This is a true story that happened to one of the most famous and out-standing sales trainers in the United States a few years ago. This man travels all over, teaching salesmen how to sell and how to be more successful. In a seminar on sales, the basic things of salesmanship are given, then some other things may be covered, but the basics are always provided first. Sometimes, after a person has been selling for a long time, they will say, “I don’t need to study that anymore. I know the basics already.”
In writing about his experience in one of the sales meetings, this trainer mentioned how people who are already in sales usually will not come to the seminar, but he noticed this one man who came to the seminar every year. He asked the man, “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do? I notice that you come to the seminar every year; are there any of your colleagues with you?”
“No,” the man replied, “I am here all by myself.” He explained that his colleagues could not be convinced that they needed to come to the seminar. The man who was speaking revealed that he was the top producer in his organization, and he felt the need to attend; the rest of the salesmen did not. He continued, “I feel the need at least every year to review the basics about salesmanship.” You know, people who forget the basics, even when they have a lot of experience, make a lot of crazy mistakes.
Jesus, speaking to His disciples, said, “Do you understand all of these things? They say to Him, Yes. And He says to them, On account of this, every scribe who has been instructed in the things of the kingdom of the heavens is like a man who is a householder which brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51, 52. As human beings, we have a natural tendency to want to hear the new, and that is not wrong, but sometimes we need to hear the old. We need to be sure that we do not forget the old things.
Who are you?
Who are you? How do you define yourself? If you are a Christian, if you believe the Bible, when someone asks who you are, the first thing that might come to your mind is what Genesis says. God and the Son had a conversation, and they said, “Let us make man in our own image and in our own likeness: . . . and so they created both male and female; they created man in the image of God.” Genesis 1:26, 27. Does it make a difference in your whole view of the universe and of yourself whether or not you think you are the son of God or the son of a monkey? Yes, it makes all the difference in the world. You see, in our educational system today, the children are being taught that they descended from animals. No wonder, then, that they act like animals!
More than this, it is not just that you have been created in the image of God, but if asked who you are, one of the answers that may come to mind is that you are a Christian. What is a Christian? A Christian is one who is Christ-like, who is following Jesus. Christians overcome the world. (See 1 John 5:4.) If you say that you are of Him, then you have to walk the way He walked, as John said. (See 1 John 2:6.)
In the Christian church, around the beginning of the fourth century, some people belonged to what they called the church universal—that is the Catholic Church. There arose a controversy between them and another group that were called the Donatists. The Donatists were a very interesting group of Christian people. The controversy with the Catholic Church centered on the point that the Donatists did not believe that the church should be associated with the state. They believed in separation of church and state, and they told the Catholic Church that they should not be using the Roman Government to try to get their way. The Catholic Church was in cahoots with the Roman Government of that day, and they actually arranged for the Roman Government to put pressure on the Donatists and to tell them that they could not call themselves Christians. You are Donatists, they said; you are not Christians. That has happened thousands of times since then, clear down to the present day.
Warning of Apostasy
As time went on, the early church fell away from the truth. This action was predicted in the New Testament. The New Testament writers repeatedly reminded the early church that the church was going to go into a terrible apostasy after the apostles’ death. Over and over again they repeated this warning. Peter told them point blank—all of 11 Peter is about the fact that apostasy was coming into the church after Peter died. In Acts 20, Paul told the elders from Ephesus the very same thing. After his departure, he said, grievous wolves are going to come in and not spare the flock.
As time went on, people who were studying the Bible saw such a discrepancy between what the Bible said and what the church was doing that they said to the people in the church that they were not the church but were idolaters. The whole world became a spiritual battlefield for hundreds of years. Eventually, well over a thousand years later, we see the development of the Protestant Reformation, which took place over a 200-year period. When we study the Protestant Reformation, we usually start at the days of Martin Luther in the early sixteenth century, but Ellen White says that John Wycliffe was the morning star of the Reformation, and he lived in the fourteenth century. (See The Great Controversy, 80.)
I not only call myself a Christian, I call myself a Protestant. Are you a Protestant? What does a Protestant believe? A Protestant is someone who protests the apostasy. That is how they got the name Protestant—they protested the apostasy.
In the Protestant Reformation, there were three major beliefs that they could not harmonize with the Catholic Church.
