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.

Do we Trust God Enough to be who we Really are?

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A while back, a woman writing to prisoners for her church ministry asked me if she would be dishonest if she does not use her real name. She wanted to hide her real identity for security purposes. I assured her a pseudonym was not being dishonest. After all, the Bible gives many names for God, so why can’t we have many names? 

While living in the Dallas area during the mid ’90s Deion Sanders was playing for the Dallas Cowboys, so I decided it would be fun to invent “Deion” as my restaurant name. So for the last almost 30 years now, when waiting for a table or placing an order to be called out, my name has become Deion. Since then I have learned many people use pseudonyms when giving their names at a restaurant. It’s not being dishonest. The restaurants couldn’t care less what your real name is. They just need to know who to call when your table is ready. A pastor friend told me he uses the name “Wild.” That way when his table is ready the hostess calls out, “Wild party of four, your table is ready.” 

Name games can be fun, but fact is I love being me. God loves me being me too. I am glad God made me to be me. There is a difference between having multiple names and pretending to be a totally different person than I really am. I don’t need to wear a Deion Sanders jersey with his name on the back. I don’t have to be someone else to be happy. I love who God made me. 

While the name game at restaurants is fun, Satan plays a game that is no fun at all. He likes to make us think that the only way we can ever be happy is, we have to be someone other than who God made us. This was his first deception with Eve. 

“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 NLT

There are two problems here with the serpent’s suggestion. First he is insinuating that Eve cannot be happy unless she becomes someone else. Sadly this is his deceptive suggestion to many people. You can’t be happy being you. You can’t be happy being who God made you to be. You have to become someone else in order to he happy. In this case Eve needed to be God. The second problem with this suggestion is, Eve was already made in God’s image. See Genesis 1:26. While Eve obviously of course was not God Himself, she was already created in God’s image, a truth the serpent’s suggestion seemed to deny.

I suppose since Lucifer thought he could not be happy just being himself he suggested no one could be happy just being themselves, but this is not so. We can be happy just being who God made us to be. However a lack of trust in God led others to skew their own identities. in Genesis 12 Abraham skews his identity, claiming to be Sarai’s brother only, instead of her husband. In Genesis 26 Isaac does practically the same thing, changing his identity and relationship with Rebekah. In Genesis 27 Jacob does not trust God to bless him, so he puts his trust in a lie. That lie causes him to change his identity. Jacob thinks he has to be Esau in order to be blessed. 

David appreciated who he was when he exclaimed, 

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:14 NLT 

David trusted God enough to be who he really was. Do we trust God enough to be who we really are? Do you realize how special you are to God? Friend, you are no accident. You are not just another face in the crowd. With the billions of beings already to grace the face of the earth God was not content until He made you. He literally loved you into existence! Don’t fall for Stan’s lie that you cannot be happy until you change your identity. Satan’s biggest lie to Eve and all humanity is that you can’t be happy unless you become someone you are not. Don’t fall for that lie. God is love, and God created you to be you because He loves you being you. Don’t try to become someone or something that God never loved into existence. You are you because you are what He loved into existence. Trust God enough to be the you that He loved into existence. 

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

Mark 3-4; Dealing With Prejudice

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.  Mark 3:11-12

Some people say Seventh-day Adventists are deceitful when we hold meetings and do not make it known right away that we are Adventist. In reality we are only doing what Jesus was doing, and that is, removing the prejudice before saying who we are. Satan had told the human race that God was mean and harsh. So if Jesus had come and immediately said He was the Son of God, nobody would have given Him a chance. He silenced the demons, even though they were speaking truth, because the people needed to get to know Him without the prejudice, before He made it known who He was. Today, because of the lies about Adventists, we sometimes need to remove the prejudices before we make ourselves known.

In Mark 4 Jesus talks about the sower and the seed. Sometimes people receive the Word and get all excited about following Jesus, but when trials come they leave God. Could it be the seed was not sown deep enough? It takes time to develop deep roots. Do sometimes rush people into baptism only to find out later that we should have taken more time? Do we spend time building relationships or just through facts at people and expect them to get baptized? Are we geared towards relationships, or just telling people we’re right you’re wrong. That won’t get you anywhere. Jesus was always right, but He was also relational. He spent time with prostitutes and publicans, many of which did not get baptized until several years afterwards. Are we willing to wait that long or do we need them to get baptized right away for some reason? I think Jesus’ way is best.