God has Always Been Graceful

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

What is more dangerous than thinking there is no law in the New Testament, is thinking there is no grace in the Old Testament.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Many find grace in the New Testament, but there is also plenty of grace in the Old Testament as well. While Paul says no flesh will be justified by works, that includes those in the Old Testament as well. Those living during Old Testament and New Testament times are all saved by,

the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 NKJV

This puts the cross before Adam and Eve! Before sin and the written law came on the scene we already had the cross!

Grace is not new to the New Testament. It is in the Old Testament as well. It was at Sinai.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; Exodus 19:5 NKJV

In this passage God is pledging His grace to us.

The word, “obey” is the Hebrew word “shema,” which means to listen. Doesn’t “listen to my voice” make perfect sense?

The word, “keep” is the Hebrew word, “Shamar,” which means to “keep watch,” “cherish” and “regard.”

We are already familiar with the word covenant, which is always one-way promise when God is involved. In Genesis 12:1-3 God made a covenant promise to Abraham without asking Abe to promise anything, only believe.

So in Exodus 19:5, God is promising us that if we listen to His voice, and cherish His promises, He will make us a special treasure. Salvation has always been based on the grace of God’s promises. In Exodus 20, God begins the commandments with,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:2-3 NKJV

God is saying, “you did not save yourselves from bondage by your works. I saved you by my grace. Because of this I promise you won’t need any other gods beside me.”

Even Jesus overcame temptation by trusting His Father’s promises.

The Saviour overcame to show man how he may overcome. All the temptations of Satan, Christ met with the word of God. By trusting in God’s promises, He received power to obey God’s commandments, and the tempter could gain no advantage. -Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, Page 181.

The works of the flesh were never a part of the everlasting gospel in the Old or New Testaments. When Paul said, “for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” he was not implying anything new. He was establishing a fact as ancient as God Himself. God has always been graceful.

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

Where Did God Say He Wanted the Law Posted?

Fort Desoto Love Letters 030

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NLT

As humans we tend to gravitate towards legalism. We feel more holy about ourselves by posting memes on Facebook about how the ten commandments should be exhibited at court house squares and schools. Never mind the fact that God never told anyone to post them on courthouses or schools. He wanted it to be much closer to home than that.

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NLT

Some took the “bind them on their foreheads” literal and sewed them into their clothing. What could be wrong with that? Nothing, unless by doing it outwardly they were missing the inner application. Just like some have taken Jesus literally when He said to cut off the body part that causes you to sin. I think He simply meant to remove the temptation. What really needs to be changed is the heart. Cutting off body parts won’t do any good unless the heart is changed. Likewise posting things on our clothing and doors wont do any good unless the heart is changed.

I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 11:19 NLT

Now don’t go doing surgery on yourself! Let God perform this surgery. Doing it ourselves is very legalistic and futile. David realized how futile his own works and efforts were when he asked God

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Psalms 51:10 NLT

David’s legalistic attempts to cover his sin and make things righ led to one mistake after another-even murder! David finally understood He could not fix the problems himself legalistically, and handed the scalpel over to God and asked Him to perform the surgery.

It is quite legalistic to think that literally cutting off body parts and posting the law on courthouse walls will make us pure inside. So, if you are campaigning to have the ten commandments posted on courthouse walls and school halls, may I ask you, are these same laws already written on your heart? After all, while God never spoke of writing the law on schoolyards and courthouse lawns, He did speak of writing them on your heart.

I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.Jeremiah 31:33 NLT

When God does this, we won’t need to campaign for the right to post the laws in our schools and courthouses. Whatever building we enter the law will be there, right inside of us. Like Paul said,

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. 2 Corinthians 3:2 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Do we Keep The Commandments, Or Just Wash Our Robes?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A Protestant lady visiting my church asked why we keep Saturday as the Sabbath. I explained that we love Jesus, and Jesus said if we love Him to keep His commandments. (See John 14:15) She responded indignantly, “But you can’t keep the commandments!” I should have been surprised, but I had heard such a response before from others. While many professed Christians say we can’t keep the law or commandments, my Bible says otherwise.

The author of Revelation sees people keeping the commandments. So it must be possible.

