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Advindication Part 1: Is Obedience Legalism?

Scripture: Matthew 6:1, Genesis 26:5, Deuteronomy 4:13-14
Date: 11/14/1998 
This is the beginning of a sermon series titled "Advindication" which is a play on words between "Adventist" and "Vindication." The series discusses common accusations against Seventh-day Adventists truly being a Christian church or not. This talk focuses on the question, "Is obedience legalism?"
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Morning. Like to thank Grace Notes for their music. I like the sound of woodwind and wind instruments playing together. This morning I’m going to begin a new series that will continue on probably through the rest of this year. Not every week, because, of course, we’ve got some special Sabbaths coming up and at that time we’ll have messages that are more tailored for those events. Such as our Homecoming Sabbath next week and Thanksgiving. But I’m going to begin a series of conversations, sermons, studies, whatever you want to call it with you that are going to be very open, very honest and I’ve titled it Advindication. I like coining words, you know, like Storacles. Play on Adventist and vindication.

Now I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I try not to brag about it, but I’m certainly not ashamed of it. I’m not a Seventh-day Adventist because anyone else in my family was. I was not raised ever even hearing of this church. But when I accepted Jesus and I started reading the Bible and I realized there was a long list of different denominations that claimed to believe the Bible, I said, “Lord, I need to have you tell me through your word. I need to know from the Bible that this is the truth. I want to know what the truth is based on the Bible.” And if this denomination that I’m part of now ever ceases to embrace the teachings of the Bible; friends, please don’t take it personal. I have no loyalty to the organization. My loyalty is to the word and to the Lord. And the reason that I am interested in supporting the organization is because right now this organization provides a place for me to share my convictions about the Bible. My loyalty is to the Bible. The day may come, probably will, when our church as an organization that operates out in the open will not be able to exist any more. It’s going to crumble. It’s going to go to pieces. Obviously, if the day is coming where it’s against the law to believe Bible truth and you can’t buy or sell and Christ says you need to head for the hills, we’re not going to have signs up in front of our trees and rocks. Right? So the organization eventually is going to evaporate. But the people, and that’s what the church is, who embrace the teachings of Jesus, that will hang in there all the way to the end.

Now I brought some resources here that you may question. I’ve got a book here by a Dr. Walter Martin. It’s called Kingdom of the Cults. Any of you ever heard of this? It’s sort of one of the main books that’s been written that exposes and identifies and deals with the teachings of a variety of cults. And there is some very good practical information in this book dealing with a variety of different religious persuasions. He didn’t know exactly what to do with Seventh Day Adventists. The man was a fairly good scholar and he put us in the back of the book. Matter of fact, let me read to you; I can’t read everything because there’s over a hundred pages dedicated to it. But I’m going to deal with the most common accusations that Seventh Day Adventists receive that sort of separate us. And today we’re going to deal in particular with Is Obedience Legalism? Is obedience legalism? Well let me just read the first few verses in his introduction. In the appendix he put Seventh Day Adventists. “In a volume such as this, dealing with the problem of non-Christian cults the question might logically be asked, “Why include Seventh Day Adventism?” Especially since the writer,” he’s speaking of himself, “has classified them in full length volume as a Christian denomination.” He’s saying, “I’ve classified them as Christians, I’ve dealt with their beliefs.” “The answer is to this that for over a century Adventism has born the stigma of being called a non-Christian cult system.” There’s been a stigma attached to it and if you ask somebody to specify why, well they cant’ really pin it down. Except but to say, “But they’re different.” And you know what the principle difference is that pops into someone’s mind when you say, “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist”? Well you know, some people really don’t know. There are people on the street, matter of fact, we’re getting ready to go to New York City. I saw a video tape where someone got out on the street with a camera and a microphone. They said, “Do you know what Seventh Day Adventists are?” It was embarrassing how few people in New York City knew who we were. That’s why we’re going, incidentally. See if we can help deal with that. But they said, “Now, you’re the ones that don’t believe in blood transfusions, right?” Or they have these; and then some of them finally said, “Now, you go to church on Saturday.” And that was the principle thing that people thought of that made us different. Had you run into that before? They think that’s our hobby horse. That’s sort of our pet peeve. You think of Charismatics and Pentecostals, what do you think of? Speaking in tongues. And you think of Baptists, you might think of baptism by immersion or predestination. Some of their champion doctrines. And you think of different denominations and different teachings pop into your mind. When people think of Seventh Day Adventists, what do they think of? And because we make that an issue they say, “Talking about the seventh day Sabbath, the law, you’re legalists.”

Well let me just read a couple more things he says here. “Hence,” this is page 411 in his book, “Hence it is our position that Seventh Day Adventism as a denomination is essentially Christian in the sense that all denominations and groups professing Christianity are Christian if they conform to the classical mission of Christianity as given in the Bible and the creeds and councils of the Christian church. But this doesn’t mean that all Baptists, all Methodists, all Episcopalians, all Lutherans or all Adventists are necessarily Christians.” I agree. Matter of fact, there probably are Seventh Day Adventists that are cultic. I’ve met some that are an embarrassment to the cause. Have you? And the devil, of course, always plants his representatives in among his people to do that. For bad PR

But I want to talk particularly today in Part 1 of Advindication about the subject of the law. And our approach and understanding of the law and the covenants (and I may not completely deal with the covenants today) is a springboard for a lot of misunderstanding. Our attitude about law and grace is different from many churches. And when we start talking about obeying the Sabbath they say, “Why?” We say, “It’s one of the Ten Commandments.” They say, “Oh, you’re legalistic. We’re not under the law, we’re under grace.” You heard that? Well we’re going to try and deal with that in a little more detail here.

