Can Parents, Mentors and God be Friends With Their Children?

The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant. Psalm 25:14 NLT

We’ve all heard it said, Parents and teachers cannot be friends with their children. They have to be disciplinarians instead. I saw a meme on Facebook where a mother was telling her child, “I am not your friend. I will discipline you when you need it. I will always be watching you and needing to know where you are every second.” To me, that sounds exactly like a friend! When talking about parents and teachers being friends with their kids maybe we just need a broader view of friendship. There is more to being friends than going shopping or golfing together and then out to eat.  Actually I have many friends who I have never done any of those things with. To me, the discipline and accountability all fall under friendship. 

A friend of mine in Texas summed it up wisely I believe. She said, “While I can’t be friends with my child who is rebellious I can be friends with my child who is obedient.” Of course I still believe she was being a real friend by disciplining her child who was rebellious. Even so I appreciate the point that she made that a parent and teacher can be friends with an obedient child. As the Psalm above tells us that the Lord is a friend to those who fear (respect) Him I understand that the goal of the covenant He teaches us is friendship.

The goal of the atonement is friendship. The goal of the covenant is friendship. While I have never had children of my own I have had countless students over the years in the Adventist schools where I have helped out. Disciplining children to learn has opened my eyes to my own teachers so long ago. The teacher who I despised for making me stay after school to get my work done I now see was truly my friend. At dismissal time she could have told herself that she had done all she was paid to do and gone on about her day, but instead she gave up her own time to make me succeed. It did not matter to her that it made me upset with her. She cared so much about my future successes that she was willing to make me hate her if that is what it took for me to succeed. Now that is what I call a real friend! 

Now as a teacher and mentor, often I have to be the “enemy” when I am really being a friend. As a matter of fact, as I was just now writing this, it occurred to me that if a child is set on self destruction then I really am their enemy by foiling their self destruction. Even so, in my mind I am still being a friend. I am at peace with the fact that there are several young people out there who consider me an enemy because I held them accountable to be their best. At the same time while gift cards and treats are nice during teacher appreciation week, nothing is more meaningful to me than when years later former students call me up or even send a text, asking me a Bible question or sharing a prayer request. Sometimes they will share a warm memory assuring me my time and efforts were worthwhile. Even though I have never “hung out” with them, even so with all the time spent in the classroom together I still consider them my friends. The fact that they contact me years later when they have a need tells me they consider me a friend. Again there is a lot more to friendship than golfing and sharing nachos together. 

When I study the covenant I see that Jesus is interested in my friendship. If I am respectful and obedient I am more than His servant. I am His friend.

You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:14-15 NLT 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Negative Feelings Play a Positive Role in our Salvation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:4 NLT 

To me, a lot is said in the brief passage above. It tells me no one was ever saved by the Old Covenant. Those who lived and died before Jesus came were never saved by the law or by the Old Covenant. Before and after the cross everyone is saved by grace and by the New Covenant. The same law of ten commandments exist in both the Old and New Testament while it never saved anyone in the Old or New Testament. Obedience has always been the goal in both the Old and New Covenant but it was never the means to attaining salvation. It is grace that gives us obedience. See Ephesians 2:8-10

The purpose of the animal sacrifices were to help those in Old Testament times to look forward to the cross of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Many animal rights activists and animal lovers have wondered why God would design a daily sacrificial system where countless animals would be killed everyday. What we need to understand is it was not God’s plan for countless animals to be killed every day. In Exodus 12:1-6 God tells the people to take a lamb into their home on the 10th day of the month but not to kill it until the 14th day. Why did God want the lamb in their home for four days before sacrificing it? I believe it gave them time to fall in love with their little pet so that it would break their hearts to have to sacrifice it. It was not God’s plan for countless animals to be sacrificed. It was God’s plan that the sacrifice would break their hearts and they would turn from sin. Just as Samuel told Saul,

Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT 

I can’t really blame those in the Old Testament who became callous in regard to the daily animal sacrifices. A while back I was praying to God and casually thanked Him for sending Jesus to die for me. As soon as I said “Thank you for dying for me” I realized I had just said that as casually as I would thank someone who bought my lunch! I had to remind myself of the awesome sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross, and that He deserved more of a thank you than someone who just treated me to lunch. As someone participating in the New Covenant I need to allow myself to fully grasp the awfulness of my sin. This is hard when we are conditioned these days to “stay positive” and avoid being negative. We love popular preachers who motivate us and make us feel good about ourselves. But do negative feelings and emotions still have a part in our New Covenant lives? James says they do.

Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. James 4:9 NLT 

Negative feelings and emotions play a positive role in our lives. They bring us to true repentance and true salvation which brings us to true joy. They teach us to avoid sin which destroys true joy. 

So I don’t become callous to the blood of Jesus the way many in Old Testament times became callous to the blood of animals, I need to keep fresh in my mind the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. No wonder so many inspired hymn writers wrote, “Jesus keep me near the cross,” and “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died. My richest gain I count as loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” And “my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross.” No wonder an inspired author wrote, 

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. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 83. 

This is my prayer…

Dear Jesus I am sorry for the times I thanked you for dying for me the same casual way I thank someone for buying my lunch. Also I want to express how deeply I appreciate your awesome sacrifice not just by my words or even tears alone. I need the power of your blood to not only forgive my sins but to also empower me to live a life of obedience and thanksgiving. I want everything I do to shout “I love you Jesus!” In the name of Jesus I pray, amen. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The Resurrection in Light of the Cross

Brief overview: Death is a state of unconscious sleep. The dead do not know anything at this time and are not awakened until the last trump at Christ’s second coming. See Ecclesiastes 9:5-6Job 14:121 Corinthians 15:51-551 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Why is it important to know the truth about Death:

The teaching that you don’t really die is a lie Satan started in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” By telling this lie Satan hoped to get Eve and all mankind to believe that there is really no consequence for disobeying God. He also wants us to believe that we are all immortal regardless if we have a relationship with God or not. This opens the door for spiritualism where people may actually be communicating with the devil and his angels, thinking they are speaking with their loved ones. Our salvation does not come from knowing what happens when we die. Our salvation is found alone in God’s love. However, no lie is ever harmless, and when Satan told the lie, “Ye shall not surely die”, not only was he lying but he was also calling God a liar. Not a safe path for us to follow.

Why understanding death in the light of the cross is important:

First of all if you don’t really die then Jesus did not really die for us and we still need a Savior. The lie that we don’t really die destroys the cross and everything Jesus endured and accomplished on it. If Jesus was not really tasting death likeHebrews 2:9 says He did, then we have just minimized the cross to a six hour pain endurance marathon.

I remember sitting in a funeral a while back for a little girl who was hit and killed by a car. Her mother sat on the front pew sobbing uncontrollably. Meanwhile the pastor talked about how happy the little girl and Jesus were right now up in heaven. Do you know how cruel that made Jesus look to the poor mother? Would Jesus tear a mother’s heart apart just to go have fun with her daughter? I think not! The little girl is resting in her grave and will be united with Jesus in heaven when the mother is reunited with her at the second coming.

For Further study on Death

What did Adam become?

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. Genesis 2:7 NLT

Note: The KJV says man became a living soul. A living person is a soul. To be living you must have the combination of breath and a body. Breath + Body = “soul” or “person.” Without both the body and breath there is no soul or person. Just like a box made of wood and nails. The box is the combination of wood and nails. Take the nails away from the wood and you have no box. Take the breath away from the body and you have no soul or person.

Whose spirit returns to God?

For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.  Ecclesiastes 12:7 NLT

What is the Spirit?

As long as I live, while I have breath from God. Job 27:3 NLT

Note: The KJV says, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, Job 27:3.  The NLT makes it clear that the spirit is simply our breath. So in Ecclesiastes 12:7 all that returns to God when we die is our breath. We are not conscious.

What does God take that turns the body to dust?

But if you turn away from them, they panic. When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust.  Psalm 104:29 NLT

What age old question did Job ask?

“But when people die, their strength is gone.  They breathe their last, and then where are they? Job 14:10 NLT

What is the Bible answer?

people are laid to rest and do not rise again.  Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep.  Job 14:12 NLT

Do the dead know what happens to the living?

They never know if their children grow up in honor or sink to insignificance. Job 14:21 NLT

How much do the dead know?

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth.  Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 NLT

What did Jesus call death?                                                                                                     

Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.

So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. John 11:11-14 NLT

How long had Lazarus been dead?

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days.  John 11:17 NLT

Did Martha believe Lazarus was in heaven when he died?

