Garments of Grace; Elijah and Elisha’s Mantle

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson, (download the SS app here) dwells on one of the low points of Elijah’s life when he was discouraged and actually asked to die! (1 Kings 19:4). Kewl thing is, God did not grant Elijah’s request. Instead of giving Elijah what he asked for, God takes him to heaven in a chariot. Elijah, who asked to die, is one of only three men who have ever left this world without ever having to die first! I am glad God deals with us in the same way, often giving us something much better than what we are asking for ourselves. While Elijah’s prayer  was indeed foolish, let’s not be too critical. Consider what he was up against.

 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. 1 Kings 18: 17-18

“In every generation God has sent His servants to rebuke sin, both in the world and in the church. But the people desire smooth things spoken to them, and the pure, unvarnished truth is not acceptable. Many reformers, in entering upon their work, determined to exercise great prudence in attacking the sins of the church and the nation. They hoped, by the example of a pure Christian life, to lead the people back to the doctrines of the Bible. But the Spirit of God came upon them as it came upon Elijah, moving him to rebuke the sins of a wicked king and an apostate people; they could not refrain from preaching the plain utterances of the Bible– doctrines which they had been reluctant to present. They were impelled to zealously declare the truth and the danger which threatened souls. The words which the Lord gave them they uttered, fearless of consequences, and the people were compelled to hear the warning. 

     Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power–all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they

  hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven. As the people go to their former teachers with the eager inquiry, Are these things so? the ministers present fables, prophesy smooth things, to soothe their fears and quiet the awakened conscience. But since many refuse to be satisfied with the mere authority of men and demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” the popular ministry, like the Pharisees of old, filled with anger as their authority is questioned, will denounce the message as of Satan and stir up the sin-loving multitudes to revile and persecute those who proclaim it. 

     As the controversy extends into new fields and the minds of the people are called to God’s downtrodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and, in this work, papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence, and other rewards and advantages, as inducements to renounce their faith. But their steadfast answer is: “Show us from the word of God our error”–the same plea that was made by Luther under similar circumstances. Those who are arraigned before the courts make a strong vindication of the truth, and some who hear them are led to take their stand to keep all the commandments of God. Thus light will be brought  before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths.”   —- Great Controversy pages 606- 607

Garments of Grace; The Priestly Garments of Grace

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson  ( Phone App.) takes a look at the priest’s clothing which includes jewelry. Here I make a humble attempt to explain the jewelry issue in the Bible, in light of the cross and sanctuary. Fact is, God loves Jewelry! However, it has been my personal conclusion that the Bible portrays jewelry in a positive light, when it is God who puts the jewelry on us, and in a negative light when we put it on ourselves. It is also my personal observation, that in the Bible, while God’s people may at times wear jewelry, when there is a spiritual revival and reformation, the jewelry comes off. Of course as I will explain later, all pride is put away, not just jewelry.

In the sanctuary service the priests wore jewels on their uniforms “ for glory and for beauty“ Exodus 28:2. In the Bible we read again and again that all glory belongs to God for glory is God’s character. So the priests officiating in the sanctuary wore jewelry because they had attained by God’s grace a position where they were to represent God’s character to the people. The jewelry represented God’s glory and character which is perfection. We have not reached perfection of character, (or at least I haven’t!) therefore we are not worthy to wear the jewels. However, when we go home with Jesus, He will give us the jewels to wear, (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10) Just as the prodigal son did not place the jewelry on himself but let his father do it, likewise we are not to place the jewels on ourselves, but when we get home and our characters have been perfected our Father will give us the jewelry to wear.  And even then we will cast our crowns of jewels at His feet because we will feel unworthy to wear them. If we will feel unworthy to wear jewelry in heaven after our characters have been perfected, how dare we wear it now in our sinful condition.

