Philippians; How Will Histroy Record You?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love the book of Philippians! It makes the gospel very clear and also assures us of the triumph of the gospel. Paul is in bonds but yet the gospel is still being spread. While Satan and men try to bind Paul from spreading God’s love, He triumphantly declares, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

Paul also helps us to see the difference between the gospel and legalism. The words “legalism” or ‘legalistic”   are never used in the Bible, but in his epistles, Paul hints towards legalism being the works of the flesh instead of the fruit of the spirit. Legalism is also the pride of the flesh. In Philippians 1:11 Paul tells us the gospel is “being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” While legalism is the works of the flesh for the pride of the flesh, the gospel is when we do good works by the power of Jesus for the glory of God. Again in verse 6, we see that it is not the works of the flesh but God who works through us. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ.”

While explaining his bonds and afflictions, which cannot prohibit the gospel from being spread all over the place, Paul makes a very powerful statement. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. By God’s grace I am making this my personal aim and motto.

People have given me a lot of titles like Lay Pastor, Bible Worker, Elder, Teacher and so on. A while back I saw a commercial with an all-star quarterback. The commercial showed the quarterback doing all sorts of things like passing, running and even blocking, while he talked about himself. The commercial ended with a shot of him throwing a block, while he said, “And the history books won’t record me as a quarterback but as a football player.” I thought to myself, I hope history does not record me as a Pastor or Bible Worker but as a Christian. For to me to live is Christ.

I encourage you to see what treasures you may find in the book of Philippians.

Acts 9-12; Pride and Humility

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapters 14 and 15.

These chapters are based on Acts 9-12

As I read these two chapters here is what jumped out at me. First we see a man who has come to Peter to learn more about Jesus. Here is what happens, “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him]. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”  Acts 10:25-26 While the pope and many other religious leaders for that matter will accept worship and homage from others, not Peter! He realizes he is just a man and refuses to let anyone worship him. According to Catholic church tradition Peter was the first pope but Peter would never assume the title Vicar of Christ and would never allow himself to be worshiped. Peter realized worshiping humans in the place of God is blasphemy.

Later in Acts 12 let’s look at what happened, “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, [saying, It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.  Acts 12:21-24.

 

Unlike Peter, Herod accepts being worshiped as a god and we see what happened. Here is the thing that is so ironic to me. Peter was a lot closer to being like God than Herod was and yet, Peter refused to be put on that pedestal while Herod who was nothing like God at all accepts the praises of the people. My point is, the closer we are to being like Christ the less boastful we will be. Pride is a sure sign that we are nowhere close to Jesus.

I have seen this contrast between Peter and Herod many times, on a much smaller scale of course. One such incident really amuses me to this day. My father had been the church treasure for many years and people loved the job that he did. One year though a long long time ago, my dad decides to take a break and made them pick someone else. When they asked this someone else of course they had no idea they were only being asked because my dad refused the position for that year. This someone then goes to my parents and tells them the reason they were picked instead of my dad (which they weren’t my dad was asked first and turned it down) was because they had formal training and a degree. Before the year was up this someone had made such a mess of the books that my dad had to take back over to straighten everything out. My dad is not one to brag but I will. My dad was the humble one in this story but doing the better job, while this someone had all the pride but could not do the job. That is just human nature though, and so much like all of us. On an magnificantly larger scale, we have Herod who was proud for no reason, while Peter who was very close to Jesus practiced humility. Reminds you of Lucifer who wanted to exalt himself above God, and then God who became a man and a servant to die for us all.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

John 15; The Vine and the Branches

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we look at John 15 I would like to share one of my favorite passages from the Desire of Ages, in the chapter, Let not Your Heart be Troubled. 

