Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Why God Can Treat Everyone as Though He Were Innocent

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

On January 1, 1863, the president of the United States took a bold step. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation that legally freed every slave being held within the states that were in rebellion against the Federal government.

Some 40 years later a wise writer grasped the idea that Lincoln's Proclamation was an analogy that illustrated what Christ accomplished on His cross. She wrote: "With His own blood He [Christ] has signed the emancipation papers of the race." The Revised English Bible translates what Paul said that in essence is the same analogy: "The judicial action, following on the one offence [of Adam], resulted in a verdict of condemnation [slavery], but the act of grace [of Christ], following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... It follows, then, that as the result of one misdeed was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:16, 18). (All responsible translations say essentially the same.)

All Lincoln could do was issue the Proclamation (which he had a perfect right to do as military Commander in Chief of the nation). But no slave would experience freedom unless (a) he heard the news, (b) believed it, and (c) acted upon his belief and told his slave-master "goodbye." So Christ reversed for "all people" the "judicial verdict of condemnation" that came upon them "in Adam," and instead proclaimed His "judicial ... verdict of acquittal" for the same "all people." This is why God can treat everyone as though he were innocent!

Christ has truly borne "the iniquity of us all," died "everyone's" second death. God is reconciled to the sinful human race; now He begs us, "Be reconciled to God" (cf. Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). And in His closing work as our great High Priest, Christ is seeking to complete that reconciliation in the hearts of all who will believe and appreciate what He accomplished as "the Lamb" of Revelation.

That work of reconciliation in human hearts is spoken of as "the final atonement," which results in a people who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev. 14:4, 5). Be one of them!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 15, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Can the "Kings of the Earth" Benefit From This Bible Idea?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The ancients were amazed and mystified by the gospel, and so are people today: it says that God treats His bitterest enemies as friends. Jesus addressed Judas Iscariot as "friend" and forgave His own murderers. He actually took their guilt upon Himself, "for He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). This is something that the Bible calls "justification."

The Father treated His own Son as an enemy so He could treat us as friends. One half of the process of the atonement is God being reconciled to His enemies (us). This was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son, so that He has "reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, ... reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).

The other half is our being reconciled to God, which is accomplished by our understanding and believing the gospel--the truth of His reconciliation to us by someone preaching the message, "Be reconciled to God."

There are some who will never accept the reconciliation. But more than our sinful human unbelief is willing to recognize, many will respond positively if only the gospel truth is made clear. They will be the people anonymously identified in Revelation 18:4 as "My people," the Lord says.

There is a strange, unearthly love involved in this reconciliation-justification process--agape. It "never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). It loves Muslims, Hindus, and atheists alike, because its source is God Himself. It "thinks no evil" (vs. 5). But neither is it naive, nor foolish. But it does recognize immediately that beneath the revolting exterior, the other person may have left some decency or self-respect, which will respond to "grace" and "justification."

Can "the kings of the earth" benefit from this Bible idea? Many will say, No; national interests are too valuable and complex to be influenced by any idea associated with "grace." But a "king-to-be" was once saved from a terrible mistake of unnecessary violence by a woman who spoke words of common sense inspired by the idea of justification by faith (the story of Abigail and David in 1 Samuel 25).

But even if the Bible idea of justification by grace won't work in international politics, for sure it would work in finding speedy solutions to conflicts within the church! Common sense is needed!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 4, 1999.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: How Is Justification by Faith More Fully Understood Than It Was by Luther and Calvin?

Dear Friends of “Dial Daily Bread,”

How is justification by faith more fully understood in these last days, than it was by Luther and Calvin in the 16th century? Didn't they proclaim it clearly?

Yes, they did--for their day. But they lived before "the time of the end" when "knowledge shall increase" (Dan. 12:4). Their work, which the Lord gave them, was to prepare a people to die and come up in the first resurrection (see Luke 20:35; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). And they were faithful to the light they saw.

But now in this "time of the end," we are living in the great cosmic, antitypical "Day of Atonement." God is preparing a people to be "counted worthy ... to stand before the Son of Man," to be translated at His second coming (Luke 21:36). And there is no power in heaven or earth that can accomplish that objective except "the gospel of Christ." It alone "is the power of God to salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It's what Peter says is "the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12).

That clearer understanding of "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6) will teach God's people to sing "a new song" that "no one could learn … except the 144,000 who [are] redeemed from the earth," in whose "mouth [is] found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God" (vss. 3-5). There is not a progression of truth involved, but there is a progression in the comprehension of truth. "Knowledge shall increase."

