Category: Sabbath School Lessons

When is it a Good Idea NOT to Follow Bible Counsel?

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17

This counsel rarely ever gets followed. How much better our world and church would be if people would follow this counsel from Jesus.

Here is what I have seen happen too often. Someone actually tries to follow this counsel, but at step 2, when he tries to get a brother to go along, the brother perceives it as gossip and does not want to meddle in the situation even though this is exactly what Jesus says to do. Or, instead of being neutral, that person gets an ear load from one side and goes into the meeting very biased.

Even more sadly, I have talked with church leaders who passed judgment on another member without ever hearing that person’s side of the story or going to them personally first. They clearly admitted they did not follow the counsel of Matthew 18because they already had all the evidence without needing to follow Matthew 18. What? You don’t need to follow Bible counsel because you already have the full scoop? Since when was following the Bible optional? Apparently it happens all the time. To me this is the most sad situation of the three, because the people not following Matthew 18 know they are not following it and don’t care, but they still think they are fit to be church leaders while intentionally ignoring Bible counsel.

Before many churches can heal and move forward in proclaiming the gospel, they need to make sure they are following the gospel themselves. We need to make sure we follow Matthew 18 when a problem arises and go to our brother or sister one on one without anyone else knowing. Most problems can be resolved at step one. If not, then step two means we should take along another party who can hear both sides of the story at the same time, and not get an ear full from one side before even hearing the other side. This talking to another person and stacking the deck in one’s favor is very easy for humans to do, but with God’s grace we can avoid this temptation – especially if we are honestly wanting truth to win.

The third step is to take it to the church. At this point the church should not be afraid to handle the matter. It is not gossip at this point; it is Bible counsel. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tells the church it will be judging angels and needs to be judging its own issues.

When we reject Bible counsel everyone loses. When we follow Bible counsel there is redemption for all.

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

Overcoming Everyday by Dying Everyday

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NKJV

While reading through Galatians again, the part of this passage about even our desires being crucified jumped out at me. I have studied with people who tell me that even though they stopped smoking, the desire to smoke always remains. One man told me, “I will always be a smoker. I just will always choose not to smoke.” That makes sense as we all have sinful flesh, but do not have to give in to the flesh.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NKJV

Still, do I take Galatians 5:24 to mean that our sinful desires are crucified once and for all never to return?  Can a born-again smoker live the rest of his life without ever craving to smoke the rest of his life? Can a selfish person be born again and never crave self again? Can a sexually promiscuous person be born again and never crave immoral sex again? Do we give people the idea that if they are born again and are walking in the Spirit, that it is not normal to be tempted? Do we teach once cured always cured? And if so, is that as dangerous as teaching once saved always saved?

After prayerfully pondering this, I think I found the answer in something Jesus said.

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. Luke 9:23 NKJV (emphasis on “daily” added)

Jesus did not teach once saved always saved, nor did He teach once “cured” always “cured.” Every day we wake up as sinners. Every day we must deny and crucify self. The passions and desires being crucified in Galatians 5:24 are not a one-time event. We continue to be cured only as we continue to crucify self.

Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” that he begged God to just take away. However instead of taking it away, God just said,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV

Some have twisted this passage to mean that Paul could just keep on sinning and God’s grace would just keep on forgiving him, but that is not the case at all. Paul realized

when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV

Paul knew that while God did not remove the weakness or temptation, he did not need to give in to it, because God supplies the strength to overcome. Of course many believe the thorn was a physical issue and not a moral temptation. even so, Paul says,

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

Salvation and victory over sin continue, only as we continue to crucify the flesh along with its passions and desires every day. Every day we must deny ourselves. Every day we must pray “Not my will, Your will be done.” So not only are sinful habits crucified, but the very desire to sin can be crucified-daily.    

He’s Like Me

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do…Galatians 4:12 NLT

 

Why is Paul telling us to be like him? Aren’t we supposed to follow Jesus as our only example?

There’s a story of a man who was trying to share Jesus with an atheist every day. Finally the atheist had heard enough and told the man he would let him say one more sentence about Jesus, and after that he did not want to hear any more. If you could only say one sentence about Jesus, what would you say?

