What to Hold Lightly; What to Hold Tightly

What to Hold Lightly; What to Hold Tightly

by Kenneth Westby

“Our lives are filled with our things and also our hopes and dreams. On some we have a tight grip, others we hold loosely if at all. How we hold on to the things and hopes of life largely determine the direction our lives take. Sadly, many people, maybe most people, live inverted lives, holding the wrong things tightly while holding the most important things lightly, if holding them at all.

An ambitious farmer was having one bumper crop after another. Things were good and he was prospering beyond that of other farmers. He needed to expand his operation, to farm more land, to build new and bigger barns for his land’s bountiful production. He was already counting his money and looking to a well-provided and secure future, an early retirement and years of ease eating, drinking and making merry.

Then, out of the blue, he heard the most shocking news of his life: God said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” One can imagine a heart attack, a terrible accident, or a deadly assault by robbers. Suddenly, all his cherished accumulations from a life of hard work taken from him in a minute. He held tightly what he should have been holding but lightly.

Does this story seem familiar? It should. Jesus told it in parabolic form two thousand years ago (read the parable in Luke 12:13-21)….”

(this article is an excerpt from the March-April 2015 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 4, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_2015_March-April-LowRes.pdf

The White Horse of Deception

The White Horse of Deception

by Jim O’Brien

Hi Friend,

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” (Revelation 6:1-2)

Even people who aren’t familiar with the Bible have heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and most are vaguely aware that they represent some terrible calamities that will occur before this age of man comes to an end.

But understanding the symbolism doesn’t come from a cursory reading. What is so evil about a White Horse? White is a color of purity so why does it portend such bad things?

Some people believe the White Horse is a reference to Christianity and therefore it is a good horse. But if that is so, why is this horse carrying an armament of war and why is it bent on “military” conquest?

Maybe the White Horse does not represent Christianity at all. Maybe this horse is just as evil-in some ways possibly even worse than those that follow.

C.S. Lewis gave us a clue when he wrote, “Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor.” Lewis went on to say, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The White Horse represents a deceptive force that engulfs the world. By definition deception is causing people to accept as true something that is false. It is exemplified by a person who believes he is right even when he is wrong.

Deception precedes evil because evil begins in the mind. To paraphrase Proverbs 23:7, “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” When a person has a warped worldview, he will act according to those wrong perceptions.

Donna and I were discussing current events recently when I opined that the people expounding these irrational views must know they are wrong. She pulled me up short, “No!” she exclaimed, “they believe these things!” She is right. These people are so deceived they actually believe their lies are true. That’s what makes them dangerous.

The most evil people who ever existed were evil because they could not question their own infallibility. Did the Muslim terrorists who flew planes filled with innocent people into the World Trade Centers ever doubt their own ideas? Did Hitler ever doubt the ethics of his politics when he led the world into a war that cost the lives of over 50 million people? Did Stalin doubt his own righteousness when he murdered 20 million of his own citizens? Did Mao ever doubt himself when he murdered as many as 100 million citizens of China?

These men were convinced they were right-but they were deceived and compelled to force their wrong beliefs on the rest of the world. Such evil was started by the White Horse of religious zeal for wrong doctrines, and when deceived men acquired the sword of political power they went forth to conquer by force. When force was insufficient, destruction and death soon followed.

The day came that the Son of God stepped down from the throne of the universe in the 3rd Heaven to bring truth to the earth! It took the Creator of the earth to untangle the web of deception. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life!” (John 14:6). It is Truth that sets us free!” (John 8:31). Truth is the only thing that can save a person from deception.

Until next time,

Jim O’Brien

This article was originally published on February 21, 2020 on The Church of God Cincinatti’s website. We encourage you to follow them at http://www.cogcincinnati.org/

 

Sabbath Meditation #22 – Protection Against Self-Slavery

Sabbath Meditation #22 – Protection Against Self-Slavery

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, 14 then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Consider Western culture for a moment.

In Western culture, we have a life full of stuff/things. There’s a gadget for almost every need. They appear to make life more convenient and easier; in many cases they do.

We also have an endless number of events that we could attend. There are concerts, sporting events, shopping events, political events, festivals, parades, marches, special classes, and the list goes on and on. There is an event or cause for nearly every interest a person could have.

In addition to events, there are also many avenues for personal pursuits and achievements. There are college degrees that can be earned, positions available within civic organizations, job promotions, and so forth.

These are all a part of the “world” or kosmos in which we live.  If allowed to continue unchecked, they will create an almost continuous state of motion and unending busy-ness. They will make us slaves to self.

