All of those who are chosen (Matthew 22:14) to enter the kingdom of heaven will be able to give the correct answer to each one of the following six questions that are found in order in Selected Messages, vol. 3, 419. Some of them can be answered with a simple yes or no.
These are questions or inquiries that Ellen White says each one of us should ask ourself.
1 To whom do I belong?
On the surface this appears to be an easy question for a Christian to answer, but delve a little deeper and the answer might be surprisingly different. Christians will always say that they belong to the Lord, but John says, “He who sins is of the devil.” I John 3:8. It matters not what we claim. If we continue to live in sin, the Bible says that we belong to the devil.
The devil has only one rule under his government—to break the law of God. He does not care which part is broken. Jesus had a controversy with the Jews on this very point. They claimed God as their father, but Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44. The character of the Jews mirrored the devil. Jesus pointed out two commandments that the devil broke from the beginning; he was a murderer and also he was a liar. As Jesus was speaking, the Jews were contemplating murdering Him. While telling lies about Him, accusing Him of casting out the evil spirits by the prince of spirits—Beelzebub—they took up stones to stone Him. This confrontation occurred right after the feeding of the five thousand when the whole area of Galilee, in addition to Judea, had turned against Christ. (See John 6.) False reports were spread about Him all over the country, and so much hatred was stirred up against Jesus that His life was in danger. Their actions proved that God was not their father, but they were of the devil.
Angels of God do not get into any argument with the devil over those who are living in sin, for the devil rightly claims them as his children. But praise God that probation has not closed yet, and these people caught in Satan’s web can still repent and choose to turn around and follow the Lord. However, those who continue in sin will develop a character like the devil.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” I John 5:4. “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” Verse 18. “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his bother.” I John 3:9, 10. The evidence that proves who is a child of God and who is a child of the devil is the way a person lives.
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” I John 4:4–6.
2 To whom do I owe allegiance?
In Romans 6:15–23, it says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness, I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Notice, there are some people who are unconverted and slaves of sin and they will tell you they cannot overcome certain sins. That is true. They are slaves of sin. The Bible is very clear that we of ourselves cannot overcome unless the Lord works a divine miracle in our life. In Isaiah 43:27, we are told, “Your first father sinned.” So, because of that, we have a fallen, sinful nature and of ourselves we cannot give our allegiance to God, even though we owe it to Him. As it says, there was a time when you were perfectly free from righteousness, but you were slaves of sin. But now, when you become a Christian, you’ve become slaves of righteousness and set free from sin.
Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8:34. “A slave does not abide in the house forever [meaning eternal life], but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Verses 35, 36. The work of the gospel is to set sinners free from their sins and then their allegiance would be given to the One who set them free.
3 Is my heart renewed?
Jesus referred to this subject when he had his secret meeting with Nicodemus. He said, “Unless one is born again,” or unless you are born from above, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Nicodemus could not figure that out and became sarcastic. He said, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Verse 4.
Jesus replied in stronger language, explaining it more clearly. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Verse 5. To be born again is to have a renewal of the heart.
The born again experience is spoken of as a necessity for salvation in both the Old and New Testament. David, because of his adultery with Bathsheba and the consequent killing of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and afraid that he had committed the unpardonable sin, pled with God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He said, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:10, 11.
David wanted to be born again. He realized that his heart was wicked. To preach in prison to a rapist, or a person incarcerated for capital murder, those people do not question their need to be born again; they know that they are sinners. However, people who have not been involved in some criminal activity, comparing their spirituality against other people, are often inclined to say, “Well, I’m OK. I could improve a little, but I’m no worse than …”
The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” The Hebrew word used there means incurable. The carnal heart is so bad that it cannot be cured without a divine miracle. A person with this wicked heart and a weak will and sinful mind cannot keep the law of God and live a righteous life. He cannot go to heaven in that condition. He must be born again and become a new creation. Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” II Corinthians 5:17. This is a very important question for each of us to ask of ourself, Have I been born again?
It’s not enough that my wife or husband has been born again, or my parents or my children, or anybody else. The question is, Have I been born again? We are not saved as groups; we are saved as individuals. Each individual must ask himself these questions: Am I born again? Has my heart been renewed? Say like David, “I need a new spirit, I need a new heart. Lord, create me anew.” He realized that he could not just make an improvement, but that he needed a new heart, a converted heart and a new spirit. He needed God to create in him something that he did not have. Conversion is being a new creation and not just an improvement of the old self. It is a new creation that happens by divine power and until that happens, Christianity doesn’t work.
Many people think it is too hard to be a Christian because it seems to them that there are so many things they can’t do. The carnal heart is in opposition to God’s ways, but with a new heart, the things they used to hate, they will now love, and what they used to love, they hate. Paul describes it this way: “You put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22–24.
Notice, he talks about a new spirit, a new man, a new person. Look at Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Has your spirit, your mind been renewed? Titus 3:3–7 says, “We ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The regeneration here mentioned means to bring something to life again. The question needs to be asked, Is my heart renewed?
4 Is my soul reformed?
It is not enough to stop after a revival. A revival has to do with the renewing of the heart, being born again, but reformation, which is a reforming or a changing of the life follows it. Reformation is to follow revival to be beneficial. In the book of Isaiah 1:16–18, it says, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. [That could be translated, Go to court for the widow (people who are in trouble, like widows and orphans, need somebody to defend them before the law to see that they get what they need).] ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ ”
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, addresses having a reformation in their lives. He said, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry and do no sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:25–29. He talks about forsaking all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, evil speaking, and malice, and then he says, in verse 32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” It is not enough for the heart to be renewed; it must be followed by a reformation in the life to live with a Christlike character. Through the power of the Holy Spirit it is possible to live a new life, one that is Christlike, in harmony with the law of God. “That you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” I Thessalonians 4:12.
Reformation is essential, because the world at large is studying and watching how Christians live. One reason that evangelism is so powerless to bring people into the church today is because of how people perceive professed Christians. If they are not Christlike, they see a contradiction and have no attraction to the church. The world is watching!
When the Lord has a people who reflect the character of Christ, He will use them to finish His work in a very short time. In the upper room before Pentecost, there were only 120 faithful followers, and within 20 years there was a church right in Rome itself. Within approximately 25 years after that time, the apostle Paul said the gospel had been preached to every creature, all over the world. There were no airplanes, cars or trains, and the ships then did not have diesel engines to take them across the water at 30 miles-an-hour like we have today. There were no telephones, Internet or newspapers or the means of mass communication that we now have available. Besides that, the believers in the early church were poor, yet look at what they accomplished in 20 to 25 years—the gospel was taken to the whole world.
It will happen again, and next time it is going to happen a lot faster. The day of God’s preparation has been going on for 150 years plus. But when God has a people who are ready, it won’t take 20 or 25 years to finish the work. Ellen White says, “When divine power is combined with human effort, the work will spread like fire in the stubble.” Last Day Events, 207. In another place, she says, it will be fast, like the lightning going between the heavenly creatures that Ezekiel saw in his visions. But before that can happen, God has to have a people who have not only been renewed in their hearts, but their lives have been reformed to reflect the character of Jesus. As you study the life of Jesus, you will become like Him.
5 Have my sins been forgiven?
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we understand that salvation from sin is a two-step process. First, there is forgiveness of sin, then later on, as most people in the Protestant world don’t understand, there is the removal of sin.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14, 15.
To many people this is one of the most awful texts in the Bible. Elder W. D. Frazee, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, used to tell a story about a family with whom he was studying that struggled with forgiveness. Their little daughter had been enticed into the woods where she was killed. The culprit was in the state prison, and they found it impossible to forgive him for his crime.
The problem is that you and I did not make the rules. Jesus said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The majority of people never have to deal with an experience anywhere near that bad, but to some people, this is one of the hardest texts in the Bible to apply, because it seems impossible to forgive some people for what they have done.
Notice the example of Jesus: “When they had come to a place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.” Luke 23:33, 34.
The whole universe was watching this. Actually, it appears when you read the Greek texts, it is very possible that this was something Jesus said over and over again. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The desire to get even or take revenge on those who have done you wrong is the spirit of Satan. Those guilty persons who have harmed another must stand before the Lord and give an answer for what they have done. If they are going to be in the kingdom of heaven, they will have to have their sins forgiven and make restitution. Actually, their salvation is not your problem. Your problem is, can you forgive them? The promise of forgiveness to us is only as we forgive others. This principle is in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:12). I know that this is one of the hardest things that any preacher has to deal with, situations where somebody has been wronged so terribly that he just has a natural desire to kill the one or ones causing the pain or to get even. In heaven, before the fall of man, Satan became jealous of Christ and decided that he had been wrongly treated. His spirit of revenge has been passed on to the inhabitants of this world. Once it gets a hold of your mind, eventually you will want to kill the person that has wronged you. The choice must be made either to continue in revenge or find forgiveness, leaving justice with the Lord who is righteous and will deal with it in His way and in His time. In Mark 11:25, we are told, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
Peter came to Jesus asking how long he should forgive his brother, possibly seven times! Peter thought that he was being very generous, because the Pharisees taught that you should forgive only three times. Peter had learned that Jesus went way beyond anything the Pharisees did, so he thought he’d be really generous and suggest seven times. How shocked he was when Jesus replied not seven times, but seventy times seven!
Then Jesus told the story about the unforgiving servant who had been forgiven a large debt by the king, but did not offer the same grace to those who were indebted to him. “His master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18:24–35. The way that the human mind works is that we either forgive the person, or eventually we will want to kill him. Our sins must be confessed and forsaken if we want them to be forgiven (Proverbs 28:13).
6 Will my sins be blotted out when the time of refreshing shall come?
It is not enough to have outward sins forgiven. Sin actually has to be taken away. This is a second step that has to happen before it is safe to allow a person into heaven. God is not just going to forgive the outward act of sins, but He will blot out the sins by cleansing the heart. Once a sin has been confessed and no unforgiveness is harbored against another, the sin is forgiven immediately. But the blotting out, or cleansing of sins, is a process that must take place before entering heaven where sin does not exist. David’s prayer in Psalm 51 referred to this. He said, “Lord, I want You to blot out, I want You to obliterate, take away my transgressions.” He realized that he was in such a bad shape, that he had something inside that had to be taken away and destroyed. That must be the heart cry of all who are waiting for Jesus to come and take them to His kingdom.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19. Sins will be blotted out during the times of refreshing that occur just before the close of probation and the coming of the Lord.
I have reached the conclusion that no human being understands exactly what the blotting out of sins means, but whether you understand what it means or not, you can experience sanctification day by day as you receive power from above to overcome habitual sins. Daily studying the life of Christ and following His example you will discover that what you once loved you will now hate, and what you once hated, you will now love. Those whose sins are blotted out will be ready to receive the seal of the living God and enter into the New Jerusalem.
(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: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.