“I am the Vine, ye are the branches,” Christ said to His disciples. Though He was about to be removed from them, their spiritual union with Him was to be unchanged. The connection of the branch with the vine, He said, represents the relation you are to sustain to Me. The scion is engrafted into the living vine, and fiber by fiber, vein by vein, it grows into the vine stock. The life of the vine becomes the life of the branch. So the soul dead in trespasses and sins receives life through connection with Christ. By faith in Him as a personal Saviour the union is formed. The sinner unites his weakness to Christ’s strength, his emptiness to Christ’s fullness, his frailty to Christ’s enduring might. Then he has the mind of Christ. The humanity of Christ has touched our humanity, and our humanity has touched divinity. Thus through the agency of the Holy Spirit man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is accepted in the Beloved.  {DA 675.3} 
     This union with Christ, once formed, must be maintained. Christ said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” This is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. The branch becomes a part of the living vine. The communication of life, strength, and fruitfulness from the root to the branches is unobstructed and constant. Separated from the vine, the branch cannot live. No more, said Jesus, can you live apart from Me. The life you have received from Me can be preserved only by continual communion. Without Me you cannot overcome one sin, or resist one temptation.  {DA 676.1}
     “Abide in Me, and I in you.” Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. The channel of communication must be open continually between man and his God. As the vine branch constantly draws the sap from the living vine, so are we to cling to Jesus, and receive from Him by faith the strength and perfection of His own character.  {DA 676.2} 
     The root sends its nourishment through the branch to the outermost twig. So Christ communicates the current of spiritual strength to every believer. So long as the soul is united to Christ, there is no danger that it will wither or decay.  {DA 676.3} 
     The life of the vine will be manifest in fragrant fruit on the branches. “He that abideth in Me,” said Jesus, “and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing.  {DA 676.4} 
     “My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away.” While the graft is outwardly united with the vine, there may be no vital connection. Then there will be no growth or fruitfulness. So there may be an apparent connection with Christ without a real union with Him by faith. A profession of religion places men in the church, but the character and conduct show whether they are in connection with Christ. If they bear no fruit, they are false branches. Their separation from Christ involves a ruin as complete as that represented by the dead branch. “If a man abide not in Me,” said Christ, “he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”  {DA 676.5} 
     “And every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth [pruneth] it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” From the chosen twelve who had followed Jesus, one as a withered branch was about to be taken away; the rest were to pass under the pruning knife of bitter trial. Jesus with solemn tenderness explained the purpose of the husbandman. The pruning will cause pain, but it is the Father who applies the knife. He works with no wanton hand or indifferent heart. There are branches trailing upon the ground; these must be cut loose from the earthly supports to which their tendrils are fastening. They are to reach heavenward, and find their support in God. The excessive foliage that draws away the life current from the fruit must be pruned off. The overgrowth must be cut out, to give room for the healing beams of the Sun of Righteousness. The husbandman prunes away the harmful growth, that the fruit may be richer and more abundant.  {DA 676.6} 
     “Herein is My Father glorified,” said Jesus, “that ye bear much fruit.” God desires to manifest through you the holiness, the benevolence, the compassion, of His own character. Yet the Saviour does not bid the disciples labor to bear fruit. He tells them to abide in Him. “If ye abide in Me,” He says, “and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” It is through the word that Christ abides in His followers. This is the same vital union that is represented by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The words of Christ are spirit and life. Receiving them, you receive the life of the Vine. You live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. The life of Christ in you produces the same fruits as in Him. Living in Christ, adhering to Christ, supported by Christ, drawing nourishment from Christ, you bear fruit after the similitude of Christ.  {DA 677.1} 
     In this last meeting with His disciples, the great desire which Christ expressed for them was that they might love one another as He had loved them. Again and again He spoke of this. “These things I command you,” He said repeatedly, “that ye love one another.” His very first injunction when alone with them in the upper chamber was, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” To the disciples this commandment was new; for they had not loved one another as Christ had loved them. He saw that new ideas and impulses must control them; that new principles must be practiced by them; through His life and death they were to receive a new conception of love. The command to love one another had a new meaning in the light of His self-sacrifice. The whole work of grace is one continual service of love, of self-denying, self-sacrificing effort. During every hour of Christ’s sojourn upon the earth, the love of God was flowing from Him in irrepressible streams. All who are imbued with His Spirit will love as He loved. The very principle that actuated Christ will actuate them in all their dealing one with another.  {DA 677.2} 
     This love is the evidence of their discipleship. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples,” said Jesus, “if ye have love one to another.” When men are bound together, not by force or self-interest, but by love, they show the working of an influence that is above every human influence. Where this oneness exists, it is evidence that the image of God is being restored in humanity, that a new principle of life has been implanted. It shows that there is power in the divine nature to withstand the supernatural agencies of evil, and that the grace of God subdues the selfishness inherent in the natural heart.  {DA 678.1} 
     This love, manifested in the church, will surely stir the wrath of Satan. Christ did not mark out for His disciples an easy path. “If the world hate you,” He said, “ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.” The gospel is to be carried forward by aggressive warfare, in the midst of opposition, peril, loss, and suffering. But those who do this work are only following in their Master’s steps.  {DA 678.2} 
     As the world’s Redeemer, Christ was constantly confronted with apparent failure. He, the messenger of mercy to our world, seemed to do little of the work He longed to do in uplifting and saving. Satanic influences were constantly working to oppose His way. But He would not be discouraged. Through the prophecy of Isaiah He declares, “I have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely My judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God. . . . Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength.” It is to Christ that the promise is given, “Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth; . . . thus saith the Lord: . . . I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. . . . They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them.” Isaiah 49:4, 5, 7-10.  {DA 678.3} 
     Upon this word Jesus rested, and He gave Satan no advantage. When the last steps of Christ’s humiliation were to be taken, when the deepest sorrow was closing about His soul, He said to His disciples, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” “The prince of this world is judged.” Now shall he be cast out. John 14:30; 16:11; 12:31. With prophetic eye Christ traced the scenes to take place in His last great conflict. He knew that when He should exclaim, “It is finished,” all heaven would triumph. His ear caught the distant music and the shouts of victory in the heavenly courts. He knew that the knell of Satan’s empire would then be sounded, and the name of Christ would be heralded from world to world throughout the universe.  {DA 679.1}
     Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter.  {DA 679.2} 
     “These things I have spoken unto you,” He said, “that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” 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. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. 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.  {DA 679.3} 

