The time is coming when all the inhabitants of the earth will have decided whom they will follow. Some will be inside the holy city looking out, while others are on the outside looking in. Some, perhaps many of the latter group may desire to be inside, but realize that it is too late.
Many of us have loved ones who have little interest in spiritual things and our hearts ache for them. The sadness you see manifested at the funeral of a loved one will in no way compare with the loss and eternal separation from loved ones that will occur at the end of time. So, cry out and ask the Lord, How can I witness to my family? What can I say and do so they can find out about the love of Jesus?
The sin problem began when Lucifer came to doubt the love of God. Today, there is much resistance to the gospel. People are becoming hard hearted because they don’t understand the love of God. Sometimes, when we have tried to show people the prophecies and end time events which almost scare them to death, we realize that nothing is going to make sense to them if they don’t understand the love of God. In fact, what is the point of having eternal life if you don’t have a love relationship with the Creator of all things?
We find in the New Testament both the reason why people get scared when they are in trouble as well as the remedy. It is a fact that troublous times are coming before Jesus returns. The devil would like to get us so terrified that we give up. But we can be just the opposite and experience perfect peace in the midst of everything that goes on.
The Bible speaks of a time when the apostles became really terrified.
“He [Jesus] said to them [His disciples], ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him’ ” (Mark 4:35–41)!
The ship was full of water and about to sink. Jesus awoke, not as the Master of sea and sky and nature, but as a man. However, He ever trusted in His Father’s might and knew that His Father had control of it. He knew that the devil had sent the storm in an attempt to drown Him and His disciples.
It is the devil who sends a lot of storms into our lives. He is a troublemaker, and as long as he is around there will be trouble. Jesus had peace. He knew that it was not the time for them to die. His work was not yet complete, nor was that of the disciples who would take the gospel to all the world.
One time, Ellen White was on a boat in a terrible storm and many people were terrified and screaming. Someone turned to her and asked, “ ‘Are you not terrified? I suppose it is a fact that we may never reach land.’ I told her I had made Christ my refuge … if my work was not done, all the waters of the ocean could not drown me.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 85, 86. The devil cannot kill you if God still has a work for you to do in the world.
Luke describes the scene this way: “It happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him’ ” (Luke 8:22–25)! According to the words of Jesus, the disciples were afraid because they didn’t have faith.
The opposite of being terrified is to be at perfect peace. In every situation, Jesus had the peace of heaven. Paul had that same peace, which enabled him to stand unflappable amid the constant opposition of the Jews. Some wonder why the Lord allowed there to be so many millions of martyrs. By witnessing the peace that their faith gave them, many people were won to the Gospel that may not have been otherwise.
John Calvin, a devout Roman Catholic, was one who watched the martyrdom of a Protestant. Looking at the martyr’s face, he saw no fear, for he had perfect peace. It was the practice of the church to martyr people in public to induce fear in the spectators. However, the Lord gave them peace and those spectacles had the opposite effect. John Calvin saw in the martyr a peace that he didn’t have. He went back and studied his Bible and became a Protestant believer.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “And having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Let your mind take this in. If you have peace in your heart, it will show on your face; if you have terror in your heart, those emotions are reflected on your face.
Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit in his book to the Galatians. He says that among the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, and peace. If these fruits are not manifested as we witness, the gospel will fall on deaf ears. (See Galatians 5:22, 23.)
Those who have faith have peace, but you cannot have faith until you know that you are a child of God. Paul wrote, “And you … who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1–3). This describes a person who has not experienced the gospel. They are by nature the children of wrath under the control of the devil.
John 9 tells of a blind man that Jesus healed. The Pharisees began to investigate the healing. Beginning in verse 24 they ask Jesus again about it saying, “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man [Jesus] is a sinner.’ ” Then “He answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ Then they reviled Him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears Him’ ” (verses 25–31).
