I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Occasionally, at church or the Adventist school where I teach Bible and evangelism, someone will ask me, “What do we believe about such and such?” My response has always been, “I don’t know what you believe, but here is what I, and many Seventh-day Adventists believe,” and I show them in the Bible what I believe and why. I am not going to tell someone what they believe. That is not teaching. It is brainwashing.
During the dark ages, when people did not have access to the Bible, people trusted their priests to tell them what they believed, and because of that there was a lot of brainwashing going on.
Even before the dark ages, priests abused their authority, and tried to brainwash people into believing whatever they believed. This happened in Jesus’ day when those in “authority” were trying to capture Jesus.
When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? John 7:45-48 NLT
The guards experienced and heard the Word of God speaking to them, and believed. Since the pharisees did not want to believe, they mocked at this. in John 7 the pharisees miscounstrued Scripture to try and prove their point, but amazingly instead of hanging their hat on Scripture, they hung it on the fact that none of the rulers or leaders believed.
So if someone in “authority” believes something it is automatically right, and if they don’t then it is automatically wrong? The pharisees seemed to think so. Do some think that way today?
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11 NLT
Like the Temple guards, the Bereans were interested in new ideas as long as they were found in Scripture. They didn’t believe something because Paul and Silas believed it or becasue a ruler did. On their own they searched the Scriptures daily to find truth.
I have heard Seventh-day Adventists telling their Baptist and Methodist friends to search the Bible for themselves because their pastors could be wrong. I have watched some of the same Seventh-day Adventists listening to their own favorite Adventist preachers, wihtout bothering to search the Scriptures, because after all, their pastor is Adventist so he is automatically right, right? Wrong! We all make mistakes, as we all continue to learn and grow.
Let’s not be like the foolish pharisees in John 7, who hang their hats on whether or not the rulers or those in authority believed something or not. Let’s be like the temple guards and hang our hat on the Word of God.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
When we go through Job-like experiences and trials, we sometimes wish that Jesus was right here with us, so we could talk to Him face to face instead of just reading the Scriptures. We think Jesus would have something new to say to us outside of Scriptures, that would fit our unique experience. However, let’s see what often happened when people in Scripture talked to Jesus personally.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:3-4 NKJV
The tempter tries to get into a theological debate with Jesus, but instead of thinking up clever, witty comebacks Jesus just quotes what is already written in Scripture. I’m thinking we should do the same. So in this discussion, even though the tempter had a personal conversation with Jesus, nothing was revealed you and I could not already find in Scripture.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Luke 10:25-26 NKJV
Once again Jesus does nothing more than take the lawyer to Scripture. The same Scripture you and I have even though we’ve never had a physical person to Person talk with Jesus, like many wish for.
In Luke 24 Cleopas and his friend are walking towards Emmaus, when they meet Jesus. They don’t realize who He is as they tell Him about their doubts about what happened that crucifixion week. Now here they are talking to Jesus personally, and what does He do? He doesn’t tell them anything other than what was already written in Scripture!
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:27 NKJV
So here we have three cases of someone getting to actually have a real live physical one on one conversation with Jesus, and each time nothing was revealed but what was already written in the Scriptures. Could it be that everything we need to know about life’s trails is already in the Scriptures? Later Cleopas and his friend said, ““Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 Friend, has there not been times when you have read the Scriptures and your heart burned within you as though Jesus was talking personally to you? Its because He was! Someone once said, “I may know a lot of books, but the Bible is the only book that knows me!”
Several years ago my church had an agape communion feast. It was supposed to be a time for personally healing and restoration. The leader assigned us a partner to pray with. My partner refused to pray with me because I had a different opinion about a local issue. I would prefer to not give that member the satisfaction of reading this, and triumphing in that they successfully hurt me, but they did. What God had designed to be a healing time, this member had used to bring me pain. I questioned God as to why He would let this happen? This was a sacred feast and yet someone used it for evil. God did not answer me audibly, but once again He through the Spirit pointed me to Scripture. We were celebrating an agape feast, similar to the Passover super. That night Jesus wanted someone to pray with, but his disciples failed Him. Sure they were not mean spirited like this church member, but still they let Him down, and Jesus had to experience the post agape feast praying alone just like I did! I realized I felt His pain and He felt mine! When I realized Jesus and I had shared a unique situation together, that brought healing! Through both providence and Scripture Jesus revealed Himself to me.
In chemistry you have a classroom where you learn theory, and a lab where you learn practicum. When we go through trials like Job, we have the Bible to learn theory, but then we have the world as our lab where we put it into practice. Through practice Jesus leads us by His Word and providence. As different lab experiments turn out uniquely so does our providence, but God has given us His Word in the Scriptures to guide us all, even in our unique experiences.
