What Does God Really Mean?

The Sabbath is a time for reflection, a time to stop and consider whether we are gaining ground and better prepared for that pure kingdom in which no transgressor will enter. Are we better prepared today than we were last Sabbath? It is a time to consider how it is with my soul. Has the past week been a week of spiritual gain, or a week of spiritual loss?

Jesus Christ came to this world to give us a pattern of how to live. In The Upward Look, 184, it says, “Christ came to the earth to give to men the pattern of the perfect character that all must obtain who would be welcomed to the future heavenly world.”

Most Christians believe that if you come to the Lord and confess Him as your Saviour from sin, the battle is won and you are saved. However, the truth is that you are saved if you don’t turn your back on Him. Jesus has promised to save the repentant sinner and deliver him from his sins so that his character might reflect His own. Matthew 1:21 says, “… and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Character reflects who you are, not just what you profess. A perfect character is one that is Christ-like. When the Lord returns, He is coming for His pure church, described as “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27 RSV). It will be “holy and without blemish.” Ibid.

Many believe they will continue in their bad habits and sin until the return of Jesus and miraculously those things will somehow be taken away in a flash of light. There is no magic button to eliminate sin. Our best efforts to transform our own lives will never be good enough. So how can we obtain that perfect character? The following statement explains the process:

“God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. If the professed people of God find their hearts opposed to this straight work, it should convince them that they have a work to do to overcome, if they would not be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord. Said the angel: ‘God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 1, 187.

If you are one of God’s children, this will be your experience. Do not be discouraged when it does not happen in an instance. It is a process. God is going to bring various situations to you for you to grow in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not many people like tests, but they are very important. You would never want to fly on an airplane with a pilot who had not been tested and proven worthy to fly. You would never want to have surgery by a surgeon who had not been tested and proven that he is fit to operate on you. I hope you would not want an accountant to keep your books who had not been tested. Tests are necessary for us to know our true condition and to get us from where we are to where we need to be.

“ ‘God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.’ Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol.” Ibid.

On the Christian journey, you will meet many trials or tests. When you conquer on one point and keep walking with the Lord, you will find another temptation will come your way. This is the way life is, a continual battle with trials and tests. However, you need never face these tests and temptations alone. You may come to a place where you think you can not go any farther. “I can’t do that,” you may think to yourself. When that happens, you stop right there and do not advance until you overcome that trial. The Lord may bring you around and give you that same test again; each time it becomes more difficult but He wants to save you.

Jesus talked about this situation in John 12:35, 36: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light.’ ”

We do not know just how much time we have in this life and it is therefore dangerous to reject opportunities to know Jesus. Walk in the light, because the light is moving and pretty soon it will be dark.

“Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: ‘They are joined to their idols, let them alone,’ and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 187.

God is in the process of perfecting, of purifying His church. If the people in that church will not allow it to happen, then the angels will pass on and let them go.

Ellen White wrote, “Will the church that professes to keep the commandments of God keep them in truth?” The Present Truth, January 26, 1893. The church that professes to keep the commandments of God is the Seventh-day Adventist church, the Free Seventh-day Adventist churches, the Reformed Seventh-day Adventist church, the Advent Christian Church, and the Church of God, Seventh-day. All of those churches claim, and profess, and say, “We are commandment keepers.” But are they really?

We know from Bible prophecy that at the end of time there is going to be an attack against all commandment keepers. But that attack is not going to come from the true church.

In The Signs of the Times, April 22, 1889, it says, “… it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God’s precepts.”

If you really love Jesus, you will love the law of God. Jesus said He delighteth in the law of God (Psalm 40:8). When God’s law is written in a person’s heart, that person will not be fighting somebody else who is a commandment keeper.

There are many learned people, professional people and even ministers with doctorates who do not know the spiritual meaning of the ten commandments, even though it is not complicated. It is appalling that so many Seventh-day Adventists could be so far off in their understanding when we have so much information. In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, 305, Ellen White goes through each one of the commandments explaining in exquisite detail their spiritual meaning.

Regarding the first commandment, she wrote, “Man is forbidden to give to any other object the first place in his affections or his service.” Many men and women are guilty of violating this commandment while making gods of their spouses. The Creator is to have the first place in our affections.

It was reported that Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, elected in 1952 and president until 1961, once said to his wife Mamie that she had the third place in his affections. The reporter did not say what or how she responded. Eisenhower told her that his first allegiance was to the God of heaven. Secondly, his allegiance was to his country, and she was third.