Knowing he could not say anything about Jesus after one sentence, he had to choose his words carefully, so he told the atheist, “He’s like me.” When I heard this story, my first thought was that was a very prideful thing to say! Who goes around saying “Jesus is like me?” But the man was not prideful. He was sincere. According to the story, the atheist told the man, “Well if He is like you, I want to learn more about Him.”

The man chose his words carefully, because he knew that even though he might not be able to talk to the man about Jesus, the man would still be watching him. It’s been said of children, but I believe it is also true of adults, that while they may not always be listening to us, they are always watching us. And to answer the question, Who goes around saying, “Jesus is like me?” The answer is, everyone who calls themselves a Christian.

While Paul says, “imitate me” in the next verse he says, “I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

Paul makes it more clear what he meant here.

And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT

Paul wanted people to follow him only as he follows Christ. While Jesus told us to follow Him and not other Christians, we still have a powerful influence.

Throw a pebble into the lake, and a wave is formed, and another and another; and as they increase, the circle widens, until it reaches the very shore. So with our influence. Beyond our knowledge or control it tells upon others in blessing or in cursing. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 340. 

How does your influence affect how people think about Jesus? Can people honestly say Jesus is like you?

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

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

God has Always Been Graceful

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

What is more dangerous than thinking there is no law in the New Testament, is thinking there is no grace in the Old Testament.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Many find grace in the New Testament, but there is also plenty of grace in the Old Testament as well. While Paul says no flesh will be justified by works, that includes those in the Old Testament as well. Those living during Old Testament and New Testament times are all saved by,

the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 NKJV

This puts the cross before Adam and Eve! Before sin and the written law came on the scene we already had the cross!

Grace is not new to the New Testament. It is in the Old Testament as well. It was at Sinai.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; Exodus 19:5 NKJV

In this passage God is pledging His grace to us.

The word, “obey” is the Hebrew word “shema,” which means to listen. Doesn’t “listen to my voice” make perfect sense?

The word, “keep” is the Hebrew word, “Shamar,” which means to “keep watch,” “cherish” and “regard.”

We are already familiar with the word covenant, which is always one-way promise when God is involved. In Genesis 12:1-3 God made a covenant promise to Abraham without asking Abe to promise anything, only believe.

So in Exodus 19:5, God is promising us that if we listen to His voice, and cherish His promises, He will make us a special treasure. Salvation has always been based on the grace of God’s promises. In Exodus 20, God begins the commandments with,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:2-3 NKJV

God is saying, “you did not save yourselves from bondage by your works. I saved you by my grace. Because of this I promise you won’t need any other gods beside me.”

Even Jesus overcame temptation by trusting His Father’s promises.

The Saviour overcame to show man how he may overcome. All the temptations of Satan, Christ met with the word of God. By trusting in God’s promises, He received power to obey God’s commandments, and the tempter could gain no advantage. -Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, Page 181.

The works of the flesh were never a part of the everlasting gospel in the Old or New Testaments. When Paul said, “for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” he was not implying anything new. He was establishing a fact as ancient as God Himself. God has always been graceful.

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

What was Wrong With Sinai?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— Galatians 4:24 NKJV

What did Paul mean by Mount Sinai? Many believe he was referring to the Ten Commandments. Was he? Paul speaks favorably of the Ten Commandments in Ephesians 6, and I doubt he would do so if he really thought they led to bondage. Paul also mentions Hagar. Instead of referring to the Ten Commandments, is Paul referring to a Hagar-like attitude at Sinai?

Hagar represents the man-made covenant or man-made promises. Hagar was not really at fault, and God promised to bless her, but Abraham used Hagar to try to help him get the promised child by the works of his own flesh, instead of trusting God’s promise.

Likewise at Sinai the people promised three times,

“All the Lord has spoken we will do.” Exodus 19:824:324:7.

Their promises are like the “Hagar” mentality. The people were trusting their own promises and works of the flesh, instead of trusting God to work in and through them. When Paul referred to Sinai in Galatians 4:24 instead of the the law of Ten Commandments, he mentions Hagar. In Hebrews Paul explains that the problem at Sinai was the people were making their own promises, instead of trusting God’s.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Hebrews 8:7-10 NKJV

Paul promotes the Law and says it is to be written on our hearts. The Law was not the problem at Sinai. The problem, Paul says, is how the people tried to establish the Law. They were depending upon themselves instead of God’s promises. Remember Joshua telling Israel that they could not serve the Lord in Joshua 24:19, but they went on and promised they could anyway?