This is why Paul said the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, but not only for getting our 28 fundamental beliefs. He went on to say for all our instruction in righteousness, as we become just as complete in Him as we are individually unique in Him.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
Have you every brought up an idea in a committee meeting, only to have it ignored, and then ten minutes later someone a little bit more popular than you, says the same exact thing you just said, except this time, instead of it being ignored everyone loves the idea! And you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “That’s what I just said ten minutes ago!”
Sometimes its not what is being said but who is saying it. A while back, after teaching a group of young people how to chain reference their Bibles, to give Bible studies, I then had one of them lead out in an actual Bible study group. I was there for encouragement, but they were the teacher. Maybe I should not have even showed up at all, because what happened was, while the young person had all the answers from the Bible, the people in the group kept directing their questions at me, instead of the young person who was teaching the class. Awkward! Somehow the group members thought my life experience trumped the authority of this young person, but not so! This young person was getting all their information from the Word of God, and I don’t care how much life experience someone has or titles behind their name, nothing trumps the Word of God!
In John 4:1-54 Jesus meets with a woman at a well, and counsels her about her promiscuous relationships. What gave Him the right? He had no marriage counseling license. He had no marriage experience. Yet this is not the only time He counseled people about their sex lives. In John 8:1-11 Jesus not only counsels with a woman taken in adultery, but He also counselled the men involved, by writing in the sand. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus preaches about marriage, sexual temptations and divorce. Instead of referencing His personal life as many do today, Jesus referenced the Scriptures. The Scriptures trump human experience.
Jesus counsels the woman at the well about her relationships, by helping her realize that she has been trying to fill a void in her life that only God can fill. Each sexual escapade just left her thirsty. Just like people try to use Pepsi to quench their thirst, only to find Pepsi actually dehydrates you and leaves you even more thirsty for water, likewise inappropriate sex was leaving this woman thirsty for the living water that is only found not in sex, but in a relationship with God.
Could it be that while having no wife or children, Jesus was an authority on relationships because He had a perfect relationship with God the Father? While giving counsel in John 8, Jesus says “let him without sin throw the first stone.” This was from the Levitical law, so Jesus was basing his counsel on Scripture as well as His relationship with His Father.
In Matthew Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus is giving financial advice. What gives Him the right? He was not a Wall Street wizard. He has no place to lay His head and relied on friends for a place to stay. If a man with no money in the bank and no home or property were to hold a financial seminar today, how many people do you think would listen to him?
The story goes of a very rich business man who tried to school a poor man about wealth. The rich man from Chicago was vacationing in Mexico and doing some fishing. A local came along and threw his reel in the water and a few minutes later had caught four fish, which he put in his bucket and started to leave. The rich business man stopped him and asked,
“Why are you leaving already? You are doing great!”
The local replied, “I caught all the fish I need for my family. I am going home now to eat with them and relax and spend time with the family.”
The business man exclaimed, “But you are doing so well! If you stay longer you can catch even more fish!”
“What would I do with them?” The local asked.
“You could catch enough fish to sell them and buy a boat!” the man answered.
“Then what?” The local asked.
“You could catch even more fish with a boat! Then you could sell even more fish and buy more boats and catch and sell even more fish.” The business man exclaimed, somewhat frustrated that the local was not catching the vision.
“What would I do after all of that?” The local replied,
to which the rich business man answered, “Then you could retire.”
“What would I do while I’m retired” asked the local.
“You can eat with your family and relax and spend time with them!” The rich man declared! Wondering why this simple local could not follow his logic and financial advice! But was it logical? Wasn’t the local already on his way to eat and spend time with family now? Why should he spend his life planning only for tomorrow never knowing for sure if there would even be a tomorrow?
Ever heard the saying, “Some people are so poor all they have is money?” The local, like Jesus realized you need more than money to be wealthy. Some people give up their health and friends in an effort to make more money, only to find out that money is not the substance of life. Good relationships are what make you wealthy in the long run. Years ago a friend of mine went to hear a financial motivational speaker. The speaker told them, “In order to be rich, the first thing you need to do is drop your poor friends and only hang out with rich people.” Some one raised their hand and asked, “Won’t we be losing a lot of good friends doing that?” “Sure the financial wizard explained, “But if they are are good friends they will understand.” True story! My point here is financial wizards don’t always give the best advice. Sometimes the best advice comes from a Teacher who had no money in the bank and “no place to lay His head.”
While Jesus had no marriage or financial experience according to our standards, He was the perfect counselor. Like my young friend teaching the Bible study group, Jesus was often heard saying, “It is Written.” When asked questions instead of relying on personal experience Jesus would often say, “What saith the Scriptures?” Jesus made the perfect counselor, not because He had a degree or license or the perfect wife and children and perfect home, but because He had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father and a perfect understanding of the Scriptures.
