Three Angel's Messages shared with the world

Chapter 22. Walking With God

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"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)

The well-known text above provides brief, precise instructions for how to walk with God. Perform good actions and think good thoughts (do justly and love mercy), which is possible while you acknowledge your need of, and submit to the workings of, God (walk humbly with God).

One the most intriguing examples in the Bible of a person learning to walk with God is that of Enoch. He walked with God and pleased God, even experiencing the rare privilege of being taken to heaven without first seeing death.

"And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:22-24).

"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5).

"In every phase of your character building you are to please God. This you may do; for Enoch pleased Him though living in a degenerate age. And there are Enochs in this our day" (Conflict and Courage 31.3).

"Did he [Enoch] see God by his side? Only by faith. He knew that the Lord was there, and he adhered steadfastly to the principles of truth. We, too, are to walk with God... We can have what Enoch had. We can have Christ as our constant companion. Enoch walked with God, and when assailed by the tempter, he could talk with God about it" (1BC 1087.5-6).

Such friendship and closeness with God is not limited to those, like Enoch, living in days of old, but is available to every person today.

Four phases

At this point in your journey as a new creature, you are habitually walking with God. Everything experienced so far makes up a little piece of that journey. Let's take a minute to summarize what you've experienced and provide an overview for the rest of the journey.

A person's walk with God begins when he fully submits to the convictions brought to his mind by the Holy Spirit. God certainly works in lives prior to their conversion, however, walking together can only occur after enmity has been eliminated. The path towards and on this walk can be divided into four general phases:

Phase 1: A person is first called by God and convinced of what is right and wrong, and drawn to Christ for the solution.
Phase 2: He or she then accepts Christ's substitution and repents, thus becoming a new creature.
Phase 3: The character is transformed.
Phase 4: The character is proven to be authentic.

Let's review some of the specifics of this walk, from the individual's perspective.

Phase #1: Be Called and Gain a Knowledge of God

We are born without any power to resist sin and selfishness (without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us), and thus inevitably start sinning. It is our nature. Our hearts are bent towards evil and we cannot change them (Job 14:4, Rom. 8:7, I Cor. 2:14, Rom. 7:14, Rom. 5:12). We are in bondage to Satan, being powerless to escape on our own. All humans are in this state when born because we inherited a sinful nature (without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us) from Adam.

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalms 51:5).

"Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Ephesians 2:3).

"The way of man is froward [very perverse] and strange" (Proverbs 21:8).

"Fallen man is Satan's lawful captive. The mission of Jesus Christ was to rescue him from his power. Man is naturally inclined to follow Satan's suggestions, and he cannot of himself successfully resist so terrible a foe, unless Christ, the mighty Conqueror, dwells in him, guiding his desires, and giving him strength. God alone can limit the power of Satan" (Spiritual Gifts Volume 4b 100.1).

"Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness...The idea that it is necessary only to develop the good that exists in man by nature, is a fatal deception" (Steps to Christ page 20).

The Holy Spirit begins its work on our character the moment life begins, influencing us for good and drawing us to God. It works through various methods to reveal God to us. These revelations show us what is right and wrong and that we need help outside of ourselves to live. As we've previously discussed, even if someone has never heard the name Jesus, they can still know Him and become more like him, by following the leading of the Holy Spirit to develop proper moral convictions (sensitizing the conscience), relinquishing selfishness and allowing God's law to be written upon their heart.

"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" (Rom. 2:13-15).

"Man cannot transform himself by the exercise of his will. He possesses no power by which this change may be affected. The renewing energy must come from God. The change can be made only by the Holy Spirit. He who would be saved, high or low, rich or poor, must submit to the working of this power" (In Heavenly Places 20.4).

The key is to take advantage of all opportunity available to gain a knowledge of God. If you are fortunate to have ready access to a Bible, then you are well equipped to learn God's truths. Whether you live alone in the wilderness or in the heart of the city, there are always opportunities to learn about God and His ways. Individual's are held accountable for the opportunity they have to learn. Willful ignorance is not okay.

"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30).

"For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water" (2 Peter 3:5).

"The honest seeker after truth will not plead ignorance of the law as an excuse for transgression. Light was within his reach. God's Word is plain, and Christ has bidden him search the Scriptures. He reveres God's law as holy, just, and good, and he repents of his transgression. By faith he pleads the atoning blood of Christ, and grasps the promise of pardon" (Evangelism 372.2).

