Garments of Grace; The Coat of Different Colors

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 NIV-UK

As we take a look in this week’s SS lesson, on the life of Joseph, I would like to share something that I find very encouraging. While Joseph’s brothers treated him very badly, we see them make a complete change. They are repentant and converted. Joseph even refers to them in Genesis 45 as preserving a remnant? A remnant of what? Well in Revelation 7, Joseph’s family has characteristics that reflect God’s remnant church. Sure they had issues. In Revelation 3, God’s last day remnant church has issues as well. It is the only church of the seven churches that the True Witness has nothing good to say about! Yet Jesus calls this church to repent, and since there is no 8th church I have to believe that it does repent. Since Joseph’s family represents the remnant church, I believe they illustrate how God’s remnant people repent, and show us today what true repentance is.

Earlier, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt. They told their father he must have been attacked by a wild beast. This of course broke their father’s heart. Years later, when Joseph has made it to the throne of Egypt, his brothers come to buy food. Joseph tests them before revealing himself to them. His final test proves their repentance. Accusing Benjamin of being a spy and a thief, he attempts to lock him in prison. Benjamin is Joseph’s full brother, and son of the mother that Jacob truly loved and wanted to marry in the first place. The father did not want Benjamin to go on the trip after losing Joseph. Now, Joseph is threatening to put Benjamin in prison for spying and stealing. Read how Judah pleads to be thrown in prison instead. “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34 NIV-UK. Judah is showing true repentance. Earlier in Genesis 44 Judah explains how they broke their father’s heart when he lost his first son. Judah is saying that he has broken his father’s heart before, and he will not break his father’s heart again. In fact he would choose to die and rot in a prison cell before he would let his Father’s heart be broken again. So will God’s last day Laodicean people repent as well, when they say with all their heart, “We have broken our Father’s heart before, and we will not break His heart again!”

Philemon; The Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Philemon is only one chapter but says a lot!

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, Philemon 1:1

Paul calls himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Man had no power over him. He knew if he was in a prison it was to serve the purpose of Jesus Christ, otherwise Jesus would not allow him to be there.

And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:  Philemon 1:2

Paul and the Scriptures commend house churches!

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:  Philemon 1:10

Among those who gave their hearts to God through the labors of Paul in Rome was Onesimus, a pagan slave who had wronged his master, Philemon, a Christian believer in Colosse, and had escaped to Rome. In the kindness of his heart, Paul sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened to the words of life, confessed his sins, and was converted to the faith of Christ. 

Onesimus endeared himself to Paul by his piety and sincerity, no less than by his tender care for the apostle’s comfort, and his zeal in promoting the work of the gospel. Paul saw in him traits of character that would render him a useful helper in missionary labor, and he counseled him to return without delay to Philemon, beg his forgiveness, and plan for the future. The apostle promised to hold himself responsible for the sum of which Philemon had been robbed. Being about to dispatch Tychicus with letters to various churches in Asia Minor, he sent Onesimus with him. It was a severe test for this servant thus to deliver himself up to the master he had wronged; but he had been truly converted, and he did not turn aside from his duty.  {Acts of the Apostles 456} 

 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:  But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.  For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth [thee] ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, I will repay [it]: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.  Philemon 1:11-19

The apostle well knew the severity which masters exercised toward their slaves, and he knew also that Philemon was greatly incensed because of the conduct of his servant. He tried to write to him in a way that would arouse his deepest and tenderest feelings as a Christian. The conversion of Onesimus had made him a brother in the faith, and any punishment inflicted on this new convert would be regarded by Paul as inflicted on himself. Paul voluntarily proposed to assume the debt of Onesimus in order that the guilty one might be spared the disgrace of punishment, and might again enjoy the privileges he had forfeited. “If thou count me therefore a partner,” he wrote to Philemon, “receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.” 

     How fitting an illustration of the love of Christ for the repentant sinner! The servant who had defrauded his master had nothing with which to make restitution. The sinner who has robbed God of years of service has no means of canceling the debt. Jesus interposes between the sinner and God, saying, I will pay the debt. Let the sinner be spared; I will suffer in his stead. 

     After offering to assume the debt of Onesimus, Paul reminded Philemon how greatly he himself was indebted to the apostle. He owed him his own self, since God had made Paul the instrument of his conversion. Then, in a tender, earnest appeal, he besought Philemon that as he had by his liberalities refreshed the saints, so he would refresh the spirit of the apostle by granting him this cause of rejoicing. {Acts of the Apsotles, 457-458}

Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen.  Philemon 1:20-25

Romans 2; God’s Goodness

 

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4

Romans is so rich in God’s grace and goodness. We see again and again how it is not works that save us, but God’s grace and goodness that save us. Even when some people preach faith and grace they still unwittingly preach legalism. For example, Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God.” Here we see that God’s grace gives us faith. Our faith does not give us grace. God gives us grace so that we will have faith. My faith is in response to God’s grace. That is the gospel. God’s grace is not in response to my faith. That would be legalism. Likewise in Romans 2:4, God’s goodness leads me to repent and turn away from sin. That is the gospel. My repentance does not lead to God’s goodness. That would be legalism.

