Ever have one of those days where it seems nothing is going right? I had one of those a while back. I went to my regular barber shop, wrote my name on the waiting list and sat down to wait only for my name to never be called. People were coming and signing after me and getting waited on before me, so I went to another nearby barbershop, only to find the wait was too long.
I had no more time to waste as I had to get to a Bible study on the other side of town. After the Bible study I saw a barber shop nearby. I got waited on right away. The barber asked me where I worked, and I told him I gave Bible studies. He told me he wanted to learn more about the Bible. He did not want personal studies, but he did want the Bible study guides and some literature I had in my car. As I drove away I realized why the first couple of places never waited on me. The Holy Spirit was working on the barber’s heart across town, and so He worked things out to get me where I needed to be.
Something Similar happened to Paul and Silas.
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Acts 16:6 NLT
I wonder if Paul and Silas saw it that way? I mean did they realize it was the Holy Spirit that was preventing them from preaching in Asia or did they blame it on the devil? What may have looked like a victory for the dark side was actually a victory for God. Often when I lose control of a situation and things don’t go my way, I am tempted to think that evil is getting the upper hand, when in reality God is still in control. He is just not doing things my way!
God had a plan to save Asia, but Paul and Silas’ current missionary tour was not a part of God’s plan to save Asia at that time. Earlier I asked if Paul and Silas saw it that way, and maybe they did. However, I know many times today when we set out with goals we get discouraged when they are not carried out according to our plan. Its not necessarily that things did not go according to God’s plan, but they just did not go according to our plan. God had another plan for Paul.
Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:7-8 NLT
Wow nothing seemed to be going right. Ever have one of those days or even years where it seems nothing was going your way? Several years ago I lost my job and my fiancée, and nothing was going right at my new job. It was so bad it made me wonder if I was even suppose to be born, or if I was an accident that God did not know what to do with! Looking back now, it was just a little bump in the road to better things and the best years of my life. Stay with me here.
That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. Acts 16:9-10 NLT
Ah! That is why there was a roadblock on the way to Asia, Mysia and Bithynia! It wasn’t evil getting the upper hand, just like it wasn’t evil getting the upper hand when I could not get my hair cut. The Holy Spirit was using those roadblocks to get Paul and Silas to where they needed to be!
Remember God has a plan for your life even when it seems things are going wrong.
Remember when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still very much in control. He just may not be doing things our way.
The Holy Spirit is working on hearts all over the world. Instead of telling the Spirit where to work, we need to be willing to work wherever the Spirit is working. That may mean going to another side of the world, or another side of town.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Have you every brought up an idea in a committee meeting, only to have it ignored, and then ten minutes later someone a little bit more popular than you, says the same exact thing you just said, except this time, instead of it being ignored everyone loves the idea! And you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “That’s what I just said ten minutes ago!”
Sometimes its not what is being said but who is saying it. A while back, after teaching a group of young people how to chain reference their Bibles, to give Bible studies, I then had one of them lead out in an actual Bible study group. I was there for encouragement, but they were the teacher. Maybe I should not have even showed up at all, because what happened was, while the young person had all the answers from the Bible, the people in the group kept directing their questions at me, instead of the young person who was teaching the class. Awkward! Somehow the group members thought my life experience trumped the authority of this young person, but not so! This young person was getting all their information from the Word of God, and I don’t care how much life experience someone has or titles behind their name, nothing trumps the Word of God!
In John 4:1-54 Jesus meets with a woman at a well, and counsels her about her promiscuous relationships. What gave Him the right? He had no marriage counseling license. He had no marriage experience. Yet this is not the only time He counseled people about their sex lives. In John 8:1-11 Jesus not only counsels with a woman taken in adultery, but He also counselled the men involved, by writing in the sand. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus preaches about marriage, sexual temptations and divorce. Instead of referencing His personal life as many do today, Jesus referenced the Scriptures. The Scriptures trump human experience.
Jesus counsels the woman at the well about her relationships, by helping her realize that she has been trying to fill a void in her life that only God can fill. Each sexual escapade just left her thirsty. Just like people try to use Pepsi to quench their thirst, only to find Pepsi actually dehydrates you and leaves you even more thirsty for water, likewise inappropriate sex was leaving this woman thirsty for the living water that is only found not in sex, but in a relationship with God.
Could it be that while having no wife or children, Jesus was an authority on relationships because He had a perfect relationship with God the Father? While giving counsel in John 8, Jesus says “let him without sin throw the first stone.” This was from the Levitical law, so Jesus was basing his counsel on Scripture as well as His relationship with His Father.