Notice, the blind man understood theology better than the Pharisees. He said, if a man is a sinner he can’t go to God; he can’t exercise faith in God. God is not going to listen to him, but if a man fears Him and does His will, then He can have faith in Him. A person living in sin, does not experience the gospel and by nature is the child of the devil. It is impossible for that person to have faith in God, because he or she is not His child and does not have the privileges of a child. In order to have faith in God, you need to experience the gospel so that you can be adopted and experience what Paul calls the “adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:5, last part).
There are two kinds of children in the world. In Genesis 3:15 God said to the devil, “I will put enmity [hatred] between you and the woman, and between your seed [descendants] and her Seed [descendants].” Some people are the seed of the woman; some people are the seed of the devil. The seed of the woman are the ones who have experienced the gospel and have experienced the adoption of sons. You cannot have faith until you know that you are a child of God. Those who have not experienced that are by nature the children of wrath and the children of the devil.
The gospel, simply explained, needs to be preached over and over again. There are Christians who have attended church for years who do not have a clear understanding of the gospel and do not have peace. Many people are terrified about a possible economic collapse or impending war and all sorts of things. Somehow, we have to explain to them what the gospel is, because only by experiencing it will you have internal peace, no matter how much trouble there is in the world.
Jesus said, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer [courage], I have overcome the world” (John 16:32, 33). In other words, there is going to be trouble on the outside, but in Him you will have peace on the inside. When that happens, it will be visible and show on your face.
How does a person experience the gospel and have peace in our troubled world?
First, a sinner needs to understand that he needs help, which is contrary to the modern teachings of many psychologists and sociologists. Maybe you’ve heard of books like “I’m Ok—You’re Ok.” By the way, that is a lie. In fact, I’m not okay and you’re not okay either. This is not a criticism, but a fact. A sinner must first recognize that he is lost and that he needs someone to save him or he will never get out from the problem he is in. He needs to realize that he is in a pit and he cannot get out without help. Without this realization the gospel can do nothing for him.
One of the biggest problems evangelists in the United States face today is that people believe they are rich, increased with goods and in need of nothing and are therefore satisfied. In that case, there is nothing a preacher, teacher, or Christian can do to help them. But when a person is susceptible to the influence of the Holy Spirit, they begin to realize that one ray of light from the throne of God makes painfully distinct the destitution and sinfulness of their soul.
Jeremiah said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). He also said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Desperately wicked in the original Hebrew means literally incurable. The heart is deceitful above all things and it is incurable. It is just as incurable as any physical disease and leads to eternal death without divine help.
There are moralists who have been trying to “help” themselves for years. They study psychology and take educational courses to learn how to be better people or how to train people to help themselves. For example, consider the problem many face with overeating. National surveys reveal that it is harder to overcome overeating than to overcome either smoking or tobacco. The reason is that with smoking and tobacco you can just plain quit, but you have to eat to live. Therefore, eating must be controlled and that is a lot harder than just quitting something. You must recognize your need of help to receive help from the Lord.
When you recognize your need and come to the cross, you will experience what the Bible calls repentance. Many Christians, failing to recognize their need of help in overcoming, have a whole array of darling sins, the sins that they are in love with. Darling sins are really hard to overcome because you love doing them. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says that “Christ died for your sins,” and John wrote that “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 KJV).
Know that Jesus died the awful death on the cross because of each one of our darling sins. Think about it – how can partaking in my darling sin be enjoyable when it caused so much suffering to Jesus? That is what the Bible calls repentance. Repentance means the sin is no longer darling to me anymore, but heinous. I am sorry I ever did it and I don’t want to do it again.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)?
The basic meaning of the Greek word that is translated repentance means to change your mind. The sin that you once loved you now hate. You now see how much Jesus, whom you once hated loves you, and you want to change. When you begin to love Jesus, you will hate your sins. That is repentance. It involves not only being sorry for your sins but turning away from them.
The Bible says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). Think seriously about those darling little sins that never seemed that bad. Repentance increases and deepens as we go through the Christian life (see Christ’s Object Lessons, 160). It is not just something you experience once before you are baptized; it is something you continue to experience throughout your life.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). If my sin involves something that I did that injured somebody else, in addition to telling the Lord I’m sorry, I must go and tell that person that I am sorry.
