Saved by Grace, Lost by Disobedience

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back a former Adventist friend was telling me that the Adventist church deceived her. She said when she first came into the church the evangelist was preaching about grace. But once she joined they started preaching about Sabbath keeping and obedience. She found works and obedience to be contradictory to the gospel of grace. I shared with my friend that faith and works were preached long before Adventism. James preached faith and works.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:24 NKJV

Fact is that it is only by grace and faith that we can be obedient and have good works.

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31 NKJV

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith… Romans 1:5 NKJV

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26 NKJV

There are some important things to keep in mind. While Lucifer was placed in heaven by grace alone and no works of his own, he still lost his heavenly home by rebellion and disobedience.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:7-9 NKJV

While Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden by grace alone and no works of their own, they still lost their paradise home due to disobedience.

therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:23-24 NKJV

While Israel was given its own land and nation by grace alone and no works of their own, they still lost it by disobedience.

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?  Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” Nehemiah 13:17-18 NKJV

Likewise, spiritual Israel has been promised a land  – the New Jerusalem. While that land is given to us by grace alone and no works of our own, we can still lose it by disobedience.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

After all, when we talk about Biblical salvation by grace, the salvation we receive by grace saves us from a life of sin.

…and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NKJV

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:18 NKJV 

The grace that my former Adventist friend found being preached in the Adventist church came straight from the Bible. The importance of works of love and loving obedience that she heard preached in the Adventist church is also straight from the Bible. 

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14;15 NKJV

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14 NKJV 

I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:4 NLT

though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey HimHebrews 5:8-9 NKJV

My former Adventist friend was not deceived by the Adventist church regarding grace and faith and loving obedience. The idea of salvation without loving obedience is a deception.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 NKJV

Let’s pray that we along with all of our friends will understand and appreciate the Biblical teachings of grace, faith, and loving obedience. 

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

The Amazing Covenant Keeper

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I saw the title of this week’s lesson, “An Everlasting Covenant” I automatically thought of how faithful God has been to His covenant even when His people were not keeping their end of the bargain. For example, in Exodus 32 God’s people worship a golden calf. Then God acts as if He is going to destroy them when Moses intercedes: 

Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”  So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people. Exodus 32:12-14 NLT 

Now whether or not God actually intended to destroy His people or if He was merely testing Moses, when Moses reminded God of His covenant promise to Abraham, God did not destroy them and He took the remnant into the promised land just as He had well, promised! We could have reasoned, well Abraham is dead; He will never know. We could have reasoned that the children of Israel did not deserve God’s promises, but none of that kept God from keeping His covenant with His people. God is the Amazing Covenant Keeper. 

Later we see something that to me is even more amazing. In Joshua 9 and Joshua 10, the Gibeonites used deceit to trick Israel into letting them in on the covenant God had made with them. Even though Israel was not supposed to make a covenant with anyone living as close as the Gibeonites, they did because they were tricked into it. Later when the Gibeonites were under attack, they called upon Israel to save them, 

The men of Gibeon quickly sent messengers to Joshua at his camp in Gilgal. “Don’t abandon your servants now!” they pleaded. “Come at once! Save us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings who live in the hill country have joined forces to attack us.” Joshua 10:6 NLT

Now Joshua very well could have told Gibeon, “You tricked us! We are not going to help you. What you did was dirty, and we don’t have to help you.” But instead, Joshua rushes to their aid. After all, a promise is a promise. 

So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon. Joshua 10:7 NLT

Now God could have told Joshua, “I am not helping you and Gibeon! You never should have let them in on our covenant. I am under no obligation whatsoever to help you or Gibeon since you both went about making this covenant all wrong!” But God is not like that. Instead God encourages Joshua to fight against Gibeon’s attackers.

Do not be afraid of them,” the Lord said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.” Joshua 10:8 NLT

It doesn’t stop there. God does something tremendously amazing to save these ornery rascals. He makes the sun stand still for them so they can defeat their enemies. 

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day! Joshua 10:12-14 NLT

Did you catch what just happened? God, could have told Joshua the covenant was not legal since Joshua never should have made the covenant with a neighbor in the first place. God could have said Gibeon cheated in order to get in on the covenant and therefore it should not be honored. But instead of saying any of that God makes the sun stand still in order to fulfill His promise which neither Joshua nor Gibeon deserved! Talk about an Amazing Covenant Keeper! 

