Anything Except What God Says!

Cruise Ship 011

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

The New Testament Sabbath

rb3.jpg

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I was listening to a preacher on the radio talking about the Sabbath. He explained that the weekly Sabbath pointed us to the rest we have in Christ, so we no longer need the weekly Sabbath because we now have Jesus. He sounded sincere, and I really appreciated Him pointing people to Jesus and resting their faith in Him, since the grace of Jesus is the only way to be saved.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.Jeremiah 31:33 As a matter of fact the Sabbath is a sign that we are resting our faith in Jesus’ grace and not our works. God explicitly set aside that day as a sign of His covenant with His people – a sign that He sanctifies His people, in contrast to sanctification by works.1 That’s why I find it ironic when people accuse me of trying to get to heaven by my own works by keeping the Sabbath. The radio preacher was correct that the Sabbath pointed us to the rest we have in Christ. However, he apparently did not realize that the Sabbath is a sign of God’s New Covenant in which He promises to write His law within our hearts:

Do you see that the New Covenant is the Lord’s promise to sanctify us? A promise to write His law in our hearts, so we would serve Him from the heart? And that’s exactly the meaning of sanctification of which the Sabbath is a sign. Sanctification means to make holy, and God wants to make us holy by writing His law in our hearts.

Some other things he did not appear to consider:

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3 NKJV

While the feast days and ceremonial Sabbaths such as the Passover, were not instituted until sin came into the world, we have the weekly Sabbath made holy (sanctified) before there was sin and the need of a Savior. Paul says in Colossians 2:16-17 that the ceremonial feast Sabbaths were done away with at the cross.2Some people say we should still keep the feast days. They don’t seem to realize that we are literally living in what the feast days symbolized! We no longer need a ceremonial Passover because Jesus dying on the cross was the real Passover to which all the other Passovers pointed. We no longer keep the ceremonial Day of Atonement because,  beginning in 1844 we are living in the real Day of Atonement. So those feast days that point us to the cross are done away with, but the Bible nowhere indicates that the weekly Sabbath was a “shadow of things to come.” The weekly Sabbath was there before our need of the cross, and the Bible tells us that it will still be there after the cross.

While Paul tells us the ceremonial Sabbaths were done away at the cross, He continued observing the weekly Sabbath.

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:4 NKJV

The weekly Sabbath was not a Jewish custom. He met with the Greeks also.

Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:2 NKJV

I have heard people argue that the only reason Paul was at the synagogue on Sabbath was because that’s the only day he could meet the Jews there to talk about Jesus. However we just saw in Acts 18:4 that in the New Testament, Greeks were worshiping on Sabbath as well, and Paul was persuading them all about Jesus as they continued keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. In Acts 17:2 we see Sabbath keeping was still Paul’s own custom even after accepting Jesus. In the New Testament, those who accepted Jesus continued keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.

The Sabbath was not just made for the Jews. The gentiles were keeping the Sabbath as well. Jesus Himself said that the Sabbath was made for mankind, which included Jews and Gentiles alike.

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 NKJV

Nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the Bible say the weekly Sabbath was made for Jews. Jesus says it was made for mankind. Not only was the Sabbath made for everyone, it will be kept by everyone even in the new earth.

And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:23 NKJV

The weekly Sabbath was instituted before sin and remains after the cross. The Sabbath was given to all “flesh” and “mankind.” “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”-Hebrews 4:11.

Will you enter into the Sabbath rest that remains since the creation of the world? Will  you keep God’s holy day as an outward sign of your inward faith in Christ as both your Creator and Redeemer?  Let us remember that only sanctified people can really keep a sanctified day. So let us enter into that rest by letting Jesus be Lord in our lives.


