In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”
Jesus is All the World to Me
In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.” In doing this, he voiced, in words and music, the precious and personal sentiments that millions of Christians have shared through the millennia since the resurrected Christ entered upon His program of mediating to us His priceless merits, so that we might live heavenly lives even in the midst of earth’s fierce challenges (Heb. 7:25).
The compelling interest in this month’s testimonies from Adventists around the world is in the way they show Christians living out Christ’s life on a day-to-day basis in widely differing circumstances. Here are the earnest words of a high school teenager who loves Jesus, and there, the story (two, in fact) of how a wife learns, through bitter bereavement, a deeper sense of the preciousness of knowing Christ’s righteousness is real and personal. These testimonies help us appreciate greater spiritual, emotional, and ethical dimensions that belong to the third angel’s message in verity (see Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, pp. 199, 200).
The viewpoints expressed in these testimonies are those of the respective authors as they reflected on their journey with Christ.—Editors
Only Jesus Can Truly Satisfy
By Sicelicile Ndlovu
My parents encouraged us children to go to church every Sabbath, though they themselves never attended church.
In Church Without Jesus
I got baptized at the age of 15. I had anticipated some magical change to take place in my life as a result of being dipped in water. I thought baptism would automatically transform me from the sinner I was into a saint. But that did not happen.
The first 20 years of my life I went to church, but I was unconnected to the God of the church. I served in the house of God, yet I never knew the God I served. Repentance and forgiveness of sin were all foreign to my Christian experience.
When I went to university, I was not yet anchored in my Christian experience. I developed an addiction to fashion and parties. I was obsessed with my looks, and I would spend any amount to decorate my body. I knew this was ungodly, but I could not resist the temptation.
Outwardly I looked lively and happy, but deep inside I suffered much from guilt, and I felt empty and desolate.
I got busy with church work thinking that it would bring me peace and righteousness. I desperately needed peace, but the more I toiled, the more empty I felt. My good works could not expiate my guilt. They could not purchase righteousness.
In October 2008 a guest came to our church and spoke about Christ’s righteousness. For the first time it dawned on me that Christ could actually justify me regardless of my past. I felt so thrilled to know that as a repentant sinner, I now stood before God as one who had never committed a single sin. My struggle with guilt was over. For the first time I went home after church feeling happy and at peace with God. Soon after that, I started reading the book Steps to Christ. The book pointed me to the Scriptures.
I remember how my soul delighted to read the assuring words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
My deepest desire was to be in Christ Jesus. I understood from my study of Steps to Christ that not only had Christ dealt with my past sins, but He had given me a clean heart and gives me power to live a life of obedience.
Today I thank God for delivering me from my bond to fashion and parties, which never really satisfied. I am still learning to live a life of daily surrender to Him.
Sometimes it’s hard when my faith gets tried by the cares of life. When I fall, I know in whom I have believed, and that I can always go back to Him. His grace is ever sufficient. He gives me strength to do all things, and has given me a peace that passes all understanding.
Jesus Has My Folder
By Alareece Collie
In the skit “The Good-O-Meter,”* people stood in a line and one by one approached what I believed to be angels. Each individual would hand over their folders with all the deeds they had done in life. Many had red sheets of paper indicating bad deeds. The angel would do a quick review, then ask the person to step on a scale that ranged from “bad” to “good.” Regardless of the professed good deeds, each scale reading displayed “bad,” and the person was rejected. One unfortunate individual even tried to buy his way in with a credit card. Finally someone turned in a folder filled with red sheets.
However, Jesus appeared and submitted a folder that read “child of God.” Shocked, the angel declared to the gentleman, “Sorry, I didn’t know He was with you.” Jesus proceeded to step on the scale in place of the man, and the “Good-O-Meter” at last measured “good.” Then Jesus and this “child of God” happily walked away and took their seats in what I would call the “righteous” side of the room.
The skit is a simplified portrayal of the concept of righteousness. Sometimes it is easy for concepts or scriptures to remain one-dimensional and never impact the way a person lives. To me, righteousness is about a relationship, and this influences daily living. A key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Yet what does it mean to be “in Christ”? Verses 14 and 15 provide greater insight; they read: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
In other words, when Christ died, we all died. It can then be said that if we symbolically died because we were “in” Him, we were also resurrected when He was resurrected. This is the new creation. His actions for us were not just an outlier event, but rather an essential part of being in relationship with Him.
Being “in” Christ is deserving of an emphatic sigh of relief, because no amount of my good deeds would have ever been enough. This new creation does not seek my righteousness through my good deeds. It relies on a relationship with the One who is good. In my twenty-first-century world people think I’m more successful because I do more. For myself, I’m glad to enjoy success by stepping aside and allowing my Jesus Christ to turn in His folder for me and step on the scale for me. He fills my place with His righteousness. I’m thrilled about that.
