The Gospel in the Great Controversy

There are many who say, “I have heard this message before;” but I ask, “Why has it not changed you? Where are you spiritually?” In The Great Controversy, the chapter called “The Snares of Satan,” Satan does not care whether you are praying, studying or attending church so long as you remain in an indifferent, careless state. While Jesus is in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary ministering on our behalf, we have the opportunity to repent and be cleansed of our sins. It is during this time that Satan wants us to remain careless and indifferent. The time is very short. Many are hearing message after message and are being convicted but not being changed. Many will say that the message was so powerful and I am so convicted; I see my sin and I am going to get it right. After a few days, however, they return to the same condition as before the conviction.

Martin Luther and John Wesley had similar experiences in which they began to study the Word and had a desire to surrender but did not know how. As a result, they failed many times until they had an understanding of righteousness by faith and came to a point where they had to make a choice and count the cost. This is the experience of many Christians today.

In John 6:25–29, it says, “And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”

He goes on to say, “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Verse 40. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Verse 44. Jesus said, “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. This is that bread which came down from heaven.” Verses 48–58.

This group of disciples came to Christ after He had performed the miracle of the loaves and the people were filled. They came seeking another miracle and asked in verse 28, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” They were basically asking: “What can I do to secure my own salvation?” They wanted to know what work they could do to inherit heaven. Jesus was trying to tell them that there was nothing they could do. He said, “I am that bread that came down from heaven. Unless you eat of My flesh and drink of My blood you have no life in you. Those who eat of My flesh and drink of My blood, those are the ones that will be resurrected on the last day.”

To eat of the flesh and drink of the blood of Christ means to behold Him—to study the life of Jesus Christ and to live out that which you are reading. By beholding you become changed. Many of these individuals that heard what He said decided that it was too difficult to do these things and they left. Though they were called His disciples, they followed Him no more. Here was a crossroads. Jesus looked upon the few that remained and asked, “Are you going to leave as well?” They responded, “Lord where would we go?” (See John 6:67, 68.)

Each must make a decision. Each, as studying the word of God and seeing those things that are required of us, must sacrifice to drink of His blood. In the place of spending time with Him throughout the day, many would rather do a work or suffer punishment in a vain attempt to inherit eternal life.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a man that was very earnest and desired to know of God. As he began to read the Bible he became convicted.

“An earnest desire to be free from sin and to find peace with God led him at last to enter a cloister and devote himself to a monastic life. Here he was required to perform the lowest drudgery and to beg from house to house. He was at an age when respect and appreciation are most eagerly craved, and these menial offices were deeply mortifying to his natural feelings; but he patiently endured this humiliation, believing that it was necessary because of his sins.” The Great Controversy, 123.

He was trying to do a work in order to inherit salvation himself, but God was working with him.

“Every moment that could be spared from his daily duties he employed in study, robbing himself of sleep and grudging even the time spent at his scanty meals. Above everything else he delighted in the study of God’s word.” Ibid.

These things are examples for us. Everything that Luther experienced, we are going to experience. Luther’s experience needs to be ours. He delighted in the study of God’s word.

“He had found a Bible chained to the convent wall, and to this he often repaired. As his convictions of sin deepened, he sought by his own works to obtain pardon and peace. He led a most rigorous life, endeavoring by fasting, vigils, and scourgings to subdue the evils of his nature, from which the monastic life had brought no release. He shrank from no sacrifice by which he might attain to that purity of heart which would enable him to stand approved before God. ‘I was indeed a pious monk,’ he afterward said, ‘and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever monk could obtain heaven by his monkish works, I should certainly have been entitled to it. … If it had continued much longer, I should have carried my mortifications even to death.’ … As the result of this painful discipline he lost strength and suffered from fainting spasms, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. But with all his efforts his burdened soul found no relief. He was at last driven to the verge of despair.” Ibid.

Until Luther began to understand that it is by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ that one is fitted to accept the free gift of salvation, he did everything he could to secure his salvation. If he had stopped searching before that, he would have been lost, but he continued to search.

“When it appeared to Luther that all was lost, God raised up a friend and helper for him.” Ibid.