  1. See Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12, 20 ↩
  2. For more details see “THE SABBATH IN COLOSSIANS 2″ by Andy Nash. He references Ron DuPreez’s book, Judging the Sabbath: Discovering What Can’t Be Found in Colossians 2:16, which you can buy at Amazon.com. The book is particularly valuable in solving the question of whether or not faithful Sabbath keepers should also keep the feasts today. And here’s an article by Ron Dupreez: “No “rest” for the “Sabbath” of Colossians 2:16: A structural-syntactical- semantic study.↩

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

The Memorial to the Resurrection.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Did you know that Sunday Observance is not a Biblical memorial to the resurrection? God gave us baptism as a memorial to the resurrection.

“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4 NKJV

In Luke 3:21 Jesus gave us the example of baptism, and in Luke 4:16 He gave us the example of continued 7th day Sabbath observance.

For more on baptism click here. For more on the Sabbath click here. For more on Sunday observance click here. To study this week’s Sabbath School lessons click here.

Faithfulness by Thankfulness

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 2 Timothy 3:1-2 NKJV

Being unthankful is more than just bad manners. It is one of the perils of the last days. Being unthankful goes right along with disobedience and being unholy.

So what goes along with being obedient and holy? Thankfulness does.

Luke 7:1-50 tells a story of a woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with a bottle of perfume, which costed her all she had. At the end of the story, Jesus tells the woman,

 “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:50 NKJV

What was this faith that saved her? This faith went deeper than belief.

 Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19 NKJV

This woman more than believed Jesus would die for her. She appreciated it! InJohn 8:1-11 this woman could have been killed for her sin, but Jesus took her place. Jesus gave all of Himself for her, and so in that bottle of perfume she gave all of herself to Jesus. It was her way of saying thank you. Her faith was her thankfulness.

Mary Magdalene was so thankful for this love, that her thankfulness perfected her faith.

As Paul said in our opening verse, in the last days many will be unthankful. They will have no appreciation for the cross or grace of God. Their love for money, and willingness to blaspheme God will make them disregard the Sabbath and accept the mark of the beast, so they can buy and sell and put food on the family table. They will not thank God for anything because after all, it was their own works that put that bread on their table.

Another group will not take the mark of the beast. They will rest their faith in Jesus and honor the Sabbath. They will be willing to give up the right to buy and sell because of what Jesus has already given up for them. And when they eat they will give thanks, because they know it was not their works that put bread on the table but rather God’s grace. Thankfulness will perfect their faith, just as thankfulness perfected the faith of the woman, who gave everything to the One who gave everything for her.

Jesus says of the woman who poured that perfume all over Him,

wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matthew 26:12 NKJV

The first angel of Revelation 14:6-12 takes the everlasting gospel into all the world, and Jesus says wherever that angel takes the gospel this woman’s story is to go along. Her thankfulness led to her faithfulness and righteousness. Thankful people will not take the mark of the beast. Like this woman, they will be too much in love with Jesus to consider such a thing. They will give all of themselves to Jesus because He gave all of Himself for them.

We find this woman at the tomb on Sunday morning. Fear of the Jews may have kept the disciples away, but fear could not keep her away! Nor did any hope of reward lead her there. She did not expect to find Jesus risen. She came only expecting to anoint His body once again. Love alone drew her to Jesus’ body that morning. In that tomb was a Man who loved her like she had never been loved before. She was there to show her thankfulness for that love even if no reward came with it. This is the story that must be preached wherever the gospel and three angel’s message is preached. God does not wish for any legalistic hope of reward or fear of punishment to mar the gospel and three angels’ message. He wants His love alone to draw us to Him the way it drew Mary Magdalene to Him. Perfect faith has but one agenda, and that is to give all of ourselves to Jesus just to say “thank you” for giving all of Himself for us.