Remember, in Galatians 5 all our works of the flesh are saturated in selfishness and not  one of them is good. When we are crucified with Christ all of our selfishness is crucified and then we have the fruit of the Spirit. It is called the fruit of the Spirit because it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not our own.

You may find more studies and deveotionals at In Light of The Cross.

The Fruit of The Spirit, Lesson 12

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson on truth, here are some passages I ran across from the Spirit of Prophecy. Here are some thoughts from My Life Today pages 261-67.

Christ is the Truth

     Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6   

 When Christ bowed on the banks of Jordan, after His baptism, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove, like burnished gold, and encircled Him with its glory; and the voice of God from the highest heaven was heard, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The prayer of Christ in man’s behalf opened the gates of heaven, and the Father had responded, accepting the petition for the fallen race. Jesus prayed as our substitute and surety, and now the human family may find access to the Father through the merits of His well-beloved Son. This earth, because of transgression, had been struck off from the continent of heaven. Communication had ceased between man and his Maker; but the way has been opened so that he may return to the Father’s house. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The gate of heaven has been left ajar, and the radiance from the throne of God shines into the hearts of those who love Him, even though they dwell in this sin-cursed earth. The light that encircled the divine Son of God will fall upon the pathway of all who follow in His footsteps. There is no reason for discouragement. The promises of God are sure and steadfast.  

“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Do you desire to become the sons and daughters of the Most High? . . . You may come unto the Father in the name of His Son, and, no matter how broken and feeble your petitions, Jesus will present them before the throne of infinite power, and the light that was shed upon Him will be reflected upon you. You will be “accepted in the Beloved.” 
                                                                            
                       

Truth Sanctifies

     Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:17

     The truth of God is to sanctify the soul. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” The sanctifying power of truth is to abide in the soul and be carried with us to our business, there to apply its continual tests to every transaction of life, especially to our dealings with our fellow men. It is to abide in our households, having a subduing power upon the life and character of all its inmates. 

     I must ever urge upon those who profess to believe the truth the necessity of practicing the truth. This means sanctification, and sanctification means the culture and training of every capability for the Lord’s service. 

     Teach your children to love the truth because it is the truth and because they are to be sanctified through the truth and fitted to stand in the grand review that shall erelong determine whether they are qualified to enter into higher work, and become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King.  

     The truth, the precious truth of God’s Word, will have a sanctifying effect upon the heart and character. There is work to be done for ourselves and for our children. The natural heart is full of hatred to the truth, as it is to Jesus. Unless parents shall make it the first business of their lives to guide their children’s feet into the path of righteousness from their earliest years, the wrong path will be chosen before the right.  

