When The Apostle Peter was writing 2 Peter 1:12, he said, "I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth."
What we are going to study is very, very important. It has everything to do with your eternal salvation. It is not complicated; a child can understand what we are going to study. It is simple and it is biblical.
My wife, my son and daughter and I lived in Texas for several years. I only lived there myself for about nine years before I started traveling up to Kansas, but the rest of my family lived there about thirteen years. During the time that we were all living in Keene, Texas, I found out that there were more Seventh-day Adventist body men in that area of Texas than I had ever been around before in my life. They had body and fender shops; that is, they would buy wrecked automobiles and trucks and they would fix them up. So I got acquainted with a number of these men. Most of them had car dealers licenses. You had to have a car dealer's license to go to the auctions to buy these wrecked cars. One of them said to me, "You know the big auction over in Grand Prairie where the insurance companies auction off all these wrecked cars? Come along with me, I have a license; you can go in with me and go to one of these auctions." So I went.
There were a lot of Seventh-day Adventists at this auction. There were acres and acres and acres of wrecked cars, a few cars that had been in a flood or fire, or something else. It was very interesting to watch as they were auctioning off these automobiles. Now a person that does not understand the body and fender business, a person that does not understand the salvage business, they would look at these cars that are just smashed and they would say, "That is junk!"
But somebody that understands the business will look at that and will say, "I think that car is worth X amount of dollars."
Well, I saw some smashed cars that sold for between five and ten thousand dollars! It depends on what kind, what year, how bad it was smashed.
And, of course, different cars have different buyers. If the car is smashed really hard to where you cannot fix it up, then the salvage yards want to buy that one. But if it has not been hit quite so hard and you can fix it up, then the body and fender people want to buy those, especially if it is a late model car that would have a high market value. So it was very interesting to watch the auction, to see how the salvage business operates. And that is what I want to study with you, the salvage business
Actually, when I went there, the salvage business had been a great interest to me for quite a number of years. I first became interested in observing the salvage business when I was a young pastor in North Dakota. Before that time I had not had anything much to do with salvage yards and salvage business. But you see, I was a young pastor and like a lot of other young pastors, my district was about a hundred miles square, that is ten thousand square miles.
My wife and I have gotten in our car and we have driven nearly four hundred miles on Sabbath, preaching, visiting God's people and visiting people that were studying the Three Angels' Messages. In my capacity as a preacher I associated with other Adventist preachers, and Adventist preachers, I have found, have a very interesting problem, especially preachers that live in these country districts where they do a lot of driving.
Their car gets worn out before they get it paid for, and that is common. I was down in Arkansas several years ago preaching at the Conference Camp Meeting, and when it was time for me to go, a Conference minister took me back to the airport. He had a little, tiny compact car. I looked at the odometer and it said ninety-nine thousand miles. He informed me that he did not yet have it paid for.
Another pastor told me, "My cars have one hundred twenty-five thousand miles or more on them before I get them paid for."
So, I knew Adventist preachers that were over fifty years of age who were still making car payments. To me that just did not seem like a nice thing to do, to make car payments the whole of your life. So I thought, "How am I going to get out of doing that?"
Well, I found out how you get out of doing that. You have to visit places like salvage yards and drive a little older vehicle. As I visited different salvage yards where I was living there, I found there were four big salvage yards in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and all four of the owners of those salvage yards were millionaires. There is lots of money in the salvage business.
As I visited these places, I thought to myself, "These are some of the most interesting places I have ever visited, more interesting than almost any college or university laboratory in which I have been. I thought this would be a very, very interesting business. But as I later thought about it--maybe it was the Lord that impressed it on my mind--I thought, "You know, I am already in the salvage business. Except I am not salvaging cars and trucks and tractors, I am salvaging souls, human souls. And what I am salvaging is worth more than anything that is made out of metal, because one human soul is worth more than a whole world of cars or trucks or mechanical things."
And you know when a car is all smashed up, the casual observer looks at that car and he says, "That is a piece of junk!" But if it is a late model car, somebody who knows the salvage business will look at that and say, "No, that is not junk. It may be all smashed up, but it is not junk."
Do you know why people like to buy cars that are on salvage? The price is so much less, they are cheaper.
My friend, God is in the salvage business! As I work, I deal with human souls that are all smashed up. Their lives are ruined and the casual observer looks at them--and says they are good for nothing.
Do you know what some people sell for? When people get themselves all messed up, their lives are all smashed up, look at what they sell for. "For thus says the Lord: 'You have sold yourselves for nothing.'" Isaiah 52:3. That is about as good a price as you can get if you are bargaining for something. "You have sold yourself for nothing." Why did they sell themselves for nothing? Because they were like a wrecked car, all messed up, ruined, and the casual observer says, "That person is just not worth very much."
"Thus says your Lord, and your God, who pleads the cause of His people: 'See I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it. But I will put in into the hand of those who afflict you, who have said to you, Lie down that we may walk over you and you have laid your body like the ground, and as the street, for those who walk over.'" Isaiah 51:22.
Talk about being a door mat. Here are people that are considered worthless. Other people say, "Just lay down," and they just walk right over them. Do you know anybody like that? I want to tell you, friends, there are a lot of people in the world--not only in the world, but there are a lot of people in the church--who are depressed and dejected because they have sold themselves for nothing. They are looked at by others as ruined.
