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Wednesday          September 26

Paul in Rome, Finally

After three months in Malta, Paul and his companions were finally able to continue their journey (Acts 28:11). They arrived in Puteoli (Acts 28:13)—modern Pozzuoli, in the Bay of Naples—from where they would travel to Rome by road (see Acts 28:11-16).

The news of Paul’s approach quickly reached Rome, and from there a group of believers traveled several miles south to welcome him. Though he had never been to Rome, the apostle had numerous friends in the city: co-workers, converts, relatives, and many others who were very dear to him (Rom. 16:3-16). The meeting on the Appian Way must have been particularly moving, especially in view of the shipwreck and the fact that Paul was now a prisoner. As a result of such a unique demonstration of love and care on the part of his beloved friends, the apostle thanked God and felt deeply heartened as he was about to face trial before the emperor.

In his official report, Festus certainly must have written that according to Roman law, Paul was not guilty of any significant crime (Acts 25:26, 27; 26:31, 32). This probably explains why he was allowed to rent a private dwelling (Acts 28:30) instead of being sent to a regular prison or military camp, though after Roman fashion he was chained to a soldier the whole time. That Paul was at his own expense implies he was able to carry on his own trade (Acts 18:3).

Read Acts 28:17-22.

 28:17   And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men [and] brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 
 28:18   Who, when they had examined me, would have let [me] go, because there was no cause of death in me. 
 28:19   But when the Jews spake against [it], I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. 
 28:20   For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see [you], and to speak with [you]: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 
 28:21   And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee. 
 28:22   But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. 

What did Paul do as soon as he settled down?

Though Paul could not go to the synagogue, the synagogue could come to him. So, soon after his arrival, following his policy of going first to the Jews (Rom. 1:16), he called together the local Jewish leaders to state his innocence and explain, as he had done before, that he had been arrested for no reason other than the hope of Israel (Acts 23:6, 24:15, 26:6-8). His intention was not so much to defend himself as to create an atmosphere of trust that allowed him to preach the gospel, showing how Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of Israel’s ancestral hope. Surprised that they had not received any information from Jerusalem about Paul, the Jews decided to hear him.

Read Acts 28:22.

But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

What does this tell us about the hostility against the believers still at this time? How can we stay faithful even when others are talking against our faith?

The answer is always the same, we need to be found abiding in Christ and He in us. God tells us that "all" things work for our good as long as we are truly converted. And, if Christ be for us, who can be against us!!
Tuesday          September 25

In Malta

It was only upon reaching the shore that the survivors learned they were in Malta, a small island in the center of the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. In the two weeks they had been adrift in the sea, yielded to the force of the wind, they had covered about four hundred seventy-five miles since Fair Havens, in Crete. Now they would have to wait out the three months of winter before continuing their journey (Acts 28:11).

Read Acts 28:1-10.

 28:1   And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. 
 28:2   And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 
 28:3   And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid [them] on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 
 28:4   And when the barbarians saw the [venomous] beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 
 28:5   And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 
 28:6   Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. 
 28:7   In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. 
 28:8   And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. 
 28:9   So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: 
 28:10   Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded [us] with such things as were necessary. 

What happened to Paul on the island of Malta, and how was God able to use him?

The people of Malta were very friendly and hospitable, and their first action toward Paul and his group, who were all wet and cold, was to light a fire to warm them up; the temperature in Malta at this time of the year would not be higher than about 50°F.

The incident of the snake drew the people’s attention to Paul. At first, the local pagans viewed the fact that he was bitten as an act of divine retribution. They thought Paul was a murderer who had managed to escape from death by drowning but was still caught by the gods, or perhaps the Greek goddess Dike, the personification of justice and vengeance. Because the apostle did not die, he was hailed as a god, as had happened in Lystra several years before (Acts 14:8-18). Though Luke does not dwell on the episode, it is probably safe to assume that Paul took advantage of this situation to bear witness of the God he served.

Publius was either the Roman procurator of Malta or just a local dignitary, but he welcomed Paul and his companions for three days until they found a more permanent place to stay. At any rate, the healing of this man’s father gave Paul the opportunity to engage in a sort of healing ministry among the Maltese people.

In Luke’s account, there is no mention of a single convert or of any congregation Paul left behind when he departed from Malta. Such omission might be entirely coincidental, but it illustrates the fact that our mission in the world goes beyond baptisms or church planting; it also involves concern for people and their needs. This is the practical aspect of the gospel (Acts 20:35; compare with Titus 3:14).

