The Great Controversy and the sin of Unbelief

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In order to have victory over sin, we must properly define sin. I believe the sin defined in John 16:9 is the cause of the sin in 1 John 3:4. Thus we must deal with the sin of unbelief in John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin.

As we take a look at this week’s SS lesson on victory over sin, I have a question.  For years we as Adventists have used 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin which is transgression of the law. How would things change if John 16:9 was the primary definition of sin, which is unbelief?

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition we have God kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden and giving them death because they ate one piece of fruit they were told not to.  That is not unbiblical but it is only half the picture of the story and more importantly half the picture of God’s character. With John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin we have Adam and Eve placing their trust in Satan’s lies and not believing in God’s word. Thus they themselves turn their backs on God and forfeit their home through unbelief in breaking their relationship with God in lieu of the really cool serpent and fancy lies.

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we struggle with John 3:16 and wonder where works come in.  With John 16:9 as our primary definition we see that God gave His son to die for us and show us the truth about God’s love. Thus as we believe in Him, we now turn our backs on Satan’s lies, our relationship is restored and we have the eternal life that was originally granted in the Garden of Eden. We are now free to obey God, and the secondary definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 is fulfilled because we now trust God and therefore we trust His commandments.

Paul’s book of Hebrews is on the sanctuary and even the cleansing of the sanctuary.  In Hebrews 10:26 Paul writes, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Now if we use 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we have people going to hell because they made one mistake after knowing the truth. It is important to note that the entire book of Hebrews is explaining why Jesus has not returned yet and what He is doing in the sanctuary before His return. Paul admonishes the early believers not to give up their faith and stop assembling together, Christ will return. So I am sure the primary definition of sin in Hebrews 10:26 is the sin of unbelief. Paul is not saying that if you break the law after knowing the truth there is no more forgiveness. He is saying that if we sin in not believing in Jesus as the Son of God there will be no other sacrifice or Savior.

Now as we look at the cleansing of the Sanctuary in Daniel 8:14, we see that while God can and does give complete victory over the sin defined in 1 John 3:4, that still is not the main focus or goal of the cleansing of the sanctuary. “Our characters are not to be weighed by smooth words and fair speeches manufactured for set times and occasions; but by the spirit and trend of the whole life.” Review and Herald August 16, 1892. “The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.“ {Steps to Christ 57.2}  If we take John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin in the cleansing of the sanctuary it changes things.  In the cleansing of the Sanctuary our minds and hearts (where the real sanctuary is) are cleansed from the lies mankind started believing in the Garden of Eden. We see the true character of God revealed on the Cross and we believe in Him. When our minds are cleansed of Satan’s lies we can make intelligent choices and choose the One who has already accepted and chosen us all along.

This changes how we look at a popular passage in the Spirit of Prophecy. “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  {Christ Object Lessons 69.1}  Traditionally  we have taken this passage to mean that once we get our act together and show the world God’s Word can perfectly be obeyed without making one single mistake, then God will come back to take us home. It is true by God’s grace we can have complete victory over every single sin. However that is not what the great controversy is all about. The great question in the great controversy is whether God is love or not. When God’s church perfectly reflects the character of God’s love, then the world can make an intelligent decision as to if they will believe in God’s love or not.  God does not want us to be perfect so we can go to heaven. He wants to perfect our love so that we give Him proper representation in the judgment, where His character is on trial. When the church perfectly appreciates God’s love then the chasm that we ourselves created by believing Satan’s lies will be healed.

I believe that if we keep 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin then we will always be legalists and never be able to deal with the sin problem defined in John  16:9. I believe if we use John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin, we lose the legalism, grasp the big picture of what sin really is and what the great controversy is all about, and we allow grace to do its work in healing the sin problem defined in both John 16:9 and 1 John 3:4.

I will be the first to tell you that this is a huge topic and I don’t pretend to know it all or have all the answers. Please comment and let me know why you agree or why you disagree. Thank you! You can leave a comment below on this blog or contact me privately at laypastor@TampaAdventist.net

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 13

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS Lesson covers Romans 14-16. Now Romans 13 ends with Paul telling us “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Paul is telling us to set a high standard for ourselves. In Romans 14 He transitions from looking at self to our attitude towards others, telling us, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations,” and “Let us not therefore judge one another any more.” What jumped out at me here, is that while Paul is telling us to set a high standard for ourselves, he also tells us not to judge our brother just because he does not have the same standards we do. This reminds me of something a pastor told me back in Texas, “We need to be conservative towards ourselves and liberal towards others.” How I interpret that is, We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard but not expect anyone else to have the exact same standards we do.

