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.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 92, 93. There is Someone, and 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. Then Mrs. White says, “This faith is the life of the church.” Ibid. Does our church have life in it? It only has life in it if we are confessing our sins and asking the Lord to take our sins away.
We are in grave danger—in the Adventist world more so than in some other churches—of becoming Pharisaical in our attitudes. We believe that God will give us the power and the ability to overcome sin, but we are never to say that we are sinless in this world—never. We live in a temple of fallen, sinful flesh, and the only way that we can keep ourselves from sin is the same way that Peter was kept from sin.
Remember when Peter got out of the boat, and Jesus said, “Come to Me,” and he started walking on water? (Matthew 14:25–32.) As long as he was looking to Jesus, he was held up, but when he turned his eyes away from Jesus, he started to sink immediately. If the most holy man or woman in this world looks away from Jesus, he or she will go down immediately.
People come to me and ask, “Did you hear about so and so? How in the world? They have been a Christian for X many years.” It does not matter how many years. If any one of us turns away from Jesus and we are not keeping our eyes on Him, we are going to go down. As we are told, “We cannot keep ourselves from sin for one moment” without Jesus. The Ministry of Healing, 180.
If we keep looking at Him and toward Him, the Holy Spirit has in mind to work for the people of God today more than at any other previous time in the history of the world. But the Holy Spirit cannot do that unless we will turn and keep focused.
When President Ronald Reagan died [June 5, 2004], an associate was asked, “What did you learn from him?”
One of the things he said was, “I learned from him to keep focused.”
I thought, “That is a good idea for Christians, except we need to be sure that we are focused in the right direction and on the right Person.”
The devil wants to keep us from focusing our eyes, from turning our eyes, from looking to Jesus, because he knows that any day, any hour, when we are not focused on Jesus, we are going to go down. The devil is going to come and tempt us, and the temptation from without is going to be responded to by the sinful nature from within, and we will go down. The devil knows that. Since the devil knows that, what is he trying to do in our lives?
Have you ever heard of an eclipse? An eclipse is when either the light from the sun or the light of the moon is blocked. There is something between it and the earth, and its light is blocked from the earth. That is what the devil wants to do in our lives. He wants to eclipse our view of Jesus, because he knows that if we do not keep our eyes focused on Him, we are going to go down.
Are our eyes focused on a preacher, a teacher, an elder, or a deacon? What if they lose their sight? What if Jesus is eclipsed in their minds, and they start to go down? If we are focused on them, we will go down at the same time. There is One who can keep us from going down, if we keep focused on Him. The devil knows that.
We are living in a generation in which the devil has invented a thousand ways or more to get our attention on all kinds of things so that we will not keep our attention on Jesus. For some people, it is pleasure. We have available to us every kind of imaginable pleasure. Because of all of our electronic gadgets, we have more pleasure in the world today than there has ever been experienced in any previous time in this world’s history. We have videos and soundtracks, CDs and DVDs, television and tapes, and every kind of imaginable thing, and we can easily concentrate on those things and forget about Jesus.
We also have more access to food today than any previous generation that has ever lived. In the town in which my family lived when I was a boy, a person could not go downtown at 10 or 11 o’clock at night and get something to eat. The restaurants in those days were open certain hours for breakfast, certain hours for lunch, and certain hours for supper. Now we have fast food restaurants—called that because you can get the food quickly. An individual does not have to wait ten minutes for their food to be prepared, and many of these establishments are open 24 hours a day.
Some people are not focusing on the Lord, because they have their minds on food. Other people may have their focus on education; others have their focus on power.
Ellen White wrote, “It has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 93. That is our problem.
Looking to Man
At the ministry, we frequently receive telephone calls from people who want us to answer questions. We are not priests; we are not a pope. How do the people expect us to answer all of these things? We are just human beings. We are not God. We are not prophets. Why do people ask us so many questions? It is because they have been educated to look to man and expect help from man. When people do not know the answer, they say, “I will go to my pastor. If he does not know the answer, we will call some high-powered preacher in some ministry somewhere. We will get the answer from him.” We each need to be looking to Jesus to get direction in our lives. All the pastors I know are just human beings. They need salvation just as much as you and I do. They need direction and guidance from the Lord just as much as we do. The good news is that the Lord is willing to guide and direct each one of His people.
