The locked-down world is getting ready for a major transformation in government and the economy. God’s people have little time left in which to prepare spiritually for the looming crisis. Now is the time to be grounded in the roots of our faith.
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We ended on what God’s people should be doing in order to prepare for the increasingly painful events that will bring us the close of earth’s history. Today I want to go more deeply into the required preparation of God’s people, for three reasons:
- Analyzing current events based on the Bible is helpful, but not enough to save you
- Knowing and interpreting all end time Bible prophesies is also very helpful, but not enough to save you
- The only formula that can save you is God’s grace by faith in Jesus Christ which faith will produce good works that testify that your faith is real. That’s the salvation formula distilled down to its simplest expression. That’s what we’re going to explore more deeply today.
Most of the world is still in quarantine. And although this quarantine isn’t strictly 40 days, the fact that it’s called quarantine is significant. In the Bible, the number 40 is often associated with transformation, a change from one state to another.
While behind the scenes the world silently prepares for a major transformation from one mode of government to another, let us revisit the foundations of our faith to be more firmly grounded on the chief cornerstone that is Christ. Let’s get started!
A Covenant Based on Obedience
Abraham is considered to be the Father of the Faith. In Genesis 12 and 15, we read about God establishing a covenant with Abram. The Lord promised to bless him and multiply his descendance like the stars of heaven, although he and his wife Sarai well advanced in age. After Abram takes matters into his own hands, which resulted in continuous wars in the Middle East until this day, the Lord gives Abraham a son, Isaac, by his wife Sarah.
In Genesis 22, we all know that dramatic story, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar as an offering to Him. Abraham is about to slay the boy when the Angel of the Lord stops him. The Lord is satisfied with Abraham’s obedience and confirms the covenant blessings Abraham and his descendants will receive. All of those blessings are enumerated in Deuteronomy 28.
At the beginning of the world, the Lord also subjected Adam and Eve to an obedience test: they were not to eat from the tree that was in the middle of the garden. As we all know, Adam and Eve failed the test. They disobeyed God’s voice and as a result lost everything. They lost their home, their robes of light, and their close proximity to God. Terrible curses came upon the earth and upon them and their descendants: aging, illness, death.
Adam and Eve didn’t die on the spot because the sacrificial system was immediately put into effect. Two lambs – pointing to the future Lamb of God – were sacrificed to cover their sin. But they did ultimately die. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Consequences of Adam’s Sin
There are some really important consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience that we need to highlight:
- We read in Genesis 5 that when God created Adam and Eve He created them in His own image and likeness. However, listen to this: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3) God’s image was no longer upon Adam’s descendants.
- Our DNA became corrupted. Adam and Eve transmitted to all their posterity a sinful nature, the proclivity to sin. This is not the same as the Catholic teaching of original sin, which is not biblical. We do not inherit Adam and Eve’s sin when we’re born, but we do inherit a general propensity to sin, an attraction for evil. This causes us, over the course of our lives, to develop any number of sinful patterns.
- More specifically, the Lord visits upon us “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7) So very specific evil tendencies are inherited from our ancestors: a tendency to lie, to steal, to be attracted to alcohol or gambling or witchcraft or even the same sex.
The Lord in His infinite wisdom foresaw all the consequences of sin. This is why in Genesis 3:15 the Lord said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Enmity means war.
The Lord had to put enmity and war between us and Satan’s seed, because sin had created a frightening affinity between man and the devil. Sin defaced God’s image in us and left us vulnerable to acquiring the image of the devil.
At the end of time, Satan is forging a nation that speaks and behaves like a beast and people that take the mark of the beast. On the other hand, God is sealing His people in whom He will have restored His character, image and likeness.
In this very well-known passage in Romans 7, the apostle Paul eloquently describes the ensuing warfare between our carnal/sinful nature and our spiritual nature:
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
What Paul is describing is the raging battle that we all experience on the path to sanctification. We want to obey God’s law and His voice. But often we fail. The closer we get to the Lord, the more the battle rages!
Then Paul asks:
24 O wretched man that I am! WHO shall deliver me from the body of this death?
That is the question. We’re the last generation. In this generation, God will seal vision and prophecy and bring in everlasting righteousness. We don’t get to fail!
And yet, how many times have you disregarded the voice of the Holy Spirit? I have so many times grieved God’s Holy Spirit. I know it breaks the heart of Jesus. What would it take for you to immediately, without hesitation, obey the small, still voice of God when He speaks to you, the voice behind you that says, “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left?” (Isaiah 30:21)
What’s the solution? How can we avoid failure and achieve Christ-like perfection? When probation closes, how will we be able to stand before a holy God without an intercessor?
