Redemption in Romans, Lesson 10 Pharaoh’s Heart

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson quotes, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18).  This verse has confused many into thinking that God actually wants some people to be lost. Here is an explanation that I have provided on my In Light Of The Cross website in the section, “Difficult Texts“.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:15-19

  

Many take the quote, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” as God defending His right not to be merciful to some people. However it is a direct quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses is asking for a special favor to see God’s glory. The question is not one of personal salvation, but rather God defending His right to give Moses the favor he requested and receive God’s mercy in seeing His glory. By showing mercy and compassion on whomever He wants, God is not defending His right to not be good to people but rather the exact opposite, which is His right to be good to people who don’t even deserve it. If you think about it, God would not have to defend His right to not be good to people as no one deserves that right in the first place.

  

Did God give Pharaoh a rebellious heart? Not at all! God did not make Pharaoh to be rebellious just to accomplish His own purpose. God was actually preserving his life through all of the plagues. God simply preserved his life even though he deserved to be destroyed and accomplished His purposes.

  

God did not actually harden Pharaoh’s heart, but rather accepts responsibility for what He did not prevent. Exodus 8:15 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”  And again in verse 32 of the same chapter we read, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.” So we clearly see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.   While some people allow God’s goodness to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) others take advantage of God’s goodness to continue in sin and rebellion (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus because of people’s own choices they are softened or hardened by God’s goodness. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. You have a choice. You can let God’s love melt your heart or you can harden yourself by resisting that love. The choice is yours.

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

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 9

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson takes a look at freedom in Christ. To me, real freedom begins when we break free from Satan’s lies. Jesus says in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth is about God’s love. Jesus is the truth. Jesus equals God. God equals love, therefore the Truth must equal love as well. So we see that Truth is much deeper than setting the world straight about what day is Holy or what foods should not be eaten. The truth Jesus speaks of is His love and character.

Satan appeared as a serpent and told Eve she just had to try this forbidden fruit in order to experience a higher quality of life. The serpent insinuated that God did not want her to have a quality life. By taking the fruit, Eve was putting her faith in the serpent. Eve’s sin was unbelief  in God’s love. When we sin, we do not doubt God’s power. we doubt His love. When this sin occurred, God did not leave Adam and Eve. God stayed right where He was, but Adam and Eve ran from Him. Sin does not separate God from us. It separates us from God.  Notice whenever Jesus was in the presence of a demoniac , Jesus was not repulsed or tormented by the presence of the demoniac but rather the demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus.

Even after Adam and Eve separated themselves from God He still had a plan. He would show His love by dying for them! In 1 John 1:29 John says to Behold the Lamb. By beholding we become changed. What changes is our attitude about God’s love. We behold a God who loves us so much He would die forever in order to save us. Save us from what? The lies of Satan that bring death. You see when we buy Satan’s lies and put our faith in him, we reject Jesus who is the life and we choose death. When we behold the Lamb, our attitude about His character changes and we believe in Him again. When we believe in God and His love, all the damage caused by Adam and Eve are reversed. When we believe God really loves us, we no longer choose to perish and we accept back the eternal life that God had wanted us to have all along. See John 3:16.  (Isaiah 28:15 & 18 refer to an agreement the sinner has made with death and hell. In this chapter the Messiah breaks not the agreement He had made for the destruction of the sinner, but rather the agreement the sinner had made with death. Verse 15 also implies that the covenant was made when the sinner trusted in lies.)

God the Father did not need to see His Son die in order to forgive us as much as we needed to see His Son die in order to repent of our attitude about Him and His love! When we see the truth about God’s love we can experience freedom from Satan’s lies. We will no longer bind ourselves to other god’s, buying the lie that they will make us happy. We will no longer buy Satan’s lies that we need to steal , lie, or covet to get what others have to be happy. We are freed from the lie that immoral sex brings fulfillment. Remember, the serpent did not make Eve doubt God’s power. He made her doubt God’s love.  When the Son sets you free from Satan’s lies and false accusations about God not being a God of love, and you see the truth about His love, you shall be free indeed!

Click here to see some ways Satan lies about God’s Character and what the truth really is.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 8

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we study this week’s SS lesson we find there is only one hope for Paul in his struggle in Romans 7.