Looking at first glance Jesus was totally the wrong person to be giving advice, except for one thing, He was perfect.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
While living in Texas I was taking a Texas history class at a community college. In writing a paper for class, I mentioned a political figure who was assassinated. I contrasted the pomp and circumstance of his funeral with the plain funeral of the man who killed him and was killed shortly after. I pointed out in my paper that, humanly speaking, the political figure was not any more of a saint than the man who killed him, yet he received greater honor. I then feared that my opinion might cost me a grade. Yet when I got my paper back, the professor had circled where I had written my opinion, and he wrote “Good point!” I got an “A”.
Later I told my friends that maybe the professor was not a big fan of the political figure I referred to. He agreed that that was probably why I got the good grade. Another friend responded, “Your professor may or may not have agreed with your statement. He did not give you an A because he agreed with your thinking. He was just glad to see you thinking!” In other words, my history professor was not trying to clone himself. He was trying to get people to read, study and think for themselves.
In evangelism it is very easy to try to clone people instead of making disciples for Jesus. Sometimes, while telling people to go by the Bible and the Bible only, we are blinded by our own traditions and can’t see to separate our traditions from plain Bible teaching. We end up teaching our view of what the Bible says instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible to others.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
A while back I was working as a Bible worker in a church out in West Texas. A young man from a nearby college would visit our church and attend prayer meetings. We were glad to have him! He would come wearing a t-shirt and shorts. One night after prayer meeting an elder came up to me and said, “You need to talk to that boy and tell him we don’t dress like that for church.” There was only one problem. I couldn’t find anywhere in the Bible where it said you can’t come to church dressed like that. Sure there is counsel that we should wear our best and so forth, but who was I to decide what this young man’s “best” was?
Once a lawyer asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus, while being God, set us an example on how to answer such theological questions. Jesus did not give His personal opinion or philosophy. He directed the man to the Scriptures.
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Luke 10:25-26 NKJV
Notice Jesus pointed the man to the law in the Scriptures and then asked him how he understood it, instead of telling him how to understand it. Jesus was allowing both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to do their work. We mustn’t think that people have to think just like we do in order to be led by the Spirit.
In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ.-Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 257.
Did you catch that? They were all led by the Holy Spirit even though they were not thinking exactly like each other.
I have met too many Christians who believe that if you are led by the Spirit that you will think exactly like them, because, of course, they are led by the Spirit. I have heard people say, the Holy Spirit will lead everyone to become vegan because that is what the Holy Spirit led me to become, and so if they are led by the same Spirit they will do the same. But consider this, Jesus was led by the Spirit and never became vegan! He did, however, practice a Bible principle of eating and drinking only to glorify God. See 1 Corinthians 10:31. Jesus followed the Bible principle of eating the best foods available, which were also biblically clean, in His time and place. We are to do the same. In some places that may mean eating vegan. In other places it may not.
We need to be careful not to confuse our personal preferences with biblical truth. While the Bible teaches religious liberty, many think that means they can just follow their personal whims and tastes, instead of real personal convictions of Bible truth. This is why Ellen white wrote,
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.” –Testimonies to the Church Vol. 4, p. 317.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. John 16:13 NKJV
for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 NKJV
Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.-Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 93.
Instead of cloning people to think and act exactly like us, shouldn’t we rather train them to study the Bible and rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth? When they study the Bible, the same Holy Spirit that moved the writers to write those words thousands of years ago is right there with them to help them understand those words today.
We need to remember that we all are human, and we all have human philosophies and traditions, no matter how biblically sound we think we are. Our job is not to clone people to be exactly like us, but to point them to the Perfect Example which is Jesus. This example is found in the Scriptures.
Ellen White, one of the primary founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spoke these as her last words to the church body, as she held the Bible extended on her hands:
Our church founder’s job was not to do our thinking for us, just as my professor’s job was not to do my thinking for me.
Let’s exalt the Scriptures as our church founders did and, even more importantly, as Jesus did. As we study this quarter’s lesson together, let’s ask God to show us the difference between just cloning people to be like us, and making disciples for Jesus.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
How many legs does a spider have? Eight? Do you really know? I mean have you counted them? In 300 B.C. Aristotle said that spiders had six legs and was classified as an insect. All the world believed him, until finally in the 1400s somebody actually counted and saw they had not six, but eight legs. Aristotle must have been widely respected for no one to question him for 1,700 years. I am sure he was right about a lot of things, but not this time. Finally, somebody counted the legs for themselves instead of just taking Aristotle’s word for it.
The key thought of this week’s Sabbath School lesson is, “Every believer must be personally and individually armed as we each, personally and individually, find ourselves immersed in the great controversy.”