Friends I personally have read in the Bible about the conditions to receive God’s blessings, and I have to admit I have not met those conditions, and yet God’s blessings keep pouring in. What I have personally experienced is a God Who is more wonderful and merciful than He even claims to be. I have experienced a God who will make the sun stand still for me when I don’t deserve the time of day. He is an Amazing Covenant Keeper! It is because He is so merciful, forgiving and faithful that I choose to obey Him. David also experienced the amazing mercy of our Amazing Covenant Keeper when he said,

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 NLT 

The Lawgiver and Promise Giver

I m writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19

During my Bible Worker ministry, I have occasionally heard people try to rationalize away Matthew 5:17-19 and the whole law by saying that Jesus did away with the law once it was fulfilled. This is where we need to exercise Isaiah 28:10 and compare other verses. In Matthew 3 Jesus goes to be baptized. In Matt 3:15 Jesus says it is necessary to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness.

After Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism, did He then do away with baptism? No. In Matthew 28:19-20 He tells the disciples to baptize. So Jesus did not do away with baptism when He fulfilled it, and neither did Jesus do away with any of the law after fulfilling the law. Paul also demonstrates what it means to “fulfill” God’s law:

“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:9-10

I have also had explained to me that we no longer need the commandments because now we have love. Fact is we have always had love. It is because we have love that we do not steal, kill or lie about our neighbor. When we have love we fulfill the law by putting God and our family and neighbors before ourselves. Love is putting others first. The first four commandments show us how to put God first. The last six tell us how to put our family and neighbors first.

The beautiful thing is how it is all brought about. When the Lawgiver gave the commandments, He began with the reminder, “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 Here the Lawgiver is reminding His people that they did not free themselves from the Egyptians, but that He freed them while they were totally helpless. He then goes on to explain in Exodus 20 that He will free them from other gods. He will free them from adultery and murder and other sins.

So how is this brought about? The Lawgiver tells us in Exodus 19:3-5,

And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; ‘Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.’ Exodus 19:3-5

Just as the Israelites did not save themselves from the Egyptians, but God did, so we will not save ourselves from the power of sin, but He will. He goes on and tells us to obey His voice. My Strong’s Concordance tells me that word “obey” (shama) means to listen and be attentive. God is not demanding a legalistic obedience of works.

Many have the idea that the Old Testament is about being saved by law while the New Testament is about being saved by grace. But grace is just as real in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. God wants us to listen to His voice of promises! The Lawgiver goes on and says “keep my covenant.” Again, according to my Strong’s concordance, that word “keep” (shamar) means to guard or protect. Shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 when Adam was told to keep the garden. Did God mean for him to obey the garden? No, He meant for him to cherish the garden. Care for it. Protect it. The word “covenant” is also a promise. So in Exodus 19:3-5 the Lawgiver is telling us that just as He delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He will also deliver us from spiritual bondage, if we will only cherish His promises!

Thus we find in the Old Testament the same grace we see in the New Testament.

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 peter 1:4

God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 311.

You may study this week’s lesson here.

Better Promises Make a Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had cut down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day.” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not cutting down nearly as many trees as the others are,” the foreman began. “Yes I know, Sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?” 

The new worker did not realize he was not expected saw down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

A popular urban legend tells about a captain on a battleship who spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The response came back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, threatening reprisals, if his demands were not met. The response was, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change. The law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The New Covenant was not an afterthought after the first covenant did not work. The new covenant was actually God’s original plan. What we call the “old covenant” was actually man’s idea – thinking he could save himself by his own strength and effort. It was not a faith response. (See Heb. 4:2) Man’s effort failed, so in what we call the New Testament God re-introduces His original plan from the Old Testament, and says “Are you ready to give up trying to do it on your own? and let me write my law on your heart Myself?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they confidently replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go. He knew they could not keep His Law in their own power. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about in Hebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the “old” covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

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

A Promise Kept

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1969 7 -year old Niki was in the hospital having some tumors removed from her throat. While in the hospital she met Charita, another girl her age, who had a rare form of cancer. Niki found out that because of the cancer Charita would never be able to have children of her own. The two girls formed a friendship, and one night while the two of them were alone in their hospital room, Charita was crying. Niki came over to Charita’s bedside to comfort her. She told her not to cry and that when she got married and had her own baby she would let her mentor her baby and if it was a girl would even name it after her. 

After their stint in the hospital Niki and Charita kept in touch until 6 months later when Charita’s family moved from Los Angeles to New Mexico. In 1983 Niki married and in 1987 had a daughter whom she named Charita. Niki then went on the Unsolved Mysteries show looking for her childhood friend Charita so she could help mentor little Charita. In 1990 Niki and Charita were happily reunited. 