Pray for spiritual friends to walk with you! Do not be discouraged—whatever your situation. There are times God will allow things to happen in your life; you may experience discouragement, bitterness and trial so that you can see your need of Jesus Christ. Many do not see their need. If you are not searching and agonizing, what can He do for you?

God raised up a helper for Luther. “The pious Staupitz opened the word of God to Luther’s mind and bade him look away from himself, cease the contemplation of infinite punishment for the violation of God’s law, and look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. ‘Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life, in the atonement of His death. … Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor.’ ‘Love Him who first loved you.’ … Thus spoke this messenger of mercy. His words made a deep impression upon Luther’s mind. After many a struggle with long-cherished errors, he was enabled to grasp the truth, and peace came to his troubled soul.” Ibid., 123, 124.

Luther found the peace that God offers. Many are searching today but cannot find it because they are constantly looking at their sins and do not believe that Jesus pardons them personally. Focus on today and pray that God will give you His Holy Spirit and grace for today because you cannot do a work of a lifetime in one day. Do not focus on yourself. Look to Christ daily. Do not allow Satan to make you feel that you are not worthy. God came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

“To a friend of the Reformation Luther wrote: ‘We cannot attain to the understanding of Scripture either by study or by the intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His word. There is no other interpreter of the word of God than the Author of this word, as He Himself has said, “They shall be all taught of God.” Hope for nothing from your own labors, from your own understanding: trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has had experience.’ ” The Great Controversy, 132.

We are not to trust in intellect or human wisdom but in God. You need to believe that He will guide you into all truth. Ezekiel 36:25–27 says, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”

His judgments are His law. He wants to put in us His character. The Holy Spirit will cause us to walk in His statutes. God will write His law upon our hearts and that will cause us to walk in His ways. It was not until Luther had this understanding that he was truly converted.

“The Reformation did not, as many suppose, end with Luther. It is to be continued to the close of this world’s history. Luther had a great work to do in reflecting to others the light which God had permitted to shine upon him; yet he did not receive all the light which was to be given to the world. From that time to this, new light has been continually shining upon the Scriptures, and new truths have been constantly unfolding.” Ibid., 148, 149.

Luther did not have all the light—he had a small understanding. We have so much light with so many books yet many would rather read other literature. There is no excuse for those who have not read the Conflict Series or have not studied The Great Controversy. The messages they did not have then we have now. We need to be putting these principles into practice.

“From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation. There, with holy calmness, the servants of the Lord set their feet upon the rock of His promises. During the struggle at Augsburg, Luther ‘did not pass a day without devoting three hours at least to prayer, and they were hours selected from those the most favorable to study.’ In the privacy of his chamber he was heard to pour out his soul before God in words ‘full of adoration, fear, and hope, as when one speaks to a friend.’ ‘I know that Thou art our Father and our God,’ he said, ‘and that Thou wilt scatter the persecutors of Thy children; for Thou art Thyself endangered with us. All this matter is Thine, and it is only by Thy constraint that we have put our hands to it. Defend us, then, O Father!’ …” The Great Controversy, 210. [Emphasis added.]

There is no excuse for us to neglect prayer and study. We need to agonize over souls. The most polished instrument that Satan can use is an individual who is not converted, who does not pray, but appears to be a Christian. There are similar experiences like those disciples who left Christ after He said that the only way for salvation was to eat and to drink of Him. Those who stayed still struggled. They came to a full understanding when the Holy Spirit came and then they could teach others. In Acts 2:37 we see the response to their teaching: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” There it is again, “what shall we do?” Verses 38, 39: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

This is not just for them but for us. We need to fall on the Rock and be broken—we need to agonize even if we do not feel like it. Go to God and ask to be led to the Rock. If you have never experienced falling on the Rock and being broken, you will never experience repentance. You will never be converted and when Jesus comes, you will be lost.