Priesthood of Believers
The New Testament writer who explains most fully the concept of the priesthood of believers is Peter, the man whom Catholics say was the first pope. The priesthood of believers is the idea that Christ is our great High Priest, and we do not have to go through a human priest to talk with Him, because we are all priests. Peter distinctly taught that.
If that is the case, then when I have done something wrong, I do not have to practice auricular confession. Auricular confession is the idea that you must go to a human priest and confess your sins. The early Reformers said that did not have to be done. They taught that the people could go directly to the Lord and confess their sins.
You may not know this, but auricular confession is one of the great power structures on which the Roman Catholic Church is built. The Roman Catholic Church today has more and better intelligence as to what is going on in every country of the world than any secular government. How? Because of auricular confession.
Protestants do not believe in auricular confession. We believe in the priesthood of believers. We are all priests, and we go to Jesus directly as our great High Priest.
Sola Scriptura is a Latin phrase that means Scripture alone; in other words, the Bible and the Bible only is our foundation of faith. The Protestant Reformation gave the Bible back to the common man. When people read the Bible before that time, they found so much that was different from what the Roman Catholic Church taught, that they accused the papacy, the church, of being an adulterer. The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible and tradition are the foundation of the Christian faith. But they essentially exalt tradition above the Bible. The church had to take the Bibles away from the people, or its foundation would have been destroyed.
When the Bible began to be printed, one of the vicars in London said, We will either have to destroy the printing press, or it will destroy us. But the Protestant Reformation gave the Bible back to the people in their own language. They determined that they would not have Bibles just in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, but that they would have Bibles in English and in German, and they translated the Bible in all of the different languages.
Sola Scriptura is still one of the basic differences between Protestants and Catholics. I have a very interesting Roman Catholic book, printed in 1999, which lists 21 points against Sola Scriptura. Unfortunately, most Adventists, even historic Adventists, do not know how to refute this book. We need to know why we believe in the principle of Sola Scriptura, which is the principle that the Bible, all by itself, can bring us to spiritual perfection and prepare us for the kingdom of heaven. From 11 Timothy 3:15 we know that the Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Roman Catholic book attempts to attack our position on this passage of Scripture, but the text still says the same thing. After being attacked, it is good to check to see if the Scriptures say exactly what we thought they said. This is how 11 Timothy continues: “Every Scripture is God-breathed [that is, given by inspiration of God] and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, thoroughly furnished [or fully equipped] for every good work.” Verses 16, 17. So the Protestant Reformation gave the Bible back to the people. Without it we have no foundation.
There is another principle in Latin, Sola Fide, which means by faith alone—we are saved by grace through faith alone. That was a major battlefield of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers showed from Scripture that the seven sacraments and the various penances, fastings, pilgrimages, and other good works that the Catholic Church taught as necessary for salvation actually hold no merit with God. We are saved by faith in the blood of Christ, not by any good works we can do.
I am still a Protestant. Not only a Christian, but also a Protestant. And I am not only a Protestant Christian; I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
Have you ever heard anyone say to someone else, “You are not a Seventh-day Adventist”? That happened to one of my church members. An Adventist pastor said to her, “You are not a Seventh-day Adventist.”
She said to him, “Show me what there is in the doctrinal beliefs, in the baptismal vows, that I do not believe. I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I have been a Seventh-day Adventist since before you were born.”
The pastor said, “No, you’re not an Adventist.”
“Why then do you say that I am not an Adventist?” He reasoned that she did not belong to the same church organization to which he belonged.
Do you know, that is exactly the same thing that was going on in the early fourth century when the Catholic Church said to the Donatists, You do not have the right to call yourself a Christian. Why did they tell them that? Because the Donatists did not belong to their church organization. I do not know why it took me so long to get this figured out, but I was reading my Bible a few years ago and all of a sudden Mark 9:38 jumped out at me, and I said, Of course, why didn’t I know that all along! It says, “And John gave answer to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw a certain person casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.’ ”
There are some churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, that make a big thing about whether or not your church is apostolic. Was this church the apostolic church? Yes, this was the 12 apostles themselves. They saw this person casting out demons in Christ’s name and they told the man not to do it, that he was not part of them, that he did not have permission to work miracles because he did not belong to the right church! He was not part of the right organization. Jesus did not agree with them. “Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him, for no one is able to do a miracle in my name and then is able quickly to speak against me or to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is on our side.’ ” Verses 39, 40.