Definition:
Being Called By God: The drawing of the sinner to Christ, which is a process of delivering you from the delusion of sin as the Holy Spirit teaches you right from wrong and persuades you of truth through the use of evidence, persuasion and love, bringing you to a firm belief and course of action to accept Christ as your Saviour and accept the changes He wants to make in your life.

We have studied that it is the Holy Spirit's work to convince you of sin and draw you to Christ for salvation. We also know that His working is mysterious, invisible and "as the wind". With that in mind, we can list several of the many ways He first works to get you on the path towards becoming a new creature.

Nature:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Psalm 19:1).

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well" (Psalm 139:14).

"Nature speaks to our senses without ceasing. The open heart will be impressed with the love and glory of God as revealed through the works of his hands. The listening ear can hear and understand the communications of God through the things of nature" (Christian Education 54.1).

"Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from His Representative, whom the Word declares is "the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3), will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature alone; for nature itself is imperfect. In its imperfection it cannot represent God, it cannot reveal the character of God in its moral perfection. But Christ came as a personal Saviour to the world. He represented a personal God. As a personal Saviour, He ascended on high; and He will come again as He ascended to heaven--a personal Saviour. He is the express image of the Father's person. 'In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily' (Col. 2:9)" (Selected Messages Book 1 295.2).

God's Providential Workings:

"Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord" (Psalm 107:43).

"God speaks to us through his providential workings, and through the influence of his Spirit upon the heart. In our circumstances and surroundings, in the changes daily taking place around us, we may find precious lessons if our hearts are but open to discern them" (Christian Education 56.1).

God's Word:

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).

"God speaks to us in his word. Here we have in clearer lines the revelation of his character, of his dealings with men, and the great work of redemption" (Christian Education 56.2).

Phase #2: Be Converted

After the Holy Spirit leads you to a conviction of sin and a knowledge of God, He continues to teach you of your need of a Savior, leading you to accept Christ and repent of your sins. This is a difficult step. It seems easy and straight forward, but this step requires an honest and accurate view of your inner-most thoughts. The things that are most important to you must be admitted. The natural inclination to make excuses for behavior and thoughts must be acknowledged. The skill of self-deceit and fleeing from tough internal thoughts must be abandoned.

Hopefully, you will arrive at a place where you finally admit to yourself that you really don't want to change a certain behavior or desire, even though you know the behavior or thought is wrong. This is a key moment. Immediately ask God to help you "want to, want to change". And He will do it! He will give you strength to make a firm choice. You will begin to see your desires change and victory will be yours. Keep at it, and seek earnestly!

Tip:
When you are convicted that something you are doing is wrong, but you don't want to stop, admit it. Tell God that you don't want to give it up. But, at the same time, tell Him you are willing to give it up and ask Him to help you "want to, want to give it up."

This concept of allowing God to change your desires, as opposed to gritting your teeth and trying to make yourself be good by sheer determination, is a KEY CONCEPT in the gospel that is often missed. Sure, you can achieve much by your will-power, going to self-help seminars, seeking counsel, etc. But, that is not the road to complete conversion or the full truth. There are inner areas of the mind that only God can touch -- you cannot fix them on your own! Honesty of heart in looking at yourself and giving all to God is the only way to total success. This enables Him to implant His spiritual nature in place of your selfish nature. Your desires can truly be changed and your will empowered, which makes changing your selfish habits easier, from the heart and long lasting.

Definition:
Conversion: The moment when truth and conviction become more important than selfishness and error and an individual makes an intentional, informed decision to believe in and live according to Christ.

Being converted is not a feeling or rush of emotion, but rather a decision and change of thought. There is no need to work yourself into a frenzy of "spiritual delight" or think you need to have a supernatural physical phenomenon occur. God wants you to thoughtfully understand and choose His way, and He transforms your nature, purifying your desires and actions. You may not know the exact moment you were converted. The exact point a pendulum changes direction may not always be discernable, but you definitely see it's movement in a certain direction.

"The youth especially stumble over this phrase, 'a new heart.' They do not know what it means. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. This they term conversion. Over this error thousands have stumbled to ruin, not understanding the expression, 'Ye must be born again.' John 3:7. Satan leads people to think that because they have felt a rapture of feeling, they are converted. But their experience does not change. Their actions are the same as before. Their lives show no good fruit. They pray often and long, and are constantly referring to the feelings they had at such and such a time. But they do not live the new life. They are deceived. Their experience goes no deeper than feeling. They build upon the sand, and when adverse winds come, their house is swept away" (Our High Calling 159.3).

