Love is the one Debt That Will Never be Paid off Completely

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Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Love Your Neighbor Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 137-8 NKJV

When we think of debt I know I usually think about money, however I have come to realize there are things we owe besides money. It is staggering to think that over half of Americans have less than a thousand dollars in the bank. But it is also staggering to realize that over half the American population feels lonely and unloved. When it comes to money the poor feel like they are being oppressed by the rich. Instead of being oppressed by the rich the poor want the rich to pay higher taxes and share more. After all, don’t the rich already have enough? Why can’t they give more?

Should we ask the same questions when it comes to love? Shouldn’t those who feel loved share more of their love and time with the lonely? Years ago, in the first district I worked in as a Bible worker, a man I was studying with brought his 14 year old step-daughter to church for the first time. I went to the women in the church who had teenage daughters and asked them to encourage their daughters to befriend our teenage visitor. Do you know what  one of the mother’s told me? She shrugged her shoulders and said, “our daughters already have friends.” Thirty some odd years later I have never been able to forget that. They left a 14 year old girl, starving, not for food or money but for love! I actually met the stepfather years late at another Adventist church, where he got baptized. I never saw or heard from the stepdaughter again. She never came back to the church that snubbed her, and the sad thing is the church does not care that she never returned. Their own emotional needs were being met and that is simply all that mattered to them. 

Isaiah 58:1-14 talks about a people who love to go to church and debate theology with their best friends but forget to care for those who are left out. Isaiah goes on to say that they are breaking the Sabbath by debating theology in Sabbath School class with their best friends. Yes, they are in Sabbath School talking theology on the Sabbath but they are still breaking the Sabbath by doing their own pleasures. In this case their own pleasure is not going to a football game or shopping mall on the Sabbath-its going to church! They are breaking the Sabbath because they are not reaching out to those who are unloved. 

The poor don’t like it when the rich are stingy with their money, but can the poor be just as stingy with their time, love, forgiveness and mercy?  While the poor feel oppressed financially do we oppress even the rich by not giving them mercy and forgiveness? God has been so rich and generous with us by showering us with grace and mercy. Do we share this grace and mercy with others or do we hold grudges and oppress them emotionally by not being gracious and forgiving toward them?  

There is such a thing as debtors prison, but there are other prisons as well. We put people in prison when we hold a grudge and when we refuse to let them into our circle. We oppress people when we withhold our love and friendship. 

Money debts are more tangible and so maybe that’s why they stick out in our mind more than other debts. But are there other debts we need to pay back that may not be monetary? Do you owe someone a thank you? A compliment? A hug? A pardon? How about your time? Is there someone who just needs you to lend them your ear for a while? You may have paid off all your bill collector’s but are you really debt free? Is there someone you still owe love to? Can you begin paying them back today? And tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that…….

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

Expressing our Love for Christ

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Soviet Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, suffered terribly for the Lord. Yet he said that even while in prison, he saw fellow Soviet believers practice generous giving. “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soap every day, we decided we would faithfully ‘tithe’ even that. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our ‘tithe’ to the Master.”

I tend to think that God did not demand that these prisoners tithe their bread and soap. Yet they felt compelled to, in order to express their love for God. After understanding the awesome sacrifice Christ had made in expressing His love for them on the cross, they wanted a way to express their love for Christ. They wanted to give all of themselves to Christ since He had given all of Himself for them.

It is the same case with the woman in Mark 14:3-9, who broke open a bottle of ointment costing a year’s wages, so she could anoint the feet of Jesus. She was simply giving all she had because Jesus was giving all He had for her. Like the Soviet prisoners she needed a way to express her love.

God did not give us the tithe and offering system because he needed our money, but because He knew we too would need a way to express our love. God nor the church needs our money. Both were getting along just fine before we came along and both will do just fine after we are gone.

I have a plaque with a picture of the cross and written on it are the words,

“ I asked Jesus how much do you love me?”

“This much” He said, ’Then He spread out His arms and died.”

God will finish the work with or without our money. Yet He has given us the tithe and offering system so that when He asks us, “How much do you love me?” We will have a way to answer.

You may study this week’s lesson here.

