As you read and study this article, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, How do I read God’s Word? Do you read to be able to win a biblical argument or to really know and understand what truth is? Do you let the Word of God speak for itself that you may be saved when Jesus comes?
We are saved individually, not in groups. Not understanding real truth can cost us eternal life.
The question was asked by a certain lawyer years ago, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer came by way of a question, “How readest thou?”
“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Luke 10:25–27.
We need to ask the question again: “What must I do to have eternal life?” The answer to the question is the same: “How readest thou?”
Do we just study the Word of God to gain knowledge of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy until we develop an “Excedrin headache”? Do we study to settle a theological question or to win an argument? On the other hand, do we study to have a converted knowledge of the saving power of God and Jesus Christ? Have we come to the point that we know Jesus personally? Have we come to know that, as The Song of Solomon 2:1 states, Jesus is “the rose of Sharon, [and] the lily of the valleys”?
In Revelation 22:16, Jesus states that He is “the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star.” Jesus is King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator, Redeemer, Saviour, Intercessor, and Friend—our only Hope. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. This same Saviour who ascended to heaven and is now sitting on the right hand of God, making intercession for us and preparing a place for you and me, is coming back soon! (Mark 16:19; Romans 8:34; John 14:1–3.) Oh! how we need to take a new look at the cross and fall in love with the wonderful Saviour.
Stop Playing Religion
We need to have a Damascus road experience, as did Saul, who had an experience with Jesus and became a true, converted worker for God. Saul became totally God’s man. We, as individuals, need the scales lifted from our eyes, so we can really see the lovely Jesus, our precious Redeemer.
“The Lord requires of all who profess to be his people, far more than they give him. He expects believers in Christ Jesus to reveal to the world, in word and deed, the Christianity that was exemplified in the life and character of the Redeemer. If the word of God is enshrined in their hearts, they will give a practical demonstration of the power and purity of the gospel. The testimony thus borne to the world is of much more value than sermons, or professions of godliness that do not reveal good works. Let those who name the name of Christ remember that individually they are making an impression favorable or unfavorable to Bible religion, on the minds of all with whom they come in contact.” The Southern Watchman, January 17, 1905.
“In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. Just such a work as that which John did, is to be carried on in these last days. The Lord is giving messages to his people, through the instruments he has chosen, and he would have all heed the admonitions and warnings he sends. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was, Repent, publicans and sinners; repent, Pharisees and Sadducees; ‘for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ’s soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear,—‘Prepare to meet thy God.’ ” Ibid., March 21, 1905.
Our message must be as direct as was that of John. He rebuked kings for their iniquity. Notwithstanding the peril his life was in, he never allowed truth to languish on his lips. Our work in this age must be as faithfully done.
It is time to stop playing religion, time to stop having merely a form or profession. Rather, we need to have a genuine, Damascus road, converted experience. It is time to get rid of pride, selfishness, and every other sin.
“It is written, Man”—each person individually—“shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.
What the world needs is Jesus; and we, as Seventh-day Adventists, need Him more than ever. Satan is, and will be, attacking you and me—the church—more than ever to get us to join his camp. We need to look at and study the cross. Jesus loved you and me so much He died for us. If we would just take time to capture the scene of the cross and understand the suffering He went through for each of us, we would see a revival and reformation, and our characters would be developed into the image of Christ. Oh, friend, let us become children of God.
A New Creature
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [him] no more. Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 11 Corinthians 5:14– 17.
Now, what does that mean?
“The love of Christ in the heart is what is needed. Self is in need of being crucified. When self is submerged in Christ, true love springs forth spontaneously. It is not an emotion or an impulse, but a decision of a sanctified will. It consists not in feeling, but in the transformation of the whole heart, soul, and character, which is dead to self and alive unto God. Our Lord and Saviour asks us to give ourselves to Him. Surrendering self to God is all He requires, giving ourselves to Him to be employed as He sees fit. Until we come to this point of surrender, we shall not work happily, usefully, or successfully anywhere (Letter 97, 1898).” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1100, 1101.
