God’s work is going to be finished soon, and I want to be part of it when it finishes—do you? In this article, I want to study with you about what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives. The best title, though, that I could come up with is, “Why Is It so Difficult to Turn Around?” There are many people for whom the Holy Spirit cannot do anything in their lives, because they will not turn in the right direction.
In the early church, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, 3,000 people were converted in a day; many more accepted Christ, and God added to their numbers daily. (Acts 2:41, 47.) How did someone become a member of the apostolic church? When the people heard that they were the ones that crucified Jesus, they were pricked in their hearts and they asked, “What shall we do?” Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized.” (Verses 36–38.) All through the New Testament baptism is the door into the church.
We need to recognize that when the Holy Spirit comes, He never does away with gospel order. God always works in an organized way. That is why, before we have a baptism, it is our custom to entertain a motion that the baptismal candidates be accepted into church membership, subject to their baptism. That is orderly procedure. The Holy Spirit does not work in a disorderly way; the Holy Spirit works in an orderly way. Things were done this way in the New Testament. If a person was baptized and professed faith in Jesus, then he or she became a member of the church. But, the Holy Spirit cannot do anything for you or for me unless we turn around.
In the Bible, the basic meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words that are translated “to be converted” or “to repent” simply are “to change your mind” or “to turn around.” The Holy Spirit cannot do anything for us if we do not change our minds or turn around. Isaiah 45:22 says, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! Because I am God, and there is not anybody else.” In other words, there is no other God. The first word of the verse, in my Bible, is turn, “turn to Me.” If we do that, we will be saved. Some Bible versions say, “look to me;” it means the same thing.
From this verse, we can see that it is vital that we turn to the Lord and look to Him, so we can be saved. Remember, I have entitled this article, “Why Is It so Difficult to Turn Around?” It is difficult to turn around, because from our memory banks, we have things in our minds that we have believed for a long time. After we have believed something for a long time, we are just sure that it is the truth, even though it may not be. That is what happened to the Jews in the days of Jesus. There were certain things that they had known for so long that they were sure that they were the truth, but they were not.
Believing an Error
“The Jews refused to receive Christ, because He did not come in accordance with their expectations. The ideas of finite men were held as infallible, because hoary with age.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 64. They had believed it for so long that they thought it was infallible.
That would never happen again, would it? Read the next sentence: “This is the danger to which the church is now exposed.” Ibid. What is the danger to which we are exposed? That we have believed certain things for so long that we just know that is the way it is.
No matter how long we have believed an error, at some point in time, we are going to be forced to recognize it was not so. A lot of people are not going to recognize until the end of the millennium that what they believed was not truth, but they are going to recognize it then. Every error that an individual has believed, he or she is going to be forced, at some point, to acknowledge, but it will be too late someday to be saved, even though the error is acknowledged.
“This is the danger to which the church is now exposed—that the inventions of finite men shall mark out the precise way for the Holy Spirit to come.” Ibid., 64, 65. What is the danger? That we will get in our minds the way that the Holy Spirit has to come, and if the Holy Spirit does not come the way that we think, we will not accept it. Ellen White goes on to write, “Though they would not care to acknowledge it, some have already done this.” Ibid., 65. That is alarming!
In another statement, Mrs. White wrote: “They [ministers, church leaders] will not open their eyes to discern the fact that they have misinterpreted and misapplied the Scriptures, and have built up false theories, calling them fundamental doctrines of the faith.” Ibid., 70. What are these false theories called? They are called fundamental doctrines of faith. Who was building up these false theories and calling them fundamental doctrines of faith? The leading Seventh-day Adventist ministers. We would never do that again, would we?
Well, read the following statement: “Even Seventh-day Adventists are in danger of closing their eyes to truth as it is in Jesus, because it contradicts something which they have taken for granted as truth . . . .” Ibid. How interesting! We are in danger of closing our eyes to the truth. Why? Because the truth contradicts something that we think is the truth, and we have thought it was the truth for so long that we are sure we know.
Know for Sure
Let me ask you a question just to make you think. How many things do you know for sure that are not so? You cannot answer that. Since you know it for sure, you do not know which things that you know for sure are not so. If you study history, you know the story of Galileo. In the 1600s, the whole world was sure that they knew the truth—that the earth was the stationary center of the universe. Through his studies and research, Galileo discovered this theory was false, but his newfound knowledge directly contradicted the long-standing geocentric view held by the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo was threatened with imprisonment if he did not recant. The trouble was, he was right, and the whole world was wrong. (“Galileo Galilei,” www.About.com, cited October 5, 2004.)
