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What is Possible for Us?

Dennis Priebe
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  • April 23, 2005
    5:00 PM
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Copyright ©2005 Advent HOPE Sabbath School.

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Well, do you see the title of this last paper? That’s a scary word, isn’t it! Do you feel perfect today? There you have it sitting right in front of you. Ready to go home right now, aren’t ya! We don't like the word, cuz we don’t feel that way! And we tend not to deal with the word, not to talk about it, avoided it. Because it’s such an uncomfortable word. What I found with scary words like that is, if you look them straight in the eye, they aren’t quite as scary as you think they are. They, sometimes they seem like frightening things; but if you look at them carefully, they don't seem frightening at all. Let’s see what happens. 


Notice we have some definitions here. We’ll start with definitions. 


Definition of sin: either, number one, sinful nature; or, number two, sinful character, nature you inherited at birth, character is developed by choices. Sin is either our nature, or it is our character. Now, once you define sin, you have automatically defined sinlessness and when it will occur. Because sinlessness is just the opposite side of sin. It is either our sinless nature or our sinless character. Now, when can we have a sinless nature? When Jesus comes. All right? So, if sin is nature, then sinlessness is nature, and it happens when Jesus comes. But if sin is character, my choice. And then sinlessness is character by choice. Then that can happen before Jesus comes. 


And now we can talk about something that no other Christian church ever whispers in their vocabulary. It’s called the close of probation. Why is that word not used in other Christian churches? The other gospel won’t allow it! We can’t live without sin in this life! You will not be sinless until Jesus comes. Therefore there is no close of probation. This is a term totally unique to Seventh-day Adventism. And we better know why! Only in definition two does it work, if sin is character and sinlessness is character. 


Well, that’s the definitions of sin and sinlessness. Now, let's try perfection. Four different meanings for one word. Can you guess why there's confusion? Absolute perfection! Who qualifies? All right, yes. How about the angels? Don't they qualify? Well, look at what one third of them did with their perfection. How about the other two thirds who stayed in heaven? Now, think about that for just a moment. Were they absolutely perfect? How long did it take for them to lose their sympathy for Satan? Four thousand years they had some sympathy for the one that God said had no place in heaven and was a murderer from the beginning. That one they had sympathy for. Should they have had sympathy for him? I don't think so. I think at the crossing they had to scratch their heads and say, We put our sympathy in the wrong place here! We thought maybe you might have a point or two, but now we understand. They had to reassess their judgment, didn’t they. That's not absolutely perfect. You make a judgment, you realize it was a faulty judgment, you restate your judgment. You rethink. And you make a new judgment. That's not absolutely perfect. No finite being can be absolutely perfect because that demands omniscience. And no finite being has omniscience. Why? We are all aware of some things at some times, even angels. And we learn as we go. So only God, by definition, can be absolutely perfect. That word can never even apply to created beings. By the way, we’ll be growing throughout all eternity. Can you guess, can you just guess what we’ll be doing the first, let's say, two or three years in heaven, during the millennium? We’ll be going around to everybody, including John and Paul and Peter and Ellen White and all of the others, and we’ll be finding out what is really truth instead of what we thought was truth. The things we were sure about on this earth we had it all cut and dried, we had it all figured out exactly what the fifth and sixth heads are in the book of Revelation, and we know what the eighth was and we had it all, and we’ll be sorting it all out in heaven saying, Wow, was I stupid! I think we’ll spend a couple of years doing that, right at the beginning, and then we’ll get on to bigger issues. But the real point is, we will have flawed judgment even in heaven that has to be corrected, for maybe quite a while, I don't know how long.


All right, definition number two, nature perfection. That's the same as a sinless nature and that comes at the second coming of Christ. Now, at birth we receive a sinful nature. At the second coming we receive a sinless nature, which is nature perfection. Do we have any decision in that at all? Did you have any choice in your nature? Do you have any input on how God is going to re-create you at the second coming? There's no human decision involved in that at all, so while definition two is a true definition of perfection, it don't apply to us today. It has no relevance to us today. That will be taken care of by God in His own way at the second coming of Christ. That doesn't apply to us, so we go to number three. Character surrender. When you come to Jesus, how much of your life do you give to Him? Ninety percent? Not enough, is it? All! But how much is all? All you know. All you know. How can you give God more than you know? So, the ‘all’ that you give Him might be a small ‘all,’ but it's all you know. It's all you are aware of, and sometimes ‘all’ means, I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. Maybe that's all! And that's enough right there, that's enough. 


Example. Thief on the cross. What did he know about the plan of salvation? What did he know about the twenty-three hundred days? What did he know about the doctrines of the Bible? Probably not much. But he knew he was deserving of death, he was guilty, and there was a Savior right next to him. He knew that. And he gave his heart to that Savior. And Jesus said, “You will be with Me in paradise.” Will he be in the same heaven that John and Paul are in? Hah! Look at that! So that tells me something very important about the qualifications for salvation: that Definition three is the only requirement for salvation. Character surrender. Not maturity. Not education. Not learning. Not being Seventh-day Adventist. None of those are the qualifications for heaven. The character surrender. The whole heart. You see, there's only one question God ever wants to ask of us: “Do you love me with all your heart?” That’s the only question He wants to know. “Do you love me with all your heart?” And if my heart doesn't know much, but my heart loves Him, that's all that is necessary. So right now, we can have the assurance of salvation even though that's not the most important issue. We can have that today. Today we can have that assurance, if we truly love God with all our heart and we’re willing to be His children, no matter what. We can have that assurance today, if we believe that He is in our lives one hundred percent. Character surrender is the only requirement for salvation; there is no other. 


Now, if character surrender is working right, we’ll-well, let’s put it this way: if the thief on the cross had come down from the cross, would he have remained in that spiritual state over the next ten years, as he was that Friday afternoon? I don’t think there's a chance in the world! He would've been growing, wouldn’t he? He would’ve been asking other disciples, “What do you know about Jesus? What can you tell me about Him? Is there a Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit work?” He’d been hearing about things. More and more knowledge, more and more understanding, but something is the same: total surrender. Always total surrender. It covers more ground as we grow daily in Christ. We learn more about two things: we learn more about God, His will; and we learn more about ourselves and our rebelliousness. See, a lot of are rebelliousness is hidden, even to ourselves. We don't even know until someone scratches the surface a little bit and we find, Oh, there’s something there too! We learn more about ourselves every day. So, as God reveals more of himself and ourselves, our surrender grows wider. Still same circle--all of our heart., do you love Me with all of your heart?--but encompasses more territory now, more understanding of God. It's a wider circle. And that’s definition four: it grows to maturity. It grows to maturity. We grow to maturity. It's like the little blade of grass growing up and bearing fruit. It’s harvested.


All right. What are we dealing with here? Character surrender, growing to character maturity. 

When you're running a race, where you keep your eyes fixed? On that finish line over there around the track? Is that where you keep your eyes fixed as you run the race? Better not! You’ll be flat on your face! Where should you keep your eyes and your focus fixed every moment of that race? Three feet in front of you. That's all you need. That's all that your focus needs to cover: three feet in front of you. Watch the people to the side. Don't run into them. Keep that…see if there are any stones in your path. Focus right here. If you keep focusing three feet in front of you and you keep running the race, where will you end up? At the finish line! You’ll end up over there! So that’s number three, leading to number four. Don’t focus on number four. Focus on number three: my relationship with God today. My yielding my heart to Him today, my love to Him today, His love for me, His relationship to me. If I keep on focusing on that today, I will end up in maturity. Let’s not get our focus off center. It’s number three that the focus should be on: our surrender. That’s what this last line is talking about. We are guilty because of sinful choices. Perfection is a series of sinless choices. Don’t let that word scare you. It’s a choice to accept Jesus as your Savior. It's a sinless choice to believe the seventh day is to be kept holy. That’s character surrender. That leads to character maturity, and human decision is involved in every step of the process. Is perfection such a scary concept then? Surrender today. Yielding to God today. He'll grow us up to maturity. Is that frightening? Not at all! That’s natural growth by one who is yielded to the power of God. And perfection is not such a scary concept after all. 