I meet them all the time. Everybody thinks they are ruined. Maybe their health is ruined because of their bad habits or because of some sickness or disease. Maybe they have actually been in a car wreck and their health has been ruined by that. I know of a lady who was in two car wrecks. Before she had recovered from the first one, she was in another one. It complicated everything.
Maybe a person has become a victim of sensual temptation, or has succumbed to the love of this world or to wrong thoughts. Their lives have been all smashed up.
When you go to one of these auctions and buy a car to fix up, have you have ever gone into the body shop later and watched them fix it up? First, they put them on a rack and straighten the frame, then they take all the junk parts off and they put good parts on.
That is what God does with a person who is all smashed up. He takes away from them the power and the guilt of all those sinful habits, and those things are replaced with new parts, new thoughts, and new habits.
The Bible has a lot to say about God salvaging people. There are many texts from the New Testament which talk very clearly about God's purpose in salvaging people whom other people thought were wrecked and not worth anything.
The woman at the well was a person whom other people in society thought was not worth very much. Her life had been ruined. Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you were married, and then your husband rejected you? So you looked around and finally found another man who loved you, and you were married again. But then he rejected you too. But you are spunky, so you try again the third time. But eventually the third husband rejects you. Now you are kind of bewildered, but you still try and you get married again the fourth time and the fourth husband rejects you also. Finally you think, "Well, maybe I will try one more time," but the fifth husband rejects you. After that you say, "It is no use any more. It is hopeless!" And you feel that you are hopeless.
Nobody likes to be rejected. We do not know that all those husbands rejected her. It is possible that one or two of them may have died. But it is quite probable that she did not just outlive all of them. She had experienced rejection in her life until she was so depressed, she felt like it did not even matter any more whether you even tried to keep the law of God. It just did not matter; she was too depressed.
That was the condition she was in when Jesus met her by the well. She was a person whom the rest of society thought was junk. But the Lord saw that she had some good parts inside. She could be salvaged. And I want to tell you, friend, if there is somebody reading this who is discouraged because you have just had one hard experience after another, no matter how vile you are, no matter how fallen you are, no matter how degraded you are, the God that I serve is in the salvage business. He takes people who are ruined, their whole life has been smashed up, and He makes them whole.
Other people looking on say, "They are just junk!" The Lord salvages people like that. The woman taken in adultery, in John the eighth chapter, is another similar case. A person that was in a hopeless situation. A person of whom the rest of society said, "She is nothing but a whore, a prostitute." Jesus salvaged her! If you are saved you are going to meet that woman some day. You will meet the woman at the well some day, too.
But I do not want to talk just about generalities when I talk about the salvage business. Like I said, when I was in Keene, Texas, I knew lots of body men and I visited their shops a number of different times and I have watched them salvage these automobiles and fix them up, and I want to tell you, it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of work. If you do not think so, just try to do one.
And you know, to salvage a human soul takes a lot of work. It is not just something, like some people think, where you just go up to the front at an altar call and just run to the Lord and some magic hits you in the forehead and then everything is all right. No, it is not like that. Salvaging a soul, just like salvaging a car, requires a lot of work. And the work part is what I want to study with you a little bit this evening.
You see, a person whose life is wrecked, very often, the reason that their life is wrecked is because of sin. But it is not just that they have committed a sin, they have committed some sin over and over and over again until it has become a sinful habit. If that sinful habit is connected with some biological drive, like appetite, passion or pride, if that commission of that sin is connected with some biological drive, mental or physical, that sin becomes what we call an addiction.
The Bible talks about addictions. It talks of the easily entangling sin, or the easily besetting sin, in Hebrews 12. After a person has been a victim of this addiction for a while, they feel hopeless because they cannot get free. Often they have decided to quit.
Mark Twain said, "It is not hard to quit smoking. I have quit a thousand times." What does that mean? That means that he started up again at least nine hundred and ninety-mine times!
As we are out giving Bible studies, when we conduct Prophecy Seminars, or we come in contact with people who are learning about the Sabbath and about the truth, they decide they want a change in their lives. As we get acquainted with them and study and pray with them, we find that they are the victims of various addictions--sinful addictions--and they cannot get free. I have had them tell me point blank, I do not know how many times, "Pastor John, I want to keep the Sabbath. I want to do what is right, I want to be part of God's people but I cannot."
"Why can you not?"
"Because"--and then they tell me about this sinful habit which is an addiction from which they have tried to get free. Some people have tried to get free from these sinful addictions for years.
It is no wonder that they are depressed and discouraged. Now this is not new information. If you are a Bible student, it is a review, but it is something you need to know well enough so that you can explain it to other people. I want to tell you, friends, there are people like this all around you. They are in slavery. They are in bondage to a sinful habit and they cannot get free.
It is not just people out there in the world. There are elders, deacons, ministers and evangelists who have problems with sinful addictions. Now I know somebody is going to say, "Well, Pastor John, that should never be." I am not contradicting that, but it is a fact.
How are we going to help these people? How? If we do not succeed in helping them, they are going to go straight to hell. Do you know that? Because we are not going to take those sinful addictions to heaven, are we? Or are we? You understand that point. We do not need to review that.
How are we going to help them? I do not claim to know all of the answers on how to help them, but I think it is something that I should keep studying. I have been studying it for several years. I think it is something that we, as God's people, need to review and understand and know how to help people who are having trouble with sinful addictions.