In Genesis 1:27-28, God gave mankind dominion over creation. Since then, we have exercised that authority to establish structures and civilizations. We have created things to serve us. Unfortunately, the world created by humans has slowly taken dominion over us. The things made by humans rule over the creators. It has devolved to the point that our modern world has diminished the importance of the Creator God.

In the beginning, mankind only had the things which God made; this was the sole delight of Adam and Eve. As time has passed, we have created things to which we take delight. In Isaiah 58:13-14, we learn that we should find our joy in the LORD on the Sabbath. We are asked not to seek our own purposes, delight or way. Even our words are supposed to be directed away from personal pursuits and towards His work in our lives. When we do so, we will reap rewards from Him. In Isaiah 58:14, God shares special blessings we receive from honoring the Sabbath.

There must be a point at which the busy-ness of our modern world stops so that we can focus on the higher purpose for which we were created. The Sabbath gives us this opportunity on a weekly basis. Spending the time to honor God in this way will refocus us from the temporary world created by people to the Creator of the Universe. It allows us to stop and reflect on God’s direction for our lives while separated from our own pursuits. We can then pursue Him without the distractions of the human-created world.

A life guided only by self-centered pursuits will lead to endless activity with little thought of God’s plan. Don’t be enslaved; allow the author of freedom to liberate you from this kosmos and even free you from yourself.

We will continue this thought even deeper in a future Sabbath meditation.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

New Free Booklet: Prevalence of the Sabbath in the Early Roman Empire

New Free booklet: Prevalence of the Sabbath in the Early Roman Empire

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The BSA has a brand new booklet for FREE download.

Click the picture below to download it!

BSA President Kelly McDonald, Jr. examines Jewish, Christian, and Roman (non-Christian) sources to show that MANY Gentiles in the early Roman world already kept the seventh-day Sabbath (Friday sunset through Saturday sunset). It was the only day of rest available in the Roman world in the first century AD.

booklet

The Sacred Name Movement

The Sacred Name Movement

By Ruth Fink

“The Sacred Name Movement began in the late 1930s when members of the Church of God, 7th Day, began to think on the question posed by the wise man in Proverbs 30:4: ‘What is his name and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?’

But the ground work was being laid almost a century earlier when, in 1857, Alexander MacWhorten of Yale University wrote a book called The Memorial Name, which he believed was Yahveh. Around the turn of the century, the Hebrew scholar F.L. Chapell delivered 6 lectures on the names of the deity; these were published in 1911. Dr. Chapell referred to the stir caused by the publication of MacWhorten’s book and said, “But there has been, especially during the last fifty years, a great interest among the scholars in this name” (The Standard Bearer, Dayton, Ohio, 911).

Research revealed that the Hebrew form of the name of the Most High was four Hebrew letters (tetragrammaton) transliterated variously as…”

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept 1988 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 7, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_377Sept1988.PDF

Historical Understanding of I Timothy 4:1-5

Historical Understanding of I Timothy 4:1-5

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In I Timothy 4:1-5, Paul warned us about a false teaching that would infiltrate Christianity. In these verses, he wrote:

“1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

Note: The Greek phrase translated as “last days” can also mean “latter days” or in the days after his writing.

The hypocritical teaching that Paul foretold would have two main errors: 1) forbidding marriage and 2) forbidding clean animal meat.

The first historical fulfillment of these verses occurred in the second century AD. This is among the proofs that the Pastoral epistles were written in the first century by Paul. If this heresy started while he was alive, then he would have described the heresy as existing in his day.

The past few months we have reviewed the false teachers and false doctrines that arose in the second century. Marcion was the most famous of these. But there were other false teachers who began their destructive heresies at a similar time frame. Like some of the others we described, they were Gnostics.

In this same letter, Paul warned Timothy: “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge…” (I Timothy 6:20). Most Gnostics viewed the material world as evil but the spiritual world as good. To this end, they rejected marriage because reproduction made more material beings. They were lax in their morals since the material world was already evil. They focused highly on knowledge, but neglected Biblical precepts relating to lifestyle.

Basilides and Saturninus were two of the men who began to spread heresy during the time of Hadrian (117-138 AD) and continued to do so into the reign of Antonius (138-161 AD). Below we have four quotes from contemporary authors who describe the leaders who practiced and taught the heresy of I Timothy. 4:1-5.

“…They declare also, that marriage and generation are from Satan. Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 1, ch 24, sec 2).

“But one Saturnilus, who flourished about the same period with Basilides, but spent his time in Antioch…And he affirms that marriage and procreation are from Satan. The majority, however, of those who belong to this (heretic’s school) abstain from animal food likewise, (and) by this affectation of asceticism (make many their dupes)…” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, bk 7, ch. 16).