“When the soul is brought into close relationship with the great Author of light and truth, impressions are made upon it revealing its true position before God. Then self will die, pride will be laid low, and Christ will draw His own image in deeper lines upon the soul (MS 1a, 1890).” Ibid., 1099.
What Should We Do?
“How readest thou?” Do you read and study to be obedient overcomers, grateful for what Christ has done, so you can inherit a place in heaven? Or do you read to gain knowledge to establish opinionated, religious theologies or to win an argument?
Oh, how we need to look to the cross of Calvary and listen for the echoes of those who hated him and cried out, “Crucify Him; Crucify Him!”
In Matthew 22:29, we read, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” And Colossians 2:6–10 tells us, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
We need to note the meaning of verse 9 as explained by Ellen White: “ ‘In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.’ Men need to understand that Deity suffered and sank under the agonies of Calvary. Yet Jesus Christ whom God gave for the ransom of the world purchased the church with His own blood. The Majesty of heaven was made to suffer at the hands of religious zealots, who claimed to be the most enlightened people upon the face of the earth (MS 153, 1898).” Ibid., vol. 7, 907.
“Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:6. Mrs. White gives a very good explanation of this verse: “As you arose from the watery grave at the time of your baptism, you professed to be dead, and declared that your life was changed—hid with Christ in God. You claimed to be dead to sin, and cleansed from your hereditary and cultivated traits of evil. In going forward in the rite of baptism, you pledged yourselves before God to remain dead to sin. Your mouth was to remain a sanctified mouth, your tongue a converted tongue. You were to speak of God’s goodness, and to praise His holy name. Thus you were to be a great help and blessing to the church (MS 95, 1906).” Ibid., 908.
“We are to lift the cross, and follow the steps of Christ. Those who lift the cross will find that as they do this, the cross lifts them, giving them fortitude and courage, and pointing them to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” Review and Herald, July 13, 1905.
Jesus “said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. “These words are spoken to every one who desires to be a Christian. He who shuns the cross shuns the reward promised to the faithful (Letter 144, 1901).” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1120.
Beware of False Doctrine
The following quote from Mrs. White is especially powerful: “Satan has wrought with deceiving power, bringing in a multiplicity of errors that obscure truth. Error could not stand alone, and would soon become extinct, if it did not fasten itself like a parasite upon the tree of truth. Error draws its life from the truth of God. The traditions of men, like floating germs, attach themselves to the truth of God, and men regard them as a part of the truth. Through false doctrines Satan gains a foothold, and captivates the minds of men, causing them to hold theories that have no foundation in truth. Men boldly teach for doctrines the commandments of men, and as traditions pass on from age to age, they acquire a power over the human mind. But age does not make error truth, neither does its burdensome weight cause the plant of truth to become a parasite. The tree of truth bears its own genuine fruit, showing its true origin and nature. The parasite of error also bears its own fruit, and makes manifest that its character is diverse from the plant of heavenly origin (Letter 43, 1895).” Ibid., 1094, 1095.
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26.
Converted, Christ-based Religion
To only develop a form of religion is very dangerous, when we need a converted, Christ-based religion. Consider the following statements penned by Ellen White:
“The young man [the rich young ruler; see Matthew 19:16–22] . . . had cherished an idol in the soul; the world was his god. He professed to have kept the commandments, but he was destitute of the principle which is the very spirit and life of them all. He did not possess true love for God or man.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 392.
“He chose his riches before Jesus. He wanted eternal life, but would not receive into the soul that unselfish love which alone is life, and with sorrowful heart he turned away from Christ.” Ibid., 393.
