Tag Archives: Sabbath School Lessons

What Does it Mean to be Under Grace?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states,

“What do you say to those who claim that because of the grace of Christ, they are free from the law? What do they often really mean by that, and how would you answer them?”

I have heard Christians tell me not to worry about keeping the law because we are no longer under the law. We are under grace.(Funny thing is, they only tell me that when it comes to Sabbath keeping. They never tell me I am free to kill or steal. Just free to break the Sabbath. Some people say the ten commandments should be posted in our schools and courthouses, and then the moment you mention the Sabbath, they turn around and tell you the commandments were done away with.)Let’s take a look at that motif in its context.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NKJV

The context here, tells us it is sin that we are free from. 1 John 3:4 tells us sin is the transgression of the law.

…sin is the transgression of the law.

So grace frees us from sin so we can keep God’s law. Therefore we are no longer under the condemnation of the law. Let’s suppose that I am driving 160 KPH down a highway where there is no speed limit. An officer pulls me over and says, “You were going 160 KPH. I was thinking of giving you a ticket but I will just let you go.” Would that be grace? No! There was no speed limit. So what would I need his grace for? If there is no law I don’t need grace. I can’t break a law that is not there. The fact that we need grace tells me there is still a law. By electric company gives me a ten day grace period to pay my bill after the due date. A grace period would mean nothing without a due date, and God’s grace would mean nothing without a law.

Lets now suppose I am driving down a highway where there is indeed a speed limit of 75 KPH. I am driving the speed limit. Can an officer pull me over and give me a speeding ticket? No. Why? Because I am in harmony with the law and not under the officer’s condemnation. This is what Paul is talking about,when he says we are not under the law but under grace. He makes this clear in the following passage.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18 NKJV

God’s grace keeps me in harmony with the law, so I don’t fall under its condemnation.

Authority and Power over Temptation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day at work many years ago, my boss crossed the line and really upset me. I felt I was being pressured beyond what I could endure. I was about to march into my boss’ office and spew out a series of un-Christlike words. Not that it is wrong to confront your boss when he is out of line, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I was tempted to do it the wrong way. I just could not take it anymore! I remembered the promise Paul gave.

 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Instead of simply claiming the promise, I sent up a prayer to God and told Him He was not holding to His end of the agreement, because I was beyond what I felt I could stand and overcome. I remember in that moment I felt a peace come over me, and my desire to march into my boss’ office with a string of un-sanctified words was gone. God did hold to His agreement! Ever since then, every time I have been tempted, God has delivered me once I remembered and choseto claim this promise.

It is a misnomer that God will not give you more than you can handle. He will definitely give you more than you can handle, but He will never give you more than He can handle if you just let Him be the One to handle it.

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.Luke 9:1 NLT

 

A semi truck comes barreling down the highway, but comes to a complete stop when the traffic officer puts up his hand. The truck has more power than the officer, but the officer has the authority. The state backs the officer’s authority, and the state with its military has more power than the semi truck. Likewise on our own we have no power to defeat the enemy. But authority over evil has been given to us, and all the power of heaven backs up our authority over evil. Just like the police officer has no power by himself to stop a semi truck, the state gives him the authority and the state has the power to enforce his authority over the semi truck. Likewise we have no power by ourselves to overcome temptation, but God gives us authority over evil and provides the power to overcome.

“He would sooner send every angel out of Heaven to protect his people, than leave one soul that trusts in him to be overcome by Satan.” -Great Controversy Page 560

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Faithfulness by Thankfulness

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 2 Timothy 3:1-2 NKJV

Being unthankful is more than just bad manners. It is one of the perils of the last days. Being unthankful goes right along with disobedience and being unholy.

So what goes along with being obedient and holy? Thankfulness does.

Luke 7:1-50 tells a story of a woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with a bottle of perfume, which costed her all she had. At the end of the story, Jesus tells the woman,

 “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:50 NKJV

What was this faith that saved her? This faith went deeper than belief.

 Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19 NKJV

This woman more than believed Jesus would die for her. She appreciated it! InJohn 8:1-11 this woman could have been killed for her sin, but Jesus took her place. Jesus gave all of Himself for her, and so in that bottle of perfume she gave all of herself to Jesus. It was her way of saying thank you. Her faith was her thankfulness.

Mary Magdalene was so thankful for this love, that her thankfulness perfected her faith.

As Paul said in our opening verse, in the last days many will be unthankful. They will have no appreciation for the cross or grace of God. Their love for money, and willingness to blaspheme God will make them disregard the Sabbath and accept the mark of the beast, so they can buy and sell and put food on the family table. They will not thank God for anything because after all, it was their own works that put that bread on their table.

Another group will not take the mark of the beast. They will rest their faith in Jesus and honor the Sabbath. They will be willing to give up the right to buy and sell because of what Jesus has already given up for them. And when they eat they will give thanks, because they know it was not their works that put bread on the table but rather God’s grace. Thankfulness will perfect their faith, just as thankfulness perfected the faith of the woman, who gave everything to the One who gave everything for her.

Jesus says of the woman who poured that perfume all over Him,

wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matthew 26:12 NKJV

The first angel of Revelation 14:6-12 takes the everlasting gospel into all the world, and Jesus says wherever that angel takes the gospel this woman’s story is to go along. Her thankfulness led to her faithfulness and righteousness. Thankful people will not take the mark of the beast. Like this woman, they will be too much in love with Jesus to consider such a thing. They will give all of themselves to Jesus because He gave all of Himself for them.

We find this woman at the tomb on Sunday morning. Fear of the Jews may have kept the disciples away, but fear could not keep her away! Nor did any hope of reward lead her there. She did not expect to find Jesus risen. She came only expecting to anoint His body once again. Love alone drew her to Jesus’ body that morning. In that tomb was a Man who loved her like she had never been loved before. She was there to show her thankfulness for that love even if no reward came with it. This is the story that must be preached wherever the gospel and three angel’s message is preached. God does not wish for any legalistic hope of reward or fear of punishment to mar the gospel and three angels’ message. He wants His love alone to draw us to Him the way it drew Mary Magdalene to Him. Perfect faith has but one agenda, and that is to give all of ourselves to Jesus just to say “thank you” for giving all of Himself for us.

May Jesus find in us a thankful heart, so He may say to us,

 “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:50 NKJV

you may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

“Occupy Till I Come”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I was running my shift at UPS early one morning, trying to beat the clock, as we loaded the package cars, and prepared them for their busy day. In the midst of our hustle and bustle an alarm sounded. A sorter spotted flames on a conveyor belt. We safely evacuated the building and made sure everyone was okay. The fire was actually extinguished before the distant sirens arrived. Later, I recollected how we were focused on getting our job done, in time for all the brown package cars to deliver their thousands of packages, all over a waking city, preparing itself for business. In a split second, our important task meant nothing and we were all prepared to quickly walk away and let the building, and all of our business burn to the ground if need be.

We were dedicated to our jobs at UPS but we still had enough sense to know when to walk away. I think this is the kind of balance we need when we hear the words,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.Matthew 24:42

and,

Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

Some people complain that our church is not preaching enough about the second coming. They complain we just preach about day to day living. Yet these sermons are still very Biblical as Jesus taught us about day to day living. He did not teach us to sit around waiting for Him to come. He also taught us how to live in the here and now. The Bible says, “occupy” (do business in the NKJV) until He comes.

While our church is focused on the prophecies of the second coming, and rightfully so, we must also remember those words in Luke, “Occupy till I come.” Remember the purpose of the gospel is to make people whole. This means more than just telling people what the mark of the beast is, when we can’t buy and sell. It also means teaching people Biblical stewardship and money management, while we occupy and can buy and sell. Making people whole means more than just telling them dead people are dead. It means helping them to become whole again as they deal with grief day to day until the resurrection.

Making people whole involves more than just telling people adultery is wrong. It also means ministering to and healing those scarred by divorce. A friend who had just joined the Adventist church, had emotional scars from divorce. He told me he was glad he had found the Adventist doctrines, but complained that there was nothing in our church to help with the daily pain of divorce. He went to a divorce recovery workshop the local Methodist church shared with the community. He asked me why we had nothing like that in our church.