How to Find Your Increase for Tithes and Offerings

Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Deuteronomy 14:22 KJV

Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee. This affects people who are self-employed and/or invest in their business. An illustration I use when giving a Bible study on tithing is that, if you get paid $50.00 for mowing your neighbor’s lawn and you paid $5.00 for the gas, then you actually made $45.00. $45.00 is your increase or profit. You would tithe on the $45.00 since that is what you actually made. By the way, the $45.00 is what you would also pay taxes on, so both God and “Caesar” realize you made $45.00, and not $50.00.

Of course there could be other expenses too, like the cost of the lawn mower, but I think you get the gist of the illustration. Of course the cost of the lemonade you bought from the stand across the street would not count as a business expense because even though it quenched your thirst, it was not a direct business expense.

I’ll give several other examples, as I see them, and I encourage our readers to contribute their examples.

Now “Caesar” realizes if you work in an office or campus, that driving to work and back is not a direct investment to your business. You do not write off travel expenses to work and back. However, you do write off driving expenses while working. For example if I’m a courier doing deliveries, I would deduct travel expenses from what I am paid to find my actual profit, and then tithe and pay taxes on the actual profit. By the way, your gross income would be considered your actual profit. Let’s say I pick up a kayak in Sydney and drive 170 kilometers to deliver the kayak in Newcastle, for $525. To find my profit I would subtract 66 cents a km, which would be $112, leaving me with a profit of $413. I would tithe on the $413, which would be $42 (rounded up). Of course I can round that up to $45.00 or even $50.00!

Now, if I drove 10 kilometers to make the pickup in Sydney I would not count that against my profit because that was just getting to work. It was not an expense of the actual work itself. The way I see it, only things that you invested directly to making your profit would be deducted from your profit. Now if I traveled from my home to a courier training workshop in Melbourne, that would be a travel expense relating directly to my business and profit. Everyone needs to decide between themselves and God if something is a direct business expense.

Again, your profit is counted as your gross income which you would be taxed on and would tithe on. Sometimes when I am giving this study, people will ask me if they can deduct their home electric bill from their gross income and then tithe after that. The answer is “no.” Your home electric bill is not a part of your business or an investment in your profit. “Caesar” does not let you write off your home electric bill as it has nothing to do with your profit if you are not working at home.

You need to follow your own conscience and Bible principles on determining what your increase is, but as a general rule, if “Caesar’ sees an item as a business expense then it is reasonable to count it as a business expense regarding your increase (profit) and tithe. Remember we do not pay tithe. We return tithe. We are returning to God what is already His with thanksgiving for all the many ways He cares for us. We also want to give a generous offering in addition to our tithe, with a cheerful heart knowing we can never outgive or out love God. 

I hope this conversation has been helpful, and we can discuss it further in the comment section.

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

What Does Tithing on Your Increase Mean?

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Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Deuteronomy 14:22 KJV

Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee. This affects people who are self-employed and/or invest in their business. An illustration I use when giving a Bible study on tithing is, that if you get paid $50.00 for mowing your neighbors lawn, and you paid $5.00 for the gas, then you actually made $45.00. $45.00 is your increase or profit. You would tithe on the $45.00 since that is what you actually made. By the way the $45.00 is what you would also pay taxes on, so both God and “Caesar” realize you made $45.00, and not $50.00.

Of course there could be other expenses too, like the cost of the lawn mower, but I think you get the gist of the illustration. Of course the cost of the lemonade you bought from the stand across the street would not count as a business expense because even though it quenched your thirst, it was not a direct business expense.

I’ll give several other examples, as I see them, and I encourage our readers to contribute their examples.

Now “Caesar” realizes if you work in an office or campus, that driving to work and back is not a direct investment to your business. You do not write off travel expenses to work and back. However you do write off driving expenses while working. For example if I’m a courier doing deliveries, I would deduct travel expenses from what I am paid to find my actual profit, and then tithe and pay taxes on the actual profit. By the way your gross income would be considered your actual profit. Let’s say I pick up a kayak in Sydney and drive 170 kilometers to deliver the kayak in Newcastle, for $525. To find my profit I would subtract 66 cents a km, which would be $112, leaving me with a profit of $413. I would tithe on the $413, which would be $42 (rounded up). Of course I can round that up to $45.00 or even $50.00!