Now, there’s a hitch here. It is a problem that comes up, because remember, we are talking about two different Gospels. Let's say I’ve been a Christian for a whole year. I've been walking with the Lord. I've been having a great relationship. I've been praying. I’ve been studying. I say, “Lord, show me Your will. I want to be your servant. I wanted to know more of your will.” And the Lord answered my prayer. He sends one of you knocking at my door. And because you are a Christian and I'm a Christian, I invite you to talk to me about what you believe in your faith. And the conversation gets on the Sabbath day, and I never thought or heard about the Sabbath day ever in my life before, and I ask you to tell me why you believe that the seventh day is important. And you agree and we spent an hour or two talking about what the Bible says on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath day. At the end of that time the Holy Spirit has convicted my heart, and I come under the conviction that this is right, that this is what the Bible teaches, and this is vital to a successful walk with God. And now you ask me the question that you'd better ask if you’re a good witness: “Will you join me next Sabbath in keeping your first seventh day holy?” That better be your question at the end of that conversation! And now I take two steps back. I hadn't thought of it in those practical terms. Now this has been all theological, you see! The Sabbath day, it’s holy, men have changed it, it’s all up here intellectual. And now it's practical, it's life, it’s the way I'm going to live, and I hadn’t thought of two or three things: number one, I have a job that will not allow seven day off every week, it is a swing shift and we go through the week and there is no priority for any individuals; I will lose my job, my career will come to an end, if I choose to keep the seventh day Sabbath. Number two: my wife has not been with me in this Christian walk quite as strong as I am. She's been following a little but not quite there. And if I do this crazy thing and lose my job and my career over a day, she will maybe, I will maybe lose her too. She will not follow me into this crazy idea. And number three, I will lose all witnessing influence over my family because I’ve gone and joined a crazy cult. And so my mind begins to work. You know, when our, when we get stuck, our mind really works well. And I say to you, “Here I've been a Christian for a whole year. I've been praying, I’ve been studying, I’ve been asking God to lead me. What if I had been killed in a car accident two days ago before you ever knocked on my door? Would I have been saved or lost?” What would you answer? Saved? Okay, not a tough question is it. Because the light hadn’t come. I didn't know. And now my question to you is, “All right, I was saved two days ago, I was saved all last year, I was saved yesterday. I'm still the same person that I was yesterday. I love the Lord I, study His Word, I want to do His will. And yes, I want to keep the seventh day Sabbath…sssomeday. I want to do it when it's…when the circumstances allow it. I know it's the right thing to do. I believe it's important…but I can't right now, it's impossible right now. Are you telling me that I am lost today when I was saved yesterday? Ah, now what's your answer going to be? It’s a tough question, right? Why do I ask that question? Because two different gospels give two opposite answers to that question. Here’s where the rubber begins to hit the road on the things I talked about last night. No longer theoretical; now it relates to whether I'm saved or lost, whether I’m righteous or unrighteous. Remember? The Christian gospel says, “You weren't saved by Sabbath keeping; you can’t be lost by not keeping the Sabbath. You still love Jesus. You made a commitment a year ago. You are following him; you have not turned your back on Jesus. You are just in a difficult situation right now. God understands; He overlooks. He isn't going to hold that against you. Even though your heart is convicted about what you should do, your conscience tells you what is right, it's just impossible right now because of circumstances. Yes, you're still saved. And God will open the way for you to keep it, someday, maybe when you retire. That's not theoretical, by the way, that's exactly the situation that some people find themselves in when they are convicted in their hearts, but they can’t follow it out right now, because of circumstances. Does the Christian gospel teach that? Yes. Does the Bible gospel teach that? No. The Bible gospel does not teach the same thing. Why? Is it because of the great sin of Sabbath breaking? Not really. Watch carefully. What is the first commandment that God gave in the ten commandments? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” What’s a god? Anything that takes priority over loyalty to the creator God. Can a job be a god? Can a wife or a husband be a god? Can family members be gods? Didn't Jesus say, “If you love them more than Me, you are not worthy of me”? 


What have I just develop today I didn't have yesterday? Three gods, in the place of the true God. My job, my wife and my family have taken priority over my love for Jesus. Now when Jesus asked me, “Do you love me with all your heart?” my honest answer can only be, “I love you with seventy percent of my heart. Ten percent goes to my job, ten percent to my wife, and ten percent to my family. I love you most of the way, but I can't love you with all my heart today.” That's the problem, you see? It's not the Sabbath. The Sabbath is just the test question, just like He tested Moses, god tests us: “Do you really love Me? You say you love Me. Do you love Me when it demands something from you? Do you love Me when it's inconvenient? Do you love Me when it doesn't work out well in your future? Do you love Me when your job is at stake? Do you love Me with all your heart? Would you be willing to die if I ask you to do that? Do you love Me with all your heart?” The Sabbath is just a test question of that, that's all. And I failed the question. I don't love You with all my heart. That's why I'm lost today. The Sabbath is just an indicator of that. It just unearthed that. It was there before. It was hidden to me. And so God accepted it, because I hadn’t a clue. But God unearths more and more of our selfishness and our pride and our willfulness that we had never dreamed was there, on specific issues. It's always on specific issues. “Do you love that wallet in your pocket more than you love me? Or will you give me ten percent of what I gave you?” That’s a test question. “Do you love me with all your heart?” That’s all it is. “Do you love me when I tell you that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and you should not defile it? Or do you love your preferences more than the temple that I have given you? All test questions. “Do you love me with all your heart?” And God asks them one at a time. Thank goodness He doesn’t ask them all at once! He asks them one at a time. And when they are hidden, He does not require it. If you were blind you should have no sin. But when God chooses to reveal it to us, we are always to be asking God for light. And when God chooses to reveal some light, and we say “No, I don't want that light!” we are saying no, I can't love you completely. That’s what we’re really saying. So yes, the Christian gospel says you can be saved while loving God partially. The Bible gospel says there is no salvation apart from complete surrender. Two gospels; two practical…two answers in practical situations, to the same question: am I saved today.


All right, let's see. I'm just going to ask a simple question now. Does the Bible really teach, you can name it what you want, character majority, character perfection, or sinless character? Does the Bible teach it? That's the question. And I want us to take a look at what the Bible says. Let's go through these texts together. Jude verse twenty four. By the way, every statement we will now read is a promise. We will read no commands. There are commands in the Bible. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” That's a command. We’re not going to read any commands. Everything we read will be promises. Jude verse twenty-four is the first one. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Well, can God do that? That’s a promise! He is able to keep you from sinning. That’s what He says. And He can present you faultless. 


Okay, promise number one. Let’s go to second Peter chapter two verse nine. Second Peter two nine. Focusing on the first half of this verse. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” If He’s delivered you out of a temptation, you haven’t fallen under the temptation! And you haven’t sinned. Does the Lord know how? Uh, it doesn’t say do YOU know how. Does the Lord know how?


All right, let's see how he does it. First Corinthians chapter ten verse thirteen. Now we’re going to get very practical this afternoon. Everything from here on is going to be very, very down to earth and every day. First Corinthians ten thirteen. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Did I give the wrong reference on that? See some of you still turning pages. First Corinthians ten thirteen. All right? Notice that: He “will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What if we took the way of escape for every temptation? Is that what we just saw? With every temptation there is a way of escape? And he will not allow temptations to come to us that are above our abilities to handle? What if we took the way of escape? How many times would we sin? See the point? There is a way of escape. 


Now, what we want to know is, what’s the way of escape? What is the way of escape? I have found some interesting things. I have found that it is a very hard thing for me to do to sin against God while I'm on my knees talking to Him. It’s possible to sin, but it’s hard to sin right there. It's hard to sin on my knees talking to God. Something about that that doesn't make sin very comfortable. And that leads me to another conclusion that has struck my mind. I have found when a very enticing temptation (James one fourteen) comes to me, and I am pulled strongly toward that temptation, I don't feel like praying right then, somehow. “I'll pray later, Father. I’ll get around to it. I plan on talking to you. But right now I'm just going to think about this for a while.” Isn’t that the way it goes? When there’s a very enticing temptation coming to us, prayer doesn’t seem quite so attractive. It doesn’t seem quite so comfortable. Uh, you don’t feel quite, uh, like you want to get on your knees right then. Why? Because you know good and well if you got on your knees right then all of a sudden the glamour and insight…enticement of that temptation would disappear. And you don't want that to happen just yet. You don't want it to happen. Let's be honest. Otherwise you'd be on your knees right at that moment saying, “Take this thing away from me, I don't want it!” but we do want to so we don't pray. Prayer is a powerful, powerful way of escape from a temptation that comes. But it’s not ambulance prayer, “Lord, help me, I’m in huge trouble, get me out of my mess.” It’s preventive prayer. 


