Promises of Power
J. Wilfred Johnson
Sabbath School Lesson Oct. 5, 1985
Transcribed Mar. 2, 2014
Note: This meeting is actually a small Sabbath School lesson given by Mr. Johnson at the College Heights Church Alberta, Canada. There are other groups meeting in the sanctuary at the same time as well as individuals talking among themselves. All of this background noise makes it nearly impossible to hear individuals addressing Mr. Johnson with their comments or questions.
(Wilfred) We would like to welcome those of you who are not regular members of the class we trust that the Lord will give you a rich blessing along with the rest of us as we meditate upon the things that He has presented to us in this week's lesson. The title is "Promises of Power". We are going to be studying this quarter the writings of the second epistle of the apostle Peter. There is quite a bit of historical material that comes to bear upon this. I have to admit that I am not much of an historian and I don't profess to be but I am very much interested in trying to seek out those things that apply specifically to our experience in this particular day and age. I think it is very important that we understand what God is trying to tell us.
There is a problem in the universe, what is that problem?
(A man) A sin problem.
(Wilfred) A sin problem. And what is God going to do about it?
(Same man) Resolve it.
(Wilfred) He is going to resolve that problem. How is He going to do it?
(Same man) It's already been done He's just waiting for the final culmination.
(Wilfred) The provision has already been made, everything's in place, but it cannot be solved without the cooperation of his people. Do you recognize that? Because you see, the problem is sin and what is sin and who does the transgressing? Who makes the decision to transgress? The individual person. So to solve the sin problem you've got to reverse that. You and I have to decide to quit sinning, it's that simple. But it isn't simple when you start trying and there's the big problem because we now have the sinful nature to work against and normally we choose to do those things that we like to do, it's easy to follow the instincts of our nature, it's difficult to go contrary to them so God has designed a plan whereby He can change that nature, bring it back, restore it to the sinlessness of Adam before his transgression and to the sinless nature of Christ and that's what this is all about.
Let's just glance through the four verses and then we will deal with them a little more in detail. Peter starts out by introducing himself as a servant and some feel that that word servant could have been translated slave. Slaves were totally committed to their masters, they had no freedom to choose on their own. Now, if Peter was a slave he was not a slave by compulsion but he was a slave because he chose to be. He was totally captivated by his Lord and he became his servant and the Lord gave him a special commission. An apostle, one whom is sent to perform a special work for God. 1 "To those who have obtained to like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ." To whom is he writing this? To those who have obtained to like precious faith. Now he is not writing this to unbelievers he is writing this to believers, see? 2 "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." Now he is saying here that the knowledge of God ought to be multiplied it ought to be expanded, and I am going to read something about that in a moment. 3 "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:" And that word 'by' could be translated 'to', He called us 'to' glory and virtue. His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness, now if we are to be turned to a life of Godliness there is power available to do it. I'm going to read that to you. 4 "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." We partake of the divine nature. What is that divine nature? What is the nature of divinity? Did you pick that up yet?
(Same man) His own character.
(Wilfred) What is his character?
(Same man) Self-sacrificing love.
(Wilfred) Self-sacrificing love. The cross of Calvary, He came here to die on that cross and one of the purposes was to reveal that the law of life for earth and heaven is self-sacrificing, self-denying love. The Desire of Ages, page 20. That is the divine nature and if we are to partake of the divine nature we are to partake of the same basic quality characteristics of God, which is self-sacrificing love. That is the essence, I'm going to read to you, that is the power that is the glory He wants us to reveal and escape the corruption that is in the world.
So, I didn't get this too well organized and I apologize for that.
You know what? The Bible and the Spirit of Prophesy are written in such a manner that you can't get the whole picture in any one spot, it's here a little and there a little and the texts and the statements interlock and overlap. In one statement you'll find maybe two or three things referred to and in another one there will be a tie-in with one or two ideas but then there will be other ideas in there and so on. And when you get down to try to run a thread through the whole thing it takes a lot of time and it's difficult and I didn't settle on a particular way of moving through it so I'm looking to God to help us get the thoughts that are in there.