First of all, what is a legalist? Now before we expose that we need to figure out what is a legalist? Jesus did it for us. When He began His discourse in the Sermon on the Mount He said to the Pharisees, “When you pray, do not pray to be seen as men as the hypocrites,” or the legalists. “They pray to be seen, on street corners, out loud so they get the praise of men.” Now did Jesus say there’s anything wrong with praying? No, He said it’s the attitude. He said, “When you give alms, don’t be like the hypocrites who do it with blowing of trumpets so everybody will see and they’ll be praised by men who look on the outside.” He said, “But when you give your alms.” Did Jesus say there’s anything wrong with charity and giving alms? No. He said, “When you fast, don’t disfigure your faces like the hypocrites do and mope around so everyone will know you’re fasting and you get the credit of men for being pious,” I’m paraphrasing. “You wash your face and comb your hair,” if you happen to have hair. “Go around and look like you’re in a good mood.” He said, “So you’re not doing it for people, but for God who sees the heart.” Now Christ was identifying the difference there between true religion and counterfeit; between legalism and love. Legalism looks at everybody else’s exterior for the outward act. They want to make sure there’s outward compliance. Where Christ in the new covenant is saying it’s the inward change of heart. It’s the motive, it’s the love that we must focus on. What’s happening on the inside of a person. So a legalist could be a person who outwardly is embracing the right issues, but they’re judging other people’s exterior instead of focusing on the motive and the root and the heart of the problem.

Now, how long has God had a law? Some people think that God dreamed up the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. I respectfully disagree. I think the principles of God’s law are eternal principles that have always been in existence. But probably many of the unfallen angels never even thought about the law of God until sin entered the world because angels are not up there in heaven, before the devil rebelled, trying to keep from killing each other or lying to each other. Those things are obviously wrong because when everybody in heaven was governed by love, love is the fulfilling of the law. But it’s always been wrong to lie. It’s always been wrong to steal, to kill, and so forth. Matter of fact, disobeying God’s will is sin. That’s the Bible definition. Genesis 26, verse 5, long before the Ten Commandments God says He had commandments. God said, speaking of Abraham, “Because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” God says He had commandments and statutes and laws. This is hundreds of years before the Ten Commandments were given. Notice in Genesis chapter 4, verse 7, way back at the beginning God says to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? and if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” What was lying at the door of Cain? Sin.

All right, notice what Paul says about sin and a very interesting principle here. Romans 15, I’m sorry, Romans 4, verse 15, “Because the law brings about wrath: for where there is no law, there is no transgression.” That word transgression and sin are the same thing. “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” I want you to say that with me because I want it to sink in. Mental synapse to capture that thought. “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” Let me ask you a question, friends. Is there transgression in the world today? I rest my case. There has to be law and Paul puts it another way in Romans 5:13, “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there’s no law.” Is there still sin in the world being imputed? Then there must be law? Now back in Genesis when God says to Cain, “Sin is at your door,” did there need to be law in order for there to be sin? Sin is the transgression of the law. Obviously! So God has always had His law.

Here’s one of the arguments you’re going to hear against the Seventh Day Adventists. We’re telling people to keep a Jewish law. Have you heard that one? And that God thought up the Ten Commandments specifically for the children of Israel. When we emphasize the Sabbath. But the Bible says that there has always been law all the way back at the beginning. God spoke and codified or wrote His law at Sinai, but it existed long before that. Let me give you another scripture to illustrate that. When Joseph was tempted to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, that’s called adultery. It’s one of the ten Commandments. You’re not supposed to do that. Joseph, and this is long before the Ten Commandments said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He didn’t even say Potiphar. He said it’d be a sin against God. It would be adultery. It’s against God’s law. Because where there’s no law there’s no sin. If there’s sin there’s law, right? OK. I’m just trying to take you logically, because I’m hoping you’ll share this tape with friends who maybe misunderstand where we’re coming from. God’s law is an eternal principle that’s always been there.