Hey. Most of you here are working in some health allied field. Is preventive medicine or restorative medicine the better option? Better to have a great team of heart surgeons or never have a heart attack? Which would you prefer? 


Preventive prayer is better than restorative prayer. It is! Preventive prayer goes like this. “Father, I have a problem with--and name the single biggest problem you're facing in your life, the one that drags you down most often, the one that makes you feel most guilty and bad about yourself. Name that, identify it. Don't play around, just identify it. Specify it, write it on a piece of paper if you have to, name it before God. “I have this problem with __.” And then say, “Lord, I am tired of having this problem. I lay this on the altar before you right now. I am going to give you this problem. It’s bigger than I am. I can't deal with it. I lay it on the altar. I turn it over into your hands. Lord, I'm going to keep praying this prayer, specific and persistently, until I have victory over this sin in my life. You and I are going to talk a lot about this particular sin for the next week, month, or even year if it takes that. We’re going to talk about it every day, two or three times a day. You’re going to get sick and tired of hearing me talk to you about this problem. But that's what You told me to do. You told me to be persistent. You told me to keep on talking to you. There’s a parable in the New Testament about that. And I am going to follow your advice and we’re going to get specific and we’re going to get persistent right now, Lord, I am TIRED OF THIS SIN IN MY LIFE.” You’ve got to make that decision, see. And lay it on the altar before the Lord. And then keep on praying that prayer every day, two or three times a day. Don't wait until the temptation comes. Pray before the temptation ever comes. And I will tell you something. The Lord will send you an angel when that temptation comes, and you will have victory. Maybe you’ll still slip and fall occasionally. But the falls will get less and less and less and they will disappear. They will! I am not talking theory here, I am talking reality. Preventive prayer will cause sin to disappear out of our lives. The Lord is good. He doesn't expect us to hit everything all at once. He knows that's too big for us. Take one thing at a time, one problem at a time. Lay it on the altar. When you see that God is giving you victory in that area of your life then take problem number two and lay that on the altar and ask God to do the same thing. When there is victory there then move to problem three. God is patient. He will give us time. And move on through the areas in your life that God is revealing to you are not in harmony with His will. The way of escape: preventive prayer 


Now, I'm going to share with you something that is not in your outline, one of the most powerful statements I think I've ever read in the Spirit of Prophecy on this subject. “If Satan seeks to divert the mind to low and sensual things….” All right now, Satan is pulling your mind. He’s dragging it down to his level. He’s pulling it his way. “…bring it back again and place it on eternal things.” Now, did you know there's one thing God will not do for you in the battle against sin? He will not choose what you think about. He will not choose what you think about. He respects you too highly for that. He will not push a button in your brain and make you think on heavenly things. You have to decide what you want to think about. You can think on the low and the sensual, or you can think on the eternal things. You must make that choice. No one can make it for you. Your family can’t make it for you, your friends can’t make it for you. You will have to decide what you want to think about and God will respect your choice. He will never override your choice. So, the one thing God asks of you…. You see, this is a cooperation. There is a little part that we play and a big part that God plays. The little part that we play is crucial to the process. We must choose to think about eternal things. 

Now how do we do that? How do we do the part that we must do?


All right, I’ve mentioned one, that’s prayer. There's another one. It is something that we have almost totally lost sight of. We are a very sophisticated generation. We have all the technology at our disposal. We have things that our…our ancestors would never have dreamed possible. But they knew something much better than we do. They had a clue about something that we have lost completely. Why do we need to memorize Scripture? All we need is a little computer in our hand, punch the text and there it is. We've got five different versions that we have in our briefcase. We can pull any one out and we can read the text right in front of us. We don't need to memorize Scripture. Have we lost something very valuable? Have we lost the greatest deterrent to temptation that God is ever devised—“It is written”? Isn’t that what Jesus said in every case—“It is written”? 


Now, it really doesn't matter what text you choose to memorize. Really. You can choose whatever suits your fancy. Because if you can manage to memorize, let's say, four verses of Scripture, you’ve got two minutes of time on eternal things. If you can manage to memorize a whole chapter of the Bible, you’ve got ten minutes of time on heavenly things. See, the word of God in all its parts is powerful. It doesn't really matter which part you like best. Take what you like best. If you can manage to memorize two chapters of the Bible, and that temptation comes plowing into your head, and you immediately start to repeat those verses in the Bible that you have memorized, you have twenty minutes of time on heavenly things and away from the low and the sensual. That’s what I’m talking about--time away from what Satan is pulling you to down here, time on eternal things. And you know what? By the time twenty minutes is gone by on eternal things, this over there isn’t going to seem so attractive anymore. It doesn't seem to have much drawing power and more. All of a sudden it's just kind of, heh, who cares. And before it was pulling you like everything! Memorizing Scripture. Powerful weapon! 


And there's another way. Some people find it easy to break out in song when a temptation comes to them. It’s even easier to memorize a song than a text, isn’t it! The words seem to flow more easily. So if you can just break out into singing--not in church, okay, but other places--just break out in singing when the temptation comes, there is a powerful way of escape also.

Okay, there are three, and you can think of others. There is prayer, preventive prayer; there is memorizing Scripture; and there is singing-- all ways of escape, and all getting the mind on eternal things.


All right, now notice what happens. “When the Lord sees the determined efforts made to retain only pure thoughts….” You see what he's looking for? “Do you really mean it? Do you want to think on Me, on eternal things? Or do you want to think on the stuff down here? I want to know what you want.” That's what He's asking. “Are you serious, or are you playing games? Do you want let your mind dwell on this and kind of meddle around with it and let it roil around in your head, or are you wanting to think on eternal things? Which do you want? That's what He’s asking. When he sees you’re serious, now the power starts! See, the power hasn’t even started yet. All of these things that I've suggested are just avenues to the power. “He will attract the mind, like the magnet.” Catch that? Here’s Satan pulling the mind this way. Here is Christ. Now you've given Him permission. He’s pulling the mind this way. Who's going to win that battle, folks? Who's going to win? Not Satan! Satan is a defeated foe. If you give God permission, He will pull the mind that you can’t control, toward Him. And then He will purify the thoughts. Now that's where the miracle takes place. You see, there are some people who have strong willpower. They can decide, “I'm done drinking. I've seen what it costs. I don't like it. I quit right now.” They can quit smoking, throw the cigarettes away, never touch them again the rest of their lives. There are some who can do that. Not everybody can. Some can. But there is not one of us with the strongest willpower going, that can control our temper, our emotions, our discouragement, our pride, our selfishness, our ambition, our jealousy, our bitter spirits, and you name it, you just go on. No willpower is good enough to control those thoughts in our head. The sins of the spirit are far more difficult than the sins of action, drinking and smoking. And yet which do we think are the most serious? Got it all reversed, don’t we. The sins of the spirit, the sins of what's going on up here in our mind--the selfish, the proud heart--that's the impossible thing to change. That will take a miracle of God called purifying the thoughts. How will God do it? I don't know. I’m going to guess right now. 


See what happens is, when something comes to our sight or our hearing, things start to click in our minds because we’ve formed habits and patterns and pathways. And those pathways lead to results in our bodily system. Have you noticed that when somebody says something cruel to you your face starts to get red? Why is that? All of a sudden your brain is transmitting things to your bodily organs and things are changing in your body and there are various hormones being released in all sorts of things, and adrenaline starts to flow, and the whole things starts to move into action and you say things that you wouldn’t have thought about saying ten minutes ago. God has to rewire some brain circuits, doesn’t He. Doesn’t He? When that same input comes into our eyes or our ears, instead of following those pathways to make the face red or whatever else, all of a sudden they go through different pathways and they come out in different ways so that we can smile instead of frowning, for the very same things that came to our eyes or our ears. Don't tell me that comes by willpower. That comes by a miracle of God. It’s going to take God 's miracle if there is going to be a purifying of the thoughts. So here you see there is a little bit that we do. We get our minds on heavenly things. That isn’t the solution; that's just the way to get to the solution. The solution is asking God to perform things that are impossible for the human mind to do. And that's the miracle of the new birth, which needs to be repeated rather often. It's a miracle of having self die and Christ live within, the hope of glory. 


So the miracle is in the purifying. And then it says He will enable them to cleanse themselves from every secret sin. Who will? He will. Notice the steps. We choose to place our mind on heavenly things. That's our business. Then God pulls the mind toward Him, He purifies the thoughts, and He cleanses us from secret sin. There are the steps of first Corinthians ten thirty. 