I want to begin with the knowledge of God. And I am going to read a little today and I hope you will forgive me for that but I think it's important that we understand some of these things the way God has given them to us and NOT the way Wilf Johnson tells them.
Ministry of Healing page 425, it says, it is the knowledge of God that works transformation of character. Now we said a moment ago that God wants to restore his Kingdom, He wants to restore righteousness in his people, He wants to have the prefect character of himself reflected in his people, his character is a character of self-renouncing love. Now that is what He wants to develop in you and me, He wants us to reflect that character perfectly. And it says here that it is the knowledge of God that works the transformation of the character.
Let me read another one from Christ's Object Lessonspage 114, It is a very, very, specific one, "In His prayer to the Father, Christ gave to the world a lesson which should be graven on mind and soul. "This is life eternal," He said, "that they might know Thee the only true God," All right, a knowledge of God is important Jesus prayed for that for his disciples that they might get to know God "And Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." He says they need to get to know Me, you see Christ was sent to reveal the Father to us. He came down and cloaked himself in our garments and lived a life in our midst demonstrating to us the way God would like us to live. Isn't that simple? That's what He did. "This is true education" She says "It imparts power," Our lesson talks about power in the promises. What is in that power? Well a true knowledge of God imparts power, she says. Let us follow it now. "The experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, transforms man into the image of God." All right, the experimental knowledge of God will transform us back into the image of our creator. So then, what's this experimental knowledge let's keep that one in mind? "It gives to man the mastery of himself," Have you had any trouble getting the mastery sometimes? Well, here's the solution, part of it, an experimental knowledge of God. How are you going to get to know what God's love is really like? That's the issue see? How are you going to get to know? "Bringing every impulse and passion of the lower nature under the control of the higher powers of the mind." You want to be righteous, do you want to have righteousness, do you want to have a nature that causes you to control those impulses that are sinful? Do you want to have a nature in your heart that is like God's? Then you need an experimental knowledge of God. That is what this is saying. Listen. "It makes its possessor a son of God and an heir of heaven. It brings him into communion with the mind of the Infinite, and opens to him the rich treasures of the universe." Now get this next piece, it's the same quote, "This is the knowledge which is obtained by searching the word of God. And this treasure may be found by every soul who will give all to obtain it." What do you see when you search the scriptures, and incidentally, the Word of God? Remember what it says in the first chapter of John? Verse 14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Jesus was called 'The Word', He is the personal Word and when you study in the book to gain an experimental knowledge of God you are going to be studying about Jesus, you are going to discover what there is about him that is divine, that is powerful, that is righteous, The Word. Jesus gave a lesson to his disciples that is a little difficult for some of us to grasp in the very last ceremony that He performed with his disciples. He taught them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. And sometime prior to that in John chapter 6 He gave a little discourse and said, except you eat my flesh and drink my blood you don't have any life in you. But if you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have eternal life and I'll raise you up at the last day. Now what is that flesh? Do we have to be cannibals? Not in the literal sense, no. He's talking about his divine nature, that's what He is talking about. In his divine nature the Word of God is his flesh. It explains that. And the blood represents the Spirit of life and the blood circulating through the body gives life to the cells. Now do you know what the blood represents? The Spirit? Why surely. The Word she says, you can read the Bible and get very little or nothing out of it without the influence of the Spirit of God, the Word of God in the Bible is dead so to speak, it's the Spirit of God that gives life to the Word.
Now I have statements for all these things and I was hoping to read them today but I get talking and then I don't get time to read them all and maybe it's better that way. You don't like to hear too much being read but I wish that you knew and understood all that has been said about this it's fantastic what is in those books about these things that we are studying about. May I go ahead and read a few of them?
