Louis K. Dickson (1890-1963) was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, evangelist, conference administrator and vice president of the General Conference.
Ezekiel 22:14 "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it."
AS WE COME to the high day of the quadrennial session of this division I am sure we all come with our hearts filled with expectation. We have come to a new day, a day when every past achievement and accomplishment in the work of God and in the experience of the Christian is entirely inadequate for this hour. We have come to a time that calls for more than we have ever given. We have come to the final hours, hours of general uncertainty in the world. There is a rising fear gripping the hearts of men everywhere. The most optimistic of them are looking out upon the future as into a deep, dark chasm with no spanning bridge.
Thank God, the light of heaven has fallen upon this people. This is the hour when God shall be glorified in His people, in a way never before seen. It is at this time that His name shall be exalted. His plan of salvation shall be understood. The light of truth shall come to men's hearts vividly, clearly, unobstructedly. God has called us to this hour. And because of all these things this is the most tremendous hour that you and I have ever seen. Nothing like it can be found in the annals of human history. This very hour this Sabbath morning, dear friends, is the most important hour that has ever come to you or to me.
There is to break upon the world and upon all of our lives very, very soon, wicked forces bent upon the destruction of everything that is called God, or that has anything at all to do with the Lord Jesus Christ or His blessed work. The enemy of Christ is determined today, and is relentlessly seeking day and night to destroy God's cause. We are told by the messenger of the Lord that he is seeking for the usefulness or the life of every child of God; and that if he has his way there will never come to the people of God another awakening, another revival.
"God needs a people with triumphant power from on high, who will enter in fully, cooperating with every objective and purpose that He has to finish His work quickly and to meet the advance of the enemy in this terrific and closing conflict for the possession of the human soul."
That is a mighty challenge to you and me, dear friends. I don't believe we are going to leave that challenge unanswered. Nothing has happened in these later years of trouble and distress and danger and fear to change our understanding of God's mighty power. There is a power coming down from above today to meet every onslaught of the enemy. God needs a people with triumphant power from on high, who will enter in fully, cooperating with every objective and purpose that He has to finish His work quickly and to meet the advance of the enemy in this terrific and closing conflict for the possession of the human soul.
I bring to you a text that has arrested my attention repeatedly. It is found in the twenty-second chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel, the fourteenth verse: "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it." This is a wonderful statement, a most solemn statement that God would have us measure with, and take to our very hearts.
"Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it."
The Lord wants us to ponder well the way we are taking the experience we are having. He wants us to look into our hearts and lives in terms of power to abide, to continue, to endure. Repeatedly when Jesus was here on His earthly ministry He expressed the thought: "He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved."
The Christian life in these last days has reduced itself to an endurance contest. The enemy of our souls is bent on wearing out the saints of the Most High. He cares little how that shall be done, just so it is accomplished. It is possible for our souls to be worn out doing good, building things, advancing a movement, gathering money, perfecting an organization. All of these things, good in themselves, are but secondary to fortifying our souls for an hour like this. And it is a very grave question that the Lord asks: "Can thine heart endure?" We all believe the message will triumph; we believe that the movement will gain its objective. We have no question but that the enemy will be overthrown. But whether our heart will endure is an open question.
"And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
I would like to place with that text another one found in 1 John 2: 28: "And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." Here the apostle has caught the thought that the preparation to meet the Lord is the recapturing of the experience of abiding, continuing in Christ, not religious by fits and starts, not an up-and-down experience, but an experience that is abiding and that has levelled off, and is going straight for the kingdom of heaven. Abide in Him. He does not say "Abide in Him if you can." "It would be a good thing if you were to try to abide in Him."
"The outpouring of God's Spirit in latter-rain power can never come to this people until it comes to a prepared people. Do not differentiate between preparedness for the latter rain and preparedness to meet the Lord. They are identical."
All of the promises that God has given us relative to these things are dependent upon our preparation to be sealed with the seal of the living God. The outpouring of God's Spirit in latter-rain power can never come to this people until it comes to a prepared people. Do not differentiate between preparedness for the latter rain and preparedness to meet the Lord. They are identical. It would be a wonderful thing, wouldn't it, if under present conditions, present experiences, and present attitudes on our part, we should find ourselves in possession of mighty power beyond anything this world has ever seen in the church of God. But that is not the plan, dear friends. God does not intend to send His power upon an unprepared people.
"God does not intend to send His power upon an unprepared people."
