If You Love Me…

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave.  So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said,  “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”  Luke 7:2-5 NLT

 

This story illustrates the difference between the gospel and legalism. Legalism tells us the officer has given so much that he deserves special treatment from Jesus. Meanwhile the gospel teaches us that Jesus helps those who need His help, regardless of who they are.

 

 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. Luke 7:6 NLT

 

While the Jewish elders thought the officer had earned special favors, the officer himself understood the gospel. The officer had no sense of entitlement because of his works. You may read on how Jesus heals his servant, but my point is that the officer was not giving for the sake of a reward or special treatment, but out of love.

Jesus says, 

 

 If you love me, obey my commandments.John 14:15

 

Notice Jesus does not say, “If you don’t want to go to hell, keep my commandments!” or “If you want to go to heaven, keep my commandments.” He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

 

Keeping God’s commandments to get a reward does not make you a good person. Many people disobey God’s commands to get rewards. They cheat on their income tax reports to get a larger refund. They lie about achievements they have never attained to get praise from man. People who obey God for the sake of a reward will also just as easily disobey God if they could achieve a greater reward. Being motivated by the hope of a reward does not make you a good person fitted for the unselfish society of heaven.

 

Keeping God’s commandments out of fear of punishment does not make you a good person either. Remember in Daniel 3 the three Hebrew children were threatened with punishment if they did obey God! While they told the king that God would protect them, they also made it clear that was not the point.

 

He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:17-18 NLT

 

The Hebrew children were obeying God out of love, no matter what. They were not motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment. In the same way,

 

We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NKJV

 

Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. -Ellen White, Patriarch and Prophets, Page 523.

 

It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him. -Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, Page 480.

 

Once, I was in a literature evangelist meeting with our conference president. We were discussing which book to promote. The Great Controversy or the Desire of Ages? Some people said the Great Controversy because it warns us about last-day events. I suggested the Desire of Ages because it helps us fall in love with Jesus, so that when last-day events occur, we will make the right choices for the right reasons – because we love Jesus. Unless we are in love with Jesus, knowledge about last-day events will avail nothing.

 

Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12 NKJV

 

All those who have faith in Jesus’ love keep His commandments.

Trustworthy People Couldn’t Care Less if You Trust Them or not

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While flipping through the channels on my TV the other day, I ran across a “Law and Order” show, or something similar, where a detective was saying how abusers always seek the trust of the person they want to abuse. I have heard similar things in pastor group meetings, which has prompted me to share what little common sense I have on the matter.

If someone is trying to get you to trust them, be suspicious. Fact is trustworthy people will never ask you to trust them, because they will never allow situations where they need your trust.

When I make a deposit at the bank they give me a receipt. Don’t I trust them? Sure I do. However they never say, “Instead of us giving you a receipt, why don’t you just trust us?” Trustworthy people don’t ask you to trust them. Trustworthy people don’t need you to trust them. They understand accountability and checks and balances.

I hear stories where a “caregiver” seeks to earn a parent’s trust, and then betrays it once they are left alone with the child. The “caregiver” put the parent in a situation where they felt obligated to show they trusted them. A true caregiver will never put a parent in that situation. A true and trustworthy caregiver will always do things in groups and never seek to be alone with the child.

A true and trustworthy caregiver will never act hurt or insulted that you are not showing that you trust them, because a trustworthy caregiver couldn’t care less if you trust them, because they have no desire to be in a situation where they need your trust!

As a matter of fact, trustworthy caregivers are just as cautious of you as you are of them.  They will not allow themselves to be put in situations where they need to trust you or your child. That doesn’t mean they are paranoid of you. Let’s go back to the bank. I am not paranoid about my bank having my money, but they still provide receipts and statements offering accountability. At church I am not paranoid about the deacons when I put my money in the offering plate, but the deacons still count the money in groups instead of by themselves, just to offer accountability and to make things look kosher, not for me but for themselves.

Abusers often seek to get the trust of the parents. If someone acts offended or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. A trustworthy person will not act hurt or insulted if you don’t trust them, because quite frankly a trustworthy person couldn’t care less if you trust them or not! Everything they do is done in groups, in the open for the whole world to see. Part of the policy of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which I work under, strongly encourages for no woman or man to be left alone with a group of children, but even though some situations may exist, under no circumstances whatsoever should any woman or man be left alone with any child, girl or boy. This policy in no way interferes with us accomplishing our mission as caregivers. We don’t need a parent to trust us alone with their child in order to teach or mentor.

A true caregiver will enjoy having parents and other adult caregivers join them while they are mentoring and teaching, because it creates a community where the child feels loved and accepted.  A true caregiver wants the children they work with to know that there is an entire church family who cares about them, and not just one caregiver. Let me make this clear. A true mentor wants to win children to Christ and the church and not just to themselves. A true mentor teaches children to be sociable and part of a community, instead of isolating them from the community.

Likewise a trustworthy person will never put themselves in a situation where they need to trust you either. Trust works both ways, but so does accountability, and checks and balances. The receipt the bank gives me after a transaction protects the bank as much as it protects me.We both trust each other, but neither I nor the bank ever tells the other, “just trust me,” or “why don’t you trust me?”  Everything is done in the open with receipts for the whole world to see as well as statements with checks and balances.

So in closing, in case you haven’t already picked up on what I am trying to say, let me say it again. If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them then beware. Only abusers “need” you to trust them. Good healthy trustworthy caregivers will never be in a situation where they will need your trust, and therefore they will never ask for it.

The Gospel versus Legalism

MLK Day 013

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You know, there are probably plenty of valid reasons why God waited till He had created everything else, before He finally created man. Obviously the environment was not inhabitable for mankind yet, but I would like to suggest another reason. I think it has to do with why I was not around at Calvary either. If man had been around while God was creating the earth, he may have come up with the crazy notion that he actually had a part in creation. It is the same with thing with Calvary. Sure, mankind was there, but everything that was good was because of God. Think of all the things that could have gone wrong. Jesus could have turned Pilate to dust. He could have called for ten thousands of angels to set Him free. Yet everything concerning my redemption went absolutely perfectly, and you know why? Because I wasn’t there to mess it all up! Paul sums up sound Biblical theology for us in four words, “Not I but Christ.” Galatians 2:20. The theory of evolution is legalism, because it involves man bettering himself on his own. This is impossible. Yet some people have a theology where Jesus forgives us, but then we get better on our own. Some people have a “me plus Christ” theology instead of a “Not I but Christ” theology. Anytime “I” become a part of my theology, my theology becomes corrupt because “I” am corrupt. Legalism struggles to make “I” part of the solution but it simply is not, so much so that the only way pure theology can work is if “I” am crucified. The Sabbath is a sign of rest, both at creation and redemption to remind us, that we are not saved by the works of the flesh, and therefore the works of the flesh, known as legalism must be put to rest. Only God Himself could first create me in His own image, only God Himself can re-create me in His own image. Let’s take a careful look at the gospel as opposed to human legalism.

 

The Gospel versus Legalism

 

 

Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.

The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain OUR love.    Romans 5:10-12:  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

Note:  In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the sacrifice enables the humans to love their God.

Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to be saved.

The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John 14:15:  “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.

The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.

The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.

The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14:  “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.

The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

The Gospel:  NOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20:  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Legalism: Self- centered obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.

The Gospel: God- centered obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

The Gospel: All about love and humility.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on Origins and Creation here.