Redemption in Romans, Lesson 5

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Wednesday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question,“The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion. . . . Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 35, 36. What does this mean? Why does the idea that we can save ourselves through our works leave us so open to sin?”  I believe that question is answered well in Patriarchs and Prophets, page 717 concerning David’s sin and repentance. 

” The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. 

     It was the spirit of self-confidence and self-exaltation that prepared the way for David’s fall. Flattery and the subtle allurements of power and luxury were not without effect upon him. Intercourse with surrounding nations also exerted an influence for evil. According to the customs prevailing among Eastern rulers, crimes not to be tolerated in subjects were uncondemned in the king; the monarch was not under obligation to exercise the same self-restraint as the subject. All this tended to lessen David’s sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And instead of relying in humility upon the power of Jehovah, he began to trust to his own wisdom and might. As soon as Satan can separate the soul from God, the only Source of strength, he will seek to arouse the unholy desires of man’s carnal nature. The work of the enemy is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and startling; it is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins in apparently small things–the neglect to be true to God and to rely upon Him wholly, the disposition to follow the customs and practices of the world.”

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You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 4

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In this week’s SS lesson we read, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. “ Romans 3:31

While reading through the Old Testament in my personal devotions I discovered something I had not realized before about when Moses struck the rock. God told him to speak to the rock and water would come out. Instead Moses struck the rock and said must ”we fetch you water”. I always thought that it was a combination of Moses’ anger and pride that got him into trouble. 1. Striking the rock instead of speaking and 2. Saying must “we” fetch instead of God, insinuated Moses was taking credit for the miracle. However, in verse 12 of Numbers 20 I found another clue. God infers that Moses struck the rock because of his unbelief. Maybe Moses did not think speaking would work. What if God does not do His part too? So Moses in striking the rock was doing the work himself in forcing the water out like the last time. Instead of speaking and trusting God, Moses decided to work the entire miracle out on his own.

There are two extremes man has been struggling with ever since sin began. One is that we can produce good works on our own. The other is that since righteousness comes by faith that it is not a real righteousness but rather that God just plays make believe and pretends to make us righteous.

If Moses had obeyed God and believed water would come from the rock just by speaking (notice how believing and obedience go together and you can’t have one without the other) there would have been real water flowing out from the rock. It would not have been make believe water. Likewise when God gives us righteousness by faith, that righteousness is just as real as anything else we get by faith. This idea of make believe righteousness also lead to the erroneous idea that the law is done away with. The law is the character of God which is love. To do away with the law is to do away with love and the character of God. Why would we do that? Psalms 19 says “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.” Why would God do away with something that is perfect and  a vital part of our conversion?

“But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.  {Desire of Ages 126.1} 

When we confess our sin (That is our part, speaking, just as Moses was to speak) God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God literally forgives and He also literally cleanses us from sin so that we do not have to continue hurting ourselves and others.  By faith, this cleansing from the power of sin is just as real as the water that came gushing from the rock that Moses was to speak to.

In legalism (Which is the works or efforts of the flesh)  or in the gospel, righteousness is the goal. Legalism wants to strike the rock and force that water out ourselves to bring that cleansing from sin. Faith believes if we ask God, He will do His part to make the cleansing water gush into our hearts and souls cleansing us from the guilt and power of sin.

 You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of the Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 3

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In light of this week’s SS lesson I like the below passage from “Reflecting Christ, p.77  So many times we quote Romans 3:23 which says we all are sinners without continuing the sentence into verse 24 where it says that all have been justified! The same “all” that were sinners.

 Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23, 24, R.S.V.     

  We need Jesus every moment. To lose His love from our hearts means much. Yet He Himself says: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” . . .  The religion of many is very much like an icicle–freezingly cold. The hearts of not a few are still unmelted, unsubdued. They cannot touch the hearts of others, because their own hearts are not surcharged with the blessed love that flows from the heart of Christ. . . .       Genuine religion is based upon a belief in the Scriptures. God’s Word is to be believed without question. No part of it is to be cut and carved to fit certain theories. Men are not to exalt human wisdom by sitting in judgment upon God’s Word. The Bible was written by holy men of old, as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit; and this Book contains all that we know for certain and all that we can ever hope to learn in regard to God and Christ, unless, like Paul, we are taken to the third heaven. . . . This revelation to the apostle did not spoil his humility. 