Amen. Healing sets the stage for planting seed. We love people and want to help them, but we desire to see them healed spiritually also. Jesus did not see much fruit when He healed, but later many of these healed ones gladly accepted the truth being shared by the disciples after the cross. What can we learn from this? If we follow the example of Jesus as did Paul, we can expect if we use the health message as the "right arm" of the gospel the same results that were seen in the ministry of Christ and His disciples. Many do not know that meat, dairy, and eggs are a high risk for deadly diseases because many of the animals are sick and many of their diseases can infect humans who ingest these unsafe articles considered food. In the last 30 years of sharing this truth with friends and strangers, all but two have been thankful. Who would not want to know that we do not need to eat meat and drink milk in order to  be healthy. And, who would not want to know that cancer can come from a virus which can infect meat, dairy, and eggs?

How fascinating that these islanders, who were ignorant about God’s law, had a sense of divine justice. Where, ultimately, did that come from? See Rom. 1:18-20.

Bad things that happen to "good" people does not come from God, but from Satan. God allows it, so yes, it involved divine justice, but often people think God dealt out the pain. How very sad! Even Job thought God killed his children and made him sick.  We know better, so we ought to share the truth about God's character. The best way to do so is to reflect His character in our daily life. We may sin and misrepresent Him who gave all for us, but if we will abide in Him and He in us, then we shall reveal all of the fruits of His Spirit. What are those fruits?
What a blessing to daily be reminded that grace has power to transform the life, my life. John was like us, living in fallen flesh. But, that is not an excuse for sin. A "touch" of love is what changes us into the image (character) of Christ. At conversion we become a partaker of the nature of God, all of the fruits are indeed revealed in the life. As we daily  behold the "Lamb of God" we are touched by His love and are daily dying to self.

The lesson we learned from the interview with Nicodemus was brought up again this morning.

     The soul of the prophet, emptied of self, was filled with the light of the divine. As he witnessed to the Saviour's glory, his words were almost a counterpart of those that Christ Himself had spoken in His interview with Nicodemus. John said, "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all. . . . For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." Christ could say, "I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." John 5:30. To Him it is declared, "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." Hebrews 1:9. The Father "giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. We need to be filled with the Spirit if we want to have peace in this world and joy in the next. And if we are filled with the Spirit, who is it that is bringing success to our work? Our part is immeasurably small, God's part is immeasurably large. We need to keep our mind and eyes upon Jesus whom we are wholly dependent upon to do any good thing.
As we contemplate the exceedingly beautiful loveliness of Jesus' character, we can also rejoice in how that character may be wrought out in the lives of those who behold Him for who He is--our Savior from sin. John the Baptist so beautifully reveals the humility and submission to the One for whom he prepared the way. John understood his role, and as we behold the loveliness of Jesus morning by morning, day by day, we also will be brought to fill the position for which heaven has planned us to fulfill as long as we are teachable and obedient. All of the fruits of the Spirit without one missing are the fruition of one whose soul is filled with God's love, lifting us above the clamors of the fallen nature, the world, and the devil. We may be still and know that He is God.

"John had by nature the faults and weaknesses common to humanity, but the touch of divine love had transformed him. He dwelt in an atmosphere uncontaminated with selfishness and ambition, and far above the miasma of jealousy. He manifested no sympathy with the dissatisfaction of his disciples, but showed how clearly he understood his relation to the Messiah, and how gladly he welcomed the One for whom he had prepared the way." {The Desire of Ages, page 179, paragraph 2}
Monday          September 24

The Shipwreck

In his second intervention in the story, Paul assured all who were on board—276 people altogether (Acts 27:37)—that, though not everything would come out fine, there would be no casualties; only the ship would go down (Acts 27:22). Fourteen days later, the apostle’s words were fulfilled. Still under a terrible storm and with the ship completely adrift, the sailors sensed land was near, possibly because they could hear the noise of breakers (Acts 27:27). After a series of soundings, and fearing the ship would be driven against the rocks along the shore, they dropped four anchors from the back of the ship in order to reduce the speed; meanwhile, they desperately asked their gods for daylight to come (Acts 27:28, 29).

Read Acts 27:30-44.