Now, you’re Bible is typically divided in two parts. You might even just do this for a little visual experiment. I’m flipping my Bible open to the New and the Old Testament. About 3/4 of your Bible is Old Testament. About 1/4 is New Testament. The word testament is the very same thing as the word covenant. Covenant, testament, same word. They’re just two different ways of saying the same thing. This is sometimes called the Old Covenant, this is called the New Covenant. When we talk about obeying God’s law and keeping the commandments folks say, “Doug, that’s the old covenant. We’re now under the new covenant.” Well I agree that we’re under the new covenant. How many of you believe that we’re saved now based on the new covenant? OK. Let’s identify the covenants. Let the Bible do it itself. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4, I’ll read verse 13 and 14. Deuteronomy 4, verse 13 and 14. Now this is the last sermon of Moses before they enter the promise land. Incidentally, all three times that Jesus was tempted by Lucifer in the wilderness he quoted scripture to the devil. What book did He quote? Deuteronomy all three times. Now if this book is good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for you and me. Amen? “So he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, the ten commandments; and he wrote them on two tables of stone.” I want to stop there. He declared, first He spoke it. That’s Exodus chapter 20, He speaks it. Then Moses goes up to the mountain after He spoke the law. You know, before you write up a contract with somebody you can save a lot of legal work and expense by developing a verbal agreement and you say, “Yes, I agree to those terms.” Then you write down the verbal agreement so that you have it codified and it’s clear and everyone understands, right? We’ve just done this, you know, in preparing for Net New York. We needed to sign a contract with the building that we’re renting. We bantered back and forth discussing price and payment schedule and what’s involved. And once we verbally agreed to everything we wrote it down, they signed, we signed. We’ve got a contract. We’ve got an agreement now. Need to make sure we’ve got a building for our meeting we’re advertising. Well God spoke His law. He said, “This is my law. I am the Lord your God that brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. I love you. You love me. Keep my commandments.” After He got done quoting the commandments the people said, “All the Lord has said we will do.” He said what He wanted. They said what they would do. They made a promise. Then Moses went up and got the written transcript. So He spoke it, they wrote it. Then you go to Deuteronomy verse 14, “And the LORD God commanded me,” who’s speaking here? Moses. “And the LORD God commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over Jordan to possess.” Very important scripture. You know why? Is the Lord making a distinction between the Ten Commandments and the other laws and statutes and judgments of Moses? Am I stretching this when God speaks the Ten Commandments with His own voice; the other laws were spoken by Moses. He writes the Ten Commandments with His own finger; the other laws were written by Moses. The Ten Commandments are written on a different substance--stone, representing enduring and eternal in nature. Whereas the ceremonial laws; and the Levitical and ceremonial laws were written on paper. Ten Commandments were placed in the ark; the other ones were placed in a pocket in the side of the ark. So look at the big distinction that God makes between the two, in the way it’s given and where it’s written and who writes it and where it’s placed. Everything is different between the law of Moses and the law of God. Do you see a difference? OK, it’s Biblical. There’s a big difference. He says, “God’s covenant, the Ten Commandments, and He gave me laws at that time.” All right, so what is God’s covenant, that He gave to the children of Israel? The Ten Commandments.

Now what’s the new covenant? Go with me to Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 31. That’s an easy scripture to remember. Jeremiah 31:31. You know where you first find the new covenant? The new covenant is found in the old covenant. Remember the Old Testament’s called the old covenant. First place you find the new covenant is in the old covenant, the Old Testament. Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 31, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:” Now you know what I think is really interesting. Friends, I don’t want to be a Seventh Day Adventist. That’s not what I was going to say. I just thought I’d throw that in. I have no choice. We’re different. I don’t like being different. I’m already naturally different enough. I didn’t want to enhance that by being a Seventh Day Adventist. I would have been plenty different all my life without ever joining this church. I am compelled by my own logic, if I want to be honest with my soul. I have no where to go. I have no choice. It’s biblical. The ones who convinced me to be a Seventh Day Adventist were my friends from other churches who gave me so many conflicting answers. Here’s one of the arguments. The old covenant was for the Jews. The new covenant is for the Gentiles. Have you heard that before? That’s not true. Who was the new covenant made with? “I will make a new covenant after those days with the house of Israel.” Matter of fact, there is no covenant made with Gentiles anywhere in the Bible. The covenant under which everybody is saved is a covenant for Jews. That’s why the Bible says if you want to be saved you become Abraham’s seed. You become a spiritual Jew. You as Gentiles are grafted into the stalk of Israel. Shalom. Everybody who wants to be saved becomes at least a spiritual Jew. Now some people really chafe under that because there’s still a degree of anti-Semitism, even in the church. But we’re reading a Jewish book and we’re worshipping a Jewish Savior, so you need to get used to this. But the idea; people say, “Oh, that’s the Jewish Sabbath, that’s the Jewish law, that’s the Jewish covenant.” The new covenant is made for and only with Jews. And the only people who are saved under this covenant are Jews and spiritual Jews who are grafted in.

Let’s keep reading. “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they break, though I was a husband to them says the LORD: But this is the covenant,” here we go, “that I will make with the house of Israel.” He specifies who it is again. “After those days, says the LORD, I will put a different law in their minds.” Did I misquote that? I did. It says, “I’ll put my law,” what law? Since He doesn’t specify what law we’re to assume it’s the same one in the first covenant. Anything else would be ludicrous. “I will put my law in their minds.” What’s the difference? Where it’s written. Before it was in the ark. The Bible says your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is now the Holy of Holies. Your mind, amen? “Put my law in their minds, and write them in their hearts; and I will be their God and they will be my people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they’ll all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I’ll remember no more.”