In Matthew Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus is giving financial advice. What gives Him the right? He was not a Wall Street wizard. He has no place to lay His head and relied on friends for a place to stay. If a man with no money in the bank and no home or property were to hold a financial seminar today, how many people do you think would listen to him?
The story goes of a very rich business man who tried to school a poor man about wealth. The rich man from Chicago was vacationing in Mexico and doing some fishing. A local came along and threw his reel in the water and a few minutes later had caught four fish, which he put in his bucket and started to leave. The rich business man stopped him and asked,
“Why are you leaving already? You are doing great!”
The local replied, “I caught all the fish I need for my family. I am going home now to eat with them and relax and spend time with the family.”
The business man exclaimed, “But you are doing so well! If you stay longer you can catch even more fish!”
“What would I do with them?” The local asked.
“You could catch enough fish to sell them and buy a boat!” the man answered.
“Then what?” The local asked.
“You could catch even more fish with a boat! Then you could sell even more fish and buy more boats and catch and sell even more fish.” The business man exclaimed, somewhat frustrated that the local was not catching the vision.
“What would I do after all of that?” The local replied,
to which the rich business man answered, “Then you could retire.”
“What would I do while I’m retired” asked the local.
“You can eat with your family and relax and spend time with them!” The rich man declared! Wondering why this simple local could not follow his logic and financial advice! But was it logical? Wasn’t the local already on his way to eat and spend time with family now? Why should he spend his life planning only for tomorrow never knowing for sure if there would even be a tomorrow?
Ever heard the saying, “Some people are so poor all they have is money?” The local, like Jesus realized you need more than money to be wealthy. Some people give up their health and friends in an effort to make more money, only to find out that money is not the substance of life. Good relationships are what make you wealthy in the long run. Years ago a friend of mine went to hear a financial motivational speaker. The speaker told them, “In order to be rich, the first thing you need to do is drop your poor friends and only hang out with rich people.” Some one raised their hand and asked, “Won’t we be losing a lot of good friends doing that?” “Sure the financial wizard explained, “But if they are are good friends they will understand.” True story! My point here is financial wizards don’t always give the best advice. Sometimes the best advice comes from a Teacher who had no money in the bank and “no place to lay His head.”
While Jesus had no marriage or financial experience according to our standards, He was the perfect counselor. Like my young friend teaching the Bible study group, Jesus was often heard saying, “It is Written.” When asked questions instead of relying on personal experience Jesus would often say, “What saith the Scriptures?” Jesus made the perfect counselor, not because He had a degree or license or the perfect wife and children and perfect home, but because He had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father and a perfect understanding of the Scriptures.
Looking at first glance Jesus was totally the wrong person to be giving advice, except for one thing, He was perfect.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, mentions circumcision, which some people in some cultures now classify as barbaric. I have heard a few good Christians question why God chose circumcision for a sign that you belonged to Him? In certain safe circles faithful Christian men have asked, “why the penis of all places?”
We all know circumcision is no longer a sign of a covenant between God and us – thank goodness! Still it puzzles some believers as well as unbelievers alike as to why God ever had anyone do this. My purpose here is to answer the question, “why did God ever tell us to do this” and in the process we will see the gospel where before many people only saw a painful ritual.
The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT
God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating anymore, so instead of just trusting in God’s promise, he took his much younger handmaid Hagar and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This is the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of just trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (SeeGalatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.
So God had Abraham practice circumcision.
Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT
Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Abraham was trusting in his flesh to work things out, so God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh he was trusting in, so that he could realize the gospel is not “me plus Christ” but “Not I but Christ.”
For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT
… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98
Abraham had that part of his body circumcised because that was the part of his body he was trusting, more than he was trusting in God’s power. Now we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water washing self away, and dying to self, we rise up taking the new breath we now live, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.
Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual. For example, female circumcision, which has no Scriptural significance is still widely practiced. It is seriously harmful to women and its practice often has ulterior motives.
Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer Biblical or morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would say, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or “embarrassing” an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second, most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available. And with the health benefits, your parents may have made no mistake at all.
Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.
My 9th grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break. Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because they kept the standard where it belonged, and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves. Likewise, as long as our church blends in the world we will never be ridiculed or persecuted either. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.
I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? Easy, you make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.” I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when in fact they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was sinning all over the place. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.
In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us the beatitudes which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT
Once God’s people become filled with righteousness and pure in heart, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right. Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!
When God’s grace converts us our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.
