“Christ, the Great Teacher, had an infinite variety of subjects from which to choose, but the one upon which He dwelt most largely was the endowment of the Holy Spirit.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 156. [Emphasis supplied.] While we cannot prove it, it seems from this sentence that the endowment of the Holy Spirit was Christ’s favorite subject, and we know that He dwelt on the subject more than any other. Continuing in Selected Messages, Ellen White says, “What great things He predicted for the church because of this endowment.” Ibid.
When the Holy Spirit is given to the church which then exhibits the characteristics of the Holy Spirit, wonderful things will happen in the church. At a personal level, every person who receives the Holy Spirit will be saved. No exceptions. But without the Holy Spirit, the church will not experience the wonderful things that come with the presence of the Holy Spirit and not one person will be saved.
Consider these questions: Do Seventh-day Adventists have the truth? Yes, it’s just a fact; we do. So, if I know the truth, will I be in heaven? Is the truth all I need? The devil knows the truth. Will he be in heaven? No. Why? The devil doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. He is possessed of a different spirit. So, if just having the truth isn’t enough, what is it that will make it possible to be in heaven? The apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27. He said, “I keep my body under subjection, lest, having preached to others, I myself might be rejected” (verse 27, literal translation). If the apostle Paul could be rejected, unsaved, could it happen to us? Yes, because one must have the Holy Spirit to be in the kingdom of heaven.
For as long as I can remember, there has been a tremendous amount of theological debate and controversy within Adventism regarding who is saved and how, and who is not and why. Some say you cannot be saved unless you profess faith in Christ; others state that there will be heathens who never knew the name of Christ who will be in heaven and they support it from The Desire of Ages. But there will be millions of people who profess faith in Christ, who talk the talk, but who have not received the Holy Spirit and they will go down into the lake of fire. And there will be people who have never heard the name of Christ who will be saved, because they will accept the leading of the Holy Spirit as He reveals the truth to them in other ways.
A Seventh-day Adventist physician went to a heathen country as a missionary with his family. Before he had an opportunity to unpack, he was called to an emergency medical situation. He hired a heathen man, explaining that he had to be away for an emergency and his wife would be left with the unpacking. He wanted the man to help her unpack, so he made all the arrangements with the man, paid him and set off. It was after nightfall before the missionary returned home. When he arrived home, the man was standing outside the gate waiting for him. He said, “I was not able to help your wife unpack; she did not want my help, so here is your money back.”
The physician was astonished; he could not comprehend a heathen man not just taking the money. So he asked him, “How can this be?” The heathen man said, “I studied, I looked at the sun, I looked at nature, I realized there was a Great Spirit that made this and so I gave my life to the Great Spirit. And the Great Spirit came into my heart, into my mind, and made me all white and clean inside.” He said, “I don’t chew betel nut like other men do; I don’t sleep around with women like other men do, and I don’t lie and I don’t steal.” He didn’t know who Jesus was by name, but he received the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31–46 that He will separate everyone into two groups—sheep and goats. The sheep are the people who have received the Holy Spirit. The goats are the people who have not received the Holy Spirit. It’s just that simple. One group will have eternal life, the other group will have eternal death.
I am not condemning anyone; I want to tell you the best news ever. Now is the time, right now, that you can receive the Holy Spirit. It does not matter what you have done, what your past has been; all that matters is have you, will you, receive the Holy Spirit? The offer of eternal life is the gospel message to be given to everyone, even to the most sinful people in the world. Let’s look at some examples from the Bible.
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs [miracles] that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ ” (John 3:1–3). As a leader of God’s chosen people, Jesus told Nicodemus that he would have to be converted or he would not be in heaven.
Nicodemus did not like hearing that. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. And Jesus tells him he won’t be going to heaven unless he’s born again. Nicodemus’ response was, “ ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born’ ” (verse 4)? Nicodemus was irritated. He probably wondered if Jesus knew who he was. The problem for Nicodemus was he knew what was written in the Torah and he believed his life was in harmony with the law, but at that moment, he had not received the Holy Spirit and until he did, he could not understand what Jesus was trying to tell him.