I have a number of books in my library written by various Christian authors that deal with this subject. Like homosexuality, I have a book on that. You know it is very easy for conservative, fundamentalist Christian preachers to just get up in the pulpit and condemn homosexuality. But let me tell you, it is something else to deal with somebody who has that problem! It is an addiction and they cannot get free. It is a lot different.
You cannot comprehend how different it is unless you have been in that situation and had to deal with it. It is easy to stand up in the pulpit and say that nobody is going to go to heaven smoking. Nobody is going to go to heaven taking these drugs. It is something else to deal with somebody who has tried, maybe for five or ten years, to quit those drugs and to quit that smoking and they have not succeeded. That is something else.
So let us look at a few texts of Scripture this evening. Turn in your Bible, first of all, to the gospel of John 8:31. "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, you will be made free?' Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. and a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'"
Jesus said, "I can make you free. If you will continue in My Word, you are going to know the truth and the truth is going to set you free." Free from what?
They said, "Well, we have never been in bondage."
Jesus said, "Now wait a minute. If you are practicing sin, you are a slave, you are in bondage if you are sinning and the one in bondage is not going to live forever. But His Son lives forever and if He sets you free, then you will really be free. You will be free from sin. You will be free from your addictions."
The first thing a person has to find out if they are under the power of addiction is Who and Who only can set them free. The Person who can set you free, according to the Bible, is Jesus Christ. He has power to set you free. Now He does not always set people free in just the same way. I cannot explain these things. I have lots of questions to ask the Lord when I get to heaven.
I have seen a person who was in bondage to tobacco and had not been able to get free for years, and when we prayed around that person the Lord set them free right then. And I have seen other people, who after they prayed, went through a struggle that lasted for months and sometimes even years. I cannot explain why some people have it this way and some people have it that way. That is beyond me. That is the Lord's business.
But I know Who it is who can set you free. Now if you want Him to set you free, there are two things that you need to do. Turn back to John 1:11, 12. It says, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [that is the authority, the old King James says the power] to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."
The people who received Him, received authority. They received power to become God's children. They were set free from their addictions, from their besetting sins. So if you receive Him, you are going to receive authority so that you are going to be set free. That is the same thing He said in John 8. "If you continue in My Word, you are going to know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Now what does it mean to receive Jesus? Let us see how the apostles explained it. There are a number of texts that we could read in Acts about this, but let us start reading with Acts 2:36. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Notice two things. Jesus is, first of all, the Lord. If you are going to receive Jesus, you have to receive Him as the Lord. You cannot receive Him just as a man. You have to receive Him as the Lord. Now you know what a lord is. A lord is somebody who has absolute authority over your life. If you receive Him, you receive Him as the Lord and you also receive Him as the Christ.
What is the Christ? That is the Saviour, the Messiah. Here is another place where the apostles explain it in very similar language. "Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:31. Jesus is a Prince. You receive Him as a Prince, as a Lord, as a King so that He has absolute authority over your life.
If you do not surrender your life to Him, turn it over to Him and acknowledge His supreme authority in your life, you cannot expect Him to work a miracle and set you free from your sins.
Let us just think that through for a moment. If a car is smashed up pretty bad, it is going to take a complete re-working to get it straightened out. You are going to have to put it on a frame, you are going to straighten the frame, then you are going to have to take all the bent sheet metal and broken glass and all of that stuff out, and you are going to replace it with new. It is the same way with a soul that is all smashed up. It is going to take a complete renovation; a person needs new thoughts, new desires, and new motives. Everything has to be changed in his mind.
But here is the catch. The God that we serve will not use force. That is contrary to the principles of God's government; and therefore, unless you are totally surrendered to Him, He cannot work out in you the changes that He wants to work. Does that make sense? Since God will not use force, unless you totally surrender yourself to Him and acknowledge Him as your Lord, and obey Him in all things, there is no way He can work in you what He wants to work in you. So unless you have done that first, it is hopeless. You will never be free.
Then the second thing, He is not only a Prince, He is not only a Lord, He is not only the King, but He is the Saviour. The people in this world have figured out all kinds of things as to how they can be their own saviours. They have all kinds of teachings with sociology and psychology and all kinds of mind control. But the New Testament teaches that there is only one Person who is the Saviour, and that is Jesus Christ.
You put your trust in Him that He is going to save you from your guilt and the power of your sinful habits! You say, "Lord, I am depending on You. I am not only going to acknowledge You as my Lord, but also I am depending on You to be my Saviour, not just from the guilt of sin, but from the power of sin."
I want to tell you, friend, if you do those two things, if you will surrender to Him as the Lord of your life and if you will put your trust in Him as your Saviour from sin, you have put yourself in a position where the promises now can be fulfilled in your life. And He will set you free. And Ellen White says God stands behind every promise He has made.
We have covered THE most important point. However, as we read the Bible, we find that the Lord has given us certain instructions and directions of some things that we are to do to cooperate with Him. We are not like a wrecked car. A wrecked car cannot cooperate with anybody. You just have to do all the work yourself. But a living soul can cooperate with the Creator who is trying to salvage his life.
We have been given some instructions in the Bible about how we are to cooperate with what God is trying to do for us. So let us look briefly at several of these instructions. Look first of all at Psalm 119:9, 11. "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word." Verse 11 says: "Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you."
