconstructionism, and they certainly are not aware of the profound influence that this political philosophy has had on the Religious Right?s thinking in the United States. But I can assure you that this philosophy is perfectly suited to bring about the final crisis described both by Revelation and Ellen White. Speaking of Christian Reconstruction in the introduction to her book, [Building God?s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism, Julie] Ingersoll states, ?Their worldview requires a wholesale overturning of authority and political order. And it secures for them continued influence on the broader conservative Christian subculture.?

Stop and think about what you just read. First, Ingersoll says that the Reconstructionist worldview ?requires a wholesale overturning of authority and political order.? The overturning of what authority and what political order?

The answer is the American system of government?its democracy, with the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Reconstructionists envision a completely different form of government from that which currently exists in our country. And second, Ingersoll says that Reconstructionism ?secures for them [the Reconstructionists] continued influence on the broader conservative Christian subculture??that is, the Religious Right that is so insistent on bringing America back to God. As I said earlier, bringing America back to God is a good thing if we mean evangelism that influences people to accept Jesus as their Savior. But that is not what Christian Reconstructionists have in mind.

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Do we know how to pray?

The secret of successful prayer is private prayer, but the secret to a successful church is corporate prayer. It is when we pray together, pressing before God His promises for the advancement of His work, that we can expect things to start changing.

Corporate prayer is not complicated. All we need to do is agree on a place and time to gather together and pray. And the prayers need to be audible for all to benefit from those who pray.7 When the disciples met in the upper room to pray, they were ?with one accord in prayer and supplication? (Acts 1:14). How would they know they were in agreement unless they heard each other pray? Obviously, they prayed audibly. These were not private prayers. Jesus said, ?I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven? (Matthew 18:19). For that verse to be true, those praying need to hear one another pray. Some are shy or lack experience praying in front of others. No one should feel forced to pray. However, we must remember that our prayers are as precious to God as the simple prayers of our small children are to us.  

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Prayer IS the Strategy

The work to get the gospel to all the world?and most of the world lives in cities now?is incredibly challenging. If we continue as we have, working hard, creating resources to train and to share, establishing schools and hospitals and churches, and praying for God to bless our plans, we will never finish the work of evangelizing the world. Another six thousand years from now, we may still be here. What we do is simply not enough. But the Lord told us He will come when the gospel goes to all the world (Matthew 24:14).

Perhaps we need to think of prayer as being the strategy. We usually think of prayer in a supporting role to ministry, but when it comes to these large cities in the world, our first strategic step should be a prayer plan that works.

Prayer walking our cities may be the simplest of all strategies. Other strategies can also be implemented, as we will see. Generally, every Adventist knows how to walk and how to talk. Prayer walking is something everyone in the church can do: the youth with their friends after school, the young mothers staying home with their children, the retired people who walk for their health, or those who walk as part of their lunch break at work. Everyone can do this.

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When Your World is Falling Apart

We are admonished by the apostle: ?Let love be without dis­simulation. Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.? Paul would have us distinguish between the pure, unselfish love which is prompted by the spirit of Christ, and the unmeaning, deceitful pretense with which the world abounds. This base counterfeit has misled many souls. It would blot out the distinction between right and wrong, by agreeing with the transgres­sor instead of faithfully showing him his errors. Such a course never springs from real friendship. The spirit by which it is prompted dwells only in the carnal heart. While the Christian will be ever kind, compassionate, and forgiving, he can feel no harmony with sin. He will abhor evil and cling to that which is good, at the sacrifice of association or friendship with the ungodly. The spirit of Christ will lead us to hate sin, while we are willing to make any sacrifice to save the sinner.?Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 171.

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Whom Do You Trust?

The name Jesus is a shortened form of Joshua, which means ?YHWH [the personal name of Israel?s God] is salvation.? As mentioned above, Immanuel means ?God is with us? (the verb is was implied in the Hebrew but was left out in the literal Greek translation in Matthew 1:23). The names Jesus and Immanuel are powerful promises that are related to each other. Jesus, the Son of God, can save us from our sins and their fatal results because He has come in human flesh, ?born of woman? (Galatians 4:4), to bring God?s presence to us not only for a few years but for all time.

The Lord offered Ahaz a sign; it could be as ?deep as Sheol or high as heaven? (Isaiah 7:11). In Jesus, God has given us a sign that is ?high as heaven? to rescue us from subjection to the cruel ?ruler of this world? (John 12:31), whose evil is as ?deep as Sheol.? Jesus said, ?If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free? (John 8:31, 32).

Ahaz refused to abide in God?s word or know the truth; instead, he trusted himself and lost his freedom by choosing a cruel master.

Whom do you trust?