Fact is, God hates all pride. For too long we have preached against jewelry, but not against pride. So for years when we put away our jewelry, the pride just showed up elsewhere, in ways that we did not preach against. We condemned the young lady for her earrings, while we were not the least bit repulsed by the old elder making sure everyone saw the $100.00 bill he put in the offering plate. People have even been proud that they did not wear jewelry which is still pride! When we are truly converted we will not be doing anything to attract attention to us. We will dress, act and behave in a way that will point people away from us and to Jesus. When I study Christian adornment, in light of the cross, with people, I tell them we do not point fingers at those who wear jewelry and we do not imitate them either. We just keep our eyes on Jesus and follow Him, while encouraging others to keep their eyes on Him and not us, and follow Him and not us. We can’t condemn jewelry while we approve other forms of pride. All pride must be crucified. “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.” – Isaac Watts 

Until our Heavenly Father gives us the jewels to wear as He did the priests and as he did represented by the father in the parable of the prodigal son, let us carefully consider these words of inspiration. “All who assume the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ’s righteousness, will appear in the shame of their own nakedness.”  {5T 81.1}

Garments of Grace; The Coat of Different Colors

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Download the SS quarterly to your cell phone here.

But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 NIV-UK

As we take a look in this week’s SS lesson, on the life of Joseph, I would like to share something that I find very encouraging. While Joseph’s brothers treated him very badly, we see them make a complete change. They are repentant and converted. Joseph even refers to them in Genesis 45 as preserving a remnant? A remnant of what? Well in Revelation 7, Joseph’s family has characteristics that reflect God’s remnant church. Sure they had issues. In Revelation 3, God’s last day remnant church has issues as well. It is the only church of the seven churches that the True Witness has nothing good to say about! Yet Jesus calls this church to repent, and since there is no 8th church I have to believe that it does repent. Since Joseph’s family represents the remnant church, I believe they illustrate how God’s remnant people repent, and show us today what true repentance is.

Earlier, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt. They told their father he must have been attacked by a wild beast. This of course broke their father’s heart. Years later, when Joseph has made it to the throne of Egypt, his brothers come to buy food. Joseph tests them before revealing himself to them. His final test proves their repentance. Accusing Benjamin of being a spy and a thief, he attempts to lock him in prison. Benjamin is Joseph’s full brother, and son of the mother that Jacob truly loved and wanted to marry in the first place. The father did not want Benjamin to go on the trip after losing Joseph. Now, Joseph is threatening to put Benjamin in prison for spying and stealing. Read how Judah pleads to be thrown in prison instead. “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34 NIV-UK. Judah is showing true repentance. Earlier in Genesis 44 Judah explains how they broke their father’s heart when he lost his first son. Judah is saying that he has broken his father’s heart before, and he will not break his father’s heart again. In fact he would choose to die and rot in a prison cell before he would let his Father’s heart be broken again. So will God’s last day Laodicean people repent as well, when they say with all their heart, “We have broken our Father’s heart before, and we will not break His heart again!”

Garments of Grace; A Garment of Innocence

Here is an essay I wrote a while back, which I thought was relevant to this week’s SS lesson. (Download Sabbath School Guides to your cell phone here.)

Many look at the modesty, or lack thereof, issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality is abounding. There is a greater danger to immodesty than just sexual immorality. To really see the danger of immodesty we must look at it in light of the cross. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.

Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. Page 311 of Christ’s Object Lessons says, “A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” 

So they weren’t really walking around naked as we think of the word “naked” to begin with. They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. By his own works he tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works) but that did not work.. Likewise today, our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here is the whole modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame. Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior.

So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The fact of the matter is, the further away from God we are the more clothes we take off, but the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress properly. In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, Adam was then clothed with the animal skins, pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 18:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However, in verse 35, when he becomes converted we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind”he began dressing appropriately. This has nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would really be a sexual temptation for anyone. So it is today.  The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 18. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.

Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes of Africa all parade around naked because that is their culture. Let’s remember they are called “heathen” tribes for a reason. Also, let’s remember too what Paul says in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In this verse we see that Paul is crucified to the world. The world would be his culture, correct? So it is now the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.

At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off”. This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity. At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are human and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.

The Pier in St.Peterburg

At the Pier in St.Petersburg you can enjoy all the beauty of the water without any of the immodest distractions you sometimes see at the beach. 

 

Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor. In Counsels on Health, page 364, Ellen White writes: “There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” Please keep in mind this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Fact is reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option, but let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not our own feelings or even culture.

 

 

Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but rather human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the silver screen and everywhere else including in the church?

 

Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be a great way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross?  

Garments of Grace; From Exalted to CAST DOWN

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Study this week’s SS lesson here. Download the SS lesson guides to your cell phone here.

“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:15).

