Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Substance of the Sabbath (pt.1)

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2

"Rest From Our Works"

"Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work..." (Exodus 20:9-10 NIV)

I think we all understand the idea of the "Sabbath day", don't we? Work six days, rest on the last one. It sounds like a good principle for healthy living -- common sense, in fact -- but we must remember that every ceremony God gave in the Old Covenant was meant to point us to Christ, and is fulfilled in Christ. So how in the world does the Sabbath point to Jesus?

Sabbath pointed to how we 'rest' from 'our works' in Christ:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us... (Titus 3:4-5 NKJV)

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10 NIV)

We are saved by grace! By God's grace, not by our works. We needed God to save us. Our sins were too much for us. Even if we tried to do good and be good enough to be saved, we couldn't do it. We were overwhelmed; the labor was too much for us.

Of course, we humans are stubborn. It takes awhile for us to realize that we can't make it to heaven on our own, that we can't redeem ourselves. That is why God gave the Law to Israel. He gave them many, many commands so that they could come to understand that they weren't able to do it on their own. That was the purpose of the Law.

First Moses said,
"And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Deuteronomy 6:25 NIV)

Years later, after many sins and judgments, Isaiah realized,
"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

And so God promised that He would send a King, a King who would be our righteousness for us. Not one who would merely teach us righteousness, but who would be our righteousness:
"The days are coming," declares the LORD,
"when I will raise up from David's line a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which He will be called:
The Lord Our Righteousness."
(Jeremiah 23:5-6, 33:15-16 NIV)

Just like He used Passover to show Israel how the Messiah would be the sacrifice for the sins of the world, God used the Sabbath day to show Israel that she would find rest from her unrighteousness in the Messiah. So when the Messiah came, He said,
"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Hallelu Yah!

This is the meaning of the Sabbath-rest! "Sabbath rest" is the wonderful rest and peace that comes to us in Jesus because of His finished work for us!

But I cannot stop here. I cannot resist telling you more and more how every aspect of "the Sabbath" in Scripture pointed forward to Jesus Christ...

(to be continued in Part 2)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Substance of the Sabbath (intro)

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2

"Do You Know What It Means?"

I have this scenario that's been floating around in my head for awhile. It's from the time just after Pentecost when so many people came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The believers met together not just once a week, but every day. And not only that, but we find them breaking bread together as often as they could. Today even the most die-hard communion-lover only has the Lord's Supper once a week, but they couldn't seem to get enough! I wonder why?

Well, imagine that you lived back then and were part of their community--the Jewish community. You've been eating the Passover meal for thousands of years. Your great-randparents taught it to your grandparents, and your parents taught it and its history to you. Today you are just setting down with some close friends and family to have the Passover meal, when another friend comes in...
Did you hear about what just happened in Jerusalem? Some men and women started speaking different languages they didn't know, praising God and prophesying. Some of them stood up and talked about Jesus, saying He had risen from the dead and was the Messiah! Not only that, they said He had to die -- He was the Passover lamb, the Lamb of God! I believed, and His disciples showed me--look, here, I'll show you...

This bread, this is His body, broken for us...
This wine, it is His blood, poured out for our sins...
This is the New Covenant that Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Malachi talked about!

Can you understand the palpable excitement as an ancient ritual ceremony suddenly came to life with meaning? The Passover was what the Bible calls "a shadow" of Christ. It looked forward to Him, and it was fulfilled in Him. The bread and innocent lamb were not the substance. Christ is the reality. Today, even though they don't have to, some Christians still "keep "Passover", especially if their heritage is Jewish. But the important thing is that they know what it means and Who it is about. The substance of the Passover is Jesus Christ. Christ is the substance of all the ceremonies and festivals of the Old Covenant.

Colossians 2:16-17 includes the Sabbath day as one of these shadows:
"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." (ESV)

Now I know that many Christians believe they must observe a Sabbath day, and many other Christians believe they must not or aren't required to. Scripture says not to judge one another by these things (Romans 14:5-13). If you want to observe the Sabbath day, it's your Scriptural right to do so just as Jewish Christians have the right to continue observing the Passover meal. However, how tragic would it be if the Jewish Christians did not know the meaning of the Passover? What if they didn't know that the lamb, bread and wine represented Jesus?