“In the parable [Matthew 25:1–13], all the ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. All had lamps and vessels for oil. For a time there was seen no difference between them. So with the church that lives just before Christ’s second coming. All have a knowledge of the Scriptures. All have heard the message of Christ’s near approach, and confidently expect His appearing. But as in the parable, so it is now. A time of waiting intervenes, faith is tried; and when the cry is heard, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him,’ [verse 6] many are unready. They have no oil in their vessels with their lamps. They are destitute of the Holy Spirit.” Ibid., 408.
“The class represented by the foolish virgins are not hypocrites. They have a regard for the truth, they have advocated the truth, they are attracted to those who believe the truth; but they have not yielded themselves to the Holy Spirit’s working. They . . . have been content with a superficial work. They do not know God. They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him; therefore they do not know how to trust, how to look and live. Their service to God degenerates into a form. . . . The apostle Paul points out that this will be the special characteristic of those who live just before Christ’s second coming.” Ibid., 411.
“Saddest of all words that ever fell on mortal ear are those words of doom, ‘I know you not.’ [Matthew 25:12.]” Ibid., 413.
The Bottom Line
“Why cannot those who claim to understand the Scriptures, see that God’s requirement under grace is just the same he made in Eden,—perfect obedience to his law. In the Judgment, God will ask those who profess to be Christians, Why did you claim to believe in my Son, and continue to transgress my law? Who required this at your hands—to trample upon my rules of righteousness?” Review and Herald, September 21, 1886.
“How readest thou?” Are you sure where you will spend eternity? Have you made your election sure? What is the bottom line to be ready for Jesus’ soon return? We need a new spiritual vision. We need a new converted goal. We need a new conviction. We need a full conversion. We need a true, personal relationship with Jesus. We need to get ready for His soon coming.
I do not know of a better quote with which to close this study than the following:
“Many who profess sanctification are entirely ignorant of the work of grace upon the heart. When proved and tested, they are found to be like the self-righteous Pharisee. They will bear no contradiction. They lay aside reason and judgment, and depend wholly upon their feelings, basing their claims to sanctification upon emotions which they have at some time experienced. They are stubborn and perverse in urging their tenacious claims of holiness, giving many words, but bearing no precious fruit as proof. These professedly sanctified persons are not only deluding their own souls by their pretensions, but are exerting an influence to lead astray many who earnestly desire to conform to the will of God. They may be heard to reiterate again and again, ‘God leads me! God teaches me! I am living without sin!’ Many who come in contact with this spirit encounter a dark, mysterious something which they cannot comprehend. But it is that which is altogether unlike Christ, the only true pattern.
“Bible sanctification does not consist in strong emotion. Here is where many are led into error. They make feelings their criterion.” The Sanctified Life, 9, 10.
The Center of My Hope
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14.
“Remove the cross from the Christian and it is like blotting out the sun which illumines the day, and dropping the moon and the stars out of the firmament of the heavens at night. The cross of Christ brings us nigh to God, reconciling man to God, and God to man. The Father looks upon the cross, upon the suffering He has given His Son to endure in order to save the race from hopeless misery and to draw man to Himself. He looks upon it with the relenting compassion of a Father’s love. The cross has been almost lost sight of, but without the cross there is no connection with the Father, no unity with the Lamb in the midst of the throne in heaven, no welcome reception of the wandering who would return to the forsaken path of righteousness and truth, no hope for the transgressor in the day of judgment. Without the cross there is no means provided for overcoming the power of our strong foe. Every hope of the race hangs upon the cross. . . .
“Through the cross we learn that our heavenly Father loves us with an infinite and everlasting love, and draws us to Him with more than a mother’s yearning sympathy for a wayward child. Can we wonder that Paul exclaimed, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’? It is our privilege also to glory in the cross of Calvary, our privilege to give ourselves wholly to Him who gave Himself for us. Then with the light of love that shines from His face on ours, we shall go forth to reflect it to those in darkness.” Our High Calling, 46.
To be continued . . .
[All emphasis supplied.]
An ordained minister of the gospel, Howard Anderson, now retired, lives in Zellwood Station, Florida. He may be contacted by telephone at: 407-886-1951.