     The life of a Christian is a life regulated by the Word of God just as it reads. All the truths of the Old and the New Testaments form a complete whole. These truths we are to cherish, believe, and obey. To the true disciple, faith in God’s Word is a living, active principle; for “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). By faith man believes that he receives the righteousness of Christ.  
     Faith, in itself, is an act of the mind. Jesus Himself is the author and the finisher of our faith. He gave His life for us; and His blood speaks in our behalf better things than spoke the blood of Abel, which cried unto God against Cain the murderer. Christ’s blood was shed to remit our sins.  

     Many commit the error of trying to define minutely the fine points of distinction between justification and sanctification. Into the definitions of these two terms they often bring their own ideas and speculations. Why try to be more minute than is Inspiration on the vital question of righteousness by faith?–Manuscript 21, 1891. 

     Those who are united with Christ through the daily, hourly exercise of the faith which works by love and purifies the soul receive the forgiveness of their sins, and are sanctified unto eternal life.–Manuscript 12a, 1901. 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

The Human Race Has A Sin Problem

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile Romans 2:9

Romans 2 and this week’s SS lesson makes it clear that we are all have a sin problem. Even those who preach the truth struggle with sin. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1 NIV  For example, the same men who wrote those noble words on the Declaration of Independence  “All men are created equal” also owned slaves! And while we are at it, let’s make it clear that not all slave owners were white and not all slaves were black. This is not about race. It is not about time. Romans 2 makes it clear that the entire human race has a sin problem. Jew, Gentile, Yellow, red, brown, and black and white, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, we are all a part of the only race the Bible recognizes, and that is the human race. The human race has a sin problem.

The Jews were appalled at the crimes their fathers committed against God’s prophets and then turned right around and Crucified His Son! When you study history you find you are not studying about long ago and faraway places as much as you are studying about human nature in anytime and anyplace. We are all the same. We can stereotype and label other people as having a sin problem, or we can confront the fact the we ourselves have a sin problem. Here is good news for those who accept they have a sin problem:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 NIV

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NIV

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “—and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalms 32:5

Before we can be a part of the solution we have to see ourselves as part of the problem. Romans has the solution for the sin problem!

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Why I am Proud of My Tampa First SDA Church Family

I am writing today from my beautiful Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson deals with the reputation of the church in Rome. Thursday’s section asks the question, “What about your local church? What kind of reputation does it have? Or, even more important, does it even have one at all? What does your answer tell you about your local church? More important, if need be, how can you help improve the situation? “

 

There are many reasons I am proud of my church, The Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

    1.  Our community Service Center has a reputation in the community for helping feed and clothe the less fortunate. This is done while protecting the dignity of those we serve. After all, in today’s economy we never know when we will be next.

2.       Our evangelism is passionate and Christ centered. For example, our church will be reaching out to the community next Saturday evening when we show the movie, “To Save A Life.”  This is not your ordinary Adventist evangelism campaign. The movie addresses issues such as teen suicide, cutting, teenage sexuality and drinking. Topics not usually covered in a regular evangelistic meeting, but our church wants to do more than make new members, we want to meet people’s needs right where they are! I love the attitude of our new associate pastor Claudette Aleman. She has a passion for souls, not just numbers in her church. She has been inviting other churches of all denominations to bring their youth and join us. She will then provide these churches with a program to follow up with their own youth after seeing the movie. She is making it a team effort and being a team player, reaching souls not for herself or her church but for Christ! Her heart’s desire is to help young people find Jesus regardless of what church or denomination they choose. Evangelism without politics, how refreshing!

I could go on and on about how proud I am of those serving at Tampa First and I plan to as time goes on in these lessons. I want to exclaim with Paul, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8

Find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.