By Elder Lawrence Nelson
A few months ago my telephone rang and I lifted the receiver to hear an angry voice declare these challenging words, “Pastor Nelson, are you saved?”
I hesitated a moment for I was not accustomed to answering such an abrupt question. So I responded, “I hope so, for I trust in Jesus.”
But the angry voice insisted, “I want a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ right now.”
In the conversation that followed I discovered that this man was one of our own Seventh-day Adventist ministers who had totally accepted the New Theology; believing that Jesus had done everything for his salvation on the cross, even kept the commandments for him. He was saved, come what may, with full assurance and there was no doubt about it.
Some of his church members, who receive my tapes, were questioning his preaching. So he had listened to my tapes and did not believe what I preached from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. He would not accept that there were any other conditions for salvation except to believe. He then stated that my preaching was robbing the people of assurance. He became so angry that I could not continue the conversation.
This experience led me to do some serious thinking. A true Seventh-day Adventist does not believe in “once saved, always saved,” because the Bible plainly teaches that a person can fall from grace. But how does one experience heavenly assurance of peace? I believe that very early in this millennium suddenly we will be confronted with a final test of our life – a Sunday law.
We have been instructed that it will come as an overwhelming surprise; and unless we have absolute assurance, many a Seventh-day Adventist will buckle under and give up the Sabbath and obey the Sunday law. So in this study let us discover the answer to the question, “Isn’t there some inner witness, some substantial evidence to rely upon?”
Let us delve into what is written to answer this important question. And as we do, let us reverently ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray. Loving Father, Inspiration has predicted we shall soon face a Sunday law test, with such persecution that millions of Seventh-day Adventists will give up their faith and join the opposition for the lack of assurance. So we earnestly plead that the Holy Spirit will help us discover the divine provision that has been promised that will enable us to face this crisis with unlimited assurance. And we ask this in the blessed name of Jesus, Amen.
As a foundation for our study let us turn our thoughts to the disciple, Peter, and what happened to him immediately following the Last Supper. He and the disciples followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus was about to be taken captive leaving the disciples separated from their Master who was to be tried and condemned to death.
Jesus, knowing what was soon to happen, was much concerned that His disciples would not lose their faith in Him as the Messiah. He was especially concerned about Peter. We read in Matthew 26:31-35, “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”
Poor Peter, he did not know his own heart for he was filled with self-assurance; and before the sun arose the next morning he had denied his Lord. Brokenhearted he rushed back from the trial of Jesus to the very spot where Jesus had pleaded for His disciples in prayer. He confessed his great sin, repented, and God gave him a second chance to prove faithful. Never again did Peter deny his Lord. Through the divine aid of the Holy Spirit he discovered how to fearlessly stand for Christ in any crisis designed by Satan to force one to deny Christ. In fact, Peter became fearless so that when he and the other disciples were taken captive and commanded to be disloyal to their Lord he cried out, “We ought to obey God rather than man.”
Now, this Peter has given us divine counsel how we too can be faithful to God when we are faced with a Sunday law and have unlimited assurance so that we shall not fall. Let me read this to you. It is found in 2 Peter 1:2-11, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: [And now come these precious words, listen] Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. [Here’s our key to assurance]
“And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
What a promise that we find here! Ellen White gives us an astounding insight concerning these verses of scripture. I was amazed to discover that unlimited assurance is found in this passage. “Here are your life- insurance papers. This is not an insurance policy the value of which someone else will receive after your death; it is a policy that assures you a life measuring with the life of God – even eternal life.” Heavenly Places p. 29. Oh, what assurance, what hope!
Did you catch the significance of those words? “A life measuring with the life of God.” Oh what a Savior that can give us such assurance! And then I discovered that Inspiration referred to this scripture of Peter in other places. She assures us beyond a doubt, that if we are faithful to God in keeping the holy Sabbath, when the Sunday law comes, we shall be victorious. I am reading from Manuscript Releases, Volume 5, p. 88,89, “Here is the life insurance policy for every soul that shall strive in the right way and upon the right principles. They shall never fall but shall have their eternal life insurance papers in the sign given in Exodus 31:12-18, in the observance of the Lord’s Sabbath. This means obedience to all His commandments, for the keeping of the Sabbath which God has sanctified and blessed at Creation, ‘is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations’ ‘for ever’ ‘that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.’”
Let us read from Exodus 31:14-16 regarding what we have just read. “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.”
So, when the Sunday law comes (are you getting the picture?) we will not only be demanded to keep Sunday holy, but eventually be forced to work on the Sabbath. There is no escaping this final test; for if we do not keep Sunday holy we will be put to death by Satan’s power of authority. And if we don’t keep the Sabbath, God’s penalty will be eternal death. Either way, we are facing death; but praise the Lord, we are given assurance that if we remain obedient to the commandments of God, even if we must die for our faith, God will give us a life measuring with His – even eternal life. O what a God!