“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” John 11:24 NLT

Was Lazarus called from heaven, hell or the grave?

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11: 43-44 NLT

When are the dead raised?                                                                                          

And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. 1 Corinthians 15:16-23 NLT

When do we receive immortality?                                                                                  

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 NLT

Our hope and comfort:                                                                                                     

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have diedwill rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NLT

The Sabbath is a Gift for the World, not a Burden Just for the Jews

They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…. Exodus 16:29 NLT 

Regardless of our personal stand on wedding rings or wedding watches for that matter, we all understand that in many cultures the wedding ring is a gift symbolizing a relationship. Men will pick out a ring that they hope

their fiancés will appreciate and they usually pay a pretty penny for it. Now both parties realize the ring is not the relationship itself but they cherish their rings because of what they represent. Now imagine if a wife told her husband she threw her ring away because after all she has him and no longer needs what the ring represents? Wouldn’t the husband be hurt that his gift was not appreciated?

Or take for example your nation’s flag. On April 25, 1976 The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team were playing a home game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. While the Dodgers were up to bat, two men ran onto the outfield with a United States flag, and opened up a lighter. Rick Monday, the Cubs’ outfielder saw they were trying to burn the flag right there in front of the crowd. He ran and grabbed the flag away from the men before they could catch it on fire. He took the flag to the Dodger’s dugout while the entire crowd cheered for the opposing team’s outfielder who just saved the United States flag. The Dodger’s even put a message on the board saluting the Cubs’ outfielder, “Rick Monday you made a great play!” The crowd cherished and protected the flag because of what it represented. The flag is not our country it is a piece of cloth, but we honor our flags because they represent our country. 

Even though married couples have each other they do not throw their wedding rings away. I even heard a pastor who was against wearing wedding rings counsel a couple who were no longer wearing their rings to keep them away. He counseled them to keep their rings in a special box. So please lets not get sidetracked and miss my point here. The real marriage does not do away with the ring symbolizing the marriage. The real country does not do away with it’s flag symbolizing the country. Likewise God has given us the Sabbath as a gift. He gives us a weekly rest to remind us of His promise to save us by resting our faith in Him alone. He gives us the gift of not working that day to remind us that our works do not save us. God alone saves us. 

Now I have heard people say that  Jesus replaced the weekly Sabbath when He gave us spiritual rest. I have heard people say that in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus gives us a spiritual rest, thus doing away with the Sabbath. However throwing away the weekly Sabbath because we have a spiritual rest now would be the same thing as throwing away wedding ring (or watch) because we now have the wedding, or going ahead and burning our nation’s flag because we now have a nation. People keep their rings and the marriage. People honor their nation’s flag and their country. Fact is in the Old Testament we had a spiritual rest and the weekly Sabbath just like in the New Testament. We have had the Sabbath ever since creation as an eternal sign of the rest we have always had in God in both the Old and New Testament. The Sabbath never saved anyone in the Old Testament or New Testament. We have always been saved by grace, and not by works, and the Sabbath is the everlasting sign and promise that we were created by God’s works and not our own, and that we were redeemed by God’s work on the cross and not our own in both the Old and New Testament. 

Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed. Exodus 31:13-17 NLT

The Sabbath is a sign of God’s promise that He alone makes us holy. Our works don’t sanctify or make us holy. No work is to be done on the Sabbath to symbolize that God’s people understand they are not saved by their works. They are saved in the Old Testament as well as New Testament by resting their faith in God’s works and merits. The rest Jesus offered in Matthew 11:28-30 is the rest the people had in the Old Testament. 

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. Exodus 5:12-15 NLT 

The weekly Sabbath was given as a sign in the Old Testament that their own works did not save them from slavery. God’s works saved them from slavery. In Egypt the Jews did all the work so Pharaoh could rest. God gave them the Sabbath as a gift to remind them He would do all the work so they could rest. In Eden the Sabbath was a sign for Adam and Eve to know that “It was God who made us and not we ourselves.” At Sinai the Sabbath was a sign that God worked out their salvation from Egyptian bondage and they did not save themselves. 

Was the Sabbath rest an Old Testament sign for the Jews alone?

