By Elder Lawrence Nelson
As a soldier for Christ, the Lord has called me to be one of His watchmen on the walls of Zion to keep God’s remnant informed of end-time events which are daily developing around us. For the last few years, with God’s help, I have faithfully presented the warning signs of probation’s end and how we must prepare to be ready to meet the final test. We must be fully awakened to see our need of divine help.
But there is something vastly more important than our knowing all about these closing events, and making sure that we have followed God’s counsel to get out of the cities, to become free of debt, and aware of Satan’s plans to deceive. I’m speaking about our need of absolute assurance that we have individually been born again. What a tragedy if, in the final moment of God’s judgment, we should discover, like the great theologian Nicodemus who could repeat from memory the entire Old Testament bible of his day, yet who was startled to hear from the Great Physician that he was not ready to see God. He had a serious heart problem which required a heart transplant. In order to be ready he must be born again.
In this study we will examine the great Heart Specialist’s diagnosis to ourselves, to see if we qualify as being truly born again, or like Nicodemus realize that we are not yet ready to live in Christ’s coming kingdom. For many years I was a youth worker in the conference, union and General Conference with but one purpose – to help our young people, teen-agers, and juniors – to know how to come to Christ and to receive a new heart; to prepare them to meet Jesus. This message will appeal to both young and older persons, for everyone loves to hear an illustration telling of how all people are able to receive a heavenly transplant by complying with the prescribed conditions required by the Great Physician.
As we now begin to examine the sparkling gems of truth let us pray. Dear Loving Father, we come before Thee requesting that Thou send to us Thy Holy Spirit which is divinely equipped to give us a thorough spiritual examination, revealing whether or not we have been born again. We also want to know if divinity detects any sign of sinful deterioration that we need to correct, for we desire to have a spiritual experience that will meet with heavenly approval. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Let us first review the experience of Nicodemus as found in John chapter three. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
Now tell me, why do you suppose that Jesus spoke with such positive words to Nicodemus, leaving no doubt as to his need of a change of heart? The answer is obvious – because God loves a beautiful Christian character, and God loves us so much that He wants us to have characters like unto the character of His Son Jesus. Therefore, through His written Word, and the testimonies of His Spirit, He has sent to us many sparkling gems of truth. These are God’s divine means of enabling boys and girls, men and women to form jewel-like characters, fitted to live with Him in that beautiful city, the New Jerusalem.
I begin with the story of a man you might have seen on the television news screens, for it is not easy to forget the pale, drawn, haggard face of a man called Albert. He had only a short time to live, that is unless an organ donor could be found. If his life were to be spared he must, in the near future, undergo a heart transplant. The physicians had said that they could do nothing to mend the old heart. Replacing a valve or repairing any other portion of his heart would not help him. He needed a whole new heart.
Being in his early thirties, and having a wife and children, he was understandably troubled and anxious. The community solicited funds for his anticipated surgery. His face appeared on the TV screen day after day as the amounts being collected were being reported. Finally a day arrived when, upon answering the telephone, he heard those welcome words, “A donor heart has been found.”
Immediately his mind was filled with hope and rejoicing. After the proper preparations were made, Albert surrendered himself fully into the hands of his physician. The surgery was successful, and after some weeks had passed his face appeared again on the television news. What a transformation! What a change! No longer was Albert pale and haggard. His life had been restored. His face shone with a healthy radiance. His eyes were bright. His joy and thanksgiving were reflected upon the entire community where he lived. All the people rejoiced with him. But there was one thing that he could not forget. He meditated over the fact that someone had lost his life to make it possible that he might live.
Now let us consider some spiritual lessons from Albert’s experience. Before he received a new heart, Albert was a sick and dying man. Today many are as sick spiritually as Alberta was physically. To use a Bible term, their hearts were natural (or carnal) and their characters so diseased that they do not have long to remain spiritually alive.
Note God’s description of such a heart. He declares, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. Again I quote from scripture, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lisciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7: 21-23.
Spiritually speaking, men do not always realize the extent of the diseased condition of their hearts – that is, not until they look into the mirror of God’s law of the Ten Commandments. It is then that they see themselves as they actually are – wretched and hopelessly near death. They long to be forgiven, but praise God there is a divine remedy for spiritual illness. That remedy is the gospel.