I don’t’ think I should leave this subject just yet, of the covenants. Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 8, verse 6 in the New Testament. You find the new covenant repeated several times in the New Testament, or in the new covenant. Of course we found in the first time there in the old covenant. But I want to go to Hebrews chapter 8 and we’re going to read starting verse 6 because he explains some of the differences here. “But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, in as much as he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Now what’s the difference in the new covenant from the old? Better promises. What was the problem with the promise in the old covenant? The children of Israel said, “All the LORD has said we will do. We’ll take care of it, Lord. We’re going to do it.” Now before Moses even got down the mountain after receiving the codified version, they were breaking all the commandments. Their promises were not good. First covenant was based on promise of God and their promise. The new covenant is based on the promise of God only. Better promises. It’s a promise of what God is going to do. He says, “I will write my law.” The first covenant was based on they said, “All the LORD has said we will do.” You see the difference? First covenant is, “We will do it. We’ll keep God’s law.” The second covenant, same law, written in a different place and God says, “I will cause them because they proved they could not do it.” See? Now God still wants us to keep His law. They trying to do it in their own strength failed. Now were there people in the Old Testament who obeyed God’s law through God’s strength? We just read about Abraham. You read about Job. You read about David. On his good days he was “very faithful in all his house” the Bible says. Matter of fact, every time a new king came along who was a son of David it says he either did or did not obey “like my servant David.” So the idea of obeying through God’s power is not a New Testament concept. There were men in the Old Testament who did this. Let me continue reading.

“Better promises,” in the new covenant. “For if the first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.” The fault with the first covenant, was it the law? No, it’s the same law. It’s the promises of the people. They were at fault. What’s the fault in the first covenant? “Because finding fault with them,” Now friends, this is so important. You’re going to meet people who are going to tell you the problem with the old covenant was the law. Have you run into that? That never says the problem with the old covenant was the law. The problem was the old covenant was them, their promises. Trying to do it in their strength. “For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, I’ll make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:” Now He begins to recite the same thing we just read there in Jeremiah.

Now why would God want to alter His law? The law of the Lord is perfect. The law of the Lord is an expression of God’s will. It’s just; the Bible says, it’s holy, it’s good Romans tells us. It’s eternal in nature. Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Matthew chapter 5 and I think we’ll probably start with verse 20. Now some people say that Jesus came to establish the new covenant and to do away the law. He came to fulfill the law. Have you heard that? Christ lived a perfect life so we don’t need to obey the law anymore. Have you run into this? Is that what Jesus taught? Matthew chapter 5 and verse 20, “For I say unto you, That unless your righteousness exceeds,” Oh, that’s not; I want to start with verse 17. I’m sorry. “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:” Now I think it’s interesting. The very first thing He says when He enters this subject is, “Be careful that you don’t misunderstand.” You know it’s amazing to me that most Christians, Protestant and Catholic, have no problem with the Ten Commandments until you talk about the Sabbath. As soon as you mention the Sabbath they’ll initially try to get rid of the Sabbath or say it’s been changed. When they can’t do that they figure they’ve got to change the whole law. And the one commandment they want to get rid of is the one commandment that begins with what word? [Remember] You think God was trying to tell us something? He said, “Now remember this.” Why would God write it in His law, put it in the middle, say “remember it, it’s holy” (and the Bible says, “What God blesses is blessed forever”) and then say, “Well, I was just kidding. I didn’t really mean it. I’ve done away with it.” or “I’ve changed it.” But I don’t’ see where Sunday’s written in stone anywhere or spoken by God’s voice. Do you? He says, “Do not think I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

Now if you ever want to know what a word means; some people think fulfill means do away with. If you ever want to know what a word means you look at that same word other places in the Bible and let the Bible decipher itself. Amen? “Do not think I have come to destroy the law, but I came to fulfill it.” Now some people think that fulfill means to do away. Have you heard that? Jesus came to do away with the law. Let’s say it and assume the word fulfill means do away. “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law. I did not come to destroy it, I came to do away with it.” Does that make sense? No. Look in Matthew chapter 3, when Jesus gets baptized, verse 15. Matthew, same book, one/two chapters before. Let’s find out what fulfill means. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to get baptized he thought, “Look, I’ve been needing baptism or re-baptism. Lord, you need to baptize me and here you’re asking me to baptize you. You’re the spotless Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” What did Jesus say to him? verse 15, “Permit it to be so now: for thus it is fitting for us to destroy and do away with all righteousness.” He used the word fulfill there. Does fulfill mean destroy and do away with, to abolish. No. Did Jesus come to abolish, do away with, destroy all righteousness? To make obsolete? These are the ways that other people use the word fulfill in Matthew 5. That’s not honest. The word fulfill means just what it says, to fill something full. Jesus came to magnify the law and make it honorable. To fulfill it in His life to show that it can be kept by God’s power.

