Wanted: An Easy Religion

The Gospel of Jesus has never been popular. The gospels reveal that Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

Thus Jesus tells us to “enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).

Although there has always been a mass of professors of religion, there have been but few who have been willing to be truly converted thereby, willing to be broken on the Rock and to crucify self.

Religion has never lacked popularity. Throughout history, most people had “religion” and have even been proud of it. But “The religion that is fashionable, that is popular in the world, is not the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus.” The Review and Herald, June 14, 1892. “The religion of Christ permits no compromise, no yielding to the influences of the world.” Ibid. One of Satan’s goals in our church is to make religion fashionable; to lower the standards of truth so that our church may be filled with those who are professors of religion, but not truly converted.

“It has been the continual endeavor of the enemy to introduce into the church persons who assent to much that is truth, but who are not converted. Professed Christians who are false to their trust are channels through whom Satan works. He can use unconverted church members to advance his own ideas and retard the work of God. Their influence is always on the side of wrong.” Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, vol. 1, 21.

The book of Revelation reveals that Satan has succeeded in diluting this church with professors of religion who are not converted. In prophecy, this church is pictured: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot … and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16, 17). But because of their profession, Laodiceans viewed themselves as being rich and having need of nothing.

No more fearful delusion can take a people captive, and no more accurate description could depict our church today. We are more intent on maintaining a good name than on living a godly life. We want to feel good about ourselves while maintaining our worldly lifestyle.

We want to be popular as are the churches of the world. Typical is our turning to non-Adventist church-growth experts to teach us how we can become popular and grow like the other churches. In the process, the offense of the cross has ceased. No longer is there persecution from without, only that which comes from within when someone raises his voice calling for reform.

And yet for all the endeavors at popularity, we are not growing, at least not in the Western countries. Why should this be? In all our efforts to learn the secrets of growth employed by the churches from which we as Seventh-day Adventists were called out, is it possible that we have missed something? We have become Laodicean relatively slowly—adopting the ways of the churches which compose mystical Babylon by default rather than by intent.

As Elijah said, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21, KJV). Let us therefore choose to have either pleasing, popular religion, or accept the offense of the cross. And for those who want a pleasing and popular religion, not by default but by intent, here are three ways to have a pleasing religion like the world:

Preach Jesus, Without Requiring Perfect Obedience

Everyone has some besetting sin. From birth, Satan has been cultivating certain sins within each one of us.

I remember in a baptismal class, as we were reading from the Bible about jewelry, one young woman spoke up and said: “If I have to take off my wedding ring to go to heaven, I can’t go.” She had been married just six months and had a new diamond wedding ring. When I visited with her in her home two days later, she had two non-Adventist ministers there helping her to see that a little jewelry was not wrong.

She came to the baptism with all her jewelry on. She asked me to explain again the reasons why wearing it was wrong. We then went into the study and spent the next hour and a half reading again all the texts and discussing their meaning. Finally, with tears, she said, “I surrender!” From that moment on the Lord used her, and within a relatively short period of time she had brought several other people into the church.

But first, she had had to overcome her besetting sin, which probably an evil angel had worked to develop this love in her from the time she was a little girl. Presents of jewelry had probably been given to her. Prideful comments had undoubtedly been made about wearing jewelry, and how good it made one look. Jewelry had become associated with femininity, sex appeal, marriage, wealth, success, and attractiveness.

How easy it would have been to have brought her into the church without counseling her about jewelry! And although she eventually made the decision to take it off, how many do not!

I remember another young woman who had three hundred pairs of earrings, several hundred pairs of shoes, and three mink coats. She was a personal acquaintance of some well-known movie stars. She came to every meeting and accepted every truth—but one. That again, was wearing jewelry. Consequently, she found a church that would accept her with her one besetting sin.

Some are lost when standards are held high. Jesus lost the rich young ruler. How much credit he could have been to the fledgling church. He had money, influence, and leadership. Moreover, he kept all the commandments, and even accepted Jesus in broad daylight and knelt down before Him—more so than Nicodemus.

Judas’ keen perceptions immediately grasped what it would mean to their little group to have this respected leader in their company. If the young man needed any reforms, he felt these could come later.

“When Jesus presented to the rich young ruler the condition of discipleship, Judas was displeased. He thought that a mistake had been made. If such men as this ruler could be connected with the believers, they would help sustain Christ’s cause. If Judas were only received as a counselor, he thought, he could suggest many plans for the advantage of the little church.” The Desire of Ages, 719.

