Thoughts on Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles Lesson 10

St.PeteI am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In Sabbath’s section of this week’s SS lesson we read, ““And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14, ESV).”

 

 

 To me the most thrilling part of prayer is, just knowing that God hears me. I am just a grain of dirt in this magnificent universe and yet He cares for me!

 

Last year my apartment lease was up and I singed a new lease. I asked about a free months rent for re-signing and they said no way definitely not. I singed any way. Meanwhile I had a burden on my heart and was sharing it with God. On the first day of my new lease I was walking to the apartment office to pay my rent. I was praying about my burden as I walked. All of a sudden I found myself telling God, “if You want me to do such and such have them give me a free months rent when I get to the office”.  I thought, there is no way that can happen. They have already told me no.”  I got to the office and gave them the check. The lady looked to enter it on the computer but then paused and said, “wait a minute, it is showing no rent is due this month from you.” She went into her boss’ office to confirm and then came back and said, “You owe no rent this month.” I can not explain this. I was told more than once when signing my lease there was no free rent. When I went in I did not ask but just gave them the check and they handed it back to me. What is more thrilling then a month’s free rent is that God heard my prayer!

 

 

Many moons ago I was a Literature Evangelist selling Christian books in Oklahoma. I was leading my division in sales. However in the summer I ran into a dry spell. Three weeks with no sales. I began to doubt my calling. I had been told before what a wonderful work being and LE was, but as I continued to go with no sales I could not help but doubt. I thought maybe it was a great work a hundred years ago when they did not have radio and television to spread the Good news. One day I was driving to Tahlequah Oklahoma to show a Baptist school principal the books. As I drove I prayed to God, “If I am still doing an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove on and got to the school and showed the man the books. He bought them! As he was writing out the check I was writing out the order. He paused as he wrote and said, “you know this is a very important work you are doing”. I thanked him but it did not really hit me as a direct answer to prayer until he paused again and said, “and especially for this time.” Chills went down my spine as I realized that this man was repeating the exact words I had used in my prayer! I went on and led my division in sales by the end of the year. What is more thrilling though is that God heard my prayer!

 

 

I have had many other direct answers to prayer. Many of them I cannot share because they involve other people who may not want them shared. Still, what is more important than getting what I ask for, is knowing there is a God who loves and cares for me, and even takes time to listen and care about what is on my heart, even though I am just a tiny speck of dust in His great universe! Of course He loves you just as much!

 

 

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.”  {Steps to Christ p. 100.1}

 

You can find more studies and devotionals at my personal Website: InLightOfTheCross.com

Thoughts on Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles Lesson 9

Adam's Birthday 018

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. (notice alligator by the river bridge)

Thursday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “What about folk who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel presented in a clear manner? Are they all automatically lost? As you think about your answer, don’t forget to take into account God’s universal love for all humanity. How can you learn to better trust the Lord on this difficult question?”

 Sometimes I don’t think we realize how legalistic we are even when we think we aren’t. We just can’t imagine salvation being as easy as the Bible says. We dwell on the thousands who were lost at the flood while only eight were saved, forgetting that dumb animals were saved who simply did not resist the draw to the ark. The Bible never told us salvation was hard or is suppose to be hard. It is the way of the transgressor that is hard. Proverbs 13:15. 

We think we have left legalism and the works of the flesh when we tell people they can be saved if they understand and believe the steps to salvation. However in that case all we have done is transferred the legalism from the works of the flesh to the works of the brain. We quote Ephesians 2:8 and tell people we are saved by our faith, but that is not what that verse says. It says we are saved by grace. So many of us have things backwards. We look at Ephesians 2:8 and think that if we have faith God will recognize it and then give us grace. “Oh they believe in me so I will be graceful and save them.” Wrong! Our faith is in response to God’s grace, NOT God’s grace in response to my faith! At the cross Jesus saved us and gave us our free choice back. 

A few weeks ago I was sharing a verse in my Revelation Seminar from Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” A beautiful verse for sure but so many of us read that verse with a legalistic slant. We think that we must know that name and if we know it then we can be saved. That is not what the verse is saying. The verse is not saying that our salvation depends upon us knowing that name. We are saved by that name knowing us! There is no other name that knows or will save us other than Jesus Christ. I have had people lament to me that their wife or brother doesn’t believe in God. I tell them don’t worry, God believes in your wife and brother! 

In closing consider this passage from The Desire of Ages p. 638 “ Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God. How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations, and among the heathen, to hear from the lips of the Saviour, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me”! How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval!”

