No Condemnation

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

He told her he loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the friends of him who had dragged her into bed, and he who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away.

Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

“Woman…”Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)

She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.

The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.

He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.

Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s notwhat Jesus said.

Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.

“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.

A man promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.

There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

Jesus does not condemn us, so we too may walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

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

Overcoming Sexual Sin When You are Single

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have talked to more than one single Christian, who told me, “When I promised God I would wait until I was married, I figured I would be married by now.” Other singles, even in the church, seem to think no sex before marriage just means no sex while you are a teenager. Age isn’t the issue.

Today there are more and more divorced Christians, and people who have other ambitions, who are putting off marriage until later in life. Being single, I find myself in single circles, where single Christians, both men and women voice their sexual frustration. They are not trying to be provocative or seductive. They are just being real. They want to be Christians, but they are still sexual. We are not made sexual at marriage. We are made sexual at birth.

Being made sexual at birth, how do Christians control sexual appetite until they are married? How do Christian divorced people control their sexual urges? How do Christian widows and widowers satisfy their sexual needs? I don’t imagine after 60 years of healthy sex, that the desire dies when your spouse dies. Does God meet the sexual needs of all these single people?

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

If it says God will supply all our needs, we have to understand that includes sexual needs of single people. If we can trust God to provide for our financial needs, we can trust Him to provide for our sexual needs as well. We can go to Him and tell Him about all our needs. Then we can trust Him to provide in a way that is best for us. We are familiar with a phrase in Desire of Ages,

Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 330.

Was sex the context here? No. Am I taking things out of context if I say God has a thousand ways to provide for our sexual needs, when we serve and honor God? Maybe, but please hear me out. First, we need to understand that marriage does not guarantee sex. Sadly there are celibate marriages for various reasons we won’t get into here. Having said that, sex does not guarantee intimacy. I once read in a sexual purity book long ago, that some people will have sex to avoid intimacy! Instead of talking and being intimate with their hearts and emotions, they will just be physical to avoid being intimate. Now that’s not good either, because sex should involve intimacy. But here is my point: Many of us think we crave sex when we actually crave intimacy. All sex should be intimate, but not all intimacy has to be sex.

I think we crave healthy relationships more than we crave sex. I think Mary Magdalene found something in Jesus that satisfied her desire for sex, even though it wasn’t sex, and Jesus was the perfect Gentleman with her. I think she found something in Him greater than sex. She found true love and intimacy. She needed true love and intimacy more than she needed sex. So do we.

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 46.

I have to believe this passage includes sexual activity. If God has not given you a Christian sex life right now, it is only because He has something vastly better for you right now. He knows all your needs, not just the needs of your bank account. He knows your sexual needs too. He cares for you in all your ways.

The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalms 84:11 NLT

If sex was good for single people God would give it to them, but sex is not good for single people, which is the only reason He does not give it to them. But love and intimacy is good for single people, and He gives that to them, through church, family, and a personal relationship with Him.

Though I don’t have all the answers, I believe God can supply the sexual needs of His single people, with pure love and intimacy, and a thousand other ways we know nothing about. The solution is to trust God with your sexual needs just like any other need.

Please let me paraphrase a popular passage.

Keep your [sexual] wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the [sexual] wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our [sexual] sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything [including sex] that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our [sexual] peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No [Sexual] calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the [sexually] broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 100.

God loves single people just as much as He loves married people, and He makes single people just as happy as married people.  God can appropriately meet the sexual needs of single people as easily as He can meet the sexual needs of married people. Believe in His love, and He will meet all your daily needs.

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

Michelle’s Profession of Faith

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About a year and a half ago, I met Maretta at the evangelistic meetings we were having at the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church. We studied together for a while before she rejoined the Adventist church on profession of faith. Maretta has since been sharing Jesus with her friends and family. Maretta and I began a Bible study group with Maretta’s daughter Kay, and longtime friend Michelle. We enjoyed studying together on Wednesday evenings before prayer meeting. Kay, recently moved up north and is finding an Adventist Church family in her new home. Michelle joined the Adventist church for the first time here in Plant City!

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Michelle was very happy to join the Adventist church this morning! She has been sharing Jesus with her family, even introducing them to the Discover Bible Study Guides she has been doing as well from the Plant City SDA Church. Maretta introduced Michelle to Jesus, who is now introducing her friends to Jesus, just like Andrew.

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ” John 1:41 NLT

Please pray for Maretta and Michelle, that they both will continue being blessed with more and more opportunities to share Jesus with others!

He’s Like Me

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do…Galatians 4:12 NLT

 

Why is Paul telling us to be like him? Aren’t we supposed to follow Jesus as our only example?

There’s a story of a man who was trying to share Jesus with an atheist every day. Finally the atheist had heard enough and told the man he would let him say one more sentence about Jesus, and after that he did not want to hear any more. If you could only say one sentence about Jesus, what would you say?

Knowing he could not say anything about Jesus after one sentence, he had to choose his words carefully, so he told the atheist, “He’s like me.” When I heard this story, my first thought was that was a very prideful thing to say! Who goes around saying “Jesus is like me?” But the man was not prideful. He was sincere. According to the story, the atheist told the man, “Well if He is like you, I want to learn more about Him.”