Luke 18:10, 11 KJV tells us, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican [tax collector]. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.’ ” Among the Jews, if you were a tax collector, you were considered the lowest of the low because you were cooperating with the Romans. (The Romans were not a righteous people. A secular historian described Rome as, “the sewer of the nations.”) If a woman was a prostitute, they felt that she was the lowest of the low. So when Jesus said, “The prostitutes and the tax collectors are going to go into the kingdom of heaven before you” (Matthew 21:31), the Jewish leaders were ready to kill Him.
Were prostitutes sinners? Were tax collectors sinners? Yes. Is God going to take any sinners into the kingdom of heaven? No. Then how could Jesus say that the prostitutes and the tax collectors would be in the kingdom of heaven before the religious leaders? Matthew 21:31, 32, first part, explains: “Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him.’ ” When John the Baptist came and showed them their sins, the tax collectors and the harlots repented. They realized they were sinners, but they didn’t want to be that way anymore. They wanted to be changed, but were helpless to help themselves. They knew they were in bondage and wanted to be free.
So Jesus said, “I’ve come to set at liberty the people that are in bondage” (Galatians 5:1). This irritated the Jews, especially the Pharisees. They said to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants [seed], and we have never been in bondage to anyone” (John 8:33). They were, when they made this statement, in bondage to the Romans, so that was not true. But Jesus pointed out to them that He wasn’t talking about physical bondage. In verse 32 He said, “ ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” Notice that the Jews said they were already free and didn’t need to be made free. Jesus answered them, “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin’ ” (verse 34). Sin brings a person into bondage; a bondage from which they cannot free themselves.
There are millions of people in the world that have decided that they will be good people, but they found out that they can’t be good people. From the outside, many appear to be good people, but these “good people” know that on the inside they are not righteous. The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
The fact is that no human being can know their own heart. The Bible says, “Who can know it?” and the answer is, nobody. Moses was one of the wisest men that ever lived and he said to the Lord, “Please don’t let me know my own wretchedness” (Numbers 11:15). You and I do not know what evil we are capable of doing. If you do not receive the Holy Spirit, you cannot know where the devil might lead you. The heart is deceitful above all things. The Hebrew word translated desperately wicked is something that is incurable. You cannot make it better. It is impossible. That is why Jesus says we must be born again. The Holy Spirit has to create a new heart in you because the one you have is no good. Paul said that the old man has to die (Romans 6). And you must be born again.
Paul wrote to the Christians that in the flesh you are dead, but in the Spirit you are alive (see Romans, Colossians, Galatians). He used this language because man’s natural way of thinking and feeling has to die and he must receive from the Holy Spirit a new mind, a new heart, a new spirit. If that doesn’t happen, a man will be lost.
In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, “ ‘The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” ’ ” (Luke 18:11, 12). This prayer was a speech to God of all the good things that he did daily.
However, the tax collector knew that he was wicked. “ ‘The tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’ ” (verses 13, 14). Do you want to be saved? The Lord can save you. Here is how:
First, we have to recognize our sinful condition and that we need to be saved from our sins. God does not save people in sin; He saves people from sin (Matthew 1:21). The Bible exposes “the lie” that is still believed by the majority of the Christian world today, the idea that a person can continue to sin and everything will be fine as long as he confesses those sins. That is not Bible religion, but the lie of the antichrist. As long as a person is living in sin, they are not born of the Holy Spirit. Once born of the Holy Spirit, a man will repent and turn away from sinning.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a very rich man. But when he heard John the Baptist preach, he repented and told Jesus, “ ‘Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold’ ” (Luke 19:8). As soon as the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life, he stops sinning. A man is changed inside and doesn’t live the way he used to live. Everything is changed and sin becomes a thing of the past.