You can find more studies and devotionals on my personal website at http://www.InLightOfTheCross.com

Thoughts on Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles Lesson 7

Tampa Skyline

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

This week’s SS lesson asks the question, “Some people are afraid of the idea that we are saved only by what Jesus has done for us. They say, if our salvation rests in Christ’s righteousness and not in our own, what’s to stop us from continuing in sin? How would you respond to that concern?”  

The solution is to find what it is that Jesus has saved us from. In other words, the Bible makes it clear we are saved by God’s grace alone, but what is it we are saved from? While it is true that God’s grace saves us from the grave it also saves us from a sinful lifestyle. However many times people only refer to God’s grace saving us from the grave even in cases where the context is not about the grave but plainly about a sinful lifestyle. Please allow me to share three examples.

 The first verse that is often used for this subject is Ephesians 28-9 which beautifully reads, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” There you have it. Now works but God’s grace. Yet this does not mean that we can continue in sin without a changed life. The very next verse reads, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.So it is by God’s work, in other words borrowing from the question in the SS lesson it is “Only by what Jesus has done for us” that we now have good works. Also let’s examine the context of what Paul is talking about. Here is Ephesians 2:1-10 in its entire context:

 “And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.     But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

 The context is very clear that Jesus has saved us from a sinful lifestyle by grace and not by works, but too many times we take the “saved by grace” and apply it only to being saved from hell when that is not even a part of the subject at all.

  Paul uses the word ‘grace” in Romans 1:5 when he says, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” The context here is grace giving us the power to obey. Nothing here about escaping death, Paul here is clearly talking about escaping a sinful lifestyle.

 In Titus 2:11-12 Paul writes, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Again Paul is not limiting grace to saving us from death. As a matter of fact he is not talking about death at all. He is talking about grace saving us from a sinful lifestyle and empowering us to live a victorious life in the here and now. 

I read just recently in The Great Controversy when Martin Luther became a priest it bothered him how so many of the other priests professed piety, while practicing the most basest of sins and conversation.  While Martin Luther recognized that works do not save a man, he recognized too that the grace of God which alone we rely for salvation is what saves us from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. In other words, while our works will not save us from a sinful lifestyle, the grace of God will. 

Here is a previous post with promises from the classic book The Desire of Ages guaranteeing us victory! I have posted this before but every time I do someone writes who sees and appreciates it for the first time. I invite you to take a look! I also invite you to check out my personal website with Christ centered studies and devotionals.

Thoughts on Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles Lesson 6

Small group Spring Break 033

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “What are ways that we can manifest the spirit of antichrist toward others?”  

I think there are several ways, all of which boils down to pride. For example, many understand Paul is speaking of the anti Christ in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”  

 Do we take God’s place in the temple when we sit in condemnation of our brother? Jesus Himself says in John 5:22, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:” If we decide to condemn a brother are we not trying to sit in Christ’s judgment seat? Are we not making ourselves a “Christ”? 

 It is pride and the spirit of anti-christ that makes us think we can condemn a brother. It is the same foolish pride that makes us think we can save ourselves, or that others must be saved by our standards. In Revelation John writes about the anit-christ and Babylon. Many Adventists recognize the anti-christ as the leader of Babylon. We recognize Babylon as a false system of worship. This is true, but Babylon is more than a system of worship, it is an attitude. 

The attitude of Babylon and the anit-christ is, “I can save myself by my works.” It all started at the tower of Babel when man decided not to trust God anymore and relied on their own efforts to build a tower of salvation. They did not trust God to not destroy them and thought they could work their own way to heaven. Later in the book of Daniel we read where God gave the kingdom into the king of Babylon’s hands. Instead of recognizing this as a free gift, he looks out over his dominion and says, “is this not great Babylon that I have built.” The king of Babylon had to learn that all he had was a gift of grace and not the efforts of his works. In Revelation 14 we read about the fall of Babylon in the second angel’s message. The first angel tells us about the everlasting gospel of grace and uses language which reminds us of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a sign of rest. We rest our faith in God as our creator and redeemer. By giving our allegiance to the gospel and the Sabbath we humble ourselves in recognizing that we did not make ourselves nor redeem ourselves. The Sabbath truth destroys our pride, works, and anti-christ attitudes. Thus Babylon falls, as we realize no man made system of worship is going to save us. Nothing man made can save us whether it is a tower or a day of worship. 

Cain had the attitude of Babylon when he presented the works of his field as a sacrifice. God could not accept any form of worship that had the print of self on it. He could only accept the sacrifice and worship Abel presented which pointed to the Lamb of God, our only hope of salvation.  

 In Galatians 2:20 Paul shows us the pure gospel is “not I but Christ”. Anytime pride tries to make it a combination of our ideas with Christ’s ideas or our works with Christ’s works, we have the spirit of anit-christ and Babylon.

 

You can find more studies and devotionals on my personal website, In Light of The Cross.