The Three Angels’ Messages and the Triumph of the Gospel Over Legalism Part 2

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.Revelation 14:8 

Many say that Babylon means confusion. Well it may, but it is not so much confusion about certain doctrines as much as it is about the gospel itself. When legalism mixes our works with God’s grace, it gets confusing. In Galatians 2:20 Paul gives us the pure gospel when he says, “Not I but Christ.” So many of us want to make it a combination of me plus Christ. Problem is, any time I make “me” a part of the gospel I have a corrupt gospel because “me” is corrupt. Does this mean doing away with good works? Not at all! It just means realizing that it is God who is working in us and not us. Philippians 2:13

Seventh-day Adventists teach that Babylon is a religious system which it is, but it is more than that. It is an attitude – an attitude that can be found in any system. Babylon is the attitude that I can save myself by my own works. It began with the tower of Babel.

Babel meaning “gate” and El meaning “God.” At the tower of Babel man decided they could work and build their own way to heaven. They did not think they could trust God to save them from another flood so they decided to build a tower and by their works save themselves. Thus Babylon symbolizes salvation by our own works, or legalism. Cain had the attitude of Babylon when he brought the works of his field and offered his own system of worship. But God could only accept Abel’s sacrifice – a lamb which pointed to the Lamb of God who could only save. Since then man has been presenting his own system of worship and even day of worship thinking he can save himself by inventing his own religion instead of accepting the gospel.

Years later Daniel 1 tells us that God gave Jerusalem into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, but in Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar says “is this not Babylon which I have made?” And God says, “No! I made it and gave it to you.” But here is the attitude of Babylon again – that it is my works that save me.

During the Dark Ages people were taught that their works would save them. They could buy and work their way to heaven. They were also given a work day to worship instead of the Sabbath day of rest. So they were like Cain, worshiping their works instead of our Creator and Redeemer. When the everlasting gospel is proclaimed in all its glory, Babylon will fall! Man will see that we are not saved by our own religious works and inventions but rather are saved by the grace of God alone!

The third angel’s message assures us of the victory of grace over the legalism of Babylon.

Ellen White comments:

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.”– The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. {1SM 372.2}

If you are like me, your first glance at the third angel’s message does not make you think of justification by faith. As a matter of fact many people get wrapped up in works over this passage. Let’s take another look and see why it’s not about works but rather justification by faith.

Revelation 14:9-12 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

The third angel’s message is justification by faith in verity because those who refuse the mark of the beast will not be allowed to buy or sell or do any business to provide for themselves or their families. They will be resting on the Sabbath and not working. Therefore they trust God to provide for them, and not their own works. This is justification by faith. Those who accept the mark so that they can buy and sell are not resting in Jesus or trusting Him to provide for them. Rather they are saying, “I do not trust Jesus to provide for me, so I am accepting the mark so that I can work and provide for myself.” This is salvation by works.

It is very important to notice that the ones who accept the mark and are trying to be saved by their works are rejecting the cross of Christ. The “cup of His indignation” is the cup that Jesus asked to be passed from Him, in Gethsemane. However, He drank that cup for us, at Calvary. Those who reject the seal of God, and the Sabbath are really rejecting the cross. They say, “I will accept the mark of the beast and provide my own salvation.” When they do this they reject the Salvation provided at Calvary, and instead of letting Jesus drink that cup for them, they must drink it themselves!

After all, if you do not trust Jesus enough to provide your daily bread, but rather accept the mark so that you can do business and put bread on the table yourself, how can you trust Him to provide for your eternal salvation? On the other hand, by rejecting the mark (works) and keeping the Sabbath and seal of God we are accepting the cross and justification by faith. Jesus drinks the cup mentioned in the third angel’s message so we don’t have to! We can all exclaim with Abraham at Moriah, “Jehovahjireh” My Lord Will provide!”

The third angel’s message is the climax of the battle between faith and works. For centuries man has been taught by tradition to save himself by worshiping a man made religion and even a man made Sabbath which is Sunday. Those who put their faith in Jesus triumph over the legalism of man made religions as they rest their faith in the One who gave all to save them. They cherish His Sabbath which is a sign that we are not saved by works but rather by His amazing grace!`

The Three Angels’ Messages and the Triumph of the Gospel Over Legalism Part 1

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Journaling Through Revelation in the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Here is a post I shared on the Sabbath School Network a few years ago.