I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. Isaiah 56:6 NLT

The Sabbath is a sign that we are God’s people regardless if we are Jews or foreigners. The Sabbath was not given to the Jews as a sign they were Jews. It was given to the Jews as a sign they were God’s people. That same sign is given to the foreigners that they are God’s people. Old or New Testament, Jew or Gentile, the Sabbath is God’s eternal gift reminding us every week that we are saved by resting our faith in His promises of grace. Like a wedding ring, like a flag, the Sabbath is God’s gift symbolizing every week the rest we have in Him. We don’t throw wedding rings or wedding watches away because we have marriage. We don’t burn flags because we have our country. Likewise we don’t throw the weekly Sabbath away because we have Jesus. The Sabbath is His gift reminding us of His amazing grace. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

You may study more about the Sabbath here.

Video: Baptism in Light of the Cross

Baptism 

Brief overview: By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit. It is by immersion in water and is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence of repentance of sin. It follows instruction in the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings. (Rom. 6:1-6Col. 2:1213Acts 16:30-3322:162:38Matt. 28:1920.)

Why it is important to understand the truth about baptism:

The Bible only teaches one form of baptism. See Ephesians 4:5. We get the word “baptism” from the Greek word, “baptizo” which means, to immerse. To be immersed you must go into the water all the way.

Why it is important to understand baptism in light of the cross:

Romans 6 tells us the reason there is only one form of baptism. Baptism is where we are crucified with Christ and die to self. In Baptism we are giving all of ourselves to Jesus because He loved and gave all of Himself for us. When we go under the water we stop breathing for a moment. That is symbolic of our death to self. When we come up out of the water we take a new breath and that new breath represents the new life that we are now living for Jesus.

Further Study on Baptism

 How essential is baptism?

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  John 3:5 NLT

How many types of baptism does God recognize?

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism Ephesians 4:5 NLT

How was Jesus baptized?

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”Matthew 3:13-17 NLT

Why did John baptize there?

At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism.  John 3:23 NLT

How did Philip baptize the Ethiopian?

He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. Acts 8:38 NLT

What must precede baptism?

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

Note: Disciplining or mentoring and teaching takes place before and after baptism.

What else must take place?

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.  Mark 16:16 NLT

What must follow belief?                                                                                                 

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:37-38 NLT

What does baptism symbolize?                                                                                    

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.  Romans 6:3-6 NLT

Who now lives in us?

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT

What are we declared to be?

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.  Galatians 3:26-29 NLT

For what reason might one be re-baptized?

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.”Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 19:1-5 NLT

Why wait?

What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16 NLT

Video: The Sabbath in Light of the Cross

The Sabbath

Brief overview: The Seventh-day, Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it Holy. See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus, 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13John 14:15,Revelation 14:12

Why is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead! The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man made ways of worship will never save us.

The story goes of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was over heard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

Further Study on the Sabbath

When did God create the Sabbath?

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he restedfrom all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

Note: While some say the Sabbath was made for the Jews, fact is it was created long before there was a Jewish race. It was created at the foundation of mankind for all mankind. When God created the earth, He provided the sun to mark a year, the moon to mark a month, and the earth’s rotation to mark a day. But where do we get a 7-day week from? Nowhere, but in the creation account of Genesis 1, with the creation week ending with the seventh day Sabbath.

“So long as the fact that He is our Creator continues to be a reason why we should worship Him, so long the Sabbath will continue as its sign and memorial. Had the Sabbath been universally kept, man’s thoughts and affections would have been led to the Creator as an object of reverence and worship, and there would never have been an idolater, an atheist, or an infidel. The keeping of the Sabbath is a sign of loyalty to the true God, “him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” It follows that the message which commands men to worship God and keep His commandments will especially call upon them to keep the fourth commandment.” Lift Him Up, Page 51

Which day is the Sabbath?

The seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. Exodus 20:10-11 NLT

Who was the Sabbath made for?

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 NLT

Note: The Sabbath was made for people, all people, not just Jews. It meets our need of resting in God’s grace as we cease from our works instead of trying to be saved by keeping the legalistic requirements the Pharisees had made up, which were not Scriptural.

Whose day is the Sabbath?

So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath! Mark 2:28

Note: The Sabbath is the Lord’s day John referred to in Revelation 1:10 when he wrote: “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping…”

What does God call the Sabbath?                           

Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.  Isaiah 58:13 NLT

When does a day begin?

