Negative Feelings Play a Positive Role in our Salvation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:4 NLT 

To me, a lot is said in the brief passage above. It tells me no one was ever saved by the Old Covenant. Those who lived and died before Jesus came were never saved by the law or by the Old Covenant. Before and after the cross everyone is saved by grace and by the New Covenant. The same law of ten commandments exist in both the Old and New Testament while it never saved anyone in the Old or New Testament. Obedience has always been the goal in both the Old and New Covenant but it was never the means to attaining salvation. It is grace that gives us obedience. See Ephesians 2:8-10

The purpose of the animal sacrifices were to help those in Old Testament times to look forward to the cross of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Many animal rights activists and animal lovers have wondered why God would design a daily sacrificial system where countless animals would be killed everyday. What we need to understand is it was not God’s plan for countless animals to be killed every day. In Exodus 12:1-6 God tells the people to take a lamb into their home on the 10th day of the month but not to kill it until the 14th day. Why did God want the lamb in their home for four days before sacrificing it? I believe it gave them time to fall in love with their little pet so that it would break their hearts to have to sacrifice it. It was not God’s plan for countless animals to be sacrificed. It was God’s plan that the sacrifice would break their hearts and they would turn from sin. Just as Samuel told Saul,

Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT 

I can’t really blame those in the Old Testament who became callous in regard to the daily animal sacrifices. A while back I was praying to God and casually thanked Him for sending Jesus to die for me. As soon as I said “Thank you for dying for me” I realized I had just said that as casually as I would thank someone who bought my lunch! I had to remind myself of the awesome sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross, and that He deserved more of a thank you than someone who just treated me to lunch. As someone participating in the New Covenant I need to allow myself to fully grasp the awfulness of my sin. This is hard when we are conditioned these days to “stay positive” and avoid being negative. We love popular preachers who motivate us and make us feel good about ourselves. But do negative feelings and emotions still have a part in our New Covenant lives? James says they do.

Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. James 4:9 NLT 

Negative feelings and emotions play a positive role in our lives. They bring us to true repentance and true salvation which brings us to true joy. They teach us to avoid sin which destroys true joy. 

So I don’t become callous to the blood of Jesus the way many in Old Testament times became callous to the blood of animals, I need to keep fresh in my mind the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. No wonder so many inspired hymn writers wrote, “Jesus keep me near the cross,” and “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died. My richest gain I count as loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” And “my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross.” No wonder an inspired author wrote, 

It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 83. 

This is my prayer…

Dear Jesus I am sorry for the times I thanked you for dying for me the same casual way I thank someone for buying my lunch. Also I want to express how deeply I appreciate your awesome sacrifice not just by my words or even tears alone. I need the power of your blood to not only forgive my sins but to also empower me to live a life of obedience and thanksgiving. I want everything I do to shout “I love you Jesus!” In the name of Jesus I pray, amen. 

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

Our Reasonable Service

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, an American restaurant chain had commercials suggesting the different reasons to go out to eat at their restaurant and celebrate. Maybe you found 50 cents in the pockets of some old jeans, or maybe you hit all the lights green on your way home from work. The lighthearted message of the commercials, was there is always something to celebrate. The makers of the commercials knew they were being a little silly. But I wonder if society today is getting a little carried away with participation trophies, and celebrating first downs in American football, when we used to only celebrate actual touchdowns. Are we praising ourselves for doing everyday things that should just be automatically done as no big deal? 

I love our young people, and I support and encourage them. But I wonder if we praise a little too much sometimes? 

The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 718 

As I work with various churches across the country, I see some churches where a teenager is praised without end for reading a Scripture in church, while in other churches young people participate in the service as though it were just expected as no big deal. Aren’t young people just as much a part of our church as anyone else? Do they require a pat on the back for every little job done right? Shouldn’t these things be expected? 

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 NLT

A teacher was trying to get her students caught up on their work. Once they started catching up, she started praising them, but as soon as she did, she lamented that they started falling behind again! Are we living in a society that praises and celebrates when in reality there is not that much to praise or celebrate? Shouldn’t students be getting their work done simply because that’s their job?

In 2006 an Amish school was attacked by a gunman. While the teacher ran to get help, realizing help would not arrive in time, a thirteen year old girl asked the gunman to shoot her first in order to buy time for the other children. The crazed gunman obliged. In a newspaper article it was pointed out that at this girl’s funeral she was not praised! The Amish do not praise the dead. Didn’t Jesus tell His followers to pick up their cross everyday and follow Him? Isn’t that what this young girl was doing-her reasonable service? While I see this girl as a remarkable heroine, the Amish see her as a child doing what she was taught to do and supposed to do-put others first. 

I pray that we are pointing our young people to the cross, so that they can fall in love with Jesus, and serve Him because they love Him instead of serving for praise. Giving all because Jesus gave all is our reasonable service. 

Study the Sabbath School lesson further at ssnet.org