Reading No. 6 – Friday, December 12, 2008

by Pablo Hunger, Austria

Luther, one of the pillars of the Protestant Reformation who rediscovered the Bible as the only infallible source of religious authority had to go through a dramatic experience before he could find light for his life and power for preaching. Let us take time to recall the early experience of this brave reformer and herald of the gospel.

“At school, where he was sent at an early age, Luther was treated with harshness and even violence. So great was the poverty of his parents, that upon going from home to school in another town he was for a time obliged to obtain his food by singing from door to door, and he often suffered from hunger. The gloomy, superstitious ideas of religion then prevailing filled him with fear. He would lie down at night with a sorrowful heart, looking forward with trembling to the dark future, and in constant terror at the thought of God as a stern, unrelenting judge, a cruel tyrant, rather than a kind heavenly Father. …

“An earnest desire to be free from sin and to find peace with God, led him at last to enter a cloister, and devote himself to a monastic life. Here he was required to perform the lowest drudgery, and to beg from house to house. He was at an age when respect and appreciation are most eagerly craved, and these menial offices were deeply mortifying to his natural feelings; but he patiently endured this humiliation, believing that it was necessary because of his sins. …

“When it appeared to Luther that all was lost, God raised up a friend and helper for him. The pious Staupitz opened the Word of God to Luther’s mind, and bade him look away from himself, cease the contemplation of infinite punishment for the violation of God’s law, and look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. ‘Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, cast yourself into the arms of your Redeemer. Trust in him,–in the righteousness of his life,–in the atonement of his death. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor.’ ‘Love him who has first loved you.’ Thus spoke this messenger of mercy. His words made a deep impression upon Luther’s mind. …

“By a recent decretal, an indulgence had been promised by the pope to all who should ascend upon their knees ‘Pilate’s staircase,’… Luther was one day devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him, ‘The just shall live by faith.’

[Rom. 1:17.] He sprung upon his feet, and hastened from the place, in shame and horror. That text never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy of trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ. His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed..”– The Great Controversy, pp. 121-123, 125.

From that moment on, Luther’s life and message had changed forever.
“Precious was the message which he bore to the eager crowds that hung upon his words. Never before had such teaching fallen upon their ears. The glad tidings of a Saviour’s love, the assurance of pardon and peace through his atoning blood, rejoiced their hearts, and inspired within them an immortal hope. At Wittenberg a light was kindled whose rays should extend to the uttermost parts of the earth, and which was to increase in brightness to the close of time.” –Ibid., p. 126.

What is our experience, dear brother and sister? Can it be that in our life we are also deprived of real peace, being involved in a fruitless search for security and are actually living a drama very similar to the one of the great reformer?

The gospel prophet confirms the experience promised by God, saying, “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Isa. 32:17). Peace, quietness and assurance forever!

How Can We Obtain This Assurance of Salvation?

God’s great desire is to save human beings from the sad situation in which they find themselves so that they may find peace in their souls and the assurance of His acceptance. He knows very well that we are sunk in the miasma of sin and that is the reason why He did not leave man to himself. He knew that it was impossible for man, in his own strength, to be reconciled with Him by fulfilling the holy requirements of a pure and perfect character. What great love did He manifest by taking the first step toward reconciliation considering that it was man who abandoned Him! God prepared a plan for man to find the answer to that frustrating and fruitless search.

“How is God reconciled to man?–By the work and merit of Jesus Christ, who has removed every objection, and put aside everything that would interpose between man and God’s pardoning love. The law that man has transgressed is not changed to meet the sinner in his fallen condition, but is made manifest as the transcript of Jehovah’s character,–the exponent of his holy will,–and is exalted and magnified in the life and character of Jesus Christ. Yet a way of salvation is provided; for the spotless Lamb of God is revealed as the One who taketh away the sin of the world. Jesus stands in the sinner’s place, and takes the guilt of the transgressor upon himself. Looking upon the sinner’s substitute and surety, the Lord Jehovah can be just, and yet be the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. To him who accepts Christ as his righteousness, as his only hope, pardon is pronounced; for God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. …

“Those who do not believe in Christ are not reconciled to God; but those who have faith in him are hid with Christ in God. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’” –The Youth’s Instructor, November 29, 1894.

There is a perfect work through which every repentant sinner who accepts his Substitute may rest and find assurance of forgiveness.

This reminds me of my children’s attitude. How precious is to them the assurance of mommy’s and daddy’s presence! Even if we had to correct them during the day, or they were angry about something they did not like, everything is quickly forgotten after asking for forgiveness and receiving a reconciling hug. There is no resentment or anxiety about whether they were forgiven or not. The most important thing of all is to feel daddy’s or mommy’s presence, love and tenderness. We need to learn to be like children and look for this sincere assurance.