May Jesus find in us a thankful heart, so He may say to us,

 “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:50 NKJV

you may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Glimpses of the Cross Day 20; “It is Finished”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“It is finished” John 19:30

When Jesus cried out these last words, He gave up His breath, and rested in the tomb on Sabbath. Four thousand years earlier, He had finished creating the world and rested on the Sabbath. Adam and Eve rested too on that very first Sabbath, though I don’t think they were really tired. Adam and Eve did not exactly have a long week that week, and they were not in need of physical rest, but rather they were in need of a spiritual rest. I can imagine God walking them through the garden that first Sabbath and showing them all of His works. They realized on that first Sabbath,

it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. Psalms 100:3

Likewise, when Jesus cried out 4,000 years later from the cross, “It is Finished” He was not only our Creator but also our Redeemer. On that Sabbath after the crucifixion it was realized, that not only had He created us not we ourselves, but He also redeemed us, and not we ourselves. Jesus is the author and finisher of our creation and re-creation. The Sabbath takes on a special meaning after the cross and makes it more dearer and special than ever before. Jesus gave us an example of resting on the Sabbath both at creation and at the cross. Jesus never gave any notion that Sunday was a sacred day. Rather when He told Mary not to touch Him because He must ascend to His Father, He was recognizing Sunday as a work day and not a day of rest. He rested on Sabbath and then rose on Sunday because He had to see His Father and get back to work! Others say we should observe Sunday as a memorial to the resurrection, yet nowhere is that mentioned in the Scriptures. Rather the Scriptures give us a memorial to the resurrection which is Baptism.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:3-6 

When we follow Jesus’ example of resting on the Seventh-day Sabbath, we are recognizing that Jesus finished all the work in saving and redeeming us. We rest from our works on the Sabbath and rest our faith in Jesus. in Baptism we crucify our own works of flesh when we go down into our water grave. We come up out of the water, taking a new breath and living a new life that God has created and not we ourselves. Jesus is the author and the finisher of our creation and our re-creation.

The Sabbath in Light of The Cross

Williams picture

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”- Ellen White, Gospel Workers, 315 (1915).

With this passage from Gospel Workers in mind, I have created a supplemental set of Bible study guides, called In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. I would like to share with you here, the lesson on the Sabbath. Many people have erroneous ideas about the Sabbath and its relation to salvation. We do not keep the Sabbath because we are saved by works. People have accused me of keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved by my works. I ask them how I can be trusting my works while I am resting?

Even some Seventh-day Adventists look at the third angel’s message in the light of legalism instead of righteousness by faith. Yet God’s messenger writes:

“Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”—Ellen White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

The third angel’s message warns us against trusting in our works to save us. Those who trust their own works, take the mark of the beast so they can conduct business, buy and sell, and thus provide and save themselves by their own works. Instead of trusting in works, those who take the seal of God rest on the Sabbath, showing their faith is in God and not their own works.

Please take a look with me, at the Sabbath in light of the cross.

The Sabbath 

Brief overview: The Seventh-day Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it Holy.  See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13, John 14:15, Revelation 14:12

Why it is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead! The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and manmade ways of worship will never save us.

There is a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was overheard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:10, 11

Who was the Sabbath made for?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Mark 2:27

Whose day is the Sabbath?

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:28

What does God call the Sabbath?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Isaiah 58:13

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. Leviticus 23:32

What marks the beginning of a day?

And the evening and the morning were the first day. Genesis 1:5

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 4:16

What else should be done on the Sabbath?

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:9-11

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. Nehemiah 13:15-18

What are we to learn from this?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:9-11

What does God want us to be?

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12

How only is this possible?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Isaiah 58:13

What is God’s promise?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:14

Click here for more Bible Studies on the law, Sabbath, and love and obedience.

Click here to study this week’s Sabbath School lesson about the Sabbath.

Dominos, Sabbath School and Controversy!

