Worship: “Trust Not in Deceptive Words”: The Prophets and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson, asks the question, “What do you think is more important: correct theology or correct actions? Can you have your theology right and yet treat others in a poor manner? What hope can you cling to if, perhaps, you see yourself revealed in the above texts? 

In Luke 10 Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. In this story a priest and a Levite, walk by and leave a wounded man to die. They knew the law. I am sure their peers would say they had sound theology. But did they? In Exodus 23:4-5 it says we are to help even an animal in distress. How much more a man! Surely the priest and Levite knew this. After the Priest and Levite leave the man to die, for whatever reason, a Samaritan comes along. Samaritans had their own place of worship, which according to the Jews, was the incorrect place to be. The Samaritan probably did not know the law or the Scriptures like the priest and Levite did. However, he was more like Jesus than either of the other men because, according to Luke 10:33 he had compassion. In this story, that one word, “compassion”, seems to separate right actions from wrong actions and bad theology from good theology. I have heard it said, that many will miss heaven by about 18 inches. The difference between the brain and the heart. I have also heard it said, and I believe, that heaven will be filled with people who had muddled theology, but none with bitter hearts.

As we continue reading the story, we find the Samaritan to be even more like Jesus. First he had compassion. Second he binds up the wounds of the hurt man even as Jesus binds our wounds. Finally he tells the innkeeper that he will pay for this man’s complete recovery. On the cross Jesus paid for our complete recovery from sin, and today gives us the free gift of sanctification as well as justification.

So, to answer the original question, I would say you can’t really have one without the other. If your theology is good, it will have good actions. Good actions are good theology. I think Ellen White says it best, in the book Desire of Ages, in the chapter “The Good Samaritan.”

  In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.  {DA 497.1}  

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.