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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. 

Are Adventists Still Preaching the Three Angels Message?

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

After Evangelist Steve Wohlberg held some meetings at our church, we had several baptisms. One of those was “Wayne.” Wayne and I started hanging out as he loved to talk to me about prophecy. More specifically he liked talking about the mark of the beast. Okay, all he wanted to talk about was the mark of the beast. Even more specifically he just wanted to talk about how it would be distributed. Would it be a computer chip? An ID card? Would it be injected like a vaccine? These questions went on for weeks as we hung out at our favorite hang-outs.

It finally started sinking in that Wayne was not really interested in Jesus. He was interested in conspiracy theories. Finally one day, while Wayne was rehashing his usual questions again about exactly how the mark would be administered, I stopped him, and asked, “Wayne suppose you knew exactly how the mark would be administered. How would that knowledge make you more like Jesus?” Wayne looked at me like I had four heads and four wings! While we preach Jesus every Sabbath at our church, Wayne soon left in search of conspiracy theories that were not being preached at our church.

Sometimes people get so wrapped up in prophecy they forget it’s all about Jesus! To them, Daniel and Revelation is nothing more than a science fiction novel. So when they hear Jesus preached instead of conspiracy theories, they think that preaching Jesus instead of conspiracy theories is part of the conspiracy! They forget that the mark of the beast has a counterpart which is the seal of God. The seal of God is the character of God. We learn about the character of God and the seal of God by studying the life of Jesus.

Some complain the church preaches too much about day-to-day living instead of the Three Angels’ message and prophecy. But it is the day-to-day living that reflects the character of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit that seals Christ’s people to Him. The Sabbath is only the outward sign of the inward faithfulness.

I have been in homes where there was domestic abuse, but everyone in the home was satisfied that they were good Christians because they all knew the Taco Bell logo was satanic, and a sign that the Illuminati were taking over the world and bringing in Sunday laws. I have talked to men who were addicted to pornography but were sure they had the seal of God because they no longer ate cheese. These folk need to be instructed on day-to-day practical Christian living first, before they start getting all wrapped up in prophecy and last day events.

 

When people ask why we are no longer preaching the Three Angels’ message, I am baffled because we are preaching the Three Angels message of Revelation 14:6-12. I just preached it as a guest speaker last Sabbath. The first angel has the everlasting gospel. According to 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 the gospel is the cross. So whenever we preach the cross, we preach the message of the first angel. The second angel tells us Babylon is falling. The king of Babylon thought he had earned his dominion while Daniel 4:32 tells us it was given to him. Babylon represents trusting ourselves and our own system of worship to save us, instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus who will save us. So when we preach salvation by grace instead of works we are preaching the message of the second angel. The third angel warns us against trusting in our own works to save us, and gives us the Sabbath as a sign that we rest our faith in Jesus and not in man or the works of man. Ellen White says this about the third angel,

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message in verity.” -Ellen White, Review and Herald, 1890.

So when we preach justification by faith we are preaching the message of the third angel.

So when I hear Adventists say we are not preaching the third angel’s message, I wonder what exactly are they expecting. Fire and brimstone? Turn or burn? Keep the Sabbath or you go to hell? If so, they won’t find that in the Three Angels’ message. Yes the third angel mentions fire and brimstone, but only for those who rejected the cross. They show they have rejected the cross when they trust in their own works to save them instead of resting on the Sabbath, as a sign that God’s grace will sustain them, and not the mark of the beast. They end up drinking the cup that Jesus drank for them in Gethsemane. By rejecting the Sabbath rest and God’s grace they choose to drink that cup themselves. It is their own choice!

As Seventh-day Adventists, let us proclaim the everlasting gospel of the three angels. Let’s let the world know about God’s amazing grace that turns abusive homes into heaven on earth. Let’s let everyone know there is a love that not only conquers your desire for cheese but also takes away your desire for porn. The three angels message will change our day to day lives and fit us for His soon coming.

You may study this week’s Sabbath school 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. 

Twice His

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

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

I can imagine God walking Adam and Eve through the garden that very first Sabbath. Having been created the day before, Adam and Eve didn’t have a long week where they needed a physical rest. As God showed them all His works, that first Sabbath, they rested in the fact that it was God who made them and not they themselves. See Psalms 100:3

“It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. John 19:30 NLT

When God had finished our creation He rested and gave us the Sabbath as a sign that He created us. We mark a year by the sun. We mark a month by the moon. We mark a day by the earth’s rotation. What do we have to mark a week? The Sabbath, which takes us to creation and reminds us that we have a Creator.

When Jesus finished the work of our redemption He again rested on the Sabbath, this time in a tomb. The Sabbath is not only a sign of God’s power to create, but also a sign of His power to redeem and make us holy.

Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13 NLT

The story* goes of a little boy who had built a wooden sailboat and took it down to a creek by his home. He had tied a string to it so he could watch it float, and then reel it back in, but the string broke. His boat went sailing down the rapids and out of sight.
After doing several chores the boy earned the money to buy his boat back. He walked out of the story, clutching the boat to his heart, and was overheard saying, “Little boat you are twice mine. First I made you. Then I bought you.”A few days later the boy went window shopping with his father downtown, and he saw his boat in a toy store window. “That’s my boat!” The boy exclaimed. He went inside and told the store keeper, who informed him, that since he had no way to verify the boy’s story, if the boy wanted the boat back, he would have to buy it.

Today the Sabbath is a sign from God that we are twice His. Once, at creation He made us, then on the cross He bought us.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

You can study more about the Sabbath here.