True conversion involves a committment. It is thoughtful, deliberate obedience to God because of an appreciation for His love and methods. It is an exercise of the paramount will.

"Many are inquiring, 'How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?' You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him" (Steps to Christ 47.1).

"Nicodemus was astonished as well as indignant at these words. He regarded himself as not only an intellectual, but a pious and religious man. . . . He could not harmonize this doctrine of conversion with his understanding of what constituted religion. He could not explain to his own satisfaction the science of conversion; but Jesus showed him, by a figure, that it could not be explained by any of his precise methods. Jesus pointed out to him the fact that he could not see the wind, yet he could discern its action. He might never be able to explain the process of conversion, but he would be able to discern its effect. He heard the sound of the wind which bloweth where it listeth, and he could see the result of its action. The operating agency was not revealed to view. . . . No human reasoning of the most learned man can define the operations of the Holy Spirit upon human minds and characters; yet they can see the effects upon the life and actions. . . . {CC 292.2}

Be Assured of Conversion

You may ask yourself; "How do I know if I'm a new creature or not?" This is a great question to ask. There is great need in every life to get down to the nitty gritty of things. Being honest with yourself, earnest prayer and carefully scrutinizing every thought you have, will lead to the answer. A person can live her whole life, believing she is a Christian, without ever having the personal experience of a death to selfishness and conversion to new life. That is why it is so important to seek truth, study, to be open to the Spirit's leading, to exercise faith, to make it real!

Of course, there is no need to question the sure gift of salvation; only our complete acceptance of it and continuance in it. There is no doubt that God makes you a new creature the moment you accept Jesus and confess your sins. The questions are:
  • "Have I accepted Jesus whole-heartedly, or are there reservations in my heart?"
  • "Am I being honest with myself and therefore with God?"
  • "Do I really want to walk in a new direction or do I just want forgiveness?"
  • "What are my priorities in life?"
  • "Do I daily seek to know Him better?"
Here are some ideas for self-examination:
  • A) Do you desire to share what you have learned?

    "The very first impulse of the renewed heart is to bring others also to the Saviour" (RH, July 10, 1883).

  • B) Are you full of joy?

    "He explained how Christ, the burden-bearer, lifts the burden from the oppressed soul, and bids it rejoice in deliverance from bondage. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of Heaven. Yet no one sees the hand that lifts the burden, nor beholds the light descend from the courts of God. The blessing comes when the soul, by faith, surrenders itself to the Lord. This mystery exceeds human knowledge, yet he who thus passes from death to life realizes that it is a divine truth" (The Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 2, 130.3).

  • C) Are you understanding spiritual matters more and more?

    "No one can enter the city of God who has not a knowledge of genuine conversion. In true conversion the soul is born again. A new spirit takes possession of the temple of the soul. A new life begins. Christ is revealed in the character. The spirit of a new life works within. Faith passes into knowledge, and the word of God is understood. The branch becomes a living part of the Vine" (RH 7-30-1901 par 11).

  • D) Do you sin less, naturally?

    "'He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.' 'Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.' 1 John 3:24, 2:3. This is genuine evidence of conversion. Whatever our profession, it amounts to nothing unless Christ is revealed in works of righteousness" (Christ's Object Lessons 312.3).

    "Shall we not teach our children that willing obedience to the will of God proves whether those claiming to be Christians are Christians indeed? The Lord means every word He says" (CG 489.3).

Do not despair or feel that God has not accepted you. Believe His promises.

"Many have stumbled to ruin because of the erroneous doctrines taught by some ministers concerning the change that takes place at conversion. Some have lived in sadness for years, waiting for some marked evidence that they were accepted by God. They have separated themselves in a large measure from the world, and find pleasure in associating with the people of God; yet they dare not profess Christ, because they fear it would be presumption to say that they are children of God. They are waiting for that peculiar change that they have been led to believe is connected with conversion. After a time some of these do receive evidence of their acceptance with God, and are then led to identify themselves with His people. And they date their conversion from this time. But I have been shown that they were adopted into the family of God before that time. God accepted them when they became weary of sin, and having lost their desire for worldly pleasures, resolved to seek God earnestly. But, failing to understand the simplicity of the plan of salvation, they lost many privileges and blessings which they might have claimed had they only believed, when they first turned to God, that He had accepted them... Many precious souls, desiring earnestly to be Christians, are yet stumbling in darkness, waiting for their feelings to be powerfully exercised. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. They expect some irresistible force, over which they have no control, to overpower them. They overlook the fact that the believer in Christ is to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. The convicted sinner has something to do besides repent; he must act his part in order to be accepted by God. He must believe that God accepts his repentance, according to His promise. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." {Ev 286.2 - 287.2}