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” Revelation 14:6.

Who is this first angel and who are the three angels?1

Revelation 1:20 says that the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches. So an angel would be like a leader or messenger to a church. Jesus begins His message to each church with, “Write unto the angel of the church of…” so He must be referring to an angel as being a terrestrial leader. When John saw the seven stars in Jesus’ hand, those stars were the angels, or ministers and leaders of the church.

Jesus calls us all to have a ministry in the church and a message to share with the world, and it’s comforting to know, that while we are messengers for Jesus,  He holds all of us in His hand. Wherever in the world you are reading this – whether in a country with few Christian churches, and even persecution, or whether you are trying to share Jesus with your family members who all seem opposed to your message – rest assured, Jesus has you right in His hand and you are very special to Him! He will take care of you and make your ministry prosperous. You may find your ministry in a difficult place, but it is right in Jesus’ hands.

I believe the three angels in Revelation 14 make up the message that the Seventh-day Adventist church has to give to the world. These angels are sent out after the rise of the United States in Revelation 13, so this would fit the time prophecy. Thus I believe that the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are the three angels in Revelation 14, and, even more specifically, the three angels are you and I.

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a very important message to give to the world, so let’s see what it is.

The first angel has the everlasting gospel.

Now don’t all churches have the gospel? Yes, many people will be in the kingdom because a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or Lutheran etc. missionary shared the love of God with them. However, as the book of Revelation changes scenes from the dark ages to the earth being “lightened with His glory” the gospel will be shining brighter than ever before.

The everlasting gospel which the Seventh-day Adventist church shares overcomes the legalism of Babylon. This last message is filled with grace and the glory of God and not the works of man. It shows the love of God more clearly than the gospel presented by most other churches.

Many churches preach that Jesus died for us, and then they turn around and tell uspeople don’t really die. If that is the case, then Jesus did not really die, and if He did not really die, then He did not die for us.

Many churches preach that sinners will be eternally tormented in hell while John 3:16, which is the crux of the gospel, says that sinners will perish. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell. It’s impossible to fall in love with a God who has a “love-me-or-I’ll-torment-you-for-eternity-in-hell” mentality. While sin and those who cling to it at any cost must perish, God will not be delighting in their eternal torture. The punishment, which is death, is eternal; the punishing is not.

Many churches focus on the physical torture Jesus endured. The physical torture  was terrible, but Jesus suffered way more than a six-hour pain endurance marathon. Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus “tasted death” for all men. It obviously was not the death of the righteous that He tasted; we all taste that first death for ourselves. Obadiah 16 tells us the wicked will be as though they never were. Jesus faced more than nail-scarred hands and feet on the cross. He tasted the death of the wicked, which means He experienced total separation from God. This could be why He was crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” instead of singing hymns of praise while He died, like John Huss did. You see, Jesus died a totally different death than John Huss. John Huss died the death of the righteous while he burned at the stake for his faith. Jesus was dying the death of the wicked.

Many teach that Jesus saves us in our sins while Matthew 1:21 tells us clearly that Jesus will save us from our sins. We can’t call Jesus a Savior unless He actuallysaves us, and according to Ephesians 2:1-10 we are saved by grace. What His grace saves us from is our sinful life.

So we see, Seventh-day Adventists not only teach a different day of worship, we also teach the fullness of the gospel. Our job description, in being messengers for Jesus, is to let the whole world know the love of Jesus.

You don’t have to be a TV evangelist to have a ministry and share this message. This gospel is so amazing that many will not even believe it when they hear or read about it. However, they will believe it when they see these principles of self-sacrificing love manifested in your life.

I remember a story about a man who was married for 50 years. At breakfast he always insisted on having the heel of the bread loaf for toast. He acted as though it was his favorite part of the bread. Fifty years later after his wife died, he stopped eating the heel. His nephew asked him why he didn’t like it any more. The old man explained that he never did like it. He just knew his wife did not like it either, so for fifty years he pretended he loved it so she would not have to eat it. That made a great impact on the nephew, and it helped him understand the gospel better than any evangelist preacher ever could.