The answer of course is the only possible solution: Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
“There is in his (man’s) nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist. To withstand this force, to attain that ideal which in his inmost soul he accepts as alone worthy, he can find help in but one power. That power is Christ. Co-operation with that power is man’s greatest need.” (Ellen G. White – Education 29)
There can be no perfection outside of Jesus. He alone can make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). He alone can present us blameless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).
The Mystery of God
This mystery is the heart of the gospel: how God gives up His own Son in atonement for wretched sinners that are dead in sin, enemies of His law and government, and imputes to them Christ’s perfect righteousness.
That mystery was kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25). Peter describes this mystery of God as something that the prophets diligently inquired into, and even angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1), The mystery was finally revealed to all at the Cross.
This is “9 the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:9-11).
This is why witnessing is such an important part of the Christian walk. When we tell others about Jesus we’re witnessing not only to them, but also to the angels in heaven who want to understand this great mystery.
The essence of the mystery of God is His unfathomable love. “16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
All created beings – humans and angels – will spend the rest of eternity studying God’s marvelous, unfathomable love.
Righteousness Without Works
Now we’re getting into the core of today’s message. You may think you know this. I thought I knew this. But the more zealous you are for God’s work, the more you desire holiness, the higher the risk that you might begin trying to save yourself through works.
It seems that this may have happened with the Pioneers of the Advent Movement. In the year 1888 Elder EJ Waggoner brought them the message of righteousness by faith. Nothing new – this was the very essence of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500 and 1600’s. Yet they flatly rejected the message. Sister White says that had they received the message of righteousness by faith, they would’ve received the Latter Rain and had power to finish the work.
Aren’t we glad they didn’t? But you and I need to get this right.
First, we need to understand that God’s law is the faithful expression of His righteousness:
“My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished. Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My law. Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings” (Isaiah 51:6-7).
The Lord is saying that those who know righteousness are those who have His law in their hearts. The law of God is the righteousness of God. Therefore righteousness is obedience to the law, and that obedience leads to salvation.
By the same token, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law. For sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
The reality of the human condition is that not one single human being since Adam has fulfilled the requirements of the law. “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
So let Jesus translate for you. Let’s read from Mark 7:21-23: “21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
In other words, out of the evil heart of man can only come evil. All of us have that evil root in us. Jesus made it very clear that we needed to obey the law even in our thoughts. God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing (Ecclesiastes 12:14). No human being measures up. Not one human being is a doer of the law always.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).
It’s hopeless to think that we can become righteous by our own efforts. It doesn’t matter how sincere we are or how hard we try. An evil, sinful man which we all are cannot produce righteousness. We must first be made righteous before we can fulfill the law and produce the righteous works that we’d like to produce. Only those who keep the law will enter the Holy City.
How then do we get the righteousness that we need in order to keep the law? “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
Righteousness is a free gift from Jesus
Righteousness is a free gift from Jesus. He gives us abundant grace to keep the Commandments and to obey God’s voice speaking to us through His Holy Spirit.
This very key passage in Romans 3 sums it up really well:
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Do we make void the law through faith?
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
(Romans 3:20-28 and 31)
And why do we so desperately need this righteousness which is by grace, a free gift from God? We need it to keep the law. Therefore we don’t disregard the law, quite the contrary, we establish it so that we may gain the right to enter the New Jerusalem, the city of the Great King.
This is how we’re going to stand on our Day of Judgment, when our name is called in heaven: “8 … I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).
The Source of all Righteousness, who Lawgiver who wrote the standard of righteousness which is a transcript of His own character, He clothes me with His righteousness and therefore my sin is taken away. “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10).
This is an important point: Man’s rebellion is against God and His Son and their authority. It is the prerogative of God and His Son to overlook the offense of the offender. This is why God Himself had to die for us, because the offense was against Him. When Jesus submitted to the penalty of transgressing the law, which is death, He vindicated the law. By dying in propitiation for us He reconciled justice and mercy and took away our guilt. We’re justified and counted as though we’ve never sinned!
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). By our new birth in Christ we are brought into the family of God where God can now go about the work of sanctifying us. “I am the Lord who sanctifieth thee” (Exodus 31:13). He has given us grace to keep the law and obey His voice when He speaks to us.
Let’s wrap this up with the salvation formula as it appears in scripture:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
God purchased us for a very high price – the price of His own blood – when we were worth nothing. But by the time He’s done with us He’ll be able to present us blameless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy! We’ll become precious jewels to the praise of His everlasting glory, a demonstration of His love, mercy and grace before the entire universe.
Brothers and sisters, now we’ve understood that which the prophets have diligently inquired into and that which angels also desire to look into. God desires that we witness of this saving grace to other human beings and even to the principalities and powers in heaven who are watching us. Please share this message with those who might be struggling against sin or those who might still be wavering in the valley of decision. For how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)