Dominos

I am writing from my home tonight in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dominos is a game played around the world, but I have found lately, it is not played the same way around the world. I was raised in Oklahoma, where my grandmother there taught me how to play, by playing off the ends as well as the sides, so that you are going in four different directions. (As seen in the picture) You score when all four sides add up to a 5, like 5, 10, 15, 20 and so on. For example in the picture the score would be 10. When the total does not round of to a five you get no points. Fact is, I did not know anyone played any other way. That is until I moved to Florida and sat down to play with some friends from Cuba. When I played off the side instead of the end my friends started laughing. They had never seen anyone play off  of the side before and thought it was a joke. I thought they were joking. Come to find out, they were serious. Where they were raised, you only play in a straight narrow line, and you don’t even score by fives. You don’t even score at all! You just play till you are out of dominos. We were both raised to play the same game in different parts of the world, each one, thinking our way was the only way it could be done. Obviously the other way they were taught was wrong. So we both thought.

This led me to do some research. My first reaction was I was right and they were wrong. Later I realized I thought I was right, only because that is how my family taught me to play. My friends also thought they were right only because that is how their family taught them. I decided to have an open mind and go to the rule book and find out what the exact rules are. I Googled “Dominos rules” and come to find out I was right! Actually we all were right. Seems there is more than one way to play Dominos. In the meantime I learned a valuable lesson about tradition, and how we all come from different parts of the world, with different views and opinions, each thinking our way is the Gospel truth, and we are going to save the world, by making the rest of the world just like us. I am being sarcastic, but how many times have we been tempted to correct someone, for no other reason than they weren’t like us? How many times has a country sent missionaries to another country, and instead of just teaching them how to be like Jesus, actually taught them how to be like the country the missionaries came from?

A while back a gentleman joined my Sabbath School class. When I write, I enjoy giving all the details about places and times, however I can’t or at least should not do that this time, because this story also involves another Sabbath School class that may not wish to be identified. You see, the gentleman joined my class because he had basically been thrown out, or so he thought, from another Sabbath School class. He was not an Adventist. He did not believe in the Sabbath, and so he was asking questions that may not be usually asked in a traditional Adventist Sabbath School class. The class he was in, had a theology as narrow minded as those who can only play dominos in a straight line. They could not vary from the regular “cookie cutter” questions and answers that were to be given in a traditional study. Now I am not here to knock the way people play dominos, but, you may be able to play dominos in a narrow little line, but our God is too big for a narrow line.

Since the first class did not want to deal with his questions he showed up in my class. Instead of me telling him how my grandmother kept the Sabbath, or how we kept the Sabbath back in Oklahoma, we went to the rule book. We compared his questions to the Word of God and used that as our standard instead of how we each had been raised. (See 2 Timothy 3:16) My Sabbath school class was not intimidated by his challenging questions, because we did not have an agenda to defend ourselves. We were open to his suggestions, and compared them to the Scriptures to see if those things were so. (See Acts 17:11) When he saw that we treated him with respect, he treated us with respect. I wish I could tell you more, but the gentleman moved away before too long and I lost contact with him.

The Sabbath school class this gentleman originally joined apparently forgot that the whole purpose of Sabbath School is for evangelism! That’s right. Adventists got the idea of Sabbath School from Sunday keeping protestant churches’ Sunday Schools. After the dark ages, these Sunday Schools were instituted in addition to the regular worship service as a way to evangelize and teach people about Jesus.  In my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I teach what is called a Seekers class or new believer’s class, but actually the purpose of my class is the purpose of every Sabbath School class, which is evangelism.

In evangelism you have to allow people to ask questions. That is how we learn. I have preached sermons during the worship hour, and then gone home, quite satisfied that my points were well made. I only got that notion because in the worship hour nobody asks questions. Later I found I was not as convincing as I thought. I also found some people with Scripture that seemed to contradict my point. As we sat down and looked at all the Scripture on that point, there have been times that the people saw that I was right. There have been times we have seen we both were right, and there has been a time or two I have seen I was just plain wrong. That’s okay. Being wrong does not scare me. I have no personal agenda that I have to defend. All I want to do is go by the Bible and teach others to do the same. After all, isn’t that how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed? By people coming out of other churches and saying, let’s sit down and study the Bible, and just go by what the Bible says?  If that is how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed, should that not be our mode of Sabbath School evangelism?