Let me read on here. I don’t want to stop right there. Go back to Matthew chapter 5. “For assuredly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law, till all is fulfilled.” You know, I think the day is coming where once again we won’t need the law. When we are filled with love in the kingdom do you think we’re going to be running to the Ten Commandments to make sure we’re obedient? No. Anymore than the angels did before sin. It’ll be the natural response of a loving heart to obey God and to love your fellow man. “For whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,” that means you look through the Ten Commandments; and incidentally, He says later on here, “It’s been written, you shall not commit adultery,” verse 27. And it goes on to say, “Thou shalt not kill.” So He’s talking about this context, OK? “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments,” you look through the Ten Commandments, you figure out which one you think is the least important and then God says, “Whoever will think to break one of the least of these commandments, and teach men so, he will be spoken of least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever does and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Now even now as I speak; there may be some watching the tape. They’re thinking, “Doug’s a legalist.” You know why they think I’m a legalist? Because I’m talking about the law. That’s a subliminal trick. As soon as you talk about the law people automatically assume you’re a legalist. Well I’ve got a question: Did Jesus talk about the law? Was He a legalist? How does Jesus identify those who teach and do the law? As the lowest, or the greatest? I’m not trying to glorify myself. I’m just telling you Jesus said, “Great are those that do and teach the law.” Now keep in mind, He said, “spoken of as least in the kingdom of heaven.” That does not mean those who teach others to break one of the least will be in the kingdom. It means those in the kingdom speak of those individuals as the lowest people. You got that? I’ve heard some people say, “Well, if you’re not keeping the commandments and you’re breaking them and teaching other people to break them you’ll be in the kingdom, but you’ll be driving a Pinto.” You’ll be least in the kingdom. That’s not what it means. It means people who are presently in the kingdom of God view the individual who breaks the least of the commandments as the lowest kind of human. It’s not saying they’ll ever be in the kingdom. You understand? So is Jesus telling us to do away with the law? Huh?

Now there’s also that concept of the new covenant is just love. Have you heard this? Let me find out what the Bible says about that. John 13, verse 34. Incidentally, it’s true, the new covenant is love. I believe every word of the Bible. John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” How did Jesus show His love? He says in the gospel of John, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He says, “I have kept my Father’s commandments, and now abide in His love.” Christ always makes a very strong connection between love and obedience. And yet, when we as Seventh Day Adventists talk about obeying God consistently to other Christians we’re accused of being legalistic. Well they have to make that accusation of all the Bible writers then because they make the same connection. If you love the Lord let’s be consistent and obey all of His commandments. Now I don’t think that we should get hung up on any one commandment. You know, some Seventh Day Adventist Christians that are living in some countries of the world, there’s a lot of idolatry. When Karen and I were in Russia, the Russians don’t pray to idols. The Russian Orthodox pray to icons. They are pictures of the saints. And we discovered that the church there had a real burden not only educating people about the Sabbath truth, but they had to spend equal time on the subject of idolatry. Because that’s also very clear in the Bible. And the reason it seems sometimes that we spend so much time talking bout the Sabbath is that’s the main area of inconsistency in North America among Protestants. They’re neglecting one of the commandments that God says to remember. And I get tired of talking about it, but I’ve got to keep talking about it until people get it right. Amen? And you take a risk of sounding like you’re harping when you do that. Jesus spent a lot of time harping on love.

Let’s read another one. Romans 13, verse 8, “Owe no one any thing, except to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You should not commit adultery, You should not murder, You should not steal, You should not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there’s any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You should love your neighbor as thyself. Love does no harm to a neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” “Doug, you keep talking about law, law, law. Just love.” And I say, “All right, that’s fine.” The way you prove that you love is that you do these things that Paul just enumerated. It says if you steal and you say you love your neighbor you’re a liar. If you’re murdering, you say you love your neighbor, you’re a liar. If you’re committing adultery and you say you love your neighbor you’re a liar. Now I’m not making that up on my own. If you look in I John chapter 2 he says, “If any man says he loves him, and keeps not his commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” so these people who are saying, “We just love and that’s all that Jesus wants from us is to love.” And they’re rejecting one of God’s commandments the Lord says, “You’re putting on a show. If you really love me you will be willing to do my will.” Does that make sense? Hey come on! Wake up. You’re thinking, “Oh, we’ve heard this before.” Right? This is something we need to hear again. You know why? Because I think that some Seventh Day Adventists who are shy about being accused of legalism think that we should be embarrassed to talk about the law. The Bible says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” You and I should never be ashamed of or embarrassed in talking about the law. Make sure you’re not legalistic. Make sure that you always couple a presentation of the law with the heart change. Otherwise you are a legalist. And I’ve got news for you. There are legalists in our church. There are legalists in the Baptists and the Catholic. Every denomination’s got people who are legalistic. And there are people who are cultic in virtually every church. And of course there are some denominations that are very cultic in their theology. But we’ll not get into that right now.