Is it the job of other churches to help with day to day life while the Adventist church just tells people about the mark of the beast and second coming? No! The first angel in Revelation 14 carries the everlasting gospel to the entire world. The everlasting gospel is a holistic gospel designed to make the entire person whole, body, mind and soul. I am very proud that today I work with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, which like many other Adventist churches today, is ministering to the entire person. Like many other Adventist churches, my local church has “Life groups” on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights people come to our church and can join a prophecy seminar I am leading out in, or they can choose between a griefshare group, parenting group, divorce recovery group and spiritual gifts workshop. We have had many workshops ranging from finances to sexual purity.

The Adventist Church proclaims a holistic gospel which brings healing in our every day lives while preparing for the second coming.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Jesus Won’t Forget to Pick You up

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.

We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.

There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.

I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?

I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.

This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

What is the Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of conducting my “In Light of the Cross” gospel seminar in New England. While there, a kind and gracious member of the Adventist Church I was speaking in, gave me a tour of the region and several old New England churches. Being a history buff, and realizing that the religious awakening, which spawned the Advent movement began in New England, created in my heart a deep appreciation for these old churches, some built in the early 1700′s or before.

New England Churches 100

I walked into one sanctuary, built in 1732,and sat on a pew deep in thought, contemplating the hundreds of people who had sat in that sanctuary over the last 280 years! I admired the pulpit from where the gospel was preached to weary sinners for centuries. Yes, I realize these churches were not Adventist churches, but they still preached the cross to sinners, and I imagine over the centuries many a sin weary pilgrim has laid his burden down on the altar and taken up the cross of Jesus. For that I am very thankful for these churches of various denominations. Each of these churches of various denominations were fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus that,

  ..this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, in [into] witnessing to all folks; and then the end shall come.Matthew 24:14 WYC (In my previous posts I often used the NLT Bible translation. However, writing about old churches and the religious awakening has me in a Wycliffe version frame of mind.)

When we think of the gospel we think of “good news.” Paul defines the gospel more specifically as the good news of the cross. The gospel is the cross.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of Christ be not voided away. 1 Corinthians 1:17 WYC

Protestant churches rose out of the dark ages with the light of the gospel. John Wycliffe is remembered as “the morning star of the reformation.” If the sun rose up all at once it would blind us. God first sends the morning star to pierce the darkness so we become accustomed to a little light, and the sun gradually rises until noonday when the  darkness is gone and

the earth was lightened of his glory. Revelation 18:1 WYC

So while many think there are many different church denominations because everyone interprets the Bible differently, truth is, each Protestant church has discovered different points of light about the gospel, leading us gradually out of the Dark Ages. It is not so much about interpreting things differently as  it is about progressing as we have more light, with each ray of light leading us farther and farther out of darkness into the full light of the cross.

God has always had a people in every church, and the Protestant reformers were a light in the their time, leading to the Protestant Reformation, which brought us to the religious awakening and Advent Movement.

So the question is, what new light has the Advent Movement shined on the gospel of the cross?

1. The Gospel saves us from death instead of eternal torment.

 For the wages of sin is death.. Romans 6:23 WYC

The wages of sin is death and not eternal torment. As we study the doctrine ofthe punishment of the wicked, in the light of the cross, we get new light not only on doctrine but more importantly on the character of God. God is not a psychopath wanting to torture people because they did not love Him, and make them wish they had. He is a God of love. The purpose of hell is not to torment sinners (Though there will be torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth for a time) but rather to put sinners out of their misery.

For God loved so the world [Forsooth God so loved the world], that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 WYC

The most popular verse of the Gospel tells us Jesus saves us from perishing and not eternal torment in hell.

2. Jesus really died for us.

The Biblical teaching of the state of the dead changes how we view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If we believe in the immortality of the soul, and that one does not really die, then Jesus never died and we are still without a Savior. However, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not only truly die, but He died the second death for us. He faced not only death but the death of the wicked, which meant He loved us so much He was willing to go into total oblivion and be totally separated from God. He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He experienced and saved us from the death of the wicked – being totally separated from God, which has the effect of eternal oblivion.