In the book This Day With God on page 224, I quote, “The truths of the gospel are not unconnected; uniting they form one string of heavenly jewels…. Like threads of gold they run through the whole of the Christian work and experience.” So we are told that God’s precious sparkling, gospel gems unite to form one golden string of remedial, heavenly gems.
These truths can be plucked off the string and examined. Let’s take one and take a look. The first sparkling gem of truth we will pluck off to examine is called “justification.” In examining this jewel of truth, may I give you an illustration. Let’s call his name Larry. George had a friend named Larry who seemed extremely discouraged and despondent. George told Larry some of the wonderful, encouraging gems of truth to be found in the Bible. He urged him to study God’s Word.
Larry was convinced of his need to study, but when he opened the Bible he didn’t know where to begin, so he started reading through Genesis and then into Exodus, but when he reached Exodus 20 he became startled. Upon comparing himself to God’s law he was faced with the shocking revelation of his truly diseased spiritual condition. “Is this the reason for my mental despondency?” he asked himself. Without realizing it, Larry had echoed the words of Paul as he cried out, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” Romans 7:24.
Larry felt desperate. “Is there no remedy?” he exclaimed. But when he turned to the New Testament Larry was filled with joyful excitement. Yes, there is a remedy for all sin-sick souls. He found it in Jesus Christ, our spiritual Physician. He listened as he heard the Physician invite, “Come unto Me.” Larry responded. He cast himself upon Christ’s mercy. Jesus looked upon him with love and tender compassion.
He began to explain the remedy to Larry. He spoke in somewhat the same words as He did to Nicodemus that night so long ago. “Larry, you need a new heart,” Jesus explained. “There is nothing that can be done to repair or patch up your old heart. It will be necessary for you to undergo a spiritual heart transplant.”
At these words Larry felt very uncomfortable. Like Nicodemus, he wondered, “How can this be?” But the Physician was still speaking. “I am willing, even anxious, to perform the needed operation for you without which you will surely die. My services will be donated. Your new heart will be free. If you cooperate you will be born again into a new life altogether.”
At this point Larry went back to his friend George for counsel. George explained that, as in a physical heart transplant, in order to receive a new spiritual heart transplant it is necessary to undergo spiritual preparation. George took down the first volume of Selected Messages and turned to page 393. After carefully explaining to Larry that this was not just any book, that it was in fact an inspired book, he read the following to him: “In order to obtain the righteousness of Christ (that’s a new heart) it is necessary for the sinner to know what that repentance is which works a radical change of mind and spirit and action.”
Larry’s eyes were fastened upon George. George looked up and said, “Next, the author asked two questions’Who is desirous of becoming truly repentant.’ And ‘What must he do?’ Listen closely, Larry,” George advised. “for the author answers her own questions.” Larry leaned forward so he wouldn’t miss the answer. “He must come to Jesus just as he is without delay. He must believe that the word of Christ is true, and believing the promise, ask that he may receive. When sincere desire prompts men to pray, they will not pray in vain. The Lord will fulfill His word, and will give the Holy Spirit to lead to repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Larry understood. He wanted to make sure so he replied, “Have I got this straight? I come to Jesus, just as I am, believing that God’s Word and His promises are true, and that the Physician will send the Holy Spirit to prepare me?”
“Right,” answered George. Then he explained further, “The Physician has given to every man a measure of faith and belief in order that he might respond to His calling. However, were a man’s faith to increase he must come to the Great Physician to receive not only repentance but also a greater measure of faith – even a faith that will make salvation by grace possible.”
Larry hurried home. In his bedroom, with his Bible open before him, Larry fell upon his knees. His mind was drawn to Christ hanging on the cross. While kneeling at the foot of the cross, looking up at Jesus, these words burned into his soul, “A Donor has been found.” He now understood how Jesus Himself had passed through a horrible death on the cross in order that Larry, a repentant sinner, might live. With sadness, Larry realized that for him to live Someone had to die. That Someone was his divine surgeon, Jesus Christ – God’s own dear Son.
Turning to his open Bible he read this precious promise, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26. Larry prayed for the promised Helper and his prayer was answered. The Spirit led him into a true sorrow for his sins, into repentance, and faith, and a full surrender to the great Physician who, as promised, performed the recreative surgery.
