Love Comes First

Indian Rocks 5

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

Jesus didn’t say, “if you want to go to heaven, obey my commandments.” He did not say, “if you don’t want to go to hell, obey my commandments.” Okay we already knew all that, but while studying Monday’s lesson about the works of the law, it occurred to me something else Jesus did not say. He did notsay, “If you obey my commandments then I will love you.” He said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” I believe this is what Paul meant when he said we are not justified by the works of the law. The works of the law don’t lead us to God’s love. God already loves us! His love leads us to His law of love.

Paul does not teach earning love by our works, but rather working because we are already loved.

working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6 NLT

The Adventure’s pledge goes, “Because Jesus loves me, I will always do my best.” The pledge does not go, “I will always do my best so Jesus will love me.”

Please take a look with me at a couple of passages, where Paul uses the phrase “Works [or deeds] of the law.”

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:28-31 NLT

Notice, justification by faith establishes the law. That’s because God is the One doing the justifying and God is love and His law is love, which is why Paul says that justification by love will establish the law of love.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! Galatians 2:16-17 NKJV

Paul makes it clear that our works will not lead to God’s favor, but God’s favor will lead us to works of love. God’s love and justification will not lead us to sin. Paul says Christ is not the minister of sin. He does not give us grace so that we can continue in sin and disobedience. Suppose I promised to pay everyone’s speeding tickets here in Florida. An officer pulls a man over and gives him a $200.00 speeding ticket. “No problem!” the man says, “I will just take this ticket over to William and he will pay for it.” And the next time he does the same thing and the next time. By paying his speeding ticket all the time I would be encouraging him to speed! This is very dangerous. Paul says this is not how grace works. Grace and justification by faith lead to obedience.

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

Notice God’s grace does not respond to our faith. Our faith responds to God’s grace. God does not say, “William has faith so I will give him grace.” God gives me grace and that is why I have faith. Notice too in the passage that while works do not lead to grace, grace leads to good works. In legalism our works lead to God’s favor.  In the gospel God’s favor leads to our good works.

As with us, this is how Jesus justified the woman taken in adultery.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

Notice Jesus did not tell her that if she would go and sin no more that He would not condemn her. It is because He gave her favor instead of condemnation that she could go and sin no more.

In legalism and pagan religions, the works of the law lead to the gods love and acceptance. In the gospel God’s love and acceptance lead us to express our love by doing good works, because we love Him because He already loves us!

Thus Jesus said,

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

Our Works on the Day of Atonement

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As this week’s SS lesson focuses on the work of Jesus our High Priest on the day of atonement, let’s take just a moment and focus on what the people were to be doing on the day of atonement.

This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you.  For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, thatyou may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.  It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. Leviticus 16:29-31 NKJV

Even though this is not a weekly Sabbath we are to put away our works. Now when you consider that we have been living in the literal day of atonement since 1844 it does not sound logical to do no work since 1844. So how do we apply the no working part to how we should be living in the literal day of atonement? I believe the answer is found in Galatians 5:19-21:

 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Leviticus tells us to afflict our souls. What does that mean? Could it mean doing some heart searching and putting away our fleshly egos and lusts? This is where I think we need to be careful about something Paul warned us about a long time ago.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:3-5 NKJV

Hmmm….interesting….Paul says endure afflictions. Could it be that during the day of atonement, in the last days, when we should be afflicting our souls, looking for areas and rooms of our hearts that need to be surrendered to God, that Satan supplies us with false teachers with fables that make us feel so good about ourselves that we don’t feel the need to do any soul searching, much less afflict our souls or deny the lusts of our flesh and egos?

 

During the day of atonement, which we believe we have been in since 1844 we are to be afflicting our souls and putting away our works, so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is not our works but the works of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV

On page 623 God’s messenger describes the work of God’s people during the literal day of atonement, beginning in 1844. Does this sound similar to what God’s people were told to do during the symbolic day of atonement?

It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to join ourselves to him, to unite our weakness to his strength, our ignorance to his wisdom, our unworthiness to his merits. God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs, in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls.  –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 623

Jesus will not force an entrance into our hearts. He will come into our hearts when we have taken a good look at our hearts and sense our need of a Savior. This means putting away the pride and works of the flesh and asking the Holy Spirit to replace our works with His fruit. While Jesus does not wish to harm the dignity of the individual, it is impossible for us to sense our need of Him, until through affliction, the ego has been crucified. This is how Leviticus 16:29-31 is fulfilled, when we afflict our souls and do no works of the flesh.