 27:30   And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, 
 27:31   Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 
 27:32   Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. 
 27:33   And while the day was coming on, Paul besought [them] all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 
 27:34   Wherefore I pray you to take [some] meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. 
 27:35   And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken [it], he began to eat. 
 27:36   Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took [some] meat. 
 27:37   And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. 
 27:38   And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. 
 27:39   And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. 
 27:40   And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed [themselves] unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. 
 27:41   And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. 
 27:42   And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 
 27:43   But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from [their] purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast [themselves] first [into the sea], and get to land: 
 27:44   And the rest, some on boards, and some on [broken pieces] of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land. 

What lessons are here for us in this story?

In the beginning of the journey, the centurion treated Paul well but had no reason to trust the apostle’s nautical judgment earlier in the trip. After two weeks, however, things were different. Paul had already gained the centurion’s respect with his prophetic intervention about the shipwreck (Acts 27:21-26), which was heading now to its fulfillment.

Paul urged the people on board to eat, otherwise they would not have the strength to swim and get ashore. Divine providence does not necessarily exempt us from doing what would normally be our duty. “Throughout this narrative a nice balance is maintained between God’s assurance of their safety and the efforts of the people involved to ensure it.”—David J. Williams, Acts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), p. 438.

How does one "balance" what is God's part and what is our part? I think we ought to do what we can after we have prayed for God to give us wisdom and grace to do our part and for Him to do what we cannot do if it be for our good and His glory.

As morning approached, the sailors came in sight of land; it was a bay with a beach, where they decided to run the ship aground. The ship, however, never reached the beach. Instead, it struck a sandbar and ended up breaking apart by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan to kill the prisoners to prevent them from escaping was stopped by the centurion, mainly because of Paul. In the end, as God had promised, not a single life was lost.

What should it say to us about the power of Paul’s witness, and his character, that in a desire to keep Paul alive, the soldiers were forbidden to kill any of the prisoners?

It may be that the centurion one day became a Christian because of Paul's witness. Or maybe one or more of the soldiers, or prisoners, or islanders who learned of the miracle having been prophesied by Paul. Do we see the same witness today? If not, why not?
Sunday         September 23

Sailing to Rome

After about two years of confinement in Caesarea (Acts 24:27), Paul was to be sent to Rome. Judging by the first person plural and the richness of details used to describe the long and turbulent sea journey to Italy (Acts 27:1-28:16), Luke was accompanying Paul, as was another Christian named Aristarchus (Acts 27:2). Another important character in the story was the Roman centurion, Julius, who had other prisoners as well in his charge (Acts 27:1).

It was late summer when they departed. The Fast (Acts 27:9) refers to the Day of Atonement, in the second half of October. Because of the winter conditions, travel in the Mediterranean was normally avoided between November and March. This time, however, they faced difficulties from the beginning, and only after much delay they reached the small bay of Fair Havens, in the island of Crete (Acts 27:8 ).

Read Acts 27:9-12.

 27:9   Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished [them], 
 27:10   And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 
 27:11   Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. 
 27:12   And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, [and there] to winter; [which is] an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. 

While in Fair Havens, how did Paul intervene in the story, and how was his intervention received?

Paul’s warnings went unheeded, and so they decided to sail westwards another 40 miles for a harbor (Phoenix), where they could winter with safety. Unfortunately, with a sudden change in the weather, they were caught in such a violent tempest that the crew had no option but to let the ship be driven southwest by the wind, away from land. Soon they began to throw the cargo overboard and even some of the ship’s gear in a frantic attempt to lighten it, as it was already taking on water. The situation was dramatic. After several days of scant daylight, poor visibility, heavy rain, and raging winds, without knowing where they were and in complete exhaustion, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” Acts 27:20.

Read Acts 27:21-26.

27:21   But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 
 27:22   And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of [any man's] life among you, but of the ship. 
 27:23   For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 
 27:24   Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. 
 27:25   Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. 
 27:26   Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. 

What was Paul’s second intervention in the story?

In prophetic words, Paul told the crew a message he had just received from God. There was no reason to despair or lose hope. There would still be danger and loss, but all of them would survive.

Why would such a faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord like Paul have to suffer through so much?

There are two very good reasons. First, God wants us to grow in character. When we are truly converted, we have all of the fruits of the Spirit, not one is missing. But, while God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (in Christ), He will allow us to be tempted beyond what we have been tempted in the past. Why? It is  best to hear it straight from the Word: "we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience..." Romans 5:3.