Larry had obeyed as he heard the Physician plead, “My son, give me thine heart.” Proverbs 23:26. What an exchange! Larry received a clean, unselfish, new, healthy heart in exchange for his sinful, selfish, spiritually diseased heart. Praise God! Larry’s sins were forgiven. Through faith, Larry had received the sparkling gift of justification.
Let us interrupt this illustration of Larry, momentarily. God has sent an important message to His church. It is a very sobering message. God warns us, through Ellen White, that as a people we have at times neglected to teach these preparatory truths to souls who are seeking salvation. Surely we don’t consider these truths as unnecessary, or as an unpleasant duty, or do we? If we have fallen into this trap let us heed the following rebuke found in Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 19, “Some open revival meetings and by this means call large numbers into the church. But when the excitement is over, where are the converted ones? Repentance and confession of sin are not seen. The sinner is entreated to believe in Christ and accept Him, without regard to his past life of sin and rebellion. The heart is not broken. There is no contrition of soul. The supposed (did you get that word?) converted ones have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus.” How sad. What a tragedy. How often we have seen this happen in evangelistic meetings.
I continue, “The Old and New Testament Scriptures show us the only way in which this work should be done. Repent, repent, repent was the message wrung out by John the Baptist in the wilderness. Christ’s message to the people was ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ Luke 13:5. And the apostles were commanded to preach everywhere that men should repent. The Lord desires His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance, and confession. We wants old-fashioned sermons, old- fashioned customs, old-fashioned fathers and mothers in Israel. The sinner must be labored for, perseveringly, earnestly, wisely, until he shall see that he is a transgressor of God’s law, and shall exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I read in The Sanctified Life p. 81, “Believe, believe, only believe it not enough. The devils believe and tremble.” A lukewarm, Laodicean may believe all the truth and God’s promises, but he is not being saved thereby for he is not converted. Jesus said in John 3 that unless a man is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. An unconverted one believes only with the measure of faith that is given to all men. We are to teach new converts that it is by repentance and faith we are justified before God and through divine grace enabled to render obedience to His commandments.
Now, back to our story of Larry. As Albert had received a new physical life through the gift of his donor heart, just so an amazing transformation had taken place in the life of Larry. He had received the heart, the mind and the faith of his Savior. He was filled with hope, rejoicing and gratitude. Relieved of the burden of his sins, he was no longer miserable and spiritually wretched. New spiritual life had been put within him. His eyes sparkled with joy. His face shone with a healthy radiance. He reflected his joy and thankfulness upon all with whom he had contact. He pointed them to the Great Physician who, alone, is able to forgive sins and to heal spiritual diseases.
The entire community were he lived, became aware of the change in Larry. No longer was he morose or discouraged. His heart thrilled as he related to others that his heart Donor and Surgeon, Jesus Christ, had died in order that he, a sinner, might live. Everyone within the sphere of his influence heard the old gospel story. His words echoed Ellen White’s sentiments when she exclaimed, “O Precious, loving, long-suffering, long-forbearing Jesus, how my soul adores Thee! … Wonder O Heavens, and be astonished, O earth, that fallen man is the object of His infinite love and delight.” The Upward Look p. 377. Larry was often heard inviting his friends and acquaintances to experience the fulfillment of that precious promise offered to all men by the heavenly Physician. I quote, “A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will take away the stony heart of flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
Larry did not fail to also tell his friends that they must go to Jesus just as they are to receive the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Day by day Larry diligently studied God’s precious Word. As he increased in wisdom and knowledge he continued to grow up spiritually in Christ. Many of the precious gems of truth that thrilled Larry’s soul will be found as we continue, for these gems are gathered from inspired writings.
In the Bible a new heart transplant is likened to being born again. We often refer to it as conversion or the new birth. Lest we fail to realize the true wonders of this reception of a new heart, we will add some additional sparkles that emanate from this gospel truth. From the inspired writings we are told that many of us, especially the youth, fail to understand the true significance of what it means to have a new heart. Ellen White clearly defines this meaning. “The youth especially stumble over this phrase, ‘A new heart.’ They do not know what it means. …When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being. (And so we do not possibly misunderstand, she explains further…) …To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives.” Sons and Daughters of God p. 100.