 

I remember when I was first learning how to golf I would go to the driving range. I was self conscious with the other golfers there who could see me. I don’t say watching because in reality they probably weren’t paying any attention to me at all but I thought they were. I did not want them to see me mess up. I would be relieved though when I saw them mess up, because it made me not feel so bad about myself when I saw that they too messed up. Then I remembered, something Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Again I was reminded to not watch others, but to strive for a higher standard.  I pray for God to help me reach His standard while at the same time accepting and not judging my brother.

 

 You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of the Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 12

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s  SS Lesson covers Romans 12 and 13. Romans 12:19 reads, “…avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” A while back I was reading this and I saw it in a light I had not seen before. When God says “I will repay” could He mean not so much that He will pay the offender back for his wrong, but even more so that God Himself will repay the offended party what the offender owes them?  In the plan of salvation we see that *Jesus was treated the way we deserve to be treated so we may be treated the way Jesus deserves to be treated. Has it dawned on us that Jesus was also treated the way our enemy deserves to be treated so that we can now treat our enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated? When we do that, we can expect God to pay us back what our enemy owes us, and just go on treating our enemy the way we would treat Jesus.

 

* Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” – Desire of Ages, p. 25

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 11

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS Lesson asks, “What can we learn from the mistakes of many in ancient Israel? How can we avoid doing the same things today?”

I think as a whole we have the same struggle ancient Israel had when it comes to a proper association with the rest of the world. It appears to me, that either we join them in “Baal worship” or we have nothing to do with them whatsoever.  Jesus showed us the perfect balance to take.  In Matthew 5:13 Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. Salt is to have saving qualities. At the same time, salt must be mixed with the food in order to have any kind of savor. Likewise we must have some association with the world. Please allow me to share some quotes from the classic Desire of Ages and Ministry of Healing, that may help us find a healthy balance.

As disciples of Christ we shall not mingle with the world from a mere love of pleasure, to unite with them in folly. Such associations can result only in harm. We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. Wherever we go, we are to carry Jesus with us, and to reveal to others the preciousness of our Saviour. But those who try to preserve their religion by hiding it within stone walls lose precious opportunities of doing good. Through the social relations, Christianity comes in contact with the world. Everyone who has received the divine illumination is to brighten the pathway of those who know not the Light of life.   We should all become witnesses for Jesus. Social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour. Let the world see that we are not selfishly absorbed in our own interests, but that we desire others to share our blessings and privileges. Let them see that our religion does not make us unsympathetic or exacting. Let all who profess to have found Christ, minister as He did for the benefit of men.  –Desire of Ages, p.  152

  Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household, bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts.– Desire of Ages, p. 151

     Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”–The Ministry of Healing, p. 143

How big of a mission field do you have as an ambassador for Christ? How many non Christians do you have on your cell phone contact list? In other words how many non Christians do you come in contact with on a friendly every day basis?  How many non Christians do you have as Facebook friends? Are you being exclusive and reclusive like the Pharisees or are you reaching out to the world in the same way Christ did? Christ calls us all to be missionaries. He may not need us to go overseas but He may be asking you to leave your big comfy church and Christian Community and move to a dark county where there are no churches for miles and start mingling with the people there and start a new church. He may be asking you to drop out of your church softball league and join a secular league where you can reach people you could reach no other way. I am just thinking out loud here, but you get the idea. 🙂 In Isaiah 58 God tells ancient Israel that while they thought they were worshipping God by debating theology in the temple with their friends, that real worship is going out to share His love and mercy with the world.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 10 Pharaoh’s Heart

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson quotes, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18).  This verse has confused many into thinking that God actually wants some people to be lost. Here is an explanation that I have provided on my In Light Of The Cross website in the section, “Difficult Texts“.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:15-19

  

Many take the quote, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” as God defending His right not to be merciful to some people. However it is a direct quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses is asking for a special favor to see God’s glory. The question is not one of personal salvation, but rather God defending His right to give Moses the favor he requested and receive God’s mercy in seeing His glory. By showing mercy and compassion on whomever He wants, God is not defending His right to not be good to people but rather the exact opposite, which is His right to be good to people who don’t even deserve it. If you think about it, God would not have to defend His right to not be good to people as no one deserves that right in the first place.

  

Did God give Pharaoh a rebellious heart? Not at all! God did not make Pharaoh to be rebellious just to accomplish His own purpose. God was actually preserving his life through all of the plagues. God simply preserved his life even though he deserved to be destroyed and accomplished His purposes.