Daily renew your conversion

As you proceed on your journey as a new creature, your conversion experience is ongoing. This is closely related to taking up your cross daily. You allow Christ to put His will ahead of your own desires and you also reconfirm your committment and loyalty to Christ.

"Every living Christian will advance daily in the divine life. As he advances toward perfection, he experiences a conversion to God every day; and this conversion is not completed until he attains to perfection of Christian character, a full preparation for the finishing touch of immortality" (My Life Today 249.7).

Phase #3: Be an Overcomer and Continually Advance

As we've already learned in multiple ways, once Christ forgives your sins and makes you a new creature, your real life is just beginning. Constant growth is vital. It is an exciting process; the satisfaction of understanding truth, the joy of closeness with God, the thrill of sharing these keys with other souls. It only gets better and better!

"The Lord commands His people to go forward, from light to a greater light. Some have had great light, they have been blessed, they have believed that God, for Christ's sake, forgave their sins, but there they have stopped, and have made no further advancement. They have not attained unto a greater faith or broader experience, because they have not received the light of the truth which is constantly unfolding to those who follow the Light of the world. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all unrighteousness, but just as soon as a soul ceases to walk by faith, he becomes enshrounded in darkness...The only safety for any one is to advance, to increase in the knowledge of the truth, to be sanctified by it" (11MR 290.1-2).

"No other creature that God has made is capable of such improvement, such refinement, such nobility as man...Man cannot conceive what he may be and what he may become. Through the grace of Christ he is capable of constant mental progress. Let the light of truth shine into his mind and the love of God be shed abroad in his heart and he may, through the grace Christ has died to impart to him, be a man of power--a child of earth but an heir of immortality" (God's Amazing Grace 304.6).

"What we venture to do once, we are more apt to do again. Habits of sobriety, of self-control, of economy, of close application, of sound, sensible conversation, of patience and true courtesy, are not gained without diligent, close watching over self. It is much easier to become demoralized and depraved than to conquer defects, keeping self in control and cherishing true virtues. Persevering efforts will be required if the Christian graces are ever perfected in our lives" (Child Guidance 200.2).

"We must meet all obstacles placed in our way and overcome them one at a time. If we overcome the first difficulty, we shall be stronger to meet the next, and at every effort will become better able to make advancement. By looking to Jesus we may be overcomers. It is by fastening our eyes on the difficulties and shrinking from earnest battle for the right that we become weak and faithless... By taking one step after another, the highest ascent may be climbed and the summit of the mount may be reached at last. Do not become overwhelmed with the great amount of work you must do in your lifetime, for you are not required to do it all at once. Let every power of your being go to each day's work, improve each precious opportunity, appreciate the helps that God gives you, and make advancement up the ladder of progress step by step. Remember that you are to live but one day at a time, that God has given you one day, and heavenly records will show how you have valued its privileges and opportunities" (Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 2, 554.1).

"A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next...And in heaven we are continually to improve" (Maranatha 223.1).

The new testament writers compare the study of the word of God as beginners, to drinking milk as babies. Then as you grow spiritually and learn more and more truth, you begin to eat solid food (I Cor. 3:2, I Peter 2:2).

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat [food, nourishment] belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Phase three is a time of learning and growth accompanied by habit reformation. The Holy Spirit convicts you of sin after sin and you go through the process of overcoming; letting each one go and allowing Christ to turn your affections to better things. Habits are transformed. Truths are accepted. You are changed!

Phase #4: Be Proven Authentic and Enjoy the Rewards

As you submit to God's work in your life, you get to know Him better, love Him more deeply, and form a habit of obedience. You settle into your choice of rulers and display steadfast loyalty to that ruler. You understand the benefits and superiority of God's way of living. Eventually, you have not only given up everything Jesus asked you to, but you have shown a continued adherence to His commands and you naturally exhibit an abundance of fruit. You are not cherishing any known sin and if a sin is brought to your attention you are completely willing to give it to Christ. There is not a rebellious attitude left in you. Proving the authenticity of your transformed character as you serve Christ and sharing in the rewards is the final phase.

