Watchmen on the walls of Zion are called to keep God’s remnant informed of end time events which are daily developing around us. But there is something vastly more important than our knowing all about these closing events and making sure we have followed God’s counsel to get out of the cities, to become free of debt, and to be aware of Satan’s plans to deceive. In addition to knowing the signs of the times, we need absolute assurance that we have individually been born again. What a tragedy if, in the final moment of God’s judgment, we should discover that we are in the same situation as Nicodemus, the great theologian who could repeat from memory the entire Old Testament Bible of his day. Yet he was startled to hear from the Great Physician that he was not ready to see God because he had a serious heart problem which required a transplant. In order to be ready for heaven he must be born again.
Let us first review the experience of Nicodemus as found in John chapter 3 verses 1–5: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Jesus spoke with such positive words to Nicodemus that there was no doubt as to his need for a change of heart. God loves us so much that He wants us to have characters like unto the character of His Son Jesus. Therefore through His written word and the testimonies of His Spirit, He has sent to us many sparkling gems of truth. These are God’s divine means of enabling boys and girls, men and women, to form jewel-like characters, fitted to live with Him in that beautiful city, the New Jerusalem.
Consider Albert, a man in his early 30s. His face was pale and drawn and he only had a short time to live, that is, unless an organ donor could be found, for he needed a heart transplant. Having a wife and children, he was understandably troubled and anxious. The community solicited funds for his anticipated surgery. Finally a day arrived when upon answering the telephone he heard those welcomed words, “A donor heart has been found.” Immediately his mind was filled with hope and rejoicing. After the proper preparations were made, Albert surrendered himself fully into the hands of his physician. The surgery was successful.
After some weeks had passed, what a transformation had taken place! What a change! No longer was Albert pale and haggard. His life had been restored. His face shown with a healthy radiance. His eyes were bright. His joy and thanksgiving were reflected upon the entire community where he lived. All the people rejoiced with him. However, there was one thing that he could not forget. He meditated over the fact that someone had lost his life to make it possible that he might live.
Now let us consider some spiritual lessons from Albert’s experience. Before he received a new heart, Albert was a sick and dying man. Today many are as sick spiritually as Albert was physically. To use a Bible term, their hearts are natural or carnal and their characters so diseased that they do not have long to remain spiritually alive. Note God’s description of such a heart. He declares, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, last part).
Spiritually speaking, men do not always realize the extent of the diseased condition of their hearts; that is, not until they look into the mirror of God’s law, the Ten Commandments. It is then that they see themselves as they actually are, wretched and hopelessly near death. They long to be forgiven, but praise God, there is a divine remedy for spiritual illness and that remedy is the Gospel.
“The truths of the gospel are not unconnected; uniting they form one string of heavenly jewels, … and like threads of gold they run through the whole of Christian work and experience.” This Day With God, 224. So we are told God’s precious sparkling gospel promises to unite to form one golden string of remedial heavenly gems.
These truths can be plucked off the string and examined. Let’s look at the one called justification.
In examining this jewel of truth, let’s look at Larry as an illustration. Larry seemed to be extremely discouraged and despondent. His friend George told him of some of the wonderful, encouraging gems of truth to be found in the Bible and urged him to study God’s word.
Larry was convinced of his need to study but when he opened the Bible he knew not where to begin. So he started reading through Genesis and then into Exodus, but when he reached Exodus 20, he was startled, for upon comparing himself with God’s law he was faced with a shocking revelation of his truly diseased spiritual condition. He asked himself if this could be the reason for his mental despondency. Without realizing it Larry had echoed the words of Paul as he cried out: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me …” (Romans 7:24)?
Larry felt desperate. Is there no remedy? But when he turned to the New Testament Larry was filled with joyful excitement. Yes! There is a remedy for all sin sick souls! He found it in Jesus Christ our spiritual physician. He listened as he heard the Physician’s invitation, “Come unto Me” (Matthew 11:28). Larry responded. He cast himself upon Christ’s mercy. Jesus looked upon him with love and tender compassion.
In somewhat the same words as He said to Nicodemus that night so long ago, Jesus spoke to his heart. Larry needed a new heart. There’s nothing that could be done to repair or patch up his old heart. It would be necessary to undergo a spiritual heart transplant. Without the needed procedure he would die. The new heart would be free and all services would be donated. It would just take cooperation to be born again into a new life altogether with Jesus.
But how could this happen? Ellen White wrote, “In order to obtain the righteousness of Christ [that’s a new heart], it is necessary for the sinner to know what that repentance is which works a radical change of mind and spirit and action. …
“Who is desirous of becoming truly repentant? What must he do? —He must come to Jesus, just as he is, without delay. He must believe that the word of Christ is true, and, believing the promise, ask, that he may receive. When sincere desire prompts men to pray, they will not pray in vain. The Lord will fulfill His word, and will give the Holy Spirit to lead to repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 393.