I am reminded of a time many years ago when I was still living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had a friend Anne, who was a flight instructor at the Spartan Flight School in Tulsa. One Saturday night, she and I decided to rent a small Cessna 152 and take an aerial tour of the city. As we began, while they were fueling the plane, Anne was checking all the gauges to make sure all systems were go. When she got to the fuel gauge she said, “fuel gauge reads full.” I made a joke that we just watched them fueling the plane so there was no need to check the fuel gauge. Her reply has always stuck with me. “Trust no one,” she said. She was right. As the pilot of our little aircraft, it was her personal responsibility to check all the gauges, including fuel. It was not disrespectful for her to check to make sure the “pit crew” had done their job. It was her responsibility to check things out for herself.
We all have that responsibility as Christians. Paul was not offended at all that the Bereans checked out his preaching to see if it went along with the Scriptures. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 NIV Everyone knew Paul was sincere, but we are all human, right? We can make sincere mistakes. I am sure Aristotle honestly thought spiders had six legs, and it was just an honest mistake on his part, involving no sinister cover up or conspiracy.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we tell our protestant and Catholic friends that they need to read the Bible for themselves, and not take their preacher’s word for it. But how many of us turn around and think, my pastor is an Adventist so I know he is preaching truth? Friends, if the people searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was so, how much more should we be searching the Scriptures to see if what our pastor says is so. We are all human. We make mistakes. Making a sincere mistake does not make you a heretic. It does not mean you are a part of a global sinister conspiracy plot. It just means we are all human. We can’t really on man alone. Like my friend Anne, who checked out things for herself, likewise we must, along with the Bereans, search the Scriptures for ourselves, so that we can each be individually armed in the great controversy.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
When studying the prophecies of the Scriptures, many try to let worldly circumstances, and their perception of reality interpret God’s Word.
Problem is, when we go by worldly circumstance, reality becomes nothing more than perception. For example, Topps was the only baseball card company, when I began collecting cards when I was 11. Soon after that, Donrus and Fleer joined the baseball card making industry. In order to compete with the unwelcomed newbies in the market, Topps started printing on their baseball card packages, “The Real Ones!” Even at age 11, I knew Topp’s claim to be the only real baseball card company was nothing more than a mind game. Regardless of the company, they were all pictures on cardboard. How could one be more real than the other? Regardless if you were Topps, Donrus, Fleer or a collector, what was “real” in this situation was only a matter of one’s own perception. So today, many people play mind games, using worldly positions and titles to define who they are. Jesus never did this. He let the Scriptures, the Word of God define Who He was.
For example, right after Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days. 40 days of no food took its toll of the humanity of Jesus. He does not exactly look like, nor probably feel like the Son of God. According to Desire of Ages, page 119, Satan takes advantage of this opportunity. Satan appears to Jesus, not with a red cape and a pitchfork, but as an angel of light. He reminds Jesus that one of the greatest angels in heaven has been banished from heaven. Satan takes advantage of circumstances, and his appearance as an angel of light, compared to Jesus’ appearance after 40 days with no food, and makes an insinuation, that Jesus sure looks more like a God-forsaken angel rather than the Son of God. Satan tempts Jesus to prove that He is indeed the Son of God by turning stones into bread.
Jesus did not look to His circumstances or appearance. He had nothing to prove to Satan. Jesus answered the challenge by saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “ Matthew 4:4 Jesus had heard the Word of God, right after His baptism, say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 Jesus would not go by circumstances to prove who He was. He did not need bread or any sign to prove who He was. He went by God’s Word and God’s Word alone, which said He was the Son of God. After a plain “Thus Saith the Lord,” Jesus did not need a sign.
Three and a half years later, after the resurrection, Jesus is walking along the road to Emmaus. He meets two men who are downcast. Not recognizing Him, the men explain that they are sad, because Jesus had been crucified, and they had hoped He would be the Messiah. Again, Jesus does not go by appearances or circumstances. Jesus does not show them His nail scared hands and say, “Look, it’s me! I was crucified and now I am risen. I am the Messiah.” Instead, Jesus, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 Jesus did not want them to accept Him based on His appearance. He intentionally kept them from recognizing Him physically, because He did not want them to base their belief on what they saw or felt, or upon any physical circumstances. He wanted them to base their faith on the Word of God alone.
Feelings, appearance and earthly circumstances do not define who we are either. Just as God’s Word defined who Jesus was, God’s Word also defines who we are. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” 1 John 3:1 Just because two men walking down the road did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God did not mean that He was not. Just because Satan pretended not to recognize Him did not change the reality of the situation. God’s Word says we are the children of God. Don’t let Satan or the world, circumstance or appearances tell you any different. Let God’s Word define your reality.