Many years ago when I was a literature evangelist, I found myself working one day in the rolling green hills of North East Oklahoma. I remember meeting a lot of rejection early in the day. What bothered me the most as I was selling Christian books, was that many saw me only as a salesman, instead of appreciating my passion for sharing Jesus. Rejection plus being misunderstood equaled loneliness for me. About midday, I walked into a Taco Mayo restaurant for lunch. Long before cell phones were common, and Bible apps created, I carried my Bible with me everywhere I went. I sat down at a table and opened my Bible “randomly” and found this verse,
Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 NKJV
That verse hit the spot! My career in soul winning was just beginning, and this was long before I would begin Bible studies with a family who would start attending church only after I studied with them for seven years in their home first. This was long before I would meet Fred, a man I studied with in Oklahoma, who got baptized later after I had already been serving in Texas years later. It was also years before I would meet the members of a small Pentecostal Sabbath keeping church, who would all become members of the Mineral Wells, Texas Seventh-day Adventist Church, after studying with them and just as importantly befriending them for four years. (I tell people the entire Pentecostal church became Adventist which is true. I also tell them the entire church consisted of 5 members.)
As a rookie evangelist I had only had time to plant seeds, but not to watch them grow. I needed to learn patience. If I could have seen the future harvest, I doubt I would have felt so discouraged, as I sat there eating my burrito, before I found that verse full of comfort and hope. Still, I could have remembered a passage that my leader had written inside the Colporteur Ministry book he gave me.
Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward…. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680
While I sat in that Taco Mayo in Grove Oklahoma back in 1990, my evangelistic career was too young to see the results that years and years of patient toil brings. However I had stories and testimonies from veteran laborers, like Denton James, my union publishing director. He and his family found the way, when they moved into a home, and found an old Bible Readings for the Homelaying in the attic. Denton found the Adventist church through that book and became a literature evangelist, who trained many more people, like myself to be literature evangelists. Back in 2008 I worked with his granddaughter in Tampa Florida, who was serving as an ASI Bible Worker. Not long ago, Denton fell asleep, after many years of soul winning. All those souls and trained Bible Workers and Literature evangelists can all trace their success back to Denton James, who traced his success back to an old book found in an attic.
I often wonder who the Literature Evangelist was, who sold that book to the family, that left it in the attic to be discovered by Denton’s family moving in years later. Whoever it was, I wonder if they ever got discouraged like I did, that day I was working in North East Oklahoma. Whoever it was they may have seen many people get baptized as a result of their labors, or it is possible they saw no one get baptized. One thing is sure, that literature evangelist went to their grave with no clue that years later a man would pick up one single book that had been laying around in an attic for years, dust the cover off and read it, and not only become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but lead hundreds to find Jesus, who would also lead hundreds more to find Jesus.
Since I don’t know who sold the book Denton found, I can speculate. Is it possible that was the only book he or she ever sold? Is it possible they quite soon after that because “it just wasn’t working out?” Still there will be thousands in heaven because of that one single book, that lied lost in an attic for who knows how long. I can see the evangelist coming home at the end of that day when they sold that one single book, and writing in their journal,
“It was a terrible day today. I worked hard all day long and met nothing but rejection, and doors slammed in my face over and over. Finally a man bought just one copy of Bible Readings for the Home,from me, but I heard his wife scoffing at him, saying something like, its just going to end up thrown away up in the attic with all the other junk you buy from peddlers. This is so discouraging I might as well quit. At this rate I will never help anyone find Jesus.”
Or I could have it all wrong, but I do know this. The literature evangelist who left that book, walked away from that home having no idea that hundreds would be in the kingdom because of an exchange that probably only took a few moments and netted only a few dollars or even cents.
Just like that book, that was buried in a dark attic for years, so it is with the literature and words I shared on that frustrating day in Oklahoma so many years ago,
The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God….. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons Page, 65.
It is also true of the seeds you sow as well.
Click here for an archived copy of the March 1968 Southwestern Adventist Record magazine as Denton’s story was told long ago. His story is on page 19.
A family I am friends with bought a huge home many years ago and their daughter invited her friends over for their first get together at the new home. Unfortunately jealousy set it in with one of the daughter’s friends who made a comment about the home and her thinking she is all that and so rich. The daughter was very hurt because the money her family has had never crossed her mind. Her friend saw the house and only thought about how rich they must be. The family saw the home and only thought, “What a nice place to have all our friends over.” Granted the kitchen pantry was bigger than my whole apartment at the time, but while the daughter’s friend associated the huge house with money, the family only associated it as a place to meet with friends!
The family had money but they needed friends. Money doesn’t buy real friendship. And in this case it was a stumbling block to a real friendship. Not on the part of the family with the big home, but on the part of the friend they invited and reached out to.