It seems too simple, just come to Jesus just as I am, believing that God’s word and its promises are true and that the Physician will send the Holy Spirit to repair him. The Physician has given to every man a measure of faith to believe in order that he might respond to His calling; however, for a man’s faith to increase he must come to the Great Physician to receive not only repentance but also a greater measure of faith, even a faith that will make salvation by grace possible.
In his bedroom with his Bible open before him, Larry fell upon his knees. His mind was drawn to Christ on the cross. While kneeling at the foot of the cross looking up at Jesus these words burned into his soul: “A Donor has been found.” He now understood how Jesus Himself had passed through a horrible death on the cross in order that Larry, a repentant sinner, might live. With sadness Larry realized that for him to live someone had to die and that Someone was his divine surgeon, Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son.
Turning to his open Bible he read this precious promise: “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 …” (Ezekiel 36:26). Larry prayed for the promised Helper and his prayer was answered. The Spirit led him into a true sorrow for his sins, into repentance and faith and a full surrender to the Great Physician who, as promised, performed the recreative surgery.
Larry had obeyed as he heard the Physician plead, “My son, give Me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26). But oh, what an exchange! Larry had received a clean, unselfish, new healthy heart in exchange for his sinful, selfish, spiritually diseased heart. Larry’s sins were forgiven! Through faith Larry had received the sparkling gift of justification.
God warns us through Ellen White that as a people we have at times neglected to teach these preparatory truths to souls who are seeking salvation. Surely we do not consider these truths as unnecessary or as an unpleasant duty, or do we? If we have fallen into this trap, let us heed the following rebuke: “Some open revival meetings, and by this means call large numbers into the church. But when the excitement is over, where are the converted ones? Repentance and confession of sin are not seen. The sinner is entreated to believe in Christ and accept Him, without regard to his past life of sin and rebellion. The heart is not broken. There is no contrition of soul. The supposed converted ones have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 19.
“The Lord desires His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance, and confession. We want old-fashioned sermons, old-fashioned customs, old-fashioned fathers and mothers in Israel. The sinner must be labored for, perseveringly, earnestly, wisely, until he shall see that he is a transgressor of God’s law, and shall exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid.
Reading in The Signs of the Times, November 24, 1887: “Believe, believe, believe in Jesus, is the soothing lullaby that is lulling the world to sleep … .” Why, “the devils believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). A lukewarm Laodicean may believe all the truth and God’s promises, but he is not being saved thereby, for he is not converted. Jesus said in John 3 verse 3 that unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. An unconverted one believes only with a measure of faith that is given to all men. We are to teach new converts that it is by repentance and faith we are justified before God and through divine grace enabled to render obedience to His commandments.
Back to the story of Larry. As Albert had received a new physical life through the gift of his donor heart, just such an amazing transformation had taken place in the life of Larry. He had received the heart, the mind, and the faith of His Savior. He was filled with hope, rejoicing, and gratitude. Relieved of the burden of his sins he was no longer miserable and spiritually wretched. New spiritual life had been put within him. His eyes sparkled with joy. His face shone with a healthy radiance. He reflected his joy and thankfulness upon all with whom he came in contact. He pointed them to the Great Physician who alone is able to forgive sins and to heal spiritual diseases.
The entire community where he lived became aware of the change in Larry. He did not fail to also tell his friends that they must go to Jesus just as they are to receive the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Day by day Larry diligently studied God’s precious word. As he increased in wisdom and knowledge he continued to grow up spiritually in Christ.
From the Inspired writings we are told that many of us, especially the youth, fail to understand the true significance of what it means to have a new heart. Ellen White clearly defines this meaning. “The youth especially stumble over this phrase, ‘a new heart.’ They do not know what it means. … When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being.” Sons and Daughters of God, 100. And, so we will not possibly misunderstand, she explains further: “To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives.” Ibid.
Paul understood this for he explains, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Actually, the new birth is a new creation. How can this be? How does this new life come about? Inspiration tells us, “When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature.” The Desire of Ages, 324.
One must remember that having once received a new heart it must be maintained in the same way we receive it – through surrender to the will of God.
Let’s take a look at King David. He was converted in his youth; however, he did not always maintain his surrender and fell into grievous sins. So the question, If one has lost his born again experience, how can he regain it? The answer: in the same way that David did, for after David’s great sin he once again surrendered to the Great Physician pleading, Give me a new heart, O my God (see Psalm 51).
Through the Spirit of Prophecy Inspiration has revealed, “One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the word of God is that of David when he plead, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51:10). God’s response to such a prayer is, A new heart will I give you. This is work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1165.
When David sinned, he displayed a carnal, selfish, stony heart. This mindset was removed, his heart was renewed by the creative power of the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of a Christian experience or for a renewed Christian experience, we must fully repent and surrender to Christ. Then with Christ dwelling in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we again can receive the new mind, even “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Oh beloved, let us praise God that we can experience such a sparkling gem of gospel truth.
