Too often Christians including many Seventh-day Adventists don’t know the gospel. When asked, “What is the gospel?”, I will hear a hesitant, “Believe in Jesus...?” In Revelation 14:6 & 7 the first angel preaches “the everlasting gospel to preach to every living creature” and that angel preaches, “for the hour of His judgment is come” and I ask, “How is the judgment a part of the everlasting gospel?” I get blank stares. When I ask what “believing in Jesus means” the answers become fairly superficial (Romans 10:9; James 2:14-18). I hear Adventists say when asked “Are you saved?” “I hope so!” or “I don’t know.” That is all so unnecessary! They need to know definitely what the gospel is, and believing in Jesus means. They need to know for a certainty their status with God! They need to know that the Judgment is definitely a part of the gospel (which is good news).
But too many don’t and aren’t. They need to know that if they are in a saving relationship with Jesus (while Judas had a close relationship with Christ, it wasn’t saving). They need to know that they can be confident of their salvation as long as they stay in that saving relationship, and they need to know that if they are not in that saving relationship they are lost. But too often Adventists don’t know:
- What a saving relationship with Jesus definitively looks like.
- Since they don’t know number one, they don’t know if they are in a saving relationship themselves.
Since they don’t know the two above things, how can they love Jesus? How can they be without fear?
What does “believing in Jesus” mean? It doesn’t mean believing about Jesus, rather it means:
- Surrendering the life in its entirety to Jesus as described and defined by His Word and Testimonies. Not holding anything back. This is described in the Bible as “being dead to self and sin,” “being crucified with Jesus,” “being dead to the World.” This is having Jesus as LORD. And not only is it not holding things back, but it is seeing God as a friend, and not as an enemy. It is being eager to seek out all of the blessings of the Lord’s instruction rather than trying to get by on the bare minimum. (Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Romans 6:4-6; John 3:18-21)
- Depending on Jesus entirely for our merits. Not depending on what we do at all. This is having Jesus as Savior. )Romans 3 & 4; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5)
Thus believing in Jesus is having Jesus as both Lord and Savior. This combination is what a focus on Jesus is all about. When you have such a Lord and Savior, because you are covered by His life, it is easy to love Jesus, easy to have confidence in the day of Judgment, easy to be free from fear, easy to be secure. A brief summary of this combination was found in Jesus’ statement to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11) when he told her, “Neither do I condemn you” and “go and sin no more.”
This combination that is both complimentary and contrasting is shown through many types and symbols:
- Sacrifice - the animal was slain (surrender) and the blood was sprinkled (dependence on Christ’s merits).
- Passover - The lamb was eaten (surrender) and the blood was sprinkled on the door post (dependence on Christ’s merits).
- Communion - The bread was eaten (surrender) and the juice was drunk (dependence on Christ’s merits).
- Baptism - Buried with Christ (surrender) and raised to newness of life (dependence on Christ’s merits).
- The Sanctuary - Courtyard (surrender) and Holy & Most Holy Places (dependence on Christ’s merits).
- Born of water (surrender) and Spirit (dependence).
- Worshiping God in both Spirit (dependence) and Truth (surrender).
It is a human temptation to focus on only one of the two sides of the gospel coin, either focusing on the surrender side leading to pride, fear, hypocrisy and/or legalism, or focusing on the dependence side leading to presumption and antinomianism.
Some people have asked me, “How do I know if I have surrendered everything?” This is a valid question. To answer this, just ask yourself: “Is there anything I don’t allow Jesus control of according to the Bible (and for Adventists, the Spirit of Prophecy)? Your plans? Elements of your lifestyle? anything? Have I given God control of all areas of my life to the principles of the Bible and the Testimony of Jesus and am eagerly seeking for more light? If I have, up to one’s present knowledge, then you are surrendered. Am I willingly and gladly digging for God’s will in my life or am I avoiding finding out new truths? God may reveal new things to you later, and those will need to be surrendered at that time too. Surrender is both an event and a process. One can have an initial full surrender, and then have a deepening of surrender as one grows in understanding. One must remember that one can be surrendered now and pull back from that surrender later.