I was not born poor but I was not born rich either. Sometimes as a kid when I would see people with nicer things than we had, I would wonder, why couldn’t I have just been born rich? As an adult I read about a very rich American family, who had a daughter, born with a defect that surgery only made worse to where the daughter was totally incapacitated. I then realized while I had asked why I couldn’t have just been born rich, there were rich people asking why they couldn’t have just been born healthy.
Some rich (and poor) people have health issues not all the money in the world can cure. Some even use their wealth to squander their health. They need a health message. Rich people need healing.
Sometimes we forget all the needs of the rich when we drive by their huge mansions or see them drive by in their Lamborghini. We must be careful not to make assumptions that they are even rich. For all we know they are about to lose the mortgage on their mansion and are never going to get out of debt for that Lamborghini. Are they really better off with all that? A rich man had a Lamborghini. So he has four wheels. My Hyundai has four wheels too. So he has a mansion. He has a place to lay his head. I have a place to lay my head too, and really don’t need 20 more rooms that I am not in.
After all, while I may tempted to think life would be just perfect if I only had what they have, there is someone thinking their life would be just perfect if they only had what I have. I’ve heard it said, the richest man in the world is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
In Acts 26 we see Paul standing in his prisoner clothes, hands bound, while talking to King Agrippa who was dressed in all his splendor and glory. Paul tells King Agrippa,
“I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”Acts 26:29 NKJV
What Paul was telling Agrippa was, “I don’t need what you have. You need what I have!”
So today there are rich people who need true friendship. Who need true healing, and true forgiveness. We can reach the rich once we realize, we don’t need what they have. The world is after what they have, and God has promised to meet our needs in Christ Jesus and not in the rich people of the world. We will reach the rich once we realize we have what they need- a redeeming Savior!
You can study this week’s SS lesson on reaching the rich here.
They told her they loved her. They said she was beautiful. They promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the people who dragged her into bed, by the people who praised and flattered her, and now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before a popular religious icon. Eyes closed not wanting to be confronted by this religious leader, and not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head. She waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?
Barely peeking through one eye she sees the popular religious icon doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears foot steps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.
The new popular religious icon didn’t address her as “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who had spoken with angels and given birth to the Son of God.
“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV
She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. Was she a victim of human sex trafficking? Or was she just out to turn a quick trick and make a little extra money? Given what we know about her, the answer could be yes to both questions. What we do know is, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half naked and humiliated into the presence of a Man of righteousness. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who ran away. As she laid helpless at His feet no one could condemn her! Whoever this man was, she was knew He was like a savior to her. But He was more than a savior. He was the Savior!
What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can see Jesus placing His coat over her naked body. The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His coat or robe or whatever He has and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality. He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her. Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. This popular religious icon, named Jesus, could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.
He called her woman. He placed His coat over her naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the men who ran away. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.
His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s not what Jesus said. He said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense. “Go and sin no more.” Future tense.
The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.
They called her a whore and a slut. Jesus called her a woman.
They promised her she would be special and then humiliated her. Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.
Note: Sex trafficking is still alive today as much as it was in Jesus’ day. See how you can help abolish human sex slavery in your area. If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking in the United Sates Call 888-3737-888.
This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died? Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.
Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer. At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”
I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met? Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time.
I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter. Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)
But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT
When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.
The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a 95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!
It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.
As this week’s SS lesson focuses on the work of Jesus our High Priest on the day of atonement, let’s take just a moment and focus on what the people were to be doing on the day of atonement.
“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, thatyou may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. Leviticus 16:29-31 NKJV
Even though this is not a weekly Sabbath we are to put away our works. Now when you consider that we have been living in the literal day of atonement since 1844 it does not sound logical to do no work since 1844. So how do we apply the no working part to how we should be living in the literal day of atonement? I believe the answer is found in Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Leviticus tells us to afflict our souls. What does that mean? Could it mean doing some heart searching and putting away our fleshly egos and lusts? This is where I think we need to be careful about something Paul warned us about a long time ago.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:3-5 NKJV
Hmmm….interesting….Paul says endure afflictions. Could it be that during the day of atonement, in the last days, when we should be afflicting our souls, looking for areas and rooms of our hearts that need to be surrendered to God, that Satan supplies us with false teachers with fables that make us feel so good about ourselves that we don’t feel the need to do any soul searching, much less afflict our souls or deny the lusts of our flesh and egos?
During the day of atonement, which we believe we have been in since 1844 we are to be afflicting our souls and putting away our works, so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is not our works but the works of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV
On page 623 God’s messenger describes the work of God’s people during the literal day of atonement, beginning in 1844. Does this sound similar to what God’s people were told to do during the symbolic day of atonement?