..all the heathen shall busily drink, and they shall drink, and they shall swallow it all down; and then they shall be as if they had never been. Obadiah 1:16 WYC

3. Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.

I once heard a Protestant preacher on the radio say, “In order for you to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” The preacher went on to talk about how Jesus saves us from sinful addictions. Seventh-day Adventists understand that on the cross Jesus freed us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.

God the Father made him sin for us, which knew not sin, that we should be made [the] rightwiseness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 WYC

And he himself bare our sins in his body on a tree [Which he himself suffered, or bare, our sins in his body on the tree], that we be dead to sins, and live to rightwiseness, by whose wan wound ye be healed. 1 peter 2:24 WYC

Okay I think that last one needs a little help from the NLT!

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

The gospel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking into all the world not only gives us a clearer vision of the cross, but an even clearer vision of the the character of God.

God is a loving God who is not going to torment the wicked for all eternity because they did not love Him. He is a God of love who does not wish for us to perish. By understanding the Bible truth about death we understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and what great depths he was willing to go to in order to save us. We understand that He saves us from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, so that we don’t have to be slaves to the sinful addictions that hurt us over and over.

This is the gospel that pierced the dark ages until it will one day be preached all over the world and then the world will be lightened with His glory. May we engage in the work of spreading this Good News!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School less here. 

Growing Like Jesus to be Like Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. Nicholas A. Ferroni

There is no true education, growth or maturity without love. On my first day of kindergarten, way back in the mid 1900′s I was given a red badge to wear, which meant I belonged to the red group, and would be doing activities with the kids in my group. That red badge did more than tell me where I was suppose to be. It gave me a sense of belonging. That was my first step towards education; a sense of belonging.

Red Tag

 

 

 

 

Folk who visit your Sabbath School class for the first time, may be grown ups telling you they are just “checking this class out” or “wanting to learn more about what the Bible teaches,” but truth is, their learning system is no different than my kindergarten days. They are looking for belonging. Sure they want to learn, but what they want more than anything else is to be loved and belong. Most people will not settle into a learning environment until they are sure they belong.

Universities don’t send out approval letters. They send out “acceptance” letters. The college scholar jumps up and down with delight when they get their “acceptance” letter in the mail, just like I did in kindergarten when I got my red badge. Acceptance is a life long journey. I don’t mean that it should take a lifetime to become accepted. I mean, “Acceptance” is the name of the vehicle that will get you through life.

Jesus in His humanity needed acceptance in order to grow as a child.

 “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 NLT

Jesus shined in His interview with the religious leaders, because He knew He belonged somewhere, and He knew where it was. Jesus had a sense of belonging. This is what enabled Him to grow and be educated, and that is what enables us to learn and grow as well.

1. Jesus learned the Scriptures as a Child 

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

Children can do likewise today.

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

2. Jesus’ prayer life gave Him acceptance and wisdom.

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. Luke 6:12 NLT

And so it may be with us.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

3. Jesus elevated His thoughts towards noble themes.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Jesus can help us do likewise.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Philppians 2:5 NLT

4. Jesus kept busy with his vocation and avoided Satan’s idle temptations. 

  Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, Mark 6:3 NLT

We are counselled to do likewise.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT

5. Jesus spent no aimless hours with corrupting associates, thus closing the door to temptation.

In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

Jesus encouraged us likewise.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus was able to grow in wisdom and moral stature knowing that He belonged to God and God’s true people.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52 NLT

As He grew He never lost his need of knowing He was accepted by the Father.

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17 NLT

Right after the resurrection Jesus needed His Father’s acceptance, just like when He was in the temple as a boy. He accomplished what He did, knowing He belonged to “My God.”  Likewise I needed a sense of acceptance and belonging when I received my red badge in kindergarten and later my acceptance letter to Southern Adventist University. Likewise, those in your Sabbath School class will grow and learn, when they know they are accepted and belong.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.