If Jesus had listened to Judas, the small group of disciples would not have lost the rich young ruler, nor the crowd of 5,000 when “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). Jesus seemed to lose more disciples than He kept. Somehow, He had never been taught the secrets of church growth. His standards were too high, in Judas’ estimation.

Numerically, Jesus could have had much more success, and we can, too, if we will just be content to preach more of “Jesus” and not concern ourselves with obedience. As long as a person will accept Jesus as his Saviour and accept “most” of the standards of the church, surely the other points of godly living will come along as he sits in church Sabbath after Sabbath.

The only trouble is that as long as there is even one point not fully surrendered to the Lord, Satan has control of the life. Because conversion “requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.” Steps to Christ, 43.

“We are not God’s children unless we are such entirely.” Ibid., 44. The more areas of godly living displayed in the life, while one sin is being cherished, the more deceptive is the Christian experience. As long as one point is unsurrendered, all the preaching in the world will not avail. Judas was not converted by his association with Jesus.

“Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul’s aversion to God.” Ibid., 34.

Sin is like a cancer. Either it is completely eradicated, or it completely eradicates Christ. There are only two roads we can travel: one is the road of total victory, the other is the road of total defeat. All we have to do is take one step down, and the next one becomes easier. “After every advance step in the downward road, Satan has some special temptation to lead them [professed Christians] still further on the wrong track.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 287.

But here is the problem: We do not know when we have been totally defeated. “When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his character.” Steps to Christ, 40. Sin blinds the perceptions. The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day came under Satan’s complete control, but thought they were the guardians of the faith.

All Satan needs is for us to reject one standard. “The removal of one safeguard from the conscience, the failure to do the very thing that the Lord has marked out, one step in the path of wrong principle, often leads to an entire change of the life and action.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 320.

And so, if we want to be popular like the other churches, just preach “Jesus.” Call it “Christ our righteousness.” Make the people active, happy Christians but allow them to retain their one cherished sin.

Tell People to Wait for Jesus to Overcome Their Sins for Them

If the lie that perfect obedience is unnecessary doesn’t work and Satan cannot deceive us into thinking we can be saved while still cherishing sin, then he has another scheme that is just as effective. Preach Jesus, preach perfect obedience and sanctification, but tell them that Jesus will do the perfecting for them. Teach them to read the Bible and pray, and Jesus will do the rest.

This is a most deceptive, alluring philosophy. I remember talking with a leader in the church who was addicted to a certain caffeinated drink. She drank it all day long. She said she knew it was wrong, but could not quit. I asked her why she bought it and she said she was waiting for God to take the sin away from her. She even suggested that it would be wrong for her to quit unless God took it away.

It is true that we have no power to overcome sin in our own strength. But God has called us, with His power, to put sin out of our lives. Jesus gives the power, but we must do the overcoming.

“In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.” The Desire of Ages, 466.

When Judas came to Jesus, he thought that if he just associated with Him, that all his sinful traits would be washed away. How wrong he was!

“He [Judas] felt in his own person the evidence of Christ’s power. … He loved the Great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus. … [Christ] endowed him with power to heal the sick and to cast out devils. But Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully to Christ. He did not give up his worldly ambition or his love of money.” Ibid., 717.

Judas wanted to be changed. He thought that by associating with Jesus he would be changed. He heard the words of Jesus day after day and talked with Him face to face. But because he himself did not give up his sins, his life was not changed as he hoped it would be. How many are going through a Judas experience today because of the Judas philosophy? They have accepted the idea of just spending time with Jesus and letting Him change the life apart from their own endeavors.

“Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. … Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.” Steps to Christ, 47, 48.

There is a work for man to do in overcoming sin that God will not do for him. God gave Samson superhuman strength, but he had to exercise every ounce of energy; he had to lift those gates off the city wall. He had no power to do it himself. But neither could he merely kneel beside those gates and wait for them to move. He had to exercise the power that God had given him.  Likewise, we must exert effort in the expulsion of sin from the soul.

“There must be an earnest effort to conquer through the grace freely given of God.” The Review and Herald, January 24, 1893.

“The pleasing fable that all there is to do is to believe, has destroyed thousands and tens of thousands, because many have called that faith which is not faith, but simply a dogma. Man is an intelligent, accountable being; he is not to be carried as a passive burden by the Lord, but is to work in harmony with Christ. Man is to take up his appointed work in striving for glory, honor, and immortality. God calls upon men for the use of every talent He has lent them, the exercise of every power He has given; for man can never be saved in disobedience and indolence.” Ibid., April 1, 1890.