 The work of sanctification begins in the home. Those who are Christians in the home will be Christians in the church and in the world. 
                                                                                                

 Truth Elevates

 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Acts 20:32

The precious faith inspired of God imparts strength and nobility of character. As His goodness, His mercy, and His love are dwelt upon, clearer and still clearer will be the perception of truth; higher, holier the desire for purity of heart and clearness of thought. The soul dwelling in the atmosphere of holy thought is transformed by intercourse with God through the study of His Word. Truth is so large, so far reaching, so deep, so broad, that self is lost sight of. The heart is softened and subdued into humility, kindness, and love.   
     The natural powers are enlarged because of holy obedience. From the study of the words of life, students may come forth with minds expanded, elevated, ennobled. . . . Being pure-minded, they will become strong-minded. Every intellectual faculty will be quickened. They may so educate and discipline themselves that all within the sphere of their influence may see what man can be, and what he can do, when connected with the God of wisdom and power.  

     The truth of God never degrades the receiver. The influence of the truth upon him who accepts it will tend constantly to his elevation. . . . 

     Those who are sanctified through the truth are living recommendations of its power and representatives of their risen Lord. The religion of Christ will refine the taste, sanctify the judgment, elevate, purify, and ennoble the soul, making the Christian more and more fit for the society of the heavenly angels.       God bids us fill our minds with great thoughts, pure thoughts. . . . No one with a spirit to appreciate its teachings can read a single passage from the Bible without gaining from it some helpful thought. 
                                                                                                

  Truth Purifies

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. 1 Peter 1:22


The lily on the lake strikes its roots down deep beneath the surface of rubbish and slime, and through its porous stem draws those properties that will aid its development and bring to light its spotless blossom to repose in purity on the bosom of the lake. 

     It refuses all that would tarnish and mar its spotless beauty. . . . Let the youth be found in association with those who fear and love God; for these noble, firm characters are represented by the lily that opens its pure blossom on the bosom of the lake. They refuse to be molded by the influences that would demoralize, and gather to themselves only that which will aid the development of a pure and noble character. They are seeking to be conformed to the divine model.  

     In the estimation of God a pure heart is more precious than the gold of Ophir. A pure heart is the temple where God dwells, the sanctuary where Christ takes up his abode. A pure heart is above everything that is cheap or low; it is a shining light, a treasure house from which come uplifting, sanctified words. It is a place where the imagery of God is recognized, and where the highest delight is to behold his image. It is a heart that finds its whole and only pleasure and satisfaction in God, and whose thoughts and intents and purposes are alive with godliness. Such a heart is a sacred place; it is a treasury of all virtue. . . .  

     The very thoughts of those whose hearts are pure are brought into captivity to Christ. They are occupied with thinking how they can best glorify God.  

    It will then be as natural for us to seek purity and holiness. . . as it is for the angels of glory to execute the mission of love assigned to them. 
                                                           

               
                        Truth Enlightens

 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18


In a knowledge of God, all true knowledge and real development have their source. Wherever we turn, in the physical, the mental, or the spiritual realm; in whatever we behold, apart from the blight of sin, this knowledge is revealed. Whatever line of investigation we pursue with a sincere purpose to arrive at truth, we are brought in touch with the unseen, mighty Intelligence that is working in and through all. The mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite. The effect of such communion on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. 

     In this communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development. “Acquaint now thyself with Him,” is His message to mankind.  

     As he studies and meditates upon the themes into which “the angels desire to look,” he may have their companionship. . . . He may dwell in this world in the atmosphere of heaven, imparting to earth’s sorrowing and tempted ones thoughts of hope and longings for holiness; himself coming closer and still closer into fellowship with the Unseen; like him of old who walked with God, drawing nearer and nearer and threshold of the eternal world, until the portals shall open, and he shall enter there. He will find himself no stranger. The voices that will greet him are the voices of the holy ones, who, unseen, were on earth his companions–voices that here he learned to distinguish and to love. He who through the word of God has lived in fellowship with Heaven will find himself at home in heaven’s companionship.  