Now if I drove 10 kilometers to make the pickup in Sydney I would not count that against my profit because that was just getting to work. It was not an expense of the actual work itself. The way I see it, only things that you invested directly to making your profit would be deducted from your profit. Now if I traveled from my home to a courier training workshop in Melbourne, that would be a travel expense relating directly to my business and profit. Everyone needs to decide between themselves and God if something is a direct business expense.

Again, your profit is counted as your gross income which you would be taxed on and would tithe on. Sometimes when I am giving this study, people will ask me if they can deduct their home electric bill from their gross income and then tithe after that. The answer is “no.” Your home electric bill is not a part of your business or an investment in your profit. “Caesar” does not let you write off your home electric bill as it has nothing to do with your profit if you are not working at home.

You need to follow your own conscience and Bible principles on determining what your increase is, but as a general rule, if “Caesar’ sees an item as a business expense then it is reasonable to count it as a business expense regarding your increase (profit) and tithe.

I hope this conversation has been helpful, and we can discuss it further in the comment section.

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

How to Fill out the Tithe Envelope

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Understandably, there are many who are unaware of the difference between tithes and offerings. Many, even seasoned members are surprised to learn there is a difference.

Tithe is not used for general use, like church maintenance, Sabbath School supplies and so on. The offerings cover those needs, while the tithe goes to pay the salaries of conference employed gospel workers. This is according to the direction of Scripture.

Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Numbers 18:21 NKJV

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 NKJV

The tithe goes straight to the ministry, while offerings are in addition to the tithe. Occasionally local church treasures will receive a tithe envelope that looks something like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $200.00

The problem is the total should be $400.00. The person filling out the tithe envelope was thinking that he was to divvy up the tithe between the other categories on the envelope, but tithe is its own category. IF one is only returning their tithe, it should look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget:

Conference Evangelism:

Total: $200.00

If you are returning tithe and offering, it would look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $400.00

Scripture makes a distinction between tithes and offerings.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8 NKJV 

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

Malachi shows us tithe is in addition to the offering. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us while the tithe that goes to the ministry is 10% of our profit, the additional offering is what we purpose in our hearts.

My father was a church treasure for over 50 years, and would occasionally receive tithe envelopes filled out by those who thought the tithe was divided into the other categories on the offering envelope. Other treasures have mentioned it to me as well, though of course never mentioning names. Understanding how this can be confusing to some, when I give personal Bible studies on stewardship, I always make sure I carefully explain how the tithe is sacred to Gospel workers, and that the offerings are in addition to the tithe. I hope this explanation will be helpful to some.

By the way you can also contribute online to your local Adventist Church here.

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

Faith is not Idle. Faith Works

A few years ago I taught Naomi’s 5th and 6th grade Bible class how to chain reference their Bibles to give Bible studies. Naomi loved the Bible study on salvation so much, she immediately shared that Bible study with her family that evening. Naomi did not have an idle faith. She had a faith that worked, and it worked by love.

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

Are we saved by our faith or by our works?

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

We are not saved by works but by a faith that does work. This faith does not work by a hope of reward or fear of punishment. This faith works by love.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gives us an illustration of the judgment. Notice what Jesus tells those who are saved.

 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Matthew 25:34-36 NKJV

Jesus does not tell those who are saved, “You only believed, come on in.” Remember James tells us even the demons believe and tremble. Jesus is telling those who are saved to enter His kingdom because they had works of love that came from a faith, but it was not an idle faith. They have a faith that works by love. Their works of love and compassion are the evidence and fruit of their faith.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14-18 NKJV

In the illustration of the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus does not condone an idle faith. He condones a faith that works. Also notice He does not condone the righteous based on what they believed. He condones their behavior. They are judged by how they treated others and not on their profession and beliefs. Remember the Good Samaritan may have had his theology all muddled but he had a loving heart. Also the Good Samaritan was living up to the light that he had. A few years ago someone told me it did not matter if they kept the Sabbath or not because they helped the poor. They thought my church was being legalistic by keeping the Sabbath, but this person was being just as legalistic by helping the poor, because they were doing it with an attitude of keeping score and comparing themselves to my church instead of doing it out of love. Remember it’s a faith that works by love and not a hope of reward or fear of punishment, and certainly not working to compare ourselves with others.