“49. There are some who say outright that marriage is fornication and teach that it was introduced by the devil…60. But those who from a hatred for the flesh ungratefully long to have nothing to do with the marriage union and the eating of reasonable food, are both blockheads and atheists, and exercise an irrational chastity like the other heathen…102…They say: Man became like the beasts when he came to practice sexual intercourse…And if the serpent took the use of intercourse from the irrational animals and persuaded Adam to agree to have sexual union with Eve, as though the couple first created did not have such union by nature, as some think, this again is blasphemy against the creation. For it makes human nature weaker than that of the brute beasts if in this matter those who were first created by God copied them….104. Furthermore they wish to maintain that the intercourse of man and wife in marriage, which is called knowledge, is a sin; this sin is referred to as eating of the tree of good and evil, and the phrase ‘he knew’ signifies transgression of the commandment….” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, book 3, ch 17, sections 49, 60, 102, 104).

“We must now encounter the subject of marriage, which Marcion, more continent than the apostle, prohibits. For the apostle, although preferring the grace of continence, yet permits the contraction of marriage and the enjoyment of it, and advises the continuance therein rather than the dissolution thereof” (Tert, Against Marcion, 5:7).

In these quotes, especially the one from Clement of Alexandria, the heretics had some strange reasons for rejecting marriage. Some of them thought that the serpent beguiled Adam and Eve to have relations with each other; they claimed that this was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is totally inaccurate and relies on a highly allegorical interpretation of Genesis chapter 3.

These false teachers were partially motivated by dualist Gnosticism, which we will review in an article next month.

While this heresy started in the second century, it would manifest itself again in later times. Centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church would adopt the policies of forbidding priests from marrying and forbidding food on certain days of the week (such as Friday and Saturday).

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Historical Perspective on Romans 10:9 and I Cor. 8:6

Historical Perspective on Romans 10:9 and I Cor. 8:6

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“…because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved…” (Romans 10:9, ASV)

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ…” (I Cor. 8:6, NIV).

Being a Christian is more than just going to church. It is something that we must confess. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word translated as confess means to “assent, covenant, confession, or promise.”

When we turn away from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, we must learn to confess Jesus as our Lord. When our old friends try to pull us back into the world, we must confess Jesus is Lord. We must learn to testify as to what He has done for us as Lord and Savior. He is our source!

In the first century AD, to confess Jesus as Lord had an entirely different meaning. The Romans called their Emperors ‘savior, god and lord’. Really this started with Julius Caesar, but it continued as it was applied to his nephew Octavian Augustus. They made sacrifices to Octavian as they honored him with these titles.

This continued for many years afterwards, including (but not limited to) the reigns of Claudius (41-54 AD), Nero (54-68) and Domitian (81-96) (Deissmann, vol 1, 357; Oxyrhynchus papyri, vol 1, p 81). To believers in these time periods, to confess Jesus as Lord took on a whole different meaning than we might think.

Here are two quotes about Domitian: “With no less arrogance he began as follows in issuing a circular letter in the name of his procurators, “Our Master and our God bids that this be done.” And so the custom arose of henceforth addressing him in no other way even in writing or in conversation…” (Suetonius “On Domitian” chp. 13, sec. 2)

“For he even insisted upon being regarded as a god and took vast pride in being called “master” and “god.” These titles were used not merely in speech but also in written documents.” (Cassius Dio, book 67, 4:7)

Some Roman emperors required that subjects of the empire confess that Caesar is their Lord! The alternative could be imprisonment, torture, and even death. Josephus records that about 70 AD some Jewish people died simply for refusing to call Caesar Lord (Jewish Wars, Book VII, ch. 10, sec 1).

When we look at these facts, we can see that Paul’s exhortations in Romans 10:9 and I Cor. 8:6 have a much deeper meaning. To the first century Christians, to confess Jesus as Lord was more than just a saying. It was the confession that you only acknowledged one Lord. This meant your life was in danger. It was a confession that you were willing to die for Jesus.