If you are memorizing the promises in the Scripture, you will have weapons when the devil comes to you next time with your addictive, sinful habit. If you are memorizing Scripture, the next time the devil comes to you with a temptation you will have some spiritual weapons. Do you have any weapons?
I knew a young lady one time, who told me of her previous experience. When she was under temptation, she said, "I only knew one chapter in the Scripture and that was Psalm 23. So," she said, "I would just say that over and over again."
I knew a young man in the Wichita area. He told me that when he was growing up, his grandmother was a Roman Catholic, but she did teach him the Lord's Prayer. "Whenever I was in trouble, I would quote the Lord's Prayer over and over and over." And, that is good, but I like to have a few more weapons than that. How about you?
Are you memorizing the Scripture? I want to tell you a familiar story that was told by a well-known Adventist minister, and probably most of you know him. But it is worth repeating in case there is just one person here that needs it. This is a true story. This happened in a Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have awful things that happen in Adventist Churches as well as other churches, let me tell you.
There was a young lady who was divorced and she came to see this friend of mine who was the pastor of the church. She said to him, "I am in terrible trouble. I am divorced." Now a divorce is a terrible thing. My wife calls divorce a living death and that is not a bad description of what divorce is like.
She said, "I am divorced but I still have sexual desires that now cannot be fulfilled. How can I ever control my thoughts? What am I going to do? I am in trouble. I cannot control my mind."
What would you tell somebody in that kind of a situation? Well, this minister said to her, "I want you to go home and I want you to take the book of Jude and I want you to memorize the whole book." The book of Jude has twenty-five verses. "I want you to memorize the book of Jude so well, as the saying goes, that you could say it forwards or backwards. I want you to thoroughly memorize the book. Every time that you are under temptation and you cannot control your mind, I want you to start quoting that book."
Now if you have read the book of Jude, you will know that Jude addresses that kind of problem, and it has some very powerful promises in it toward the end, very powerful ones. So that young lady went home and she memorized that book. Later on she came to the pastor's office all exuberant, and she said, "It works!"
You see, God gives us instruction that works. The Bible says if you want to cleanse your way, if you want to be kept from sinning, memorize the Scripture. That is what it says in Psalm 119:9, 11. "Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You."
God is what I would call a polyphasic. God can do an infinite number of things at the same time, but you and I are not polyphasic, we are finite. We generally can only do one thing at a time. Now some of you may be able to do two things at a time. Do not challenge me afterwards. If you can do three things at a time, I am not interested in arguing about it, but most simple people like me can only do one thing at a time.
You see, your mind is not a vacuum. If evil thoughts come into your mind, you cannot just say to yourself, "Well, mind, just shut off, turn off." That does not happen. The mind is not going to turn off--if you are awake. You cannot turn it off, but you can shift the gear so that you are thinking about something else. The way to shift the gear is to have a Scripture memorized so that whether you are waking up in the middle of the night or whenever you are driving your car, or whatever you are doing, you can quote Scripture.
You have weapons so that your mind can be filled with spiritual thoughts and the devil cannot overpower you with temptation because you are in the Bible. You need to memorize.
Here is another one. Turn in your Bible to Matthew 17 starting with verse 19. "Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out." [That was the evil spirit out of that boy]. So Jesus said to them, 'Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.'"
It sounds wonderful. He is talking about spiritual mountains, by the way, not physical mountains. "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Do you want to have enough faith to move mountains of difficulty out of the way? Well, Jesus said, you can. You can have that much faith. You can have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed.
You know, we are talking metaphorically. It takes more faith for a grain of mustard seed to do its job than any other seed. Do you know why? Because it starts as the smallest of seeds but it has to grow to the biggest of plants. Now if you look at a beet seed, it is great big and it only has to grow a few inches high. But a mustard seed is so little you can hardly see it and it has to grow big. It takes more faith from the standpoint of a seed, to be a mustard seed.
Jesus said, "If you have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will be able to say to this mountain, Just move out of the way--and it will move." But you are never going to have faith like that without prayer and fasting.
Let me ask you a hard question. Maybe there is somebody here; you are fighting some type of sin, addiction, and problems. Let me ask you a hard question. How bad do you want to be set free?
One thing I have learned, in working with people that have problems with addictions to very sinful behaviors, is this: God does not set people free unless they really want to be set free badly. He does not do it. God does not set the person free from a sinful addiction who just says, "Well, Lord, please take this out of my life" and then goes on.
God is looking for people who are really serious about it. Are you serious enough? Well, one way to demonstrate whether you are really serious about getting rid of the sin/addiction problem in your life is if you fast and pray. Do you know something? I have had a lot of people come to me and tell me that they had a problem with some kind of a sinful, addictive behavior problem in their life and they could not get free.
But so far, now I am willing to be proved wrong at any time, I am not stating a rule, I am just stating about my experience. So far I have never yet met a person who has not been set free from the sinful, addictive behavior in their life who has been praying and fasting. So far I have not met one. I am not saying it could not happen.
There are some other things we are going to look at next that you need to do besides pray. Prayer and Bible study is not everything, but it is very important. Jesus said, "You are not going to have this kind of faith without prayer and fasting." Do you have a problem with some kind of addictive behavior in your life? Why not say, "Well, I am going to fast one or two days a week on this until this is gone, until I have victory in my life. Lord, I am going to be like Jacob and I am not going to quit asking. I am going to pray day and night or whatever I have to do until you set me free. I have to be free from this if I am going to heaven."