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

In a world where people will make empty promises just to get whatever they want, 7-year old Niki  stayed true to her promise even  as an adult, and became married and with a child. While it’s true that our promises are like ropes of sand and we can only trust God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4) It is also true that by God’s grace we too, like Jesus and 7-year old Niki , can stay true to our word. After all, even while the Bible teaches us not to put trust in ourselves or anyone else, the Bible also speaks of those who  “keep their promises even when it hurts.” Psalm 15:4 NLT 

This quarter we are studying the promise God made to man. One of the ways we reflect the image of God is by being men and women of our word. Sure, we make mistakes and have made broken promises. This is one reason why I am careful about making promises. Instead of promising to help a friend, I tell them I will try, but make it clear I am not making a promise.

God’s promises are the only promises we can rely on. Still, by God’s grace, we can be men and women of our word. By God’s grace, we can be faithful to our promises even if it hurts.

Can you share a time when someone showed you God’s love by staying true to their promise? 

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

Will we Remember the old Earth When we get to Heaven?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a question and answer session with a 7th grade Bible class at a nearby Adventist school. Someone asked if we will remember this earth when we get to heaven? More importantly will we remember our loved ones? Here is what I shared from the Bible.

First, it would not make sense to me for Jesus to die to save us here on earth and then turn around in heaven and totally delete all the data from our brains as if we were no longer the same people He died for. But then again my own ideas on the subject aren’t worth a morsel of old moldy manna. So let’s see what the Bible has to say: “ For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or [f]come to mind.”  Isaiah 65:17 NKV

Some take the above passage to literally read that our minds will be wiped totally clean of any recollections of earth. Here again is where we need to allow God to use figure of speech. Notice there is a footnote on this verse. the footnote reads “come upon the heart.” In other words the past will not weigh on our heart and minds. For example many times in the Bible it says God’s people forgot about Him. Well it wasn’t like they had no recollection of God and forgot He existed, they just did not take His love to heart or let it impress their hearts. So in the same way rebels “forget” about God and do not take His love to heart, when we get to heaven we will “forget” all the problems we had on earth and no longer take them to heart. 

Revelation 20 tells us in heaven…

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4 NKJV 

Here we see those who died for their faith here on earth are judging the world as Paul predicted in 1 Corinthians 6:3. If we are judging the things of this world up in heaven then we will obviously have memories of this life. After all, as I said before, Jesus did not die for us here on earth just to turn us into new robots up in heaven. If that were the case He might as well have just wiped us all out and made brand new robots to begin with.  In Revelation 21 we see what seems like unmistakable evidence that we will still have earthly memories in heaven. 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;…. Revelation 21:4 NKJV 

People say there will be no crying in heaven, but if that is so, then why does God have to wipe the tears from our eyes? Again God will never turn us into robots. We will have emotions, and our memories of lost loved ones will surely bring us to tears. God will not turn us into careless robots but will wipe the tears from our eyes as we cry for those who have chosen to reject their mansions that God prepared for them from the foundation of the world (See Matthew 25:34) and chose to be in the fire that was never prepared or intended for them. (See Matthew 35:41). 

God’s plan is for us to be in the new earth with our families. We see this as we go back to the book of Isaiah where we began. 

For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. Isaiah 66:22 NKJV 

I choose to be in the new earth with God so that He will not have to wipe the tears from the eyes of my family, but, even more importantly, so no one will have to wipe the tears from God’s eyes. By God’s grace we will be united with friends and family around the throne of God as we praise Him, remembering how Jesus redeemed us from the sins of the old earth. 

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

Are we Saved by Faith or Works, or a Faith That Works

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. 2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT 

Early in my lay pastor ministry I was working one night with the district senior pastor when he received a call that an elderly lady in our church was dying. The senior pastor was mentoring me, and I  had learned a lot from him concerning solid Adventist biblical theology, especially about the cleansing of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment. I rode with him to the nursing home where Sweetie Mae was taking her last breaths. I watched as he held her hand and told her to rest in Jesus because He died for her and loved her. He asked if she loved Jesus, and she opened her eyes long enough to smile and then closed them for the last time. I had become good friends with this dear saint. I learned that over the years she had baked many goodies for the homeless, though she was most famous for her pies. She had given many Bible studies and taught Sabbath School. Yet as I watched the pastor take her hand as she was slipping away, he never once mentioned all the wonderful works she had performed. The only hope he gave her that night was that Jesus loved and died for her. Turned out that was all the hope she needed. She had just enough strength for one last smile when she heard the name of Jesus before falling asleep in His loving arms.