Satan has also perfected jewels but they are counterfeit jewels. They glitter, but not with a heavenly light. We are living in the end time. Conditions and events in the world and in the church clearly reveal that at such a time as this, many in the churches are spiritually sick. This allows them to be easily deceived by Satan’s glittering, worldly counterfeit jewels. Their minds need the healing touch of the Great Physician.
We have been warned that in these latter days, erroneous, infidel theories will be taught as Bible truths to God’s people. Such errors insidiously attack the spiritual heart, causing a variety of spiritual illness and producing grave spiritual consequences. Webster defines an infidel as a person not holding to the faith but opposing, or unfaithful to Christianity. Surely we should avoid reading or listening to words that spring from the heart of an infidel. The best way to avoid cancer and other serious physical diseases is to live a lifestyle that will prevent them from occurring. Likewise, deadly spiritual illness can be prevented only if we preoccupy and fortify the mind with truth. This must be done, however, before we meet the soul destroying so-called jewels of Satan’s string of falsehoods.
Through our modern prophet, Ellen White, God has revealed that, “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” The Great Controversy, 593, 594.
Another precious gem to pluck off the string of heavenly jewels is called sanctification. Paul said that sanctification is a very vital part of salvation, for God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification. He said, Have you not read what I wrote in my second letter to the Thessalonians? “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification …” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). I will say to you today as I said in my farewell counsel to the elders of Ephesus, “Brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Ellen White agrees with Paul on this subject, Is sanctification a necessity? In an article Ellen White first asked, “What does the Lord require of His blood-bought heritage?” She then answers, “The sanctification of the whole being.” The Review and Herald, November 24, 1904. Beloved, never should we consider sanctification as unnecessary to salvation or as a second-rate experience. Sanctification is not an option or an appendage. It is a sparkling gem of truth that God has provided for our redemption, a vital part of the saving gospel.
Let us now observe this gem of sanctification from another angle. All will agree that it is the Lord who justifies man. But how do men attain to sanctification by their own good works? What saith Inspiration? Through Moses God declares, “I am the Lord which sanctify you” (Leviticus 20:8). And in the New Testament Paul writes, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Jude 1 is addressed to them that are sanctified by God the Father. Ellen White tells us, “We want the sanctification that God Himself gives.” The Review and Herald, July 15, 1890.
So the question: How does God sanctify man? Bible illustrations testify that only the presence of God can sanctify or make holy a person or a thing. For example, in the story of Moses it was the presence of God in the burning bush that made both it and the ground surrounding it holy. God commissioned Bezaleel to shape the intricate gold work for the wilderness sanctuary. He gave him special wisdom and skill for the work. While Bezaleel was melting the gold, and pounding and shaping the golden cherubims for the most holy place, they were not yet holy or sanctified. Yet when they were later dedicated in the service of God and the presence of God visibly entered the sanctuary to dwell therein, then the cherubim for the mercy seat were no longer just gold statuary. They were sacred, sanctified emblems representing the work of the angel in the heavenly sanctuary.
So, just as God entered into the sanctuary to sanctify it by His presence, so it is the presence of God inside the hearts of men that sanctify them. “I will dwell in them, … and I will be their God” (2 Corinthians 6:16, last part). God’s presence in our very own heart is true sanctification. Paul teaches that believers are to be “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:16, last part). This is Bible sanctification. This work can be accomplished only through faith in Christ by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. (See The Great Controversy, 469.) Thus it is, Christ in you, that sanctifies. The indwelling Holy Spirit is “as the personal presence of Christ to the soul.” The Review and Herald, November 29, 1892.
Notice the following passages from the Spirit of Prophecy: “Sanctification of the soul by the operation of the Holy Spirit is the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity.” This Day With God, 224.
“Sanctification is not an emotion, but a heaven-born principle that brings all the passions and desires under the control of the Spirit of God.” The Signs of the Times, May 19, 1890.
“The Lord Jesus loves His people, and when they put their trust in Him, depending wholly upon Him, He strengthens them. He will live through them, giving them the inspiration of His sanctifying Spirit, imparting to the soul a vital transfusion of Himself.” That I May Know Him, 78.
“To be sanctified is to become a partaker of the divine nature, catching the Spirit and mind of Jesus … .” The Review and Herald, April 28, 1891.
The Great Physician desires to give us a heart transplant to replace our stony heart and to keep it healthy through a daily, heavenly process of sanctification – Christ in you.
These important truths have been revealed to us in such a clear and simple manner so that by God’s divine grace we may commit our lives to His creative power and be ready to spend eternity with Him when Jesus returns.
For more than fifty years, Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Though nothing could be found in his preaching that was contrary to the doctrines of the church, he was considered divisive. As a result, Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry was born. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.