Do you know I have noticed over and over, when God sees somebody is really serious, things begin to happen in his life. One of the reasons we do not get the answers to prayer that we want is because we are too Laodicean; we are too lackadaisical in our attitude. We do not come to the Lord and say, "Lord, I am not going to quit. I am after this until it is gone. I am going to pray and I am going to fast until I have victory over this."
God will hear your prayers. God sees who is really serious or not. Well, that is something to think through. By the way, you might even have some health benefits along the way. Ellen White said in Testimonies, volume 7 that there are some people for whom fasting one or two days a week would do them more good than all the medicine you could give them. You might even get better from some disease, who knows?
But that is not all. There is another Biblical principle that some Seventh-day Adventists have forgotten, even some preachers have forgotten; and it you forget this one, you will not get set free. It is so important that you will not get set free no matter how much Bible you memorize, no matter how much praying you do and no matter how much fasting you do.
You are all aware that there are people that live in places like monasteries and convents who pray and fast and read more than you and I will ever have time to read, and they are still sinning. They have problems with homosexuality and every other kind of sensual sin in some of those places. There is something else that you have to do besides pray and memorize the Word.
There are many biblical references that talk about this, but my favorite one is in Hebrews 12:4. It says, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." What is that talking about? It is talking about a struggle. You know there are some people--in fact, there are a lot of people--who want an easy religion. As the old saying goes, they want to go to heaven sitting down. They want to just pray some, read the Bible some and then go to heaven.
But the New Testament teaches that we have to struggle, we have to fight against sin. In fact, James says if you will resist the devil, he will flee. It does not say that he will flee if you do not fight. Paul talks about the fight of faith. He says, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed." Has anybody resisted to bloodshed? On, yes, Jesus did.
You read there in Luke 22, it says that in the Garden of Gethsemane as He was praying His perspiration was like great clots of blood falling to the ground. He resisted sin unto blood. Now He says, "You have not resisted that much yet." None of us have. I suppose it would be safe to say that even people who have been tortured to death have not resisted sin to the extent that the blood was forced right out of their capillaries and fell to the ground.
What does that mean, then? It means that we have to fight. And when you not only commit yourself to the Lord as your Lord and Saviour, you have memorized the Word so that you have spiritual weapons, you are praying and fasting, but you say, "I am going to fight this if it kills me! I am going to overcome it," you will have victory.
You know, Ellen White was writing one time about people who had been victims of tobacco and various other drugs, and were struggling to get over them. She said, "What if they did die? It would be better to die and go to heaven than to keep on doing it and go to hell." This is one of the reasons, too, that many people are never set free, because they never come to the place where they say, "I am going to overcome this if it kills me. I am going to stop it. I am going to do something different that is in harmony with God's law."
The struggle, the fight, you have to be willing to fight if you want to be set free. God can set you free, but He is not going to do it without any effort on your part. That is just the way it works. We will not go into the theology that applies to this, but there are some very interesting things in the Bible and in the inspired writings about why it is that way.
Let us go to a couple more principles. Let us look at 1 Corinthians 9:24. "Do you not know that those that run in a race all run, but one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
I have read that text many times and every time I have read it, the thought has come to me, "If Paul could preach to others and become disqualified, that is lose his soul, I could preach to others and become disqualified, too, and lose my soul." Paul says, I have to have control over my body. I have to practice temperance. My body has to be in subjection. Or if we were just going to summarize it and generalize it, If you want to be set free, you need to observe the counsel that God has given to us about health reform. It is just that simple.
Did you know that Ellen White wrote that there were people who, if they gained the victory on appetite, they would gain the victory over everything else? If you want to have victory in your life, if you want to be set free, you need to observe all the instruction that God has given us on health reform.
Let me give you a very crude illustration of how and why that is. This is a very crude illustration but you will get the point right away. Suppose my problem is drinking alcohol. I have worked with many, many people who have a problem with alcohol. Now if that is my problem, when I drink the alcohol, what does the alcohol affect in my brain first?
Do you know what it affects first? The frontal lobe. The frontal lobe involves memory, judgment, conscience and your inhibitions. That is one of the reasons that alcohol is so dangerous. Inhibitions were given to men and women for a reason by the God of heaven. Adam and Eve had them, and all their children. Do you remember in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were ashamed to be seen naked by their heavenly Father? So they figured out something to get covered. They had inhibitions. That was good. God put those things inside the brain.
But when you take alcohol, those things are erased, they are anesthetized. Now if your inhibitions and your judgment and your reason is all affected by the alcohol, is that going to make it easier for you to succumb to almost any other kind of temptation to sin? Is it? You see the connection between health reform and overcoming?
Now I told you that was a crude illustration because there are a lot of other health habits that you cannot see the connection quite so clearly, but do not think that there is not any just because you cannot see the connection quite so clearly. If you want to be salvaged, if you want to be made new, if you want to be delivered from sinful, addictive habits and behaviors, start following everything that you can find in the Spirit of Prophecy and the Bible about health reform.