Paul understood this for he explains, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Actually the new birth is a new creation. But how can this be? How does this new life come about? Inspiration tells us, “The heart, the mind are created anew.” Desire of Ages p. 175. I quote further, “When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural working, bringing a supernatural element into human nature.” Manuscript Releases, Volume 17, p. 314.
God loves us so much that He explains the entire plan of salvation very clearly. But I hear someone ask, “What does it mean by a stony heart?” Any truly converted person will tell you from experience that unless we yield ourselves to the gospel of Christ we are dominated by the wicked one. Paul states it this way, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:6. Webster defines “carnal” as, “of the body or flesh which is opposed to the spiritual.” So it is very clear the stony heart is a carnal mind controlled by the wicked one. Therefore, in a carnal mind the body always controls the mind; while in the spiritual mind it is the mind which controls the body.
Question: How then is a stony heart taken away? – The answer is simple: “[When] the heart, [and] the mind are created anew.” Desire of Ages p. 175.
Now another important question: Is it possible to lose a new heart experience? When we have once received a new heart or mind can it be lost? – Oh yes, it can! It must be maintained in the same way that we receive it – through surrender. If we would continue the peace and assurance there must be constant surrender.
Let’s take a look at King David. He was converted in his youth, however, he did not always maintain his surrender. He fell into sin, into grievous sin. So the question is: If someone has lost his born again experience, how can he regain it? – In the same way that David did. After David’s great sin he once again surrendered to the Great Physician pleading, “Create in me a clean (new) heart, O God.” Psalm 51:10. Through the Spirit of Prophecy inspiration has revealed, “One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the Word of God is that of David when he plead, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.’ God’s response to such a prayer is, ‘A new heart will I give you.’ This is a work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul.” Bible Commentary, Volume 4, p. 1165.
When David sinned he displayed a carnal, selfish, stony heart. This mindset was remove; cleansed from his mind by the creative power of the Holy Spirit. As did David at the beginning of a Christian experience, or for his need for a renewed Christian experience, we must fully repent and surrender to Christ. Then, with Christ dwelling in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we again can receive the new mind even “the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16. Let us praise God that we can experience such a sparkling gem of gospel truth.
Here I must warn you that Satan has also perfected jewels, but they are counterfeit jewels. Do they glitter? – Of course they do. Very much so. But not with a heavenly light. Let us take a brief moment to reflect upon the seriousness of these counterfeits that are confronting the people of God in these latter days. As you know, we are living in the end time. Conditions and events in the world and in the church clearly reveal that at such a time as this many in the churches are spiritually sick. This allows them to be easily deceived by Satan’s glittering, worldly, counterfeit jewels. Their minds need the healing touch of the Great Physician.
We have been warned that in these latter days erroneous, infidel theories will be taught as Bible truths to God’s people. Such errors insidiously attack the spiritual heart causing a variety of spiritual sickness and producing grave spiritual consequences. Webster defines an infidel as a person not holding to the faith, but opposing or unfaithful to Christianity. Surely we should avoid reading or listening to words that spring from the heart of an infidel. The best way to avoid cancer and other serious physical diseases is to live a lifestyle that will prevent them from occurring. Likewise, deadly spiritual illness can be prevented only if we preoccupy and fortify the mind with truth. This must be done, however, before we meet the soul-destroying, so-called “jewels” of Satan’s string of falsehoods. Through our modern prophet, Ellen White, God has revealed that, “none but those who have fortified the mind with truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” Great Controversy p. 593, 594.
As we continue our study we will pluck up from the string of heavenly jewels another precious gem called “sanctification.” As we gaze upon the beauty of this gem we realize that today many are asking, Is sanctification a part of salvation? Let us ask Paul. Imagine we could visit Paul in his damp and dingy dungeon in what is believed to be the Mamertino prison in Rome. We might ask, “Paul, please tell us, is sanctification a part of our salvation?”
As if taken by surprise by our question, Paul straightens himself up. Unhesitatingly he replies, “Sanctification is a very vital part of salvation for God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification. Have you not read what I wrote in my second letter to the Thessalonians? ‘We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:13. I will say to you today, as I said in my farewell counsel to the elders of Ephesus, ‘Brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.’ Acts 20:32.”