Some have the idea that we will keep sinning here on earth, and then when we  get to heaven our characters will be suddenly changed to where we can’t sin. They forget that heaven is exactly where sin began. The mystery of iniquity is when sin began in a perfect world. The mystery of godliness is when sin is overcome while living on a sinful planet. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and Colossians 1:26-18.) Many people believe the solution to changing our sins is having a new nature and better flesh. However, Lucifer sinned with a perfect nature and Jesus lived a perfect life with a human nature.  Lucifer was not made a robot up in heaven. We are not robots here on earth and we never will be robots up in heaven. We always have had and always will have free choice. So how do we know sin will not occur again in heaven?  

The Spirit of Prophecy points out that whether we are in heaven or earth, there is only one solution for rebellion in the whole universe. “That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. {Signs of the Times, Dec. 30 1889}

The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Our only hope is perfect trust in the blood of Him who can save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. The death of Christ on the cross of Calvary is our only hope in this world, and it will be our theme in the world to come. Oh, we do not comprehend the value of the atonement! If we did, we would talk more about it. The gift of God in His beloved Son was the expression of an incomprehensible love. It was the utmost that God could do to preserve the honor of His law, and still save the transgressor.  {Our High Calling 45} 

 It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.  {Desire of Ages 83

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17

The solution for perfection in heaven is available here on earth.

Garments of Grace; In The Loom of Heaven

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To download the SS lessons to your cell phone click here.

This week’s SS lesson brings out the wonderful balance of the gospel. I will never forget the night long ago now, that I was at the bedside of a dying saint. Her pastor told her over and over to rest in Jesus and His love. While she was dying she would smile a gentle smile when the pastor mentioned Jesus. As the pastor told her to rest in God’s grace, he never mentioned once all the wonderful works this lady did for the church and community. She died that night clinging to the cross alone. Yet she did do many wonderful things while alive, not to be saved, but because she was saved!

While we can never earn salvation by our goodness, we must not get the idea that the robe of righteousness which Jesus gives us to wear is a cloak to cover un-confessed sins. In Zechariah 3, Joshua has his filthy garments removed before the robe of Christ’s righteousness is put on him. While Joshua could do nothing to make himself clean, God could and did.

Thursday’s lesson deals with two extremes, cheap grace and legalism. I would like to share some comparisons I put together a few years ago to help us understand this important topic.

First, the Gospel Versus Legalism: 

Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love. 

The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain OUR love.   Romans 5:10-12:  “ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the cross enables the humans to love their God.

 

Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to be saved. 

The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John  14:15:  “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

 

Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment. 

The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah  53:4-6:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

 

Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon. 

The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

 

Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment. 

The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14:  “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

 

 

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith. 

The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. 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.”

 

 

Legalism:   Me plus Christ. 

The Gospel:  NOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20:  “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

 

Legalism: Self- centered. Obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory. 

The Gospel: God- centered. Obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory. “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11

 

 

Legalism: All about pride and rewards. 

The Gospel: All about love and humility.  

The Gospel Versus Cheap Grace

 

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Inspiration tells us that at the end of time every wind of doctrine will be blowing.  Even in the days of Jude, He tells us, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…” Jude 4. So, how can we tell the Gospel of grace that Jesus and Jude talk about from the lasciviousness or “cheap grace” that has ”crept in unawares” ? Let’s take a look: 

 Grace: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people FROM their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 Cheap Grace: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people IN their sins.

 

 

Grace: “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10

 Cheap Grace:

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. (Cheap Grace leaves out verse 10.)

 

 

Grace: “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.” Titus 2: 11, 12 

Cheap Grace: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, we can only deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly, NOT in this present world but after the Second Coming of Jesus.

 

Grace: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” Romans 1:5 

Cheap Grace: By whom we have received grace and apostleship….

 

 

Grace: “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

 Cheap Grace: The UNjust shall live by faith.   Note: The just are those who are obedient and right with God. Paul says they maintain their obedience and relationship with God by faith. That is how they stay just. If faith and grace covered those who continue to live in disobedience, then Paul would have to say the UNjust shall live by faith.

 

 

Grace: “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” Zechariah 3:3-4   Note: In the genuine gospel the angel is instructed to take away the filthy garments before the clean garments are given. God’s grace is not a cloak for sin.

 Cheap Grace: Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.   And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, I will cover your filthy garments with white raiment.

 

 

Grace: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Hebrews 5:9

 Cheap Grace: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all who just believe.

 

 

Grace: “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 

Cheap Grace: [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, even if they continue in the flesh.