Our Greatest Need

As a preacher I am often contacted by people with suggestions to preach about certain subjects that they are concerned about. These suggestions are always the pet subject of the people who think everyone should agree with their interpretation on the subject. Identifying the king of the north, the identity of the 144,000, or how to apply certain aspects of health reform are just a few. Though these are important issues, they are not salvational issues.

The most important question anyone can ask himself or herself is, Am I ready for Jesus to come and am I going to spend eternity in the kingdom of heaven?

So, whatever view you hold concerning the king of the north, or concerning what constitutes appropriate dress, it will not do you any good if the Lord should come and you are not ready to meet Him.

As I pondered the reason why many professed Christians will not be ready for the Lord to come, I finally narrowed it down to just one big reason that covers a multitude of other reasons.

The One Who Overcomes 

The Bible teaches that if you are going to be ready for the Lord to come, you must be an overcomer. In Revelation 2 and 3 to all seven churches, which represents the whole Christian world for all time, salvation is promised only to the overcomer.

Revelation 21:5–7: “Then He Who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega [the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet], the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’ ” We see here that it is the one who overcomes who is going to inherit everything.

Salvation is for those who overcome. Today we are living in a pessimistic age, but the 19th century, in Ellen White’s time, was an age of optimism. I could hardly believe it and used to laugh as a child when my father would tell me how people used to talk. There were people who would actually stand in front of the mirror and say, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” They would repeat it believing that if they said it enough it would actually happen. It was believed that life would get better and better.

I thought, What trash! What craziness! How could people be so foolish in just one generation past? The fact of the matter is they lived in a time of optimism. Because of all the new inventions, they thought they could conquer disease and war and they thought they were going to live in a utopian society.

After a couple of world wars in the 20th century, confidence was destroyed. Since then we have become a very pessimistic people. Now people say to preachers, “I can’t overcome.” The preachers too are affected just like other people by the society in which they live and have adjusted their preaching to suit the tenor of what people think. This is where the doctrine of perfectionism came from. It is the idea that you just come to Christ and instantly you are perfect from that time on. Seventh-day Adventists do not believe in perfectionism, have never taught it, and Ellen White never endorsed that doctrine.

The pendulum has swung from the extreme view of the 19th century clear to another extreme wherein the people now say it is impossible to be perfect, although the Bible clearly teaches Christian perfection.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13)! All parents love to give good gifts to their children.

Why can’t People Overcome?

If that is the case, if indeed our heavenly Father wants to give His children the Holy Spirit, why is it then that these people cannot overcome? They have not received the Holy Spirit because they are unwilling to make an undivided commitment to God. Luke 14:33: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Unless you are willing to make an unreserved, undivided commitment to God, to follow Him and to obey Him, you cannot receive the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will continue pleading with you; however, cannot work in your life contrary to your will. We need to understand that the Holy Spirit will never work contrary to your will and in order to work in your life, your will has to be totally surrendered to God.

Without full surrender and total commitment, you become stuck. That is why people get discouraged in their Christian walk. They say, “I can’t overcome,” which is true without the Holy Spirit. Why don’t they have the Holy Spirit? Because they have not made an undivided, unreserved surrender to God. Now we could go one step further and ask why they have not made an undivided, unreserved surrender to God. If that is the way you get the Holy Spirit, why don’t people do it?

The reason people are not willing to make an undivided commitment, to give their undivided affections to God is because they don’t know Him. Therefore, they don’t love Him and they don’t trust Him. How can you make an unreserved surrender to somebody that you don’t know, and you don’t trust, and you don’t love?

Would you want to marry somebody you do not know, do not love and do not trust? Of course not. People do not know, love and trust God because they lack faith. Ellen White says, “Every failure on the part of the children of God is due to their lack of faith.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 657. It doesn’t matter how weak you are, how sinful you are, or whatever your problem is; if you have faith in God and understand the plan of salvation, He is going to make it work out in your life.

Every failure on the part of the children of God is because of their lack of faith. The disciples came to the Lord one time and they said, “… Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

Romans 10:6–17 explains why there are some people that do not have any faith. If you do not have faith, then you do not know God and cannot make a commitment. You are stuck and cannot receive the Holy Spirit.

Verse 17 tells how to get the faith you need so that you can be saved. It says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It is never the wrong time to decide that it is time to get serious about knowing God and learning how to get the faith that you need, so that you can make the commitment to Him and receive the Holy Spirit. Thus the plan of salvation can work out in your life.

Start by reading the Bible through. Maybe you have done this before, but each time you read, you will find some new treasure that you had previously missed. Learn the principles found in God’s word regarding life and then apply the principles to your own life.

Some people have read the whole Bible several times, concentrating on certain chapters. However, it is not enough just to read. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” David memorized Scripture passages that would come to his mind readily when they were needed.