David’s transgressions were forgiven because he humbled his heart before God in repentance and contrition of soul and he believed that the promise of God’s forgiveness would be fulfilled. He confessed his sin, repented and was reconverted. In the rapture of the assurance of forgiveness, he exclaimed, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Psalms 32:1, 2.

Jacob is another practical example of how one can obtain assurance of forgiveness. Afraid and distressed because he could not appease his brother’s anger, and after he had done all in his power to avert the threatened danger, he decided to retire to a solitary place to plead for divine protection. It was then that he acknowledged that although he thought he had been walking with God, he had led a life full of doubts, perplexities and remorse because of his sin. When in the darkness of the night, the patriarch began to wrestle with the stranger who he thought was seeking his life, he struggled as hard as he humanly could to set himself free until he realized that he was not wrestling with a man but with God Himself. Up until that moment he had not yet understood that he should give up struggling alone. He now realized that that was his only possibility of salvation. Therefore, he clung firmly to the Angel (Christ) until he received the blessing his soul longed for and the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. He now understood his true condition and the remedy for his condition. Now he was sure that God was in control of his life. He had peace in his heart and trusted that everything he might undertake from that moment on would be led by God’s power and will.

Assurance That We Have Become Children of God

On a certain occasion, a man sat in a pizza parlor to wait for his wife who worked there. Suddenly, his attention was caught by a man who had just bought a pizza and had sat down in front of him to eat it. Very carefully, the man took a napkin and placed a slice of the pizza on it so that he could savor every morsel. He was a beggar who was enjoying his small meal for the day. When he finished eating, he tore a piece of the box and used it to scrape and gather every delicious crumb–he didn’t want to waste anything! His clothes were dirty and his hair was all matted and one could see that he had not taken a bath in a long time. Suddenly, the man who was waiting for his wife felt a chill going up his spine as he recalled scenes of his own past life. As an orphan child, he had lived in an orphanage where he was beaten and corrected without love until he fled and went to live in the streets where he suffered from hunger, cold and loneliness. He had to eat the leftovers that were thrown in the garbage, to be able to survive. As he was lost in these thoughts, his wife came, but he could not lift up his eyes because they were wet with tears. He stood up and walked away to hide his feelings. When his wife saw the beggar, she went to her husband and asked him to buy him more pizza. Immediately he bought four big portions and a dessert and gave them to the poor man, who had been so beaten by life that he could not look up. Then the first man went around the table and put his hand on the beggar’s shoulder just as he himself would have wished someone had done to him some thirty years before.

Isn’t this what we wish to get from our heavenly Father? Even though we may have had a home, many times we do not understand what it really means to have had a father and mother. Have you ever imagined what it means to be a child of God, a child of the Almighty, to have His power at your disposal, to be a child of the King of the universe? This means that you are a prince, the child of Him who sees everything and knows exactly what is happening in your life; a child of Him who knows everything and can read your thoughts and wishes; a child of a Father full of love, willing to give you great affection; a child of Him who wants your own good and always speaks to you so that you may obtain it; a child of Him who wants you to be happy and who wants to make you successful in your development as a person; a child of Him who wants to give you a better homeland, a home where there is no suffering and everything is perfect; a child of Him who has overcome the power of evil and lays that power at your disposal; a child of Him who has all the treasures and riches of the universe and wishes to share them with you whenever you ask for them for His glory and honor; a child of the God of peace so that you may not be concerned about anything. What great and wonderful promises are available to us!

“‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ ‘Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.’ ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,’ Be simple-hearted enough to believe these promises of God. When Satan comes to you, and tells you that because you are unhappy, perplexed, and troubled, you are not a child of God, do not become discouraged for one moment, but gird up the loins of your mind. Let your heart repose in God. He has promised that if you come to him, you shall find rest to your soul; and if you have done this, rest assured that he will fulfill his word in you.” –The Youth Instructor, July 8, 1897.

To be children of God is a great joy, an assurance that is manifested in our being because of the countless benefits and promises received.

The Assurance of A Transformed Life

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4.

How great and perfect is the work of the Lord! Not only does He want to give us the assurance of salvation, the assurance of forgiveness and the assurance that we are children of God, but He also wants to give us the assurance that we can live a new life and reflect His character. The gospel is not just a theory, but a power capable of transforming our whole being.