“Divine help is to be combined with human effort, aspiration, and energy. But we cannot reach the battlements of Heaven without climbing for ourselves. … Not even divine power can lift one soul to Heaven that is unwilling to put forth efforts in his own behalf.” The Signs of the Times, August 14, 1884.

“God will work for His children, but not without their co-operation. They must have indomitable energy.” The Review and Herald, April 8, 1890.

“God will never deliver those who will not strive to free themselves [from temptation].” The Signs of the Times, October 8, 1885.

The counsel is clear. We must overcome as Jesus did, first by uniting our weakness to His strength, our human frailties to His divine omnipotence, our nature to His, and then, thus empowered, we must overcome sin by refusing to do evil and choosing to do right.

“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

But this work requires the crucifixion of self, not pleasing to the natural heart. It will not make for a large, popular church. If we want to have a pleasing doctrine that will gain more adherents, preach victory through Jesus, call it “righteousness by faith,” but teach that Jesus will do the overcoming for us.

Lead People to Worship the System

In all ages, worshiping the system has worked effectively. Get people to transfer their allegiance from the Creator to the created. In ages past, men worshiped the works of creation in the sun, moon, and stars, all in the name of religion.

However, in the New Testament era, Satan has found something new—the church. Throughout the Dark Ages, the idol and opiate of mankind was the church. People looked to the church to interpret the Scriptures, to set guidelines for their daily lives, and to fulfill the vacuum existing in the heart of every man and woman. They worked and sacrificed for the church. God was their Father, but the church became their mother, and their final allegiance was to their mother.

Do we have the same danger? In Laodicea, Jesus is pictured as standing outside the door, while the church within continues to function as though it needs nothing. The church has replaced Jesus.

We need the church, just as we need the sun, moon, and stars. But the church must never take the place of God. There must never be a creed to take the place of the Bible. There must never be a system to take the place of personal obedience. There must never be an official interpretation to take the place of personal conviction. This concern was one of Ellen White’s great burdens for the church, especially following 1888.

“The Jewish nation were not brought suddenly into their condition of thought and practice. From generation to generation they were working on false theories, carrying out principles opposed to the truth, and combining with their religion thoughts and plans that were the product of human minds. Human inventions were made supreme. …

“Let no plans or methods be adopted in any of our institutions that will bind mind or talent under the control of human judgment. …

“The high-handed power that has been developed, as though position has made men gods, makes me afraid, and ought to cause fear. It is a curse wherever and by whomsoever it is exercised. …

“We are not to bargain away our stewardship.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 359–362.

Ellen White’s great fear following 1888 was that we would do as did the Jewish nation in putting the system where God should be. She therefore warned: “Battle Creek is not to be the center of God’s work. God alone can fill this place. When our people in the different places have their special convocations, teach them, for Christ’s sake and for their own soul’s sake, not to make flesh their arm. … To place men where God should be placed does not honor or glorify God. Is the president of the General Conference to be the God of the people? … When the Lord shall work upon human hearts and human intellects, principles and practices different from this will be set before the people. ‘Cease ye from man’ (Isaiah 2:22).

“The Lord has a controversy with His people over this matter. …

“Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God’s power.” Ibid., 375, 376.

Ellen White counseled us to teach our people, in all their important convocations, not to put confidence in human leaders, but in God. “Our churches are weak because the members are educated to look to and depend upon human resources.” Ibid., 380.

“For many years an education has been given to the people which places God second, and man first. The people have been taught that everything must be brought before the council of a few men in Battle Creek.” Ibid., 325.

“Men have assumed authority, but the people should not depend upon poor, finite, erring men. … The Lord alone is to be exalted.” Ibid., 319.

But it is easy to turn our power of thought over to a committee and it is easy to work for something more tangible than God. Moreover, it seems so much more rewarding to work for man than for God. We can climb the system of human organization, but we cannot climb into prominence in God’s vineyard. He said, “Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27, 28).

Organizational worship and service is easier, more pleasing, and more rewarding to the carnal heart than doing all for the Master. It is particularly deceptive because God has ordained organization. God is not leading discordant elements into the kingdom, but a well-disciplined army. But when we give allegiance to the army instead of to the King, then organization becomes a curse instead of a blessing. Because of this problem, organization in the New Testament was kept very simple and unassuming. There was enough organization to propel the church into all the world, united by the cords of love for God and humbleness of service to mankind. All were servants of the One who had given His life for them. All were students of the Word. All were looked upon as brethren. As Jesus said, “all ye are brethren” (Matthew 23:8 KJV).

