Many years ago, at a General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, one of the most powerful and successful evangelists gave his personal testimony. People were surprised to hear that although he was successful and looked up to as a leading minister for many years, he had become convicted that he was not converted.
This is not a rare situation. Over the years I have heard of many similar cases. It often takes a catastrophic event for a person to realize their true position with God and their need for a deeper conversion. It is easy for the heart to be divided. You may think you have a heart for the Lord, but often there is still something in this world that has a hold on you.
After a prophecy seminar in North Dakota, I was visiting the home of some of the attendees with another minister who at that time was a very successful evangelist. It was clear that these people understood the truths that had been shared and had no objection to anything, but they would not go the extra step and make a commitment to follow Jesus all the way. Something in the world had a hold on them.
I have found myself in that same scenario many times. From a very young age I had been taught that once we preached the gospel in all the world for a witness to all nations, Jesus would come and we could all go to Heaven. It seemed easy if we would all get busy. But I got a reality check from a retired missionary to South America while visiting with him one morning. He said that if it were just the information of the three angels’ messages that was needed, God could give it to every single person in the world in one night in a dream. The trouble is, it takes more than information to finish God’s work.
In order for God’s work to be finished, those spreading the three angels’ messages need a change of heart, what we call conversion. There is division amongst God’s people. Some people have become upset with some Bible translations because the word converted in the King James Bible is translated turned in many modern translations. However, the Greek word used actually means to turn around and go a different way. It is not enough to have the information, to have an intellectual knowledge of the truth unless the truth has changed my life.
Pastor David Kang was another well-known minister who experienced a deeper conversion. He was born in Korea and immigrated into the United States with his wife in 1975. After studying at Andrews University, he became a very successful Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Florida pastoring a number of Korean churches.
In 1984 as he was studying, he said the Holy Spirit convicted him of being a hypocrite. When the Holy Spirit convicts you, a choice must be made. Either you accept the conviction and the reproof, or you reject it. Pastor Kang began to spend many hours each day in serious study of the Spirit of Prophecy. Those privileged to have heard him preach know that his preaching was intensely practical. He preached about practical godliness and the blessing of really experiencing the gospel and living the life of Christ. He saw the need of reflecting to the world an image of the character of Jesus.
The theme of Pastor Kang’s message came from 2 Peter 3 where the apostle Peter tells us that the day of the Lord is going to come as a great surprise. It says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verses 10–13).
The new earth in which righteousness dwells is what we are expecting and looking for. So Peter says, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (verse 14).
Pastor Kang would repeat to his staff the necessity of being without spot and blameless to be ready for the Lord to come. He preached so much about practical godliness that he had to resist the criticism from people all over the world that his message was too strict.
Another preacher, Elder Fordyce Detamore, one of my favorites, had another style of preaching and burden to share. It is important to allow each preacher to share what the Lord has put on his heart. In making his appeals at camp meetings, it was not uncommon at all for him to spend 30 minutes in an appeal. To those whose hearts were warmed with his message, it seemed like just a few moments.
At the end of the meeting on one occasion while making his appeal he called for those who knew somebody in the congregation that needed to make a decision to follow the Lord all the way, to go up to them and tell them that if they would go forward, you will go forward with them. He suggested that if you encourage them to make a commitment, they will not hold it against you in the day of judgment.
It just so happened that while sitting in the back of the meeting I noticed a lady to whom I had given Bible studies sitting probably two or three rows from the front. She believed the truths that I had shown her, but I had been unable to help her to make a decision. As Elder Detamore made his appeal I was convicted that I had nothing to lose if I encouraged her to go forward. Even if she might get mad at me, she would not hold it against me in the day of judgment. So I walked up to her and made the offer to go forward with her if she should choose. She made a decision and went forward and was baptized just a few days later.
If you are almost saved, you are still totally lost. On the day of judgment there will be many people like Felix Agrippa (Acts 26:28). He heard the gospel and he believed it but put off making a decision until a convenient time that never came. Consequently, he will be lost.
A mere intellectual knowledge of the truth will not save you. The Pharisees knew the truth better than anyone, but they refused the power necessary for that truth to change their hearts and lives.
After Pastor Kang’s deeper conversion experience in 1984, he started to preach that unless our characters are without spot and blameless, we will not be fit to go to heaven, even if we know the truth. This teaching infuriated the church leaders who accused him of fanaticism and smeared his reputation as a proponent of heresy. At his funeral, a man who had attended the seminary in Korea with him said that for many years he would not listen or read anything from Pastor Kang solely because the church had been told not to have anything to do with him. However, when he did investigate, he found that Pastor Kang did speak truth and wondered why the church was so against it.
Pastor David Kang had such a conviction, not just to get information out, but for the need to show people by example what has to happen in their heart to be ready for Jesus to come. As a result of the mission projects that he started, there are seven hundred literature evangelists working in China under very dangerous conditions. In fact, Pastor Kang came in danger and narrowly escaped being put in prison himself on a number of occasions.