The Desire of Ages page 389, "It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature." Now Peter talks about partaking of the divine nature. How do you partake of the divine nature? By beholding his love and dwelling upon it and drinking it in that we are to become partakers of his nature. Where do you find that love revealed, in the book, on the cross. How do you get a taste of it? God permits you to share in his experience. He has made available for you a more abundant outpouring of his divine Spirit.
II Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass" That is a mirror. "The glory of the Lord, are changed unto the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Now watch this one, The Desire of Ages page 417, "As our lifeblood," Circulates through the body, nourishes the cells, causes the mind to function, gives it power. "As our lifeblood, so is the love of Christ" Now she is comparing our blood circulation to the Love of Christ. Got that? "So is the love of Christ diffused through every part of His mystical body." In other words if you become a part of the mystical body of Christ and the Bible says that you are the body of Christ, members in particular and that He is the head, the love of God will become diffused into your spiritual nature and you will partake of the love of Christ. Do you know what that love is? I'm going to read it.
This is from The Review and Herald Nov. 19, 1908, "The Holy Spirit is the breath of spiritual life in the soul." In other words as God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life and he became a physical living soul, even so the Holy Spirit is the breath of spiritual life and when God breathes that Spirit upon us we became a spiritual living soul. Have you got the comparison? Let me read on. "The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ." There you have it. You breathe into his nostrils the breath of life and man becomes a living soul. The Holy Spirit, the spiritual life, the love of God is breathed into your spiritual nature, your spiritual soul and you are born again you have a spiritual nature, born of the Spirit. As that Spirit is imparted to you the very life of God is imparted to you. Listen; is that not partaking of the divine nature? Let me read on. "It imbues the receiver with the attributes of Christ." Well, do you want Christ's attributes? You need that Spirit. "The believer becomes." Now here it is. "The believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature." So to become a partaker of the divine nature you must receive the Spirit of God. Now in other places it speaks of partaking of Christ. You must have Christ in the heart, Christ must come to you. Well, Christ identifies himself with that Spirit. In John chapter 14 where it talks about your love, if you love me, He says, keep my commandments and then I'm going to pray the Father and He's going to send you another comforter which is the Holy Spirit. He says I'm not going to leave you comfortless I am going to come to you. So He identifies himself as coming to you in the form of the Spirit. She says specifically it is by his Spirit that Christ dwells in you. Have we got that straight?
So here is another one, The Desire of Ages page 827, "All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power." Do you want a new endowment of physical power? Oh, we all want that don't we? Do you want a new endowment of Spiritual power? Well, here's the key. "Consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God." Now, can you consecrate all of those things to God and still continue to indulge your own feelings when they go contrary to God? You can't do that, I've read to you before statements that tell us very plainly that it's the latter rain, the final outpouring of that Spirit, when God is going to put it out full blast, the totality of his Spirit is going to be poured out on his people. That Spirit is the one that gives the crown of righteousness to his people. He comes by his Spirit to give us that crown of righteousness, that topping, you know, the final summit of righteousness. That Spirit comes to give us that but that Spirit cannot come to us, she tells us, until we decide to cleanse our own soul temple of every defilement. I've read those statements to you before so I won't take time to read them again. We are waiting for that latter rain to come to restore us to the image of God to fulfill the Everlasting Covenant, the New Covenant in which we will have a new heart, a heart like his so we will love to do the right things. Oh, I've said so many times you'll be getting tired of listening to me. But Brother and Sister the reason you're sitting here today is because we haven't paid attention to what I'm telling you. I shouldn't say it that way because it sounds like I'm doing it. You know what I mean don't you? God has been trying to tell us this for a long time. And you know many of our people are getting further and further away from it. They don't even believe God can make us holy anymore. It's impossible to become perfect. I had somebody tell me that just this past week. A good Adventist, it's sad. It's sad. The reason we're still here is because we have not yet, Sister Cooper, you could quote me that statement I'm sure, we have not yet reflected the image of Jesus' character perfectly. And until we do He cannot come because He has to have a demonstration in which his people show that they are totally safe from sin and can stand without a mediator before a Holy God. He has to have that in order to silence the Devils accusations when the Devil said they can't keep your law, it's unfair. Don't you see that? I'm sorry for repeating it.