This last phase encompasses a lot of activity. Some of it occurs after your death as Jesus accomplishes it for you, though it results from your choices in life. It ends with the complete eradication of sin, including its temptations, the record of sins and the effects of sin in the universe. God's power can make everything look so easy. However, this process of showing the rightness of God's ways and eradicating sin must be extremely complex and difficult. It has already taken thousands of years, the only Son of God gave His life, countless millions have suffered immensely, Jesus has and continues to work unceasingly for us, and there is much still left to do!

The Final Phase of Salvation

The following activities occur during phase four:

A. Investigation/Testing

Trials and temptations occur throughout life. But at this stage, you experience trials and the testing of your committment for a specific purpose and broader scope of influence. Enduring this test provides proof to the universe of what God already knows...that your mind has been recreated and that you can be trusted! This stage is of critical importance, otherwise Satan's accusations against you would never be put to rest. Only God can read your mind, so proving God's justice and righteousness has to be done visibly for the rest of the universe. This investigation into your behavior and character provides evidence in the courts of heaven that Christ is able to save you. Christ's very honor is at stake!

"Examine me, O LORD, and prove [test] me; try my reins and my heart" (Psalms 26:2).

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine [purge away, melt] them as silver is refined, and will try [test, prove, examine] them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God" (Zechariah 13:9).

"There is a great work to be done in fashioning the character after the divine similitude. The grace of Christ must mold the entire being, and its triumph will not be complete until the heavenly universe shall witness habitual tenderness of feeling, Christlike love, and holy deeds in the deportment of the children of God" (God's Amazing Grace 235.2).

"The blessing of grace is given to men that the heavenly universe and the fallen world may see as they could not otherwise, the perfection of Christ's character" (God's Amazing Grace 97.6).

"...in consenting to become a substitute for man, the sins of guilty man were imputed to Him. . . . While God accepts Christ as the sinner's substitute, He gives the sinner a chance, with Christ's divine power to help him, to stand the test which Adam failed to endure" (Lift Him Up 79.2).

"The warfare against God's law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion. {DA 763.3}

"In the parable of Matthew 22 the same figure of the marriage is introduced, and the investigative judgment is clearly represented as taking place before the marriage. Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Matthew 22:11; Revelation 7:14. He who is found wanting is cast out, but all who upon examination are seen to have the wedding garment on are accepted of God and accounted worthy of a share in His kingdom and a seat upon His throne. This work of examination of character, of determining who are prepared for the kingdom of God, is that of the investigative judgment, the closing of work in the sanctuary above" (The Great Controversy 428.1).

"The Lord is proving and testing His people. Angels of God are watching the development of character and weighing moral worth. Probation is almost ended, and you are unready. Oh, that the word of warning might burn into your souls! Get ready! get ready! Work while the day lasts, for the night cometh when no man can work. The mandate will go forth: He that is holy, let him be holy still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. The destiny of all will be decided. A few, yes, only a few, of the vast number who people the earth will be saved unto life eternal, while the masses who have not perfected their souls in obeying the truth will be appointed to the second death. O Saviour, save the purchase of Thy blood! is the cry of my anguished heart" (2T 401.1).

"Your character is being tested and proved in this life, whether you will make a peaceable subject of God's kingdom in heaven" (In Heavenly Places 227.5).

The Real Deal
An authentic experience

Antiques, precious metals, documents and other important items are careful scrutinized to determine if they are authentic or counterfeit. In the case of gold jewelry, it is closely inspected and tested for markings, discoloration, softness, density, streaking and reactions to acid. Anyone choosing to invest in gold without determining its authenticity, is likely to be greatly disappointed and lose a large sum of money.

Character is also something that must be authenticated. This must be accomplished by careful scrutiny and testing. Otherwise, no one could ever be certain or completely satisfied that you really truly are the person Jesus claims you to be. You would never even know, for sure, yourself. The only way is to first pass through the refinement process and then to be tried, or tested, in order to be establshed as unquestionably genuine.

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine [purge away, melt] them as silver is refined, and will try [test, prove, examine] them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God" (Zechariah 13:9).