We are not saved by an idle faith. We are not saved by idle beliefs. We also are not saved by works that produce faith. We are saved by a faith that produces works of love and obeys the commandments out of love.

 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. ….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 22:12,14.

We are saved by grace, through faith. In the judgment our works are the evidence of that grace and faith that saves us. In the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus does not separate the sheep from the goats based on what they believed. He separates them based on how they treated others. The saved will have a faith that works by love.

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

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

Pray to Have a Love for the Truth

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I would like to begin this by saying I am surprised at the lies and deceptions the world is falling for today. The truth is so plain and clear. and it seems the enemy makes man fall with such little effort. Like all the serpent had to say was, “You shall not surely die,” and just like that, Eve was sold. The serpent’s lie had no foundation or evidence, but it was exactly what Eve wanted to hear, and that  was all that mattered. I would like to say that I marvel at the world being so easily deceived today, but what about me? Have I told myself lies in order to make sin appear right in my own eyes? I am ashamed to say, “Yes, I have.” What makes me think other people rationalize away sin until it is right in their own eyes? What makes me think others know the truth but willfully try to fool themselves? It’s because that is exactly what I have done, and I am a part of the web of humanity. 

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. Romans 2:1 NLT

I just watched a video on Youtube, trying to tell me why the Sabbath is no longer important. The arguments were so weak, and yet most of the world falls for these arguments because that is exactly what they want to hear. The problem is not deception as much as it is a lack of love for the truth. When we don’t have a love for truth, not much deception is needed to get us to fall. Not much deception was needed for Eve to fall. All the serpent had to say was, “You won’t die.” He did not give any evidence. Lies don’t need evidence in order to deceive. They just need to be what we want to hear. That makes them compelling enough. The serpent told Eve she would be like God, which totally ignored the fact she was already created in God’s image. Eve failed such a simple test with such simple lies. 

That’s what makes sin sting so hard when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. We knew better. We weren’t really deceived by the serpent as much as we were deceived by our own creative thinking, twisting things around in our mind until we deceived ourselves into thinking sin is right. After all, we are good Christians. We would never sin intentionally, right? That’s why it is so important to twist thing around in our mind so that we deceive ourselves into thinking wrong is right. Then we can sin ignorantly, right? Wrong! Paul just told us in Romans 2:1 we have no excuse. We can’t claim ignorance when we fool ourselves. 

Well, Paul does concede that Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. 

And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. 1 Timothy 2:14 NLT 

So we have Eve deceived without much effort, while Adam was not deceived at all. When I read this passage yesterday, at first I thought I was going to have a real sermon here about Adam claiming to be deceived when he was not really deceived. But when I compared this passage with Genesis 3, I found Adam never even claimed to be deceived. 

The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12 NLT 

Adam suggests he was tempted, but he was never deceived. Adam, not being deceived, had to rationalize and twist his thinking to make eating the fruit seem logical, even though it was contrary to God’s Word. Eve was deceived, but her thinking was not far behind Adam’s. God never says, “It’s really my fault, I should have warned you better.” He never says, “I should not have allowed the serpent to lie to you. It was too great a deception.” No, the test was simple, and God’s Word was plain and simple. It only became complicated when Adam and Eve wanted to disobey. They had to rationalize and twist their own thinking around to make it complicated and confusing so they could now sin “ignorantly.” After all, no one wants to sin intentionally. That’s why it’s so important that we fool ourselves first. 

If Adam was not deceived, why did he allow himself to sin? Why did he fool himself into thinking disobedience was a good idea? Paul, who told Timothy that Adam was not deceived, also gives Timothy the reason why Adam allowed himself to sin. 

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT 

Adam was not deceived by the serpent. He intentionally fooled himself, which when you intentionally fool yourself, you are not really fooled at all. We reason within ourselves until we hear exactly what we want to hear. Anti-Sabbath and Anti-Adventist Youtube videos are not deceiving or fooling anyone. People are deceiving and fooling themselves, because they want to be deceived. God’s Word is clear. The law is clear. It only gets complicated when we want to make it complicated so that sin appears “right.” We only fall for lies and deceptions after we reject the truth. “They follow their own desires and will look for teacher who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” We are not deceived and then reject the truth. We reject the truth and then are deceived. What the world needs is a love for truth, and then everyone will stop deceiving themselves. What I need is a love for truth and then I will stop deceiving myself. 