John Wesley

Wesley had the same experience:

“Wesley and his associates were led to see that true religion is seated in the heart, and that God’s law extends to the thoughts as well as to the words and actions. Convinced of the necessity of holiness of heart, as well as correctness of outward deportment, they set out in earnest upon a new life. By the most diligent and prayerful efforts they endeavored to subdue the evils of the natural heart. They lived a life of self-denial, charity, and humiliation, observing with great rigor and exactness every measure which they thought could be helpful to them in obtaining what they most desired—that holiness which could secure the favor of God. But they did not obtain the object which they sought. In vain were their endeavors to free themselves from the condemnation of sin or to break its power. It was the same struggle which Luther had experienced in his cell at Erfurt. It was the same question which had tortured his soul—‘How should man be just before God?’ Job 9:2.” The Great Controversy, 254. [Emphasis added.]

This was the same experience that Luther had. Wesley had seen the righteousness of Christ and wanted to be holy.

“John and Charles Wesley, after being ordained to the ministry, were sent on a mission to America. On board the ship was a company of Moravians. Violent storms were encountered on the passage, and John Wesley, brought face to face with death, felt that he had not the assurance of peace with God. The Germans, on the contrary, manifested a calmness and trust to which he was a stranger. …

“In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sang on. I asked one of them afterwards, ‘Were you not afraid?’ He answered, ‘I thank God, no.’ I asked, ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’ He replied mildly, ‘No; our women and children are not afraid to die.’—Whitehead, Life of the Rev. John Wesley, page 10.” Ibid., 254, 255.

These were individuals believing they are about to die. Some were singing with the peace of God in their hearts while others were screaming. When you come face to face with death, at that time you will know that you are right with God or not. Life is short. Are you hid with Christ in God? John Wesley realized that he did not have the faith in God that he had witnessed among the Moravians.

“On his return to England, Wesley, under the instruction of a Moravian preacher, arrived at a clearer understanding of Bible faith. He was convinced that he must renounce all dependence upon his own works for salvation and must trust wholly to ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). At a meeting of the Moravian society in London a statement was read from Luther, describing the change which the Spirit of God works in the heart of the believer. As Wesley listened, faith was kindled in his soul. ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed,’ he says. ‘I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ ” Ibid., 255, 256.

He finally began to understand Bible faith and to know what it means to “behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” He now understood that it was not by looking to yourself or anything you can do but it is by faith in Jesus. With that faith abiding in you, obedience will become the fruit. You will love others because this is the result of abiding in Christ and spending time with Him.

“Through long years of wearisome and comfortless striving—years of rigorous self-denial, of reproach and humiliation—Wesley had steadfastly adhered to his one purpose of seeking God. Now he had found Him; and he found that the grace which he had toiled to win by prayers and fasts, by almsdeeds and self-abnegation, was a gift, ‘without money and without price.’

“Once established in the faith of Christ, his whole soul burned with the desire to spread everywhere a knowledge of the glorious gospel of God’s free grace.” Ibid., 256.

Once Wesley had a personal experience with God, he had the desire to share, and that must be your desire. You must have a true burden for souls. Do you understand what it means to cry between the porch and the altar?

“He continued his strict and self-denying life, not now as the ground, but the result of faith; not the root, but the fruit of holiness. The grace of God in Christ is the foundation of the Christian’s hope, and that grace will be manifested in obedience. Wesley’s life was devoted to the preaching of the great truths which he had received—justification through faith in the atoning blood of Christ, and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, bringing forth fruit in a life conformed to the example of Christ.” Ibid., 256. [Emphasis added.]

Jesus prayed all night because He had a love and a burden for souls. Wesley’s whole life changed because it was now being led by the Holy Spirit to a similar burden. We must understand that Christianity includes that burden and that love. When we really begin to understand the work going on in the heavenly sanctuary, God will give us new motives, new thoughts, new feelings. When we are in Christ we have become new.

“Wesley declared the perfect harmony of the law and the gospel. ‘There is, therefore, the closest connection that can be conceived, between the law and the gospel. On the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to, the gospel; on the other, the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbor, to be meek, humble, or holy. We feel that we are not sufficient for these things; yea, that “with man this is impossible” (Matthew 19:26); but we see a promise of God to give us that love, and to make us humble, meek, and holy: we lay hold of this gospel, of these glad tidings; it is done unto us according to our faith; and “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:4), through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ ” The Great Controversy, 263.