“He would have His servants bear testimony to the fact that through His grace men may possess Christlikeness of character, and may rejoice in the assurance of His great love. He would have us bear testimony to the fact that He cannot be satisfied until the human race are reclaimed and reinstated in their holy privileges as His sons and daughters.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 826.

“The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. It means divine illumination, rejoicing in God. It means a heart emptied of self, and blessed with the abiding presence of Christ. When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fullness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life. The acceptance of the Saviour brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance. The beauty and fragrance of the character of Christ revealed in the life testifies that God has indeed sent His Son into the world to be its Saviour. …

“The revelation of His own glory in the form of humanity will bring heaven so near to men that the beauty adorning the inner temple will be seen in every soul in whom the Saviour dwells. Men will be captivated by the glory of an abiding Christ. And in currents of praise and thanksgiving from the many souls thus won to God, glory will flow back to the great Giver.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 419, 420.

Christ will be so precious to us that He will be constantly in our thoughts, in our daily activities and taking part in our decisions. We will want to address Him in prayer every moment to tell Him everything. This constant living in the love of Christ will be the transforming power and assurance of a life that dies every day to be born again different and reflecting the character of our Master.

And I Was among The Needy

Like many young people, I was born in a family of believers and had many advantages in my education. Since early childhood, I had the privilege of having parents who feared God and who did everything possible so that I might grow in the love of the Lord. Everything they did was a great help in my development and a protection against the temptations and sinful practices of the world. They even managed to awake in me the desire to serve in the cause of God, but the most important thing was still missing: my own surrendering to the Saviour, the peace, joy and assurance of heart that I was a child of God.

My youthful ambition was to progress and develop my potential and talents, so I set high goals for myself but, instead of having joy, I fell into a depression. I could not obtain what I wanted and I was frustrated with the idea that I had to acknowledge my limitations. But God had prepared something else for me.

In my despair, all sorts of thoughts overpowered me, like the one of looking for a solution in sin with the hope that by experiencing strong feelings I would be able to overcome. My pride hindered me from sharing my feelings with others since I had placed all trust in myself and it was terrible to have to acknowledge the sad situation in which I found myself. Then I decided to give God a chance. Tearfully, I asked Him to help me to find peace and to reveal Himself to me. I decided to read “Steps to Christ” so that I could find the way to liberation. It was a terrible struggle: on the one hand I felt bored and found little sense in what I read, while on the other hand I desperately pleaded for help. Those were terrible days.

As the weeks went by, little by little I started to listen to the soft voice of the Spirit of God, till my thoughts were guided to the inspired words that say, “But if we come to God, feeling helpless and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting faith make known our wants to Him whose knowledge is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and who governs everything by His will and word, He can and will attend to our cry, and will let light shine into our hearts.” –Steps to Christ, p. 97.

Suddenly, the images we daily experience came to my mind, in which children go from door to door to beg for a piece of bread. Why do they do that? They are really in need. I was also really in need. Does it mean that I am also a beggar? I could not have ever imagined it! I had only thought of my strength, of what I could achieve with my works, but I realized that this had only led me to exhaustion and depression. I imagined myself going from house to house begging, not for bread, but for what I was yearning for so fervently: peace and assurance. I came to the conclusion that nobody could help me, but that I had to give my broken heart to the Lord and accept His love. All of a sudden, I felt great peace in my heart and an overflowing joy that was expressed in tears of liberation. God had spoken to me and had given me what I longed for. I had found the assurance that I was a child of God and the joy of being a Christian. A seal had been placed on my heart; I had found my Saviour.
“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20. May Your name be praised for this experience that changed and gave a new goal to my life! Today I am a servant of God and I can give testimony that there is an assurance of forgiveness and an eternal hope for him who sincerely looks for salvation. God’s sure purpose is to adopt us as His children, if by faith we cling to the perfect work of our Redeemer and accept His offering of love. Let us not abide in solitude. There is a new life in Him, a different character for those who live united and in communion with Christ as their Lord.

Dear brother and sister: Cling firmly to the promises of God and if you are not sure about your salvation, insist, like Jacob did, until you receive the blessing of the Almighty.

May our prayer be the one of the inspired servant of the Lord, “We thank Thee for all the precious promises and assurances of Thy word; for all its faithful warnings; for all its holy precepts; for the blessed hope of our Lord’s coming which lies just before us, when He shall take this earth and change it by His own power for an everlasting home for all His children.”

“We thank Thee that Thy power is so great that Thou canst subdue and conquer all in us that is unlovely; that Thou canst take the poor, base alloys of our human nature, and make them the genuine gold of God.” –Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, pp. 466, 465.