God wants us to be more patient. Here we read that our tribulation brings forth more patience. God not only wants us to be more patient for ourselves, He also wants witnesses of the power of grace to bring forth Christian character that is not seen in the heathen, those who are not fully surrendered to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. "we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Romans 5:3-5.

The love of God is seen in His faithful witnesses ever brighter the more we are tested as long as we are abiding in Christ and the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

What lessons can we learn from his experiences?

The Bible is true and we will see the same in all who are fully surrendered to Christ. We are partakers of His divine nature at conversion and filled with the fruits of the Spirit. As we continue to abide in Christ, the fruits will become more abundant. Our trials for our good and His glory as long as we have given the whole heart to Him. The waves will not overflow us!

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 27, 28; Rom. 1:18-20.

Memory Text: “Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts 27:24

Paul had long wished to visit Rome, but his arrest in Jerusalem changed everything. By giving in to the legalistic pressure of the Jerusalem church leaders, he ended up in Roman custody for almost five years, including the time he spent on the sea journey to Italy. This change represented a severe blow to his missionary plans.

The apostles were not legalistic. They took their eyes off of Christ and feared the Jews when Paul came to town. Not abiding in Christ, they were cowards which cost the church the loss of one of its great pillars.

Despite the setback, Jesus Himself promised that the apostle would still testify of Him in Rome (Acts 23:11). Even when we fail Him, God may still give us another chance, though He does not always spare us from the consequences of our actions. Not only was Paul taken to Rome as a prisoner, but there is no biblical evidence that he ever went to Spain, as he had hoped to do (Rom. 15:24). After being released from what is known as the first Roman imprisonment, Paul would be arrested again, this time to suffer martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:6-8) under Nero in A.D. 67.

Paul did not fail God. He wrote most of the New Testament. The church leadership failed to do what was right and this caused Paul to be lost to the church. And, yes, they repented. God does not cut anyone off for one sin, unless it was the last sin of many before, and they cannot hear the still small voice calling to repent.

Yes, Paul made it to Rome, and while waiting in his house-prison to be tried before the emperor, he spoke, despite his chains (Eph. 6:20, Phil. 1:13), without hindrance to whoever came to him (Acts 28:30, 31), including important figures from Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22).

Yes, God often turns Satan's work to good. How Satan must suffer when he finds his work has failed! As we close this quarter's Sabbath School lessons, let us thank God for the faithfulness of the Apostle Paul and the one whose life was given that Saul might become the Paul we all love and respect, Stephen. We learned in our study of Acts that through the love of Jesus, Stephen revealed that love to the chief of sinners, the Pharisee of Pharisees. It was the grace extended to Saul by Stephen that began in great measure the wooing of the Spirit that Saul found it hard to kick against.  "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:60.

May we in like manner extend God's grace to others who despitefully use us.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 29.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--17--Nicodemus
« Last post by Richard Myers on September 22, 2018, 05:36:31 AM »
Amen, Pastor Sean!  The most important question that must be answered by all who profess to love God is "what must I do to be saved?" Here we see the question and the answer. This is why this chapter is always "stickied" and kept at the top of this forum. When I was called into the ministry it was made plain that this question and answer and this chapter was the burden God put on my heart to share with the church and the world.

But this morning God impressed me to point out that there is a natural bent to reject this message of love. We come into this world in fallen flesh. Jesus points this out in his opening remarks to Nicodemus. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. We must be born again of the Spirit in order to be fit for heaven. Yet, we hear it being taught by conservatives in the church that this is not true. That when we come into the world we are in a neutral position. Don't believe it. Believe Christ. We must be born again. In our fallen nature we are evil and need to be reconciled with God in order to do any good thing for the right reason. Our hearts must be cleansed from sin before we can love with all the heart.

This sets the stage to answer why it is that this message of love from God can  be rejected. Not only rejected, but with hatred toward those who present it. The chapter opens with a revelation of this animus towards Christ.

Christ’s exercise of authority in the cleansing of the temple had roused the determined hatred of the priests and rulers. They feared the power of this stranger. Such boldness on the part of an obscure Galilean was not to be tolerated. They were bent on putting an end to His work.

When the truth was revealed by Jesus, it came from one who was not part of the power structure that controlled the religion of that day. Thus, the leaders feared the power that Christ revealed when he presented the truth that had been perverted by the leadership. In other words, they were losing their power because they were presenting not the truth, but lies.