In the same way, what if people who observed Sabbath did not know what Sabbath really meant? I am your brother in Christ. Just think of me as a giddy little excited disciple who has just learned what "Sabbath" meant, and is coming next door to share with you what I've learned: Jesus is the substance of the Sabbath! It pointed to Jesus! Let me show you how...

(to be continued in Part 1)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Letter to a Bookstore

Last month my wife and I noticed an Ellen White book in a Christian bookstore here in Osaka, and I felt compelled to write a letter to the bookstore. I'll post the Japanese translation soon. I never thought I would write a letter like this, but I care too much about my former family to say nothing. Blessings in His love. -RR (4/10/2007)

March 16, 2007

Dear ----,

My name is Ramone Romero and I'm writing to you out of concern about a book by Ellen G. White which I saw in your store the other day. The author of the book is the prophet of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church.

I was raised from birth and educated as a Seventh-day Adventist, and I served as a missionary for the SDA church in Osaka from August 1999 to August 2000. However in 2002 I left the SDA church and became Christian.

But aren't Seventh-day Adventists Christians? Yes and no. On the surface there are many common beliefs between Adventism and Christianity, but Adventism has core beliefs which confuse the Gospel. In Protestant Christianity we know we are saved by Christ's righteousness and by His finished work. But in Adventism this knowledge is not clear. Instead—through Ellen White's writings—Adventists learn that they are saved by faith plus works. Mrs. White taught that we must become perfect to enter heaven, and that perfection means we must keep the Ten Commandments perfectly, especially the 4th — the seventh-day Sabbath.

Although Paul wrote that the Sabbath was "a shadow" and not the reality (rather, Christ is the reality), Mrs. White and the Adventist founders claimed that churches who worship on Sunday will eventually have "the mark of the beast" and will persecute Adventists. Mrs. White frequently referred to Christian churches that worshiped on Sunday as "apostate churches" and "Babylon". She claimed that God showed her in a vision that these churches did not worship Christ, but instead they worshiped the sun, Satan, or Satan disguised as Christ.

I grew up in Adventism believing these things, and under the heavy burden of legalism that is often so common in Adventist churches. We were taught that we needed to do the right things, worship on the right day, and eat the right food — or else we would be putting our salvation at risk.

I understand that the book I saw on the shelf at your store may not contain all of the things I have spoken of here. Since the 1950s Adventists have been trying to gain acceptance from mainstream Christian churches. To do this, they have put forward their "best parts" and kept the more questionable parts in the background. Certain books by Mrs. White which contain less of her anti-Christian teachings are preferred, while other books which contain less of these teachings are kept silently in the back. Yet her anti-Christian teachings still an important part of the church. If you want to join the Adventist church, you must learn a few of these teachings. And if you browse the library at any SDA church, you will find these teachings. More zealous Adventists know these things very well.

Adventism is based on these things, and Adventism aims its evangelism not only towards non-Christians, but also towards Christians. In other words, being Christian is not good enough — Adventists are taught to evangelize Christians and make them become Adventist.

I am writing this letter not only out of concern for any innocent Christian who might pick up Ellen White books in your stores. My heart is actually more concerned about Adventists themselves. You see, I still love them. I want them to experience rest from their works in Jesus Christ. I want them to know the freedom of trusting the Bible alone, not the Bible plus Ellen White. I want them to know that they are saved by His work, not by their own perfection.

Many liberal or "progressive" Adventists are trying to make SDA appear like it is just a normal Christian denomination. But they are unable to let go of Ellen White and her anti-Christian teachings. These things are built into the foundation of Adventism. As a result Adventist children & converts grow up confused about law, grace, and almost completely unaware of the New Covenant. This is true even in liberal/progressive Adventist groups.

I agonize and pray for them, I pray they will be free from confusion. They need to know that Ellen White's writings are not Christian because they go against basic Christian beliefs. They need to let go of Ellen White and trust in the Bible alone.

I pray that in light of what I've shared here, you will consider refusing to put Ellen White books in your store.

Please contact me if you have any questions. You may also contact one of the networks of former Adventists in the United States (many Adventist scholars, educators and members have been leaving the church in the last thirty years because they studied their Bibles more carefully, and found that foundational Adventist doctrines were anti-Biblical).

Thank you and may God bless you.

Ramone Romero


Some Former Adventist websites:

A Former-SDA outreach to SDA members

A large fellowship of Former Adventists

Articles and Research about Sabbatarianism

The Ellen White Research Project

Resource material documenting problems and deception in EGW/SDA

A Former Adventist publishing website

Former Adventist Pastor Dale Ratzlaff's book "The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists"

A Former Adventist magazine

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Disagreeing with Endo

God, I need to get this out. I'm reading a book by Shusaku Endo and then I'm looking now at an article about him that Philip Yancey wrote.

He believed that Christianity needed to be changed to fit Japan... that Christianity couldn't get roots in the Japanese soil. He felt that western Christianity was too strict and didn't recognize that God is in all things and everywhere... that God had many faces in other religions, etc.

God, I can't even accurately represent what he believed and wrote. All I know is that deep inside of me my spirit is screaming, "No, Lord, no!" because I don't see the conflict that he saw.

No, I do see the conflict if I look at Christianity as Christianity. If I look at things as a matter of viewpoints, or of ways people 'see God' or something like that, yes, then I can understand the problem he saw and the solution he arrived at. Then I could see the clash between east and west, and I would be impressed by his solution.

But God, the question that gets me underneath is that if we stop and really realize You are REAL, then we don't have to go through all this guesswork! We can argue different viewpoints, but howabout asking You about stuff before we go off into making theories? I know people who have done this do have faith, and do pray.

Maybe it's because of how You've shown me Your Holy Spirit, how You still speak to us today, how You never stopped, actually. You're supernatural. I think we've felt abandoned so long perhaps because we've been so afraid of that supernatural. We've become intellectual.

My heart aches with these things, for Endo and all the others out there who have struggled so much trying to reconcile things intellectually and through compromises, because soul's loud crust of "Christianity" and the "Culture" seem never to have been allowed to be still enough to hear the Eternity in their hearts.

And I think that's the kind of "Christianity" the west brought to Japan. I believe that at Japan's roots, in her soul, there is "eternity" -- You said that You set eternity in the hearts of every person, and that the Light shines in the darkness and gives light to every person born into the world. Eternity is sitting in the hearts of Japan, and I believe we've been so occupied and not been still long enough to let You show it to us. We've tried to make the connection, instead of letting You do it.

And I know this is easier said than done. I know I have impatience, and that I'm guilty of all the west has done here, of not waiting on You, of not truly listening to people, of not truly loving them regardless of the decision they make. I haven't waited for You to reveal Yourself to them. But I'm learning. And when "I" step back, You always step in. Thank You, Lord, the God of the Japanese heart.

I wish someone had told Endo these things. I wish so many Japanese knew these things. I know that the Tokugawa government decimated "Christianity" in Japan, but I feel like the nail in the coffin on that decimation was hammered unintentionally by Endo. He bought the Tokugawa claim to have destroyed Christianity in Japan, and it scarred his whole life. His wonderful novels have been accepted in Japan, and because of that I think the Tokugawa claim has survived longer than it would have without his contribution.

All this said, You're worthy of praise. You saw all this coming. And I believe You've brought us to this land because You want us to stop, drop, pray, and be still, wait on You. I believe You want the church to repent for getting involved so deeply in intellectualizing You (instead of communicating with You) and for not waiting for You to reveal and connect with Eternity in peoples' hearts. This is a place of fire, perhaps, a place where You're refining Your church because she needs it here. I need it.