Whatever you think about his statement, President Eisenhower at least was not breaking the first commandment if in reality he acted in accordance with his statement. “Whatever we cherish that tends to lessen our love for God or to interfere with the service due Him, of that do we make a god.” Ibid.

The second commandment is about images. Remember, to have a perfect character, God’s commandments will be written in my heart and my mind. I will live my thoughts. My speech and my actions will be in perfect harmony with God’s precepts. This commandment forbids the use of images in the worship of God.

Most people who do use images in their worship will tell you that they do not worship the images but just use them as a visual representation of God to enhance their worship. That is what all educated heathen have said for thousands of years.

Roman Catholics or those from the Greek Orthodox church will all tell you that they do not worship their images. However, the second commandment forbids the making of them and also bowing down to them. When I read the Roman Catholic literature about this, it states that they don’t worship the virgin Mary; they just “adore” her. The problem is that this is a violation of the second commandment.

The third commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). There are many people who will tell you they never violate the third commandment, when they are violating it every day of their lives, because they have not studied out what it truly means. Obviously, it refers to false oaths or to common swearing. Everybody understands that, but is that all it means?

Using the name of God in a light, careless manner or thoughtlessly mentioning the name of God in common conversation is breaking the third commandment. Imagine having a conversation with someone and every other sentence you say that person’s name and then about twenty words later you say their name again, and then again. After you have said that name about fifteen times it would sound really strange, but there are people who, when they pray, say God’s name every other sentence, over and over, ten or twenty times. Ask yourself the question, Is that polite? We should treat God with courtesy and kindness in accordance with the third commandment. Do we make appeals to Him in trivial matters, by frequent and thoughtless repetition of His name? Also, burning words of passion are written down in heaven as a species of swearing which is breaking the third commandment.

The fourth commandment, the longest commandment, is the one that Adventists are known for more than any of the others. People who know almost nothing about Seventh-day Adventists, will often times know that they keep the seventh-day Sabbath.

The command is to keep the Sabbath holy. Have you ever thought that through and realized that it is impossible to keep the Sabbath holy unless you are a holy person? God has told us that the Sabbath is a sign between Him and us and that He will make us holy. I love that promise found in Ezekiel 20:12 and in Exodus 31:13.

When our children were small, especially on Friday evening, my wife and I used to gather our family together, and I would claim those promises for my family. I would pray, “Lord, You have promised that if we would keep this day to You, that You would make us holy. You have promised, Lord. We can’t make ourselves holy, but You have promised that if we do this, and you can see that we have laid aside all of our secular business, You have promised us that if we do this, You will make us holy.”

Sabbath keeping involves more than physical preparation. In Isaiah 58:12–14 it says, “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell in.” Daniel 11 speaks of a power that is going to make a breach of God’s people. This power was mentioned in Daniel 11:13 and 14 several hundred years before it came into existence. However, Isaiah prophesied that God’s people in the last days are going to repair that breach.

Isaiah 58:13 says, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words …”

This has been one of the most difficult things that I have ever faced as a Seventh-day Adventist minister, because it is very difficult and gut-wrenching to me to have to rebuke somebody. I don’t like to do it. I don’t want to do it. The Spirit of Prophecy has given us instructions that ministers are to rebuke those who speak their own words on the Sabbath. I often say to myself, “Lord, do You want me to say something now, or do You want me to just change the conversation? What do I do in this situation?”

Ellen White writes about this in Patriarchs and Prophets, 307, where she says, “Those who discuss business matters or lay plans on the Sabbath are regarded by God as though engaged in the actual transaction of business. To keep the Sabbath holy, we should not even allow our minds to dwell upon things of a worldly character.”

Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, literal translation). Are you really a Sabbath keeper? Is your mind keeping the Sabbath? We have some praying to do when our mind wanders onto all sorts of worldly business or pleasure on the Sabbath.

The fifth commandment says that there is a duty of respect and love due to our parents that are due to no other person. Disobedience to parents is one of the signs of the last days, according to 2 Timothy 3. Because of the complicated situations that some children are in today, there needs to be an explanation. In Ephesians 6:1, the New Testament puts a qualification on the fifth commandment. It says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” That means that if your parent commands you to do something that is in violation of the ten commandments, you are not to obey, because your earthly father does not have more authority than your heavenly father. However, even in that situation, we should ask the Lord to teach us and show us how to bring honor to even our ungodly parents. Who knows that if you keep the fifth commandment, and show honor and respect to your ungodly parent, maybe you will be able to save them in the kingdom of heaven.