That is what we call sectarianism—if you do not belong to our church organization then you are wrong; then you don’t have permission; you cannot call yourself a Christian; you cannot call yourself a Seventh-day Adventist; you cannot do this; and you cannot do that. The disciples had that problem, but the Lord corrected it. The Lord would still like to correct this problem.
If you do not know who you are, the devil is going to blow you away with the storm that is coming. You need to know who and what a Seventh-day Adventist really is. You see, before the end, the devil might put all kinds of names on us, just like he put all kinds of names on Jesus. Jesus was called “that deceiver” (Matthew 27:63); they said “He is working miracles by Beelzebub” (Luke 11:15–19), and Jesus told His disciples, “If they call the Master of the house Beelzebub, what are they going to do to His followers?” (Matthew 10:25.) So they might call us all sorts of things. No matter what name they put on you, who you are is determined by what is inside.
Where are you from?
From where do you come? The people in the world say that we come from a church that started in 1863. “My church is 2,000 years old,” they say. Well, my church is 6,000 years old! Yes, we come from the Adventist movement; we still believe what the pioneer Adventist preachers taught and preached; we still believe what Ellen White wrote; but from where did they come? At that time, that was the extent of the development of the Protestant Reformation. You see, the Protestant Reformation kept going on after the sixteenth century reformers died. The Protestant Reformation eventually developed into the Second Advent Movement. We are the outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation, and the Protestant Reformation is the outgrowth of what the Waldenses taught and of what the people of God taught all the way back to the apostles. You see, the thing that determines whether or not you are apostolic is what you are teaching. It is not whether you can say you can trace the head of your church back so many years.
The Jews could trace their church all the way back to Abraham, and they told Jesus, “ ‘Abraham is our father.’ [We know where we come from.] Jesus said to them, ‘If you were the children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham, but now you seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth, which I have heard from God. This Abraham did not do. You do the works of your father.’ Therefore they said to him, ‘We have not been born out of fornication; we have one father, even God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God was your father, you would love me, for I came out from God, neither did I come from myself, but he sent me. Why do you not know my speech? Because you are not able to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you wish to do. That one was a murderer from the beginning and did not abide in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie he speaks of his own, because he is a liar and the father of it.’ ” John 8:39–44. Jesus was teaching that our character shows where we come from. They said that they came from Abraham, but Jesus said, No, you did not; you came from the devil because you have the same character as the devil.
It is your character that determines your lineage, where you are from. The apostle John expressed it this way: “He who sins is of the devil.” 1 John 3:8. If I am living in sin, where am I from? Who is my spiritual father? The devil! Where is your lineage? There will be a group of people in the last days whose lineage will go all the way back to the beginning of time, and they will be called the sons of God, the children of God, because they keep the commandments of God and they accept and follow the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17). Friends, I want to be in that little group. Over and over again we are told that this will just be a little group. Jesus said it, and the apostles said it. Almost all of the world will be deceived, but there will be a little group who will be saved.
Where are you going?
What is your future? The Bible does not teach that we are all going to the same place. It does not even teach that all Christians are going to the same place. Are all Protestants going to the same place? No, they are not. Are all Seventh-day Adventists going to the same place? No, they are not. Ellen White says, “I was shown the startling fact that but a small portion of those who now profess the truth will be sanctified by it and be saved.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 608. Startling statement!
Where are you going? “Well,” someone says, “I go to the right church!” Does that make you go to the right place? No. “I belong to the right church organization!” Does that make you go to the right place? No. “Oh, but I believe the right doctrines.” Does that make you go to the right place? No. Well, where are you going, and how do you know you are going to get there? Ellen White said that she saw in vision that many of those who were on the broad road had written on their garments that they were dead to the world and that they were headed to the New Jerusalem, but they were on the broad road. Ibid., 128. Scripture says, “Enter in through the narrow gate, because wide is the gate and spacious [or broad] is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are which enter in through it. Because narrow is the gate and restricted is the way which leads to life, and few there are who find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14. “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens; but the one who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? And in Your name we cast out demons. And in Your name we did many powerful works [miracles]. Then I will confess to them, Never, at any time, did I know you: depart from Me, you who work lawlessness.” Verses 21–23. They thought they were going to heaven, but when they got to the end, they discovered that was not where they were going.
Do you know for sure where you are going? Are you praying to the Lord that you will not be deceived and have some kind of pretend religion? What determines where you are going? Your character determines your destiny. Jesus taught that over and over. The people who are not saved are the people who practice lawlessness.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life Ministry and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas.