According to Romans 8:13, it is possible to put to death the deeds of the body. It says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” By the Holy Spirit we are able to put to death the deeds of the body and these deeds are found in Galatians 5:19–21: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish [what comes naturally]” (verses 16, 17). Verse 18 says, “… if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Many Protestants believe that they are not under the law. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). The whole world is under the law except those who are led by the Holy Spirit.
Paul said, “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:8). It is by the Holy Spirit that you are sealed unto redemption. (See 2 Corinthians 1 and Ephesians 1.) This truth is not only in the New Testament, but also the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 36:25, 26, it says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Then verse 27 says, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
It is the Holy Spirit that gives God’s people the power to obey. 1 John 5:8 says, “… there are three that bear witness on earth: The Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree.” It says in Ephesians 5 that God is going to wash His church with water and make it clean and in 1 John 1:7 it says, “… the blood of Jesus Christ … cleanses us from every sin.” It is only by the Holy Spirit that the heart is made pure. The Spirit, the water, the blood, those are the three cleansing agents.
How does a person receive the Holy Spirit?
Jesus said to ask.: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13)! Have you asked today that you might receive the Holy Spirit?
You must obey. “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit Whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32). You can never receive the Holy Spirit until you choose to obey. The Spirit will then give you the power to obey, but never against your choice. The apostle John said the very same thing in 1 John 3:24: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit Whom He has given us.”
You must be willing to be led by the Spirit. One text is found in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” You must follow the Spirit’s leading.
Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). In other words, if you received Him, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven He said, “John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Only those who accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour received the Holy Spirit.
You must recognize all souls as of the same Father. Malachi 2:10 KJV says, “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” All people in this world are to be treated as brothers and sisters if you want to receive the Holy Spirit; we are one creation, one family under God.
Holy People are the only people that will be in the kingdom of heaven. Isaiah the prophet deals a great deal with this subject. In Isaiah chapters 2, 3, and 4 contain a prophecy about the very last days. He says, “And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and he who remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 4:3). Jerusalem was the church headquarters in those days so Jerusalem is a symbol of the church. According to Isaiah, everybody that is alive is going to be called holy.
Isaiah 35 is a wonderfully encouraging chapter which will cheer you up anytime you have time to read it, for it is a prediction about heaven and the new earth. Notice what it says about the future life there: “A highway shall be there, and a road. And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray” (Isaiah 35:8). Only the holy people walk on this highway.
The time is coming when the members of the church who are not holy are going to be in terror. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure” (Isaiah 33:14–16).
The deliverance that is coming to the people of God will only come to the holy people. Those who remain in sin in Zion will be terrified.
Notice what Isaiah says about God’s people in the future life: “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). All of God’s people are going to be righteous. Isaiah 62:12 KJV says, “And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken.”
Isaiah is not the only Old Testament prophet that talks about this subject. Joel 3:17 says, “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain, then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”
There’s a tiny book in the Old Testament among the minor prophets called Obadiah and in chapter 1, verse 17 it says, “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” Mount Zion was one of the mountains in Jerusalem and was the headquarters of God’s people, His church.
Some years ago I was in a meeting with several Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Some of them told me very clearly that they were the remnant and part of the remnant church. I read to them Zephaniah 3:13 which says, “The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.” Looking into the faces of those ministers who had boldly made that claim, I asked if they still maintained that they were the remnant according to that verse. There was no response. If your character is not in harmony with this verse, you cannot claim to be part of the remnant, regardless of how long you have been a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Praise the Lord that probation has not closed yet, so there is still time to become part of the remnant. But remember, there is a prerequisite before you can make that claim. If there is anything short of righteousness in your character, such as speaking deceitfully, of lying, then your claim is presumptuous.
This truth is spelled out many times in the New Testament. When Paul, or Saul as he was known at that time, was on his way to Damascus he was suddenly stopped in his path. When Jesus appeared to him shining brighter than the sun, he fell to the ground. Paul was a persecutor of the Christians but Jesus said to Him, “Why are you persecuting Me” (Acts 26:14)? Anything that you do to one of God’s children is accounted, good or bad, as if you had done it to Jesus Christ Himself. Paul said, “ ‘Who are you Lord?’ and He said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting’ ” (verse 15). Notice what Jesus tells him to do: “Rise and stand on your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (verses 16–18). The word sanctified simply means to be made holy. The apostle Paul never forgot that and he told the elders at Ephesus, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Look again at Ephesians 1:4. It says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” That was God’s will for you and for me, before the world was even created. All the apostles teach the same thing. Peter said, “But as He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Here he quotes from the Old Testament, which says, “You be holy, as I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, literal translation). Holiness affects every aspect of the life of the believer: what they eat, what kind of clothes they wear, how they talk, how they conduct their business. Everything in their lives will be in harmony with the law of God, including their thoughts and feelings.
Jesus told the Pharisees that on the outside they may look righteous and holy, but on the inside—in their hearts—were all kinds of corruption and iniquity. They were offended to hear that just as people do not like to hear that today. But my dear friend, there is One Whom you will have to meet with in the judgment Who knows everything about you. He does not just see what is on the outside, but He knows even your thoughts and your feelings.
Jesus said that every idle word that man shall speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgment. He knows all about it, every detail, every secret thing, what you think, how you act, and why you act that way. Holiness, then, involves everything in your life.
“Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). If I am not holy, I will not see the Lord. When you begin to understand this subject, you will begin to understand why the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy say that relatively few people out of all the people that are living on this earth will be saved. It is not because they cannot be saved, but because they do not allow the Holy Spirit to work out a holy character in their lives; this does not happen unless there is cooperation. The Holy Spirit does not work without your consent.
This is a special problem with people who appear to be more successful than their fellow human beings; that is, for people who are highly educated, people who have lots of money or have high positions. It is especially difficult for those kinds of people to be saved. Jesus understood that when He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
Ellen White wrote about it this way: “When in the great day of God each one is apportioned his own reward, not many great, not many wealthy, not many of the now-extolled wise, will find mansions awaiting them. Christ says to them, … ‘you had many disparaging remarks to make in regard to the poor and suffering, the homeless widows and the fatherless children, as though they were made of different material from you. You despised My poor …’
“The needy have been left to cry unto God because of the conduct of hardhearted men, who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, 50.
God requires of people that they receive the Holy Spirit so that they can arrive at perfection of character. “Those who enter heaven must be one with Christ. Unless they should bear the same perfection of character that He bore while on this earth, they would spoil heaven.” Special Testimonies, Series B, 45. God will not take anyone to heaven that will risk spoiling it again.
Many people become discouraged because they do not understand the power of the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit can do in their lives. “We are to be individual toilers. Character cannot be bought or sold. It is formed by patient, continuous effort. Much patience is required in the striving for that life which is to come. We may all strive for perfection of character, but all who come into possession of it will earn it step by step, by the cultivation of the virtues which God commends.” Notebook Leaflets, 90.
No one here knows the next step that is needed to be taken in your character development, but the Holy Spirit knows and understands. If you pray and say, “Lord, I want to do Your will,” the Holy Spirit will put a finger right on the plague spot in your character and reveal it to you. Remember, it is toilsome, step by step. When you get the victory on one point, ever so gently the Holy Spirit will put the finger on your conscience and say, “How about this?” There are many people in the world and even in the church that get stalled right there. Maybe there are a hundred other steps you need to take, but you will never take them until you take the next step that has been revealed—one step at a time. Don’t stall because of something you don’t want to give up.
Many others have been in that situation for years, hesitant and resistant to take the next step. How patient is the Holy Spirit Who keeps prompting, but the longer you wait, the less that sin will bother you and then you will be in a very dangerous situation. Take the plunge and move on to the next challenge, believing that all the power of heaven is at your command just for the asking.
“God has chosen men from eternity to be holy. … God’s law tolerates no sin, but demands perfect obedience. … Divine power is provided for every soul struggling for the victory over sin and Satan.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 908. It is the devil that tempts you to be discouraged and believe that you cannot get the victory. Do not believe the lie, for with the Lord, you can have victory over your besetting sin.
God’s church is to encourage, help, and pray for each of its members. God will give you the power to conquer and put to death your sinful nature so that you can be an inheritor with those that are taken to the realms of light. “The law of God, which is perfect holiness, is the only true standard of character. Love is expressed in obedience, and perfect love casteth out all fear. Those who love God, have the seal of God in their foreheads, and work the works of God.” The Youth’s Instructor, July 26, 1894. All who love God will have His seal in their forehead and their love will be manifested in works of obedience. “Holiness is wholeness for God. It means perfect obedience to every precept of the law of God. This is the only true moral excellence. A character in harmony with the law of God is the only character which will receive His approval.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 145.
Are your thoughts and feelings in harmony with the Law of God? There is no vacuum in the mind. When your thoughts stray to such that is not in harmony with God, train your mind to think upon things of eternal interest. Pray and ask for divine guidance and help. It can be a tremendous help to memorize Scripture and pray God’s promises.
“Unless this converting power shall go through our churches, unless the revival of the Spirit of God shall come, all their profession will never make the members of the church Christians. There are sinners in Zion who need to repent of sins that have been cherished as precious treasures. Until these sins are seen, and thrust from the soul, until every faulty, unlovely trait of character is transformed by the Spirit’s influence, God cannot manifest Himself in power.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 366. By resisting the Spirit’s influence and holding on to our unlovely traits of character we are holding back the power of God among God’s professed people today.
“There is more hope for the open sinner than for the professedly righteous who are not pure, holy, and undefiled.” Ibid.
Jesus is coming soon. Soon there will be a final outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people. But some will not be prepared to receive it, because they have failed to allow the Spirit to sanctify them. Therefore they are not holy, they are not part of the holy people.
In the book Early Writings, page 71, Ellen White said, “I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ [the latter rain] unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. We should, therefore, be drawing nearer and nearer to the Lord and be earnestly seeking that preparation necessary to enable us to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. Let all remember that God is holy and that none but holy beings can ever dwell in His presence.” It is past time that each of us would honestly examine ourselves to see if we are living up to the light we know in order to be ready to receive the latter rain when it is poured out.
It would be wonderful if our churches could be saved without the loss of one, but friend, if we are going to be saved without the loss of one, that means all must be willing to receive the Holy Spirit and be sanctified. “Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Now is the time to make a covenant with the Lord and say, “Lord, by Your grace, I’m going to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Show me the next step You want me to take.”
(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 of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.