It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to join ourselves to him, to unite our weakness to his strength, our ignorance to his wisdom, our unworthiness to his merits. God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs, in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 623
Jesus will not force an entrance into our hearts. He will come into our hearts when we have taken a good look at our hearts and sense our need of a Savior. This means putting away the pride and works of the flesh and asking the Holy Spirit to replace our works with His fruit. While Jesus does not wish to harm the dignity of the individual, it is impossible for us to sense our need of Him, until through affliction, the ego has been crucified. This is how Leviticus 16:29-31 is fulfilled, when we afflict our souls and do no works of the flesh.
In Numbers 21:1-9 God has Moses set a brass serpent on a pole so that if anybody was bitten by a serpent, they could look at this serpent on a pole and be healed. Now as real and literal as this serpent was it was only symbolic. There was no magic in the brass or the pole. This brass serpent was to point forward to Jesus dying for us on the cross and curing us form the snake bites of that old serpent the devil. Still some people started worshiping the brass serpent because they could not see past the pole and get the big picture. 2 Kings 18:4 tells us, finally Hezekiah destroyed the brass serpent because people were worshiping it instead of God. The problem was they saw the brass serpent as the end of their theology instead of looking beyond the pole to what it represented.
Today some say there is no literal sanctuary in heaven, while the Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to teach what I understand to be true, that there is a literal sanctuary in heaven. See Hebrews 8:-12. However, if your theology stops at either the literal sanctuary on earth or the literal sanctuary in heaven your theology still falls short. Just like the brass serpent was real and literally existed, those who could not see beyond the brass serpent still fell short in their theology. Yes there is a real sanctuary in heaven but even the real and literal sanctuary in heaven is not the end of our theology.
When Jesus came to this earth He referred to His body as a temple. See John 2:19. A temple is a dwelling place. Today we dwell in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. See Ephesians 2:6. Jesus was the most the Holy Place and his humanity was the veil shielding us from the glory so as not to destroy us. As real as both the earthly sanctuary is, and as real and literal as the heavenly sanctuary is, neither sanctuary is the goal of our theology. Jesus is the goal of our theology! For years while I have been writing and preaching about the sanctuary and making Jesus the center of my preaching and writing, I have had people call upon me and remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That is nothing that I have ever refuted. I teach there is a real sanctuary in heaven. I just don’t make the real sanctuary building in heaven the goal. I make Christ the goal. Still people want to remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That makes about as much sense as someone reminding me about the brass serpent when I teach about the cross! Yes, I know there was a real brass serpent but that real brass serpent was not the goal. The cross of Christ is the goal. In the sanctuary message Christ is again the goal.
Everything in the sanctuary points to the goal and end of our theology, which is Christ.
Christ is the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NLT
Christ is the light of the world that lightens every man.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT
Christ is the living bread who came down from heaven to give us eternal life
Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”John 6:48-51 NLT
Christ is the mercy seat (propitiation), through whose redemption we have salvation full and complete
Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. Romans 3:24-25 NLT
Christ is our intercessor against the accusations of Satan
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.1 John 2:1 NLT
By the way, when we join Satan in making accusations, we fire Jesus as our advocate and hire Stan to replace him! Jesus can plead your case without making accusations against other people. Accusing others is Satan’s game plan.
Christ is the curtain that bore our sins in His flesh
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death,Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT
The Sanctuary Revealed the Fall and Restoration of Man. In Adam, humanity sinned, was defiled, and condemned to death. In Christ, the same humanity was reconciled to God, cleansed from all defilement, and justified to life.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT
Through faith in Christ, sinners experience salvation. This is the good news of the gospel and the truth of righteousness by faith. All this was revealed in the Sanctuary model given to Moses:
The Sanctuary was where God met sinners
I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:22 NLT
Today He meets us in Christ
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT
The Sanctuary was where God revealed Himself to sinners
and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God. Exodus 29:46 NLT
Today He reveals Himself to us in Christ
Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! John 14:9 NLT
The Sanctuary was where God accepted sinners
Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him.Leviticus 1:4 NLT
Today He accepts us in Christ
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 KJV
Whenever I am preaching, giving a personal Bible study or writing for SSNET.org, I always have this quote from the book Evangelism in mind:
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 315.
Friends, the foundation for the discourse on the sanctuary message is not the literal temple on earth or in heaven. Yes, there is a real sanctuary up in heaven, I know. However, according to our prophet, in Gospel Workers page 315, the foundation of the sanctuary message is the sacrifice of Christ Himself. Just like the brass serpent on a pole pointed us to Christ, likewise the literal heavenly sanctuary points us to Christ.
You may study this week’s SS lesson on the sanctuary here.