(A man) We are a lot further away from the Holy Spirit than Sister White and the people of her time.
(Wilfred) In some ways, I think you are saying the truth, that's right. We have a long ways to go.
Oh, listen to this though, We'll receive that new endowment. "The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command." Did you realize that you can command the inexhaustible supplies of Heaven? How do you do it? We've prayed for the latter rain, Oh many, many, times, I've been to scores of prayer meetings for the latter rain. Why hasn't it come? Well, I've given you the key, I've read you the statements before, I could read you them again, there are several of them. You and I are not using the power that God has already given us to make a decision that stops sinning. Oh, well you say we can't do it. All right then do what you can. You don't expect your child to do more than he is equipped to do, do you, nor does God He takes you at the point you are? And if you put your effort forth He will come through with his power and enable you to go on to the next step, it's a progress, next week we'll talk about that. It's a process but we are not doing it. We say, it can't be done so there is no use trying. We wait until God changes the heart He promises He's going to give us a new heart so we pray for it and it doesn't come because we are not cooperating. She says God does nothing for us without our cooperation. That's a powerful statement, nothing without our cooperation. After all it's our decision to sin it's got to be our decision that quits. And while we can't change the heart we'll always have the urge to sin. We can refuse to do it; it takes effort, that's where character comes in. That's why God doesn't always remove those impulses when you pray for removal. Sometimes He does, there have been occasions where He has taken away the impulse to smoke tobacco just like that and there has never been another temptation for that individual. Well on that point of course that individual can't build any character any more because he's got nothing to work against, you don't build character without exercise, you see character is a muscle building process. So God permits us to continue to meet up with those temptations to give us a chance to exercise our will and strengthen it. But He will never let us to be tempted above what we are able to bear but He will make a way of escape. And the way of escape of course is his great mercy and forgiveness, his grace, you confess your sin and you're forgiven. You don't kick that little fellow out of your family just because he flunks another time do you? You don't get your membership in the family by being good, you are born into the family, that's the way it is with God. He accepts the consequences of your sinning and He suffers continually as you continue to sin. Don't forget that, that ought to be a motivating influence in your life. You crucify to yourself the Son of God afresh.
All right I'm reading again, continuing; "Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit," Are we on common ground here? You know you breathe the breathe of life, the Spirit of Life. He gives them the breathe of his own Spirit. "The life of His own life." The life of Christ He had by virtue of the life of his Spirit. He told us that the Father had given him life in himself, didn't He? Even as the Father has life in himself He gives it to the Son. The Father gave the Son life in himself. That Spirit that gave him divinity, that made him God, was in the Son. That's the life of his life, now this says, He gives us that life. Do you realize what that means? That's what it means to have Christ in you. You partake of the flesh and blood of the Son of God. I wish we could grasp it. Christ made an eternal sacrifice on that cross. He died the eternal death of the sinner from which there is no hope of a resurrection. The life that was his he gives to you. She says it in plain English, the Holy Spirit, she ties it in, she's talking about the Holy Spirit. "The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence." I don't know what could be more powerful.
Here's another one in, The Desire of Ages page 386, I'll just read a little bit because our time is moving on and there are some others I would like to read. This one says, "The life-giving Spirit, flowing from the infinite fullness of God, is the true manna." So if you are going to partake of that true bread that came down from heaven and He said, "I am that true bread which came down from heaven. I'm the true manna, eat my flesh". That's what He said in John chapter 6. The life giving Spirit flowing from the infinite fullness of God is the true manna. So then to partake of that you must partake of the Spirit of God. Well, how do you partake of the Spirit of God? You can't grasp it on your own it has to be given but in another place she says you have to grasp, God offers but you take, God doesn't force. And unless you are willing to cooperate by fulfilling the conditions you don't get it. Now the original Spirit that stirred up your heart, that pricked your conscience, that caused you to come to Jesus for cleansing and forgiveness, that Spirit is the former rain experience of the Spirit. I'm talking here of the latter rain experience. The former rain God sends it out, He searches like for the lost sheep. You don't obey to get the former rain; He gives you the former rain trying to draw you in. But unless you respond to the former rain you don't get the latter rain. That's it.
Now, the Spirit of God, let me read a little bit about the Spirit of God. Get this one. It's from Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing page 55. "If they would open their hearts fully to receive Christ," Now your heart is the way you feel. Open up your heart to receive Christ fully. "Then the very life of God, His love," What is the life of God? His love. Love is a power it is the most powerful force in all the universe, it really is. Love, in your brain it actually exhibits itself as energy that can cause your mind to function, it is the basic emotion. It has many tributaries but it is the basic power. That "Love would dwell in them," Now listen to what the life of God, which is his love, would do. "Transforming them into His own likeness; and thus through God's free gift they would possess the righteousness which the law requires." All right, there are two phases of righteousness, imputed and imparted. Imputed righteousness is that which is counted in your favor because of what Christ did for you. The perfect righteousness of Christ is accepted by God as a guarantee for you and He accepts you as though you have never sinned and He loves you as he loves his own dear son. That's what she says. That's how you get eternal life. But the transforming of the heart involves your decision; your heart cannot be transformed without your decision to obey God. He gives his Spirit, the Bible says, to those who obey him. And the Spirit comes to give you the life of Christ. The Bible says that the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us. That's what it says, Romans 5:5 I think it is. All right, how are you going to get the Holy Ghost to be shed abroad in the heart so you can have the love of God? How do you get the Holy Spirit that will shed that love?
(Someone in the audience) Ask him for it. What else?
(Wilfred) Well, you missed my point.
(Someone in the audience) Start to obey.
(Wilfred) Start to obey. He gives his Spirit to those who obey him. We miss these points sometimes don't we? It's the love of God that cleanses the soul temple; you'll find that in Acts of the Apostles 23. "He rejoiced in the consciousness that He could and would do more for His followers than He had promised; that from Him would flow forth love and compassion, cleansing the soul temple, and making men like Him in character; that His truth, armed with the power of the Spirit, would go forth conquering and to conquer." It is by beholding his love that we become partakers of the divine nature, I've read you that one.
Now, I've got another one over here that I don't want to miss before that bell goes on me.
The Desire of Ages page 388. "It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of life eternal." So you have life eternal beginning if you have received him into the heart.
Listen to this one, Review and Herald May 19, 1904 "In the gift of the Spirit, Jesus gave to man the highest good that heaven could bestow. The Saviour looked on humanity, and saw that it was under the power of the prince of darkness; but he saw also that there was hope for human beings because there was power in the divine nature successfully to contend with evil agencies." Isn't that what Peter was saying here? "That by these great and precious promises we may become partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world." He's right on target there.
Listen to this one, this is The Desire of Ages 671, this is a fairly long one. Don't get tired; try to keep your attention on it. "In describing to His disciples the office", and, "Work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus sought to inspire them with the joy and hope that inspired His own heart. He rejoiced because of the abundant help He had provided for His church." You see it was through his death that He gave his life to make it available to you and his Spirit of his eternal life was the Holy Spirit. Now I've got statements to prove that too. He relinquished that life, He shed that lifeblood back to the Father and that's why He prays the Father to send that spirit to you and me, see? Because He relinquished it to make it available for you and me. And the Father agreed by the terms of his last will and testament to give it to you and me. But He hesitates and He can't give you the fullness until you show signs of obedience. "The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail." He "Would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church."
I hope you are inspired to dig into the great treasure that we have in this Bible and in the books that help us to understand.
May God bless you.