Galatians; Justified by Faith Alone

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “Read Galatians 2:15–17. What is Paul saying to you here, and how can you apply these wordsto your own Christian experience?”

Galatians 2:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our
faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

Obeying the commandments will not get me justified, but being justified by faith alone will get me to obeying the commandments.

“We must center our hopes of heaven upon Christ alone, because He is our
Substitute and Surety. We have transgressed the law of God, and by the deeds of
the law shall no flesh be justified. The best efforts that man in his own
strength can make are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has
transgressed; but through faith in Christ he may claim the righteousness of the
Son of God as all-sufficient. Christ satisfied the demands of the law in His
human nature. He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement
for him, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.” Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ,
and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of
the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.”  {Faith and Works 93-94} 

Justification by faith does not mean that Jesus pretends I am an overcomer. Faith makes my justification a reality. The victories are real. By the grace of God I am now partaking and experiencing the divine nature as Jesus lives in my heart. I am, as it says in Ephesians 3:19, “filled with all the fulness of God.”

Romans 3-8; Power!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love Romans! In this book, Paul portrays the power of the gospel so vividly! Let’s take a look.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

So many times we hear verse 23 read when pointing out that we all have sinned, and they stop there. The verse may end but the sentence and thought continues on into verse 24. It says that while all have sinned, all have also been justified. There are no conditions met by man for this justification.

In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” There were no conditions met by me to make me a sinner. When Adam sinned, I sinned in Adam seeing how my flesh was in Adam’s flesh, I sinned in Adam, with no choice of my own. The eastern mind, which thinks more corporately than the western mind which thinks more individually, grasps this concept more easily. In Genesis 25, God tells Rebekah, that two nations are in her womb, seeing how the flesh of millions would come from the flesh of her twin sons. In Hebrews 7 Paul says that what Abraham did, his grandson Levi also did, seeing how Levi came from the flesh of Abraham. Even today, in many eastern countries, when an individual wins an Olympic gold medal, the medal goes to the country and not the individual. The eastern mind thinks more corporately. So, when Adam sinned, we all sinned in Adam and were made sinners, with no choice of our own. Now look what else happened!

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.  Romans 5:10

Where we all sinned in Adam, we have all lived a perfect life in Jesus! Jesus took my flesh (Romans 8:3-4) and lived a perfect life with my flesh! We are saved by His life! Friends this all took place and was resolved before we were ever born or made a choice! Jesus has totally undone all the damage Adam caused. We have all sinned and we have all been justified! We do not need to win God to us, He has won Himself to us.

Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Romans 5:18-19

We all understand that in this verse when it says many were made sinners that is means everyone, but when we read that the free gift came upon all to justification of life, we don’t think that means everyone. It does! Jesus totally undid all the damage Adam caused! I hear people say you have to accept a gift before you can have it. Not so! John 3:16 says God gave His son, not offered, but gave. When I worked at UPS I delivered many packages that I had to go back to later and pick up because the customer did not want them. Even though the customer did not accept them, they still had them until they rejected them. Same with justification!

As many as have sinned have been justified. There is great power in the book of Romans. Romans chapter 4 uses Abraham as an illustration. Abraham was promised a son in his old age. First Abraham tries to help God keep His promise by working it out for Him. He takes Hagar to wife, as she is much younger than his first wife. God then has Abraham circumcised so that he can cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh to work out what God had already promised He would do. Abraham realizes, that the child will come from God’s promise and not by the works of his flesh.  Romans 4:21 says of Abraham, “And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform.”  

All God asks is that we trust His promise, and what He can do for us and through us!

Romans 3-8 tells me:

  1. Adam sinned and made us all sinners. Thus we all deserved to die. Romans 3:23, 6:23
  2. My flesh that deserved to die died with Christ. Romans 8:3-4
  3. While formerly I had sinned in Adam, I now have lived a perfect life in Christ. Romans 5:10
  4. If I continue to do like Abraham and try to save myself by the works of my own flesh, I need to do like Abraham and throw away my trust in my flesh and works, and trust that Jesus has already promised and performed my justification. While God did not make me a robot, I am free at any time to throw away the gift that has already been given, but God has given, not just offered, the free gift of justification. 
  5. While Romans 5:10 says I lived a perfect life in Christ, which is my justification; my salvation from the penalty of sin, Romans 8:4 tells me Jesus wants to fulfill in me His law, which is my sanctification; my salvation from the power of sin.