When Christ was here upon earth, walking and talking with men, how often we hear Him say, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men"; "Come after Me"; "He that will come after Me, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me." But as we come down nearer to the day when He was to hang between heaven and earth and shed His precious blood for you and me, He seemed to put aside that expression of "Follow Me" and we find Him using another expression—"Abide in Me." And how often He said it in that one passage of the fifteenth chapter of John, and what wonderful promises He made based upon the experience of abiding in Him! You remember He made this statement: "Herein is My Father glorified." What is He speaking of?
What is our message as a people? "Fear God, and give glory to Him." How can we give glory to the Father who is the possessor, the centre, of all glory? "Herein," He says, "is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." And so someone says, "We must get very busy. We must multiply our efforts. We must multiply our facilities. We must gather money. We must have, a great army of workers. We must erect many buildings and go to the ends of the earth." All that is true.
But, my dear friends, we need to know what He says concerning this matter of bearing fruit for Him. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing." It makes no difference how many facilities we may have, or how large our number of workers, believers, institutions, or monetary coins. He that would bear much fruit is "he that abideth in Me." Over and over again He impresses the thought upon our minds; and this beloved apostle, who was so near the heart of our blessed Master, comes forth very early in his epistle and tells us, "My little children, abide in Him." If you would be prepared to meet God, abide in Him. Now we use that expression very often. It is a familiar one to Christians.
"I believe it is time, preachers, for you and me to get into some of these things that are so glibly spoken of among Christians and get them down into words; into thoughts that we can understand and assimilate into our lives and experience, and lead our people into an experience of abiding in Christ, for it is the preparation to meet the Lord."
But I want to say, dear friends, with all the solemnity I can muster, There are few Seventh-day Adventists who understand that statement. There is a high percentage of church members today who do not know what that means and have never entered into that experience. And I believe it is time, preachers, for you and me to get into some of these things that are so glibly spoken of among Christians and get them down into words; into thoughts that we can understand and assimilate into our lives and experience, and lead our people into an experience of abiding in Christ, for it is the preparation to meet the Lord. Don't be afraid of it. It is characteristically simple, as everything is that has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is a terrible thing in an hour like this, when we should be prepared, to be forced to make the preparation, to stand embarrassed before the call of God, before the hour of our visitation, the great need and the beckoning hand of our Master leading away on beyond what we have been able to enter into, because we have failed to enter fully into the experience by which to meet that challenge.
The Apostle Paul understood this and emphasized it in many places. Turn with me to the first chapter of Colossians and the twenty-first verse: "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled." Notice, he is talking here to a group of men and women who were once alienated from God. They did not know the truth, but now the light has come to them. To them have been revealed the great truths of God's will and they are reconciled to that revelation of His will. We need to ask ourselves the question, Am I reconciled to the revelation of God's will for my life?
"We are the most privileged people of any generation in the history of the world. The Lord has revealed His will to this church. The searching question is, Are we reconciled to that revelation of His will in every detail?"
Let me say that I am talking to a people not confined to Australia, but representative of a people around the circle of the earth upon whom has been bestowed the most detailed revelation of God's will that any generation of His people have enjoyed in the history of the church. Not only has He thrown the light of heaven upon the Scripture in no uncertain terms, but He has called forth a messenger of flesh and blood like unto us, who has written down for us very carefully and minutely all that was given to her. Focussed upon God's Word are all these marvellous statements of God's messenger, like a mighty telescope looking down upon God's Word and amplifying it in terms of human life, so that we are able to see more in it than we ever saw before. We are the most privileged people of any generation in the history of the world. The Lord has revealed His will to this church. The searching question is, Are we reconciled to that revelation of His will in every detail? Are we intelligent as to that revelation of His will? or are we neglecting in our lives to read and to understand and to study and to ponder upon the things that God has revealed to us?
Well, the Apostle Paul is talking to those who are reconciled. "Now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight." Isn't that wonderful? Oh, how we should rejoice to be led to that place where we are unreproveable, unblameable, and holy in God's sight! Don't be afraid of it. This comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to a reconciled life.
"The difficulty with most of our lives is that we are holding on to an experience that has leaked out, that has long lost its power."
But this isn't all He says. He adds: "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel." In other words He is saying, If ye endure, if ye continue, if ye abide. And here is the secret, dear friends, of the abiding life in Christ. It is going on, following on to know the Lord. How often I have heard the messenger of the Lord speak upon that text! We shall know if we follow on to know the Lord. The difficulty with most of our lives is that we are holding on to an experience that has leaked out, that has long lost its power. "Abide in Him," says the apostle; "Abide in Me," says the Master.