B. Latter Rain

The harvest theme is used throughout the Bible to illustrate God's work to spiritually plant, grow and harvest souls (people). For example, the farmer (God/preacher) plants a seed (truth/the Word of God), and the seed is germinated (conversion) as the rain falls (work of the Holy Spirit). The goal is for the plant to grow (learn and overcome), produce fruit (good works) and ripen to maturity (settle into a choice and complete character transformation) for an abundant harvest (second coming). The promise in the Bible of a former and latter rain is likened to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit near the beginning and end of the growth of His church on earth, and in the same way, at the beginning and end of an individual person's growth in character transformation. Just like the physical latter rain helps to bring the grain to maturity just before the harvest, the spiritual latter rain helps to bring your character to full maturity.

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" (James 5:7).

"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. Zech. 10:1. In the East the former rain falls at the sowing time. It is necessary in order that the seed may germinate. Under the influence of the fertilizing showers, the tender shoot springs up. The latter rain, falling near the close of the season, ripens the grain, and prepares it for the sickle. The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit" (The Faith I Live By 334.1-2).

"The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a figure of the development of character. There can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the growth of character. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be constant advancement... The plant grows by receiving that which God has provided to sustain its life. So spiritual growth is attained through co-operation with divine agencies. As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take root in Christ. As the plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, so are we to receive the Holy Spirit. If our hearts are stayed upon Christ, He will come unto us "as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." As the Sun of Righteousness, He will arise upon us "with healing in His wings." We shall "grow as the lily." We "shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine." Hosea 6:3; Malachi 4:2; Hosea 14:5, 7. The wheat develops, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Mark 4:28. The object of the husbandman in the sowing of the seed and the culture of the plant, is the production of grain--bread for the hungry, and seed for future harvests. So the divine Husbandman looks for a harvest. He is seeking to reproduce Himself in the hearts and lives of His followers, that through them He may be reproduced in other hearts and lives. {Ed 105.3 - 106.2}

"Before the work is closed up and the sealing of God's people is finished, we shall receive the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Angels from heaven will be in our midst" (Maranatha 212.1).

"Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. . . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation" (Lift Him Up 375.2).

C. Sealing

At this point, your character transformation is complete! (You will still learn, grow and expand through eternity.) Now that your character has been brought to maturity, the imprint of Christ's character and the writing of the law on your heart is "sealed" completely into place (read more about the sealing in an upcoming chapter.)

"Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples" (Isaiah 8:16).

"An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received "the seal of the living God" (The Great Controversy 613).

D. Sins blotted out

The record of your sins is eliminated. In an earlier chapter, we discussed the various record books in heaven. One of them is a record of your sins. God promises to blot out all of them from the record!

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).

"All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the prophet Isaiah: "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." Isaiah 43:25" (The Great Controversy 483.2).

"Life, with its marvelous privileges and opportunities, will soon be ended. The time for improvement in character will be past. Unless our sins are now repented of, and blotted out by the blood of the Lamb, they will stand in the ledger of heaven to confront us in the coming day" (Our High Calling 187.5).

E. Immortality implemented

You are given a new body at Christ's second coming. You will never again experience disease, pain, bad health or death.

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

F. Sin eliminated

After the second coming of Christ and living 1000 years with Him in heaven, the effects of sin will be eliminated forever. Unrepentant sinners, evil angels, Satan, death and the grave are eradicated forever (Rev. 20:13-15). It will be as though the sinner had never been (Ob. 1:16). You will be completely delivered from the presence and threat of sin.

"What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time" (Nahum 1:9).

"A tested and proved creation will never again be turned from allegiance to Him whose character has been fully manifested before them" (The Faith I Live By 71.3).

This was a brief overview of phase four. More details will be provided in upcoming chapters.

A General Outline of the Individual's Walk with God

The Holy Spirit's work begins the moment we begin life. His softening, shaping influence is experienced throughout all stages in life. Baptism of the Spirit occurs when a person submits wholly to His influence, which places the person on a path, direction or walk with God. The chart below is a general outline of that path.

Remember it is a general outline, and not intended to limit the many ways God accomplishes His purposes. However, at the same time, there appear to be certain steps that are very rigid in their order. In any case, we leave it to God, who knows all things and can certainly work out the best possible way to save us.

"The requisite steps in conversion, in all cases, are faith, repentance, and baptism. Thus the true Christian church are united in one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Story of Redemption 289.2).

