2 Thessalonians; Compromise Harms The Church More Than Does Persecution

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

GC= Great Controversy

 There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.  {GC 48.3} 

     The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, foretold the great apostasy which would result in the establishment of the papal power. He declared that the day of Christ should 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 worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” And furthermore, the apostle warns his brethren that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 7. Even at that early date he saw, creeping into the church, errors that would prepare the way for the development of the papacy.  {GC 49.1} 
     Little by little, at first in stealth and silence, and then more openly as it increased in strength and gained control of the minds of men, “the mystery of iniquity” carried forward its deceptive and blasphemous work. Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church. The spirit of compromise and conformity was restrained for a time by the fierce persecutions which the church endured under paganism. But as persecution ceased, and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of kings, she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ and His apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers; and in place of the requirements of God, she substituted human theories and traditions. The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness, walked into the church. Now the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the  church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ.  {GC 49.2} 
     This compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of “the man of sin” foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God. That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power–a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will.  {GC 50.1}

Romans 1; The Power of Grace and Faith

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:  By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:  Romans 1:4-5

Romans brings out the power of grace and God’s unconditional love. We also see in Romans the power of grace. In Romans 1:5 we see that grace gives us obedience.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  Romans 1:17

While grace gives us the power to obey, faith gives us the power to be just and right with God. Many try to teach that faith and grace release us from the obligation to obey the law. If that was true, then this verse would read that the UNjust shall life by faith. It does not say that. It says the Just shall live by faith. Faith and grace are not a license to sin. Martin Luther, the champion of grace and righteousness by faith, beheld sins in the church that he knew did not belong. “At last he beheld in the distance the seven-hilled city. With deep emotion he prostrated himself upon the earth, exclaiming, “Holy Rome, I salute thee!” He entered thecity, visited the churches, listened to the marvelous tales repeated by priests and monks, and performed all the ceremonies required. Everywhere he looked upon scenes that filled him with astonishment and horror. He saw that iniquity existed among all classes of the clergy. He heard indecent jokes from prelates, and was filled with horror at their awful profanity, even during mass. As he mingled with the monks and citizens, he met dissipation, debauchery. Turn where he would, in the place of sanctity he found profanation. “It is incredible,” he wrote, “what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say, ‘If there be a hell, Rome is built above it. It is an abyss whence all sins proceed.”  {Great Controversy, p. 124} Martin Luther knew that grace was not a license to sin. He knew that while grace justifies, and frees us from the penalty of sin, that it also sanctifies and frees us from the power of sin.

As Voltaire said years later, “If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you’re going to have to start looking a lot more redeemed.”

Acts 1; God’s Purpose For His Church

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God.  Ephesians 3:10.  {AA 9.1} 

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan is over the character of God. Is God love like He says or is He a cruel tyrant as Satan claims? The former quote reminds me of another quote in Christ Object Lessons, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  {COL 69.1}  What God is wanting to place in the hearts of His people, is not a cold, formal or legalistic perfection. God is a forgiving God no doubt! He is not perfecting the church so that we can earn our way to heaven. Heaven is a gift. God is not watching our every move, looking for something to check off against us on His list. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  {SC 57.2

God is not perfecting His church so they can earn salvation. However He is empowering His church to perfectly represent His love and character to a world starving for love. There is a trial going on. We are not on trial, God is. Satan is accusing God of being a cruel, loveless tyrant. The world is sitting in the jury box, and what God needs from His church is proper representation of His character so that in this trial the jury can make an educated decision about the character of God. God accepts mankind, but mankind will not accept God until it knows for sure that God is indeed the God of love that He says He is. This is where God needs help from His church.

The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people.  {AA 11.2}

     Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and darkness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud has fallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one opposing

force has risen to counterwork His work, that He has not foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He has not left His church forsaken, but has traced in prophetic declarations what would occur, and that which His Spirit inspired the prophets to foretell has been brought about. All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked with His throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth is inspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over all opposition.  {AA 11.3} 

     During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.  {AA 12.1} 

 

Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life.

 

The Jewish leaders thought themselves too wise to need instruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly honored to need the honor that comes from Christ. The Saviour turned from them to entrust to others the privileges they had abused and the work they had slighted. God’s glory must be revealed, His word established. Christ’s kingdom must be set up in the world. The salvation of God must be made known in the cities of the wilderness; and the disciples were called to do the work that the Jewish leaders had failed to do.  {AA 16.1}

AA=Acts of the Apostles, COL=Christ Object Lessons, SC=Steps to Christ.

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

Luke 15; Three Illustrations of Grace

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In Luke 15 Jesus gives us three parables to illustrate the Father’s love and forbearance. The first parable about the lost sheep shows us how God searches for the lost sheep. You never find a lost sheep looking for the shepherd, but rather the Shepherd looking for the sheep. I love the part about how He searches until He finds it. He does not give up. His Word does not return unto Him void.

In the second parable, of the lost coin, we find how God searches for something that is lost in the church or in the house. No doubt we can be lost in the church as well as without. We need to be with the Shepherd at all times to keep from being lost. When we keep our eyes on other people or even ourselves, we then take our eyes off the Shepherd and become lost. In Psalms 23, David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Shepherd is another word for pastor. David is declaring God as His pastor and no man. We should not worship pastors or elders or Bible workers. We need to worship and keep our eyes on Jesus so we do not get lost in the church. Thank God He can find us in the church. Let’s not be like ancient Israel and demand a man reign over us. Let’s let God reign over us.

The last parable  illustrates both a man lost outside the church and a man lost inside the church. Let’s take a good look at this one.

15:11     And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

 15:12    And the younger of them said to [his] father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth [to me]. And he divided unto them [his] living. 

 15:13    And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 

That is so like us! To tell God to give us His blessings but we are going to go live life our own way without Him, but we still want all His gifts. Doesn’t work that way! How many people today tell God I am going to live my own way but I still want you to keep blessing me? Do we even do this corporately sometimes?

 15:14    And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

 15:15    And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 

 15:16    And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 

 15:17    And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 

 15:18    I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 

 15:19    And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

 15:20    And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 

I love this part! While He was still a great way off, His Father ran to Him. In the dark ages, Pope Gregory made a German emperor stand out in the freezing cold with no shoes, for three days before he would hear and forgive him. What a misrepresentation of our heavenly Father who runs to us while we are still a great ways off! Notice, this is the only time we see God run in the Bible. How quick our heavenly Father is to forgive! (Check out this beautiful song about the only time God ran in the Bible.)

 15:21    And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 

 15:22    But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet: 

Fact is he was not worthy to be called his son before he left. What child earns the right to be a son or daughter? Doesn’t it just go with the territory? It is not because of our works that we are the children of God but because of His love.

15:23     And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry: 

 15:24    For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 

 15:25    Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. 

 15:26    And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 

 15:27    And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 

 15:28    And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. 

Here we have a son who is angry because God is merciful! His refusal to accept the gracefulness of His father leads him to leave the house, or shall I say church?

 15:29    And he answering said to [his] father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 

 15:30    But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 

That must have hurt the Father’s feelings. All this time the Father thought the son had been working in His house because He was his son and loved him. Turns out he was only working so he could be rewarded. Now that does not sound like us at all does it?

 15:31    And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 

All that Father had was already his, not because he had been working all these years, but because the Father loved him and called him His son. The son who never left did not earn the goodness of the Father anymore than the son who left. It’s not about works. It is about love.

 15:32    It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 

Jesus does not tell us how the story ends. Maybe because we decide for ourselves how it ends.