The Sabbath in Light of The Cross

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sabbath 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

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

Who was the Sabbath made for?

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

Whose day is the Sabbath?

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

What does God call the Sabbath?

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

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

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

What marks the beginning of a day?

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

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

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

What else should be done on the Sabbath?

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

What are we to “remember” to do?

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

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

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

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

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

What are we to learn from this?

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

What does God want us to be?

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

How only is this possible?

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

What is God’s promise?

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

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

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

Extremism is Extremely Evil

Tampa Night

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Genesis 3:1 NLT

Twenty-nine years later, there are still some things I remember from my Composition class at Southern Adventist University. One thing I was taught is to avoid using the word “never” because it is extreme and usually unrealistic. For example, I heard someone say once, “I never golf, because when I do I play terrible.” Wait a minute? If they never golf how can they say they play terrible? Obviously they golf some, or they would not say that they play badly. So they can’t realistically use the word “never.”

Satan baited Eve into a discussion by asking a question which was obviously wrong so that Eve would feel obligated to clear up the misconception and join in a dialogue with him. He went to extremes by suggesting God told them not to eat of any of the trees.

Today, Satan likes to suggest that Christians are not allowed to have any fun, but that is no more true than that Adam and Eve were not to eat of any of the trees. Some of the Puritans believed that the more things they called evil and abstained from, the more holy they would become, but that is not how holiness works. Now I am not suggesting that we must sin a little every now and then just to stay balanced and moderate. God’s grace is well able to keep us in harmony with God’s law at all times. The problem comes when we make extreme standards that God never intended. God never said “don’t eat of any of the trees.” On the contrary there was only one tree they were told not to eat from.

There is a term I have come up with which I call, “overcompensating for the past.” For example, a young person becomes a born-again Christian and decides to burn all their satanic music in a bonfire. However they get a little carried away, and throw their John Denver and Joshua Bell CD’s in the fire too, declaring them satanic since they are not sacred. They vow to listen only to Jamie Jorge and the Heritage Singers from now on. I am sorry, but throwing your John Denver CD’s into the fire is not going to make up for having listened to real satanic music in the past, and only listening to the Heritage Singers is not going to make you more holy. We do not become more holy by finding more things to call satanic.

It was Satan who suggested that all the trees were evil, so I conclude that calling everything evil is not only extreme but also satanic within itself! (Some older manuscripts suggest Satan actually implied all the trees were okay to eat, which would be an extreme statement in the other direction.)

Another danger of extremism shows up when we have one favorite pastor or author. We decide everything they preach is the truth, never considering they could be wrong once or twice. At the same time we decide this other pastor or author is always wrong, never considering he could be right occasionally. Fact is that none of us are perfect. If Matthew had been “all that,” then we never would have needed Mark, Luke and John. Now I know they all agree with each other, yet the Bible gives us an array of authors so we can have a balanced theology. We learn from all of them.

Several churches have sprung up lately and drawn large congregations. The pastors seldom take a vacation because everyone loves to hear them preach. And if a pastor seldom takes a break from the pulpit I have to guess he loves to hear himself preach too! However after the pastor gets promoted and leaves, the congregation shrinks. Why?  It is because they were following a man and not God. It is not healthy to become attached to one individual.

When I have been having long-term Bible studies with individuals and they come to church, I am happy when I see them mixing with other people besides myself. I am glad when they choose to attend somebody else’s Sabbath School class besides mine! They have been listening to me teach the Bible to them for months, maybe years, and now they can get other people’s views and ideas, so they can form their own balanced theology. I only have so much to offer. I don’t know it all. I may have strengths, but I definitely have weaknesses, and other teachers can complement my weaknesses. A well-rounded Bible student has more than one teacher.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it definitely takes a congregation to raise a newborn babe in Christ. Over the years I have had several pastors ask me to give their children Bible studies for baptism. Since they are pastors, why don’t they just do it themselves? Because the pastors realize their children hear them teach at church and then every day in family worship. They realizes that for their children to be balanced, they will need to have other teachers in their lives besides just them. This is the difference between a good pastor and a cult leader.

I once talked to a member of a church who had the same pastor for over 15 years. He said they kept that pastor because he preached the truth while the other pastors are preaching heresy. I asked him how he knew their pastor preached truth while all others preach heresy. Turns out it was the pastor himself who told them this! That is not a balanced pastor. That is a cult leader. When Elijah claimed he was the only good prophet left, God let him know he was being a little extreme, as God had 7,000 back in Israel who had not run away like him.

Not only is hitching your wagon to one preacher or author extreme, but labels can be extreme also – conservative, liberal, traditional and progressive. Some people like to call themselves conservative and look down on liberals. Some like to be progressive and look down on traditionalists. Problem is they all can become extreme. Jesus was not extreme, as He was all four. Jesus was conservative with His rebukes and on one occasion just wrote them in the sand to avoid embarrassing anybody. But He was liberal with the bread and fish when He fed the multitudes. Jesus was traditional with his custom of going to church every Sabbath, but He progressed beyond man-made traditions and the pompous ceremonial hand washing the Pharisees had concocted.

I visited with a member of a church where I was a guest speaker. The member told me, the goal of their church was not to be conservative or liberal. Their goal was to just go by the Bible. Where the Bible said be liberal, they wanted to be liberal, but in other phases of life where it said to be conservative they wanted to be conservative. I like that! They avoided the extreme labels of conservative, liberal, traditional and progressive and just purposed in their hearts to be like Jesus.

Daniel purposed in his heart to be conservative when it came to his diet in Babylon, but when it came to getting the wicked magicians off the hook for not telling the king his dream he was very liberal!

Again, please do not confuse what I am saying by thinking I am suggesting we make a compromise with sin in order to avoid extremes. I am actually saying just the opposite. If we become extreme in having one favorite pastor or author, we will follow him not only when he is right, but also when he is wrong. If we have been exposed to several pastors and authors, we will more likely follow each one only as far as they are right. We don’t have our wagon hitched to any one person except Jesus.

If we label ourselves conservative, we will fall into sin when a brother needs mercy and forgiveness. If we label ourselves liberal, we will fall into sin when a brother needs to be warned about sin. If we label ourselves traditional, we will fall into sin when tradition contradicts the Bible. If we label ourselves progressive, we will fall into sin when we forsake traditions that are biblical.

Let’s avoid Satan’s temptation to follow extremes and let’s purpose in our hearts, like Daniel to follow God in all His ways, by studying the Bible and following it, without adding or subtracting anything.

 

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