Turn again with me, if you will, to the third chapter of 1 John, verse 24: "And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us." Here is something that is very real in the life. There are some things that you and I can know. "Hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit He hath given us"— that is the Holy Spirit. Here is a conscious knowledge of the abiding presence of the Spirit of God in the life. Paul made a very strong statement to young Timothy, found in 2 Tim. 1: 12: "For I know whom I have believed." This is very important knowledge. Do you know God? Are you increasing in your knowledge of God? We are not talking of your knowledge about God. The devil knows a great deal about God, but he's far from a holy being, isn't he?
Here is an experience of personal acquaintance with God that is impressed over and over again throughout the epistles. You will remember the Apostle Peter, when he pictures those tremendous scenes of the last days, says: "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." One translator speaks of the heavens being in flame, of the stars being on fire. We have no conception of the scene that Peter is describing here, but we come down to the fourteenth verse: "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
We have been looking for these fearful events for a long time. We have been telling the world about them for more than a hundred years. We believe them with all our hearts, don't we, brethren and sisters? Surely we do! "Wherefore . . . be diligent." In other words, "Get down to business (for that is a business term). "Be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace. . . . Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
The Apostle Paul declares, "I know Him." He doesn't say, "I know about Him (though that would be wonderful)." He doesn't say, "I know what I believe." He doesn't say, "I know why I believe;" but he affirms, "I know whom I believe." That is a wonderful testimony. It needs to be the testimony today of every Seventh-day Adventist—"I know God." There should be no misunderstanding or question at that point. At the beginning of our Christian lives what was it that we heard that made us Christians? Above everything else was it not that wonderful promise, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"? When we believed it and followed it we became Christians, didn't we? We not only were convinced, but we acted upon the revealed will of God to our hearts at that time. True enough, we did not have all the understanding of the revelation of His will that we have today; but with our whole hearts we yielded ourselves to Christ—to what we knew His will was for us.
"As we were baptized we buried the old life. We did something about it, didn't we? We turned our backs upon the old life of selfishness and sin, and worldliness and error, and we turned our faces toward Zion. We cared not what happened—we were going through with God."
We gave up sin. We gave up evil associations. We renounced worldly ambitions. We forsook everything that was displeasing to God. We courageously gave them up. We cared not for the consequences. We lost every hard feeling. We loved everybody. We loved God's service. We were determined to follow Him all the way, if He would only reveal to us His will. As we were baptized we buried the old life. We did something about it, didn't we? We turned our backs upon the old life of selfishness and sin, and worldliness and error, and we turned our faces toward Zion. We cared not what happened—we were going through with God.
Now the apostle says, "Let that therefore abide in you." What is he telling us? He is telling us that that experience on the shores of our baptism should remain in us; that we should be just as honest with Him and just as full of faith now as we were back there. But as we look into our lives what do we see? We find all along the way that the original experience, which brought us such joy and ecstasy and enthusiasm and sacrificial service for God has somehow leaked away. And we must look back upon our first love that we would like to recapture, for we hear God saying, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." And we hear Him say, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," "because thou art lukewarm," a half-and-half Christian, "I will spue thee out of My mouth."
"The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expression of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His Word or your spiritual work in any wise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you. Your service, your sacrifice, your prayer, your profession, are all distasteful to God until you cease to be a half-and-half Christian."
God hates a half-and-half Christian. If you want to provoke Him to anger, be called by His name with a half-baked Christian experience. I want to read you a warning statement from Testimonies, vol. 6, page 408: "The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expression of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His Word or your spiritual work in any wise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you. Your service, your sacrifice, your prayer, your profession, are all distasteful to God until you cease to be a half-and-half Christian." No, we must get back to the shores of our baptism. We must get back to the place where we gave our whole hearts to God, willingly, lovingly, courageously; willing to go anywhere God would send us; shutting our eyes to relationships, associations, worldly attractiveness; fixing our eyes upon the One who hung between heaven and earth that we might have the opportunity to be saved, purposing to walk with Him, and to follow and obey Him and take His revealed will into our hearts.
A Creeping Paralysis Overtaking Us
There is a complacency that has crept over God's people in these late hours. We take for granted that we are God's people and that we are just about all right. At least our actions reveal that sort of attitude. But let us remember that when God looks down on His people in these days, the Laodicean church, He points out that we are in an unconscious state, that we lack understanding, that we can't see straight. We think we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, while we are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked before Him.
"As I marked the indifference which was everywhere apparent I was alarmed for ministers and people. There seemed to be a paralysis about the cause of truth. The work of God seemed stayed."
What then shall we do? There is nothing that can be done, dear friends, but to follow Him implicitly, to find out what He has said and to walk in the light of what He has told us. "I was shown that a most solemn work is before us," we are told. "Its importance and magnitude are not realized. As I marked the indifference which was everywhere apparent I was alarmed for ministers and people. There seemed to be a paralysis about the cause of truth. The work of God seemed stayed." Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 466
"Nearly all who profess to believe present truth are unprepared to understand the work of preparation for this time. They are wholly unfitted to receive the latter rain."
"Ministers and people." Oh, those are sad words, aren't they? There seems to be no difference made here—ministers and people are unprepared for the time in which they live, and nearly all—notice that —"nearly all who profess to believe present truth are unprepared to understand the work of preparation for this time. They are wholly unfitted to receive the latter rain." Let's not talk about the showers of the latter rain, dear friends, until we are prepared for them. Many of the things we attribute to the latter rain are merely the demonstration of God's power under the former rain. You and I have no conception whatever of what is coming under the latter rain to a prepared people ready to be sealed, a people who are following God's revealed will. Oh, what a revolution would come in in the midst of the church of God if we could have that kind of reformation! My friends, how long shall we wait for it? What great assembly or gathering or meeting or quadrennial session of God's people must come before we take action to follow Him?
Assemblies Should Be Called to Seek for Holy Spirit
"Nearly all who profess to believe present truth are unprepared to understand the work of preparation for this time." We need to get down before God and seek Him with our faces covered until we find Him. We are told by the messenger of the Lord that assemblies should be called to seek for this experience, for the Holy Spirit. It seems to be the last thing we think about. We are such a busy people. We have supplanted the seeking of God with business, with machinery, with accessories, with everything but what God has told us.
What more can I say this morning? There is so much I would like to say. Lest any might feel that we have not really touched this question of abiding in Christ I want to read to you what the messenger of the Lord has said: "Do you ask, ‘How am I to abide in Christ?’—In the same way as you received Him at first." In other words, you and I must have a real conversion every day. That is the experience of abiding in Christ. “‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.’ . . You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. You could not yourself atone for your sins, or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believed that He for Christ's sake did all this for you.” You entered into an experience that revolutionized your whole life.
My dear friends, where has that experience leaked out? Shall we not recapture it right here upon these sacred grounds? God is waiting. The heavenly hosts are waiting. They wonder why we are so slow. And we need to ask ourselves, What are we waiting for? There must be a turning back in the lives of us all, to that thorough-going experience of conversion, and then we must follow on to know the Lord in that same way day by day.
""The life you have received from Me can be preserved only by continual communion. Without Me you cannot overcome one sin or resist one temptation. Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. It is through His Word that Christ abides in His followers. Living in Christ, adhering to Christ, supported by Christ, drawing nourishment from Christ, you bear fruit after the similitude of Christ."
"Let that therefore abide in you which ye heard from the beginning." "Abide in Me and I in you"—and this is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. "The life you have received from Me can be preserved only by continual communion. Without Me you cannot overcome one sin or resist one temptation. Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. It is through His Word that Christ abides in His followers. Living in Christ, adhering to Christ, supported by Christ, drawing nourishment from Christ, you bear fruit after the similitude of Christ."
My dear friends, I beg of you to ponder well the call of God, "Can thine heart endure?" Are YOU abiding in Christ, or do you find that you are living an up-and-down experience? As you come together in a great meeting like this your heart is inspired to press on. What about tomorrow? What about next Sabbath? Do you not see that the primary need of the people of God today is a levelling off on a high plane of spiritual living? Spiritually seeking after God until we find Him? Are you finding in the little things of your life what it means to have prayers answered for you? Are you conscious of a new and growing power laying hold of your life daily, or must you look back to some experience in your life for a better life than you now experience? Do you long for that life that you once experienced? You may have it, my dear friends, today, if you will yield to Him whatever the cost.
Oh, how far we have drifted in this spiritual life! Let us rise in this very meeting and go down from this place with a shout of victory because God has visited us with His power in our individual experiences; so that we may go forth and be more than good givers, more than efficient organizers, more than courageous men and women going out to the ends of the earth to face this or that. Let us be noted wherever we may be, for the abiding presence of Christ to be seen in our lives, for mighty victories brought about because of consciously possessed power in our lives.
May God endow His people with the spirit of self-sacrifice and service, that soon the gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, so that the end may come.
Taken from the Australasian Record, January 24 and 31, 1955