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.

What does a Relationship With Jesus Look Like?

I am writing tonight from beautiful and historic St. Augustine Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful and historic St. Augustine Florida.

A member of my New Believer’s Sabbath School class, in the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, had been struggling with getting Sabbaths off at work so she could observe the Bible Sabbath. She told me she had to work on Sabbath, and I would gently tell her that she did not have to work. She had a choice and was choosing to work. Consequences be what they may, she had a choice.

Recently I was giving a Bible study to the 7th and 8th graders at our church school, on the second coming, when we came to this verse,

The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive? Revelation 6:14-17 NLT

I told my students how sad it would be, for us to be hiding from the One who died for us when He came! How can we make sure we aren’t the ones running from Jesus? The students answered wisely, we must have a relationship with Jesus. I asked them to describe what a relationship with Jesus looks like. They gave some good answers, like prayer and Bible study. “Is that all”, I asked? I shared 1 John 2:4 NLT,

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.

While prayer and Bible study are crucial, that alone does not define a relationship with Jesus. John tells us, knowing God (having a relationship) involves obedience.

Jesus said,

If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments. Matthew 19:17 NLT

The commandments are relational. The first four define our relationship with God and the last six define our relationship with family and friends. This is why John said if we say we have a relationship with God but do not obey the commandments we are lying.

My Sabbath School class member finally exercised faith, and told her boss she must have Sabbaths off. It was granted. A couple of weeks ago things were busy at the store where she works. Her boss offered her a store gift card and sales bonuses if she would come in to work on Sabbath. As much as she needed the money, she answered “No. I will be in church Sabbath.” She gave her testimony that Sabbath in class. It did my heart good to see faith growing her relationship beyond just reading the Bible to actually doing what it said.

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

If You Love Me…

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave.  So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said,  “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”  Luke 7:2-5 NLT

 

This story illustrates the difference between the gospel and legalism. Legalism tells us the officer has given so much that he deserves special treatment from Jesus. Meanwhile the gospel teaches us that Jesus helps those who need His help, regardless of who they are.

 

 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. Luke 7:6 NLT

 

While the Jewish elders thought the officer had earned special favors, the officer himself understood the gospel. The officer had no sense of entitlement because of his works. You may read on how Jesus heals his servant, but my point is that the officer was not giving for the sake of a reward or special treatment, but out of love.

Jesus says, 

 

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

 

Notice Jesus does not say, “If you don’t want to go to hell, keep my commandments!” or “If you want to go to heaven, keep my commandments.” He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

 

Keeping God’s commandments to get a reward does not make you a good person. Many people disobey God’s commands to get rewards. They cheat on their income tax reports to get a larger refund. They lie about achievements they have never attained to get praise from man. People who obey God for the sake of a reward will also just as easily disobey God if they could achieve a greater reward. Being motivated by the hope of a reward does not make you a good person fitted for the unselfish society of heaven.

 

Keeping God’s commandments out of fear of punishment does not make you a good person either. Remember in Daniel 3 the three Hebrew children were threatened with punishment if they did obey God! While they told the king that God would protect them, they also made it clear that was not the point.

 

He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:17-18 NLT

 

The Hebrew children were obeying God out of love, no matter what. They were not motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment. In the same way,

 

We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NKJV

 

Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. -Ellen White, Patriarch and Prophets, Page 523.

 

It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him. -Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, Page 480.

 

Once, I was in a literature evangelist meeting with our conference president. We were discussing which book to promote. The Great Controversy or the Desire of Ages? Some people said the Great Controversy because it warns us about last-day events. I suggested the Desire of Ages because it helps us fall in love with Jesus, so that when last-day events occur, we will make the right choices for the right reasons – because we love Jesus. Unless we are in love with Jesus, knowledge about last-day events will avail nothing.

 

Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12 NKJV

 

All those who have faith in Jesus’ love keep His commandments.

