What Does it Mean to be Under Grace?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states,

“What do you say to those who claim that because of the grace of Christ, they are free from the law? What do they often really mean by that, and how would you answer them?”

I have heard Christians tell me not to worry about keeping the law because we are no longer under the law. We are under grace.(Funny thing is, they only tell me that when it comes to Sabbath keeping. They never tell me I am free to kill or steal. Just free to break the Sabbath. Some people say the ten commandments should be posted in our schools and courthouses, and then the moment you mention the Sabbath, they turn around and tell you the commandments were done away with.)Let’s take a look at that motif in its context.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NKJV

The context here, tells us it is sin that we are free from. 1 John 3:4 tells us sin is the transgression of the law.

…sin is the transgression of the law.

So grace frees us from sin so we can keep God’s law. Therefore we are no longer under the condemnation of the law. Let’s suppose that I am driving 160 KPH down a highway where there is no speed limit. An officer pulls me over and says, “You were going 160 KPH. I was thinking of giving you a ticket but I will just let you go.” Would that be grace? No! There was no speed limit. So what would I need his grace for? If there is no law I don’t need grace. I can’t break a law that is not there. The fact that we need grace tells me there is still a law. By electric company gives me a ten day grace period to pay my bill after the due date. A grace period would mean nothing without a due date, and God’s grace would mean nothing without a law.

Lets now suppose I am driving down a highway where there is indeed a speed limit of 75 KPH. I am driving the speed limit. Can an officer pull me over and give me a speeding ticket? No. Why? Because I am in harmony with the law and not under the officer’s condemnation. This is what Paul is talking about,when he says we are not under the law but under grace. He makes this clear in the following passage.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18 NKJV

God’s grace keeps me in harmony with the law, so I don’t fall under its condemnation.

Satan’s Biggest, Fattest Lie Ever!

Tarpon Springs 001

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the late 1860s in the United States, shortly after the Civil War, which abolished slavery, a former slave owner is loading sacks of vegetables onto his wagon near the town square. Across the street he sees his former slave and yells out to him, “Get over here and load these bags onto my wagon now, boy!”

The former slave, with flashbacks of being beaten and abused for disobeying orders in the past, runs over to the wagon and starts loading the bags.

The former slave master has no power over the slave now. Yet the freed slave has become a slave again, only because he believes a lie. There is no power or authority behind the former master’s threats or commands. Truth is, the slave is free now, if only he will stop believing in lies.

The former slave should not feel stupid. For 1260 years a religious organization manipulated and controlled most all of Europe, only because the ruling monarchs fell for the lies of this organization.

“If you do not give us your offerings you will burn in hell for all eternity.”

Lie!

“If you do not do what we tell you, you will not go to heaven.”

Lie!

Yes, this organization used force and it tortured and burned people at the stake, but it was only possible because the rulers fell for these lies! Fact is, they had no authority, and thanks to the Reformers, the truth set them free even amidst the torture racks and the stakes.

Satan had to lie to Eve because lies are all he has. He can’t force us to do anything. First he suggests that God has said they could not eat from any tree. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1 Even today, Satan always suggests that God is very strict and won’t let us do anything.

“You can’t have any fun” is what Satan likes to suggest. This is a lie.

Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Satan goes on to suggest that they will not really die for  eating the fruit. This is a twofold lie. Not only does his suggestion lead to spiritualism, it also suggests there are no real consequences for disobedience. Yet Satan’s biggest lie was when he told Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods…” Genesis 3:5 Here Satan suggests that God is withholding something from them which would enhance their happiness. The lie implies that God does not really care for their welfare, and maybe Satan cares more about them than God does. That is why he is so “kindly” offering them this forbidden fruit.

If you think about it, most all of our sin and disobedience is motivated by this one lie, that God does not really care for us.

When you really believe God loves you, Satan’s lies have no power!

Let’s take a brief look at the Ten Commandments in the light of God’s love.

“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Exodus 20:2

Fact is we are free. Just like the former slave who fell for the lies of his former master, we are free unless we believe Satan’s lies.