Since I am a Protestant preacher, I do not believe that God’s people have to go to a priest to find direction for their lives. That is the devil’s plan. See to it that the devil is foiled. We need to get our eyes focused on Jesus and turn to Him, because when we look to Him, the Scripture says, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! Because I am God, and there is not anybody else.” Isaiah 45:22. We have to get our eyes on the real Leader and not simply look at each other.
A very interesting Scripture on this subject is found in John 3:31. John the Baptist said: “The One who comes down from above is above all things. The one who is of the earth is of the earth and speaks of the things of the earth. The One who is coming from heaven is above all things.” That text tells us we can know whether or not we are converted by how we speak and by the things about which we talk.
“What He has seen and heard, this He bears testimony, and His testimony nobody receives.” Verse 32. Why do they not receive it? “The one who does receive His testimony is set to His seal that God is true. For whom God sent, the words of God speaks, for not out of measure does He give to him the Spirit. The Father loves the Son, and He has given all things into His hand. The one who believes on the Son has eternal life, and the one who is disobedient to the Son will not see life but the wrath of God abides [or remains] upon him.” Verses 33–36. Oh, friend, do you have your eyes on the One that can really help you?
Be Set Free
In my work, I deal all the time with people who are having very real and very severe problems. There are people in the Wichita [Kansas] community who are not just sick and in the hospital but who have severe financial problems. There are people who are struggling with different habits of long duration, and they want to be set free. Jesus is the only One that can set them free.
If you want to be set free, you need to turn to where the help is. I am not the help, but I can tell you where the help is. The help is in Christ, not in me. If you really want help, you need to turn to Him and say, “Lord, I am a sinner. I am down here in this pit, and I cannot get out. But You promised that if I looked to You, You would set me free, and I am claiming Your promise.” Can God set people free that are alcoholics? Yes. I have seen it happen. Can God set people free that are fornicators and adulterers and homosexuals? Yes, He can. Can God set people free that are addicted to one kind of drug or another? He can set them free.
Remember, there is One who, if you acknowledge your sin and ask for His help, will set you free from all sin. He has promised to do this. “Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we are ever to bear in mind that there is One that can take away sin and save the sinner.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 93. Do not get discouraged because you are a terrible sinner. The longer I live, the more I realize that we are all terrible sinners. It is just that some of us do not realize it. But if you acknowledge your condition to the Lord and look to Him, He is going to deliver you. He has promised to deliver you, and you must not give up just because you do not feel like you are being delivered right at the moment. There are many illustrations in the Bible about that.
Do Not Give Up
Do you remember the time when Elijah was praying for rain and he told his servant, “Go! Look and see if there is any cloud”? (See 1 Kings 18:41–46.)
The servant reported, “No, I do not see any cloud.”
So Elijah knelt down and prayed again. He said, “Lord, you promised when your people repented that You would send rain, so I am asking You to fulfill Your word.” He sent his servant again.
Again the servant reported, “No, no cloud.” Finally, after the seventh time, the servant said, “Well, I see just a little tiny cloud.”
Elijah said, “That is all I need. It is going to rain.”
Friend, if you have the faith of Elijah and you keep praying, the Lord is going to send you a cloud with some rain, too—the rain of the Holy Spirit.
Staying Turned Around
When some people turn toward the Lord, the Lord starts working in their lives and solving problems in their lives, and then, for some reason, they turn back to something else. I have seen that happen so often.
How do we stay turned around? In John 15, Jesus said, “Abide in Me.” (Verses 4–7.) If we want to be delivered from sin, we have to turn toward Him and stay turned toward Him. As Ronald Reagan said, “You have to stay focused.”