Hundreds of Sunday keeping pastors from different countries in the Far East that attended Pastor Kang’s sanctuary seminars found out that God has a sanctuary in heaven, and that within the veil of that Most Holy Place of the sanctuary in heaven there is an ark that contains the ten commandments. The news about the unchangeable character of God’s law has been fearlessly presented in Korea, China, and other Asian countries and is spreading underground like wildfire.
It is not enough to know truth; the truth must change lives to be effective. If the knowledge of the truth you know has not yet changed your life, it is not too late for you to have a conversion experience. Maybe your conversion is just superficial, and you need a deeper experience in your life. The good news is that the door of salvation is still open, and Jesus is standing at the door of your heart knocking and longing to be invited in. Now is the time to open that door, for the time is coming when the door of salvation will be closed.
God’s offer of salvation is made even to the world’s most wicked, to the people that the world most despises because of their crimes, if only they would hear and respond to God’s Spirit. We can read in the writings of Ellen White that on one occasion salvation was offered to Nero. Nero was one of the most wicked men that has ever lived yet salvation was still offered to him but he did not accept it. Nero was guilty of killing his own mother as well as murdering at least one of his wives and who knows how many other people.
We wonder how someone as wicked as Nero could ever be saved, but Jesus came into the world to save sinners and if Nero had accepted the invitation and allowed the Holy Spirit to transform his life he could have been saved. But like most, he saw no value in the gift that was offered. However Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, considered himself “the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He had chased down the saints of God who feared him and would set out to capture them to be imprisoned or even put to death. When salvation was offered to him on the Damascus Road, he repented and was forgiven. His former companions, the Pharisees, all turned against him. Now if you really have a change of heart so that you go full out for the Lord; in other words, you are fully committed to God and His cause, you are going to have some opposition in this world. Some people that used to be your friends will not be your friends anymore. That is just the way it will happen so do not be too surprised when it does happens.
When your life is fully surrendered to Jesus you are no longer in charge of your life, because you are walking in a different way. Sins that once had an attraction and a hold on you are discarded as you walk the narrow path.
Thank God that our sins can be forgiven. We are told in Romans 3:25, 26, “Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Notice that when you come to Jesus, you are forgiven for the sins that you have previously committed, but this does not give license to go on sinning. Forgiveness is always in the past. There is no such thing as being forgiven for a sin that you are going to commit tomorrow. This is contrary to what some Roman Catholic theologians believe.
When the woman was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus in John the 8th chapter, Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). There were people in the early church who had a hard time with that story and were afraid that if everybody knew about that, it would give people a license to sin. They feared that people would be at liberty to go and sin because they knew they could be forgiven. They thought that the Lord was being too lenient with the woman. But notice that when Jesus forgave that woman of everything that she had done in the past, He said to her, “Go and sin no more.” He did not say to go on a 5-day plan to stop sinning or to cut down on her sin. He said to not do it anymore.
No matter how bad a sinner you are, if you are willing to quit, the Lord can forgive you for what is in your past. Maybe you have a besetting sin that nobody knows about, not even your husband or your wife. Be sure that God knows about it and that your secret sin of which no one else knows is written down in His book. Sins that are not erased by confession and repentance will come up again in the judgment and even though you may profess Christ and go to church every week they will cause you to be lost.
The Bible contains warnings about being ready for the end of the world and for the second coming of Jesus:
“Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare [a trap] on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34–36).
“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch” (Mark 13:35– 37)! Are you sleeping like the foolish virgins? Pray that the Lord will keep you alert and awake.
“When the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11–14). No one is allowed into the wedding feast of the Lamb without the wedding garment, a righteous Christ-like character.
“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure” (Isaiah 33:14–16). There are some people who need to pay special attention to Isaiah 33:15.
Zephaniah 2 was always a very scary passage to my mother. She would talk to me about what it could mean, but I had no answer. “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice, seek righteousness, seek humility, it may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” (verses 1–3).
The part of the text that was so scary to my mother is where it says, “it may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” which does not sound like a guarantee.
Isaiah 4 describes a time coming when all human pride will be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and everyone that is left among the living in Jerusalem will be holy. At that time when only those who are holy are alive, where will you be?
“And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City not Forsaken” (Isaiah 62:12).
God is preparing a holy people who are ready to meet Him, ready to meet the Lord when He comes.
A time is coming when there will be no more weeping. But right now it is the time to say, Lord, I am surrendering myself totally, completely to you. Whatever change needs to be made in my life, I am surrendering myself totally and completely to the control of Your Holy Spirit. If you are willing to make that kind of a decision, God is willing to answer your prayer and transform your life. The time will come when there will not be any more tears because the former things will be in the past and will never be repeated. It will be a time of rejoicing for those who have kept their garments white and are ready to meet the Lord in peace.
May the Lord prepare our hearts for what is going to break upon this world as an overwhelming surprise; that we might not only know truth, but that the truth will change us from the inside out by the power of His Holy Spirit.
(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: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.