*Central Films, “The Good-O-Meter,” YouTube. Online video clip: https:www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLzYw6ULYw (accessed Oct. 6, 2015).
His Righteousness, My Peaceful Beach
By La Verne Tavarez
Growing up in Antigua, I loved to look from the beach at the glasslike sea that caressed my island’s shores. However, we learned to fear the beaches when the hurricane season visited us and the sea became a monster that could swallow anyone who dared to leave the safety of higher ground.
Drowning in Fear
As a child, many times I felt as if I had been pulled into wild waters and was hopelessly drowning in an ocean of brimstone. In the Anglican tradition we were taught that if we did not live a good life, hell was waiting for us. I learned that Jesus was God and was in heaven, but that He was part of the punishment was what scared me so much.
Every Sunday I felt that the priest was talking to me, convincing me of my unrighteousness. It was almost as if he knew all my sins. I did not want to go to the sea of fire! But I always felt that hell was waiting for me.
I did not find any comfort attending a Catholic school: I was scared that if I died I was going to burn forever. I do not recall learning any specific Bible verses, only creeds, the liturgy that we repeated, and some Bible stories.
Somehow I always knew that our lives needed to be Christ-centered, but the waves around me did not allow me to find that much-desired peace I needed.
An Amazing Change
I moved to New York and met a Seventh-day Adventist who brought me to his church. I learned about righteousness by faith.
I was shocked to learn that I had been deceived about the character of God, and became angry that I had lived in a system based on fear. I resolved to accept this truth of righteousness by faith. I was not yet ready, but at the same time, I cannot describe the emotions of being overwhelmed by joy; there are no words to describe the emotion of feeling Jesus’ righteousness. On the other hand, I met Adventists whose lives also confused me for a while, but not too long.
I accepted fully the righteousness of Jesus, but I had to overcome the discouragement of my experience with people for whom I expected Christ’s righteousness to have made a change in their lives. When I made the decision to be baptized, I knew it was the right thing; it was the public expression of accepting salvation in Jesus Christ. I had to make the decision regardless of what I had experienced with some people around me; I had to make my choice: “As for me, I am going to follow Jesus.”
At that moment I felt that if I died, I was safe in Christ for eternity. His righteousness is so perfect! I felt that I was sitting at the beach and saw one of those peaceful sunsets: the light and warmth gave me peace, the promise of the sea of glass in the new earth.
Saving My Marriage and Me
By Craig Bardo
I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an adult who had come through a series of failures and disappointments. A childhood friend introduced me to the Bible, and I realized that if the Bible was the basis of doctrine, then Adventism made intellectual sense.
Not That Quickly
But my failures and disappointments didn’t end with my new faith. I looked forward to Sabbath, but was unable to reconcile my thoughts and behavior with my faith. I wondered why my efforts weren’t being rewarded if
Christianity was supposed to be a striving toward Christlikeness. Why was I always at odds with my wife and in a contentious relationship with my children? The whole Christian thing wasn’t working for me, and it clearly wasn’t working for my family. My wife was ready to divorce me.
Then the pastoral leadership team at my church began to lead us in a study of Romans 5. As I listened and read, I saw that Paul was describing me: without strength, ungodly, a sinner and an enemy of God (verses 6, 8, and 10). But all of the action fell to Christ! In fact, Paul declared that without confession, without repentance, without even going to God at all, I was reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and that the life of Jesus would save me (verse 10).
A Stunning Difference
The words stunned me. I looked at the Bible with new eyes. But it got better. Paul detailed how we were all condemned in Adam (verse 18), but Jesus set the record straight (verse 19), justifying everyone. This notion that all are justified freely continued an argument that Paul had started in Romans 3:24.
I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Jesus did not wait for me to come to Him. He came all the way to me!
As I study more, a scriptural pattern is becoming clearer to me. God has saved and delivered us all from the penalty of sin as a gift before we confess, repent, or even believe. He frees us from the hold of sin when we believe and confess (Rom. 5:19, 1 John 1:9). He frees us from the dominion and service of sin by what Paul describes as the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) and through our faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:20). The obligations and penalties of Scripture fell on Jesus, and the benefits of His acceptance of those obligations are ours, so long as we believe.
No longer do I stress out about reconciling my thoughts and behaviors with my profession of faith; growth in grace is not a matter of stressing out about personal inadequacies. My “sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). My Sabbaths are filled with worship to God and service to others. Heaven fills my heart with love for my wife and children. I pray that my activities glorify God. I rest in the assurance that it is not my life but Jesus’ life that saves me.