Luke 3; Pointed Testimony

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke 3:7 Then said he [John] to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 

 3:8         Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 

 3:9         And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 

John does not sound like the evangelists we have today! His appeal, if you can say he even had one, was not very cordial. John did have a burden for souls. So much so, that he did not want to lull anyone into a fatal sense of false security. His burden was so deep, that he wanted them to know that baptism is not just about getting wet, but about truly washing away your past. Repentance is a turning away from sin, and just like a groom must fall in love with his bride before the wedding, as he forsakes all others, so must the one being baptized forsake his love affair with sin and the world before being baptized. John was being faithful not only to God but even to those he preached to. He ended up getting his head literally chopped off, because he loved Herod so much that he would not lie to him and help him feel comfortable in his sin. Likewise today, we must overcome the temptation to lessen the guilt of those who trample God’s law and still want to be baptized. When we do lessen their guilt we are doing no favor to them or God or even ourselves.

     The gospel is now opposed on every side. Never was the confederacy of evil stronger than at the present time. Spirits of evil are combining with human agencies to war against the commandments of God. Tradition and falsehood are exalted above the Scriptures; reason and science above revelation; human talent above the teaching of the Spirit; forms and ceremonies above the vital power of godliness. Grievous sins have separated the people from God. Infidelity is fast becoming fashionable. “We will not have this man to reign over us,” is the language of thousands. God’s ministers must lift up the voice like a trumpet, and show the people their transgressions. The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting impression. Men are not cut to the heart, because the plain, sharp truths of the word of God are not spoken to them. 

     Many of those who profess to believe the truth would say, if they expressed their real sentiments, What need is there of speaking so plainly? They might as well ask, Why need John the Baptist have said to the Pharisees, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” [Matthew 3:7.] Why need he have provoked the anger of Herodias by telling Herod that it was unlawful for him to live with his brother’s wife? He lost his life by speaking so plainly. Why could he not have moved along without incurring the anger of Herodias?

     So men have argued, till policy has taken the place of faithfulness. Sin is allowed to go unrebuked. When will be heard once more in the church the voice of faithful rebuke, “Thou art the man”? [See 2 Samuel 12:7.] If these words were not so rare, we should see more of the power of God. The Lord’s messengers should not complain of their efforts’ being fruitless until they repent of their love of approbation, their desire to please men, which leads them to suppress the truth, and to cry, Peace, when God has not spoken peace.   

     Would that every minister of God realized the holiness of his work and the sacredness of his calling. As divinely appointed messengers, ministers are in a position of awful responsibility. In Christ’s stead they are to labor as stewards of the mysteries of heaven, encouraging the obedient and warning the disobedient. Worldly policy is to have no weight with them. Never are they to swerve from the path in which Jesus has bidden them walk. They are to go forward in faith, remembering that they are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They are not to speak their own words, but the words that One greater than the potentates of earth has bidden them speak. Their message is to be, “Thus saith the Lord. –Gospel Workers, p. 149-150

Matthew 3; The Baptism of Jesus

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. The love of Christ in the hearts of His followers is what makes this area so beautiful.

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: Matthew 3:8

 

Many people were coming to John to be baptized, some of them, not because they loved God but because of political advantage. While John had a burden for souls and a great desire for them to be saved, he was not just baptizing to bring in large numbers or make himself look like a good preacher. He wanted to be sure the Holy Spirit had convicted the baptismal candidates and truly changed their lives. God works the same way today:

 

“Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power, and are truly converted to God. God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors, than to have sixty make a nominal profession, and yet not be thoroughly converted. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons, and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”  {Evangelism  320}

 

Jesus understood that baptism meant giving up His life for the Father. Jesus taught every converted Christian to pray “Thy will be done in earth, as[it is in heaven.” Later, before literally giving up His life, He prays, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” This is why Jesus told John to baptize Him, “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15  In baptism we give all of ourselves to God, because God gave all of Himself for us! Anything less is not being baptized. It’s just getting wet.

 

Here is a study on Baptism.

 

If it sounds like baptism is too big of a step,  please consider this:

 

” But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it.    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. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction. 

 

     It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer. All heaven is interested in the happiness of man. Our heavenly Father does not close the avenues of joy to any of His creatures. The divine requirements call upon us to shun those indulgences that would bring suffering and disappointment, that would close to us the door of happiness and heaven.” Steps to Christ, p. 46

If you are interested in baptism I would love to talk to you! Please call me at (813) 933-7505

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 5

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Wednesday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question,“The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion. . . . Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 35, 36. What does this mean? Why does the idea that we can save ourselves through our works leave us so open to sin?”  I believe that question is answered well in Patriarchs and Prophets, page 717 concerning David’s sin and repentance. 

” The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. 

     It was the spirit of self-confidence and self-exaltation that prepared the way for David’s fall. Flattery and the subtle allurements of power and luxury were not without effect upon him. Intercourse with surrounding nations also exerted an influence for evil. According to the customs prevailing among Eastern rulers, crimes not to be tolerated in subjects were uncondemned in the king; the monarch was not under obligation to exercise the same self-restraint as the subject. All this tended to lessen David’s sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And instead of relying in humility upon the power of Jehovah, he began to trust to his own wisdom and might. As soon as Satan can separate the soul from God, the only Source of strength, he will seek to arouse the unholy desires of man’s carnal nature. The work of the enemy is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and startling; it is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins in apparently small things–the neglect to be true to God and to rely upon Him wholly, the disposition to follow the customs and practices of the world.”

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