One specific example from the pages of history is Polycarp. He was a disciple of the Apostle John, who was martyred around 155 AD. This occurred during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus who also was called lord by people (Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol 2, p 174). A brief account is given below:

“…it being a great Sabbath, and he was met by Herod, the captain of police, and by his father Nicetes, who took him into their carriage, and sitting beside him endeavored to persuade him, saying, ‘For what harm is there in saying, Lord Cæsar, and sacrificing and saving your life?’ He at first did not answer; but when they persisted, he said, ‘I am not going to do what you advise me.’…Polycarp said, ‘Eighty Six years have I been serving him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’…But the proconsul said, ‘I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them unless you repent.’ But he said, ‘Call them; for repentance from better to worse is a change we cannot make. But it is a noble thing to turn from wickedness to righteousness.’… “24. But he [the Roman proconsul] again said to him, ‘If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.’ But Polycarp said, ‘You threaten a fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is quenched; for you know not the fire of the future judgment and of the eternal punishment which is reserved for the impious. But why do you delay? Do what you will.’ (Eusebius, Church History, Book 4, Chapter 15, Sections 15, 20, 23-24; He wrote a church history in the 300s AD.)

Polycarp, like the other martyrs, refused to call a man his Lord. Paul’s words once again come to life in our minds. Polycarp requested to be burned with fire and died a great hero of the Lord. He was also martyred on the Sabbath.

We live in an age where so many are cheapening the grace of God. This has caused many to proclaim that Jesus is their Lord, yet living as if He is not their Lord. These historical examples help us to realize that to confess “Jesus is Lord” is a very serious and sober action. To confess Jesus as our Lord is to confess that we have no other lords or masters in our lives. We are confessing that He is our source, provider, and protector, not the governments of man. It is to confess that we are willing to die for our Lord, as He was willing to die for us.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

The Curse of the Law

The Curse of the Law

By Brian Jones

“‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law…’ (Gal. 3:13).

Not many generations ago the majority of the Christian world believed in the sanctity and perpetuity of God’s moral law. Among those who held this view (e.g. Matthew Henry, John Wesley, Adam Clarke, C.H. Spurgeon, Chas. Finney, Albert Barnes, D.L. Moody, etc.), virtually none remotely supposed that Christians are saved by their obedience to the law, but that obedience is the fruit of spiritual conversion. They clearly recognized that we are saved by grace through faith, and that no of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians. 2:8-9).

But contemporary theology, being affected by the skepticism and relativism that has permeated Western philosophy since the mid-nineteenth century, has called into question the authority of God’s moral law, branding it as legalistic, harshly restrictive, dispensational (ergo, dispensable), and applicable primarily to the Jews until Christ’s death on the cross. This position, known as anti-nomianism, has led many to impose an interpretation on certain Bible texts, especially those in Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:15-16), that is wholly…”

(this article is an excerpt from the June 1989 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_386June1989.PDF

Sabbath Meditation #21 – The Morality of the Sabbath

Sabbath Meditation #21 – The Morality of the Sabbath

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-9).

When we think about the Sabbath, many people will say, “Well, God doesn’t care which day we rest on. One day in seven is all that matters.” Let’s seriously consider this line of reasoning with two of the other Ten Commandments.

Does God care whose property you have in your possession? (Your own or someone else’s?)

Does God care whose spouse you take home with you? (Your own or someone else’s?)

Again, most Christians would agree that God does care whose property you have in your possession. They will agree that it matters whose spouse you take home with you. For some reason, many will make an exception to the Sabbath. The Ten Commandments are absolute.

Just as God cares that we only possess our own property and that we stay faithful to our own spouse, He cares what day we rest upon. Since He saved us, we are called to be like Him (Leviticus 19:1-2).

The seventh day is called Sabbath of the Lord our God. It isn’t our day. He gives us six other days to do our work. The seventh day is sanctified unto Him.

Just as there is only one Lord God, there is only one day that God set apart for the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). If we do not obey the Bible on this subject, then we have broken it. The morality of this commandment is set in stone in the same way as the other nine.

Consider the absolute nature of the Sabbath commandment, especially throughout the Bible. You will find that just as God and Christ never change, so it never changes. Truly, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath – today, yesterday, and forever (Mark 2:27-28, Heb. 13:8).

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath – In a Larger Context

Sabbath – In a Larger Context

By Steve Brightbill

“Without a doubt, man needs rest – and on a regular, weekly basis. That’s why God created the Sabbath in the first place. But the weekly Sabbath is but a part of a larger picture.

As God prepared the Israelites for entering the Promised Land, He provided a comprehensive set of laws and instructions which was to guide their worship, conduct, and their relationship with Him. Many of these laws and regulations are detailed in the book of Leviticus. Chapter 25 speaks of a Sabbatical Year and a Year of Jubilee.

The sabbatical year was a year of rest for the land itself. “But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards” (verse 4). As explained later in verses 20 and 21, the sixth year would produce three years of abundance, which would be…”

(this article is an excerpt from the June 1990 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 13, click this link:

https://biblesabbath.org/media/June-1990-tss_398.PDF