Thus, though this list does not claim to be exhaustive, there are three leading ways, all equally successful, of making the church popular and Laodicean:

    • Preach Jesus, but do not require perfect obedience.
    • Tell people to wait for Jesus to overcome their sins for them.
    • Lead people to worship the system.

How is it with you?

All Bible texts NKJV, unless otherwise noted.

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.

Heart Obedience

Have you ever known someone who is always questioning things? Surely we have all been around an inquisitive youngster whose every other word, it seems, is “Why?” Asking questions is how we learn.

Perhaps you have wondered what makes a Christian a Christian or contemplated about the experience into which the true gospel would lead you. Perhaps you have pondered sanctification and what comprises it, or mused about the experience you must have that will allow God to redeem you. Have you wanted to know what makes God’s people on this earth distinct and separate from the world?

An Alternative to Sin

Interestingly, each of these queries are answered with the same three-word phrase: Obedience to God.

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19. That statement tells us that there is an alternative to sin. It also tells us what sin is—it is disobedience. God is going to redeem us through obedience, by the experience of obedience. Do you notice it says, “So by the obedience of one . . . .” Who was that One? Jesus! Jesus’ obedience was perfect. Jesus’ obedience took Him to the cross, where He paid the penalty for our disobedience!

God Prepared the Way

Could we say that righteousness is obedience? Yes, and we are not taking anything away from it. God has made a way through His Son, Jesus Christ, to make us obedient to His will, to His law.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. So, God said, I am going to make you righteous, obedient to My law. It is a wonderful thing that God has given us an alternative to disobedience. That alternative is obedience. God says, “I am going to make you righteous through My Son, through His sacrifice for you. I want to bring you back into harmony with My will, My law; I want you to be an obedient child.”

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Romans 6:16. That text tells us that obedience is our choice. Another thing that text reveals is that everybody in this wide world of ours is obeying someone.

Learning Obedience

As we look at these statements, inspired by God through the apostle Paul, we are looking at how encompassing is obedience to the plan of salvation. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8. This text tells us that Jesus himself, coming into this world as a human being, learned obedience.

We just saw in Romans 6 that we learn obedience by first choosing it. So Jesus chose to obey, and He learned it through the things which He suffered. Sometimes, when we obey God, we may suffer, but if we continue to choose to obey God, we are going to grow up in that suffering; we are going to truly learn what it means to obey God.

Now notice, “And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Verse 9. Do you see how encompassing the word and the action of obedience is in regard to the plan of redemption? You cannot get around it. It is there. Obedience is the issue of salvation.

Our Saviour was obedient, and He says that He is able to save every one who will obey Him. Now if we hear of a gospel that eliminates obedience from the plan of salvation, do you think that that is the true gospel? No, and we have not even looked at the whole of the subject yet.

Making a Choice

God clarifies even more fully what obedience means and what the end will be to those who choose not to obey. “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.” Romans 2:8, 9. This is not an arbitrary decree on the part of God, because we are making the choice. God is just confirming our decision and saying, this is where your decision is leading you; do you want to continue in that direction?

We are told in Galatians 6 that God will not be mocked. What a man soweth, that is what he is going to reap. And that is all we are seeing here in Romans 2. Do you see how God reiterates things to us in various ways? I was told early on in my life that a good teacher is a teacher who always reiterates.

There is a difference between redundancy and repetition. God is not redundant, but He is repetitious. Repetition is telling us over and over again what is necessary for us to know. Being redundant is telling us over and over again that which is not necessary. God is very repetitious with us, because He loves us.

Notice what the people are who choose not to obey: “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth . . . .” Verse 8. The truth is what God wants us to obey.

Rejecting Truth Rejects Jesus

The truth goes far beyond mere doctrine. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . .” John 14:6. Did you know that all truth that we read about in God’s word has its origin in a Person? Every truth.

Every truth has its origin in Jesus! All the light we have comes from Him. Should we respond with warmer hearts? Oh, yes! He wants us to obey not merely the letter of the doctrine, He wants us to obey Him. He is able to give eternal life to all those who obey Him. (See Hebrews 5:9.)

Even though it is truth, if we try to obey it to the letter, not sensing it has come from Jesus, we will never obey in the manner in which God wants us to obey.