  It is not enough to perceive the loving-kindness of God, to see the benevolence, the fatherly tenderness, of His character. It is not enough to discern the wisdom and justice of His law, to see that it is founded upon the eternal principle of love. Paul the apostle saw all this when he exclaimed, “I consent unto the law that it is good.” “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” But he added, in the bitterness of his soul-anguish and despair, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:16, 12, 14. He longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24, margin. Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all, there is but one answer, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.  {SC 19.1} 
     Many are the figures by which the Spirit of God has sought to illustrate this truth, and make it plain to souls that long to be freed from the burden of guilt. When, after his sin in deceiving Esau, Jacob fled from his father’s home, he was weighed down with a sense of guilt. Lonely and outcast as he was, separated from all that had made life dear, the one thought that above all others pressed upon his soul, was the fear that his sin had cut him off from God, that he was forsaken of Heaven. In sadness he lay down to rest on the bare earth, around him only the lonely hills, and above, the heavens bright with stars. As he slept, a strange light broke upon his vision; and lo, from the plain on which he lay, vast shadowy stairs seemed to lead upward to the very gates of heaven, and upon them angels of God were passing up and down; while from the glory above, the divine voice was heard in a message of comfort and hope. Thus was made known to Jacob that which met the need and longing of his soul–a Saviour. With joy and gratitude he saw revealed a way by which he, a sinner, could be restored to communion with God. The mystic ladder of his dream represented Jesus, the only medium of communication between God and man.  {SC 19.2} 
     This is the same figure to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nathanael, when He said, “Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1:51. In the apostasy, man alienated himself from God; earth was cut off from heaven. Across the gulf that lay between, there could be no communion. But through Christ, earth is again linked with heaven. With His own merits, Christ has bridged the gulf which sin had made, so that the ministering angels can hold communion with man. Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power. -
Steps to Christ, P. 19

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

Victory Over Sin? What is Sin? Redemption in Romans, Lesson 7

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In order to have victory over sin, we must properly define sin. I believe the sin defined in John 16:9 is the cause of the sin in 1 John 3:4. Thus we must deal with the sin of unbelief in John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin.

As we take a look at this week’s SS lesson on victory over sin, I have a question.  For years we as Adventists have used 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin which is transgression of the law. How would things change if John 16:9 was the primary definition of sin, which is unbelief?

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition we have God kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden and giving them death because they ate one piece of fruit they were told not to.  That is not unbiblical but it is only half the picture of the story and more importantly half the picture of God’s character. With John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin we have Adam and Eve placing their trust in Satan’s lies and not believing in God’s word. Thus they themselves turn their backs on God and forfeit their home through unbelief in breaking their relationship with God in lieu of the really cool serpent and fancy lies.

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we struggle with John 3:16 and wonder where works come in.  With John 16:9 as our primary definition we see that God gave His son to die for us and show us the truth about God’s love. Thus as we believe in Him, we now turn our backs on Satan’s lies, our relationship is restored and we have the eternal life that was originally granted in the Garden of Eden. We are now free to obey God, and the secondary definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 is fulfilled because we now trust God and therefore we trust His commandments.

Paul’s book of Hebrews is on the sanctuary and even the cleansing of the sanctuary.  In Hebrews 10:26 Paul writes, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Now if we use 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we have people going to hell because they made one mistake after knowing the truth. It is important to note that the entire book of Hebrews is explaining why Jesus has not returned yet and what He is doing in the sanctuary before His return. Paul admonishes the early believers not to give up their faith and stop assembling together, Christ will return. So I am sure the primary definition of sin in Hebrews 10:26 is the sin of unbelief. Paul is not saying that if you break the law after knowing the truth there is no more forgiveness. He is saying that if we sin in not believing in Jesus as the Son of God there will be no other sacrifice or Savior.

Now as we look at the cleansing of the Sanctuary in Daniel 8:14, we see that while God can and does give complete victory over the sin defined in 1 John 3:4, that still is not the main focus or goal of the cleansing of the sanctuary. “Our characters are not to be weighed by smooth words and fair speeches manufactured for set times and occasions; but by the spirit and trend of the whole life.” Review and Herald August 16, 1892. “The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.“ {Steps to Christ 57.2}  If we take John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin in the cleansing of the sanctuary it changes things.  In the cleansing of the Sanctuary our minds and hearts (where the real sanctuary is) are cleansed from the lies mankind started believing in the Garden of Eden. We see the true character of God revealed on the Cross and we believe in Him. When our minds are cleansed of Satan’s lies we can make intelligent choices and choose the One who has already accepted and chosen us all along.

This changes how we look at a popular passage in the Spirit of Prophecy. “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  {Christ Object Lessons 69.1}  Traditionally  we have taken this passage to mean that once we get our act together and show the world God’s Word can perfectly be obeyed without making one single mistake, then God will come back to take us home. It is true by God’s grace we can have complete victory over every single sin. However that is not what the great controversy is all about. The great question in the great controversy is whether God is love or not. When God’s church perfectly reflects the character of God’s love, then the world can make an intelligent decision as to if they will believe in God’s love or not.  God does not want us to be perfect so we can go to heaven. He wants to perfect our love so that we give Him proper representation in the judgment, where His character is on trial. When the church perfectly appreciates God’s love then the chasm that we ourselves created by believing Satan’s lies will be healed.