So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” Joshua 24:22 NKJV

Joshua sees the people are making the same mistake made at Sinai. In Galatians, Paul sees the Galatians making that same mistake. They thought they could earn God’s favor. They thought they could rely on their own promises to keep the Law. By trusting the strength of their own promises they were making the “Hagar” mistake, just like Abraham. The commandments are good, and while we can’t keep them in the strength of our own promises, what is impossible with us is possible with God. Remember what we read last quarter?

by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NKJV

Abraham trusted the works of his own flesh with Hagar, instead of trusting God’s promise. The problem at Sinai was that the same Hagar mentality was present. Paul wants the Law written on the Galatians’ hearts as well as our hearts, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

We’re Still Family!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I imagine when you have spirited disagreements in your Sabbath school that you don’t call each others fools, but that is what Paul does in his letter to the Galatians.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? Galatians 3:1 KJV

As I hope we are, Paul was very passionate about the gospel and theology. He seemed to have pretty thick skin about it. His passion for truth and the right, remind me of this quote.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. –Ellen White, Education, Page 57.

That passage sure sounds like Paul to me, but even though he had thick skin and a passion for standing for the right, and calling sin and incorrect theology by their right names, to the point of calling those who taught it “foolish,” he still had a soft heart.

Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Galatians 3:15 NKJV

Right after calling the Galatians, “foolish” he calls them his brothers! That’s why I think he had thick skin and a soft heart. As crazy as he thought the Galatians were, he still thought of them as family. Now I don’t suggest calling people in your Sabbath school class “fools” when you have a spirited disagreement, but I do suggest still considering them family. You have seen me share this quote a few times before, and here I go again,

In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 257.

God wants us to stand for the right though the heavens fall. He wants us to preach the pure gospel. God also wants us to understand that when fellow believers disagree with us, they may be doing their honest best to follow the Holy Spirit, and they are still our brothers and sisters.

Love Comes First

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT

Jesus didn’t say, “if you want to go to heaven, obey my commandments.” He did not say, “if you don’t want to go to hell, obey my commandments.” Okay we already knew all that, but while studying Monday’s lesson about the works of the law, it occurred to me something else Jesus did not say. He did notsay, “If you obey my commandments then I will love you.” He said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” I believe this is what Paul meant when he said we are not justified by the works of the law. The works of the law don’t lead us to God’s love. God already loves us! His love leads us to His law of love.

Paul does not teach earning love by our works, but rather working because we are already loved.

working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6 NLT

The Adventure’s pledge goes, “Because Jesus loves me, I will always do my best.” The pledge does not go, “I will always do my best so Jesus will love me.”

Please take a look with me at a couple of passages, where Paul uses the phrase “Works [or deeds] of the law.”

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:28-31 NLT

Notice, justification by faith establishes the law. That’s because God is the One doing the justifying and God is love and His law is love, which is why Paul says that justification by love will establish the law of love.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! Galatians 2:16-17 NKJV

Paul makes it clear that our works will not lead to God’s favor, but God’s favor will lead us to works of love. God’s love and justification will not lead us to sin. Paul says Christ is not the minister of sin. He does not give us grace so that we can continue in sin and disobedience. Suppose I promised to pay everyone’s speeding tickets here in Florida. An officer pulls a man over and gives him a $200.00 speeding ticket. “No problem!” the man says, “I will just take this ticket over to William and he will pay for it.” And the next time he does the same thing and the next time. By paying his speeding ticket all the time I would be encouraging him to speed! This is very dangerous. Paul says this is not how grace works. Grace and justification by faith lead to obedience.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

Notice God’s grace does not respond to our faith. Our faith responds to God’s grace. God does not say, “William has faith so I will give him grace.” God gives me grace and that is why I have faith. Notice too in the passage that while works do not lead to grace, grace leads to good works. In legalism our works lead to God’s favor.  In the gospel God’s favor leads to our good works.

As with us, this is how Jesus justified the woman taken in adultery.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

Notice Jesus did not tell her that if she would go and sin no more that He would not condemn her. It is because He gave her favor instead of condemnation that she could go and sin no more.

In legalism and pagan religions, the works of the law lead to the gods love and acceptance. In the gospel God’s love and acceptance lead us to express our love by doing good works, because we love Him because He already loves us!

Thus Jesus said,

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT