What Really Matters

December 27, 2023

When I became a pastor, my first conference ministerial director was Lloyd Wyman and he was awesome. I’ll never forget one of his sermon titles, “Putting the EmphAsis on the Wrong SyllAble.” I do that sometimes. I spend more time than I should on things that don’t really matter. I think the devil is the master at distracting us from what’s really important and unfortunately, that can happen in the church setting as well.

The eighth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church reads, “All humanity is now involved in a Great Controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe.” Adventist.org/beliefs. All humanity – that includes you and me. The Great Controversy is real, at stake is our eternal destiny. Satan has argued that we are condemned to death and therefore cannot enjoy eternal life. He further claims that God is unfair, unjust, and that it is impossible to perfectly obey God’s law. He’s right of course, it IS impossible for you and me to perfectly obey God’s law. Romans 6:23 (NKJV) is a poignant reminder: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Take a look at this quote from Ellen G. White’s book, Steps to Christ: “The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been,—just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,—perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness. If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled. The way would be open for sin, with all its train of misery, to be immortalized. It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God’s law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God.” Not a pretty picture! And it sure seems that the devil’s point is correct, we are condemned. However, the quote doesn’t end there, and praise the Lord that it doesn’t! Here’s the rest: “But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Savior, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.”

I hear people say, “Don’t preach about the Great Controversy anymore. Too much time has gone by. Focus on positive content, etc.” I believe now more than ever, we should focus on the Great Controversy, every day! We need to talk about it, share the Good News that because of Jesus, the Great Controversy will end and Jesus wins! 

Not sure how to share this great truth? Here is the final sentence of the eighth fundamental belief: “To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect and sustain them in the way of salvation.” Ask God to help you, and He will do two things, first He will, through the Holy Spirit, remind you that you are saved through Jesus. Second, He will give you the strength and the words to share this great truth with others. Let’s not “major in minors”, rather, let’s keep our eye on the ball and focus on what really matters! After all, Jesus is coming soon to take us home–Maranatha!

By Tony Anobile
Vice President for Church Ministries