Power of the Gospel

[Editor’s Note: This sermon was given at the Steps to Life Camp Meeting, July 2003. The conversational style of the speaker has been preserved.]

I read a little sign that I want you to think about. It got my attention when I drove by it recently: “Exposure to the Son will Prevent Burning.” Now think about that. It’s true! We all say don’t get in the sun or you’ll get burned, but this sign is talking about our need of exposure to Jesus Christ. Our exposure to Him will make sure that we don’t burn! So, friend, let’s contemplate that a little bit. We need some more exposure to the Son.

I would like to focus on the power of the gospel. I know I need it in my life, day by day. The church, God’s last-day people, needs power. Jesus is coming, and great signs and wonders will take place that will almost addle the mind. Yet we look for something inside of us. Lord, what is it that we need? What must we do to be saved? Where is this power of the gospel? What is it? How can we have this power? I look at the life of Christ and the disciples, and wherever they went, things happened. I want to be around things that are happening, manifestations of the power of God.

In 1904, Ellen White wrote something that you would think that we didn’t need to hear again, as Seventh-day Adventists. After all, we have the information, don’t we? We have it on the printed page, and we’ve read a lot of it, but friends, where is it finding place to lodge? We need not just the head knowledge but the heart knowledge. “The theme of redemption will employ the minds and tongues of the redeemed through everlasting ages.” Lift Him Up, 76. Notice the theme of redemption. If this theme of redemption is what we are going to think about through these ceaseless ages, don’t you think we need to be contemplating it now? Yes, if this is going to occupy our minds there, it needs to occupy our minds now, or we won’t be there for it to occupy our minds!

We think we know all of the answers to all the problems in the world, but what about this thing of redemption, the power of the gospel?

Why Hasn’t Jesus Come?

A very familiar paragraph in The Desire of Ages, on page 671, says, “The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity.” I’ve asked myself the question, “Why hasn’t Jesus come back?” Has anyone asked that lately? And then I happen to stand in front of the mirror, and maybe it answers the question. Isn’t that right? I can say that about myself, but you need to say it about yourself today. Right?

There has got to be a reason why He hasn’t come, because we know that He could have come shortly after 1844. [“Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!” Evangelism, 695, 696.]

So there must be something wrong. We can’t just say everything is fine, pat it, and keep going.

The Image of God

I am looking at what inspiration says: “The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity.” That’s awesome to me; how about you? It is an awesome thought to think that the very image of God is going to be reproduced in you and in me. How is this going to be accomplished? I know that it is going to be, but maybe when you look at your life today and when I look at my life, we see some of the weaknesses and characteristics that we are not so happy with, and ask, “Is this the very image of God?”

Why is it so important for the image of God to be reproduced in humanity? And really, who’s on trial here, anyway? Is it really you; is it really me? Who is really challenged in the very beginning—you, me, or God?

“The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” The Desire of Ages, 671. Think about it. The honor of God! God is being challenged. Jesus is being challenged. After all, there is going to be a people who are like Jesus. So God, as it were, is on trial. The enemy, Satan, says it is not going to happen, and you know what? He is going about making sure it is not happening, in a lot of cases. We say that we want to be like Jesus, and yet our lives show differently, in the way we talk, in the way we act, and in the way we conduct ourselves. Just looking at our own character today, is it the character of Jesus? Do you really have the mind of Christ today?

Friend, if not, then that is one of the reasons He has not come back. He is coming back after a people that is like Him.

Ignorant of Salvation

When we think about the theme of redemption all through the ceaseless ages, what do we need as a people now to better prepare us? What kind of instructions? What should we be dwelling on? What should we be spending our time on?

Testimonies, vol. 4, 394, puts it this way: “The people [of God] are more ignorant in regard to the plan of salvation and need more instruction upon this all-important subject than upon any other.” That is awesome to me. I thought, surely not Seventh-day Adventists, surely not you and me—we say we’ve been born-again and have a relationship with Jesus Christ; He is our Lord and our Saviour; He is our Friend; He is our Redeemer. We say we have the connection, but Ellen White says, “The people are more ignorant in regard to the plan of salvation.” You and I realize there is no excuse, because there is so much material right in God’s Word that talks about the plan of salvation. We think we know it, yet as a people, we ought to be studying it as we study the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is the heart of Adventism, is it not? In studying the earthly sanctuary and the message, we should better understand the plan of salvation. Somehow, God’s servant says, we have become ignorant on this subject. When I read that, I said, This is the servant of God, and we need to know more about it, because there is power in what we learn about salvation—power of the gospel.

