In the late fall of 2006 I bought a brand new car. A few days later, or nights actually, I lay in my bed wide awake. I glanced at the clock as it read 4 AM. Then the idea hit me. If I jump in my brand-new car right now, I can travel across Florida to the east coast in time to watch the sun rise. I had seen several sunsets on the west coast where I live, so wouldn’t it be novel to say I have seen the sun rise on one coast and then watch it set on the other?
Ah the joys of bachelor life! Moments later I was in my car headed down I-4 towards Daytona Beach. For my devotional and prayer time I popped a CD of the book of Revelation in my brand new car’s CD player. It was 2006 and finally I had a car that played CDs. So there I was in the middle of Florida in the middle of the night, listening to the letters to the seven churches. Finally John got to the letter to Laodicea. Jesus had nothing good at all to say about this last day church. He started out with compliments to all the other churches, and then would gradually work around to a few things they could work on. However when He got to the last day church there were no compliments to be handed out. Jesus quickly got to the crux of His message when He said,
“And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17 NLT
Not exactly a “way to go!” good ole boy pat on the back. Maybe Jesus was not passing out any compliments to this church because it had already become delusional by complimenting itself over nothing?
I remember playing on a soccer team in an intramural league at Southern Adventist University. I loved soccer and this was the first time I got to play in an organized league. For years I had watched professionals put the ball in the back of the net and then heard the crowd go wild with excitement. My dream was to do the same. In my first game, we were down 5-0 and finally that moment came. I put the ball in the back of the net, and I was ready to celebrate! My celebration quickly ended when the team captain reminded me that we were still down 4 goals and I needed to get my head back in the game and stop celebrating!
Could Jesus’ message be just that? Could He be telling us, it’s not time celebrate just yet? We still have more victories to gain, and we need to keep our head in the game? (I understand this is real life and not a game at all!)
Just because we may consider ourselves the remnant church, it in no way means we have arrived or are perfect in any way. Remnant simply means “like the original.” The original church was never perfect. As Seventh-day Adventists we pride ourselves that we are the remnant church coming out of the dark ages of the Roman church. Wait a minute! While the Romans crucified Jesus, they only did it at the insistence and demands of God’s commandment-keeping people! Just because they were God’s people and had the truth did not mean they were perfect or had arrived, and much less should be patting each other on the back like good ole boys!
But I digress. So there I was gliding down the highway in my brand new car listening to Jesus telling His church how wretched they were, when suddenly He surprised me! In Revelation 3:21 NLT just after telling the church how wretched it was, He said,
Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”
There in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere I began to grasp what was going on. Jesus was not kicking this self-righteous wretched group of people to the curb! He totally intends for this self-righteous, miserable, poor blind and spiritually naked people to be victorious just as He was victorious over sin! Jesus is not giving up! There is hope! More than giving us hope, while Jesus is telling us our current condition He is also telling us what He intends for the end result to be. Victory! And not just any victory but the same victory He experienced.
As a man He supplicated the throne of God till His humanity was charged with a heavenly current that should connect humanity with divinity. Through continual communion He received life from God, that He might impart life to the world. His experience is to be ours. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 363 (Emphasis mine.)
While Jesus asked every church to overcome and be victorious, He asks the last day church, the one experiencing the cleansing of the sanctuary and investigative judgment, to do something He asked of no other church, to be victorious just as He was victorious. Jesus knew the church could never accomplish this in its legalistic state, so He tells the church:
I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. Revelation 3:19 NLT
Why is Jesus telling us to buy white garments when salvation is free? Jesus must be talking about the bartering system. If we trade in our filthy self-righteous robes and delusional pride, He will give us in return His white garments. If we stop trying to win over sin in our own power and for our own pride and glory, He will let us overcome in His own power and for His own glory!
There in the car I realized that the same Jesus who told us how miserable we are is also telling us what we can become and will become according to His plan.
I have been studying with a large family here in Florida for several years. When we first began studying together, the youngest was about six, and she had a children’s picture Bible, as she could not read yet. When we would look up verses, of course, all she had was pictures, but we would help her find the right picture and humor her by telling her that was the correct “verse.” Well that was several years ago, and I had pretty much forgotten about those days. That is until a few weeks ago, while we were studying, she volunteered to read a verse, which was nothing new to her now, but as she was reading a particular passage as fluently as anyone, she seemed to bring alive the rich poetic beauty of the classical King James Version. As she finished reading, my mind flashed back for a moment to the days when she brought her picture Bible to the studies because she could not read. Those days are long gone! So far gone I had almost completely forgotten about them.
Whatever your condition is now it does not always have to be that way. Just as Jesus changed my young friend’s reading experience, Jesus is ready to change your spiritual experience and give you the same victorious experience He has!
There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. And do not forget the words of Christ, “The Father Himself loveth you.” John 16:27. He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently; believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 64.