God’s Word is our Authority

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Occasionally, at church or the Adventist school where I teach Bible and evangelism, someone will ask me, “What do we believe about such and such?” My response has always been, “I don’t know what you believe, but here is what I, and many Seventh-day Adventists believe,” and I show them in the Bible what I believe and why. I am not going to tell someone what they believe. That is not teaching. It is brainwashing.

During the dark ages, when people did not have access to the Bible, people trusted their priests to tell them what they believed, and because of that there was a lot of brainwashing going on.

Even before the dark ages, priests abused their authority, and tried to brainwash people into believing whatever they believed. This happened in Jesus’ day when those in “authority” were trying to capture Jesus.

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? John 7:45-48 NLT

The guards experienced and heard the Word of God speaking to them, and believed. Since the pharisees did not want to believe, they mocked at this. in John 7 the pharisees miscounstrued Scripture to try and prove their point, but amazingly instead of hanging their hat on Scripture, they hung it on the fact that none of the rulers or leaders believed.

So if someone in “authority” believes something it is automatically right, and if they don’t then it is automatically wrong? The pharisees seemed to think so. Do some think that way today?

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11 NLT

Like the Temple guards, the Bereans were interested in new ideas as long as they were found in Scripture. They didn’t believe something because Paul and Silas believed it or becasue a ruler did. On their own they searched the Scriptures daily to find truth.

I have heard Seventh-day Adventists telling their Baptist and Methodist friends to search the Bible for themselves because their pastors could be wrong. I have watched some of the same Seventh-day Adventists listening to their own favorite Adventist preachers, wihtout bothering to search the Scriptures, because after all, their pastor is Adventist so he is automatically right, right? Wrong! We all make mistakes, as we all continue to learn and grow.

Let’s not be like the foolish pharisees in John 7, who hang their hats on whether or not the rulers or those in authority believed something or not. Let’s be like the temple guards and hang our hat on the Word of God.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Who is The “Man of Sin?” Could it be you?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “In what subtle ways are each of us susceptible to having the same kind of attitude as we see revealed here in this “man of sin”?

As Adventists, we often think of the anti-Christ as the leader of a system reveled in the book of Revelation. While Revelation does identify a specific leader within a specific system, setting himself up as God, and thus an anti-Christ, John the revelator also tells us in 1 John 2:18, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” So the Scriptures warn of many anti-Christs.  So who are all these anti-Christs?

To answer this question, let’s back up a little bit. In studying the three angels message, we see that a so called religious system, Babylon falls. Again we know from studying Revelation that this is a specific system. However, we also see that this system has an attitude. That attitude is legalism. Man- made laws, man- made day of worship, leading to a man -made way of salvation, outside of trusting in the merits of Jesus and His blood.  While Revelation pinpoints this system, that fact is clear, that this attitude can be found in other systems as well, and history has proven it has been. Were not the Sadducees and Pharisees making their own laws and trusting their own works for salvation? Yet they were not Babylon. So could it be that if I am not careful to crucify self and die daily, that this same attitude of Babylon could be found in my heart too?

So, if it is possible for me to have the attitude of Babylon, would it also be possible for me to have the same attitude as the anti-Christ, thus making me one of many anti-Christs? An anti-Christ is someone who sets himself up as Christ, just as the man of sin mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”  Here we see that the man of sin, or anti-Christ sits in the place of God. So how could I possibly be an anti-Christ, sitting in the place of God? Isaiah 33:22 tells us; “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver.” Our Lord God is our lawgiver and judge. So, when I set myself up as judge of other peoples motives, or think that I can interpret the law for everybody, I am usurping the seat of God and setting myself up as God, and thus becoming an anti-Christ!

Like Babylon, Anti-Christ is more than a system. It is an attitude. In the book, Great Controversy, Pages 292-3, Ellen White explains, that while the pilgrims came to the new world, to escape the anti-Christ, that they carried the attitude of anti-Christ with them to the New World. “It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors.”

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine and correction. I can only define God’s law by what is in the Scriptures , but not by my personal opinions or traditions, like the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and religious leaders in the dark ages did.  I am not the interpreter of the law for the whole world, nor, can I think to change times and laws to meet with my own opinions or inclinations. Simply put, I am not the lawgiver, and cannot judge people by my own standards. Also, while open sin must be dealt with, according to 1 Corinthians 6, as a church we may have to address outward actions, but I as an individual cannot judge inward motives. In judging outward actions we must still be careful. Joseph almost put poor Mary away thinking he had all the evidence of an affair. Even with his overwhelming evidence he was wrong! Even with all his evidence he tried to put her away privately without any public embarrassment. What a great example for us to imitate. Even with his overwhelming evidence, Joseph was not going to judge Mary’s heart.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul teaches churches, not individuals to judge open and outward actions very carefully. Paul teaches no one to judge the heart and inward motives. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us God and the Scriptures alone tell us what is right and wrong. I am not the lawgiver or the interpreter of the law for the rest of the world.  The Lord our God is our lawgiver and judge. When we judge people according to our own standards, opinions and understanding, we usurp the throne of God and become an anti-Christ.

Revelation 18; The Light Of The Cross Wins!

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. I am sharing this picture I took of the sunrise at Key Largo last December.

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. Revelation 18:1

This is my favorite verse in all of Revelation! For centuries Satan tries to keep the world in spiritual darkness but he can’t keep away the light of God’s love! After the dark ages, the light of God’s love lights up the whole world! Last Tuesday evening, I walked into our group Bible study that we have each week at Panera Bread. Not only was my study group there, but each week there is another group of people meeting at the same time and place for a Bible study. I got up to get a refill and saw a man at a table studying the Bible too! I thought to myself, what would Martin Luther think, after having to skip meals to  study the only Bible he had access to, chained to a wall in a lonely monastery basement, if he could walk into this restaurant tonight and see two different Bible study groups and a man alone, eating and studying the Bible in a public place! What would Martin Luther think, if today he could see that the Bible that was chained to the lonely basement wall is now printed around the world and is also on our computers, laptops, notebooks and cell phones! What a wonderful time to be living! Truly the world is becoming lightened with the glory of God’s love, forgiveness and mercy! Seize the moment my friends! Take out your Bibles that men, during the dark ages, shed their blood to preserve! With great painstaking effort they have made it possible for you to have the Word of God readily available so you can read and see what Satan has worked so hard to keep you from understanding. God is love! And He loves you! If you find it hard to understand, just ask for the same Holy Spirit to help you which also helped them.

Last December I went to the Florida Keys and took this picture of the sun rising on Key Largo. I thought how wonderful that after several hours of darkness, that God lets the sun simply pierce the darkness with the morning star and slight glow before letting the sun suddenly rise with all its glory. Such light all at once would be blinding and not welcomed! God in His infinite wisdom,  has allowed each reformer during the dark ages, bring us a piece of God’s light and love one by one so as not to blind us all at once. Still, God in His own perfect timing, after the dark ages, lights up the whole world with His glory and love! As I stood that dawn, watching the light pierce the Atlantic Ocean, I could not help but remember Isaiah 11:9, “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Yes we are living in an exciting time, and when I walk into Panera Bread and see people studying their Bibles, I think to myself, this can only be good!  

If you would like to join a Bible study group in the Tampa Bay area please let me know! You can contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net or 813-933-7505. New study groups are starting all the time! I even have a second study group now meeting at Panera on late Friday afternoons as well as the one I have on Tuesdays. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area call me anyway and I will find a Bible study in your area!