Why would God’s servant say we were ignorant of these things? Why do we need to study more about it? Romans 10:2 says, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” Zeal is not going to do it! Now let me tell you, I like to see a zealous Christian, a happy Christian, an excited Christian. Do you think a Christian should be a little excited? Do you think a Christian should have a little zeal about them? There should be some excitement, some zeal, but it says here, “I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”

Verse 3 says, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Friend, I wonder today; have we really submitted ourselves unto the righteousness of God, or are we tiptoeing around, thinking that we have our own righteousness and that we are doing so well and that we have got everything where it should be? There is a problem with that, because the Bible tells us that we need to be ready, “for in such an hour as ye think not” the Son of man is going to come. Matthew 24:44.

In society today, you hear a lot of news about the belief that everything is going to be all right. The economy is getting better. Right now we [the United States] are going to police the whole world. We are hearing that we are going to have peace in the world. The Bible says, “. . . then sudden destruction cometh.” 1 Thessalonians 5:3. When everything seems to be stabilizing, look out! We live in that time of earth’s history. I understand more and more, day by day what God’s servant and what His Word mean, “Kenny, you just need to occupy for today, son. Do not get too excited about tomorrow, because you don’t have it yet.” After all, the Lord has those things in control; He is going to take care of our needs; we need to just occupy for today. (See Luke 19:13.)

Have we really submitted to Jesus Christ today in such a way in our hearts and our lives that if something should happen today, we are ready to meet Him? Friend, we need some more exposure to the Son! I am determined, by the grace of God, not to continue to be ignorant in regard to the plan of salvation, to not only know but also experience what it means to know Jesus. The more we preach the gospel and live the gospel, we are going to have the power of the gospel! “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Knowledge of Salvation

I’m wondering today if we, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, sometimes think, maybe, that it is foolish. We’ve got it; we understand it; we’ve read about it; we’ve experienced it; so just let’s leave it. Hosea 4:6 says that there is a people who is going to perish for a lack of knowledge. How could Seventh-day Adventists be lost because of a lack of knowledge, with all the things that we have? We have a wealth, a world of information. But are we using it? Are we utilizing it?

Luke 1: 77 says, “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” So part of the knowledge of salvation is experiencing the remission of sins in our lives. That’s important! If we have no sin, we are not going to worry so much, or we may think about salvation or the blood, and it is not important to us, because we feel we are so good. Verse 78 says, “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” We are here today by the mercy of God!

I have often asked myself the question, What is so wrong about feeling good about your relationship with Christ? Is there anything really wrong with feeling content? Could it be dangerous? Should we be striving for a better relationship? Or does there come a time where it plateaus, and we don’t need anything anymore; we’re all right; we have it all together?

Reasonably Good

We need to know we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, don’t we? If we don’t know if we have that connection, there is something wrong. But if we compare that relationship to somebody else’s, or we don’t feel we need any more, there can be trouble. Sometimes I think we have that problem, especially those that have been in Adventism for a lot of years. We can grow a little lukewarm. We think it is enough to be “reasonably good.” It is easier to be “reasonably good” than it is to be perfect.

But the Bible says we are to be perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. It doesn’t say be “reasonably good.” The person, who feels and thinks that “he is reasonably good, and is contented with his condition, does not seek to become a partaker of the grace and righteousness of Christ.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 7. Is there anyone today that thinks they are “reasonably good”? Have you become content with that condition?

Walk in Faith

Chapters 8 through 10 of Ephesians talk about the gift of grace. Abraham is spoken of in Genesis 15:6: “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” If I were to ask you today if you believe, how would you answer? If you really believe, it is counted to you for righteousness. How we need Christ’s righteousness today! We have nothing to offer, but when we come to Christ with that belief, He can do something with us.

When was the last time you really walked in faith—not the pocket-book talking, not the savings account talking, not all that stuff in the world talking, but really walked in faith? God wants us to walk in faith. “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17. “Without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet how many of us really walk in faith, believing God will take care of our needs? It is so important, in Adventism today, that we learn to trust God—trust that He can turn bad things around and make something good come out of them; trust Him when there is no money in the bank to pay the house payment, the car payment, the insurance, the taxes.

If we are going to be co-laborers with Him, we are going to have to have faith. The Bible also says, in Matthew 5:6, that we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Think about the things we hunger and thirst for in this life, and how much more important are the things of eternity.

Earthly Nature

I got to thinking a little about the earthly nature. People say that when they were baptized the old man was killed. That is what is supposed to happen. When you give your life to Jesus, and you go down into that watery grave, that’s where the old man stays. But how often we’ve looked and the old man has come back again. The old nature has come back, and what a struggle that is for every child of God. We need Jesus to keep the old man, the earthly nature, away. We need to understand the plan of salvation, the importance of His grace and strength, the power of the gospel.

The earthly nature is something we fight day by day. We fight it, because we are not totally surrendered to Christ. After baptism, we are still going to be tested and tried. Some want to know how big the battle is going to be. It depends on the kind of fight that you put up or whether you turn it over to Christ.