Here is what is so amazing about God’s grace. Adam was not deceived, and God still gave him grace. Adam sinned willfully and intentionally, and God still forgave him! Grace is no license for sin, yet God’s grace can forgive and transform the most vile and blatant sinner. God did not forgive Adam because he had a good excuse. He had no excuse, and God still forgave him. Those who listen to blatant lies on Youtube videos have no excuse. I have no excuse.  Paul tells us in Romans 2:1 that we are all without excuse. Romans 3:23 tells us we all have sinned. Romans 3:24 tells us we all are justified freely by God’s grace. 

My prayer for 2023 is that we all will fall in love with the truth. Only a love for truth will keep us from being deceived. Only a love for the truth will keep us from fooling ourselves into sin and rebellion against God and His law. 

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

Mysticism and Calling on the Name of the Lord

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13 NKJV

A while back I was having a group Bible study about the Sabbath. During the study I was surprised when an Adventist friend told the group and me, “It does not matter if we keep the Sabbath anymore. Romans 10:13 says if we call upon the name of the Lord we will be saved. We don’t have to worry about obedience anymore. All we have to do is call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved.”  

I shared with my friend and the group that being saved means being saved from disobedience. 

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

And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. Hebrews 5:9 NKJV

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

After all, in order for Jesus to be called our Savior He has to actually save us from something. He saves us from disobedience. 

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, Ephesians 2:1-2 NKJV

I also shared with my friend that there is no mystical magic in just saying the name of the Lord. Calling Jesus Lord does no good unless you genuinely make Jesus the Lord of your life. Jesus talks about a group of people who called Him Lord, but never actually obeyed Him. Therefore He was not really their Lord. Saying, “Lord, Lord” is not a magic word or some mystical chant. Jesus describes the group who seemed to be using the name Lord as though it was some form of mysticism. I think the New Living Translation makes it clear. 

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-27 NLT

Calling on the name of the Lord does no good unless we surrender our hearts in loving obedience to Jesus and actually make Him Lord of our lives. After talking about those who use the name Lord in vain, Jesus describes a group of people like the ones Paul later wrote about, when Paul wrote,

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV.

Here is how Jesus describes those who really  call on His name out of a pure, genuine heart.

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 NLT 

Those who call on the name of the Lord as if the name “Lord” was mystical will be lost. Those who call on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart, and genuinely Make Him Lord will be saved from disobedience. They will make Jesus the Lord of their life and enjoy the fruits of obedience. They will enjoy full salvation. 

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

Why I Believe God Kills Because He is Love

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A time to kill, And a time to heal; Ecclesiastes 3:3 NKJV

Years ago, I was having dinner with a friend from church, at the Olive Garden restaurant not far from the church. She was explaining some new and “wonderful” things she was learning about hell from a Christian website. She explained how God does not destroy people in hell, they actually destroy themselves. To an extent I believed much of what she said, but not everything. She said it was very important for me to agree totally with her because if God is love He cannot kill. After all that would be breaking one of the commandments based on love. Here is where she and I disagreed. In my opinion her claim that God does not kill was based on a false premise. To me, God killing does not conflict with Him being love. I believe in order for God to be love He has to kill. Please let me explain why I believe this.

Many years ago my late mother had a friend who I will call Jane, who had a very abusive husband. After years of abuse and threats on her life and even the lives of their children, Jane finally left her abusive husband. She then met a very mild-mannered, quiet, easy-going man we will call Joe. Joe was a Christian, and though he was not an Adventist like Jane, they fell in love and married. Joe moved in with Jane and her children.