There are many stories in the Bible like that. The most famous one, of course, is the one of Noah. People thought that Noah could not be right, because everybody else believed something else. I have stated it before, and I will state it again: The truth is never, ever dependent on numbers. Never. If you were the only person in the whole world who knew that the seventh day is the Sabbath, if there was not another person in the whole world that knew that the seventh day is the Sabbath, it would still be the truth. The truth is the truth whether anyone believes it or not.
“Many things will appear distinctly as truth which will not be acceptable to those who think their own interpretations of the Scripture always right. Most decided changes will have to be made in regard to ideas which some have accepted as without a flaw.” Ibid., 76.
An Adventist minister wrote a letter to a lady recently, stating, “Everybody (all the Adventists) believes this except ,” and he named a heretic who did not believe it. Does that make it right, because everybody believes it? We can never determine what the truth is just by how many people believe something. In the days of Christ, if we had done that, we would have rejected Jesus. We would also have rejected John the Baptist, Elijah, Noah, the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and James and Ellen White.
It is vital that we each have an open mind and pray, “Lord, if there is some area in my life where I need to be willing to change my thinking about something that I have known all my life but that evidence now shows it to not be so, turn me around.”
Did you know that error is more attractive than truth to the human mind? Did you know that truth is unpopular? Was truth unpopular when Jesus was here? It most certainly was. Why?
We may have trouble understanding why someone would not want to know and believe the truth. Have you ever given a Bible study to someone who told you, “I just want to know the truth”?
You say, “Well, good, let us study the truth.” You start to study with them, and after awhile they do not want to study anymore, because they found out something they did not want to hear. Have you ever seen that happen?
The fact of the matter is that error is more attractive to the human mind today than is truth. Ellen White gave an illustration as to why that is true. She said, “Truth was unpopular in Christ’s day. It is unpopular in our day. It has been unpopular ever since Satan first gave man a disrelish for it by presenting fables that lead to self-exaltation.” The Desire of Ages, 242. If space allowed, we could go through many, many, many of the false doctrines that are being proclaimed today, and we would see the connection between those false doctrines and self-exaltation. That is why the truth is unpopular. But it is not just self-exaltation; that is only one reason.
After we have believed something, if we are going to turn, the Lord says, turn, “Turn to Me and be saved.” Why is it so hard to turn? How many people have you met lately that like to acknowledge that they have been wrong? We each have what is known as pride of opinion. Please do not tell me that you are the only human being in the world that does not have that. That would be difficult for me to believe. This is a universal, human problem. We do not like to acknowledge that we may have been wrong on something, but remember, the devil has introduced myths and fables that lead to self-exaltation. It is humbling for us to admit that we have believed a fable.
This happens the most with fanaticism. One day, a long time ago, my brother Marshall and I were talking about fanaticism, and he told me, “The thing behind fanaticism is spiritual pride.” I had never considered that before, but after pondering that thought for a few years, I had to agree; that is exactly what it is.
If we know something that other people do not know, we have pride, because we have insider knowledge that not everybody has. We have the inside scoop. We feel better than those other poor folks who do not have the knowledge that we have. That is one of the driving forces of fanaticism. It leads to self-exaltation.
There are people who get rich telling other people that they will give them the inside scoop about this or that or something else. I get letters from such people all the time. The problem is, they always want money to give me the inside scoop, so I do not have the inside scoop about very much.
Who is in the most danger of getting involved in this special insider knowledge and fanaticism? Someone may say that it is the person that does not have very much education. That is 180 degrees wrong! The people that are in the most danger are people such as ministers, physicians, lawyers, and other people that are highly educated and very intelligent. Of all people, they are in the greatest danger of getting snagged into fanaticism and error. It is more attractive than the truth.
We Avoid Humiliation
We have already started to look at why error is more attractive than the truth and why it is difficult to turn around. We have seen that it is very difficult and humiliating for us to acknowledge that we have been wrong. It is hard to acknowledge that we have made mistakes. We are afraid that others will think less of us. Our pride is injured; we are humiliated. We desire to avoid this humiliation as long as possible. That is what leads to procrastination.
Have you noticed that, as you study the Bible with people and they come to understand some things that they need to change in their lives if they are going to come into harmony with the Bible, they put off making the changes? It is humiliating for them to acknowledge that they have been in error, so they stall as long as possible.
I worked with an evangelist one time who said, “Do not ever make the person that you are studying with the ‘goat’ of whatever you are talking about. If there is a problem, do not let them be responsible for it. Put it on somebody else, because they cannot take it.” It is difficult for us to turn around, because it is hard for us to acknowledge when we are wrong. It is hard to acknowledge our mistakes.
We do not want to be humiliated, so sometimes people do what the Jews did. The Jews started to resist the truth when John the Baptist was there, and then they resisted the truth more when Jesus came. After Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead, they could not refute it. You would think they would have turned then, but they did not. Have you ever wondered why they would not turn to the Lord when they had the evidence of the resurrection and the ascension? There were over 500 witnesses that could have said, “We saw Him, and we talked to Him.” (See 1 Corinthians 15:6.) Why did they not turn? Because they had developed a habit.