Staying focused is the subject addressed in 1 John 3:9–24: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
How to Abide in Christ
In summary, this passage of Scripture teaches how to abide in Christ. If you are going to stay or abide in Him, the following characteristics must be developed in your life:
Number One. The one who abides in Him will cease to sin. You can see that very clearly in verses 7 to 10. If there is some sinful habit in your life and you turn toward the Lord and He delivers you from that, you cannot turn back toward that habit and keep focused on the Lord at the same time. Does that make sense? A minister I know once said it like this: “Even if you are the greatest sinner, and your sin is the biggest, if you turn toward the Lord, the Lord can save you from the biggest sin. But He cannot save you from the smallest sin if you are not willing to give it up.” That is one of the reasons that people lose their souls—there is some sin in their lives that has been called a “darling” sin. (See Messages to Young People, 112.) Do you have a darling sin? Is there some sin in your life that you love more than you love Jesus? Now, let me tell you, Jesus never told somebody to sin another day. If you choose to go on in sin, you love that sin more than you love Jesus, because He would tell you to stop. If you are going to keep your eyes focused on Jesus, you must choose to let the sin fall away. You have to focus on Him, and choose not to sin. You will never stop sinning until you choose to no longer sin. If you choose not to sin, the Lord will give you the strength.
Several years ago, I knew a man who had a problem with alcohol. He asked for prayer that he would quit drinking alcohol. I told him that we would pray for him and assured him that the Lord could deliver him from alcohol. Several of us encircled him, and we prayed that the Lord would deliver him from alcohol, but the Lord did not do it. I could not figure out what was going on, because we had prayed for him, but the desired result did not happen.
A few days later, he returned. He had the victory! He told us why the victory did not come before. “I had a little flask of alcoholic beverage that I always kept under the seat of my car,” he revealed, “so if the temptation became irresistible, I would have a way out.”
One day, after we had prayed for him, and the Lord had not answered our prayers, he said that he was driving, and the Holy Spirit spoke to him: “What about this alcohol? You asked the Lord to deliver you from alcohol, and you have alcohol right underneath the driver’s seat in your car.”
He said, “All right, Lord.” Stopping the car on the side of the road, he retrieved the flask and got out of the car. Going around the car, he opened the flask and poured its contents out onto the ground. Immediately he had victory from that sin. Why? That was his darling sin. He could not give it up on his own, but when he chose to give it up, the Lord gave him the victory.
The Lord will give you the victory, too, just as soon as you are willing to give up your darling sin and say, “I want Jesus to come into my life, and I am willing to give up my darling sin.”
Number Two. The one who abides in Him practices righteousness.
Number Three. The one who abides in Him loves his brother.
Number Four. The one who abides in Him keeps His commandments.
Number Five. The one who abides in Him does those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Number Six. The one who abides in Him trusts in Jesus.
Number Seven. Jesus says that the one who abides in Him receives the Holy Spirit.
Danger of Procrastination
Now I have a question to ask you. Are you going to choose to look to Jesus today? So often there is a darling sin in someone’s life and he or she says, “Yes, Lord, I am going to look toward You tomorrow.” Why do they say that? Because there is some darling sin in his or her life—it could be alcohol; it could be tobacco; it could be drugs; it could be dishonest dealing; it could be pornography; it could be a hundred different things—that they do not want to give up today. They say, “Yes, I realize I have to give that up, but I am going to give that up tomorrow.”
Do you know that procrastination has caused millions of people to be lost? You can only be saved today. Nobody is ever saved tomorrow. You are only saved in the present, when you make a decision. Someone may say, “I will make a decision tomorrow.” Well, I hope you do, but the trouble is that many times, after you have practiced procrastination for awhile, it gets to be a habit, too. It gets to be such a bad habit that the only way God can reach procrastinators is to send them a terrible jolt in their lives.
I have developed a habit of saying, “Lord, help me to learn the lesson You are trying to teach me without having to send these jolts to get my attention.” Do you want to make a decision today and say, “Lord, I am choosing. I am going to look to Jesus”? Do not tell me you are too bad a sinner. That is not true. I am not concerned about the bad sinners. I am more concerned about the people that do not think they are very bad.
If you know that you are a sinner and you need salvation, Jesus came into this world to save people like you that are sinners. If you will look toward Him, if you will focus your attention on Him, He will deliver you from the sins in your life. If you want to turn to Him and be saved, kneel down right now and pray that the Lord will turn you toward Him and keep you focused.
[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: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316 788-5559