I believe that if we keep 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin then we will always be legalists and never be able to deal with the sin problem defined in John  16:9 or 1 John 3:4. I believe if we use John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin, we lose the legalism, grasp the big picture of what sin really is and what the great controversy is all about, and we allow grace to do its work in healing the sin problem defined in both John 16:9 and 1 John 3:4.

I will be the first to tell you that this is a huge topic and I don’t pretend to know it all or have all the answers. Please comment and let me know why you agree or why you disagree. Thank you! You can leave a comment below on this blog or contact me privately at laypastor@TampaAdventist.net

Was The Atonement to Appease an Angry God or an Angry Race?

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

These are my thoughts as we study this week’s SS Lesson in Redemption in Romans.

 
 
 
 
 

 

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

 

Was the atonement and sacrifice of Christ a matter of vengeance? Did God the Father send His Son to die because He needed to see someone suffer for the rebellion?   Do we serve a God that just has to see somebody suffer and pay the price for disobeying Him? Really, why did Christ have to die?

 

There is so much more to the atonement than we mortals can even begin to imagine. Satan would like us to be short sighted and only see God becoming a man and thus providing a human sacrifice to appease an angry God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. First of all, God is not angry with us, but rather we are angry with God. The atonement is not about us making peace with God it’s about God making peace with us! After the fall, it was not God running from man but man running from God. It was God who wanted to make an atonement, not man. When God came to earth the angels announced “Peace on earth good will towards man” not “God is over in Bethlehem and boy is He angry with you, you’d better go over there and talk to Him and see if you can get this thing straightened out!” God Himself had already straightened things out between us when He became “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

 

God did not need to see His Son or someone else suffer in order to be satisfied. Simply put, God says, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:36 It is not that God wants to see someone suffer but rather that the sinner loves death. God does not want us to love death, He wants us to love life! Romans 8:7 tells us clearly what the problems is. God is not at enmity with us but rather “the carnal mind [is] enmity against God.”

 

So why is the carnal mind at enmity with God? Because we have bought into Satan’s lie that God is not a God of love. That He is really quite selfish and only thinks of Himself. The carnal mind also believes that only Satan and a lawless society can make us happy. Satan has deceived the human race into thinking that God is a selfish tyrant forcing people to worship Him and obey His laws because He is wrapped up in Himself. Satan has deceived the human race and even a third of the angels into thinking that Satan is more concerned about our welfare and happiness than God is.

 

This is why there needed to be an atonement. Not so that an angry God could see someone suffer, but so that humanity could see the real character of God and the real character of Satan. God provided an atonement not so much for our sin but because our minds and attitude need to be healed.  (Salvation comes from the word, “salvo,” which means healing.  The Bible states Jesus came to save his people from their sins.  What this actually means is Jesus came to heal us by removing Satan’s lies from our minds, which is the cleansing of the sanctuary). And not just for our attitude but also the attitude of the angels. In John 8, Jesus calls Satan a murderer from the very start. Who did Satan murder in heaven? Remember Jesus says if you want to commit murder, it is as if you already have. When Satan said he wanted to sit on the throne of the Most High there was murder in his heart as you can only take the throne if you kill the one already on it. Meanwhile, Satan is trying to convince the angels that God is selfish and he is the only one who cares about others. A third of the angels go with Satan while the others stayed but were not totally convinced about who was right.

 

The cross more than atones for sin, it also atones our attitude with God’s attitude. At the cross we see Satan and see his true colors. While telling the angels he was the only one who really cared for them, at the Cross we see Satan is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of being number one. Satan is all about preserving self at the expense of others. Meanwhile, at the cross we see the true colors of God. While Satan accused Christ of being selfish, we see that Christ is willing to die in order to save the world. Christ wants to preserve others even at His own expense.

 

God did not need to see Jesus die in order to be atoned with us, but rather we needed to see Jesus die in order for our attitude to be atoned with His attitude. Christ’s suffering was not to appease an angry God but rather to appease an angry human race and the rest of the universe that had questions about His true character.

 

Satan uses pagan religions and pagan gods to skew our understanding of the Christian religion and the True God. In pagan religions, the people make human sacrifices to get the god to accept them. The Aztecs were making human sacrifices up until the 1500s in order to get the sun to rise. They thought the sun would not rise unless the gods saw them making a human sacrifice. In Christianity the exact opposite is true. The God sacrifices Himself to get the people to accept Him. God is not at war with humanity; humanity is at war with God. God the Father did not need to see his Son suffer to change His attitude towards us as much as we needed to see God suffer on the cross to change our attitude towards Him, thus the atonement.

 

 

 

May God richly bless our understanding of the atonement as we study this quarter and throughout all eternity.

 

 

 

Please also visit my personal website, In Light Of The Cross.