The Gospel versus Legalism

MLK Day 013

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You know, there are probably plenty of valid reasons why God waited till He had created everything else, before He finally created man. Obviously the environment was not inhabitable for mankind yet, but I would like to suggest another reason. I think it has to do with why I was not around at Calvary either. If man had been around while God was creating the earth, he may have come up with the crazy notion that he actually had a part in creation. It is the same with thing with Calvary. Sure, mankind was there, but everything that was good was because of God. Think of all the things that could have gone wrong. Jesus could have turned Pilate to dust. He could have called for ten thousands of angels to set Him free. Yet everything concerning my redemption went absolutely perfectly, and you know why? Because I wasn’t there to mess it all up! Paul sums up sound Biblical theology for us in four words, “Not I but Christ.” Galatians 2:20. The theory of evolution is legalism, because it involves man bettering himself on his own. This is impossible. Yet some people have a theology where Jesus forgives us, but then we get better on our own. Some people have a “me plus Christ” theology instead of a “Not I but Christ” theology. Anytime “I” become a part of my theology, my theology becomes corrupt because “I” am corrupt. Legalism struggles to make “I” part of the solution but it simply is not, so much so that the only way pure theology can work is if “I” am crucified. The Sabbath is a sign of rest, both at creation and redemption to remind us, that we are not saved by the works of the flesh, and therefore the works of the flesh, known as legalism must be put to rest. Only God Himself could first create me in His own image, only God Himself can re-create me in His own image. Let’s take a careful look at the gospel as opposed to human legalism.

 

The Gospel versus Legalism

 

 

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

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

Note:  In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the sacrifice enables the humans to love their God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

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

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

The Gospel: God- centered obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

The Gospel: All about love and humility.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on Origins and Creation here.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 5

 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth theeExodus 20:12

Why should we honor our parents? The same reason we love, respect and honor God. Not because He is bigger and stronger than us but because He loved us enough to die for us. This is the same reason we honor our parents. If you were taken to the hospital today and the doctors told your parents you needed a kidney or liver transplant in order to live, you parents only question would be “how soon can you take mine?” Your parents would gladly give their life for you! Even though we may or may not always agree with their decisions they deserve our respect and honor just because they love us.

It breaks my heart to see children talk back and sass their parents, not just because it is rude and disrespectful though that would be reason enough to break my heart, but even more so because I know those parents love their children enough they would die for them. So please, always remember when talking to your parents always be respectful if for no other reason than they love you enough to die for you. And really, that is reason enough.

Glimpses of Our God; The Holiness of God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.     And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

The Sabbath is an illustration on how the Lord makes us Holy. After all, Christianity and even more specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, is not so much about a day being holy as much as it is about a people being holy. The Sabbath did not makes itself holy. This seventh day was totally powerless and helpless. Yet God made the day holy. Likewise we can do nothing to make ourselves holy, yet God can make us holy just as He made the seventh day holy.  Thus, the Sabbath is all about grace. It is a sign that all of God’s work is complete and we can rest without trying to add anything to His work. No wonder Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath. The Sabbath points us to grace, the cross and the creating and re-creating power of God. If the Sabbath was about the law and works, Satan would care less if we kept it or not, as he is smart enough to know we are not saved by the law or works. Satan is at war with the Sabbath, because he knows it points to grace and the cross where we find salvation.

I can imagine what the first Sabbath may have been like.  Adam and Eve did not need a physical rest that first Sabbath. It’s not like they had a long week that week. But I can imagine God taking them through the garden, showing them all the wonderful things He had made, and the works He had done. On that first Sabbath, Adam and Eve realized, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Four thousand years later, Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished” and completed all the work for our salvation. He rested in the grave on Sabbath. There was nothing mankind could add or needed to add to the works of Jesus. After the cross the Sabbath has double meaning. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and it is He who redeemed us and not we ourselves.

The works of Cain in his field could not add to the salvation God Himself worked out, by providing a Lamb. The builders at the Tower of Babel could not add to God’s salvation no matter how hard they worked. Thinking to change times and laws, and thinking to turning a work day into a Sabbath day will never add to salvation either. We cannot make ourselves holy, so how can we think we can make Sunday or any other day holy? Only God can make a day holy and only God can make a people holy. I find it odd that some have accused me of trying to be saved by my works by resting on the Sabbath. How can resting be considered work?

Every Sabbath I stand in awe of God’s works just like I imagine Adam and Eve did on that first Sabbath. I understand God made a day holy that was totally powerless to make itself holy. I understand that it is He who made me and not my own works or effort. I rest my faith in His amazing grace as He also redeemed me by His work on the cross and not by my works.  If God can make a day holy, He can make me holy too.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS app to your phone click here.

For further study on the weekly Sabbath click here.

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.”