But she doesn't stop there. “The first work of those who would reform is to purify the imagination. Ah! Now, we did it, folks! Where does sin really, really take place? Now, I’ve been with you for almost twenty-four hours. I have talk to you, and I have circulated among you, I have watched you, and I, as best I can tell, you are all ready for translation, right now. Aren’t you? I haven’t seen anybody lose their temper. Not one angry word have I heard. I have heard nobody criticize someone else. I’ve heard no gossiping. I have heard no, no, no angry words or thoughts. You’re all ready for translation, aren’t you! [laughs] You look--we look good in church, don’t we? We really look good. We wear our best clothes, and we wear our best personalities. Don’t we? Especially if we’re sitting with someone we want to impress. We especially look good then, don’t we! So we have this persona that we wear. Is that the real you and the real me? Is that where we really live? You know, there are some things that we don't do because, if we did them, we might get caught and pay a big penalty. And then there are other things we don't do because others might criticize us and point fingers at us: “Look what she did!” So we don’t do them. But in our minds, what’s going on? Are we doing them in our minds? Are we thinking them in our minds? See, there are some things we don't do because of outward problems that that we face, but in our minds, who can look in there? Nobody can see in there, nobody can criticize us, nobody can haul us off to jail for what's going on up here. That's where the real you and the real me lives. That's it. That's where sin happens. Everything that happens outside comes from what's going on here. Here is where the sin occurs: by tolerating, cherishing that imagination, dwelling in that fantasy world, where no one else can look in. That’s where sin takes place. The first work of those who would reform is to purify the imagination. “When tempted to yield to a corrupt imagination, then fleeing to the throne of grace and pray for strength from heaven.” Notice the word and there is flee? Don't walk, don't wait till Sabbath, don’t wait till prayer meeting. You get on your horse and you flee as fast as you can because a robber is about to take your eternal life from you. We’re afraid to death of robbers on the street, aren’t we, They'll take a few dollars from us. And then we let Satan steal away our eternal life right out of our minds, and just sit there and watch him do it. You flee to the throne of grace. “In the strength of God, the imagination can be disciplined to dwell upon things which are pure and heavenly.” What strength? The miracle-working power of God, once again. It’s going to take a miracle to get this imagination pure. Don’t ever, ever think it’s going to happen any other way. You’re going to have to pray for the new birth miracle, the new birth transformation. Death to self. The most incredible thing that can ever happen to a human being when self truly dies and Christ lives in its place. “In the strength of God, the imagination can be disciplined.” If you want the reference, it’s Mind, Character and Personality, volume two, page five ninety five.


Does first Corinthians ten thirteen have some secrets locked away for us? A way of escape for every temptation that comes to us. 


All right, let's go on. What’s that? The reference? Mind, Character and Personality, volume two, page five ninety five. Second Corinthians chapter ten verse five. Right here, product warning. You know, on your things you buy there's a warning label on some things? There's a warning label The text we are going to read now will demand such faith in what you are going to read that you’re going to have to believe the impossible. If your faith isn’t very strong today, you'd better not go any farther in this study. You will not like what we’re going to read next. You will not like it if your faith isn’t REALLY strong. Let's try them out, if you’re willing. Second Corinthians chapter ten verse five. “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Now, where does that come down on the scale of believability? Every thought in captivity to the obedience of Christ? Well, how many sins would we be committing then? Simple question. Now, let's get simple questions, and then we'll deal with difficult questions. How many of Christ’s thoughts were in captivity to His heavenly Father? What was the result in thirty years of his life? No sin. So if every thought is in captivity, sin is impossible. This text says every thought of ours can be in captivity to our heavenly Father--which means we will not be sinning from this day forward to the rest of eternity. And we look around and we say, Well, that's not right! Uh, who is doing that? I haven't seen anybody that way. I'm not that way for sure! That text must mean, well, I don't know what it means. Just like Jesus and the disciples, right? Jesus said, “I'm going to die.” The disciples said, “I wonder what He means? I wonder? Uh, well, I have no idea what He means!” And right here we’re doing the same thing. We can't believe a text that says that every thought will be in captivity because it doesn't seem to match up any experience that we are aware of in our own or others around us or even in past history. Nothing matches reality. Every thought. By the way, notice it doesn't say, Every thought removed. It doesn’t say that. It says every thought in captivity. There will be thoughts that come to us for all of our lifetime till Jesus comes. And God says, “Just place them in captivity. I know that you can't stop the thoughts from coming. But you can put them in captivity. I will take them if you will let Me.” So this text says that we can get every negative, wrong, evil thought into captivity to Jesus Christ. That's what the text says. We’re going to have to believe the impossible to believe this text. 


Let’s try the next one. It’s not easier, it’s worse! Galatians chapter five. We will begin with verse seventeen, which says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.” And these are contrary, the one to the other. So here's the flesh. It’s pulling this way. Here's the Spirit pulling this way. They are opposite, they don't work together, they pull opposite directions. Now notice verse sixteen: “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” All right, let’s break it down, let’s get real here, let’s not play games, let’s not be superficial. Give me a one-word substitute—try to remember what we said this morning in the sermon time--give me a one-word substitute for the phrase ‘the lust of the flesh.’ One word to replace ‘the lust of the flesh. Anyone brave enough to try? Temptation. Temptation. James one fourteen. ‘The lust of the flesh’ that we are drawn by. Now, simpler question. Give me a one-word substitute for the phrase, ‘fulfill the lust of the flesh.’ Sin. Okay, now let’s read the text. “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not sin.” That’s what the text says. “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not….” Doesn’t say “will not,” it says “shall.” “You shall not sin.” You just won’t sin. And then we say, “What in the world is going on? I've been walking in the Spirit for ten years now, five years, whatever it is, I’ve been born again, and I'm still sinning! And I ask other people, and they’re still sinning! I think I asked you last night if you would let me follow you around with a video camera for about a month and see if you were sinning or not, and no one volunteered. Not one! So what in the world is this talking about? “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not sin.” Turn it around, if you are sinning you're not walking in the Spirit. How in the world can that be? That's impossible to take literally. You cannot possibly believe that that's a real understanding of the text! “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not sin.” Impossible. Just impossible. 


Turn to first John chapter three. The toughest of them all. Why did God put these texts in the Bible? They’re so confusing! They make no sense! He can't mean what He says! First John three verse six: “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not. Whosoever sinneth hath have not seen Him, neither known Him.” Verse eight: “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Verse nine: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed [that’s God’s seed] remaineth in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” He cannot sin when God 's Spirit dwells within. Wow, do we have some incredible texts here! Oh, by the way, this is to be understood in a certain way. You see, this is in the Greek present tense. So what it really means is, verse six, “Whosoever abideth in Him is not habitually sinning.” Verse eight: “He that is habitually sinning is of the devil.” Verse nine: “Whosoever is born of God doth not habitually commit sin.” Ah, that's our answer, isn’t it! It’s habitual sin that’s the problem! Occasional sin is not the problem. Habitual sin, over and over and over again, that's the problem! That's when we’re of the devil. It, occasional sin, and we're still of Jesus and in Christ. Well, what’s habitual sin? Uh, it is a crucial question because one way I've saved and one way I’m lost. If it’s occasional I’m saved, if it’s habitual I’m lost. So what is occasional sin? Help me out. Five losses of temper per week, occasional or habitual? Three losses of temper per week—come on now—occasional or habitual? One loss of temper per week--surely that's occasional! That can't be habitual, right? Oh, don’t we love that kind of games playing? Peter: How often do I have to forgive? Seven times should be enough, right? I'll do some counting here. Let's say it's two times cheating on my income tax for five years of returning income taxes. That's got to be occasional, right? Oh, the games we love to play! Do you really want to go down that road? 


The Catholics did it far better than we do. Sin is mortal or sin is venial. It’s the mortal sins that’ll get you. The venial sins you just go to the priest and pay a little penance and things are fine. Do we want to go down that road? You see, this is the present tense in Greek. Present tense, as you well know, means present continuing action. It is continuing in the present; it’s not talking about the past; it’s not talking about the future; it’s talking about what's going on at the present time. So let's read it. Verse six: “Whosoever abideth in Him is presently not sinning.” Verse eight: “He that is presently sinning is presently of the devil.” That’s what it says! It’s present action without regard to the past or the future. Presently sinning means presently of the devil. You see, there's a very, very simple statement. It goes like this: Christ in, sin out; sin in, Christ out. Can’t be any other way, can it? Is Christ going to dwell in the heart is rebelling against Him? Is Christ there when our face is red and our mouth is uttering words that we would never want to utter in front of even the minister in church? Is Christ there? Is Christ controlling? Is the Holy Spirit there? Walk in the Spirit and you can't do that! Did Jesus walk in the Spirit? What was the result? No sin. Are we walking in the Spirit? Well, not all the time then, are we. And what does that mean? 