The first angel teaches about judgment

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Revelation 14:7

This angel is telling us of the judgment which began in 1844. Interestingly the angel says the hour of His judgment has come. What does this mean? It means God is the one being judged!

The judgment is not to see if God will accept us, Ephesians 1:6 tells us we are already accepted in the Beloved. The judgment is to see if we will accept God. Seventh-day Adventists preach a time of probation, but many do not realize that it is actually God who is on probation. God is being judged by the universe: Is God the mean control freak and tyrant that Satan makes Him out to be, or is He a God of love? Is God a good God or some psychopath saying, “Love me or I’ll kill you?”

Satan first attacked the character of God in heaven. Revelation 12 says there was war in heaven, but not with machine guns and tanks; it was a battle of the minds. Satan wanted God’s power but not his character.

I can see Satan playing mind games with the angels. I can see him going up to one of the other angels and saying, “You did a great job on that project God gave you. Did God give you any special recognition for it? He didn’t? Why that’s too bad. You know if I was God I would have thrown a banquet in your honor.”

And so Satan started these mind games trying to make the angels believe that he should be God and that God was not a God of love who was interested in their welfare.

Satan got a third of the angels to buy his lie. There may have been some angels who stayed in heaven but were not convinced who was right or wrong, until the cross. Then the whole universe saw the true character of Satan, who was willing to kill anyone who got in his way of being number one, contrasted with the true character of God who was willing to die on a cross and say goodbye to life forever to save others.

This is why Satan does not want us to understand the everlasting gospel. The everlasting gospel tells the truth about the character of God and the character of Satan. In the hour of His judgment those who clearly understand the everlasting gospel, free of legalism, will demonstrate that God is indeed a God of love. When we accept God we accept more than eternal life, we accept God Himself, along with all of His righteousness and goodness and power to live a victorious life.

The second half of this verse – “and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” – reminds us of the language used in the fourth commandment about the Sabbath. Many times we quote the fourth commandment from Exodus 20: 8-11 but let’s take a look at it in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

“Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and [that] the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”

In Egypt the king made all the Hebrew slaves work so he could rest. God delivered the Hebrews from their works and gave them the Sabbath, explaining that it was God who created and made everything and did all the work so they could rest. God is reminding Israel that He saved them from the slavery of the Egyptians, and that it was not their works that saved them. Likewise God Himself will save us from the slavery of sin, by His grace and not by our works. The Sabbath is clearly a sign that it is God who sanctifies us and not our own works. We see this also in Exodus 31:13.We rest from our works on the Sabbath, remembering that our salvation comes from resting our faith in His amazing grace and not in trusting our works to save us.

The Sabbath also reminds us of our Creator whom Satan wants us to forget. If the Sabbath had never been forgotten, atheism would never exist. For example we use the sun to mark a year, the moon marks a month and the earth’s rotation marks a day, but what do we have to mark a week? The only thing we have to mark a week is the creation week which ends with the seventh-day Sabbath. So how do atheists explain the seven-day week?

During the reign of terror the French tried to do away with the seven-day week and replace it with a ten-day week. This did not work.

The Sabbath reminds us that we have a Creator who did all the work in creating us. It reminds us that we did not make ourselves by our own works. Even more, the Sabbath reminds us that we were redeemed by the works and sacrifice of our Creator and not by our own works. By resting on the Sabbath we show that the gospel is practical and not just a theory. He literally rested, and we literally rest our faith in Jesus, believing that He literally saves us.

By Whose Standard Does the Church Gage It’s Success? The Prince of This World or the True Witness?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. Revelation 12:17 NLT

Often we let the world perception of success overrule what the True Witness calls success. We think if we are at peace with the world than we are all right. If the world thinks we are cool and gives us the thumbs up then we must be okay. But who is the prince of this world? Doesn’t the Bible say that the dragon is at war with those who keep the commandments and have the testimony of Jesus-the True Witness?

In Matthew 5  Jesus gives us the beatitudes. Each one is a stepping stone to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete and we are filled with God’s righteousness and pure in heart, Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

The persecution comes after the conversion. Why? Because those who are converted leave the others with no excuse for not partaking of God’s life changing grace as well. When I was taking 9th grade algebra, our teacher graded our tests on the curve. There was only one problem. The same girl always got a 100% on every single test. So we did not get a break or a curve. When we saw that this girl kept the standard right where it belonged, and did not bring it down for us, we ridiculed her. So it is today. A church that keeps the standards right where they belong, will suffer persecution. A church that upholds the testimony of Jesus over the prince of this world will sense a “war” and opposition.