Around 1907, a group of Adventists planned a six-month series of evangelistic meetings. They rented a big auditorium and on the first night the people came and the evangelist began his sermon. He covered how to become a Christian, how to be born again and how to be converted. But he didn’t stop there. He also covered the state of the dead, the Sabbath, the Mark of the Beast; in fact, he covered everything in one night. At the close of the meeting, he made a call for people to make a decision that night and a whole group of people came forward. His workers questioned him as to why he had preached everything in one sermon, but he didn’t know why; he had been impressed to do it. A terrible earthquake occurred later that night and some of the people who had come forward died in the earthquake; but they had been saved that night from their sins.
I read a book written by a lady involved in the New Age Movement. She didn’t know the Lord, knew nothing of the Bible or Christianity. She had met a man and they were living together. An acquaintance persuaded them to come to a Christian meeting. The speaker was an evangelist.
The couple decided to attend the meeting. It wasn’t a Seventh-day Adventist meeting, but this evangelist understood about a one-night evangelistic series. This was like Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus and Paul’s talk with Felix. The couple decided to become Christians that night when the altar call was made. The evangelist hadn’t had the time to explain to them everything about the Christian religion, but he explained how they could give their lives to Jesus and choose to follow Him. He told them that Jesus loved them so much that he died on the cross for them, that He would forgive their sins and that they could have eternal life.
Everyone who came forward on the altar call received a Bible. This lady had never read the Bible. Later that night before she went to sleep, she decided to read a little bit in this new book. She opened the Bible to one of the Gospels where Jesus was talking about the sin of adultery. She slammed the book shut and thought, “I can’t read this book!” A few days later her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the Bible again at random. There it was again, talking about the sin of adultery and fornication. Once again, she slammed it shut. Every few days she would wonder what else was in the Bible, but anywhere she opened to, it condemned her.
The man she was living with was having his own experiences, but they each were reacting quite differently to their individual experiences. One day they talked and she told the man that her conscience was bothering her day and night and that she couldn’t continue with their relationship as it was. The man asked what she thought they should do. Her conclusion was that they either would have to marry or split up and after some consideration, it was decided that they would split up. She wrote in her book that was a turning point in her life.
In John 3:4 after Nicodemus asked Jesus, “ ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ ” Jesus said, “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ ” (verse 5). You are born of water when you are baptized.
1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” Notice, Paul says, “By one Spirit [that is, the Holy Spirit] we have all been baptized into one body.” Baptism by water is a symbol of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. If you are baptized by the Holy Spirit, you will be in the kingdom of heaven.
Paul in Acts 19 and Peter in Acts 2 both speak about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:2–7, we find the account of the two men who had been baptized “into John’s baptism,” but had never heard of the Holy Spirit. He told them that “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (verse 4). When the men heard this, they were baptized in the name of Jesus and when Paul “laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (verse 6).
In Acts 2:38, Peter was speaking to people guilty of crucifying Jesus Christ. They were pricked in their hearts and didn’t know what to do. Peter said to them, “Repent [that is, sorrow enough for your sins to quit] and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Without the Holy Spirit, you are lost, and you will remain lost until you do receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus called this the new birth. When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life, that person will be born again and the spiritual image of Jesus Christ will be formed within. But before the birth can take place Paul says, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again [labor pains] until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). I labor with people that have been involved in every kind of sin that you can imagine. I preach the gospel to them because the gospel can save them, if they are willing to receive the Holy Spirit.
Are you tired of the person you have become on the inside? Do you want to be changed? Have you realized that you are helpless and hopeless in your present state? Are you willing to be born again? If you will receive the Holy Spirit in your life, you will be changed.
You cannot change yourself, but it doesn’t matter how dark your past is or what you’ve done. All you need to do is turn to Jesus, surrender your life to Him and say, “Lord, I want to have a new heart, a new mind. I want to be born again. I want to receive the Holy Spirit.” There is no other way. If you choose to surrender your life to Christ, He will hear and a miraculous work will be done in your life.
Dear Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to each of us. Show us the things that must be changed in our lives. Help us to surrender all of ourselves to You. Give us new hearts and minds and restore in us Your image.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.