Now, by the way, these texts that we have just read…read, they are the impossible texts of Scripture. They are the ones that don't make any sense, that are not accepted. Here is a possible explanation for all these texts that we have just read. It's like the old farmer back in the days when they hauled their produce by mule power to market. And the old mules were pretty stubborn creatures. They were very reliable but very stubborn. And they knew when the load limit had been surpassed by ten or fifteen pounds and they shut down. Farmers got tired of that because they wanted to get more produce to market. So one farmer comes up with an idea: “Son, go get that delicacy that we can't afford, that favorite food the old mule likes more than anything else in the world, and bring it out right here in front of his nose.” And he holds it right there in front of his nose. And his ears perk up. My, this is something new! Better than getting hit with two-by-fours all the time! And that old mule starts out after the delicacy. And the farmer says, “Son, move down the road. Keep in front of the mule.” And the son does as he is told all the way down the road to market. About five feet in front of the old mule’s nose. Now, you see, mules are very smart. But they aren’t quite as smart enough. Because the mule hasn't figured out, ten miles down the road, that he hasn’t gotten one inch closer to what he started out for. I call that a donkey promise. And that's what our scholarly friends tell us these promises in the Bible are all about. God knows it will never happen. He knows we’ll never be able to stop sinning. But He puts these texts in the Bible so we will get up off our duff and try. Just like the old mule. God gives us donkey promises. 


Now, I gave you the country boy version of this. Let me read now the scholarly version of this by someone not too far from where we’re sitting right now. “Does perfection represent a destination that the believer will actually reach at some point in time; or is it instead an ideal which, like the navigator star, keeps the Christian traveler on the right course throughout his journey?” Do you ever expect to get the stars? No, you just look at the stars and head in the right direction, don’t you! “We see then that statements affirming the possibility of perfection serve the purpose of encouragement rather than prediction. They refer to an ideal that gives direction and motivation to the Christian’s experience rather than to a specific level of achievement that will actually be reached at some point during his life.” That’s the donkey promise in scholarly language. “You’ll never reach it. God never intended for you to reach it! But He put it there in the Bible so that you will aim for it. It will give you a goal to look for and shoot for. So God knows that this will never happen. God knows that it's impossible. But He wants you to try at least.” There’s our answer, isn’t it. That’s what these promises are for. They’re just goals. They’re just desires of God. He wishes it would happen. He would like us to at least want it to happen, knowing it will never happen, knowing that it would be fanatical to talk about it happening, but He wants us to at least give it a shot. That’s what we’re being told these promises are all about.


Now, I read you something from a friend of ours. I want you to hear from an inspired messenger. “When Paul wrote, ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly,’ he did not exhort his brethren to aim at a standard which it was impossible for them to reach. He did not pray that they might have blessings which it was not the will of God to give.” I think we’ve got a discrepancy here, don't you? “He did not exhort his brethren to aim at a standard which it was impossible for them to reach.” Sanctified Life, page twenty-six. I don't believe God gives donkey promises. I don’t believe He treats us like mules. We are beings created in His image. When God says something to us, He understands that we will respect His knowledge and we will believe His promises no matter how impossible they sound. I am asking you today to believe impossible promises. I am asking you to have faith that is much more than a mustard seed that has grown to fullness and strength; that you will take what you have not experienced in your own life, and you have not seen in people around you, and will say, “I believe it still, because God has said it. And I want that to be experienced in my own life, and I will move in that direction knowing that God can provide the power.” I am asking that. That you believe the impossible. Because that’s what the Bible is all about, isn't it? Read all of the stories of the Old Testament and it’s all about impossible things, whether it’s Moses or Noah or Samson or Gideon or anyone else. All the old familiar stories are believing and doing the impossible because God says it's possible. Why then not in our own experience? Believe that God can do the impossible in these statements that we've just read.


Now, I wish, I wish with all my heart I could stop right there and say we’ve said enough. But because we have two gospels going right now, I have to do one thing more or my conscience isn’t clear. Right now two gospels are competing for our loyalty. And they say different things. I'm going to read to you some of the things that are said by the very best of our authorities in the Seventh-day Adventist church. The names are important aren't important but the ideas are very important. Listen carefully. “Is it possible to sin, and know you are sinning, and keep on doing what you're doing wrong, and still be a Christian?” That’s the question. “The disciples continued their discussion along the road, taking care of their unfinished business, but they knew what they were doing was wrong because they lagged behind Jesus. In fact, by the time Jesus reach the city limits his disciples were so far behind that he couldn't even hear what they were saying.” Well, that’s a little imagination but I’ll bet he’s right. I’ll bet the disciples didn’t want Jesus in on their conversation at all! “So the sin of which the disciples were guilty was not only sin, it was a bad sin! And they knew it was wrong, and they knew what they were doing, and they kept right on doing it. On the basis of this Bible story we can conclude that it is possible to have a relationship with God going on and have a known sin going on in your life at the same time. The disciples that a relationship with God going on and a known sin going on at the same time.” There it is. You can have known sin in your life, just like the disciples did. Question: Were the disciples still following Jesus? Of course they were. They were walking right after Him. They followed him into the upper room. They did what He said. They were following Jesus. They hadn’t turned their back on Jesus. Remember the first gospel? How to be saved: accept Jesus. How can you be lost once you’re saved? Reject Jesus. Anything in between and you’re still saved. Were the disciples in between? Sure they were. They hadn’t rejected Jesus. They were just arguing about who was the greatest. They had a sin going on in their life. So the first Gospel says they were saved. Now a question. What sin was Satan cast out of heaven for? Selfishness and pride, right? What were the disciples guilty of, wandering behind Jesus? Selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t it have been a marvelous thing…. Let's say those disciples were killed by an earthquake walking along after Jesus, arguing about who would be the greatest. And they turn up in heaven and Satan says, “Wait a minute! You cast me out of heaven for my selfishness and pride and you take these followers of yours up into heaven exhibiting the same selfishness and pride and not repenting of it at all? And you say they’re saved for eternity and I go to hell? Wait a minute, universe! Wait, wait, let’s stop this whole thing. What do you think? Let’s examine who's right and who's wrong?” Do you see the problem? Satan would’ve used this against the character of God so quickly: “Those disciples are right with you, and I am rejected for doing the very same thing and neither one of us have repented?” This is all before repentance, remember. The disciples took a while before it got through to their thick skulls. We’re asking the question, Were the disciples in a saving relationship with Jesus while they were arguing about who would be the greatest. Remember he had to say Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” “When thou art converted,” and he’d followed Jesus for quite a while. So we’ve got a problem here. We've got a problem. 

Well, let's try another statement. Uh, I can give you a whole bunch, but I’m just going to select two or three. “Stumbling under grace, falling into sin, does not deprive us of justification, neither does it bring condemnation. So you sin, you’re still under grace. You are…do not lose your justification and you are not condemned. Neither does it bring condemnation.” 


All right, let's see what else we might come up with. “A Christian is still a child of God even when he or she stumbles and sins. God views these sins as part of the maturing process and the person does not come under condemnation.” So what is sin? Part of the maturing process. It’s just happening and you don't come under condemnation for it. “When God looked at the life of David through the eyes of Jesus he saw only a perfect person. David committed many sins, his behavior was despicable, but he lived a repentant life.” Hmm! When David was sitting up in his upper room plotting the murder of his most loyal soldier so he could have his wife, is that a repentant life? Is it? First gospel: “Yes it is!” I've asked the question, was David in a saving relationship with God during the year that followed after his sin with Bathsheba until Nathan the prophet confronted him? And the first gospel answers yes, and the second gospel answers no. There the two Gospels come to bedrock level. That's where the rubber hits the road. Can you be saved while sinning? First gospel, yes; second Gospel, no. “If David had been lost,” he continues, “it would not have been because of his adultery or committing a murder. He would be lost because he did not keep a faith trust dependent relationship with God.” Which went first, losing the relationship or committing adultery and murder? Losing the relationship caused him to commit his adultery and murder. Was he walking in the Spirit? How could he be? He had chosen to do something he knew in his heart was dead wrong. Even common sense would tell him that. And he could allay his suspicion, uh, his conscience with the words, “I am a king and I can do anything I want,” but his conscience knew better. His conscience knew better. He wasn't fooling himself. He was rationalizing himself but not really fooling himself. We’ve got serious problems here from the best authorities on righteousness by faith in the Seventh-day Adventist church, because Ellen White puts it this way. She says, “Every transgression brings the soul into condemnation and provokes the divine displeasure.” Every transgression. Testimonies, volume four, page six twenty three.