     Guided by “the Spirit of truth,” he will be led into all truth. . . . He will be precious in the sight of heaven. 
                                                                        

 
                       Truth Transforms

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. Psalm 15:1, 2

 We must present the principles of truth, and let them work upon the hearts of the people. We may pick the leaves from a tree as often as we please, but this will not cause the tree to die; the next season the leaves will come out again as thick as before. But strike the ax at the root of the tree, and not only will the leaves fall off of themselves, but the tree will die. Those who accept the truth, in the love of it, will die to the world, and will become meek and lowly in heart like their divine Lord. Just as soon as the heart is right, the dress, the conversation, the life, will be in harmony with the Word of God. We all need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. May He help us to plant our feet firmly upon the platform of eternal truth.  

     The transforming influence of truth sanctifies the soul. He loves the commandments of God. His fear and condemnation are one. The love of Christ, expressed in His great sacrifice to save man, has broken every barrier down. The love of God flows into the soul, and gratitude springs up in the heart that was as cold as a stone. Christ crucified, Christ our righteousness, wins the heart and brings it to repentance. This theme is so simple that children can grasp it, the wise and learned are charmed with it, while they behold it in its depths of wisdom, love, and power which they can never fathom. We want to present this precious truth to the people who are bound in sin. Let all see that Christ was slain for their transgressions, that He desires to save them.  

     Let us remember that there is need of sanctified pens and sanctified tongues. When we as a people live as God would be pleased to have us live, we shall see the deep movings of His Spirit. Much will then be done for those who have never heard the truth.  

     We should be pervaded with a deep, abiding sense of the value, sanctity, and the authority of the truth. 
                                                                      

 
                 Truth Will Triumph Gloriously

Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Isaiah 26:2

 The truth of God must be enshrined in the heart, and we must be determined to fight the battles of the Lord, if we would come off conquerors with the final triumph of the truth; for the truth will triumph gloriously. . . . If you are seeking to be a blessing to others, God will bless you. We should bring all the good possible into our lives, that we may glorify God and be a blessing to humanity.  
     The church is God’s agency for the proclamation of truth, empowered by Him to do a special work; and if she is loyal to Him, obedient to all His commandments, there will dwell within her the excellency of divine grace. If she will be true to her allegiance, if she will honor the Lord God of Israel, there is no power that can stand against her. 

     Zeal for God and His cause moved the disciples to bear witness to the gospel with mighty power. Should not a like zeal fire our hearts with a determination to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the Saviour.

If the church will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day. God’s promise to her will stand fast forever. He will make her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Truth, passing by those who despise and reject it, will triumph. Although at times apparently retarded, its progress has never been checked. When the message of God meets with opposition, He gives it additional force, that it may exert greater influence. Endowed with divine energy, it will cut its way through the strongest barriers, and triumph over every obstacle.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

The Fruit of The Spirit, Lesson 10

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson on self-control reminds me of a very humbling lesson I learned on the golf course last December. A lesson I should have already learned. I have preached several times on how we are own worse enemy. For example you have David, who the giant Goliath couldn’t hurt. King Saul with all of his power and men could not harm David. Even when the enemy was in his own home, Absalom could not hurt David. If you look at the life of David the only person who really hurt David was David. His lack of self control when he saw a woman bathing is the only thing that hurt him. If David could have conquered and controlled self he would have had a flawless administration.

Last December my friend Ron treated me to a game of golf. Amazingly I got my best score ever-an 86! This was playing from the middle tees with one mulligan per nine holes. I was so proud of myself. I thought I had arrived.

A couple weeks later my friend Wes, from New Port Richey treated me to a game out near where he lived. We were part of a foursome. I could not wait to show them how well I could play now. On the first hole I drove the ball down the middle of the fairway. I was sure I was on my way to another great game. In the middle of the fairway I grabbed my fairway wood and was ready to knock it up on the green on my second shot. I swung and got nothing but dirt! I swung again and nothing but dirt! Come on William! It’s not a 90 mph fastball. It’s just sitting there for crying out loud! My three partners who had heard me bragging about my 86 the week before were patiently waiting. I swung again and topped the ball and it skipped about five yards. I was beyond frustrated and embarrassed! Now I have read in golf instruction articles to never get frustrated. Too late! I have also read not to worry about your score. The only thing you need to think about is your next shot. Well I was already thinking about the fact that on the first fairway my game was already ruined! In order to match my score the week before every shot was critical and I had already ruined my chances. I swung again. I topped it again and it went about two feet! That does it! Right there in front of three gentlemen I threw my golf club in the air in frustration! Problem was it did not stay in the air. It came down and hit a tree and shattered!