Matthew 22, verse 37-40, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets.” Now what that means is when you really love the Lord with all your heart you’ll be keeping the first four commandments. When you love your neighbor you’ll be keeping the last six commandments. Let’s look at them one by one. If I really love God; the first commandment saying you’re not to have other gods, you won’t break that one. If you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength that means there will not be something or somebody who is superior. You’ll love God more than anybody or anything. First commandment. Right? Love is the fulfilling. Second commandment, not to make graven images and bow down to them. If you really love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and He says, “I do not want you to insult my magnificence by trying to pattern me after some marble statuette or icon or painting and worshipping that.” Incidentally, the Bible doesn’t say it’s a sin to make a likeness. It says it’s a sin to make a likeness and bow down. Need to specify because our Jehovah Witness friends think it’s a sin to have a photograph on your wall. They say it’s idolatry. The Bible says that God told the children of Israel to make images of angels. They made images of pomegranates. Solomon had calves underneath the altar in the temple. They just were not to bow down to these things and worship them, right? So there’s a distinction. If you love the Lord you’re not going to insult Him by idolatry. It lowers our conception. Third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Now if you love the Lord with all your heart are you going to insult His name? No.

Ah, now fourth commandment. How do you connect the Sabbath with loving God? The Sabbath is the epitome of loving God. It represents quality time, undistracted, uninterrupted time with your Maker. To worship, to listen, to abide in His presence. If you love God will that be precious to you? And it’s a day He has said, “I’ll meet you in a special way because I have blessed this time.” Of course it’ll be important. And that’s why the devil hates it, because every love relationship; if love is the fulfilling of the law then the devil is going to want to go to the root of our strength. If love is the fulfilling of the law and if every love relationship is nurtured through quality time. How many of you ladies believe that love is developed through quality time? Where are you, dear? In the balcony? What are you doing way back there? You’ve got binoculars? How many of you men have heard your wives talk about quality time? Their hands only went like this. They don’t want to admit they’re henpecked. Put their hand right up there. OK. Every love relationship revolves around quality time. Now the devil is attacking the Sabbath in a special way in the last days because that’s where we nurture this love relationship with God. And then, I don’t have to take the time--Paul already did it, the last six commandments. If you love your parents you’ll honor them. If you love your neighbor you’re not going to take his wife, you’re not going to take his things, you’re not going to take his life. Love is the fulfilling of the law. But Jesus wasn’t saying once you love you neglect the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, He said once you love you keep them more carefully. This idea that love negates or abolishes it.

And then there’s that other popular misconception. How many of you have heard, “You’re legalistic. You go by the letter. We go by the spirit. You Adventists are legalistic, letter of the law. We go by the spirit of the law.” You heard that one? Have you heard that one? OK, here’s the answer for that. I want you to get these answers in case you run into these things again. The letter of the law says you shall not commit adultery. Jesus said the spirit of the law is you’re not to look on the opposite sex and lust in your heart. It’s an attitude. Now is it possible to keep the spirit of the law while breaking the letter? Suppose I were to say, “Oh, the letter of the law, don’t commit adultery. You worry about that. I’m not going to think about it in my heart. I’m going to do it, but I won’t think about it in my heart?” Does that make sense? The letter of the law says you’re not to kill. The spirit of the law says do not be angry at your brother without cause or you’re guilty of murder, right? And you’re saying, “Well, that’s the letter, your legalist says that. Don’t murder. I’m not going to worry about the letter of the law. I’m just going to keep the spirit. I’m not going to be angry with my brother as I shoot him.” Does that make sense? No. The spirit of the law always comes after you’ve at least kept the letter. So people who; the spirit of the law is, “Come unto me and I’ll give you rest.” The rest that Jesus provides. That’s the Sabbath. That’s the spirit. And we should focus also on the spirit. But does the spirit of the law and observing and concentrating on the spirit ever negate the letter? It’s impossible to keep the spirit while ignoring the letter. The letter of the law is the foundation the spirit is built on. And so these people who say, “I’m spiritual. I keep the spirit of the law,” while they’re breaking the letter, they’re liars. They’re hypocrites John says. They say, “I love Him,” and they break His commandments. That’s; see this is the stuff that never made sense to me. All these contradictions I kept running into.

We’re not under the law now, we’re under grace. Have you heard that one? We’re under grace. What does that mean? Romans chapter 6,verse 14 and 15. A young man did a good job reading our scripture for us and that was our focus. Romans 6, verse 14, verse 15, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Praise the Lord, now we can break the Ten commandments. Because we are not under the law, we’re under grace. Lest anybody misunderstand, Paul went on to clarify. “What then? shall I sin, shall I break the law, because we’re not under the law? God forbid.” What does “under the law” mean? Well all of us have sinned and before you accept Jesus you are under the curse and the penalty and the power of the law. When you accept Jesus He frees you from that. You’re no longer under the curse of the law. You’re now under the sentence of grace. But then do we deliberately break the law because we’re under grace? Paul, anticipating someone might misunderstand, said, “God forbid.” That’s a horrible doctrine of devils. He never meant not under the law means you can break it. And you know what I think is funny? They never use this verse when it comes to the other nine commandments. That to me; for me the coup de grace when I was studying these things was a simple question I always asked and I’ve never yet got a good answer. Do you believe God wants us to keep the Ten Commandments or not? When they say; and make sure you lump the Ten Commandments together, because God did. Amen? And when you put the Ten Commandments together and you say, “Does God want us to keep the Ten Commandments?” you’ll watch some very interesting dancing taking place. They will say, “Nine, yes, no, under law.” They don’t know how to answer because they know if they say, “Yes, keep the Ten Commandments,” the Sabbath is right in the middle and it begins with the word remember and it sound ludicrous for them to say, “Remember them all except the one that says remember.”