Jane’s abusive ex-husband still continued his harassment. Joe, being a very meek and mild Christian took it all patiently until one night when, as a loving husband, he had no choice but to act. Jane’s abusive ex-husband drove by the house and fired gunshots into the home, including his own kids’ bedrooms! The police were called, of course, but that night something happened, and we all saw another side of meek and mild-mannered Joe. When the  ex-husband called the house after his rampage, Jane answered the phone. But when Joe realized who  was calling, Joe took the phone, and calmly, yet clearly and boldly, said what no one dreamed such a quiet, easy-going man would ever say. He told the abusive ex-husband, “If you ever come near my family again, I. WILL. KILL YOU.” The abusive ex knew Joe was a hunter and as meek, mild, quiet and easy-going as he was, the ex knew Joe was not making empty threats. Jane says that was the last time anything like that ever happened. The children felt secure with their new daddy in the home because they knew he loved them enough to kill in order to protect them. 

Many years later, when the abusive ex-husband died, the doctor told his now grown daughter he was dead. The daughter broke into tears. When the doctor tried to console her, the mother explained to the doctor that those were not tears of grief. They were tears of joy! For the first time in her life the daughter no longer had to worry about threats being made on her life. Just a few years ago, Joe finally died at a ripe old age. This time the children cried tears of actual grief. Their “daddy,” their “protector” was now gone. It was a playful, mild-mannered loving daddy who proved his love when he told someone who was threatening their lives, “I. WILL. KILL. YOU.” 

While the Adventist church supports those in the military who refuse to bear arms, like Desmond Doss, some Adventists are surprised to learn that the church does not condemn those who choose to bear arms. Exact policies may vary from country to country, but. while the Adventist church encourages members not to bear arms, the church does not condemn Adventists who choose to bear arms. After all, it would be illogical for Adventists in free countries to celebrate their freedom and then condemn those who have fought to protect it. 

Some say that if God kills then He would be breaking the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” But that demonstrates a misunderstanding of the   sixth commandment. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clarifies the spirit of the law. Concerning the sixth commandment  Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV

While Jesus condemns murder, which is an act of hate, Jesus is not condemning killing in self-defense or in defense of others, which is love. After all, the Jews in the book of Esther were allowed to defend themselves. See Esther 8:13. In Nehemiah they worked next to their weapons. See Nehemiah 4:16. And while Jesus chastised Peter for defending Him with the sword, that was because Jesus was already on the path to sacrifice Himself in behalf of humanity, as foretold by Scripture. Jesus still encouraged the disciples to have swords for their own sake. See Luke 22:36-38.

I agreed with much of what my friend said at Olive Garden. The wicked pretty much hang themselves, and self-destruct. Yet, making the point that a God of love would never kill, appears to me to be both inaccurate and an unnecessary point to try to make. My friend’s premise was based on the “fact” that a God of love can’t kill. To me, that is a faulty premise not found anywhere in Scripture. I believe a God of love can kill, and furthermore I believe there are times God shows His love by killing.  Just like a quiet, meek, easy-going, mild-mannered daddy proved his love by being willing to kill so his family would feel loved and secure. If my friend’s daddy had not been willing to kill to protect his family he would not have really loved them.

The Bible does not say there is a time to let the wicked self-destruct. The Bible says there is a time to kill. See Ecclesiastes 3:3. I see absolutely no contradiction between God being a God of love and God killing those who threaten the peace and safety of the universe.

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

The Fires of Hell in Light of the Cross

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To me, the biggest lie out of the Dark Ages is not that Sabbath was changed to Sunday, or that when you die you go straight to heaven. To me, no lie distorts the character of my loving heavenly father like the lie that sinners will be tormented throughout the endless ages of eternity. Fact is:

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. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 17

Did you ever notice that Jesus did not tell the demons He could not be around them? The demons told Jesus they could not around Him! (For example, see Matthew 8:29.) So to the unconverted heart, the glory of God is hell, while to the converted heart God’s glory is paradise!

When the fire in Revelation 20:9 comes down out of heaven and consumes the wicked, that fire is the actual presence of God. God’s presence will be hell to those who hate Him, while it will be paradise to those who love Him. I believe this is why the Bible refers to an eternal fire. God is the eternal fire. But God’s love is not going to torture the wicked throughout eternity. God’s love will burn for eternity, but it will put sinners out of their misery instead of torturing them for eternity.