She says, “No one who truly loves and fears God will continue to transgress the law in any particular. Whatever his profession may be, he is not justified” (which means pardoned). I just read we’re still justified when we fall into sin. That's My Life Today, page two fifty.


And one more, the clearest of all. “The willful commission of a known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit and separates the soul from God. Whatever may be the ecstasies of religious feeling, Jesus cannot abide in the heart that disregards the divine law. We cannot for one moment separate ourselves from Christ with safety.” How does that compare with what we just read? That’s Messages to Young People one fourteen and one fifteen.


We’ve got a problem. We’ve got a problem. We’ve got two gospels teaching exactly the opposite thing about salvation and sin. One gospel says God will overlook it because you can’t help it; one gospel says, When you sin you rebel, and you’ve got to take care of that. You can’t mess around with it. Now, I don’t want to…my point here is not to discourage us all completely and make us all feel hopeless and despairing and we’re not going to, you know, we’re all lost. No. The real point is, here's the real point, believe it or not: what do we do when we slip into sin? What do we do when we slip and fall? Two choices, the human response or the divine response. The human response: “It’s not my fault. If she hadn’t said what she said, I wouldn't have said what I said. When she says she's sorry, I'll say I’m sorry. That’s only fair.” That’s the human response and we do it, don't we. What's the divine response? It’s not the question, Am I going to hell. No, there’s a bigger issue. We need our eyes opened like the servants of Elisha on the hills of Dothan. We need to see what's happening up there. Y’see, there are unfriendly beings watching what we're doing and saying, what we Christians, professed Christians are doing and saying. They’re watching us carefully. What they want to find is a slip. They want to find an abnormality, something wrong that they can record quickly in their communication processes, whatever it is. And they can send it up to their commander-in-chief, and he can say, “Look at your Christians! This is what they're doing. You claim them as yours? They’re mine! They’re following my way, they’re not doing it your way. Your gospel as no power! You can’t deliver them from sin, all you can do is forgive them and forgive them and forgive them, and your gospel is powerless.” That’s what Satan says every time we sin. He throws our sin in the face of God. And that’s what our eyes need to be opened to. When those words come out of our mouth, immediately we see the angels taking them up to their commander-in-chief, and we see that we are giving Satan the victory in the great controversy. And say, “Lord, I stop right there. I'm sorry. Not because I was wrong. I might've been right in the whole process. But because my attitude was wrong. My spirit was wrong. My spirit was Satan’s spirit. And I don't want to discredit your name and more.” And all of a sudden Satan has to fall back. And he loses his power to attack God. Repentance gives God the right to say, “No, Satan, no more. Your argument is silenced.” It gives God that right. So you see, we have two options: rationalizing, defending, or repenting the moment of sin. And see, if we say, “Well, I’ll repent—tomorrow….” Ah, that hand that was connected to the hand of Christ goes behind our back, clenched fist, and we walk along all day long just fuming and sputtering about our mishandling by other people and unfair treatment, and our hand isn’t in Christ’s hand at all. See, there’s only one thing that should scare us. It’s not sin, it’s not Satan. It’s losing contact with our heavenly Father 's hand. That should scare us to death. When we feel that hand slipping, that should be the scariest thing in this world. And the only thing that matters to us: contact once again. See, this is not yo-yo religion as some claim it is, while you're in Christ, and then you're lost, and then you’re saved, and then you’re lost. No. If you follow the way…if you slip and fall, your heart loves the Lord completely but you slipped, you make a mistake and you know it’s sin, your hand is slipping out of the hand of your heavenly Father in the process. You say, “No Lord, I will not allow it, I am sorry. I place my hand in Yours, please take me back.” The Lord does not wait, He takes us back immediately, the prodigal son is returned to the home, and we are safe in the father 's hands. We do not lose our salvation for a momentary slip if there is immediate repentance. But we do lose our salvation if, like David, we defend and rationalize our sin. We do lose our salvation. Being saved is not a continuous state that is impervious to whether or not we sin. We can lose our salvation by sinning and defending our sin. Yes we can, according to what we have you just read. And that the first gospel will not allow. 


Well, why did I do this? Because, folks, I am pretty worried these days. I am pretty worried for our beloved Seventh-day Adventist church members who believe in the truth of the Sabbath, who believe in the three Angels messages, who believe in the end of time prophecies, who believe that Jesus is coming soon and who are excusing sin in their lives because their best teachers tell them, it’s okay. It's okay, God overlooks it. You will be in heaven. God has forgiven you. You have the umbrella of forgiveness covering your sins at all times and as long as you carry that umbrella, you are safe even while sinning.


I remember a famous illustration on a book that came out during the Desmond Ford era, by a youth pastor by the name of Steve Marshall I think his name was. That’s a long time ago. And on the cover of his book he had in a man dressed in a black suit carrying a white umbrella. The sin covered by the forgiveness of God 's grace.


There’s another illustration that goes like this. You get into an elevator and it’s going. You push the button for the ninth floor. As soon as you get into the elevator you fall flat on your face. The elevator is still taking you up to the ninth floor. 


I'm scared to death that well-meaning, sincere, faithful Seventh-day Adventist young and old--age is not the issue here, eighty years old, sixty years old or sixteen years old, it really doesn't matter--are going to believe what they are being taught: that God overlooks sin, He will tolerate sin, and He will save people while in sin, if they just love Jesus. I'm scared, because there are a whole bunch of people who are going to be lost for all eternity believing that their pastors and their teachers were telling the truth of God. And there are going to be people tearing at the eyes of those faithful teachers of the end of time saying, “Why did you tell us this? We’re all lost together!” It’s going to be a very, very ugly scene at the close of human history when those who have been misled turn upon their teachers. That's why I'm scared. I’m scared for our people today in light of a gospel that teaches them a falsehood like this.


Now, I'm not going to take much time on the Spirit of Prophecy statements. I just want to point to two or three. I'll let you read the rest on your own. Just a couple of the highlights. The Ellen White statements, look at the fourth paragraph on the first page from Desire of Ages pages one twenty three. “Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us.” Truth, or fiction? “So it may be with us?” Not even by a cherished thought, is what it’s saying. Look about half, two thirds down the page. IHP one forty six--In Heavenly Places, the last sentence in that long paragraph: “Everyone who by faith obeys God 's commandments will reach the condition of sinlessness in which Adam lived before his transgression.” Doesn’t say some; it says everyone…who lives by faith. Next page, page two, second paragraph. page two, in the middle of the second paragraph: “He came to this world and lived a sinless life that in His power His people might also live lives of sinlessness.” Why did Christ come to earth? We say to die for our sins. Much more than that! He came to show us how to live sinless lives. The ultimate heresy, in the eyes of most Christians. Halfway down the page, God 's Amazing Grace, two thirty: “Our Savior does not require impossibilities of any soul. He expects nothing of His disciples that He is not willing to give them grace and strength to perform. He would not call upon them to be perfect if He had not at His command every perfection of grace to bestow on the ones upon whom he would confer so high and holy privilege.” Did you catch that? There was nothing about burden, command, demand. It's all about gift and bestowing and privilege. 