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The Myth of the Inflexible Prophet

One of the most destructive myths in Adventist history has been that of the inflexible prophet. It views Ellen White as an unbending interpreter of her own writings and implies that her true followers will be just as inflexible and rigid as she in their application of the ?straight testimony.? Both assumptions have their roots in misunderstanding. The problem with the myth of the inflexible prophet is that it has lost the balance between prophetic authority and the divine gift of human reason. As a result, it confuses honest reasoning with unsanctified rationalization. Furthermore, the myth overlooks the distinction between the letter and the spirit of the law?a distinction that formed the very foundation of Christ?s life and teaching.

Belief in the myth of the inflexible prophet tends to lead religious believers to isolate authoritative statements from the Bible and the writings of Ellen White and apply them in an unthinking manner in their daily lives. Following this procedure often leads to the taking of extreme positions that prove to be detrimental to both the cause of God and the individuals involved. The myth can affect every part of a person?s religious experience.

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Defense Versus Offense

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. ?1 Thessalonians 5:15

Although it is natural to want to protect yourself from harm, evil or persecution comes in many forms. The early church faced the threat of severe physical harm. The apostles, families, and even children were in danger as ?Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison? (Acts 8:3). The trauma of fear and violence is a horror that is never forgotten. Even today, many are tortured, imprisoned, beaten, and murdered because of their loyalty to Jesus. How should you defend yourself from evil? If your life today is all that you have, then it makes sense to avoid, deter, and escape persecution in order to keep your life. It is the nature of hateful people to pursue their cause, so eventually, you will not be able to hide from persecution?what then?

If your life is hidden in Christ, then what can someone do to erase your eternal life in Christ? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It may be scary, but faith grows when the heat is hotter, and the truth of God?s Word needs to be very secure in your mind.

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Kudos for the Kaiser

It?s amazing how our prickly interpersonal conflicts of today are anticipated by the Lord and so compellingly addressed in these ancient manuscripts [such as Gideon?s diplomatic response to the Ephraim battalions in Judges 8]! Isn?t that a great story? We find this same eternal truth taught by Jesus Himself in the Gospels. He once told His twelve closest disciples, who probably had a right to brag a bit, considering their access to the Messiah, ?Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all? (Mark 9:35). The apostle Paul describes this attitude as ?in honour preferring one another? (Romans 12:10, KJV).

In her book The Desire of Ages, Ellen White speaks to this very issue. ?Before honor is humility. To fill a high place before men, Heaven chooses the worker who, like John the Baptist, takes a lowly place before God. The most childlike disciple is the most efficient in labor for God. The heavenly intelligences can cooperate with him who is seeking, not to exalt self, but to save souls.?

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The Basis of Christian Behavior

First, we should observe that salvation is based on a divine gift, not on human performance. Paul, in writing to the Ephesian believers, is emphatic on this point: ?It is by grace you have been saved, through faith?and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God?not by works, so that no one can boast? (Ephesians 2:8, 9). And it is probably at this point that Christianity differs most widely from the other world religions. Salvation is offered as a gift, period! Nothing that I do or give up or become can earn favor with God. Instead, in Jesus Christ, God guarantees that He will treat me with favor (grace) and give eternal life freely. All I need to ?do? is accept and believe (John 3:16).

Second, we should recognize that the giving of a gift will often elicit a response. Immediately following Paul?s affirmation in Ephesians 2 in regard to salvation by grace, he says, ?For we are God?s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do? (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus used the vine and branches metaphor to say the same thing: ?I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing? (John 15:5).

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The Seventh Seal

How many angels is Jesus going to bring with Him when He comes? All of them! Heaven empties itself when Jesus leaves to return to earth! All the angels want to go with Him. Not one wants to be left behind. They are all coming because the graves are going to open, and the righteous dead will be resurrected. All the angels accompany Christ on this mission to deliver His people from the clutches of death. They celebrate with Him, as the righteous dead and the righteous living are clothed with immortality and ascend to their heavenly hom. The angels are participants in this grand day of rejoicing for the entire universe. Heaven is empty as we journey through the illimitable, vastness of space with Jesus and the angels, enjoying wonders of the universe on our way home.

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Holy, Holy, Holy

The temple of God is opened in heaven, and the threshold is flushed with the glory that is for every church that will love God and keep His commandments. We need to study, to meditate, and to pray. Then we shall have spiritual eyesight to discern the inner courts of the celestial temple. We shall catch the themes of song and thanksgiving of the heavenly choir round about the throne. When Zion shall arise and shine, her light will be most penetrating, and precious songs of praise and thanksgiving will be heard in the assembly of the saints. Murmurings, complainings, and lamentations over little disappointments and difficulties will be lost sight of. As we apply the golden eyesalve we shall see the glories beyond. Faith will cut through the hellish shadow of Satan, and we shall see our Advocate offering up the incense of His own merits in our behalf.

Let us take up the praise of God here below. Let us unite with the heavenly company above. Then we shall represent the truth as it is?a power to all who believe. ?That I May Know Him, p. 273.

It is not a conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraordinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the will of our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love. ?The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51.

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