This year, GYC Europe held its first FOCUS event. FOCUS is a local conference and the idea is to have three installations in each place. The first one is called “Coming to Christ” and has five workshops. In this article series, the presenters share a part of their workshop with us in the form of an article.—Editor.
Getting Right and Staying Right with God
For GYC Europe’s first local FOCUS event in Stupini, Romania, I had the opportunity to present a workshop titled “Getting right and staying right with God”. The topic of the workshop finds itself immersed in the vast arena of Righteousness by Faith. It is a vast arena, for we are told it is the theme of all themes: “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness.” Ellen White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 767. Christ truly is our Righteousness and having faith in him and him alone will allow us to come into a closer, deeper and more experiential relationship with him. The topic is a most beautiful one as it takes us through several individual themes that ultimately merge in the overarching theme of righteousness by faith. In the presentation we covered some of them in this order:
- Righteousness (what is it?)
- Faith (what is it?)
- Before and after the fall
- God’s will and self-denial
- Justification and sanctification by faith
- A practical walk with God
Going through these points allowed the participants to see how righteousness and faith are connected together and why.
We first started with the definition of righteousness and how faith is connected to it. To be righteous means to have a purity of life, right thinking and feelings, and to be morally right. Many would admit that they are not there yet in their walk of life. But righteousness begins, not by sanctification, but by God declaring the repentant sinner righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains that Christ was made to “be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” To be righteous in Christ is only possible by believing that God can indeed declare us and keep us righteous in Christ. This faith we find in his word, the Bible, which outlines overwhelming evidences of God’s mighty works on behalf of mankind in the past, present and the future. Because of this compelling evidence the apostle Paul wrote: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. Rom 10:17. But Christ does not only forgive the sinner. He gave us the example of his righteous life for us to follow (1 Pet 2:21), an example that we cannot follow in our own strength, but can follow in God’s strength, as Philippians 4:13 plainly states: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. This allows us to see that by faith we can have the character of Christ, a character that is obedient and submitted to following God’s will as we keep our eyes fixed upward to him.
Continuing through the presentation, we covered what actually happened in the beginning when Adam fell and how God’s desire is for our minds to be renewed so that we can be transformed and know his will for our lives (Rom 12:2). This also is only possible by having faith that God can do and will do what he has promised.
Midway through we saw that Jesus denied his own will to follow the will of God. In fact, the following quote shows how intense this battle was:
Christ was put to the closest test, requiring the strength of all his faculties to resist the inclination, when in danger, to use his power to deliver himself from peril and triumph over the power of the prince of darkness. Satan showed his knowledge of the weak points of the human heart, and put forth his utmost power to take advantage of the weakness of the humanity, which Christ had assumed in order to overcome his temptations on man’s account.—Ellen White, Confrontation, 85.
Yet we see that Jesus overcame in all the areas we are tempted by resisting these three temptations—the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. We read that Jesus endured these yet refused to yield to them:
The three leading temptations by which man is beset were endured by the Son of God. He refused to yield to the enemy on the point of appetite, ambition, and the love of the world.—Ellen White, Temperance, 276.
Because Jesus overcame he was able to leave us an example that we can follow:
And with the terrible weight of the sins of the world upon him, he withstood the fearful test upon appetite, upon the love of the world, and upon that love of display that leads to presumption. He endured these temptations, and overcame in man’s behalf, working out for him a righteous character, because he knew that man could not do this of himself.—Ellen White, Signs of the Times, May 27, 1897.
As we came to the close of the presentation, we had a clear understanding that we can be forgiven, we can overcome sin in the strength of God, and that living a new life on a daily basis is possible.
Attendees were encouraged at the beginning of the presentation to write down idols they had allowed to come into their lives. (Hosea 13:2 says that we create idols according to our own understanding. Psalm 115:4–8 shows that our idols cannot speak, see, hear, smell, touch or walk and those who make them are like them.) As the attendees wrote down their own idols, time was allowed for each person to pray to God for strength to leave these idols and to walk by faith with God. Some had idols of social media, friends, partners, love of self, music, and more, but all were encouraged to cease their idol-making and to put their total trust in God. A few approached me afterwards and told me they had a clearer understanding of putting faith in God. One brother came to pray with me as he explained what idols he had in his life and that he now saw he could let go and hold on to God.
Only the love of God can reveal to the human the dark things of the heart. Those darling sins which are held, those experiences which trap and hold you, can only be broken by the power of Christ.
All were encouraged to live a practical faith with God where they can have new experiences in prayer, personal study, sharing their faith with others, and to nurture habits that will draw them closer to God on a daily basis.
It was a blessing to have had the opportunity to share this workshop with those who attended GYC Europe FOCUS in Stupini. And I hope that those who will attend the workshops of upcoming FOCUS events will experience “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27.
Craig Gooden is the president of GYC Europe.