Here is the last one we are going to study. I suppose people have to concentrate on different things and this is an area that I myself am trying to learn more and more because it is so important. The Bible teaches us that it is important.
Turn in your Bible to the book of Nehemiah 8:10. These people were mourning and weeping because of all the sins that they had committed. It says, "Then he said to them, 'Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Would you like to have strength? What is your strength? The joy of the Lord. Notice what the New Testament says about this. Turn to the book of James 1:2. It says. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." I read that text one day several years ago in a church where I was preaching. A lady came up to me as the people were going out the door, and she said to me, in effect, "Pastor John, you say to rejoice, to count it all joy when you fall into various trials, but you just do not understand the trials I am in."
I could not disagree. I am not God. I do not understand the trials somebody else is going through. Very often, but the way, friends, we do not even understand the trials that our husbands or wives are going through. Very often that is the case, very often. And very often it is the case that we do not understand the trials that our parents or our children are going through. That is very often the case.
Somebody tells me, "You do not understand what I am going through," I always agree. I know that they are telling the truth and I do not understand. I am sorry that I do not understand, but I know it is true. All I knew to tell this lady was, "I just read it from the Bible. That is all I know to say. I am sorry you are in such great difficulty that you believe that it is impossible to count it joy. I just read you what the Bible said."
And it does say that, does it not? "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trial." You know, Jesus did that. It says in Hebrews 12 that for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross despising the shame. What Jesus used to do in the carpenter shop when things used to go awry, He would begin to sing. You see, singing a song of praise is a way to change the emotional atmosphere around your mind.
Do you know what happens when you do that? The devil just cannot stand it. It is a way to get the evil spirits away from you and to bring holy angels around you, because holy angels love to sing praises to the Lord. Now I am not a musician in this world. I have great plans; I have been planning for many years what I am going to do as far as music is concerned when I get to heaven. But I have to wait. I am not there yet.
But you can memorize songs. I have not done very much of this like I should. My father memorized many, many songs. More than once when we have been having the communion service in the church, when the men are through with the foot washing part of the service we sing a song or two, so people want to get hymnals. But my Dad could start the song without any hymnal because he already knew all the words. He could sing all the stanzas without even looking at a hymnal. Recently I said to myself, "I should be learning a lot more from that than I have in the past."
If you want to have victory in your life, if you want to be set free from all these melancholy thoughts and feelings, we need to practice the joy of the Lord and to count it all joy when we fall into diverse temptations. Memorize songs of praise so that we have something to do and to say when the devil is tempting us to be discouraged. You know the Bible says it is as much a duty to resist melancholy thoughts as it is to pray. Because it does not help you to overcome anything.
The joy of the Lord is your strength. I am not claiming that this study is exhaustive. I am not saying that there are not other things in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy that you could put into practice. Glenn Coon used to tell the people that he would read the chapter in Ministry of Healing about Mind Cure. He would tell people that he wanted them to write down ten things that they were thankful for and then he wanted them to thank the Lord for those ten things several times a day.
He cured a number of people--if I can use that terminology--from depression with that treatment. There are principles that if you follow, Jesus said, "If you continue in My Word you are going to know the truth and the truth will make you free." You will be salvaged from sin. You will be made perfectly whole.
Now, friends, I am not studying this with you because you do not know it. I am sorry if you were bored while we were going over things that you already knew. But I want to tell you something. There are people all around you, wherever you live, who have problems with sinful, addictive behavior that you need to help.
Oh, I hope that you will make a resolution right now, or in the next few days; if you think of somebody whom you know who has a sinful, addictive behavior, that you will pray, "Lord, help me to know what to do to help this person so they can get over it."
One time I met a man who told me his wife was a Seventh-day Adventist. He told me, "I would be a Seventh-day Adventist if I could, but I cannot."
I said, "Well, why can you not?"
"Because I cannot overcome smoking," he said.
There are people all around who would like to be saved. They say, "Oh, Pastor John, I am not strong like you. I did not grow up in a Christian home like you, I am weak and I cannot overcome."
In effect what they are saying is, "Well, I just guess I will have to go to hell." They are discouraged and depressed all the way down.
Oh, friend, God would like to use you to salvage somebody. The preachers are not the only people who are to be in the salvage business. God wants to use you. Now maybe there is somebody here who is in the auto body business. Maybe you have fixed all kinds of cars that have been wrecked. I hope the next time you are fixing one the thought will come to your mind over and over again that God wants you to salvage some souls.
Would it not be wonderful if everybody in this room, if time should last, if every single person in this room could have salvaged at least one person from a sinful, addictive behavior? Would that not be wonderful? Let me tell you, there are plenty out there. There is plenty of material to work on.
Do you want to be used by the Lord to salvage people? If you do, I want to invite you to pray with me and let us ask the Lord to use us, to help us.
The only people that will be translated when Jesus comes are the people that are in the church. There will not be anybody else. Read it in Revelation 19. He is coming to get His bride and His bride is the church. That is who He is coming to get. So you had better know what the Bible teaches about this subject.
When are you shaken out? Are these brethren that are passing out "The Earth's Final Warning" and have been disfellowshipped, have they been shaken out? Shaken in. Turn in your Bible to 1 Timothy 3:15. It says, "But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Here is the way you get shaken out. If you reject truth--it does not really matter what truth you reject--now the Sabbath is the testing truth for the last days, but you do not even have to reject the Sabbath to be shaken out of the church. You can get shaken out of the church by rejecting the Spirit of Prophecy. People that do not believe in the authenticity and inspiration of the Spirit of Prophecy are not part of the church. They are not part of the remnant church described in Revelation 12:17. They are not. Because that is part of the two identifying marks.