Richard Tibbits, in his book Forgive to Live, says studies show Seventh-day Adventists have a harder time forgiving than the rest of the general population. Why is that so? Is it because of our unique beliefs, that we have always been taught to defend our faith and stand our ground, and show the world that we are right, that we get defensive? Even when there is no reason to be defensive? If you stand alone of the Word of God the B-I-B-L-E you don’t have to be defensive. You have no agenda, no dog in the fight so to speak, other than to go by the Bible.

In our Sabbath School classes we should not be afraid to ask questions, even untraditional questions, and just let the Bible answer them. This is what Sabbath School evangelism is all about. While you normally don’t ask questions during the sermon, Sabbath School is the place to be asking them, and questions should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Now I totally understand that at the same time, people should be respectful with both their questions and their answers. There have been times I have been teaching a class, and the debate has become a little heated, and so I tell everyone to direct their questions to me and not each other. That way nobody feels they are being personally attacked.

Remember in Sabbath School class we examine ideas. We don’t examine the people. We compare Bible verses with other Bible verses. We do not compare people with other people.

A while back two elderly ladies were in my class. One was extremely short. The other lady would playfully refer to the smaller lady as the “little lady.” I told the lady calling her that, that it was not appropriate to be commenting about people’s bodies in the class. People don’t come to Sabbath School to have their bodies discussed. She told me she meant no harm and continued calling her “the little lady.” I realized I now had to contact her outside of class to let her know the seriousness of the issue. I told her that these comments would not be tolerated in my class, and that if she refused to refrain from such comments she would be asked not to return to my class. A very awkward position for an evangelistic Sabbath School teacher to be in, but I had no choice! Thankfully the lady refrained from her comments and continued in our class.

When Jesus met Nicodemus He treated him with respect and let him ask his questions. When Jesus met the woman at the well He also treated her respectfully and let her ask her questions.  In both cases there was mutual respect. Honest, sincere questions with no personal attacks.

Around this last election time in the United States, at my Bible study group which meets after school at a nearby Adventist grade school, I was surprised how passionate the youth were about the candidates. One student who supported Obama said something not so nice about Romney and offended another student. I pointed out to the Obama supporter that the other student had been hurt. I asked if the point could be made without having to insult Romney and his supporters. The Obama supporter was grieved when they realized their comment had wounded their friend, and quickly apologized and rephrased their comment more appropriately. We all decided, as we discussed vital social issues facing the youth, neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans have all the answers. Furthermore, while both candidates have good points they also have negative points, and neither one was all right or all wrong. We decided that since we all have good points and weak points, the solution would be for us all to work together combining all our good points.

In Sabbath School, I doubt any of us are all right or all wrong. We all have something to bring to the table. In the mid 1800s a Seventh-day Baptist lady by the name of Rachael Oaks introduced to a new Bible study group of Adventists the idea of keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath. The first reaction of the group was similar to the reaction my friends had, when they saw me playing dominos a different way than they traditionally played. However, this new group of Advent Bible studiers opened their minds, knowing like my after school Bible study group, that everyone should be treated with respect, and searched the Scriptures to see if what Rachael Oaks said was so. Turns out this Seventh-day Baptist lady did have something to offer the group of Adventists. Think it could happen again? Let’s be respectful of others and use the Bible as our only guide and we will find out.

Just a parting thought as I close. I realize not all Bible studies will end with everyone agreeing. Some disagreements are inconsequential. Other disagreements may actually have consequences concerning church membership, but even so that does not bar people from worshiping and studying together, and while there is such a things a baptism vows, and rightfully so, there are no Sabbath School class vows nor should there be. Again the Sabbath School serves a totally different purpose than church and the worship hour. As long as people can still be respectful of other people and their ideas, they should not only feel welcomed to attend Sabbath school, but also join in the discussion and be a part of the class.

You can study the current Sabbath School lesson here.