But Inspiration explains that there are conditions even though this Seventh-day Adventist preacher claimed that all there is to salvation is “only believe.” Ellen White explains these conditions by repeating 2 Peter 1:10 where we read, “‘Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.’ We need not have a supposed hope, but an assurance. [And then she names these specific conditions…] To make our calling and election sure is to follow the Bible plan, closely examine ourselves, to make strict inquiry whether we are indeed converted, whether our minds are drawn out after God and heavenly things, our wills renewed, our whole souls changed. To make our calling and election sure requires far greater diligence than many are giving to this important matter. For if ye do these things, — live on the plan of addition, growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ — ye shall mount up, step by step, the ladder Jacob saw, and ‘ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered onto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ.’” Manuscript Releases, Volume 19, p. 351,352.
Peter found this assurance by taking hold of God’s promises, which made it possible for him to partake of the Divine nature. And so it may be with us. “Every promise that is in God’s Book holds out to us the encouragement that we may be partakers of the divine nature. This is the possibility — to rely upon God, to believe His Word, to work His works; and this we can do when we lay hold of the divinity of Christ.” Heavenly Places p. 32.
In past years in my youth work for the General Conference there was a song that I often had the young people sing, “Every promise in the Book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line; all are promises of love divine, every promise in the book is mine.” These promises, when placed within our hearts, give us the needed experience of abiding in Christ.
In John 15:7 we read, “If ye abide in me, (and how is this done?) and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” What a promise – all made possible, “by His humanity. Christ touched humanity. By His divinity He lays hold upon the throne of God. As the Son of Man He gave us an example of obedience. As the Son of God He gives us power to obey.” Note: It does not say Christ kept the commandments for us so that all we need to do is believe as this Adventist preacher was teaching his flock; but Christ gives us power to obey. Why?
“It was Christ, who from the bush on Mount Horeb, spoke to Moses saying, ‘I AM that I AM.’ Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me unto you’. Exodus 3:14 This was the pledge of Israel’s deliverance; so when He came in the likeness of men He declared that ‘I AM’, the child of Bethlehem, the meek and lowly Savior as God manifested in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16 And to us He says, ‘I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ John 10:11. I AM the assurance of every promise. I AM, be not afraid. God with us is the surety of our deliverance from sin, the assurance of a power to obey the laws of heaven.” Desire of Ages p. 24.
You know, I kind of like that! It is simple and reassuring. When we read these words I am sure that you feel like praising God. When the great I AM abides in our heart with His precious promises John tells us in John 17:3, “This is life eternal.” It is through the Word of God that we become acquainted with Him and partake of His life. His promises become our daily bread giving us the strength to obey Him and prepare for the coming crisis.
In Desire of Ages p. 123 it says, “How is this accomplished, Christ has shown us. By what means did He overcome in the conflict with Satan? By the word of God. Only by the word could He resist temptation. ‘It is written’ He said. And unto us are given ‘exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ 2 Peter 1:4. Every promise in God’s word is ours. ‘By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ are we to live.” [So in the near future when we are faced by some angry judge demanding to know why we keep the Sabbath remember, let us follow the example of Christ and say, “It is written…” “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” “The seventh day is the Sabbath.”]
“When assailed by temptation, look not to circumstances or to the weakness of self, but to the power of the word. All its strength is yours. ‘Thy word,’ says the psalmist, ‘have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.’ ‘By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.’ Psalm 119:11, Psalm 17:4.” Desire of Ages p. 123.
Jeremiah Denton, is a living example for us today of the power that the Word can sustain in a crisis. He was a US captive soldier in Vietnam. For seven years he was placed in total isolation; tortured, often threatened with death. How did he survive? He tells us he repeated over and over, day after day, the scriptures he had memorized and this is what kept him alive until he was finally delivered.
Beloved, it is through the daily study of God’s Word that our characters are changed to be Christ-like. Oh that we would take God’s Word as God personally speaking to us! Ellen White makes such a plea. She states in the Desire of Ages p. 390, 391, “In His promises and warnings, Jesus means me. [Then she illustrates, for she says,] God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that I [notice she put that there] believing in Him, might not perish, but have everlasting life. The experiences related in God’s word are to be my experiences. Prayer and promise, precept and warning, are mine….All … who [meaning those who receive Him] partake of His nature, and be conformed to His character.”
When this is done we can be assured of eternal life for the promises of God within our heart have made possible an abiding Christ. So we can say with John in 1 John 5:12,13, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Inspiration proclaims, “Every promise in the word of God is for us. In your prayers, present the pledged word of Jehovah, and by faith claim His promises. His word is the assurance that if we ask in faith, you will receive all spiritual blessings. Continue to ask, and you will receive exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think. Educate yourself to have unlimited confidence in God. Cast all your care upon Him. Wait patiently for Him, and He will bring it to pass.” Signs of the Times, November 18, 1903.