Then I’ve seen churches; I think I told you I did an evangelistic meeting in a town. Before I did the meeting I went to one of the churches to visit on Sunday. I am not exaggerating, they had the Ten Commandments on the wall. The pastor in this Presbyterian church was preaching on the Ten Commandments. And he saw me sitting there and he knew I was an Adventist minister. When he got to the fourth commandment he said, “And make sure and remember the Sabbath every week.” He was very careful not to specify what day that was. Because he knew he had no argument. So he came to the meetings. A bunch of his members came to these meetings. He saw them sitting there and he began to take the approach Sunday’s now the Sabbath. And I’ll deal with that another day. Well it didn’t take long to pull the rug out of that straw house. Then he said, “We’re not under the law now, we’re under grace.” And I’m not kidding you, he went back to his church. He took the Ten Commandments off the wall. One of his members who was coming to our meeting was teaching the children’s Sunday school and the lesson was on the Ten Commandments. He took their quarterly, their lesson study guide, away from them. He said, “This is legalism to teach the Ten Commandments. We can’t teach this anymore.” And then when the members said to him, “Well, is it OK to break the other commandments?” He said, “No, we’re just supposed to keep the other nine that are reintroduced in the New Testament.” Have you heard that before? You know what that’s like? That’s like a person who’s got a sore finger and they cut off all ten fingers and sew nine of them back on to get rid of this one. They’ve got to get rid of all ten commandments and reattach nine of them. You cant’ do that. Why would God do that? Did He make a mistake when He established it? Incidentally, just, some people fall for that argument that we only keep the Ten Commandments that are repeated in the New Testament. And they don’t realize that there is one of the Ten Commandments not found anywhere in the New Testament and it’s not the fourth. The fourth is made very clear in the New Testament. It’s the commandment that says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Where is that in the New Testament, someone tell me? No where. Not at all. Now the principle’s there. “Hallowed by thy name.” “The name of God should not be blasphemed.” The principle’s there. But if they use that argument they’re going to start telling people it’s OK to use God’s name in vain. So all of these; they’re not even good arguments, that are used to try and get rid of the Sabbath are contradictory, feeble, desperate.

And let me surprise you now. I think Seventh Day Adventists, to some extent, are responsible for the accelerating crime in society. Indirectly. Hope no one ever takes this quote off the tape out of context. You know why? There has been a change in Protestant America in the last 50 years where churches, like the one I described to you, realizing that if they are going to teach the law to their people [they] need to be consistent and teach all the commandments out of embarrassment have not been teaching any. Because otherwise they’d have to be Seventh Day Adventists. And so Seventh Day Adventists have sort of been a thorn in their side. And so they’ve avoided the teaching of the law which is what our culture now needs more than ever before. Because they fear that if we were going to teach law we’d better teach it all.

Fortunately there are still some good men who in their theology make it clear that God wants us to keep the commandments. Dr. James Dobson says that we’re still supposed to keep all Ten Commandments. Here’s what Billy Graham, I’m sorry, Dwight L. Moody said, “The commandments of God given to Moses on the Mount at Horeb are as binding today as they have ever been since the time that they were proclaimed in the hearing of the people.” I like that. “The people must be made to understand,” Moody goes on, “the Ten Commandments are still binding and that there is a penalty attached to their violation.” Here’s what he says about the Sabbath commandment. “I honestly believe that this commandment is just as binding today as it ever was. I’ve talked with men who said it was abrogated, but they’ve never been able to point to any place in the Bible where God repealed it. When Christ was on earth He did nothing to set it aside.” That’s Dwight L. Moody in his book Weighed and Found Wanting, page 15 on. Let’s see what Dr. Billy Graham says. He has a question/answer article that he does from time to time. “Question: Some religious people I know tell me the Ten Commandments are part of the law and do not apply to us today. They say Christians are free from the law. Is that right? Answer: No, it is not right and I hope that you will not be misled by these false opinions. It is very important that Christians understand what the Bible means when it says ‘free from the law.’ It certainly does not mean they are free from the obligations of the moral law or of God and that they are [at] liberty to sin. You see the word law used in the New Testament writers in two senses. Sometimes it refers to the ceremonial law,” remember Moses said, “God gave me other commandments,” in Deuteronomy? “of the Old Testament which is concerned with ritual matters and regulations, food and drink and things of this kind. This ceremonial law was of a passing character and done away with when Christ came. From this law Christians are indeed free. But the New Testament also speaks of the moral law which is a permanent, unchanging character and is summarized in the Ten Commandments.” This is Billy Graham. I think he still believes this. “This law sets forth God’s demands on human life and man’s duty to God and His, of course. It is quite true the Christian is not saved by his efforts to keep the law,” I agree with that, “but as one who is saved by God’s mercy through faith in Christ, he is under an obligation to obey God’s law. As it has been said, in Christ we are free from sin, but not free to sin. ‘If you love me,’ Jesus says, ‘keep my commandments.’” That’s Dr. Billy Graham, Dallas Times News. Dr. A. H. Ironside said, “The law of the Ten Commandments has to do with moral principles and these are of an unchanging nature in any dispensation.” The Baptist manual says on page 66, “We believe the scriptures teach that the law of God is the eternal, unchanging rule of His moral government, that it is holy, just and good. Unfeigned obedience to the holy law is the end objective of the gospel. The Lord wants to save us from sin and sin is the transgression of God’s law.”