When choosing a church let’s not look to see how well it fits in with the world. Let’s see how well it fits in with the Bible and Jesus, the True Witness.

 

How a Peruvian Girl Showed Me How Poor I Was.

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I am Journaling Through Revelation Here in Tampa Bay

 

I think I’ve made an interesting observation, at least to me. The church of Smyrna, which receives no rebukes, thinks that it is poor but is told it is rich.

I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! Revelation 2:9 NLT 

Later, Laodicea, the only church that gets nothing but rebukes, thinks that it is rich, but is told it is actually poor!

 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Revelation 3:17 NLT 

Reminds me of my mission trip to Peru about ten years ago. We came from America to help hold meetings in several churches in Chiclayo. Many of the churches had no roofs, and seemed to be made out of tin. We pitied them and gave them our projectors and other equipment they could not afford. We thought they needed what we have. But they had many committed, passionate members. Their lives revolved around God and His church. They even took turns sleeping in the church every night to guard it from thieves. They held meetings in their homes. Whenever they were not at their regular jobs they were out working for the church. We had 1,000 baptisms after our meetings, and while the missionaries from America took all the credit, the real credit belonged to the local Peruvian church members who were studying with people in their homes, and inviting them to church and the meetings.

When we first arrived at our hotel in Peru rather late on a school night, we were greeted by about a hundred Peruvian Pathfinders. I approached one girl, about 14, who understood English. I told her how nice it was for them to welcome us. I tried to give her some money for her group of friends to get some ice cream. Kids in Peru don’t get sweet treats like American kids do every day. She smiled, almost laughing, and told me “no thank you.” They did not need any treats. They were just very excited that we were here in her city to hold meetings, so the people they were working with could get to know Jesus better. He reward would not be ice cream. The reward she was desiring, was to see her friends get baptized in our meetings!

I thought I was a rich man offering a poor girl somethings she needed. But when she smiled and almost laughed at my offering, telling me how excited she was that we were in her city to talk about Jesus, was there was such a beautiful glow in her smile and gleam in her eyes the most skilled cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills could never recreate. I walked away with all my money still in my pocket, not feeling like a rich man anymore. I realized she did not need what I had. I needed what she had!

The Wind and Waves Get us to Where we Need to be

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I am writing today from the beautiful but sometimes stormy Tampa Bay area.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:38-40 NLT

 

Besides Jesus and Jonah, I don’t know of too many people who take naps on boats during chaotic storms. I think I would be freaking out like the disciples. 18 year old Ellen Harmon found herself in the middle of storm on a steamboat in the north Atlantic. The boat rocked and tossed one lady out of her bed. Another lady screamed in terror, before asking Ellen if she was not terrified as well.

I told her I had made Christ my refuge, and if my work was done, I might as well lie in the bottom of the ocean as in any other place; but if my work was not done, all the waters of the ocean could not drown me. My trust was in God, that he would bring us safe to land if it was for his glory. –Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church,  Volume 1, Page 81.

Young Ellen could have been terrified like the disciples were during their storm, but instead she rested her faith in the love of Jesus. She was not afraid. She had faith that God would be what was best.

One day, while helping out at the church school where I give Bible studies, I was sharing the story of Jesus calming the storm. When I got to the end of the story where the water was all calm and peaceful, a third-grade boy raised his hand and asked, “How is the boat going to get anywhere now?” He was pointing out the obvious, that wind and waves are what carry a sail boat. Without any wind you can’t get anywhere! (We’re talking about boats in Jesus’ day.)

It was persecution that got the church to move and spread out, sharing the gospel around the world. Many people have been “forced” to pursue their dream careers after losing their mundane but “secure” jobs. Once, while riding my bicycle, I got caught in a torrential downpour. I put my cell phone in my pocket, but that was not enough. When I took it to the repair shop, because it quit working, water gushed out when they opened it up. However, they told me I was eligible for a free upgrade. I walked out of the store with a much nicer and newer phone, with nothing out of my pocket, thanks to the storm. A very simple illustration of how a storm got me to a better place, as I don’t have space to tell of bigger blessings from even greater storms.