For a moment we are lost in thought. Might we not apply this verse to ourselves? If the members of the remnant church would inherit a place among the saved in that blessed land, could not Paul likewise admonish us that we must be found “among all them which are sanctified”? Paul is still speaking, “If we were to ask Peter, ‘What part does sanctification have in our salvation?’ he would reply: ‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.’ (1 Peter 1:2).”
And speaking among ourselves we wonder does Ellen White agree with Peter and Paul? Is sanctification a necessity? In an article Ellen White first asked, “What does the Lord require of His blood-bought heritage?” She then answers, “The sanctification of the whole being.” Review and Herald, November 24, 1904. My brethren and sisters, God requires this of us. Beloved, never should we consider sanctification as unnecessary to salvation or as a second-rate experience. Sanctification is not an option or appendage. It is a sparkling gem of truth that God has provided for our redemption – a vital part of the saving gospel.
Let us now observe this gem of sanctification from another angle. All will agree that it is the Lord that justifies man. But how do men attain to sanctification? By their own good works? What does inspiration say? – Through Moses God declares, “I am the Lord which sanctify you.” Leviticus 20:8. And in the New Testament Paul writes, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Jude 1 is addressed to those who are sanctified by God the Father. Ellen White tells us we want the sanctification that God Himself gives. ( Review and Herald, July 15, 1890.)
So the question: “How does God sanctify man?” Bible illustrations testify that only the presence of God can sanctify or make holy a person or a thing. For example, in the story of Moses it was the presence of God in the burning bush that made both it and the ground surrounding it holy. God commissioned Bezaleel to shape the intricate gold work for the wilderness sanctuary. He gave him special wisdom and skill for the work. While Bezaleel was melting the gold and pounding and shaping the golden cherubim for the Most Holy Place, they were not yet holy or sanctified. Yet, when they were later dedicated to the service of God, and the presence of God visibly entered the sanctuary to dwell therein, then the cherubim for the mercy seat were no longer just gold statuary. They were sacred, sanctified emblems, representing the work of the angel in the heavenly sanctuary.
Just as God entered into the sanctuary to sanctify it by His presence, so it is the presence of God inside the hearts of men that sanctify them. I quote, “I will dwell in them … and I will be their God.” 2 Corinthians 6:16. Isn’t that beautiful? God’s presence in our very own heart; that’s true sanctification! Paul teaches that believers are to be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:16). This is Bible sanctification. This work can be accomplished only through faith in Christ by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. (Great Controversy p. 469). Thus it is Christ in you that sanctifies. The indwelling Holy Spirit is “as the personal Christ to the soul.” Review and Herald, November 29, 1892.
Notice the following passages from the Spirit of Prophecy. “Sanctification of the soul by the operation of the Holy Spirit is the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity.” This Day With God p. 224. “Sanctification is not an emotion, but a heaven-born principle that brings all the passions and desires under the control of the Spirit of God.” Signs of the Times, May 19, 1890. “The Lord Jesus loves His people, and when they put their trust in Him, depending wholly upon Him, He strengthens them. He will live through them, giving them the inspiration of His sanctifying Spirit, imparting to the soul a vital transfusion of Himself.” That I May Know Him p. 78. “To be sanctified is to be a partaker of the divine nature, catching the spirit and mind of Jesus.” Review and Herald, April 28, 1891.
Let us pray. Thank Thee, loving Father, for revealing these important truths to us in such a clear and simple manner that we may, by Thy divine grace, commit our lives to Thy creative power, ready to spend eternity with Thee. In Jesus’ name we thank Thee, Amen.”
Before I close permit me to make this added suggestion: I know you have been greatly blessed, as I have, in this study. The Great Physician desires to give us a heart transplant to replace our stony hearts and to keep it healthy through a daily, heavenly process of sanctification – Christ in you. I must tell you that what you have been listening to has been taken almost word for word from a new book by Leola Rosenvold. Time will not permit further discussion of such gems as conditions for justification or of how to render obedience and receive imputed and impart righteousness and much more. May I urge you to purchase a personal copy of this book Sparkling Gems of Truth and receive the blessing that I have discovered in reading all of the book.
You may secure a copy by writing to:
P. O. Box 330
Hope, Idaho 83836