|Morris Venden, shown here on TV in Walla Walla, Washington, in 2003, helped bring a renewed perspective on salvation through grace to the Seventh-day Adventist Church starting in the 1970s. He died Sunday at age 80. ANN|
Two men went to the Temple to pray. One man prayed to himself, the other prayed to God. One man worshiped himself; the other worshiped God. One trusted to his own merits; the other to the mercy of God.
The Pharisee felt that his own works, his tithe paying, his fasting, his spotless behavior, was sufficient to earn his salvation. Depending upon works for salvation is the distinguishing mark of a legalistic Pharisee. But Jesus said, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (chap. 9:13). Justification is mankind being put right with God because of what Jesus has done (see Rom. 3:24). It is a provision in heaven for the redemption of the whole human race, and has as its foundation the spotless righteousness of Jesus. It is not something we can secure by our own efforts. It is a gift. The Pharisee has no advantage over the publican.
When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He rebuked the religious leaders of His day for making His Father's house a marketplace. Consider for a moment what a marketplace is. It is a place where things are bought and sold. It is a place where one presents the fruits of his own labors to purchase that which he desires. It is a place of exchange. God's house is not a marketplace, for salvation can never be bartered. It is to be freely given, and freely accepted. Salvation is totally a gift. Jesus said it in the words "This is my body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19). It is the ones who cannot pay who are invited to the gospel feast (see chap. 14:14).
We also notice in the study of Jesus' life that for the person who tries to save himself, there is an inevitable result he forsakes Jesus. This result is found in the story of Peter, who took out his sword and tried to save himself and the rest of the disciples (see Matt. 26:51-56). The very next thing that happened was that Peter and the other disciples all forsook Him and fled. Jesus was left alone with the mob. This is the inevitable result for anyone who tries to save himself. In the end, he will leave Jesus.
The publican recognized that there was nothing he could do to earn or merit God's mercy. He did not attempt to add anything to the salvation provided. He realized his totally helpless condition. He stood afar off, under conviction, not daring to lift even his eyes unto heaven. Yet he must have seen something of the love of God, in addition to the enormity of his own sin, or he would never have dared to show up in the Temple. And because of his hope of pardon, he came to seek reconciliation with God.
The publican admitted to being a sinner. Some translations read that he said, "God, be merciful to me the sinner." He felt that he was the worst man in the world. But do you suppose that he really was? Is it necessary to have topped Hitler's record of murders, or to have been more treacherous than Judas, in order to pray the prayer of the publican? Paul prayed it he who had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was willing to say, I am the chief of sinners. It is perhaps possible in Christian circles to vie with one another in claims of wretchedness. There are people who don't feel righteous unless they feel sinful! It is possible to have a form of legalism that takes comfort and assurance in penitence, instead of in Jesus Christ. There have been those who, upon seeing that being a "worm" was somehow noteworthy, could not rest until they had tried to prove that of all worms, they were wormiest. But notice that the publican does not say, "God, be merciful to me because of my penitence." He said, "God be merciful to me a sinner." He was penitent—no question about that. But he didn't make his salvation dependent upon his penitence.
And the publican was accepted. He went down to his house justified. Acceptance is the key word in the entire beautiful theme of justification. Jesus always accepted those who came to Him. We are accepted just as we are—in fact, that is the only way we can come. We cannot change ourselves in order to come. This is true every day, not only at the beginning of the Christian life. Jesus always accepts us just as we are. He said it in John 6:37: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." He said it in John 12:47: "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." He said in John 8:11 to the woman they dragged into His presence: "Neither do I condemn thee." Even the Jewish leaders recognized this truth, although they didn't appreciate it, when they said, "This man receiveth sinners" (Luke 15:2). Jesus said it in John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
Isn't it good news to know that we don't have to fear the judgment? This acceptance of Jesus is full and free, based on His sacrifice in our behalf. It is good for every person who accepts it, and it is good for every day. The poor publican, who cannot even dare to lift up his eyes to heaven, who stands afar off, but who cries out to God for mercy, is able to return to his house holding his head high because he realizes his worth in the eyes of the universe. He can hold his head high because he realizes what God has done for him through Jesus Christ, for when God forgives us, we stand before Him just as though we had never even sinned. "He [Jesus] 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 Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in the place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned."—Steps to Christ, p. 62.