True obedience is where the true gospel leads us—into an experience in order that God can save us some day. Out there in the universe where there are innumerable worlds that have never fallen into sin—they obey God. It is interesting to learn, as we study Scripture, that everything which God created obeys Him, except man.

Even the demons and unclean spirits obey God. (See Mark 1:23–26.) Inanimate nature obeys Him; the wind and the sea obey Him. (See Mark 4:37, 39.) The angels in heaven obey Him. (See Testimonies, vol. 2, 271.) So if you and I are planning to go to heaven, where everybody is in obedience to God because they love Him for the kind of God that He is, then we are going to have to have that kind of experience. “All true obedience comes from the heart. [Where you see the word “true,” you can always know that there is a counterfeit.] It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.” The Desire of Ages, 668.

Did you notice that obedience is linked up with knowing God? That is why, if we obey Him, we obey all the truth as it is in Him, as He gives it to us. But we are going to have true obedience only if we are motivated by a knowledge of Him, not just merely a knowledge of doctrine. A popular message from pulpits today is one of a relationship gospel. There is a lot of truth in that, because if we know God, we are going to love Him, and when we love Him, we are going to obey Him and keep all of His commandments. It is going to be our highest delight to please Him, and part of that pleasing Him is obeying.


Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter. You may wonder why this is not called the obedience chapter, but faith precedes all true obedience.

Notice verse 4: “By faith Abel offered . . . .” Verse 7: “By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark . . . .” Verse 8: “By faith Abraham . . . obeyed . . . .” Verse 28: “Through faith he [Moses] kept the passover . . . .” Verse 30: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down . . . .” What followed faith in every instance? Obedience! Genuine obedience will always be preceded by genuine faith.

Is Justification Enough?

We hear a lot today in Christianity about justification by faith. There are those who believe that justification in and of itself is enough. That is the theology that accepts that Calvary is sufficient. When we take that concept, we negate the work in the sanctuary by Jesus after He left this earth and went back to heaven.

Is Calvary enough? Is justification enough? Is it enough just to be forgiven? No, we already read in Romans 5:19 that God has made a way through the death of His Son, through His obedience, to make us a righteous or obedient people. That deals with sanctification. Peter says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience . . . .” 1 Peter 1:2.

God wants to justify us through the obedience of His Son and His sacrifice in our behalf for our past, and now He wants to bestow upon us His Spirit by which He will sanctify us unto obedience. So the whole plan of redemption focuses on bringing us back into an attitude of complete obedience to God’s will. If we are hearing any other gospel, and sad to say, many are, it is not the true gospel.


God, by His Spirit, sanctifies us, and that sanctification is unto obedience. The messenger of God tells us that obedience, true sanctification, maintains our justification experience for us: “As the sinner looks to the law, his guilt is made plain to him, and pressed home to his conscience, and he is condemned. His only comfort and hope is found in looking to the cross of Calvary. As he ventures upon the promises, taking God at His word, relief and peace come to his soul. He cries, ‘Lord, Thou hast promised to save all who come unto Thee in the name of Thy Son. I am a lost, helpless, hopeless soul. Lord, save, or I perish.’ His faith lays hold on Christ, and he is justified before God.

“But while God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins, or neglecting known duties. God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 366.

Grace is the Way

God says, through the apostle Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9. We have said this before—our total salvation comes by way of God. Every step we make in progress is from Him as we choose to respond.

Do you see that it is by grace only that we are saved? We are not saved by what we do for ourselves. It is by allowing God’s grace to work in us through His Spirit unto sanctification (see 1 Peter 1:2), unto obedience, that we are saved.

Grace is the only way that we can be brought back into harmony with God. God is trying to tell us what He wants to do for us. Paul says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works . . . .” Ephesians 2:10. Good works is just another way of saying obedience. The end of grace is obedience.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” Romans 6:1, 2. You do not continue to disobey because you have grace. Notice verse 17: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

That is a “from the heart” experience. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under [condemned by] the law, but under grace.” Verse 14. If we are receiving the grace of God, then we have been pardoned—forgiven. That is why we are not under the condemnation of the law. “What then? shall we sin [continue to disobey], because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Verse 15.

Means to the End

Put that thought [that we can be saved in our sins] far from you, Paul says, yet that thought is the theology of the day! What the theologians are preaching in the churches of Christianity today is a twisting and a perversion of Scripture. When preachers say, “Justification is all;” when they say, “Calvary is enough;” when they say, “Just to be forgiven is sufficient;” when they say, “Grace is all there is,” they are wrong. Grace is not the end. It is the means to the end, which is obedience.