And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.Revelation 12:17 NLT

Later John sums up the three angel’s message by saying,

This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.John 14:12 NLT

Again John sees people obeying. He also sees how they obey. Faith makes them obedient. Faith does not do away with obedience. It leads to obedience! Now let’s look at a text where many see a great discrepancy, but I don’t  see any

Revelation 22:14 in the King James Version says,

Blessed are they that do his commandments…

However other versions like the NIV and NLT read,

Blessed are those who wash their robes… Revelation 22:14 NLT

So which is it? Do His commandments or wash their robes? Are the NIV and NLT making an attempt to do away with the law, by saying “wash their robes” instead of “do the commandments” as some suggest? Is this some sort of conspiracy to do away with the commandments?

While KJV proponents suggest that the KJV “Do His Commandments” is the more accurate reading, I see no discrepancy, because all those who wash their robes will be keeping the commandments. Just like Revelation 14:12 showed us, all those who have faith keep the commandments.

Revelation 7 is talking about the law and the seal of God. Here John describes  those sealed with the law in Revelation 7:14 KJV ,

These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Here even the KJV describes those who have been sealed with the law of God as those have washed their robes, just like the NIV and NLT describe later inRevelation 22.

I conclude that “Do His Commandments” and “Wash their robes” are not contradictions, but rather mean the same thing. In Revelation 14:12 we see those who have faith keep the commandments. You can’t separate the two. And by comparing Revelation 22:14 with the NIV, NLT and KJV we see that all those who have washed their robes keep the commandments. Just like 1 John 1:9 tells us, Jesus forgives our sins and cleanses us from unrighteousness, which means He makes us righteous and obedient to the law.

In Genesis 2:15 God told Adam to “keep” the garden. What He meant was to  cherish it and protect it. Care for it. So when Jesus tells us to “keep” the commandments He is simply telling us to cherish and protect them. In Luke 7:50Jesus tells a woman who had just washed His feet that her faith had saved her. That faith was more than a mental acknowledgement of truth. It was a love response. By washing Jesus’ feet and anointing Him with perfume she was cherishing and protecting Him.

When we literally cherish Jesus, it produces a literal faith, which literally washes our robes from sin and lawlessness, which turns us into literal doers of the law and commandments.

If my theory is correct, perhaps it could explain why Jesus, speaking of the woman who had washed His feet, said,

Wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” Matthew 26:13 NLT

Jesus intended for this woman’s story to go right along with the Good News about the seal of God and the three angels’ message.

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

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Motivated by Love

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Proverbs 2:1 NLT

The other day I was substitute teaching at my local church school. The kids were all good, but a little hyperactive. I finally said, “The next one who talks without raising their hand will get their name on the board.” No sooner had I said that, when a girl talked without raising her hand. I wrote her name on the board. She looked shocked. I told her, I had warned them that the next person to talk without raising their hand would get their name on the board. She replied, “I only heard you say to raise our hand before we talked, but I never heard you say we would get our name on the board if we didn’t do what you said.” I asked, her, “If you heard me say raise your hand, isn’t that enough for you to obey? Is the only reason for obedience to avoid punishment?”

Obeying to avoid punishment is missing the whole point of obedience. I have heard people say, “be careful going through that school zone because traffic fines double in a school zone.” But shouldn’t the whole point of driving carefully through a school zone be so we don’t hurt a child?

Legalism tells us to be careful driving through a school zone so we avoid a fine.

Love tells us to be careful going through a school zone so we don’t hurt a child.

Shouldn’t love be all the motivation we need to follow God’s commands? My young student missed the whole point of obedience when she admitted she would have obeyed had she known there was a penalty for disobedience. Do we miss the point of obedience when we obey only to avoid a penalty?

 “If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT 

Galatians; Justified by Faith Alone

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “Read Galatians 2:15–17. What is Paul saying to you here, and how can you apply these wordsto your own Christian experience?”

Galatians 2:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our
faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

Obeying the commandments will not get me justified, but being justified by faith alone will get me to obeying the commandments.

“We must center our hopes of heaven upon Christ alone, because He is our
Substitute and Surety. We have transgressed the law of God, and by the deeds of
the law shall no flesh be justified. The best efforts that man in his own
strength can make are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has
transgressed; but through faith in Christ he may claim the righteousness of the
Son of God as all-sufficient. Christ satisfied the demands of the law in His
human nature. He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement
for him, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.” Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ,
and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of
the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.”  {Faith and Works 93-94} 

Justification by faith does not mean that Jesus pretends I am an overcomer. Faith makes my justification a reality. The victories are real. By the grace of God I am now partaking and experiencing the divine nature as Jesus lives in my heart. I am, as it says in Ephesians 3:19, “filled with all the fulness of God.”