How do we feel when we are shown to be wrong? If we don't want to know we are wrong, then what does that say about our love of the truth and our love for God? What Jesus stirred up was not something new in Israel. It was a perverse nation thathad  been rejecting light for many years. And, when God sent prophets to correct the situation, it often led to violence towards those presenting the truth.

    They remembered how prophets had been slain for rebuking the sins of the leaders in Israel.

Has human nature changed? Has fallen flesh become gentle and kind? No, it is only the laws of the land that help to keep the violence down. But, we know from Bible prophecy that the "beast" is about to speak as a dragon and those who love God supremely will be hurt and killed. And when the number of dead is reached, then probation will close and those living saints will go through a time of trouble such as never was. It will be the "religious" ones that persecute God's children.

But, with Israel it was God's chosen nation that was persecuting those who God had sent with a message to correct the error (lies) that had been coming out of the mouths of the leaders in the nation. The gospel message of salvation by grace had been perverted. Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus under cover of darkness? Because he feared the leadership of the church if they discovered his visit with Jesus.

    And should his visit come to the knowledge of the Sanhedrin, it would draw upon him their scorn and denunciation.

We see clearly the risk that is present when God sends messengers to correct false doctrine in His church or even in other churches. But, is there a risk when the false doctrine takes hold in the organization? Did Israel suffer on account of having perverted God's truth? Yes, they did very much so.

     They knew that the bondage of the Jews to a heathen nation was the result of their stubbornness in rejecting reproofs from God. They feared that in plotting against Jesus the priests and rulers were following in the steps of their fathers, and would bring fresh calamities upon the nation.

Has God changed? Does His church today suffer from rejecting reproofs? Yes, it does. There have been great calamities within our church because reproof was rejected. We remember the loss of the Review and Herald when they rejected reproof. We recall the loss of the Battle Creek Sanitarium when Kellogg and other leaders rejected reproof from God's prophet. The greatest loss suffered by God's church today happened when the message sent in 1888 was rejected by the leadership of God's church. Jesus was ready to come and the latter rain had begun to fall. The rejection of the latter rain led to modern day "Israel" wandering in the desert for 130 years. And, the continued rejection of truth has created the greatest crisis in the church's history. Three divisions within the church are in rebellion against, God, His Word, and His church.

The Spirit of God had sent light through Waggoner and Jones in 1888, what happened to them? How were they treated by church leadership? Their message was rejected, but that was not good enough. Their characters were attacked. They were turned away from God and lost their salvation. Church leadership played a part in the destruction of these two men.

The Lord has raised up Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner to proclaim a message to the world to prepare a people to stand in the day of God. The world is suffering the need of additional light to come to them upon the Scriptures,—additional proclamation of the principles of purity, lowliness, faith, and the righteousness of Christ. This is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Many will be moved and humbled. After a time they will drink of the waters of life. Jesus proclaimed Himself the bread of life: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51.

Jesus knew every soul that believed not, for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who believed not and who would betray him. Many of the disciples walked away from Christ and no more believed on Him. We need not be surprised if the same experience should be realized in our day. If they went away from Christ at His words spoken to them, there will be those who claim to believe the third angel’s message—even men who have been long in the faith—who will be offended at His words that shall come through His delegated human agents.

If the light had been plainly, decidedly acted upon, those men who have followed their own finite wisdom would have decided to come over on the Lord’s side or have been separated from the cause of work of God. Oh, what shall I say? What can I say? Such men are bringing in false theories and principles and converting Elder Olsen to voice their unjust plans and methods, which are bringing the curse of God upon our institutions.  1888 1815.

And so it is today. The curse of God is upon many of our institutions, for they are not walking in the light God has so graciously sent. And how shall the messengers of God be treated today? And how shall they respond? Not as Job did to those who persecuted him. Not as did Waggoner and Jones, but, as did John the Baptist, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Abel, Ellen White, and our best example our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In all ages Satan has persecuted the people of God. He has tortured them and put them to death, but in dying they became conquerors. They bore witness to the power of One mightier than Satan. Wicked men may torture and kill the body, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ in God. They can incarcerate men and women in prison walls, but they cannot bind the spirit. Through trial and persecution the glory—the character—of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The believers in Christ, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. On earth they walk in narrow paths; they are purified in the furnace of affliction.