The New Covenant is not new; it is the original covenant. Abraham and Moses were saved in the same manner as we are saved—by grace, through faith, unto obedience.

But God gives a wonderful promise, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Hebrews 8:10. If you and I are going to be the people of God, His law will be in our minds and in our hearts. Who puts it there? God does. Who chooses to have Him put it there? You and I do.

Jesus gives another wonderful promise to the Laodicean church (us) in Revelation 3:21: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

The question is, What did Jesus overcome? He overcame the temptation to sin! He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15. What is sin? It is the transgression of God’s law, or disobedience.

If Jesus was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin, what does that tell us? He never disobeyed! Then how did He overcome sin? By obedience. “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book [it is] written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.” Psalm 40:7, 8. God’s law was in His heart and He continually chose to obey His Father. This is the experience He wants us to have, the experience of overcoming sin by being obedient to God’s Word.

Obedience Brings Victory

Jesus says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10. Keeping the commandments will give us victory over sin. Obedience is the means by which God gives us victory over sin. He writes His law upon our hearts and we are brought into harmony with His law by our choice.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. . . . 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.” 1 John 3:6, 9. The experience that Jesus had in regard to obedience to His Father’s will, His law, is the experience that He has called us to have. Any experience other than that will not allow us to some day be a part of His kingdom. That is the only experience that will give us victory over sin.

“Christ came to this world and lived the law of God, that man might have perfect mastery over the natural inclinations which corrupt the soul. . . . Obedience to God is liberty from the thralldom of sin, deliverance from human passion and impulse.” The Ministry of Healing, 130, 131.

“When one surrenders to Christ, the mind is brought under the control of the law; but it is the royal law, which proclaims liberty to every captive,” if we choose to obey it. Ibid., 131.

It is very obvious that obedience is not an optional experience in the Christian life. It is required. If we are going to be brought back into harmony with God’s will, we must be obedient.

Two Forms of Obedience

There are two forms of obedience between which all professed Christians can choose. There are only two, so it is not a hard decision. We know that if there is a true obedience, there is also a counterfeit or false obedience. It appears to be genuine, but it does not lead to heaven.

In an encounter Jesus had with a young man, both forms of obedience are shown. One is inferred; the other is directly brought to view. “And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16.

This young man was sincere and earnest, but these qualities were not enough to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded: “Why callest thou me good? [There is] none good but one, [that is,] God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Verse 17.

Obedience! That is what Jesus told him. The young man wanted to know for certain which commandments Jesus meant. So Jesus made it very clear to him, as He always does for anyone who is sincere. He repeated to him what we recognize as the last six of the ten commandments. (See verses 18, 19.) Jesus said, “If you keep these commandments, you shall have life eternal.”

But the young man responded: “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Verse 20. Did he have obedience? Yes, he had a form of obedience. However, he was not satisfied with the obedience that he was offering to God, because he was not gaining complete victory in his life. Complete victory over sin comes by way of true, perfect obedience to God.

The next verse tells us what constitutes true obedience: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.” “Follow me” means to obey. Jesus got right to the heart of the issue. He pointed out to this young man that true obedience is heart obedience; it is spiritual obedience. Physical obedience is necessary, but God’s law goes beyond physical obedience—it goes right to the heart, and the heart of the issue with this rich, young man was selfishness—covetousness.

Jesus presented him the opportunity of true obedience. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Verse 22. He was a sorrowful Christian when he left Jesus, because he chose to retain a form of obedience that would not lead to complete victory over sin. He chose compromising obedience.

Head or Heart Obedience

Where are we in our personal experience with God in regard to obedience? Do we have merely a head obedience like that rich, young man, or do we have the heart obedience that Jesus had?

True obedience does not compromise. Jesus did not compromise a bit with this young man. He did not tell him to go and give 80 percent of what he had to the poor. It was all! He did not say, “Come and follow Me one day a week.” He said, “Sell all that you have, and come follow Me all the time.”

Do you know what the joy of Jesus is? It is overcoming. He overcame the temptation to sin through complete obedience to His Father’s law. Heart obedience is what we need. True obedience will always express God’s love in our life to others.