Let us never be like the worldly woman who upon returning from a theater discovered that she had lost a very expensive diamond from her necklace. She immediately called the theater manager. “Madam,” he said, “I’ll go where you were sitting and see if I can find it. Hold the phone.” In a few minutes he returned, excited. Picking up the phone he said, “Hello, I’ve got good news. I found your diamond.” But there was no reply. She had not waited and had hung up the phone leaving no name, no address or phone number. Months later, he sold the diamond and kept the money. The lesson? – Wait patiently for the Lord to answer you requests. He will not fail!
So when Satan fills the mind with doubts, and such will come when the Sunday law is enacted, and you face and experience when you can neither buy nor sell, remember this, “The rainbow about the throne is an assurance that God is true; that in Him is no variableness, neither shadow or turning….He has pledged Himself to give heed to our cry when we come to Him confessing our unworthiness and sin. The honor of His throne is staked for the fulfillment of His word to us.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, p. 23. Praise the Lord!
This will be a time when feelings are to have no part in our assurance. We must rest solely on the promises of God. “Never give up your faith and hope in God. Cling to the promises. Do not trust in your feelings, but in the naked word of God. Believe the assurances of the Lord. Take your stand upon the plain, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and rest there, feeling or no feeling. Faith is not always followed by feelings of ecstasy, but ‘hope thou in God.’ Trust fully in Him.” Upward Look p. 176.
Jesus has given us such an example. Consider this tragedy – the Savior when He was tried and condemned by His church and then delivered by His church to the Roman governor urging that He be crucified. During all this trial He remained faithful with assurance because He had kept His Father’s commandments. Inspiration has likewise tried to prepare us for what is to come. We have been instructed, “We have more to fear from within than from Babylon.” So let us remember the experience of Christ.
Even on the cross, He had no outward assurance that His sacrifice was accepted by His Father. It was not until after His resurrection from the tomb, and ascension to His Father’s throne, that He heard the words that His atonement for man’s sins had been accepted. So we too must trust in the promises of God as we fight the good fight of faith, trusting that when we are resurrected, or translated, and stand before God, we shall then hear those blessed words, “Well done.”
Like the Savior as He faced the supreme test, He prayed, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39. This is the true explanation of God’s promise to fulfill every sanctified request. As we read in Mark 11:24, “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
This is clarified in the book Education p. 258, Christ “makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatsoever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal. For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christ-like temper, for wisdom and strength to do His work, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; then we are to believe that we receive, and return thanks to God that we have received. We need look for no outward evidence of the blessing. The gift is in the promise and we may go about our work assured that what God has promised He is able to perform, and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it most.”
In Signs of the Times, April 14, 1890 we are told, “But you must remember that only those who obey the commandments of God, through His grace, have a right to appropriate the promises written for the consolation of the children of God.” In the book Our High Calling p. 147 are these words of assurance, “Precious are the privileges accorded him who abides in Christ….They that are abiding in Jesus have the assurance that God will hear them, because they love to do His will. They offer no formal, wordy prayer, but come to God in earnest, humble confidence as a child to a tender father, and pour out the story of their grief and fears and sins, and in the name of Jesus present their wants; [and then what?] they depart from His presence rejoicing in the assurance of the pardoning love and sustaining grace.”
The Christian needs to know that he or she is abiding in Christ. Regarding this matter, one is justified in having anxiety. In the following quotation, Inspiration answers this Adventist preacher who taught that you could have total assurance, “Christ would have His joy fulfilled in us. He would have us abide in Him that we may bring forth much fruit. The only thing for which each should have anxiety is to know how it is with his soul. The question to put to ourselves is, ‘Am I fighting the good fight of faith? Am I a living graft in the True Vine? Am I a branch of the parent stock, drawing sap and nourishment from Jesus?’ How shall we know how to answer this question? Jesus has said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ And our fruits are dependant upon our abiding in Christ.” Signs of the Times, April 18, 1892.
As we face the coming Sunday law sometime in the beginning of this new millennium, let us not fear but be filled with unlimited assurance. We have been promised by the Almighty that even when we have to stand alone before some unscrupulous judge for our faith, that Christ will tell us exactly what words to say. I am reading from Matthew 10:19,20: “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”
And when you are hungry because it is impossible to neither buy or sell since you will not comply with the Sunday law, remember this promise found in Isaiah 33:16, “Bread shall be given him; his water shall be sure.” And when you have nowhere to go because the state has taken away your house the same text assures us that, “His place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks.”
When we are deserted by our friends, our loved ones, and even church members who have apostatized and betrayed us to our enemies, we are not alone for Jesus has promised in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
In these days while we still have our Bibles we should be placing Psalm 91 in our memories for this will be our unlimited assurance as we face the coming crisis. I am reading from Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
“A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt though behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
“They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”
Let us pray . Loving Father, we thank Thee for these wonderful promises of Thy love – angel protection, food, shelter, and final deliverance with eternal life. May the precious Holy Spirit impress this knowledge within our heart so that when the crisis breaks upon us our faith will rest in unlimited assurance. And we ask this in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.