Galatians; An Overview

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To read the book of Galatians click here.  To read this week’s SS lesson click here.

For the Sabbath School lesson phone app. click here.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

In Paul’s day people were already perverting the gospel. How do you pervert the gospel? Put self in it.

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.  Galatians 2:20

Notice the pure gospel that Paul preaches has no self in it. He preaches a “Not I but Christ” gospel. So many people pervert the gospel by adding self. I have heard parents tell their kids, “Do the best you can do, and then when you have done your best Jesus will help you with the rest.” That is a me plus Christ gospel. The gospel is not me plus Christ, it is not I but Christ. Zero me. 100% Christ.

While at an Oklahoma Adventist Camp meeting, ,many moons ago, I heard a minister tell a story. Sorry I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the story. It went like this. A man was on his way to a breakfast diner. There was one parking space left open by the front door. The man started for the space when he saw a man coming the other way who wanted the same space. The first man’s first reaction was to give it the gas and take the closest spot before the other man got there. But he had yielded himself to Christ that morning, so he let off the gas, let the other guy take the spot while he drove farther down and parked. When he got inside, the second man thanked him for letting him have the closer spot. The first man said, “That was not me.” The second man said well then who was it? The first man said, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!” So you see, whenever we do something right, we can be sure of one thing, it was not me. It was Jesus. Not I but Christ.

We also pervert the gospel when we add self effort, which is legalism by the way, and we also add legalism when we replace God’s law with manmade laws. We also pervert the gospel when we add lies. For example, John 3:16 says the unbeliever will perish, but many tell the lie that they will be tormented for all eternity instead. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell.

We also pervert the gospel when we alter our preaching or worship services to please the ego of man. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal 2:16

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

These verses make it clear we are not saved by the works of the flesh but by the faith of Jesus. Notice it is not even our own faith that saves us. It is the faith of Jesus!

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

Faith does not do away with good works, faith works. It works by love. The legalistic motivation of hoping for a reward or avoiding punishment are gone. We work, but not to get to heaven or stay out of hell. We work because we love Jesus because He first loved us!

 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  Galatians 5:16-17

The spirit gives us victory over the flesh. The flesh is legalism. Some have the idea that legalism is where you keep God’s law. The law is a part of the gospel too. The difference is how it is achieved. With legalism we keep the law by our own power for our own glory. With the gospel we keep the law by God’s power for His glory.

Galatians 4 made this clear. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.  Galatians 4:22-24

God promised Abraham a son. All Abraham had to do was believe and the son would be born. Some people have told me Abraham still had to do something  as this was not a virgin birth. Think about it. Sara’s womb was dead, so it might as well have been a virgin birth. All God needed was Abraham to trust His promise. This is God’s covenant, where we trust His promises. Abraham though set out to make his own covenant based on his own effort and too Hagar to wife. Abraham had to be circumcised so he could cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh. He trusted his own flesh to do that which God promised to do for and through him. ‘

Notice, the end result is still a child being born. The difference is Abraham’s way had self in it. When Abraham learned to trust God’s promise there was fruit and the fruit was real. So today, when we cast away the confidence in our own flesh, we will have fruit. Some think that when we get rid of legalism that we get rid of standards. The gospel does not get rid of standards. It helps us reach those standards, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:24-26

Again, with the gospel we put away the effort and pride of the flesh and we reap the fruit of the work of the Spirit for the glory of God.

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. Galatians 6:14

Romans 12-16; Vengeance is Mine

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Romans 12:19

I used to read this and think that God meant that He would pay the people back who hurt me, by hurting them back. Recently, while reading this passage it dawned on me that maybe Paul meant it another way. Maybe he meant that God Himself would repay me what my enemy owes me. If someone has stolen from me, whether it be money, or any other blessing, God will pay me back so that I don’t have to get it from the person who tried to hurt me.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

The law defines what love is. Love is putting others first. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please [his] neighbour for [his] good to edification.  Romans 15:1-2 If we love others, we will automatically be keeping all the commandments. The first four are about putting God first. The last six are about putting family and friends first.

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, [be] glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.  Romans 16:25-27