Here I Stand
By Sharon Pergerson
My husband, William C. Pergerson II, a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist, was killed in a plane crash on August 27, 2015. My two teenage children and I were privileged to attend his last sermon series about Christ’s righteousness in Tobago, West Indies, about two weeks before the accident. Every one of those sermons prepared our family for what was shortly to happen. I remember thinking, Wow, he is preaching so powerfully, so clearly, and with such urgency.
Preparing Us for Tomorrow
Without a doubt, God was speaking to us and giving us a highly concentrated dose of His mind and soul-soothing medicine: righteousness by faith. God knew the dosage we needed to be able to endure the traumatic experience and to continue to hold on to Him.
One point that my husband underscored in his sermons that has grown more personal to me since his death is how close Christ is to each of us. Hebrews 7:26 says, “For such an high priest became us.”1 Jesus Christ has come much closer to us than many of us were raised to believe. He found it fitting to become one with us, even closer than a Siamese twin. My children and I appreciate Proverbs 18:24: “And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Christ became one with us and gives us the opportunity to receive all that is His, including His righteousness. That’s why Isaiah 54:17 says, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”
He Shares My Pain
Oh, what a kind God! I can’t help loving this Friend God, who condescended to be with me in my pit of heartbrokenness. I am drawn to this Great Brother who feels my loss, because it is His loss, too. I cherish this “I AM” God who was in that small plane with my husband as His never-failing helper, holding him tight, and reminding him of His love as he circled the airport in Battle Creek, Michigan, seeking to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.
I don’t know why the plane suddenly plummeted to the ground, instantly killing Will, the only occupant, but God will explain everything when He wakes my husband up soon.
I am indebted to this heavenly Father God, who I’ve watched succor my fatherless children and give them resilience, joy, and a determination to ever live to honor Him. I am sold out to this Savior God, who has filled our lives with the riches of souls transformed by beholding Him.
Satan hates this message of the righteousness of Christ. He’s read Ellen G. White’s words, “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness.”2 He’s noted Romans 9:28, where the apostle Paul wrote, “For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness.” He knows that the revelation and heart reception of Christ’s perfect righteousness will break the chokehold he has on God’s people. He’s very aware that this message will mature us to be able to stand fearlessly in these last days, even in the face of persecution and death.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have chosen to respond to Christ and His righteousness with love, gratitude, repentance, faith, humility, and surrender. My heart is fully open to Him. I am all His and at His service. Like Paul and my husband, I too say, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). On Christ the solid rock I stand.
1-Bible texts are taken from the King James Version.
2-Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1955), p. 259.
Who Is Christ?
By Jorge Mendoza Alvir
God uses difficult situations to show who He is. When we think there are no other answers but our own, God shows His power to make us see who He is and what we are as humans.
People often ask: If there’s a God, why doesn’t He show Himself to us? If there is a God, why is there so much evil in this world? But one of the questions most often asked is Why, if I pray, doesn’t He answer me? I used to think that if I prayed I needed an answer to know that God was with me. This misunderstanding was the actual start of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
God Is My Friend
A personal relationship with Jesus is being His friend and knowing that He is your friend in good times and in bad times. Throughout the Bible we see people whose faith was put to the test, and who were often the ones that God blessed after tribulation.
Once we humans are brought out of our comfort zone, we often seek God. This was my case. I used to think I had a good relationship with God. But when I look at what God has helped me through in life, I see that I didn’t know a lot that I needed to know in order to have the best relationship with Him.
Yet Jesus stayed with me through those times and helped me to learn to love Him more and grow in Him. I used to pray for five minutes when I woke up, pray again when I was eating, and one more time before going to bed. I thought this was what it meant to have a close, personal relationship with God. But when God used tribulation to wake me up, I understood that I was really far from knowing God.
From what I have been through, I can tell you that a personal relationship with God is not only praying five minutes three times a day. Prayer is one of the most important things to do if we want a good relationship with God. Talking to God and thanking Him for what He has done in our life; understanding that whatever He says and whatever He does is for my own good, this is what God wants me to realize that a relationship is.
I didn’t understand this until I put it into practice. I started to learn more and study more of God’s Word; I keep understanding more and more things that I didn’t understand before. I am learning to listen to His voice, and although at first it was really hard to pray without an answer, I learned that just as human relationships need time, a relationship where we can actually hear God needs dedication and time.
Now I appreciate that God will not answer if I pray only for selfish reasons; but if I pray for others, and for His will to be done, He will answer.
Since I have understood what a personal relationship is, I have really learned to appreciate God’s care for me. I have learned to let Him be first in my life, and He always provides.