Section C: God’s Truth and You
Since we learned in Lesson 17 that all men are sinners, we can also understand that a definite change is needed before one can be brought back into harmony with God. At creation man was made perfect, innocent; he was the image of God physically, intellectually, and spiritually. But because man sinned by breaking God’s law and is still doing so today (Romans 8:7), he needs a conversion, or a new birth. Jeremiah 17:9 Portrays the deceitfully wicked nature of man’s heart. It is impossible for him to do good when he is so accustomed to doing evil. Jeremiah 13:23. The things of God appear foolish to the natural, unconverted man. I Corinthians 2:14. Thus man, born into sin, must be reborn of the Spirit of God.
Jesus spoke of this new birth experience to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who came to see Jesus one night. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8.
How, then, is conversion, this spiritual rebirth, attained? Man without God is hopeless. He is an alien from God, an outcast, a prodigal son. He is on death row – utterly destitute. But God does not leave man in this hopeless condition. He saves him by hope in Christ. Romans 8:24. Our hope is centered in Jesus as:
The Son of God. John 3:16.
The Lamb of God slain for our sins. John 1:29.
The Saviour. Matthew 1:21.
The only Mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5.
Jesus is the only way to salvation. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: not man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” John 14:6. When the sinner comes to Jesus for help and repents, his life can be changed. Acts 2:38; 3:19. His longing for a clean heart and a right spirit will be fulfilled by the Saviour.
The prayer of David is a model for those who realize they are sinners and who are seeking for forgiveness and cleansing of heart. Listen to the earnest pleading of David after he had committed a great sin against God and his fellowmen: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sins is ever before me.” “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 9, 10, 17.
The Lord promises to give the contrite, repentant sinner a new heart. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.
A converted man will die to self and to the world and will live a new life in Christ. He will give definite evidence of the thorough reformation which has come about in his life. He will bear sweet, precious fruit. In the Scriptures these good works are called the “fruits of the Spirit,” because they do not spring from man himself but from the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance. “Galatians 5:22, 23. Man becomes a new creature in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17. He begins to keep God’s law as Jesus did. John 15:10. Furthermore, he will grow in grace and knowledge as he climbs the ladder toward perfection. 2 Peter 3:18. He is changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.” – Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 58.
For this new creature to live and grow, he must breathe. For a Christian, prayer is the breath of life. A Christian writer has called prayer “the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse.” – Steps to Christ, p. 94.
What is prayer? It is a cry for help and mercy from someone in distress. Psalm 31: 9, 10. It is a call for strength and refuge during trouble. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1. A praying man opens his heart to God as to a trusted friend. Luke 11:2. When a sinner approaches the throne of grace through prayer, by faith he presents his needs to Jesus, his Saviour and High Priest who understand him as no one else can. Hebrews 4:15, 16. He communes with Jesus, his unfailing Friend.” John 15:15.
What does prayer accomplish? First of all, it helps us feel our need for God and our utter dependence on Him. It helps us focus our eyes upward instead of inward. It helps us “clear the air” and unburden our souls to One who understands and sympathizes. There are definite results when we pray. God rewards us when we come to Him in faith. “… He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
Our prayers are always answered – not necessarily as we wish but according to His plan and as He sees is best for us. Some prayers are answered immediately, as in Daniel 9:21-23. Other prayers are answered after a delay, but we are encouraged not to faint or give up. Luke 18:1-8. Remember that “all things work together for good to them that love God….”Romans 8:28. The experiences of our lives appear just like jumbled puzzle pieces to us, but in God’s master plan He can see the end result and knows where every piece fits. Accordingly, we can trust that a lovely scene will be brought to view when the picture of our lives is complete!
How should we pray? As in any other endeavor in life, we are to pray in a manner most likely to achieve success. All heaven will open to us if we pray in Jesus’ name. John 14:13; 15:16. We must pray in faith, not wavering. James 1:5-8. We are not just to ask God for things but thank Him for His blessings Philippians 4:6. And it is vital that we listen as well as talk to God. “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.” Habakkuk 2:1. While there are times and places for public prayer (See Matthew 18;19, 20), the most effective and soul-reviving prayers are offered when one is alone with God. Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23.
What attitude is necessary on our part for an answer? We must not turn our hearts away from God’s holy law if we expect to receive an answer from the God who made the law! “He that turneth his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9. In fact, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalm 66:18. Thus we must confess and forsake our sins if we want answers to prayer. Proverbs 28;13. Furthermore, we are to forgive and pray for others, even our enemies and persecutors. Matthew 6:14, 15; 5:44. As an example, Job’s captivity was turned when he prayed for his inadequate friends. Job 42:10. It is of special importance to pray in these last days of deception and peril just before the Lord’s coming. “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” 1 Peter 4:7. See also Luke 21:34-36. “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
The next two lessons will outline the results of conversion and highlight the meaning of each of God’s commandments as well as the blessings that can be ours in obeying them.
O MASTER OF SCULPTORS
O Master of sculptors, take this humble clay,
And make me according to Thy gracious way!
Take out all the dross, remodel, refine,
And give me a character wholly like Thine.
O Master of sculptors, make over this life!
Remove cursed sin, and take out the strife
That cast a dark shadow, that took away light
That had come to brighten, and drive away night.
O Master of sculptors, take chisel and knife,
If need be, to purge and strengthen this life?
Work with Thy Spirit, gentle and kind,
Till Thou’st conquered this mortal, and altered the mind.
O Master of sculptors, keep modeling still
After Thy likeness, more like Thy will;
Create a new heart, renew Thy great love,
Prepare me for heaven, Thy kingdom above.