  1. When we believe God really loves us, we will have no need for any other god. We believe God loved us so much He gave us His only begotten son. No rock star, sports team, girlfriend or boyfriend has ever loved us as much as God does.
  2. When we really believe in God’s love we will worship Him. We don’t need to worship anyone or anything else. We don’t need to worship money or a PHD degree. My sense of significance does not come from worldly accomplishments or honors. I am significant because God loves me!
  3. When we really believe God loves us, we will not be Christians in name only, thus taking His name in vain. We will be true Christians.
  4. When we really believe God loves us, we will rest our faith in God’s love and not try to save ourselves by our own works. I don’t need to work on the Sabbath to put bread on my family’s table. God loves me and my family, and He will not let us go hungry.
  5. When we really believe God loves us we will love those who represent God to us. Once when I was ten I was at my grandmother’s house. While there I back talked to my mother. My grandmother told me never to talk that way to my mother, not because she was bigger than me, or the boss of me, but because she would die for me. My grandmother said, “you don’t talk that way to someone who would die for you.” I honor my parents because they love me. They may not always be right, but they always love me, so they always have my respect.
  6. When we really believe in God’s love we won’t be threatened by other people or feel the desire to eliminate them. Daniel did not need God to kill the lions or even remove them. He just needed God to close their mouths. God loves and protects us just like He did Daniel. There was no reason for Daniel to hate the lions or the men who threw him in the den, when he knew God loved him and protected him.
  7. When we believe in God’s love we will be happy with the family God gave us. Just because God gave my friend a beautiful wife does not mean He loves me any less. If God thought a beautiful wife would truly make me happy He will give me one. “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalms 84:11
  8. When we believe in God’s love, we won’t need what is not ours. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Psalms 23:1
  9. When we believe in God’s love we won’t be afraid of the truth. We won’t feel the need to live a lie, when we find that the truth is, God loves us unconditionally, and everyone who is of God loves us unconditionally. We won’t feel the need to be something we are not.
  10. When we believe in God’s love we won’t want what other people have. We will want other people to have what we have which is Jesus! When Paul stood in his chains and prisoner clothes, before King Agrippa, in all his worldly splendor, Paul told him I wish you could be like me, except for these chains. (see Acts 26:29) Paul did not need what the king had. The king needed what Paul had which was Jesus!

During the Dark Ages, a religious leader who claimed to represent God on earth made a German ruler stand out in the cold three days, begging his forgiveness before the religious leader finally forgave him. (See Great Controversy, pp. 57-58) This was a gross misrepresentation of God. In Luke 15:20 we see what God is really like, as represented by the father who runs out to greet the prodigal son, while the son is still far away. This religious leader’s claim to represent God, while making it hard for the German ruler to find forgiveness is the greatest of Satan’s lies during the Dark Ages.

Satan’s biggest lie is not about the immortality of the soul. It is not about the change of the Sabbath to Sunday. Satan’s biggest and deadliest lie is that God does not love you and will not forgive you. This is why the first angel takes the everlasting gospel into all the world, and breaks the spell of this terrible lie. Every lie of Satan is founded upon the foundation of the lie that God does not love you. Once this lie is exposed every other lie of Satan falls, which is seen in the second angel’s message “Babylon is fallen!” All of Satan’s other lies collapse when we realize we are loved.

After the three angels comes a fourth angel in Revelation 18:1. When this angel comes the whole earth is lightened with his glory. It is the light of God’s love. Satan’s lies which have caused the world to experience the Dark Ages, have been removed and the world is lightened with the truth that God is love.

 

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

The Scapegoat in The Sanctuary

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is a song I remember singing a hundred years ago, when I was a teenager. It went something like this, “I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.” Beautiful song, but not exactly theologically correct if you want to get technical. And no, I do not like to get technical and I guess it may be theologically correct in one way, but in another way, it’s not. You see, fact is, I can pay the debt that I owe myself. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. I can pay for and atone for my sins all by myself with no help from Jesus, by dying. I am eternally grateful though, that Jesus did paid that debt for me! Because fact is, I could not pay the debt and live.

Satan, on the other hand, will have to pay the debt and atone for his sins himself.

“But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, [and] to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:10

The scapegoat is cast into the wilderness to atone for sin. The scapegoat represents Satan who, after the cleansing of the sanctuary and investigative judgment, has now been blamed for the sin problem. The guilt and responsibility for sin is placed upon the scapegoat who goes off to the wilderness. This represents Satan, after the literal investigative judgment, spending a thousand years after the Second Coming here on earth, as it lies wasted and barren. After a thousand years of considering his great idea to rebel against God’s government and start his own, he will then realize it was not such a great idea after all.