"I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

"All are not constituted alike. Conversions are not all alike. Jesus impresses the heart, and the sinner is born again to new life. Often souls have been drawn to Christ when there was no violent conviction, no soul rending, no remorseful terrors. They looked upon an uplifted Saviour, they lived" (Selected Messages Volume 1, 177.4).

There is only one way to heaven, only one true religion, and only one path of truth. Some may not even know the name of Christ, but it is He nevertheless, who is saving them. Individuals who are in continual submission to the Holy Spirit may be strewn out all along the path, all at different points in their growth; but their destination is the same and their guide is the same. This illustrates how God can have people of many different beliefs who can all be saved. Though, when the time comes and He calls His people to leave those erroneous beliefs, they must respond. As time goes on, true followers will grow closer and closer together in moral character, doctrine and become more and more unified.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephes. 4:11-15).

Figure 21.2 - A general outline of the individual's walk witih God
Phase 1: Calling 1. Physical birth
  • We're born powerless to resist sin (harmful desires and natural tendency to selfishness). It's our nature (Eph. 2:3).
  • The Holy Spirit immediately begins His work to influence us.
2. Gain a knowledge of God and understanding of right and wrong
  • This occurs through nature, life lessons, influence of others, God's word, etc.
  • The law points out sin to us (Rom. 7:7). All can know right and wrong (Rom. 2:13-15).
3. Recognize need of a savior
  • Recognition of sin and futile attempts to stop make you know you need a savior.
  • Realize hopelessness (Ephes. 2:12).
Phase 2: Conversion

(Instantaneous)
4. Believe and accept Christ as savior
  • Exercise faith (John 3:16).
5. Repent & Confess
  • Christ gives you a repentance state of mind, so that you can be truly sorry for sin.
6. Relinquish your selfish nature
  • The "old man dies" (Rom. 6:6). Heart circumcised (Col. 2:11). Selfish nature subdued.
7. Receive pardon
  • Christ cleanses you (1 John 1:9) - Pardoned on the record books of heaven.
  • Righteousness is imputed to you. Death sentence avoided and you are legally freed.
8. Become a new creature
  • Your sinful nature is replaced with Christ's spiritual nature as the Holy Spirit creates a divine-human merge. You receive a new heart and are born again.
Phase 3: Overcoming 9. Receive outpouring of the Spirit (early rain)
  • The Holy Spirit, who has now moved into your soul, unleashes many activities.
10. Be baptized by water
  • Publically confess your faith, which symbolizes that you have experienced phase 2; Your death to sin (going down into the water), being cleansed, and birth to new life (coming up out of the water) (Acts 2:38).
11. Transform and develop character
  • Cooperate with the Holy Spirit to change your habits and traits that are left over from your old nature.
12. Receive gifts of the Spirit
  • These gifts equip you for effective ministry (Ephes. 4:11-12).
  • You are a witness to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:19, Luke 10:2).
13. Manifest fruit of the Spirit (Ephes. 5:9, Gal. 5:22)
14. Have God's law written on your heart (I John 5:2-3, Rev. 12:17, 14:12)
15. Endure tough trials/discipline (Rom. 5:3-5, Ja. 1:2, Heb. 12:5-11).
16. Implement healthy lifestyle (1 Cor. 10:31, 1 Cor. 6:19-20)
17. Come to a unity of faith / Doctrinally solid / Spiritually mature (Ephes. 4:13-14)
Phase 4: Authentication 18. Let Jesus be your advocate in courts of heaven
  • Examine your heart for any willful sin or lack of faith (2 Cor. 13:5-6, Heb. 10:26).
  • Christ tests and investigates you to prove you're wearing His robe of righteousness (Matt. 22:10-14, Lev. 23:29, I John 4:17, John 5:22) and vindicates you as your advocate (I John 2:1).
  • Receive latter rain
  • You are sealed
  • The record of your sins is eliminated (Is. 43:25, Jer. 31:34, 50:20).
19. Receive reward at second coming
  • Righteous are raised to life.
  • Receive incorruptible body (I Cor. 15:52) and new nature.
20. Declare God just in all His dealings
  • Satan is clearly exposed to all as being the originator of and responsible for sin. The righteous go to heaven and investigate and confirm God's dealings for 1000 years (I Cor. 6:1, Rev. 20:4).
  • Sin, the wicked, death and hell are eradicated (Ob. 1:16, Rev. 20:12-15, Psalm 34:16).
  • The earth is made new and dominion restored (Rev. 21:3-4).


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