The law and the gospel are one. The law will show you your sins but it is not a remedy for your sins. It will convict but not convert. The law will point you to the gospel, which is Jesus Christ, and He will save you. His law will be fulfilled in us.

In many churches the law has been done away with—made void. When there is no law being upheld, no sin being shown, you cannot see Christ or the cross, or that the law cannot be fulfilled in us. Many want to feel good and not hear about sin. They want to be happy in their sinful condition, feeling that they are saved. The majority of Christianity believes that the law cannot be kept. This is a sad condition.

Many think that by going to church on Sabbath, wearing a long skirt, not eating meat, doing devotions, they are justified.

Galatians 2:16 says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

“To those who urged that ‘the preaching of the gospel answers all the ends of the law,’ Wesley replied: ‘This we utterly deny. It does not answer the very first end of the law, namely, the convincing men of sin, the awakening those who are still asleep on the brink of hell.’ The apostle Paul declares that ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20); ‘and not until man is convicted of sin, will he truly feel his need of the atoning blood of Christ. … ‘They that be whole,’ as our Lord Himself observes, ‘need not a physician, but they that are sick’ (Matthew 9:12). It is absurd, therefore, to offer a physician to them that are whole, or that at least imagine themselves so to be. You are first to convince them that they are sick; otherwise they will not thank you for your labor. It is equally absurd to offer Christ to them whose heart is whole, having never yet been broken.” Ibid., 264.

You need to show people that they have a need and are not ready to meet Christ; otherwise they will not accept your message because they think that they are good and have no need of Jesus. In Isaiah 50:4 it says, “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”

“At the close of his long life of more than fourscore years—above half a century spent in itinerant ministry—his [Wesley’s] avowed adherents numbered more than half a million souls. But the multitude that through his labors had been lifted from the ruin and degradation of sin to a higher and a purer life, and the number who by his teaching had attained to a deeper and richer experience, will never be known till the whole family of the redeemed shall be gathered into the kingdom of God. His life presents a lesson of priceless worth to every Christian. Would that the faith and humility, the untiring zeal, self-sacrifice, and devotion of this servant of Christ might be reflected in the churches of today!” The Great Controversy, 264.

One man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to win at least half a million souls to Jesus Christ!

We are at the last moment of earth’s history. Is it your experience right now that you are literally agonizing and praying for yourself and for others? The more we see what the condition of ourselves and God’s people are in, the more our time will be spent in prayer instead of looking for a fun church and fun things to do. Whatever you are doing you may incorporate God’s word, His Spirit of Prophecy, into your mind by listening to tapes or reading. Many get so caught up on social media and every other time-consuming habit that it cancels out the seed that God has placed within you and has no opportunity to germinate.

Ellen White said: “I had a dream once in which I saw a large company gathered together, and suddenly the heavens gathered blackness, the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed, and a voice louder than the heaviest peals of thunder, sounded through the heavens and the earth, saying, ‘It is done.’ Part of the company, with pallid faces, sprang forward with a wail of agony, crying out, ‘O, I am not ready.’ The question was asked, ‘Why are you not ready? Why have you not improved the opportunities I graciously gave you?’ I awoke with the cry ringing in my ears, ‘I am not ready; I am unsaved—lost! lost! eternally lost!’ ” The Youth’s Instructor, July 21, 1892.

Everyone will be speechless. There will be no excuses in that day. There were times when Ellen White said they were so burdened that they would pray for hours and hours until they felt in their soul that their burden was lifted and the peace of God came upon them. We need to know how to agonize as Jacob did. God is graciously allowing us this time. Probation is extended for you.

Luther and Wesley had to search until God showed them the way. Behold God, our loving Redeemer. Spend time with Him before time runs out.

Maria Cofer and her husband, John, have established a digital media company to create and promote video media teaching the unique message of Adventism using social media such as Facebook and YouTube. They are currently engaged in establishing training schools under the name, The Schools of the Prophets for the youth. She may be contacted via