Now I was not only a lousy golfer I was a lousy Christian! I was a lousy everything! Now I was more embarrassed about my behavior than my golf game! I have gone golfing with a lot of men who played worse than I did but were much better sports about it. I was appalled at myself.

Now I had to finish the other 17 holes without a fairway wood since mine was now shattered. Served me right. My score by the end of the day was a couple strokes over 100! Here is the thing though. At the end of the day I finished in second place behind the leader by only one stroke! I could have won! Why did I lose? Because I lost my self control which caused me to lose a very important golf club. No one beat me. I beat myself by losing my self-control.

The three gentlemen (of which I was not) shook my hand and congratulated me on my game. I did not deserve any congratulations. I was not in their league, not because of my score but because they were gentlemen and I was an idiot! I was dejected that day not because of my score but because of my attitude. I resolved that day to never lose my self-control like that again. I have resolved that by the end of the game if I have won nothing else, that I have won the victory over self. I will be a gentleman and a sportsman by the end of the day if nothing else. The men I play with may forget my score but they will always remember my attitude.

My friend Ron, has been my golf mentor. He has taught me how not only to play, but how to play like a gentleman. He has also taught me more than that. He has taught me how to be gentleman off the golf course as well as on the course. At the end of the day I know I have spent the day with a good man no matter how his golf game was that day. My goal in golf is to by the grace of God, play with skill, passion but most of all sportsmanship. The only thing I fear on the golf course is not losing the game but losing my self-control. Fact is, after we shake hands and walk off the 18th hole no one will remember my score, but they will remember my attitude. I can’t always control my golf score, but I can control my attitude.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

The Fruit of the Spirit, Lesson 7

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Wednesday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “It’s one thing to acknowledge that we are sinners, in need of grace, and that our good works cannot save us. At the same time, why must we be careful not to use this teaching as an excuse to live in the flesh?”

 

The first thing we must remember is Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” So while we are saved by grace it is those who live after the Spirit who escape condemnation. There is still condemnation for those willfully walking after the flesh.

 

Secondly, while it is true we are saved by grace, what is it we are saved from? Many want to say we are saved from the penalty of sin which is true. However, Grace is so much more powerful and actually saves us from a life of sin, and following after the flesh. We are very familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” So there you go, we are saved alone by grace. However Paul does not stop there. He writes on in verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” So God’s grace also creates in us good works.  “When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing.” –Desire of Ages, p. 676 

 

By reading the verses in Ephesians 2 prior to verses 8-10 we read that God’s grace saves us from living after the desires of the flesh. Many want to use God’s grace for a cloak to cover sins they are willfully and knowingly committing. “No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven.” –Desire of Ages, p. 555

 

In Zechariah 3 Joshua has his filthy clothes removed before the robe of righteousness is put on him. No, he does not remove the filthy cloths himself, grace does it for him, but they are removed nonetheless before the righteous robes are put on.

 

So grace and grace alone justifies us and frees us from the penalty of sin which is death and is our title to heaven. Grace and grace alone also sanctifies and frees us from the power of sin and is our fitness for heaven.

 

When Martin Luther wrote the favored Christmas Carol, Away in a Manger, he added in the final verse, “And fit us for heaven to live with you there.” Martin Luther, who is the champion of grace, understood sanctification by grace as well as justification by grace.

 

Grace is not a license to live in the flesh. Grace is a license to escape the flesh and live in the Spirit! Paul illustrates the point in Romans 1:5,By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” and Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 

Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” So in Ephesians 2:10 Grace gives us good works. In Romans 1:5 grace gives us obedience and in Titus 2:11-12 Grace denies worldly lusts and helps us to live victoriously in the Spirit even in this present world! Praise God for His amazing Grace!

 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

The Fruit of The Spirit, Lesson 6

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Here are my thoughts on this Week’s SS lesson.