This will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and on that day you must deny yourselves. This day of rest will begin at sundown on the ninth day of the month and extend until sundown on the tenth day.   Leviticus 23:32 NLT

Note: Festival Sabbaths like the weekly Sabbath, and all days begins at sundown. This is not an idea that should be foreign to us, as we all recognize the evening of December 24 as Christmas evening or Christmas Eve.

What marks the beginning of a day?                                                                                     

God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. Genesis 1:5 NLT

And the evening and the morning were the first day.  Genesis 1:5 KJV

Note: The NLT and KJV both make it clear the day begins at evening.

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. Luke 4:16 NLT

What else should be done on the Sabbath?                                                                

where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.) And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:10-12 NLT

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8 NLT

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

You have six days each week for your ordinary work,but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. Exodus 20:9-11 NLT

Note: While some say they keep every day holy or every day alike, we see that God did not make every day alike. Six days are for work and the Sabbath He made holy. In the above passage we see the Sabbath was not just intended for Jews, but for foreigners as well.

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?                                                                        

In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that!So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked.“Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!” Nehemiah 13:15-18 NLT

What are we to learn from this?                                                                                         

So there is a special reststill waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

Footnotes:

  1. 4:9 Or a Sabbath rest.   Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT

Was the Sabbath kept after Jesus died on the cross?

Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. Acts 18:4 NLT

Note: Jews and Greeks alike observed the Sabbath of the Scriptures.

What is God’s promise?

“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,  and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.   I, the Lord, have spoken!” Isaiah 58:13-14 NLT

Does Romans 9 Teach Predestination for Some or Salvation for all?

Many take Romans 9 to say that God has chosen some people to be saved and others to be lost without any will or choice of their own. They call this predestination. So let’s take a deeper look at this chapter and see for ourselves. We will also let the Bible explain itself. 

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 NLT 

Wow! This is amazing. Paul would rather be eternally lost rather than see his community perish. This reminds me of Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32:32. It reminds me of Jesus being willing to die the second death in order to save the world. I have to ask myself if I love those I give Bible studies to this much? I can only imagine that such love must really change lives. By is Paul so concerned about his fellow Jews? 

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.  Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.  For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” Romans 9:4-12 NLT 

Paul is concerned because not all of his fellow Jews have accepted Christ. Yet they think they are God’s special people just because they are Jews and Abraham is their father.  In John 8:31-59 Jesus told the Pharisees the real children are Abraham are the ones who believe in Him as the Messiah. There was nothing special about being a Jew or a descendant of Abraham apart from the promised Messiah.  Paul shares a similar message with the Galatians in Galatians 4:21-31. in this passage Paul tells us that Hagar represents bondage to legalism and works while the child of promise, Isaac, represents those who believe in God’s promise and accept salvation by believing in the promised Messiah. The entire book of Romans assures us that while the promised Messiah came from Abraham’s Jewish blood line that salvation is offered to the entire world. 

After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Romans 3:29-30 NLT

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

It is important that we keep in mind that the entire book of Romans is clear that salvation is offered to everyone regardless if they are Jew or Gentile. Romans 9 is not grappling with who is chosen to be saved, but rather who was chosen to be ancestors of the promised Messiah who would bring salvation to the entire world. 

In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” Romans 9:13 NLT

This does not mean that God rejected Esau for salvation. It only means that God rejected Esau from having the birthright and being the ancestor of the promised Messiah. Jacob was preferred to be the ancestor of the promised Messiah. In the KJV it says, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” It is important for us to see how the KJV uses the word hate and even more important how Jesus uses the word hate. 

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 KJV 

Of course Jesus did not mean we must hate our families the way we think of hate today. Love and hate show our preferences. To love means to put one first and to hate means to put one last. The NLT helps clarify this idea. 

If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 NLT 

So the NLT also helps clarify how the KJV is using the word hate when God says He loves Jacob but hated Esau. Eternal salvation is not the issue. God simple preferred Jacob to have the blessing of being the promised Messiah’s ancestor over Esau. 