At the end of the storm Jesus asked the disciples why they were afraid and had no faith. I always assumed He meant why they had no faith He could calm the storm, but fact is, that is exactly what they were asking Him to do. Maybe He was asking them why they needed Him to calm the storm? While some storms are scarier than others is it possible they all get us to where we need to be? Will we really get anywhere in life if Jesus calms every storm that comes our way? Are there times we should let the storm rage, and do like 18 year old Ellen, and rest our faith in Jesus, just like Jesus was resting in His Father’s love during His storm? (Don’t ask me why Jonah was resting during his storm-I have no idea!)  Sometimes it takes more faith to not ask for a miracle. With God’s love we can face the roughest storms and not be afraid. That’s what 18 year old Ellen Harmon did. I firmly believe, if Ellen Harmon had been in the boat during the storm with Jesus and the disciples, she would have been resting with Jesus, unafraid and full of faith in God’s love amidst the tremendous waves, instead of freaking out with the disciples.

Sometimes He calms the storm. Sometimes He calms His child.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Jesus Won the Deed to Your Destiny!

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I am Writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made uskings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:6-10 NKJV

Remember when Jesus told Mary at the tomb that He had to go to His Father? I imagine this scene happening then. Because of sin, no one could open the seal or the dead or title to the destiny of the earth’s inhabitants. But Jesus the lamb, on the cross bought back the title to the earth and forever changed every man’s destiny if they will allow.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NKJV

On the cross Jesus undid all the damage Adam caused! Adam made us all sinners and Jesus saved us all! Unfortunately many will refuse this gift-but it has been given to all men! I have heard people say in order to receive it you must accept it. That is not true. Years ago, working for UPS I would deliver packages that some people sent back. They did not accept them, but they had still been delivered to them just the same. They rejected the package after having received it. On the Cross, according to Romans 5:19 everyone who was made a sinner by Adam was saved by Jesus! Please don’t throw this package away! Jesus, on the cross has forever changed your destiny!  At the cross Jesus won the title and deed to your destiny!

Judging Without Throwing Stones

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”John 8:7 NKJV

The phrase Jesus used in John 8:7 has been widely taken out of context. Please keep a couple of things in mind. Jesus was talking to the very people who participated with the woman being judged. “These would-be guardians of justice had themselves led their victim into sin.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 460. By saying “He who is without sin” Jesus was being specific, meaning let a witness and not a participant throw the first stone. Jesus did not mean to give the idea that to obey the law of Moses one had to be perfect. They just had to be a witness and not a participant. The other thing to keep in mind is, Jesus was not talking symbolically. He was talking about literally throwing literal stones at her.

I want to make this clear, because I have sat in nominating committee meetings, where someone’s character was being discussed in relation to their fitness for a specific church office. As concerns about their character were voiced, someone came to their defense, with the cliche, “Let He who is without sin throw the first stone.” The cliche is totally out of place and context. We were discussing whether or not this person should have an office in the church, not whether they should be literally stoned to death! Please, in a church nominating committee there is a huge difference between denying someone an office and stoning them to death, as is the context in John 8. In a church business meeting there is a huge difference between church discipline and possibly removing their names from the books, and literally stoning them to death.

The Bible gives clear and definite counsel in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6, among other places on how to discipline a wayward church member. Still some will deny those inspired passages, and say we should practice love instead of discipline. Yet love includes discipline! Jesus says,

I correct and discipline everyone I love. Revelation 3:19 NLT

Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness.Romans 11:22 NLT

Jesus has given counsel to His body, the church on how to rebuke and discipline in love, those who are wayward, some of which may actually include being denied a church office, or even having their names removed from the books, (hopefully to be added back again after repentance!) but none of which includes actually stoning people to death as was literally discussed in John 8. In Revelation 3:19 we see that discipline and love go together, and in Romans 11:22 we see God being severe while being kind in saving sinners from their sin.

Please understand, judging someone according to Bible counsel is not the same as throwing stones. Please understand when we truly love people, we will follow Bible counsel on dealing with their sin, which includes loving discipline. There is no genuine love without discipline, and there is not genuine discipline without love.