Paul said, in Romans 13:10, “Love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” We could say it this way: Love is the fulfilling of all true obedience to God. If we are someday going to reach our final destination—heaven—obedience is necessary. No matter what any man may say, obedience is not an option!

How Good is Good

Those of you who read your Bible, have surely read in Matthew and Luke about the young ruler who came to Jesus and said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16. I am sure that all, or at least most of us, desire eternal life. Hopefully that is our goal and what we are living for. So we should be interested in Jesus’ answer.

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17.

If no one is good but God, what does that say about you and me? Where are we in the scale of life? Fortunately Jesus did not stop there. He said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17.

The Ten Commandments express the Character of God. If there is none good but God, and the Ten Commandments are the description of His Character, it would be well for us to learn all that we could about them so we would know what good is. In the final analysis, when all lives come into review before the Judgment seat of God, we will be either good or evil. Only those who are like God, will be fit to live with Him, for God says, “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 18:13.

Let us take a look at the Ten Commandments. “Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is], Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment. And the second [is] like, [namely] this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31.

Here are a few texts that will help us to understand a little more about the power of love. “Love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10. “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” I John 4:7, 8.

When we understand that God is love and that all love comes from God, we begin to understand why Jesus said, “There [is] none good but God.” Virtually all the love that anyone has was planted in his life by God. Jesus wanted the lawyer to understand that Jesus Himself was God and that all of our goodness comes from Him.

“The ruler had addressed Christ merely as an honored rabbi, not discerning in Him the Son of God. The Saviour said, ‘Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.’ [Luke 18:19.] On what ground do you call Me good? God is the one good. If you recognize Me as such, you must receive Me as His Son and representative.

“ ‘If thou wilt enter into life,’ He added, ‘keep the commandments.’ The character of God is expressed in His law; and in order for you to be in harmony with God, the principles of His law must be the spring of your every action.

“Christ does not lessen the claims of the law. In unmistakable language He presents obedience to it as the condition of eternal life—the same condition that was required of Adam before his fall. The Lord expects no less of the soul now than He expected of man in Paradise, perfect obedience, unblemished righteousness. The requirement under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement made in Eden—harmony with God’s law, which is holy, just, and good.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 391.

Why should we oppose the Law of God if it is all love? Let us look at it carefully and see if we really understand what it is saying to us and what love really is.

First we are told, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3. In other words, we are not to love any other person, place, or thing more than we love God, and we will want to please God. In order to please Him, we will do what He says. We will be obedient to His requirements, because we know that He loves us so much that whatever He asks of us is for our very best good and happiness.

The second commandment says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:4. This one protects us against the futile belief of trusting in some worthless object that cannot think, speak, walk, or help us in any way.

In the Orient, I used to see people kneeling before a rock carved into a likeness of Buddha, expecting help. Once a fire broke out in some thatched huts and the people were pouring water on Buddha, praying for help. Pouring the water on the fire would have been much more effective and may have reduced the damage. Three hundred huts were destroyed in the fire.

We are cautioned in the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7. This commandment helps us to have pure and beautiful speech that emanates from better and purer thoughts about God. It makes us better people with more pleasing conversation. If we really love God, we will not speak of Him carelessly or take His name in vain.

The fourth commandment is the one most rebelled against than any other. It says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8–11.

This is the commandment that helps us get better acquainted with God and protects us from being deceived by false, evolutionary theories. It provides one day each week to enjoy with our families and teach our children about the things that God has created. The Sabbath should be the happiest day of the week, and by acknowledging these first four commandments, we demonstrate that we love the Lord God with all our heart.

The second table of the Decalogue describes how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The fifth commandment says, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12. This commandment is the basis of a happy home. What pleasure it is to see a well ordered family consisting of loving parents and obedient children. How much heartache might be spared if children honored their parents.

Then there is a command that says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13. This commandment is also based on love. If we truly love our neighbor we would never want to do him or her harm. If this principle were carried out, what a safe, relaxed, and joyful society we would all enjoy.

Another commandment that is so lightly thought of today says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14. Oh, how many broken hearts would be saved if this commandment were always obeyed. It is God’s desire that our homes would be loving and happy and never experience the pain of rejection and humiliation that this sin causes. Every tear that is shed hurts the heart of Christ and every heart that aches and is lonely, pierces His soul. Love would save many a home.