A skewed understanding of hell skews our understanding of God’s love and character, which is exactly what Satan wants. To properly understand the punishment of the wicked, like all other Bible teachings, we must look at it in the light of the cross. Please allow me to share a lesson from my series of In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides:

The Punishment of the Wicked Overview:

The wicked will be destroyed by fire. The punishment will be everlasting, but the punishing will not. The wicked will die instead of being tormented for all eternity. See John 3:16Romans 6:23Obadiah 1:16Matthew 10:28Ezekiel 18:420.

Importance of knowing the truth about the punishment of the wicked:

The teaching of people being tortured throughout all eternity is the most satanic false doctrine of all! It totally misrepresents the love and character of God, making it impossible to love and know Him the way He loves and knows us.

The Importance of Understanding the Punishment of the Wicked in Light of the Cross:

Many churches use hell and fear as a motivation for doing good because they do not properly understand the love motivation. They do not understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice in dying the second death. They seem to understand the cross to be a mere pain endurance marathon instead of seeing a Savior who was actually willing to say good-bye to life and heaven forever in order to save the world.

When the early church saw the depths of Jesus’ love and sacrifice it turned the whole world upside down! It changed everything. God’s love constrained, empowered and motivated the believers. And this love is the only motivation that will actually succeed today in transforming people. In Galatians 6, Paul writes of a faith that works by love, not a fear of punishment. In John 14, Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” not “if you don’t want to go to hell you better keep my commandments.” Followers of Jesus must uplift the cross and the truth about the cross at all times.

I have a friend who is involved in a prison ministry that visits a juvenile detention center. He told me that they had recently shared the truth about hell with the young men there and that the chaplain at the jail got very upset with him for letting the young men know that the punishment of the wicked is not an eternity spent in hell but rather death just like the Bible says in John 3:16 and Romans 6:23. The chaplain did not want the offenders to know the truth about the punishment of the wicked because he wanted the fear of being tormented for all eternity to motivate them to behave.

Young men in juvenile centers and people everywhere else need to know that there is a God who did way more than suffer for six hours on a cross. He faced the second death for them. He loved them more than He loved his own life. He loved them so much that when tempted to come down from the cross and go back to heaven He chose to die instead. Jesus stayed on that cross for the young men in the juvenile detention center because the thought of heaven without them was hell to Jesus!

When the love motivation receives its proper emphasis, it will accomplish so much more than fear motivation. Some people quote John 3:16 while preaching of an eternal torment of sinners, but that verse clearly says those who do not believe will perish instead of being tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.

Further study on the punishment of the wicked:

What is the opposite of eternal life?

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT

Those who don’t believe perish. They are not tortured for all eternity.

God did not kick Eve out of paradise just because she took a piece of fruit she was told not to. The serpent told lies about God’s love and interest in Eve’s welfare, that Eve and all mankind bought into. When Eve stopped believing in God’s love she stopped believing in her only Source of life. At the cross Jesus died for our sin of unbelief, and when we believe again in His love, we gain back the life we lost when stopped believing in His love. This is the message of john 3:16.

What is the wages of sin?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT

Note that the wages of sin is not eternal torment in hell.

What becomes of the soul or person that sins?

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4 NLT

KJV says soul, NLT says person. Both the KJV and NLT make it clear that the entire soul or person dies in hell and will not be tormented throughout eternity.

How long does the devil have?

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you in great anger,
knowing that he has little time.” Revelation 12:12 NLT

The devil does not have eternity in hell or anywhere else. He has but a little time left to exist.

What will happen to the devil or Satan?

You defiled your sanctuaries with your many sins and your dishonest trade. So I brought fire out from within you, and it consumed you. I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All who knew you are appalled at your fate. You have come to a terrible end, and you will exist no more.” Ezekiel 28:18-19 NLT

Satan, like all sinners, will be annihilated and exist no more.

What happens to both body and soul in hell?

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 NLT

Neither soul nor body are tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Both are destroyed.

What is the final end of the wicked?

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi 4:1-3 NLT

There will be nothing left of the wicked – nothing but ashes.

What does the lake of fire stand for?

Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. Revelation 20:14 NLT

What is God’s promise?

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3- 4 NLT

Sinners cannot be eternally tormented in light of the promise that there will be no more pain. The promise is unconditional.

Can we trust that promise?

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5 NLT

You may watch a video presentation of this topic by Pastor Earnhardt here. 

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