That will be the fruitage of Christ's work as the world's great High Priest in His closing work in the Most Holy Apartment of His heavenly sanctuary (see Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:23-28; 10:18-25; 11:39, 40; 13:20, 21).

A change of character is involved, and the Bride of Christ "has made herself ready" for the long-delayed "marriage of the Lamb." For the first time in the long ages of the great controversy, she is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev. 19:7, 8).

Now the Bride is more concerned for Christ's honor and glory than even for her own salvation. That's biblical justification by faith. She "overcomes … as I also overcame" (3:21); self at last is crucified with Him.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 13, 2004.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Fellowship With Christ in David's Psalms

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Let me introduce you to a friend with whom you can have fellowship: David, King David, the man who wrote many of the psalms, the man who was a sinner but was a deep-hearted repentant. God gave him the most unusual "gift" anyone has ever had--intimate fellowship with Christ in His sufferings (cf. Phil. 3:10 for the phrase). In other words, David was permitted to taste firsthand by prolepsis the experiences which the Son of God must go through in order to become effective as our Savior.

David, of course, was 100 percent human, and totally a sinner. He was as low a sinner as anybody, yet God permitted him to feel what Christ felt and to write about it so we can taste it too. The fellowship went both ways: David felt as Christ felt, and Christ felt as the lowdown sinner feels. Which simply means that Christ felt as you feel--guilty, polluted, condemned. The only sinless human Being can feel compassion and sympathy for someone who has made a mess of his or her life and feels guilty.

The sincere Roman Catholic may long to find a sympathetic priest to kneel before and pour out his or her heart in bitter, shameful confession; but the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the world's Savior, the One who was "made to be sin for us who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21), the One who alone has come from the bosom of the Father, He is your only true Father-confessor. As you kneel alone before Him and let the bitter tears fall, and wait before Him in quiet loneliness, your heart open, with David's psalms also open before you, the two-way fellowship happens.

Where can you find this fellowship with Christ in David's psalms? Scattered all through, but especially in Psalms 22, 27, 40, 69, 119, 142. And don't forget Psalm 23--we need that one too.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 15, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: "Signs" in the Heavens

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

In mid-August our earth's rotation around the sun brings us near the tail of a comet with tiny grains of sand-like material that glow white hot as they strike our atmosphere. We call these shooting stars as they flash across our midnight sky. This August meeting is with the Perseid meteor shower. There is another similar encounter that occurs in late November.

In Matthew 24:29 Jesus spoke of "signs" in the heavens that would indicate that we are entering "the time of the end" that Daniel spoke of (11:35; 12:4). It's in the Savior's great sermon on the end of the world: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" the signs were to appear. He has been describing the persecutions of the Dark Ages which Daniel and Revelation both pinpoint as 1260 years between 538 and 1798 A.D., when so many true followers of Jesus were martyred. But the actual martyrdoms in Europe ended soon after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Mark reports the timing more precisely as "in those days, after that tribulation" (13:24, 25), "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light." Thoughtful people who revered the Bible recognized this "sign" in the mysterious May 19, 1780, darkening of the sun. Then Jesus added: "the stars will fall from heaven." On the night of November 13, 1833, the most spectacular burst of shooting stars ever seen was in populous New England. Again, people who revered the Bible were reassured that we have entered into Daniel's great "time of the end."

Some keep expecting that God must repeat these "signs in the heavens" in order for His people to be well warned. But when Thomas refused to believe the historical reports of his fellow-disciples of the resurrection, Jesus rebuked him (John 20:29). God expects us to respect the record of history!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 13, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Is It a Sin to Be Afraid?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

This question probes deep into our souls: is it a sin to be afraid? "Through fear of death [we are] all [our] lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15). There is a healthy fear, without which we would be fools. There is also a morbid fear that enslaves us. "You shall not be afraid of the terror by night," says the Psalm of comfort (91:5). God wants very much to deliver us from fear. Says Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). The "let not" means that our choice is involved. Fear may assail us but we can choose not to give in to it.

It all boils down to believing God's promises in His new covenant. And for those of us who are born and nurtured in unbelief (isn't that everybody, according to the Bible?), the only difficult thing is learning to overcome our natural-born unbelief. We're back to square one in learning John 3:16: "Whoever believes in Him should not [will not] perish."