The man chose his words carefully, because he knew that even though he might not be able to talk to the man about Jesus, the man would still be watching him. It’s been said of children, but I believe it is also true of adults, that while they may not always be listening to us, they are always watching us. And to answer the question, Who goes around saying, “Jesus is like me?” The answer is, everyone who calls themselves a Christian.

While Paul says, “imitate me” in the next verse he says, “I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

Paul makes it more clear what he meant here.

And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT

Paul wanted people to follow him only as he follows Christ. While Jesus told us to follow Him and not other Christians, we still have a powerful influence.

Throw a pebble into the lake, and a wave is formed, and another and another; and as they increase, the circle widens, until it reaches the very shore. So with our influence. Beyond our knowledge or control it tells upon others in blessing or in cursing. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 340. 

How does your influence affect how people think about Jesus? Can people honestly say Jesus is like you?

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

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

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.

Luther’s Understanding of Grace

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day, while I was studying the Gospel Presenation with a retired couple, we read this verse.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

The husband had been raised Catholic, and while many of my Catholic friends understand grace, he told me, when we read that passage, that it was the first he had ever heard of us being saved by grace alone, without any works. That moment was an ephiphany for him, just like when Luther read, “The Just shall live by faith” in the Bible chained to the dungeon wall.

During our studies I learned the retired gentleman wanted victory over alcohol. He understood that works don’t save us, but he also understood that grace saves us from more than just death. Grace saves us from the power of sin.

Martin Luther understood this as well. After all, Luther read that “the just shall live by faith,” not the unjust. Luther understood that faith and grace makes us just as well as declaring us just. Luther understood that grace changes our lives. While visiting Rome, Luther was appalled at the sins he found even in the church. Luther understood being saved by grace instead of works, but he also understood that grace is not a license for sin.

He [Luther] entered the city, 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. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 125.

Luther knew full well good works don’t save us, but he also knew grace saves us from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. The Bible clearly teaches wherever we find grace, we also find, good works, obedience, and godly living.

After Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace and not by works, Eph 2:10 tells us,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..

Grace produces the good works our strength and effort could never accomplish.

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience….Romans 1:5 NKJV

Grace produces the obedience our human nature could never render on its own.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

Titus 2:11-14 painted a totally different picture of grace than the one Luther saw in Rome. Actually Luther did not see grace in Rome. He saw every kind of sin, and Titus 2:11-14 tells us grace enables us to deny sin and live godly lives in this present age.

My retired friend took hold of God’s grace, and after praying with a mentor in the church one evening, he left the bottle behind and entered the baptistry. Grace has saved my friend from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin.

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

How do we Become God’s Elect?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This quarter’s Sabbath School lessons, provide interesting discussions on predestination and election, making me examine what I believe. I became especially intrigued by the word “elect.” What does it mean, and how does one become elected?

God has not elected only a select group to be saved

I find nowhere in the Bible that God has a special select group composed of only those He wants to save, or that there is anyone He does not want saved.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV

As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV

Ezekiel 33:11 is crucial, because we are going to see that the elect are those who turn from their wicked ways and live.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

God has not elected anyone for destruction since it is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

For there is no partiality with God. Romans 2:11 NKJV

While God may call some to “greater” roles than others, nowhere does the Bible teach that there is a group which God has decided He is not going to save. This is important, because I have visited with people who keep falling back into addictions and are tempted to give up, resigned that God does not want to save them. After much labor in trying to overcome, they are still heavy laden with the burden of guilt. Wait! Such people should not give up! These are the very ones Jesus calls! And He calls all of them!

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

God has not elected anyone for condemnation. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17 KJV

Since Judas was one of the twelve, even he was “chosen.”

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? John 6:70 KJV

Many assume Jesus is referring to Judas as the one who had a devil, but Jesus and Scripture never say that. In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter “Get thee behind me Satan.” In Luke 22, Jesus tells Simon Peter He has prayed for his conversion. So, regardless who the “devil” was in John 6:70, he was not elected to be a devil, nor had to remain a devil. In John 6:70 Jesus has chosen all 12 while He understands there is still some work to be done. This should give us all hope.

So who are the elected? Paul describes the elected.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17 NKJV 

Ellen White expresses the same thought:

Every soul is elected who will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He is elected who will put on the armor and fight the good fight of faith. He is elected who will watch unto prayer, who will search the Scriptures, and flee from temptation. He is elected who will have faith continually, and who will be obedient to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. The provisions of redemption are free to all; the results of redemption will be enjoyed by those who have complied with the conditions. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 208

Now let’s finally answer the question in our title. How do I get to be elected by God?

God elects those who have been working on the plan of addition. The explanation is given in the first chapter of Second Peter. For every human being, Christ has paid the election price. No one need be lost. –Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary  Vol. 7 Page 944.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;  for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11 NKJV  [Bold print supplied]

Those who are elected turn from their sins, remembering they have been forgiven and freed from sin. God wants everyone to be elected. God has not willed or elected anyone to be lost. Jesus has paid the price to justify, sanctify and turn us from our sins which have been forgiven, so we can choose to make our election certain.