Between Two Ditches
Pastor Rod Thompson
Midland SDA Church
January 6, 2018
If you know your Adventist history you know that 1844 was a very big year. According to the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 there would be 2300 days and then the sanctuary would be cleansed. According to Daniel 9:25 that prophecy would begin at the command to restore and build Jerusalem. William Miller had studied out these prophecies and determined that in prophecy a day equals a year and that the decree of Ezra 7 by Artaxerxes was the only decree by the Persians that met the requirement and then did the math and determined that the cleansing of the sanctuary would be in 1843. Later it was discovered that there was a year that needed to be added to the calculation because there is no zero year when you go from BC to Ad timing system, thus leading them to believe that the correct timing of the prophecy was 1844. Still further study determined that the Day of Atonement and the Cleansing of the Sanctuary where the same event and on October 22, 1844 it was the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Of course William Miller and many others believed that the cleansing of the sanctuary would be the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth and that He would cleanse the earth with fire. There was great revival that broke out in the years preceding this largely expected event and there were hundreds and thousands who expected to see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven that day.
But of course it didn’t happen and there was great disappointment among the people of God. After this time many of the people who were calling themselves Millerites left the movement. But there were some who continued to dig into the prophecies and they discovered that they had the right timing but the wrong event. They had assumed that the cleansing of the sanctuary was the second coming because that was the popular belief of that time. But when they actually studied it out they discovered that it was Jesus leaving the Holy place in the temple in heaven and going into the most holy place where the judgement that is depicted by the typical Day of Atonement was to begin.
The Return of the Latter Rain – Ron Duffield p. 13
The Advent movement, leading to the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist end-time remnant church, is seen as the final repository of that culminating light which must then be taken to the world. The end of the 2300 years in 1844 indicates a change in Christ’s priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Rather than signifying a change in the way a person is saved, the investigative judgment announces the culmination of the plan of salvation – the judgment hour message – which is to help prepare those living for the return of Christ. This understanding is established within the context of the great controversy theme and matured in the setting of the three angels’ messages. History shows that the fledgling church failed to grow in the advancing light and this led to a Laodicean state within the decade following the great disappointment. Failure to heed heaven’s call to repentance through the Laodicean message in the 1850’s led to the Pharisaism of the 1870’s and 80’s. With the church in this condition the Lord sent a special message intended to complete His work of grace in human hearts so that the great controversy could be brought to an end.
This message began in 1888
1888 was a year of much debate and struggle within the organized church. At that time God raised up a couple of young Pastors by the name of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner who He would use to bring that message.
The popular view within the church, at that time, was that obedience to the law of God was required for salvation. This view led many Adventists into a legalistic view of salvation and what Duffield referred to as Pharisaism.
Let me try and share with you the jest of Jones and Waggoner’s message.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17
We see from this verse that when we are brought into Christ we are a new creature. We think differently, we act differently, we live differently.
Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
In these verses we see that nothing is of value except being a new creation and faith that works by love of God.
Romans 5:1-2,5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through who also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God … Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
From these two verse we see that the keeping of the commandments comes in after we are new creatures, so then we must be made good, made righteous, before we can do good or do righteousness.
1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.
This is the aim set before us in Christ Jesus
Read Ephesians 2: 8-10
We are made new creatures in Him; And He re-creates us for good works, and it is His righteousness not our own.
In other words – The good works that we are created to do we were not able to do before. Therefore a new creature will continuously aim to keep the commandments.
James 2: 1 & 9 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality … but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
I want you to pay close attention to what these verses are telling us. These verses are saying that you cannot have faith in Christ and at the same time transgress His law. Christ did not die for us to set us free so that we could break the law. Because if we turn from a single point in the law our faith will not avail.
Example – Have faith in God but desecrate the Sabbath by going out to a restaurant and eating - The commandment says you shall not work nor your servant – If you go out to eat someone has to serve you and you are breaking the law and your so called faith is useless.
Now let me say this. When we sin in ignorance our sins can be forgiven, our intent is accepted. But, if we willfully refuse to accept points of truth it will cause us to lose all the righteousness we ever had.
Let me give you an example of this. Years ago (1870’s – 80’s) the denominational churches would have been considered religious. But when the truth started being restored the first two of the three angel’s messages were given.
But when the people refused to comply with the requirements of the message, they lost all the righteousness that they had and now they have to invent means by which they can keep the congregation together – ie… entertainments.
The other day I saw on one of the local church signs where they were advertising that they had a LOUD band. This is the philosophy of the degeneration of the churches.
Read James 2: 14
Here we see that our faith profits nothing if it is not kept alive by works
James 2:18 (Scripture reading) Let us show our faith by our works. Faith is the anchor that holds us in the right place to work even when the storms of life are assailing us.
Look at verses 21-23 Abraham was counted righteous when he believed God – Do you remember in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness. Romans 4:3 says the same thing.
I want you to notice here that Abraham was counted as righteous when he believed, at that point he was still without works. It wasn’t until 25 years later that his righteousness was proven to be genuine when he offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice. And now he is counted righteous by his works.