I am mentioning this, because I am frightened of Adventists developing a similar habit. If we develop a habit and promote and practice it long enough, it will become almost impossible for us to turn around. Our pride will be at stake. The time may come when we have resisted something so long that even if it is proven to us to be truth, we would continue to resist it.
“Every act of resistance makes it harder to yield. Being the leaders of the people, the priests and rulers felt it incumbent on them to defend the course they had taken. They must prove that they had been in the right. Having committed themselves in opposition to Christ, every act of resistance became an additional incentive to persist in the same path. The events of their past career of opposition are as precious treasures to be jealously guarded. And the hatred and malignity that inspired those acts are concentrated against the apostles.
“The spirit of God revealed its presence unto those who, irrespective of the fear or favor of men, declared the truth which had been committed to them. Under the demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power, the Jews saw their guilt in refusing the evidence that God had sent; but they would not yield their wicked resistance. Their obstinacy became more and more determined, and worked the ruin of their souls. It was not that they could not yield, for they could, yet would not. It was not alone that they had been guilty, and deserving of wrath, but that they armed themselves with the attributes of Satan, and determinedly continued to be opposed to God. Every day, in their refusal to repent, they took up their rebellion afresh.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 74. That is why it is difficult to turn around—all of those reasons.
How to Turn
Now let us look at the good news of how to turn around, and what will happen if we do turn around. Jehovah said to Moses, as recorded in Numbers 21:8, 9, “Make for you a fiery serpent, and put it upon a pole; and it shall be that everyone who has been bitten and shall look upon it will live. And Moses made a bronze serpent, and he set it upon [a pole], and it was, if anyone had been bitten by a snake among men, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” There was not any power in that bronze serpent to make anyone live, and he or she knew that. It was not the serpent; it was the fact that they chose to turn and to look at it. In other words, they chose to look in the right direction. They chose to look to the Lord, to turn and look toward Him. This Scripture applies to every person in this world, because we have all been stung. The Bible, in Revelation 12, talks about “that ancient serpent,” and we have all been stung by it. That serpent’s bite is lethal; it will kill us forever. Unless God’s divine power is exercised in our behalf, we are lost 100 percent of the time.
But what happened, when the serpent had stung the people, if they chose to look toward the bronze serpent? They lived! We do not need to make it complicated. That is what the Scripture says. There is Someone that, if we look to Him, can and will heal us from all the consequences of sin. He will take our sins away. If we do not turn to Him, He will not take our sins away; we will die forever.
I have noticed over and over again that the people who are involved in all kinds of sin are looked upon as the worst of human beings, yet they get saved, because they recognize that they have a problem. People who have not been involved in some kind of crime or other terrible sin—at least they do not think of what they do as a terrible sin—do not get saved, because they think they are pretty good already. They are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees today may say, “I have never robbed a bank.” An elderly man once told me that he had never told a lie! I thought, “Brother, I am not sure but what that is the biggest one you have told!”
Friend, if you say, “I have never lied; I have never robbed a bank; I have never taken any illicit drugs; I have never committed fornication; I have never done what other people do, so I am okay,” you might be the worst sinner in church, the worst sinner in the land! Jesus told the Pharisees that the prostitutes and the tax collectors would go into the kingdom before them, because they were victims of spiritual pride.
All Have Been Stung
The Bible teaches that the ancient serpent has stung every single human being. But there is Someone that can take all that away from us, and He will take it away, if we will look to Him. We cannot look to Him the way the Pharisees did. They never got saved. We have to look to Him the way the tax collector did, and say, “Lord, I need a Saviour. I need somebody to save me. I am in a pit that I cannot get out of.” The fact of the matter is that every single human being in the world is in a pit he cannot get out of without Jesus. The only difference is that some people know it, and some people do not know it. Sometimes the Lord has to let us get into big trouble, so we can find out our need.
The blood of Christ is so powerful that if we choose to trust in His merits, He is going to save us from every sin we have ever committed, and He is going to save us from the power of sin within. “As the high priest sprinkled the warm blood upon the mercy seat, while the fragrant cloud of incense ascended before God, so while we confess our sins and plead the efficacy of Christ’s atoning blood, our prayers are to ascend to heaven, fragrant with the merits of our Saviour’s character. Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we are ever to bear in mind that there is One that can take away sin and save the sinner.” Ibid., 92, 93. There is Someone—He can take our sins; He can save us, and He will do it, if we look to Him. The next sentence says, “Every sin acknowledged before God with a contrite heart, He will remove.” Ibid., 93. If we confess our sins before the Lord, He will take them away.
To be continued . . .
[Some Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.