Sweetie Mae was saved by grace alone. Turns out not a single one of her pies contributed towards her salvation nor did any of the Bible studies or Sabbath school lessons she taught. Still it was because she was saved by grace alone that she had so much grace in her heart that made her want to bake all those pies and give all those Bible studies. You see grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT 

The good things we do don’t give us grace. Grace gives us the good things we do. Our good works – but maybe I should not call them “our good works.” Maybe I should call them the good works that Christ does through us – do not earn our salvation but, rather, are the fruits of our salvation. They are the evidence that we have received His grace. Grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works.  2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us we will be judged by our actions. And Jesus tells us,  “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.’ Revelation 22:12 NLT

If we are saved by grace alone, why is Jesus judging and rewarding us according to our deeds? James can help us answer this question.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James 2:14-16 NLT

So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. James 2:24 NLT

Sweetie Mae was not baking pies and giving Bible studies so she could receive faith and grace. The faith and grace she had received motivated her to bake pies and give Bible studies. The good deeds God gave her were evidence that she was experiencing God’s grace.  The teachings of Jesus help us understand this point. 

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Matthew 25:31-33 NLT 

Just like in Revelation 22:12 Jesus gives people their reward and separates the saved from the unsaved at His coming and not when each individual dies. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead rest in their graves until the resurrection. 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 NLT

What a comfort to know, during the investigative Judgment and the cleansing of the sanctuary, that Jesus has already prepared the kingdom for us from the creation of the world. It’s sad that many have a picture of Jesus judging us with skepticism. Jesus wants us in heaven! He has invited us! Surely he would not invite us if He did not want us all there! In the message to the church of Philadelphia Jesus p[resents an open door in heaven while His message to the church of Laodicea portrays our heart’s door which is closed. Heaven’s doors are wide open! It’s our heart’s door that needs to be opened. Here are more encouraging passages assuring us Jesus is preparing a place for us in His kingdom.

This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 NLT

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? John 14:2 NLT

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4 NLT 

Now I have heard it said that God only chose some to be saved at the beginning of the world but chose others to be lost. We will see in a while that God only intended for the devil and his angels to be lost. Again and again in Scripture we see that God is intending for us to be saved! 

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36 NLT

After the invitation to His kingdom in Matt. 25:34 Jesus says why they are welcomed to enter in verses 35-36. Notice it is based on their actions. This coincides with what we read earlier in James 2. Our actions show where our faith is. Good actions are the fruit of grace. This has nothing to do with earning salvation by good works. Let’s continue…

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ Matthew 25:37-39 NLT

The righteous obviously were not doing these kind things in order to earn salvation. They were totally unaware that they were doing them directly for Jesus. They were just doing these things out of love without even thinking much less hoping for a reward. They are saved by grace alone just like my dear friend Sweetie Mae. Just like Sweetie Mae they were so filled with God’s grace that they all performed graceful deeds. 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 NLT 

The way we treat others shows how much we love God and appreciate His grace. At a Wintley Phipps concert I heard him say, “Our love for God is no greater than the love we have for the person on earth whom we care about the least.” Jesus teaches that the attitude we have towards the scum of humanity is the attitude we have towards Him. 

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. Matthew 25:41 NLT 

So does Jesus teach that He only chose a select few to be saved at the beginning of creation? No! He planned for everyone to be saved. He was preparing His kingdom for the entire world. While Jesus tells us He has gone to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us He teaches that the fire is prepared for the devil and his angels and no one else. Jesus tells those on His right that the kingdom was prepared for them, but He never told those on His left that hell was prepared for them. No! Hell is only prepared for the devil and his demons. All those on His left must have put up one massive fight against God’s grace in order to gain hell because it was never prepared or intended for them.

Do you know how hard it is to be lost? It takes a lot of work and effort. In order for you to be lost you have to fight, scratch and claw your way past the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and every angel in heaven to get to hell. Heaven’s door is wide open, and Jesus says in John 12:32 that He is drawing all people to Him, but if we resist that love and fight hard enough against God’s grace, we can fight our way into hell, a place God never prepared or intended for us to be. 