And that brings me to my final thought. Why do you think that the devil hates the law? very simple, by the law is the knowledge of sin. New Testament. James said, “Whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty.” Something you look into. He compares it to a mirror. When we see God’s law we become aware of our sinfulness. And then we go to God for cleansing. The law creates within us a desire for forgiveness. It drives us to the Savior. And so when the devil attacks the law what he is doing is removing one of the motivating forces that brings us to Jesus. He hates the law because the law leads us to Christ. The law doesn’t save us, but it helps us see we’re sinners and then we go to Jesus for salvation. Can you see why the devil hates the law? And you and I should never be ashamed of what we believe about that. It’s a doctrine of devils when churches tell their people, “You don’t need to worry about the Ten Commandments.” It is evil. It’s wrong and don’t you ever be ashamed. People are going to use all kinds of psychology to make you feel like you’re legalistic because you believe in obeying.

Go to get the kids up in the morning, Stephen started school now. And every morning I hear Karen say, “Stephen, has your bed been made?” And he says, “Mom, you’re legalistic.” Well, he didn’t say that, but it wouldn’t matter. He’s got to make his bed. Now he goes in there when he gets done; he makes his best effort as a five year old can and to me it looks like he makes it with an eggbeater, but we’re satisfied when he does the best he can do. But he’s got to make his bed and we’re trying to teach him. This idea that obedience is legalism is absurd.

Last Sunday I went to Folsom Prison and I preached and the chapel was packed. It was encouraging to know; I am embarrassed, I apologized to the men. I’ve been in town five years, I’ve never preached in Folsom Prison before. And one of the chaplains had seen our programs and worked it out with Bonnie where he got me in. I brought a few books and gave them out. They were greeting me at the door. And one man in particular came up, I won’t tell you his name. He said he had been a Seventh Day Adventist and he wandered from the church. He had been told the law doesn’t matter and he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail now for murder. You know I thought it was real interesting; when I preach to prisoners, I did a week of prayer in Vacaville a few weeks ago, they never have a problem with understanding that God wants us to obey. It is so clear to them. And they are so grateful for salvation from disobedience. They believe that God gives them power to be different people. Otherwise they’re never going to make it on the outside. Now I’ve never heard a Protestant minister go into jail and tell people they’re not under the law. That’s not what they need to hear. They need to hear Christ will give them power by His grace to do His will. Otherwise they’re never safe in society. Do you want that doctrine getting around in the prisons that not under the law means we don’t need to obey anymore? The ones who succeed when they get on the outside are the ones who are saved by grace and because of love for the Lord they’re willing to obey. The laws of the land and the laws of God. Amen? And friends, if you and I are reluctant to reintroduce into society men and women who have not learned to obey the laws of the land do you think God is going to introduce into heaven people who are cast out for sinning? The devil was cast out for sinning, right? He wants us to be obedient. “Not everyone that says Lord, Lord; but they that do the will of my Father.” So friends, obedience is the highest form of love.

You know one time Saul said to Samuel, “Oh, I know I disobeyed the Lord, but I did it to get sacrifices for Him.” That’s like robbing the bank and giving the money at church. Say, “I know I robbed a bank, Lord, but it’ll give me a lot more tithe.” Will the Lord be satisfied with that? And Samuel said to Saul, “Is the Lord delighted in burnt offerings as he is in obeying the voice of the Lord. To obey is better than sacrifice.” God wants us to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Amen?

Well, we’ll continue this another time, but in closing today I want to invite you to turn to 310. The purpose of the law is it shows us our sin and then it brings us to Jesus to forgiveness. We’re all law breakers, amen? And if you’d like to accept the forgiveness for that disobedience that Christ offers, let’s stand and sing together I Will Draw Near to Jesus.

I’d like to make a special altar call, appeal at the closing of our last verse. Some of you maybe have been coming to Central as visitors for a while and you’ve never made a decision to surrender your life to Jesus. You know you cannot obey Him until you first surrender. Some of you are thinking, “Well when I can start obeying then I’m going to give my heart to the Lord. I’ll get committed when I can overcome these things.” That’s backwards. You commit yourself just like you are then He enables you to obey. You come “just as I am,” as the song says. Some of you have been participating in Net 98 and you realize the need perhaps to be baptized or rebaptized. You’ve learned some new things. We’d like to give you an opportunity to either renew your commitment to Jesus. Some of you would like to return and be doers of the word and not hearers only. As we sing the last verse if you’d like to claim that power and give yourself to the Lord, perhaps for the first time or rededicate, come to the front as we sing. We’ll have prayer with you.

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God's Law and God's Grace by Jim Pinkoski

God's Law and God's Grace by Jim Pinkoski
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