“Thou shalt not steal.” Exodus 20:15. Nobody enjoys the intrusion of a robber. To have someone invade your home or private space and take that which does not belong to them can cause great suffering and loss. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we would not do anything to him that would cause him any grief or pain by stealing his goods.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Exodus 20:16. How hurtful and damaging it is to be lied about or misrepresented. Lies have resulted in feuds and wars, broken friendships and homes, caused grief and heartache and have had many other damaging results. What peace and satisfaction we all would have if we conquered self and never broke this commandment.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that [is] thy neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17.

Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content.” Philippians 4:11. Again he says, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” I Timothy 6:8.

What a happy and wonderful world we would live in if we were all happy and content with what we have. The only way this can happen is to heed the instruction that God, in His wisdom, gave us to ensure our best good and happiness.

If we are faithful, one day we will live in that kind of a society, the glories of which we cannot accurately express. We can only let our imagination think about the wonders that we will someday become acquainted with, which will be ours. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Corinthians 2:9.

A few of the glories and blessings of heaven are recorded in the Bible:

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Revelation 21:1–7.

So, how good is good? To be good, we must overcome all sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” I John 3:4. This can only be done by inviting Jesus into our hearts. He said He would live out His life within us, so if it is our desire to have eternal life, then we must invite Jesus into our hearts.

Like David pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.

His divine nature united with our human nature overcame the battle with Satan. We also need His divine nature united with our human nature to become good and be like Jesus, and inherit eternal life.

There is none good but God, but our loving Savior has promised to live in our hearts. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:23.

May we all meet together on the sea of glass.

A member of Steps to Life staff, Ruth Grosboll is a retired registered nurse. She worked for many years with her husband in the mission field. She may be contacted by e-mail at: ruthgrosboll@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Keys to the Storehouse – Jesus Longed to See!

“Jesus longed to see.” That is quite a statement to think upon. It makes you want to know what He longed to see!

A rich young man came to Jesus inquiring what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments, to which he replied, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (See Matthew 19:20.) In those words, there was seen no need. “He [Jesus] longed to see in him a humble and contrite heart, conscious of the supreme love to be given to God, and hiding its lack in the perfection of Christ.” The Desire of Ages, 519.

Jesus longs to see in each one of us

A humble heart:

  • A heart expressing dependence
  • A heart expressing unworthiness
  • A heart willing to submit, willing to yield and to be obedient

Did He see this in the young ruler? No. Does He see this humble heart in you? Jesus longs to see

A contrite heart:

  • A heart that is broken in spirit because of a sense of sin
  • A sincere sorrow for sin
  • A deep repentance

Did He see this in the young ruler? No. Does He see a contrite heart in you? To receive the love of God, your supreme love of self must be surrendered and its deficiency hid in the perfection of Jesus.

“Christ read the ruler’s heart. Only one thing he lacked, but that was a vital principle.” Ibid.

Imagine, thinking to keep the commandments for his whole lifetime and yet still lacking the vital principle necessary for his spiritual life and future. Jesus saw in this young man the potential to represent Him and become a divine force among men. “He longed to make him like Himself, a mirror in which the likeness of God would be reflected. …

“He needed the love of God in the soul. This lack, unless supplied, would prove fatal to him; his whole nature would become corrupted.” Ibid.

We too could ask this same question of Jesus. If we give ourselves to Christ, we can grow in the atmosphere of His presence. However, if we choose to remain lacking, refusing the love of God, our whole nature will become corrupt. This means:

  • It will decay
  • It will be polluted
  • It will be perverted
  • It will be rotten

Jesus longed to see a willingness to be a coworker—but, sadly, the young man turned away.

  • He chose not to receive a humble and contrite heart.
  • He chose not to recognize the supreme love to be given to God.
  • He chose not to hide his lack in Jesus.

“With what earnest, anxious longing, what soul hunger, did the Saviour look at the young man, hoping that he would yield to the invitation of the Spirit of God!” Ibid., 520.

The young man “wanted eternal life, but would not receive into the soul that unselfish love which alone is life, and with a sorrowful heart he turned away from Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 393.

That same invitation is offered today: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Joshua 24:15.

“The Redeemer longed to create in him that discernment which would enable him to see the necessity of heart devotion and Christian goodness.” The Desire of Ages, 519.

But he refused and turned away! What will you do?

Father: I want Jesus to see in me a humble and contrite heart, conscious of the supreme love to be given to Thee. I choose to open my heart fully to receive Christ so I may be transformed into Your likeness, which is my only hope of salvation. Please help me to hide all that I lack in the perfection of Jesus so that I will not become corrupt and lose life eternal as did that young man long ago. Amen.