This process of surrender is absolutely necessary. It is the giving up of the spirit of rebellion, of the giving up of our own “godship” and instead letting God be God of our lives. Any area that I do not let Him have control over is an area of continued rebellion and places me in an unsaveable relationship with God. This does not mean that God stops working with me and does not use me at all. Jesus worked with Judas all the way until the end and as far as we can tell, Judas performed many miracles himself, but I am not in a saving relationship with Jesus no matter how much I pray, no matter how much I study my Bible, do witnessing, go to church and are involved in church activities, until I make that surrender of all.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
But surrender is only one side of the coin, one must keep in mind the seemingly opposite side the of the coin: the side of dependence.
Once we have surrendered to Jesus and as long as we remain in that condition, we are covered by the robe of His righteousness, not our own. Our actions either of good or bad mean nothing to our salvation, because they are not seen of God, they are covered. Only Christ is seen. Our law-keeping or failure to do so is irrelevant.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Rom. 3:28
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16, KJV)
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Rom 4:4-5, KJV)
Because sin of such people is a result of the weakness of the flesh rather than rebellion on their part, surrendered Christians often still do blow it, they still do sin (Romans 7:14-17). The blood of Jesus covers this. The only sin that Jesus does not cover is known sin that is excused by the person and is not repented of because that is not of a surrendered heart. That is unsurrendered sin and is a sin unto death (1 John 5:16-17). Dependence is absolutely necessary because even if we never succumbed to the weakness of the flesh again (though possible it is very unlikely), we are unknowingly doing many, many wrong things.
The covering of Christ is for all who claim Christ’s righteousness and not their own. But some who are thus covered are presumptuous. They claim Christ’s righteousness while they are still in rebellion in heart. The gospel net (Matt 13:47-51), the landowners field (Matt 13:24-30) and the invitation to the wedding feast (Matt 22:9-14) takes in both good and bad. The Judgment is that which separates the professing Rebels from the professing Loyal (Dan. 7:21-22; Dan. 8:13-14); and this difference is demonstrated by their works (Eccl 12:13-14; 1 John 5:18). The Rebels have sins in their life that they are not sorry for and are unrepentant of. They make excuses for them and show why obedience to the expressed will of God is unnecessary, unimportant or unwise. On the other hand, for the Loyal, while they may do the exact same sins, their repentance for those sins is genuine and sincere. They make no excuses for their sin, they are Believers.
There is a second part to dependence. The Loyal, by learning of Christ, are also learning the lessons of faith in God through His Word. They are learning to depend upon the power of God and learning how not to depend upon the weakness of the flesh (1 John 3:3). The Rebellious never learn these lessons because they have no desire to do so. Gradually, the Loyal gain strength over the flesh by learning how to appropriate to themselves the power of God. They become greater and greater in overcoming the lusts of the flesh and the power of the devil. They are filled with the divine nature which overcomes the old carnal nature.
Through education, over time the Loyal learn what is sin, selfishness and pride. They learn what is love and humility. They become educated as to the will of God and learn to practice it. They learn to be like Christ (1 John 3:2). This process takes time, and that amount of time can be short and stressful, or be longer and thus be easier to absorb. The speed of this process can be slowed or sped up by internal as well as external circumstances. The Rebellious never learn these lessons, but rather go on to greater and greater deception as to what constitutes sin, selfishness and pride. Eventually the Rebellious call Sin, Righteousness and Righteousness they will declare to be Evil (Isaiah 5:20).
The gospel will never be popular, for human nature wants to either earn salvation and/or not give up sin. We want to be saved by our works or saved in our sins. The idea for those who are surrendered our works have nothing at all to do with our salvation strikes those with a surrender focus as antinomianism for it goes against our human pride. On the other hand for those who have a dependence alone focus, the idea that total surrender is required, strikes them as legalism for it goes against our human rebellion. Thus the gospel goes against both ideas of those who would be saved by their works and those that would be saved in their sins. The gospel strikes against both human pride and human rebellion, but it is the power of God for salvation from both sin and its penalty.