In the space of one week there are one hundred and sixty-eight hours. If you sleep for eight hours each night you will be asleep for fifty-six hours, leaving another one hundred and twelve hours. God claims twenty-four of those hours to be kept as a Sabbath and that leaves you with eighty-eight hours of your own time each week to do as you will. Possibly half of that time is taken up with employment, but how do you spend that free time and what is it that you do to occupy your mind during those hours each week?
The world today, especially the Christian world, seems to be in a condition very similar to that into which Jesus came as a baby. The minds of the people were engrossed in the common place matters of daily life in this world. This was just as Satan had designed to keep people so busy in their temporal affairs that they would not notice the arrival of the One sent from Heaven, who alone could deliver them from sin. Satan well knew that sin and love of the world would have to be expelled from the hearts of the people in order for the love of God to accomplish its work and make a people ready for salvation. For this reason, all manner of distraction has been invented to blind the eyes of the people and for many centuries the devil has had overwhelming success in his evil deeds.
One of the chief purposes of Jesus in coming to this world was to remove from the heart of man his love for material things and his love of sensual pleasure and replace it with a heart of love for God, which had been lost since our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden. But the world that Jesus came into did not receive Him because His teaching did not harmonize with that of their man-made religion.
The religion of the Jews in the time of Christ consisted of forms and ceremonies and the offering of sacrifices. These sacrifices, intended to prefigure the great sacrifice that would be offered on the cross of Calvary, were an abomination to God, because they had lost their meaning and were not offered with contrition and humility and in faith of the coming Messiah. Instead, their religion was useless. Jesus told them that their religion was in vain and that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jesus came to bring an adjustment, a transformation, and He foresaw that at the end of the world the situation would be very similar to the way it was at His first coming. He talked to His disciples about this: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly, For it will come as a snare [a trap] on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth, Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34–36).
Some manuscripts read in verse 36, “Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may have strength to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
So, what is it that occupies your mind? The choices you make on a daily basis will determine your eternal salvation. It is not enough to have a shallow experience, expecting your religious belief to save you. Unless your religion changes your heart into the likeness of Jesus, that religion will be a trap and a snare.
The Bible describes those at the end of time as having a marvelous religious experience and having the greatest revival of all time. But the majority will meet with a dreadful disappointment when Jesus comes.
Matthew 7:21 to 23 says,
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ”
This passage of Scripture is describing religious people. Remember Cain. He was a religious person. In fact, it was religion that got Cain in trouble. In Genesis 4:3 and 4 it says, “In the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering.”
We read in Patriarchs and Prophets, 62, that Adam and Eve and their children came every Sabbath day, the seventh day, to the entrance of the Garden of Eden. There an angel guarded the way and they were prohibited from entering the garden because of sin. However, they came to the entrance where they conducted their worship service. It was on one of these Sabbath days that Abel brought a sacrificial offering and God had respect to Abel and his offering. However, though Cain brought an offering that was valuable, God did not have respect to his offering. It was easy for Abel to bring a lamb for his offering because he was a shepherd. His business was keeping sheep. But Cain was a tiller of the soil and he brought produce from his business.
The problem here was that Abel’s offering showed that he believed not only that he was a sinner, but that he needed a sacrifice, a blood atonement, to pay the price of his sin. The animal sacrifices all were a figure or type of the coming Saviour. Each time an animal was sacrificed at the hand of the penitent one, he saw that animal die at his own hand. The sacrifice was designed to teach the lesson that though we are all sinners and deserve to die, God has made a way that the price has been paid for us. Every animal sacrifice represented the fact that someday the real sacrifice, the Son of God, would pay the price for our sins.
It was known that animal sacrifices did not pay the price of sin. Our first parents knew the sacrificial lambs were just representative of the Savior to come. Cain’s offering made no confession of his sinful condition or acknowledgment that he needed the sacrifice of Christ for him to be given pardon and eternal life.
Cain determined to worship God in his own way, demonstrating his self-sufficiency. Throughout history, and even today, there are many people just like Cain who look and depend on their own achievements for salvation. The Bible teaches that we are helpless to do anything to save ourselves. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Our eternal salvation depends on a sacrifice. Before Christ died, the people looked forward to the Saviour to come, Jesus, the true sacrifice. Today, we look back dependent on Jesus, the sacrifice that has been made.
What this sacrifice represents and has achieved and what it has established is a huge subject of study. Ellen White says in the first few pages of The Desire of Ages that both the unfallen angels and the redeemed will study the subject of the cross of Christ throughout all of eternity. In fact, she said that eternity itself can never totally reveal the immensity of this subject. Even though it will never be exhausted, we need to study to understand as much as we can because it establishes some things that we must learn if we are going to be saved.
The cross establishes an immutable accountability of the whole human race. Accountability is an unpopular subject in today’s society, but a necessary subject for those preparing for the kingdom of heaven. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, all have obligations that cannot be evaded. Paul wrote, “You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
If we were bought at a price, we no longer belong to ourselves. The whole race was lost and has been bought from the bondage to Satan and sin. “For by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Peter 2:19). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men” (Romans 5:12).
Because of Christ’s sacrifice the human race no longer belongs to the devil. We are Christ’s possession even if we do not acknowledge the fact. He purchased us so we would no longer have to be slaves to sin. Accountability is needed in this generation. A whole generation of youth and young people are being raised without understanding the concept of accountability. As a result, our country and this world are headed toward a time of trouble like we have never seen or heard of before.