And James tells us that when Abraham did offer Isaac that Genesis 15:6 was fulfilled. If he had refused to offer Isaac, his former righteousness would have disappeared, so the obedience of his faith completed his righteousness that he had by faith
Therefore we should be able to see that our keeping of the commandments is not to become righteous, but because we are righteous we keep the commandments.
Romans 8:26 reveals that we can’t even pray right, but the spirit does it for us, so our prayers are acceptable only through the intercession of Christ and the merits of His blood.
Read Revelation 8: 3-4
Here is the intercession in the sanctuary for us and God (the Father) looks upon Christ, His wounds and His sacrifice, and He accepts our prayers. So here we see God imputing His prayer for us and to us.
Question – How is His righteousness imputed to us? Do our righteous acts go so far and then His righteousness added to finish the work? NO
Christ’s righteousness starts at the beginning and helps make our actions what they ought to be
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Question – Is your faith greater today than last year? Are you more righteous than you used to be? Well, how is it that you have more faith and more righteousness than you used to?
It must be that your faith has grown. So it is day by day. As you come to the Lord daily for a greater supply of faith. And we finally have so much of Christ’s divine nature in us that we can draw the bow strongly enough to hit the , mark, and then we will be keeping the commandments of God.
Therefore, is it not Christ’s work from the beginning and all His divine power? Where then do our works come in? NO WHERE
Why then do we strive so hard to keep the commandments if it avails nothing? It is only by faith in Christ that we can say we are Christians. It is only through being one with Him that we can be Christians. And only through Christ in us that we can keep the commandments. It being all by faith in Christ that we can do the works that God has for us to do.
Read Revelation 12: 17
So what do we see here? When the day comes that you, by faith, actually keep all of the commandments of God, (faith and action working together) from that day forward, you will never die. Because keeping the commandments is righteousness, and righteousness and life are inseparable. – So here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus
And what is the result? They are translated. Therefore I hope that you see that life and the keeping of the commandments go together.
So if we die before the coming of Christ His righteousness will be imputed to us and He will raise us from the dead. But those who live till the end are made sinless before He comes, having so much of Christ’s being in us that we hit the mark every time, and are able to stand blameless without an intercessor, because Christ leaves the sanctuary sometime before He comes to earth to get His people.
Now some say, “I will live better, try harder, to build myself up into that place where God can accept me.” Now if a child does something to build themselves up we might think more of them. But if they then fail we could say it was selfishness and pride and serves them right. But if that same child does something simply to please you, even though they mess it up, you commend them and praise them for their effort.
So it is with us, if we obey the commandments of God simply because we love Him and our faith is being acted out, even if we mess up once in a while He is so glad that He puts Christ’s righteousness upon us and all heaven rejoices over it.
Think about how often a child may try to do something and they are messing up, but the parent lets them keep going even though they know they’re going to have to fix it later. Yet all the while they delight in the effort of the child.
Psalm 103:13 As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
Now – Let me try and sum this all up. Up until 1888 the church believed that you needed to keep the commandments of God in order to be saved. There was no understanding of the righteousness of Christ and the need for faith in Christ. This is ditch number one. This way of thinking brought a great deal of legalism into the church In this sense they were just like the children of Israel who made the covenant with God that they would do all He said and be obedient. This is what is known as the old covenant.
This covenant was built on faulty promises, because they were trying to do it under their own power and they couldn’t. But the major concern that the elders of the church (in 1888) had was that if we based our salvation solely on faith in Christ then that would lead to ditch number two.
And unfortunately they were right, because this view leads to the understanding that many people have today, and that is that all I have to have is faith in Jesus and I will be saved. And this position is also one of error.
You see brothers and sisters, the devil wants to get you in the ditch and he doesn’t care which one it is. He doesn’t mind if you keep the commandments of God as long as you are doing it to try and earn favor with God. And he doesn’t mind if you have faith in Jesus as long as it doesn’t lead to action and a changed life.
So where is the only safe place for us to be? Answer – between the two ditches
We must understand that the only way we can be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ. But that faith should not be without effect.
Psalm 40:8 David said, I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart.
Why did David keep the law of God? Because the love of God was in his heart.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The aim of faith is to please God because He is good. The love of Christ draws us and we get that love through faith. But can we love God if we cannot keep the commandments of God? NO
We can do neither until we become new creatures
1 John 3: 21-22 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Read Colossians 1: 9-10
We should be able to walk pleasingly before God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally then. Brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.
This then is the root and motive in keep the commandments. If we are doing it to earn points with God and win our salvation then it is one ditch that Satan wants us in because it is not by faith it therefore cannot save us.
Or we can get in the other ditch. In this ditch we say that we have faith but then we go out to eat at a restaurant of the Sabbath, or we buy and sell on the Sabbath. We steal from God by not giving our tithes and offerings, We commit adultery by lusting after someone in our heart or we murder because we are angry with a person in our heart. And brothers and sisters this kind of faith doesn’t save either.
Instead we must stay between the ditches. God must make us righteous and He must empower us to be righteous by keeping His commandments. Our part is to surrender to Him and allow Him to do in us what we cannot do in ourselves.
Then and only then will we live forever in the new earth and He will be what to us?
Jeremiah 23: 5-6 Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will raise to David a Branch of Righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely, Now this is His name by which we will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Is that the desire of your heart? Let’s pray!