The sixth commandment in the Hebrew language is only four words, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Most people would not even think to break that one. However, there are many ways this is violated. In the book, Patriarchs and Prophets, 308, Ellen White mentions eight different ways people constantly break this commandment. They include:

  • all acts of injustice that tend to shorten life
  • a spirit of revenge
  • a spirit of hatred
  • the indulgence of any passion that leads to injurious acts towards others, or causes us even to wish them harm
  • the selfish neglect of caring for the needy or suffering
  • self-indulgence
  • unnecessary deprivation
  • excessive labor that tends to injure health

A person may not murder or kill anyone but they continually violate the commandment by holding onto habits that will shorten their life. Research shows that by smoking just one cigarette, you are shortening your life by at least six minutes. To abuse health principles knowingly is to be in violation of the sixth commandment.

The seventh commandment is also short and to the point. “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Everybody knows this refers to acts of impurity, but it extends to sensual thoughts and desires, or any practice that tends to excite. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 308.) Many believe that you can think whatever you want as long as you do not act on it. That may be what the world thinks, but it is not what the Lord thinks. Today, there is so much entertainment available that stimulates sensual desire. People willingly engage in it and then wonder why they cannot control their thoughts.

Then we are commanded not to steal. This is also huge. It includes kidnapping or man stealing. Surely it includes slave dealing. No human being has a right to make a slave of another human being. It surely would forbid wars of conquest, which is one of the main causes of wars. The other main cause is difference of religion.

The eighth commandment forbids the overreaching in trade, which is almost universal in our society. It seems everybody wants to buy something for less than it is worth, and they want to sell it for more than it’s worth. When buying and selling, ask the Lord to help you know what is fair and what is right, and not take advantage of anyone.

In regard to the payment of just debts or wages, we are told that, “… every attempt to advantage oneself by the ignorance, weakness, or misfortune of another is registered as fraud in the books of heaven.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 309. In this society, to buy goods for ten cents on the dollar is called a fire sale, but be careful not to take advantage of someone in need. You would not want that on your page in the books of heaven.

The ninth commandment forbids false speaking, or the attempt to deceive. There is more to this than what I do with my tongue. You can break this law without saying a thing by just a glance of the eye, a motion of the hand, an expression of the countenance. A falsehood may thus be told just as effectively as with the tongue. Intentional overstatements, any hint or insinuation calculated to convey an erroneous or exaggerated expression or statement of facts in such a manner as to mislead, is a falsehood.

Any effort to injure my neighbor’s reputation by misrepresentation or by evil surmising, or by slander, or by tale bearing, breaks this law. In fact, just by being silent, thereby suppressing the truth, is dishonest.

The tenth commandment reaches down to the root of every sin there is. The selfish desire is what is wrong. Are you praying that the Lord will divest you from selfishness?

We are told: “Let our daily prayer go up to God that He will divest us of selfishness.” Our High Calling, 242. The Lord would not tell me to pray about something every day if I didn’t have a problem.

“Jesus said, ‘The Father has not left Me alone, because I do always those things that please Him’ ” (John 8:29, literal translation). This infuriated the Jews to the point that they wanted to kill Him.

When Jesus comes again, He is going to have a church, a people of whom He can say, They always do what pleases Me. Make it your goal to be part of that church, part of that group of people.

Jesus said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments” (John 15:10).

He invited His disciples to have the very same experience that He had and that invitation is still open today. Your past may all be a jumble of one sin after another, but the Lord wants to deliver you from your guilt and give you a new heart, a new spirit, and a new life. When He comes, He wants to be able to say about you, “That person always does what pleases Me. My law is written in his heart.” That is the promise of the new covenant.

We each need to have that experience for ourselves. We are not saved as families; we are saved as individuals. The fact that your mother, your father, your son, or your daughter is saved has nothing to do with whether or not you are going to be saved. It is wholly between you and the Lord.

Do you want that law written in your heart, so that when Jesus comes He will be able to say that you always do what pleases Him? The law of God tells you what pleases Him. Pray that these principles may be written in all of our hearts.

(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: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.