Ellen White wrote in The Review and Herald, September 22, 1891, a few things about accountability. She said, “The life He has given us is a sacred responsibility, and no moment of it is to be trifled with; for we shall have to meet it again in the record of the Judgment. In the books of heaven our lives are as accurately traced as in the picture on the plate of the photographer. Not only are we held accountable for what we have done, but for what we have left undone.” This should bring us to our knees to ask if there are things that have been neglected.
“We are held to account for our undeveloped characters, our unimproved opportunities.” Ibid. God provides people opportunities which He expects to be taken and used. Remember, “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Matthew 10:26, last part).
Moses said, “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Never think you can sin without meeting it again. No, we are accountable. If you respond to the Holy Spirit and repent and confess your sins and be converted, Jesus Christ will forgive you and your sins will be covered. Later, at the cleansing of the sanctuary, your sins will be blotted out. No sin is ever committed alone in the depth of the night that nobody else in the world knows, for God knows. The wise man said, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
1 Timothy 5:24 says, “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.” Those sins that “follow later” are those that are not confessed, not repented of, and not forsaken. One of the biggest games in this world is the attempt to cover sin.
Sins that are not covered cannot be forgiven and will not be blotted out. They will be met again at the Judgment. That judgment of the lost will occur at the end of the millennium and those sins will be revealed. (See Revelation 20:11–15.) Those who are saved will have already been in heaven for a thousand years.
We have no idea what kinds of books or records God has. In this age we have electronic books ourselves. God’s ways are beyond our imagination, but we can be sure His records are exact and there is a time coming when those who have refused the gospel invitation will give an account. Then they will be without excuse, for the evidence will be overwhelming. Every thought and feeling, every motive and comment, every deed done will be laid bare.
Today is the day to learn the lesson of accountability and take hold of the invitation for salvation. We are not only accountable to God, but also to those whom we have wronged. For some reason to admit to our sins is a really hard lesson to learn.
“We must deny self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. Not one of us can reach heaven, save by the narrow, cross-bearing way. …
“The cross is not to please self; it lies directly across the path of the pleasure-lover, and cuts through our carnal desires and selfish inclinations. The cross rebukes all unfaithfulness in your labors. If you bear the cross of Christ, you will not shun responsibilities or burden-bearing. If you are abiding in Christ, learning in His school, you will not be rude, dishonest, or unfaithful. The cross of Christ cuts to the root of all unholy passions and practices.” The Review and Herald, September 22, 1891.
Notice that those abiding in Christ and learning in His school will not be dishonest, or rude, or unfaithful. Unfortunately, often a person who finds it necessary to tell the truth about something that is unpleasant for a person to hear is considered rude.
The Bible talks about a person who rebukes sin being considered hateful or an undesirable person. However, the Bible teaches that if you are a follower of God, not only do you have love in your heart, but you will have a hatred for sin. Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).
“Whatever the nature of your work, you will carry the principles of Christ into your labor, and identify yourself with the task given into your hands. Your interest will be one with that of your employer. If you are paid for your time, you will realize that the time for work is not your own—but belongs to the one who pays you for it. If you are careless and extravagant, wasting material, squandering time, failing to be painstaking and diligent, you are registered in the books of heaven as an unfaithful servant.
“Those who are unfaithful in the least of temporal affairs, will be unfaithful in responsibilities of greater importance.” The Review and Herald, September 22, 1891.
Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own” (Luke 16:10–12)?
Our talents belong to God and should be devoted to His service. If we do nothing for our employer except that which is commanded, knowing that the prosperity of the work depends on extra exertion on our part, we fail in being faithful servants.
“There are many things not specified that wait to be done, that come directly under the notice of the one employed. Leaks and losses occur that might be prevented if painstaking diligence and unselfish effort were manifested.” The Review and Herald, September 22, 1891. Ellen White elaborates on this theme of honesty and how it carries over into a person’s service for God. Ephesians 6:6–8 about servants is quoted: “Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”
If you are a faithful worker, you will be rewarded by the Lord someday. The real reward is not the wages you may receive in this world, but eternal life. Never forget that you have been bought at an incredibly high price and have an obligation to be a faithful servant.
The question that comes to mind is how will you respond.
Paul’s prayer for the church was, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:17–19).
“That He [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:16–20).
God wants to do something in you that is beyond anything you can ask or think. Do you appreciate what has been done for you and are you willing to respond to His appeal?
It may not look like it at the present time, but the time is soon coming when the cross of Christ is going to triumph over every opposition in this world. When that happens, will you be a soldier of the cross and triumph with it? Notice what Paul says about this in Philippians chapter 2 verses 9 through 11: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
There is no neutral ground. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
There is a war raging between good and evil—righteousness and wickedness. The war is between the government of God and the government of the devil. There are no fence-sitters. Either you are lending your time, your influence, and your money on the devil’s side or putting your energy to the Lord’s side. At the end of time many people will call themselves Christians who will find out when it is too late that they were on the wrong side of the great controversy. You either support God’s side or you are hindering it.
The Christian religion is not a pretend or fairy-tale religion. It deals with reality every passing moment every day of the week and not only the few hours of worship on Sabbath mornings and at prayer meeting. The religion of Jesus Christ permeates every decision you make and everything you do. When that is your experience you will look forward to the day when Satan, the “accuser of the brethren,” will be silenced and you will hear the words of Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23).
(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 in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.