  

God did not actually harden Pharaoh’s heart, but rather accepts responsibility for what He did not prevent. Exodus 8:15 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”  And again in verse 32 of the same chapter we read, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.” So we clearly see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.   While some people allow God’s goodness to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) others take advantage of God’s goodness to continue in sin and rebellion (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus because of people’s own choices they are softened or hardened by God’s goodness. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. You have a choice. You can let God’s love melt your heart or you can harden yourself by resisting that love. The choice is yours.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 9

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson takes a look at freedom in Christ. To me, real freedom begins when we break free from Satan’s lies. Jesus says in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth is about God’s love. Jesus is the truth. Jesus equals God. God equals love, therefore the Truth must equal love as well. So we see that Truth is much deeper than setting the world straight about what day is Holy or what foods should not be eaten. The truth Jesus speaks of is His love and character.

Satan appeared as a serpent and told Eve she just had to try this forbidden fruit in order to experience a higher quality of life. The serpent insinuated that God did not want her to have a quality life. By taking the fruit, Eve was putting her faith in the serpent. Eve’s sin was unbelief  in God’s love. When we sin, we do not doubt God’s power. we doubt His love. When this sin occurred, God did not leave Adam and Eve. God stayed right where He was, but Adam and Eve ran from Him. Sin does not separate God from us. It separates us from God.  Notice whenever Jesus was in the presence of a demoniac , Jesus was not repulsed or tormented by the presence of the demoniac but rather the demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus.

Even after Adam and Eve separated themselves from God He still had a plan. He would show His love by dying for them! In 1 John 1:29 John says to Behold the Lamb. By beholding we become changed. What changes is our attitude about God’s love. We behold a God who loves us so much He would die forever in order to save us. Save us from what? The lies of Satan that bring death. You see when we buy Satan’s lies and put our faith in him, we reject Jesus who is the life and we choose death. When we behold the Lamb, our attitude about His character changes and we believe in Him again. When we believe in God and His love, all the damage caused by Adam and Eve are reversed. When we believe God really loves us, we no longer choose to perish and we accept back the eternal life that God had wanted us to have all along. See John 3:16.  (Isaiah 28:15 & 18 refer to an agreement the sinner has made with death and hell. In this chapter the Messiah breaks not the agreement He had made for the destruction of the sinner, but rather the agreement the sinner had made with death. Verse 15 also implies that the covenant was made when the sinner trusted in lies.)

God the Father did not need to see His Son die in order to forgive us as much as we needed to see His Son die in order to repent of our attitude about Him and His love! When we see the truth about God’s love we can experience freedom from Satan’s lies. We will no longer bind ourselves to other god’s, buying the lie that they will make us happy. We will no longer buy Satan’s lies that we need to steal , lie, or covet to get what others have to be happy. We are freed from the lie that immoral sex brings fulfillment. Remember, the serpent did not make Eve doubt God’s power. He made her doubt God’s love.  When the Son sets you free from Satan’s lies and false accusations about God not being a God of love, and you see the truth about His love, you shall be free indeed!

Click here to see some ways Satan lies about God’s Character and what the truth really is.

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 8

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we study this week’s SS lesson we find there is only one hope for Paul in his struggle in Romans 7.

  It is not enough to perceive the loving-kindness of God, to see the benevolence, the fatherly tenderness, of His character. It is not enough to discern the wisdom and justice of His law, to see that it is founded upon the eternal principle of love. Paul the apostle saw all this when he exclaimed, “I consent unto the law that it is good.” “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” But he added, in the bitterness of his soul-anguish and despair, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:16, 12, 14. He longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24, margin. Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all, there is but one answer, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.  {SC 19.1} 
     Many are the figures by which the Spirit of God has sought to illustrate this truth, and make it plain to souls that long to be freed from the burden of guilt. When, after his sin in deceiving Esau, Jacob fled from his father’s home, he was weighed down with a sense of guilt. Lonely and outcast as he was, separated from all that had made life dear, the one thought that above all others pressed upon his soul, was the fear that his sin had cut him off from God, that he was forsaken of Heaven. In sadness he lay down to rest on the bare earth, around him only the lonely hills, and above, the heavens bright with stars. As he slept, a strange light broke upon his vision; and lo, from the plain on which he lay, vast shadowy stairs seemed to lead upward to the very gates of heaven, and upon them angels of God were passing up and down; while from the glory above, the divine voice was heard in a message of comfort and hope. Thus was made known to Jacob that which met the need and longing of his soul–a Saviour. With joy and gratitude he saw revealed a way by which he, a sinner, could be restored to communion with God. The mystic ladder of his dream represented Jesus, the only medium of communication between God and man.  {SC 19.2} 
     This is the same figure to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nathanael, when He said, “Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1:51. In the apostasy, man alienated himself from God; earth was cut off from heaven. Across the gulf that lay between, there could be no communion. But through Christ, earth is again linked with heaven. With His own merits, Christ has bridged the gulf which sin had made, so that the ministering angels can hold communion with man. Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power. –
Steps to Christ, P. 19

You may find more studies at In Light of The Cross.