No Acceptable Excuses

I’ve heard people say, “I am impatient. I have been impatient all my life, and I guess I will be impatient until the Lord comes.” Well, look out now. I have heard some say, “I have a temper.” I have had Seventh-day Adventist Christians say, “You know I can’t control my tongue, I am a cusser. I’ve cussed all my life; I can’t seem to gain the victory, and I know the Lord understands.” Others have said, regarding a bad habit, “It is just something I was kind of born with, and I can’t really help it.” All these things are dealing with earthly nature. These things are part of the old man that is coming back. That is not of Jesus. Bitter and sweet water is not going to come out of the same mouth, out of the same stream. It has to be one way or the other. As long as we keep thinking it is okay, that we are “reasonably good,” we somehow convince ourselves that these things are natural, and we think everything is going to be all right. No! We have to be transformed. Christ’s character must be fully reproduced in us.

No excuses are acceptable. If you say you cannot change because this is the way you were born, heaven is not going to be your home. You are going to have to be born again.

In The Desire of Ages, 391, we read: “By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude.” [Emphasis supplied.]

The Word destroys the natural earthly nature. Friend, if the earthly nature has a hold on you today, there is nothing that you can do without the Holy Spirit. I don’t care how you were raised; I don’t care what happened to you. People say, “I am an abuser, because I was abused.” Come off of it! My Bible tells me that when you have been born again, all things become new. (11 Corinthians 5:17.) It doesn’t say some of them; it says, all things become new. Then when you give your life to Christ, it is no longer your mind but His. You can’t think the way you were thinking before. You can’t even respond the way you used to respond. You realize, if you have the mind of Christ, you can’t hate anybody. You can’t even dislike anybody. There are people I choose not to be around, but I have yet to meet an individual, and I think most of you would say the same thing, that I don’t want in heaven.

Get It Together

The Bible tells us, in Ephesians 6:17, that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. I like to think about the two-edged sword. Whichever way you swing it, it begins to cut and divide and to separate. Sometimes it separates you from family and friends in a way that you don’t understand, but the big challenge is to just accept it. Walking in the will of God and wanting to do what Jesus wants you to do, you just say, “Lord, I trust you. I have faith in you.”

God, in the last days, is going to use men and women and children to finish His work. I believe He may divide and separate them from their families. We’re going to have to cut loose of these earthly things, these things that slow us down.

“For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” Acts 22:15. The Word of God makes us a witness. Matthew 4:4 says, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We need to be listening to every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. But we have to do more than listen. Luke 11:28 says, “Blessed [are] they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” We have to hear and keep the sayings—not just doers only or just hearers only. We have got to get the whole thing together. We have to realize that as the Spirit comes into us it imparts life.

There is power in the gospel. There is power in the blood. They are powerful today. I don’t want to hear us say, “We don’t have power. We are just this little group over here.” The work will never be finished that way. I can guarantee the work is going to be finished, with or without you, with or without me. We are told, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:22. Colossians 3:16, 17 says that the Word needs to dwell in us. When the Word of God is dwelling and living inside of us, this old earthly nature is going to be destroyed.

A Living Force

How are we to present this gospel? God wants us to have zeal. He wants some of us who have never said “Amen” before to say “Amen.” Have you ever been so excited you couldn’t be quiet? If there is something in the world that you like, that you enjoy, you let everyone else know about it. This is what is needed. We need to have this zeal, this excitement for God!

Ellen White said it like this: “The gospel is to be presented, not as a lifeless theory, but as a living force to change the life. God would have His servants bear testimony to the fact that through His grace men may possess Christlikeness of character and may rejoice in the assurance of His great love. He would have us bear testimony to the fact that He cannot be satisfied until all who will accept salvation are reclaimed and reinstated in their holy privileges as His sons and daughters.” The Ministry of Healing, 99. How many lifeless sermons and theories do we hear from the pulpit nowadays?

The gospel of Christ I present to you today is the power of God unto salvation. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It’s a cross; it’s a glory; it’s the blood. I am thankful for it today. Without His promises, what could we do? What will we do in the hour of crisis, in the hour of test and trial? We need to hide the Word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against Him. (See Psalm 119:11.) The devil is going to bring every possible thing he can against God’s people in the last days. Friend, where will you stand? Where will I stand? I want heaven to be my home, how about you? I don’t want to have gone this far and somehow miss out on heaven, how about you?

You can make a difference, if you let the Spirit of God come in. He says to “Behold the Lamb.” John 1:29. Friend, please do it. Don’t behold individuals; don’t look to others today. Look to Jesus Christ, who is the Author and Finisher of your faith. Experience the power of the gospel. Remain faithful until Jesus comes.

Pastor Kenny Shelton is speaker for the television ministry of Behold the Lamb in Herrin, Illinois. He may be contacted by e-mail at: BTLM@GTE.net or by telephone at: 1-800-238-2856.