All right. Here we are. We’ve got our fist, doing it our way. God says, “Please open your fist. Open up your hand and I will pour in My forgiving grace and it’ll cover all of your past sins.” Do we deserve that? Is it a gift of God? One hundred percent. And God says, “You have another hand. And I have another gift. Will you open up that hand and let Me pour in overcoming grace,” And we look at that. “Forgiving grace and overcoming. That one means lifestyle changes, doesn’t it. That one means I don't do some things I like to do. Let’s just stay with forgiving grace, I like that very much!” Don't we do that too? We even plan our sins, knowing that we can be forgiven. Don’t we? We plan our sins, knowing that we can be forgiven. “Tomorrow, I’ll repent . It’ll all be taken care of because God will forgive me.” You know what a huge risk God takes in forgiving our sins? He allows us to get the idea that we can continue to do that, and He’ll just forgive indefinitely. Which of the two is the better gift again, overcoming, or forgiving grace? You know how much better overcoming graces is than forgiving grace? There will come a time--maybe not far from now--when God is going to remove His forgiving grace completely from the whole world; called the close of probation. And there will be overcoming grace, full and complete, in the hands of God 's people, poured out without measure; the gift and the privilege. Why will He do that? Is he going to do it because “I’m going to cheat you out of forgiving grace. Can’t have it any more!” Or is it this way: “You are so full of My overcoming grace. You come into such total surrender to My life. You have come into such an obedient relationship to Me. You love Me with all your heart. You would rather die than sin. My overcoming grace has totally enveloped you and surrounded you. You don’t need forgiving grace anymore. We can move on. We can finish the old halfway house. That’s what this is, halfway. Get us out of the guilt of sin, the burden of sin, so we can get the real grace. Overcoming grace. You don't need this anymore. What you don't need we’ll take away,” and the whole universe can see that the gospel has power to save to the uttermost; that the gospel has power over all sin; that Galatians five and second Corinthians and first John mean what they say. They are not pie-in-the-sky. We will prove it by overcoming grace, and the close of probation showing that overcoming grace is all we need for the rest of eternity. Never again will we need forgiving grace. That's how much better overcoming grace is than forgiving grace. It’s a gift of God's grace. It is not something we achieve. 


Turn to page three. Third paragraph on page three: “He who has not sufficient faith in Christ to believe that He can keep him from sinning has not the faith that will give them an entrance into the kingdom of God.” Do we have faith today? Do we have the faith that will give us an entrance into the kingdom of God? Then we have the faith that He will keep us from sinning, today, tomorrow, next day, next week, next month. If we have that faith. 


The next two paragraphs talk about Enoch. And then a marvelous statement two thirds down the page: “And there are Enochs in this our day.” Wow! Have you heard a person ask, “Do you have anybody, do you know anybody who’s perfect?” What a question! The question should be, does God know anybody who’s perfect? Here’s our answer: “There are Enochs in this our day.” God knows! And that's all perfection is for, by the way. For God 's knowledge, not for ours. 


Well, have we answered the question, does the Bible teach character perfection? You decide for yourself on the evidence. I have only one more question. It's a short one, won't take much time. If we are saying my surrender definition three, not maturity, why have I burdened you with maturity for this last hour? If you’re not saved by sinlessness you’re saved by surrender like the thief on the cross, you’re not saved by maturity, why all the talk about maturity? 


The great controversy is raging. Satan is challenging God. He says, “Oh sure, you have your heroes of faith. You can pack ‘em all into one chapter of the Bible, Hebrews eleven; the rest of them are just garden-variety Christians, they are just ordinary, they sin and they repent, they’re half mine and they’re half yours.” 


God says, “Aah, I know. I can’t really argue out of that one.” But then He says something. He says, “But you’ve missed something, Satan. You’ve missed something. That isn’t the way it is completely. You have a partial truth there.” And then God makes the most amazing promise He has ever made in all of Scripture. If I were God 's advisor I would have said, “Don’t say that!” You’d better be glad I’m not God’s adviser! You wouldn't have a couple texts of Scripture we’re going to read. God has made some incredible promises. Back to your outline, first page. At the bottom on the left-hand side it talks about the close of probation. I've given you some texts to read there. You can read them on your own. On the right-hand side at the bottom it speaks of the hundred forty four thousand. We’re going to finish with two texts, Revelation seven and Revelation fourteen, the two most awesome promises in the entire Bible. Four angels on the four corners of the earth holding the winds of destruction. Another angel comes out of the East with the seal of the living God. And here's what he says to the four angels, verse three. “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed, and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” Part one of the promise. I will not destroy this earth until I have a sealed generation. That’s part one. Now, what does that mean? Revelation fourteen. By the way, please note that Revelation fourteen has two parts to it. We are very familiar with the three angels’ messages. Starting with verse six. But they are, that is preceded by the description of the hundred forty-four thousand in verses one to five. The three messages are given with power by this group called the hundred forty-four thousand. Now notice how it’s described: “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand having His Father's name written in their foreheads.” What do you think the seal of God is? Father’s name written in our minds. We belong to Him. Our minds are His. We live His way.


Now, what does that mean? Look at verse five. “And in their mouth was found no guile.” Guile means deception or hypocrisy. “For they are without fault before the throne of God. “ That's the hundred forty-four thousand. If you have any doubt about what the word ‘without fault’ means, the same word in Greek is used in the next two texts and they refer to Jesus Christ. You can read it for yourself. “They are without fault before the throne of God.” No guile. No hypocrisy. No deceit. A hundred forty-four thousand, the seal of God in their foreheads. What is God’s promise before this earth is destroyed? I will seal all my people. Once I have sealed my people they will be without fault for the rest of eternity. Every one of them. Not just a few to pack into one chapter in the Bible but a whole generation from all countries, all economic classes, all societies, all nations, and I will pull them all together into one group, I will put my seal on their foreheads, and Satan will never get them to sin again. That’s the promise of God. Now, you think that isn’t a big promise? I think Satan says, “Come on, You don't mean that, do you? You really mean that? You put that in the Bible? You say you can pull that one off? I know Priebe. I know him pretty well. I know where he, where his weak points are. I’ll get him. I’ll get him.” How many times would Satan have to get us, the sealed ones, to sin to prove God a liar in these promises? One person. One time. Out of a whole generation of saints. All it would take is one sin of the weakest one of them all, one time. Losing his temper and punching out a Christian right person. That’s all it would take! You begin to see the awesomeness of this promise God has made! 


Now, watch carefully. I used to, in my more naïve days, have a misconception about the seal of God. You know how the divers go down into the ocean to film the great white sharks? They get themselves in a big steel cage and they go down and take the pictures, right? I used to think that’s the way the seal of God was. God would put us in a big steel cage and lock the door, and Satan couldn't get at us anymore forever. I’ve come to realize that it’s exactly the opposite. I am in the protective cage TODAY. First Corinthians ten thirteen: God does not allow any temptations above that we are able. The great white sharks of temptation can’t touch us today, it’s unfair, we’re not ready for them, the only ones that get us are the little fish that come in the s…nip us between the bars. 


There is coming a time when God is going to have to open the doors of that cage for issues relating to the great controversy. And when He ushers us out of that protective cage into the great ocean where the sharks live, He is going to stop at the door and place His seal in our minds and say, “As long as You trust My power, and My Holy Spirit lives within you, Satan will not be able to touch you--if you have faith in this seal in your forehead.” That’s what God is promising to do.


Now, on the great white shark issue, I used to think in my more naïve days that Satan would bring his greatest deceptions just before the close of probation so he could drag as many people to hell with him as he could with him before probation would close. I have now come to understand that Satan isn’t planning to go to hell at all. He’s planning to unseat God on the throne of the universe, by proving God a liar. And that means Satan will wait until he knows that probation has closed before he delivers his most powerful deceptions: the biggies, the great white shark deceptions, the most subtle of them all. The ones we can hardly tell the difference between truth and error. He will wait, until he knows that no more forgiving grace is available if we slip and fall. Remember how he tried to fool Jesus? He’ll try to trick us, just once. Just one sin, one time; fool him before he thinks carefully; fool him at a bad moment. Get him to sin one time. Bring a huge temptation, and he wins the great controversy, and he proves God a liar. 


You don’t think so? One more statement from Ellen White. First page of the Ellen White statements, halfway down the first page. I want you to read this one carefully. First page, halfway down the first page. Desire of Ages, six seventy-one. “The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” Whose honor? Not the hundred forty-four thousand, not mine, not yours, not the Adventist church. God’s honor. Because who does the perfecting? God does. It’s His gift. And if God can’t pull it off, where does His honor go? Where does Christ’s honor go? Satan wins the great controversy. Because God has proven His way doesn’t work; His promises are not fulfilled. Are you beginning to see why I would have advised God not to make this promise?. This is the hugest of all promises God has ever made in six thousand years of sin’s history on this earth. He will have a whole generation of sinless, fallen human beings. Not just one, Jesus Christ. But He will have a whole generation of those who have not only had fallen natures, but have developed those fallen natures into ugly habits of sinning by a lifetime of rebelling. And that will be turned around by His overcoming grace, and they will be without sin, and Satan will see this as the most amazing thing that he has ever witnessed throughout all eternity: a whole generation who aren’t listening to him anymore, and they were just a few months ago. That is the ultimate miracle of all miracles, far bigger than Moses leading his people through the Red Sea. That was easy compared to this one. This is the impossible of all impossibles. And that’s why I’ve been trying to ask us to believe the impossible. We’ve got to believe it for ourselves first. Then we’ve got to believe that God can do it for the whole generation that we’re living in. That’s what we’re up against right now, if we are going to be the last generation.