Many people find temptations irresistible. When the devil comes at them with temptations they do not have any weapons with which to fight him. Temptations often appear irresistible because, through neglect of prayer and the study of the Bible, the tempted one cannot readily remember God’s promises and meet Satan with the weapons of Scripture.

When the devil came to Jesus in the wilderness of temptation, His only defense was the word of God. Scripture that He had previously committed to memory was His only weapon against His wily foe.

Scripture memorization Suggestions

If you want to win in your Christian life, it would be beneficial to have some scriptures memorized. Here are a few suggestions:

The Sermon on the Mount – The length of this passage may be scary for some people, being three chapters, but most people have memorized part of it anyway. Most people can say the Lord’s Prayer which is part of that sermon. The Golden Rule is also a part and can be found in Matthew 7:12. Jesus said, “… do to others the way you’d like them to do to you.” I think about that scripture often. I am convinced that if I do not learn to do to others the way I would like for them to do to me, I will not be in the kingdom of heaven. That same principle is also taught throughout the writings of Ellen White.

Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifies in very clear language that anyone can understand who will be saved and who will be lost. Jesus also spoke there about the ten commandments. It would do well to memorize the whole sermon.

Remember, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. When you put the word of God (Romans 10:17) in your mind, it has an effect on the way you think and the way you feel, and it starts having an effect on the way you act. It enables you to make an unreserved surrender to the Lord and to receive the Holy Spirit. Thus you start having victory in your life over bad habits.

The Love Chapter – Another passage worth memorizing is I Corinthians 13. It is wonderful to recite to yourself these passages about love. Read them in different translations. Once while a guest in someone’s home I was asked to share for morning worship with them. I had my Greek New Testament with me so I just read to them a literal translation of I Corinthians 13 and we were all blessed. It is one of the most important chapters for a Christian to understand. Paul spells out 15 different characteristics of love, all of which should be manifest in the life of each Christian.

The Ten Commandments – These should be memorized with an understanding of every word. It is also beneficial to know where all 10 of them are repeated in the New Testament. Interestingly, each time they are mentioned they are repeated as a divine obligation. Someday we might have to answer to that in a court of justice.

The Three Angels’ Messages – These messages are the very reason that Seventh-day Adventists exist. It is these three final messages that have to be sounded to the world before the Lord can return. They contain God’s last invitation of mercy to a planet that is in rebellion. And as we approach the end of the world, the eternal destiny of every single person in the world will be determined by whether that person accepts or rejects the warnings therein.

Have you carefully noticed the final instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples before the crucifixion? This instruction is so important, so precious and so wonderfully recorded in John chapters 13 to 17 that it would do well to commit to memory. If you are feeling a little weak-minded at the length of the passage just remember that the Waldensian young people would memorize the whole gospels of Matthew and John.

John 17 is one of the clearest chapters in the whole Bible that describes the mediatorial work of Christ in our behalf in heaven. Here we get a preview of what He was going to do after His resurrection.

Make sure your life is in harmony with the divine commands given to Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1. In a sermon recorded in Romans 12, Paul describes 40 different characteristics that identify Christian living. He also elaborates the practices that, if continued, will bar you from the kingdom of God. These can be found in I Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:3–6; Colossians 3:5, 6; Romans 1:28–32; Romans 2:8, 9 and Galatians 5:19–21.

Peter’s Ladder – 2 Peter 1:3–7 describes the Christian growth in the form of a ladder.

The disciple described as the one whom Jesus loved teaches the way to develop the grace of brotherly love in I John 2:2–5.

And finally, James admonishes in James 3 the importance of getting control of the littlest member of the body that often gets us in so much trouble. Whoever can control his tongue will be able to overcome other character defects. There will be a group of people who will overcome and be like those described in these scriptures. The Lord has promised to have a group of people at the end who are without fault before the throne of God. John said it in Revelation 14:5. Paul talked about it in Ephesians 5. Jesus talked about it and all the apostles talked about it and we are living in the time when it is going to happen. The question is, Am I going to be part of it?

Toward the end of James’ book, after he had given much instruction for being ready for judgment, he says to the people, especially for those who live in the last days: “… the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9)!

Dear friends, Jesus came to this world to save you, to save every member of the human race who is willing to be saved. He came to this world the first time as a Saviour and not a judge. But let me tell you something. When He comes the second time, He is not coming as a Saviour; He is coming as a judge. All cases will have been decided before He leaves the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. You will already have been saved or you will never be saved. There is no second chance. That time is rapidly approaching.

Before the door of mercy shuts, it would be well for us to say, “Lord, I am serious. I am going to pray every day. I am going to study Your word every day. I am going to seek to bring my life into harmony with what I read in Your Book. I am going to make an unreserved commitment. Lord, I want to receive the Holy Spirit so that I can have victory in my life.”

He is calling to us today, pleading with us to return into His fold where there is safety. The Lord never fails to do His part when we approach Him in sincerity and repentance.

(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 of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.