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”  When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. Romans 9:14-24 NLT 

Some take these words to mean that God chooses some people to be lost without any will of their own, but this clearly is not idea of this passage. First none of us deserve salvation in the first place. God is not defending His right to not save people. We all have sinned and deserve death. In this passage God is only defending His right to be merciful. You may not believe what I am saying but stay with me! In a moment the Bible is going to explain this passage itself. Meanwhile let’s understand what God is talking about when he says the potter makes one jar for decoration and another for holding garbage. Again this is not talking about eternal salvation. It simply means once again some were chosen to be a part of the promised Messiah’s bloodline while others were not. Also that God uses some of us to glorify God by being honored and He uses some of us to glorify God through our suffering. For example Elijah honored God by being taken into heaven in a chariot of fire. John the Baptist honored God by being beheaded in a lonely prison cell. Did God love Elijah more than John the Baptist? No way! Is Elijah the only one of the two who are eternally saved? Not at all! Both are saved, but one the Potter used as a jar for decoration while the other was used a garbage jar. Both have their part in the big picture of salvation. Both are dearly loved by God. Romans 9:14-24 is making the point that God honors some and dishonors others in order to save the entire world. 

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.” And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God. And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.” And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.” Romans 9:25-29 NLT 

Instead of saying that God only wants Jews to be saved this passage is telling us God plans to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Romans 9 is not about God having the right to deny anyone salvation. It is about His right to save the entire world. Now so there will not be any confusion on this point Paul is about to sum it up. The Bible is about to explain itself as I promised. 

What does all this mean? Romans 9:30 NLT 

Okay here is our cue to pay close attention. To avoid all confusion about the meaning of Romans 9 Paul is getting ready to tell us exactly what it all means. 

What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 9:30-33 NLT 

Does Paul tell us that everything we just read in Romans 9 is about predestination? No! It is about how we are all saved Jews and Gentiles alike not by our national heritage, works or legalism. We are all saved, Jews and Gentiles alike by believing in the promised Messiah who came through Abraham’s ancestry. As God told Abraham, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” See Genesis 12:3. The Jews were not preferred above the Gentiles for salvation. The Jews were only preferred to be the ones who would give birth to the Messiah Who was  promised to every nation. 

I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Haggai 2:7 NLT 

Let’s not make the same mistake many Jews made in the days of Jesus and the days of Paul. Let’s not trust our national or even our religious affiliations to save us. Let’s not trust our works or legalism to save us. Let’s put all our hope in our only hope- the Promised Messiah.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13 NLT 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

What was Really Wrong With Sinai?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— Galatians 4:24 NKJV

What did Paul mean by Mount Sinai? Many believe he was referring to the Ten Commandments. Was he? Paul speaks favorably of the Ten Commandments in Ephesians 6, and I doubt he would do so if he really thought they led to bondage. Paul also mentions Hagar. Instead of referring to the Ten Commandments, is Paul referring to a Hagar-like attitude at Sinai?

Hagar represents the man-made covenant or man-made promises. Hagar was not really at fault, and God promised to bless her, but Abraham used Hagar to try to help him get the promised child by the works of his own flesh, instead of trusting God’s promise.

Likewise at Sinai the people promised three times,

“All the Lord has spoken we will do.” Exodus 19:824:324:7.

Their promises are like the “Hagar” mentality. The people were trusting their own promises and works of the flesh, instead of trusting God to work in and through them. When Paul referred to Sinai in Galatians 4:24 instead of the the law of Ten Commandments, he mentions Hagar. In Hebrews Paul explains that the problem at Sinai was the people were making their own promises, instead of trusting God’s.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Hebrews 8:7-10 NKJV

Paul promotes the Law and says it is to be written on our hearts. The Law was not the problem at Sinai. The problem, Paul says, is how the people tried to establish the Law. They were depending upon themselves instead of God’s promises. Remember Joshua telling Israel that they could not serve the Lord in Joshua 24:19, but they went on and promised they could anyway?

So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” Joshua 24:22 NKJV

Joshua sees the people are making the same mistake made at Sinai. In Galatians, Paul sees the Galatians making that same mistake. They thought they could earn God’s favor. They thought they could rely on their own promises to keep the Law. By trusting the strength of their own promises they were making the “Hagar” mistake, just like Abraham. The commandments are good, and while we can’t keep them in the strength of our own promises, what is impossible with us is possible with God. Remember what we read last quarter?

by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NKJV

Abraham trusted the works of his own flesh with Hagar, instead of trusting God’s promise. The problem at Sinai was that the same Hagar mentality was present. Paul wants the Law written on the Galatians’ hearts as well as our hearts, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.