And here is where the Savior of the world touches us. He too was tempted to indulge in unbelief--but wait a moment, He never gave in to it. Read the two psalms that weld our souls to Him as nothing else in the Bible does--Psalms 22 and 69. There we find the closest fellowship with Jesus in His hour of feeling forsaken by His Father. Those two psalms probe deeply into how any human being can feel when suffering total despair. Jesus is "tasting death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). He is enduring the horror of hell. And in so doing He is "abolishing death" (2 Tim. 1:10; the second), and delivering us from the fear of it.

No way can we endure hell and triumph over it on our own; but we can corporately identify with Jesus while He endures it. We can sing with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). Our souls unite with Him "through faith" (Eph. 2:8). His cross becomes our cross and His glorious victory becomes ours. "Behold Him" on that cross; join Him there.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 20, 2002.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: Believe Today and Skip the Depression!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Of all people in the world, the last one you would expect to be living in the darkness and bondage of the Old Covenant is Abraham, "the father of the faithful."

God had already given him the sunlit promises of the New Covenant! (Gen. 12:2, 3). His taking Hagar for a second wife was entirely Sarah's unbelieving, Old Covenant idea. God had nothing to do with that trip into darkness. Nonetheless, Abraham plunged into it. Paul says that the Hagar chapter of Abraham's life was pure depression--"this Hagar is Mount Sinai," which because of unbelief, Israel turned into depression. These "things are symbolic," says Paul in his clear understanding in Galatians. The covenant "from Mount Sinai ... gives birth to bondage," which is always the horror of depression (read Gal. 4:21-31).

Some 430 years after Abraham, God tried to renew those bright New Covenant promises to Israel as they had come out of dark Egyptian slavery on their way to the Promised Land (Ex. 6:4-9). But Israel were Abraham's descendants who had to learn as he did the folly of Old Covenant promises. Likewise, God had nothing to do with Israel embracing their Old Covenant ideas at Sinai. He wanted to renew the same New Covenant with them (see Ex. 19:4-6), the same promises He had made to Abraham.

We lock ourselves into confusion if we try to interpret the covenants at Mount Sinai in any other way. Israel's slavery in Egypt had been a massive case of national depression. Would God at Sinai lead them back into that darkness? If we picture the character of our loving heavenly Father as One who deliberately led His people Israel into an Old Covenant spiritual bondage at Sinai, we distort His character.

The Old Covenant was not a preliminary step toward national salvation--that's twisting little text snippets with our own pre-set Old Covenant philosophy. Yes, He ratified their choice with animal blood; only in that sense can it be said that He "made" the Old Covenant with them--because that was what they insisted on. He had to let them take their long detour "under the law" until they could come to the place to be "justified by faith" as Abraham was (Gal. 3:19-24).

Now, you can believe today and skip the depression!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 21, 2006.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: What Is Faith?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

What is faith? It's important to know the answer, because only those who have faith won't "perish" at last, says John 3:16. Millions accept the definition, "Faith is believing what you know isn't true." Church members who believe that definition are lukewarm.

Another popular definition of faith is: "Faith equals trust. You trust God and that's faith!" But what they don't notice is that "trust" always involves an egocentric motivation. As long as we serve God with a self-centered motivation we are either "under the law" (Rom 6:14) or at best lukewarm. So, many Christians "trust God" like we trust our insurance company, or trust the police, or trust our doctors--always with an egocentric motivation. And lukewarmness is the natural result.

Two New Testament words for "trust" are peitho and elpizo, neither of which is the word for faith (believing). The New Testament word "to believe" is pisteuo, an entirely different idea. Jesus Himself must define "faith" for us: "God so [1] loved the world [with agape] that [2] He gave His only begotten Son, that [3] whoever believes [the verb for faith] in Him [4] should not perish but [5] have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

It's simple and it's clear: genuine faith is a heart-melting appreciation of God's loving and His giving! It includes trust, yes; but it precedes trust. It depends on understanding what it cost God to give His Son, and what it cost Him to sacrifice Himself for us. And that is precisely what Satan doesn't want the world to understand! Thus he has invented the false doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, which requires that Christ did not truly die on His cross; it short-circuits agape and obscures the cross like clouds enveloping snow-clad Kilimanjaro.

If you can't see agape, then your so-called faith is nothing more than like trusting your bank--no melting of the heart involved. The natural result: Laodicea's lukewarmness--that's what sickens Christ (Rev. 3:16).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 19, 2000.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."