Still, many have trouble with the scapegoat representing Satan. The Seventh-day Adventist church is unique in believing Satan is the scapegoat. Other denominations ask how can Satan bear our sin? Good question! Fact is, he does not bear our sin, he bears his own sin. He shares our guilt when he tempts us to sin. While Jesus died for our guilt, He did not die for Satan’s guilt, so it is still placed upon Satan. Others point out that the word “atonement” is used. How can Satan atone for our sins? Again, he does not atone for our sins, he atones for his own sin by dying an eternal death. You see, often it is said Jesus died for our sins because we could not atone for our own sins, but this is not true. We can atone for our own sins by dying an eternal death. The wages of sin is death and we can pay those wages in full if we so choose. We can atone for our own sin if we want. Satan atones for his own sin and shared guilt in our sins by being the scapegoat sent off to die an eternal death (Revelation 20). The universe will no longer blame God for the sin problem. Ironically, when the sin problem has been done away with, the only trace of sin will be the nail scars in Jesus’ hands. Thus, the only Person who will bear eternally the result of sin will be the only Person who was totally innocent.

The perfect Lamb of God is my Savior for all eternity! Hebrews 7:25 says, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” My Savior does not live so that He can force angels and humanity to worship Him and sing His praises. He does not live so that He can be a tyrant and boss everybody around. Once the sanctuary is cleansed, and guilt is put in its proper place, it will be seen that the Son of God lives to make intercession for sinners. We will be able to look as far in the past as eternity goes and as far into the future as eternity goes, and see that Jesus lives for one reason; to be our Savior!

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. You can download the SS lessons to your phone here.

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

Jude; A Warning Against Thinking Grace Covers Immorality

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:4 NIV

There is nothing new under the sun. There have always been people trying to rob the cross of Christ of all its glory. Many people want to use God’s grace as a cloak for sin. But God’s grace is powerful and does way more than cover sin-it gets rid of sin! In Zechariah 3 we read of how Joshua has his filthy clothes of sin removed before the robe of righteousness is put on him. God does not cover sin-He removes it! God’s grace not only frees us from the penalty of sin but also frees us from the power of sin. Grace not only gives us a title to heaven, but it also fits us for heaven. Grace is more than just Jesus dying for me, but me also dying with Him!

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NIV

Notice the cross does not meet the requirement of the law for us but in us.

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. Romans 1:5 NIV

Grace calls us to obedience.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV

Grace saves us from more than the penalty of sin, which is death. It saves us from a sinful lifestyle and gives us good works.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Titus 2:11-12 NIV

Grace enables us to live Godly lives right now!

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  Jude 1:24-25 NIV

Luke 5; Jesus Never Leaves The Sinner

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke 5:1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 

 5:2         And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing [their] nets. 

 5:3         And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 

 5:4         Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 

 5:5         And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 

 5:6         And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 

 5:7         And they beckoned unto [their] partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 

 5:8         When Simon Peter saw [it], he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 

I continue for find more and more places in Scripture where Jesus does not leave the sinner but where the sinner cannot stand in the presence of God. See my blog on Mark 1, about how it is not God who cannot dwell with sin, but rather it is sin that cannot dwell with God. Jesus did not tell Peter to go away because he was a sinful man, but rather Peter tells Jesus to go away because he was a sinful man. I am so glad Jesus did not leave Peter. He will not leave us either. We may choose to leave Him but He will never leave us.

Mark 1; Sin and Seperation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Mark does not spend any time on Jesus’ birth of childhood and goes straight to Jesus’ ministry. Makes me wonder if Mark just didn’t like kids or something.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. Mark 1:23-27

Isaiah 59:1 says that our sins separate us from God. God does not separate Himself from sinners. Sinners separate themselves from God. God can dwell with sin, but sin can not dwell with God. God did not run from Adam when Adam sinned. Adam ran from God. In this story we see the demoniac telling Jesus to leave Him alone. Jesus does not tell the demoniac to leave Him alone. God loves sinners, but sinners hate God. This is why God sent His Son to die for them and thus win their love back to Him.

In his sinless state, man held joyful communion with Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3. But after his sin, he could no longer find joy in holiness, and he sought to hide from the presence of God. Such is still the condition of the unrenewed heart. It is not in harmony with God, and finds no joy in communion with Him. 

 The sinner could not be happy in God’s presence; he would shrink from the companionship of holy beings. Could he be permitted to enter heaven, it would have no joy for him. The spirit of unselfish love that reigns there—every heart responding to the heart of Infinite Love—would touch no answering chord in his soul. His thoughts, his interests, his motives, would be alien to those that actuate the sinless dwellers there. He would be a discordant note in the melody of heaven. Heaven would be to him a place of torture; he would long to be hidden from Him who is its light, and the center of its joy.  It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them.—Steps to Christ, p 17.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.  Proverbs 8:36