Some people, because of death, will even have to make confessions in heaven. David will have to confess to Uriah the Hittite in heaven. The apostle Paul will need to have a conversation with Stephen about the part he played in his martyrdom as well as all the other deaths he was responsible for before his conversion. Repentance is not only making our peace with God; it is making peace with the one we have injured. That includes making restitution if there is something we can restore. If we kill somebody, we can’t make restitution, but if we’ve stolen goods, we can make restitution. Confession involves confessing to God and making restitution if it’s possible and determining not to do it again. This is our work before the close of probation.
Sin must be confessed whatever the consequences. There are people who have to decide whether they want to confess what they have done and even go to jail and be clear before God, or whether they want to cover it up and then answer to the Lord when He comes. The Christian religion involves making things right as soon as you realize the wrong.
Jeremiah says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). After the resurrection Jesus asked Peter one question, repeating it three times. The question was, “Do you love Me?” (See John 21:15—17.) Do you really love Me? Have you made a commitment? That’s what faith is all about; in fact, in Greek the word that is translated to have faith or to believe means to believe something enough to make a commitment. For example, John 2:24, 25 says, “Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” The word translated in this passage as commit is translated faith or belief elsewhere. Faith means to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior and make a full commitment to God.
Commitment is one of the most important things in life. One of the greatest tragedies of our modern-day society is that we have lost the ability to commit. When people get married, they verbally make a commitment, yet a big percentage of those relationships end in divorce. Many more, refusing to commit to marriage, simply live together, making it easier to make their escape when the relationship sours. With no commitment there is no security; there is no peace or joy or trusting happiness, for you never know if your partner is going to walk out on you when something better shows up.
Marriage is an illustration of the relationship that God’s people have with the Lord (Ephesians 5, Revelation 19, Song of Solomon, Ezekiel 23, Hosea). In Jeremiah 3:14, the Lord says, “I am married to you.” You cannot marry someone if they don’t commit, and you cannot be a child of God until you are ready to commit to Him. Confession and repentance must be followed up with a commitment if you are to be adopted into the family of God. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)?
The thief on the cross got it. Addressing Jesus, he said, “ ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’ ” (Luke 23:42). He knew he was a sinner and needed salvation. When he addressed Jesus as his Lord and Savior, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (verse 43). The gospel is not complicated. He made a commitment and was saved. Won’t you do the same and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 3) and experience the peace that passes understanding?
The Roman Catholic Church states that “The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions that are necessary for achieving justification.” Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ©1974, 262. Under that system there is no peace, but a continual trying to do more in order to fulfill the conditions, never sure whether you have done enough. That was the problem Martin Luther faced. He climbed the Holy Stairs of the Lateran Palace on his knees, working and working and wondering if what he did was ever enough. Paul said salvation is only available by faith alone.
“We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds [works] of the law” (Romans 3:28).
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt [obligation]. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4, 5).
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). When your sins have been forgiven and you have made the commitment, you are a child of God, not because of what you have done, but because of what Jesus has done and is doing.
As we approach the end of the world, we have been warned that there will be trouble such as there has never been before Jesus returns. Seek to experience the gospel as never before so your faith will be strengthened. Know that Jesus is in charge even if it doesn’t look like it right now. The devil can’t do anything to you without the Lord allowing it and whatever He allows is for your good and often for somebody else’s good as well.
Remember, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Whatever is going on in your life, you may be tempted to be terrified, but tell the Lord you want faith to not be afraid and to experience the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit and experience perfect peace.
The peace you experience will be noticed and desired by others, opening the door for you to witness. Jesus said that the harvest is ripe. People are looking for answers to this world’s problems and we can be used to help them find the Saviour. We can be reflectors of His image. When they see that we have the joy of the Lord and have perfect peace amongst turmoil that even the devil cannot take away, they will desire Him too.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.