It must have been ten years ago. I was supervising the package car loaders at UPS. Occasionally one of the loaders would fail to show up and I would have to load their trucks for them. When this happened I would get an ice cold drink and granola bar from the break room to give me energy while I was working. One morning though we were short handed and I had to jump into a load area right away with no chance to get my usual snacks from the break room first. I was working away loading the trucks when before I even had a chance to ask, my boss came by with my usual drink and snack and placed it one of the trucks for me where I could get it. Wow! I did not even have a chance to tell my boss what was going on and she saw what was happening, and that I did not have my usual snack and took it upon herself to get it for me. So you just read this and thought to yourself, that’s nice, but it’s not that big of a deal why is William writing a blog about this simple little story? You’re right. What my boss did was no big deal. The big deal is, I remember it ten years later! Meanwhile I am sure my boss does not even remember it. Simple acts of kindness are not soon forgotten.

A few years later I was training a new package car loader and had laid my cell phone in the back of the brown package car while we were working. I forgot about it and the package car driver drove off for his route with my cell phone in his little brown truck. I asked his dispatcher to call the driver and ask him where I could meet him to get my phone. I drove to the meeting place and got my phone. A few minutes later, as I was driving on to my next job the dispatcher calls me to make sure I got my phone. This really impressed me because it was not the dispatcher’s responsibility. He was not even directly in my department and he was so busy with his own responsibilities I did not expect him to give me another thought that day. Again, years later it has still made a lasting impression on me, that simple act of kindness, a UPS dispatcher showing concern for someone they were not even responsible for.

Years later these two stories have impressed me. It was not what they said, it was how they made me feel that I remember. They made me feel special. People will not always remember what we said but they will always remember how we made them feel.

While we often think kind words and deeds are cute, we sometimes underestimate them in the grand scheme of the Great Controversy but consider this, we as Seventh-day Adventists realize that the law plays a pivotal role in the Great Controversy. Too often we just think of the Sabbath or Ten Commandments, but read what The Desire of Ages has to say about a good Samaritan who may not have had his theology straight. “The Samaritan had obeyed the dictates of a kind and loving heart, and in this had proved himself a doer of the law.” –Desire of Ages, p. 504. So being a doer of the law is so much more than just knowing the letter of the law. This Samaritan may have been ignorant of the written law but the spirit of the law was written, no, sealed in his heart. The good Samaritan bound up the wounds of the hurt man just as Jesus binds our wounds. The Samaritan gave him oil just as Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit which the oil in Zachariah represents. The Samaritan told the innkeeper he would pay for and be completely responsible for the man’s full recovery. Jesus made Himself responsible for our full recovery, out sanctification as well as justification. So while this good Samaritan may not have known as much about theology and the written law as the priest and Levite did, he was just like Jesus! Isn’t that the end of the law anyway?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells about when the sheep and goats will be separated. He says to the sheep on His right, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” –Matthew 25:34-36  Again, those Jesus welcomes into His kingdom may not have been the most educated theologians but while Jesus does not welcome them because they kept the Sabbath or tithed, or did not eat pork look at how Christ like they were. They fed the hungry just like Jesus did to the multitude both temporal as well as spiritual. They gave water to a thirsty soul just as Jesus gave the living water to the woman at the well. They welcomed strangers just as Jesus’ love embraced the gentile world as much as His own people. They clothed the naked just as Jesus clothes us with His robe of righteousness. They visited the sick just like Jesus. They cared for those who were bound in prison just as Jesus came to set the captives free. These people are welcomed into the kingdom not just by justification but by sanctification as well. They are sanctified and fitted for the kingdom because they are like Jesus!

Many of them are asking Jesus when did we do these things? What are You talking about Jesus? They did not even know what they were doing, but they were sanctified and sealed with the law of God which is love. Consider the following passage from The Desire of Ages, page 608. “Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.” 

Heaven will be filled with people who have muddled minds and theology, but none with bitter hearts.

Being sanctified and having the seal of God in our foreheads means so much more than knowing which day is the Sabbath or that we are not suppose to eat pork. Those who are sanctified and have the law sealed in their hearts and written on their foreheads are kind.

You may find more studies and devotionals on my website In Light of The Cross.