For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ Matthew 25:42-45 NLT

These never accepted God’s grace. How do I know? Because Jesus as well as James 2 teaches us that grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works. This is why 2 Corinthians 5:10 says we will be judged by the things we do and Jesus says in Revelation 22:12 He will reward us according to our deeds. According to Ephesians 2:8-10, grace gives us good works. We don’t do good works in order to receive salvation. We are saved by grace so we can do good works. 

Galatians 5:6 speaks of a faith that works by live. I believe that’s the faith Sweetie Mar had. Sweetie Mae was so thankful for God’ amazing grace and loved Jesus so much she spent all of her health and strength baking for the homeless and giving Bible studies. As she lay dying the pastor held her hand and asked if she loved Jesus. With her last ounce of remaining strength she opened her eyes and smiled before slipping into her rest. Friend, do you love Jesus?

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

Trusting God’s Promises Alone

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:9 NLT

When you read this week’s lesson on how Ahaz sought support from surrounding nations instead of God alone, did it remind you of times you trusted in people and they let you down? It did me. I almost hesitate to share this example with you because I am sure you have enough examples of your own! But because this is a blog post and I am expected to give examples I will share a couple.

I bought a used car at a car lot, and I was getting ready to drive away I told the salesman that I never thought to check the trunk to see if there was a spare tire and jack. The salesman grinned and assured me it was in there. So without checking, I drove away. Not a week later, while on the Interstate, I had a flat tire. As I pulled to the shoulder of the road I was patting myself on the back for making sure I had a spare and a tire jack. I opened up the trunk and saw the spare tire but no tire jack! I thought what am I going to do now? Before I could even call for help, it had already arrived. A friend who just happened to be passing by spotted me and pulled over in front of me. He had a tire jack. I was saved! Even though things worked out, I still went back to the car lot and gave the salesman an ear full. He apologized and gave me a tire jack out of the trunk of another car. I thought oh great now the same thing is going to happen to whoever buys this car. I don’t remember if I told the salesman to be sure and replace the jack in that car. Hopefully whoever bought that car actually looked in the trunk!  Through this experience,  I learned an important lesson. While man misled me and let me down, God still had my back. God caused a friend to pass by at exactly the right time.

A married couple I will call John and Jane were working with me in an Adventist conference many years ago. One of the conference leaders was not treating the employees fairly. When I went to confront the conference leader, John and Jane told me this conference leader was “The Lord’s anointed” and therefore could do no wrong. I knew better than that. We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. The Bible also gives us plenty of examples of the Lord’s anointed still making mistakes and needing faithful Christian confrontation. 2 Samuel 12 gives us the example of Nathan confronting the Lord’s anointed. It was not a year later until this same conference leader seriously wounded John and Jane. Since their confidence was in the human leadership of the church, instead of God alone, they not only left their positions in the conference, but they left the church completely. Thankfully after a little over ten years God led them back to the church. Still they never would have left, if their confidence had been in God instead of man.

I think we all already know, but it bears repeating that the only way not to be disappointed by people is to never expect anything from them. A few years ago a church I had worked with a long time could no longer afford to keep me but still gave me a very generous severance check as a parting gift. Around that time a friend told me she was behind on her child’s tuition at the local church school and had no way to pay it. I decided since God was generous to me, I wanted to be generous as well. I went into the office to pay off my friend’s tuition bill. The school administrator asked if I wanted her to tell my friend who paid the bill. I thought for a second and then realized over the years many people have supported my ministry, and while some of them have come and gone, over time it was always God who was providing the support. I had learned to trust in God instead of specific individual contributors. I recognized that while God was using me this time to help my friend, that next time it may be someone else God uses. Therefore it was actually God who was supporting my friend and not me. I just happened to be the instrument He was using this time. I told the administrator not to tell who paid the bill. My friend needed to know that it came from God not from me. My friend needed to know she could trust in God and not that she could trust in me!

We all have heard people say after going through a trial, “No one helped me but God!” Well that is not necessarily throwing shade at their friends. It is very possible God did not cause anyone else to help because God did not need anyone else to help. Like a center fielder calling the left fielder off as he catches the ball by yelling “I got it!” God may be waving our friends off by yelling, “I’ve got it!” It’s not that the left fielder was unwilling to help. He just wasn’t needed. Likewise sometimes God wants us to know He is all we need. He is ultimately the one taking care of us. He loves us. The healthiest thing we can do is to not trust people or hold them accountable for our wellbeing. Let’s trust God alone and hold Him totally and entirely accountable for our well-being.