They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial and experience bitter disappointments; but thus they learn the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they can look beyond the gloom to the glory, saying, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--17--Nicodemus
« Last post by Pastor Sean Brizendine on September 22, 2018, 02:26:28 AM »
If I was to ask you "How are you saved?" What would you answer? And more pressing, "Are you experiencing salvation even now?" We need to know where our souls are with God. We are living in the most solemn time in earth's history. Christ is completing His final work of judgment in behalf of those who have professed His name, and He is about to come as King in glory with all His holy angels. But He tarries. Jesus sees how many have been left to wander at random as multiple gospels and different opinions cause confusion. He waits for you and me to clearly understand and reveal the gospel of His grace in our lives. Our great need of understanding the gospel is seen in how clearly Christ presented it to Nicodemus.

"How, then, are we to be saved? 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,' so the Son of man has been lifted up, and everyone who has been deceived and bitten by the serpent may look and live. 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' John 1:29. The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, 'I delight to do Thy will, O my God.' Psalm 40:8." {The Desire of Ages, page 175, paragraph 5}

Amen! This is present truth for this time! We need a conversion every day, and the evidence of this conversion is that we gladly follow the law written in mind and heart as all of the fruits of the Spirit are seen in our lives without one missing! May you not only understand the gospel as a theory, but live it through a beautiful experience of beholding the loveliness of Jesus morning by morning by spending a thoughtful hour contemplating the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes! This is our great need, and from it flows every other capacity for doing good, for by beholding Jesus we are changed and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us by the miracle of conversion, which is the fruit of understanding the gospel!

Thursday ↥         September 27

The Victory of the Gospel

On a set day, the Jews came in large numbers to hear Paul’s presentation of the gospel (Acts 28:23).

Read Acts 28:24-31. What was Paul’s point in quoting Isaiah in this context?

The quotation from Isaiah 6:9, 10 describes what happens when people refuse to accept the divine message. Though some Jews believed, others didn’t, and so, because of this great dispute, the apostle had no choice but once again to turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46, 47; 18:6).

Paul had to wait two years to be tried by the emperor. Meanwhile, though restricted to his house-prison, he was still able to share the gospel without hindrance with those who came to him. The last scene of Acts is one that emphasizes the victory of the gospel, as no force, whether Jewish or Roman, had been able to stop its progress.

It is not clear why Luke finishes his book at this point, as there is evidence that, due to the weakness of the case against Paul, he was released from this imprisonment, went on another missionary journey, and was again taken to Rome and executed (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Perhaps, from the standpoint of Luke’s literary purpose, by having been preached even in distant Rome, the gospel had already reached the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).

“Paul’s patience and cheerfulness during his long and unjust imprisonment, his courage and faith, were a continual sermon. His spirit, so unlike the spirit of the world, bore witness that a power higher than that of earth was abiding with him. And by his example, Christians were impelled to greater energy as advocates of the cause from the public labors of which Paul had been withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle’s bonds influential, so that when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, and to all appearance he could do the least, then it was that he gathered sheaves for Christ in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 464.

From the standpoint of the church’s mission, however, it could be said that the book of Acts—or the history of the spreading of the gospel—is not yet finished, and it is here that each one of us enters the picture. Many more exciting and dramatic chapters have been written throughout the centuries, sometimes with the blood of God’s faithful witnesses. Now it is our turn to add one more chapter, the last one (we hope!), and bring the mission Jesus left with the disciples to its full completion—“and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14, NKJV).

Friday ↥         September 28

Further Thought: “Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that the Saviour desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.

“Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory.”—Page 111.

Discussion Questions:

    How does Luke portray Paul’s faith in God throughout the whole journey to Rome? How were others affected by such unconditional faith?

    Despite everything he had gone through, Paul never gave up his faith or his mission. In Rome, he continued to preach despite his limited freedom. What can we do when tempted to give up on our proclamation of the gospel to someone?

    Read Romans 1:14, 15. Why did Paul feel himself under obligation—or a debtor—to preach the gospel to everybody? Are we less obligated than he was? Consider this statement: “To save souls should be the lifework of everyone who professes Christ. We are debtors to the world for the grace given us of God, for the light which has shone upon us, and for the discovered beauty and power of the truth.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 53.

    Read again the passage from Isaiah that Paul used. How could this idea apply to us? Yes, we have been given a great deal of truth, but if we harden ourselves to it, or even to aspects of it that might conflict with our own wishes or desires, what danger could we face spiritually?

    Imagine being the soldier chained to Paul. What do you think he saw in the man to whom he was so closely tied?

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