Now, I’ve talked enough about Satan, haven’t I. Do you think God or Satan is going to win this thing? All right. So do I. That carries a price tag. And here is the price tag, here is the condition: if God is going to win, He’s going to win it through His sealed saints. He’s not going to win it apart from them. I’m hearing things like, He’ll take the church through, even if it’s not ready. Well, then He loses the great controversy. How can that possibly be? God has never done His work apart from His church and His people. Not in all history. He has delayed His promises when His people were unfaithful, hasn’t He? All through history it has been that way. Why should He change that at the last moment? God will not force anyone to do it His way. So that means that He will only seal His people when they are ready to be sealed. That’s the price tag. 


My great grandfather’s generation wanted with all their hearts to be that last generation. If you read some of the, um, the statements made at the eighteen ninety-three general conference by those who were speaking, particularly A. T. Jones, who knew that his message was to prepare a people for translation; he knew that; prophet had told him that. And he was absolutely certain that by eighteen ninety-three the latter rain of the Holy Spirit better be falling, because this was the time for translation. They talked about it the whole eighteen ninety-three conference. The latter rain had to fall at this general conference. It didn’t. My grand…great grandfather’s generation was not ready for the seal of God. They were still concerned about authority, control, power, who was authorized, who was unauthorized, who had credentials, who didn’t have credentials, who had the right, authority to speak and who didn’t. They were into authority and power struggles. They were not ready, and God loved them too much to force them into battle as unready soldiers. And so He let them go to their rest, in mercy. And He’s let several more generations go to their rest. 


Here we are. Can you tell by looking around you at our world that God is saying it’s time? Not too hard to figure out, is it. We’ve even had something happen during this very last week that is a very important sign of the times. I don’t think I have to expand on that.


Right now God is telling us, I am ready for the sealing time. I am ready. Are you going to walk with me into the final events of earth’s history? If He finds this generation ready, He will seal this generation and we will see Jesus come. If we will go about our business of nominating committees and church activities and Sabbath School classes and Signs campaigns and Review campaigns and all the things we do as a church, and keep on doing business as usual, and we keep on looking about how we’re better than that person over there, and that person is not so good, and we’re just okay and they aren’t. If we’re into that attitude, God will pass us by in mercy, let us go to our graves because He loves us too much to send us into the battle unready. And He will ask our children, or our grandchildren, or our great-grandchldren the same question He asked of my great-grandfather’s generation. He will keep asking the question until He gets a ‘yes’ answer. It’s that simple. God will win the great controversy. But He will win it only when He gets a ‘yes’ answer from the ones that He wants to work through. He will not bypass them, He will not ignore them, and He will not overlook them. He will work through His church. That’s the way He is vindicated or sanctified. 


So, my question is very simple. Does that take a baby Christian, or a mature Christian? Takes a mature Christian, doesn’t it? Why have we spent time talking about sinlessness, perfection? Because the thief on the cross experience is not going to handle that. That’s all right for salvation; you can be saved by a thief-on-the-cross or a deathbed experience. You can be. But vindicating God, that’s another issue. Telling the truth about God and proving Satan a liar, that takes a fair amount of growth to maturity. And that’s why I’ve been talking about maturity, not for salvation, but getting the great controversy over with. Preparing for the seal of God, and enabling Him to do His final work. So my question today is a very simple question, it’s not the question of an evangelist who would ask, is it right with your heart, are you living, uh, do you want to give your heart to Jesus? No, that’s not my question. The question is, Do you with all your heart and soul want to receive the seal of God in your foreheads? That’s my question. And I don’t want you to be casual in your answer to that question. This is far bigger than, Do I want to turn my life over to Jesus today. This is the question, Do I want to get into that situation in my life where God can put His seal in my heart and I will never sin again in thought, word, or action. I will die before I do that. Are we ready to move into that experience? I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, put your name on a piece of paper. But I am going to ask you to do something. I’m not going to ask you to walk out of this auditorium without doing anything. I’m going to ask you to go home, find that place where you talk to God all alone, wherever it is—might be in your room, out under the trees, wherever it is, that place where you and God talk together. I’m going to ask that you wrestle with God a little bit over the areas in your life that you know are still thorny areas, areas which are not reflecting the character of Jesus very well, areas where you feel bad about your witness to others, areas where you know the seal of God cannot be placed. I’m going to ask you to wrestle with God in those areas. It’ll take wrestling, like Jacob. That’s why it’s called the time of Jacob’s trouble, which is still ahead, but there’s a foretaste of it right now. We’ll be wrestling with God, agonizing with God, pleading with God for victory, asking God to do miracles in our lives—purify our imaginations, get our minds like the mind of Christ. Remember that’s where we started? Let us have the mind of Christ? We need to be pleading, supplicating with God for that. It’s not enough just to make it a prayer now and then. This needs to be the big issue of our lives. Not graduating from school, not a carreer, not activities that we will be proud to put on our resume, but receiving the seal of God. That’s all that matters for a Seventh-day Adventist. Believing a different gospel. Because no other gospel will get us off this earth. Billy Graham’s gospel may save people, but it will not end sin on this planet. It’ll go on for hundreds of years with that gospel. Only this gospel, the Adventist gospel, can end Satan’s rule on this planet. And that’s what Seventh-day Adventism was called to be. We were not called to save more people than the Baptists. If we can save them, praise the Lord. We were not called to do that. We were called to vindicate God’s name by obedience and submission and faith in God. Believing the impossible promises. I want you to go home and wrestle with God on that issue. Will we be today Seventh-day Adventists down to our core? And that doesn’t mean a set of doctrines. That means a mindset of total surrender to Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, never asking what is the least I can do to be saved, but what is the most I can do to tell the truth about God. That’s Seventh-day Adventism. And that’s what I want you to do. If you do that, this meeting and all the other meetings will be worth your time. You’ve sat for a long time today. And it’ll be well worth it. But if you don’t do that, if you go on to business as usual--studying for tests, passing tests, going to work, getting paid--we’ve all wasted our time today, you and me together. If business as usual is the order of the future. So I’m going to do a little pleading. I want us to get off this planet. And I think you are the ones that can help in the process. This group of people. Remember, I praised you a while back. I said something was happening that hasn’t happened before in my lifetime. I believe it really is. I don’t think...I’m, I’m not kidding you here. I believe there is a movement afoot, that Satan isn’t going to be able to derail completely. I think you’re the heart and soul of the possibility of that movement, if you’re willing to go all the way and not stop halfway down the line with a half gospel, but take the real gospel and ask for overcoming grace in its fullest measure. That’s my appeal for today. 


I’m going to pray, but remember, my prayer will not solve the problem. My prayer will only be for me; you have to pray for you. It’ll be one by one that we all link hands together and join as God’s final people. Will you kneel with me? 


One more time we come to You, Father, on this Sabbath day. One more time we come to You in repentance, realizing that we have dishonored Your name in more ways than we can even remember. That we have given Satan credibility by our willfulness, by our rebellion, by our stubbornness. And Lord, we’re sorry. We really are sorry we’ve dishonored Your name. And in Your great mercy You have not cast us off, You have not rejected us, You have still held us as the apple of Your eye, You have protected us, You have cared for us, and You have loved us. And we thank You to the bottom of our hearts. And right now, Lord, I pray that this generation, this generation young and old alike, without any difference, may be the generation that will actually receive the most important gift in the entire world, the seal of the living God. Lord, I pray that this will happen. I pray that we will desire this more than anything else in our lives, that we will prioritize our lives to make sure that this is the goal we are striving for. Nothing else really matters. We want to be in heaven. We want to see Jesus come. We want to be part of that final generation. Thank-you Lord for hearing our prayer one more time. Thank-you for understanding our weakness, our frailty, and even our inability to understand the issues clearly. Lord, accept our hearts, accept our desires, and may we individually wrestle and agonize and plead for Your miraculous overcoming power to live above sin. I pray that for everyone here today. I pray it in Jesus’ powerful name, amen.

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