You cannot be part of the remnant church and not believe in the inspiration of the Spirit of Prophecy. You cannot be. That is one of the two identifying marks. So if you reject the Spirit of Prophecy or if you reject any part of the three angels' messages, if you reject any part of the law of God, if you reject truth, you have been shaken out! And we need to pray for each other that we will not be shaken out.
Do not think that just because you are in a home church somewhere that you cannot be shaken out. Do not think that. That happens all the time. People get shaken out and they keep going to church and so they think they are in the church when they are out of the church. It is like what happened in the times of the early Christian Church. You can read about it here in Revelation 12. It says in verse 6: "Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed here there one thousand two hundred sixty days."
I want to ask you this question. How did the woman get into a situation where she had to flee into the wilderness? Do you know who chased the woman into the wilderness? It was the people that said, We are the Christian Church and you are non-christians and you cannot even call yourselves Christians because you are heretics and we are going to turn you over to the government as a criminal.
It was the people that called themselves the church that chased the church into the wilderness. Let me illustrate it on a personal level. The center of all these goings on was in two places: Alexandria and Rome. The time came in the Roman Church when the majority of the church decided with their bishop that they would keep Sunday in celebration of the resurrection every week instead of just once a year as they had been doing. They would keep it every week and they would not keep the Sabbath any more.
When that developed, now the Eastern churches, they kept both Sabbath and Sunday for several hundred years. But in the Western Church they not only started keeping Sunday but they also said, We are going to keep Sunday instead of the Sabbath. We are not going to keep the Sabbath because that is a Jewish day and, of course, the Jews were in trouble with the Roman government.
When that happened, there was a small group. We know there was a small group because of what their enemies said about them. There was a small group that said, We cannot begin to break the commandments of God. We cannot do that. And the Sabbath in particular has been a sign that you were God's people every since the days of Moses. It was given clear back in creation, but in the days of Moses, God said, This is a special sign that you are My people. You can read it in Exodus 31.
So there was a small group of people who said, We cannot go along with that and they were forced out of the church because the rest of the church decided that they were going to keep Sunday and not keep Sabbath. Now suppose you had been one of those individuals because you were keeping the commandments of God you were disfellowshipped, you were forced out of the church and now with a little tiny group you are meeting in a kitchen or an apartment or a little hall, somewhere, some other part of the city of Rome.
Now you are down in the city of Rome doing business one day and you run into one of your former friends who is part of the big church that keeps Sunday. He says to you, Why did you leave the church? What should you say? If you understand who and what the church is, you should say, Why did YOU leave the church? You see, even if ninety-eight percent changed, that ninety-eight percent left the church and the two percent that kept keeping the commandments, they were the church. That is the same way it is today.
You can have ninety-nine or more percentage of the church--and that is about what it was in Gideon's time, about one percent or a little less. You could have ninety-nine percent or more that leave the truth but the church are the people that stay with the truth. You have to understand that to understand this winnowing process that it is talking about in Isaiah 17 where it says that there are only two or three left in the topmost branch and only four or five on the outermost boughs, the most fruitful branches.
Look at verses 9-11: "In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the Children of Israel; and there will be desolation. Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.
And that is where Seventh-day Adventism as a movement is headed because we have not followed the counsel of the Lord. Ellen White wrote, Dark hours of trouble, dark days of trouble before the church of God because we have not followed divine counsel. There is going to be a winnowing process that separates the people that are willing to follow all the way with the truth from all the rest.
That is the first part of the process in salvaging the Second Advent movement. We are going through that right now. Do not get discouraged because something wonderful is coming just around the corner. And I would not want to study with you the winnowing process without studying with you what is going to happen right after it is over. You see, Jesus winnowed His followers over and over and over and over until it got down to where there were eleven men and just a few faithful women and that is all that was left and the world looked at that and they said, We do not have anything to worry about that little group of people.
Just like the world is saying right now. We do not have anything to worry about the historic Adventists. But once the winnowing process was over, I will tell you that if you had been in some of the churches I have been in, you would pray and hope that the winnowing process is just about over in some of these churches because there are not very many left.
I talked to one gentleman not too long ago who was going to a historic Adventist Church--not a Conference Church--and they had around sixty or seventy people going to that church. They went through a shaking and he told me there are only four left. They thought that they had already been winnowed because they came out from the Conference Church and they were an independent home church.
So they thought that, We are a historic Adventist group. And they got shaken until there were only four left. I would not want to talk to you about that and leave you discouraged unless you see the vision of what is going to happen when the winnowing process is over. Oh, friend, if you can hang on to the truth, something wonderful is about to happen to the second advent movement that is beyond anything that we have ever dreamed.
God has something in mind for us that is bigger than anything we have dreamed of. The Bible talks about it and Ellen White talks about it. I want to read first a statement from Ellen White and then look at several Bible texts. She says in 1888 Materials, 755. She says, "The accessions to the truth will be of a rapidity which will surprise the church."
After the winnowing process was over in Jesus day, what happened? Pentecost happened. And when Pentecost happened, let me tell you the church exploded, all over the world. You see, at Pentecost there were Jews there from all over the world and just like that, it went all over the world. You see, within a matter of months after Jesus was crucified, the message of His crucifixion was going all over the world.
Paul says twenty years later that it had already been preached to every creature under heaven. That is such a stupendous statement that a lot of theologians do not even believe that today, but that is still what the Bible says. Something wonderful is going to happen, if you can just hang on. Look at what the Bible describes. The Bible describes it as happening in our time and it has not happened yet because we are still in the winnowing process. But it is going to happen. Friends, I believe we are very close to this event happening.
Let us look at some texts. First of all look at Amos 9:13. "'Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, 'when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treadder of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.'" What is this talking about?
Normally when you are a farmer, you have to plant. You have to cultivate and water and then after a time you will reap. But the time is coming when in the process of planting, the reaper will overtake the one planting. How is that going to happen? Turn over to Zechariah. Zechariah has something to say about this. This is one of the most exciting texts in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah 8:23. It says, "Thus says the Lord of Hosts: in those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'"
You see, when the Loud Cry really gets under way, all of a sudden, this little group of people that people thought were nobody, all of a sudden it is going to explode all over the world. People are going to look at this and they are going to make a choice. They are going to see the ecumenical movement and they are going to see a choice. They can go with the ecumenical movement or they can go with the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
People are going to look at that. And people that have been studying their Bibles and praying are going to say, This is where the Lord's people are. They are keeping the commandments. They are following the religion of Jesus. They are following the Bible. And it says that ten men from all languages of the nations are going to grab hold of every one who is a Jew--who is that? We are spiritual Israel. They are going to grab hold of every one who is a Jew and they are going to say, We are going with you because we have heard that God is with you.
How big is that going to be? We have no idea, only God knows how this is going to be fulfilled. This has not been fulfilled yet, but it is going to be. It is in the Bible. Turn to Isaiah. Isaiah has some of the most striking things to say about this development. You see, when God salvages something, He does not just fix up the broken pieces. He makes it better than it was at the first.
Ellen White says that the plan of salvation will resolve in bringing us into closer fellowship with God than if we had never fallen. I cannot explain those kind of things. But when God salvages something, He makes it better that it was the first time. Look what it says here in Isaiah--we are not going to read all the Bible texts--Joel has a lot to say about this, too. We are not going to look in the book of Joel.
But let us look in Isaiah 66. This is a stupendous Bible promise. This is about Zion, about God's people in the last days. We will start reading in verse 5. "Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word: your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name's sake, said, 'Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy,' but they shall be ashamed."
Has that happened? That is happening right now. Your brethren who hated you , they have cast you out. They said, You are not part of the church any more. Then they said, "Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy, but they shall be ashamed. The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies! Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children. Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?' says the Lord. 'Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?' says your God. Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory."
Oh, friends, something is going to happen that people will not be able to believe. They are going to say, What is this? Before she travailed, she had a child. Before she went into labor she already had the child. Can you have a nation be born in one day? But it is going to happen. Something is going to happen that people cannot believe. They are going to say, This cannot happen. You cannot have a baby without even going into labor, just boom and you have already had it. You cannot do that. That has never been heard of. Who has ever heard of such a thing?
And who has ever heard of a nation being born in one day? Who has ever heard of that? It takes hundreds of years for a nation to develop into a power. Oh, no. Something is around the corner, friend, that is going to be absolutely unbelievable and mind-boggling. This text is going to be fulfilled.
"Before she was in pain? Yes. Shall a nation be born in one day? Yes. Oh, friend, do not be discouraged. Do not be discouraged because we are in the winnowing process. When the winnowing process is over, around the corner, something wonderful is going to happen. I just want to have a little part in it.
I have to go today, but I hope that you will have wonderful meetings as you meet together to discuss and pray about church organization. By the way, when the work is finished, God's people are going to be organized. God is not going to take a bunch of independent atoms to heaven or even independent churches. That is not going to happen.
When the winnowing process is over, there is going to be an explosion, a spiritual explosion. Ellen White says the nations will be shaken to their center. Every single person between six and seven billion people in the world are going to hear the three angels' messages. They are all going to hear it. Not over a fifty-year-period. Oh, no. It is going to happen fast.
You and I must be prepared to be surprised and to hang on. Do you want to be part of what God is about to do? You see, back in the disciples' day, if you did not hang on during the winnowing process, you did not get to be part of what happened later. You did not get to be part of Pentecost. And, friends, the Latter Rain is coming. When the Latter Rain is coming, it is going to be greater than Pentecost. You have been promised that.
The Bible says it will be more abundant. Do you want to be ready? Do you want to be part of it? I am willing to be the doorkeeper or any humble position that the Lord gives me, but, friends, I do not want to be passed by. I want to be part of this. Do you want to be part of it, too.
Remember, if you are shaken from the truth, you will not be part of it. I am not saying you will lose your soul. The Lord might figure out some way to save you yet, even if you have been misled, just like there were a multitude of priests that came in, but that multitude of priests were not there and did not get to partake of Pentecost. That was later. Would you like to be where the action is? Would you like to be where the Latter Rain falls and where the Loud Cry is given.
If you want this, you are going to have to hang on during this time of winnowing that we are going through. Let us kneel down and pray together before we go and ask the Lord to help us.