The publican was justified when he accepted God's mercy. Justification is no good for any sinner until it is accepted by that sinner (see John 1:12). The Bible does not teach that justification is by grace alone. It is always by grace through faith (see Eph. 2:8). Faith is essential on the part of the sinner (see Heb. 11:6). Faith immediately involves two parties, one trusting the other. When the sinner trusts Jesus for salvation, there comes into existence a saving relationship, which is a subjective experience based on an objective fact. God's forgiveness must be accepted in order to benefit us personally. And we must continue to accept His forgiveness if we would continue to know His justifying grace.
Notice in four texts what Jesus said about forgiveness, and how it is connected to our relationship with God. The first is found in Matthew 18:21, 22. "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." Of course, Jesus wasn't here setting the limit for forgiveness at 490 times, but He was teaching that we are to forgive our brother as long as he keeps asking unlimited forgiveness.
In the second text, Luke 17:3-5, we see an even deeper application: "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith."
Is this advice limited to human relation ships? Of course not! God would not ask us to do among ourselves more than He would do. This is God's forgiveness. This is the kind of forgiveness that God gives to us. His forgiveness is unlimited. As often as we turn again to Him, admitting our need of His mercy and forgiveness, He gives it to us freely.
Here is where some people get nervous about the theme of justification. They think that a forgiveness like that will lead people to play fast and loose with God's grace. They think that such a forgiveness will lead to license. But let's notice the third text, Luke 7:40-43: "And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged."
Jesus said in Luke 17:3-5 that forgiveness is unending. He said that His Father forgives anyone who comes to Him, and who keeps coming. Does this lead to license? No, because in Luke 7:40-43 the Saviour says that the more one is forgiven, the more he loves.
The last of the four texts is John 14:15: "'If you love me, you will obey my commandments' " (T.E. V.). * So when we understand God's forgiveness aright, it leads us to a response of love. And love leads to obedience. It's just that simple.
How long do we need the forgiveness of God? Don't fall into the trap of thinking that justification is only for the beginning of our Christian life. We need God's justifying grace every day. We need His justifying grace because of our past track records. Whether we ever sin again or not, we still need the blood of Jesus to cover our sinful past. We need His justifying grace because we are sinful by nature, and will be until Jesus comes again. And we need His justifying grace every time we fall or fail. It was sin that brought about alienation from God and man in the beginning. And it is only the sacrifice of Jesus, accepted day by day, that is sufficient to heal the broken relationship between God and man, thus making communion between God and man possible.
As we accept His justification, as we accept Him, we have certainty and assurance concerning our eternal destiny. Eternal life isn't something that we are going to have later on we have it already! "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (chap. 3:36). "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life" (chap. 5:24). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (chap. 6:47). "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (chap. 20:31). "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).
This seems to many of us truth almost too good to be accepted. But it's still the truth Jesus said it! "Put away the suspicion that God's promises are not meant for you. They are for every repentant transgressor. Strength and grace have been provided through Christ to be brought by ministering angels to every believing soul. None are so sinful that they cannot find strength, purity, and righteousness in Jesus, who died for them. He is waiting to strip them of their garments stained and polluted with sin, and to put on them the white robe of His righteousness; He bids them live and not die." —Steps to Christ, pp. 52, 53.
God's forgiveness was good for the publican back then, and it's still good for every person today. "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17).
Source: Ministry Magazine (1981)
Author: Morris L. Venden (1933-2013) was a well known Seventh-day Adventist preacher, teacher, and author (more than 30 books), who also is known as a member of the Voice of Prophecy team as an associate speaker.
Venden was a strong advocate of both justification and sanctification by faith alone. He also was a strong supporter of the Pillars of Seventh-day Adventism including the investigative judgment. He was famous for his parables and dry humor ... more
Note: 2-12-13 Morris Venden, Asleep in Jesus│Sought-after speaker, author, friend of Jesus
College Place, Wash., February 12, 2013 – Morris L. Venden, well known husband, father, Seventh-day Adventist preacher, teacher, and author, passed to his rest Sunday evening, February 10, 2013. Venden was 80 years old and died following a 10-year battle with FTD, a comparatively rare form of dementia. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, son, Lee, and his wife, Marji, daughters, Lynn and LuAnn Venden, grandchildren, Kris, Lindsey and Mark, his brother, Louis, and his wife, Margie Venden.
During his life, Venden pastored several large churches including the La Sierra University Church and Pacific Union College Church in California and the Union College Church in Nebraska. Later he pastored the Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church near Loma Linda, California, from which he retired in August 1998. Venden then joined the Voice of Prophecy team as an associate speaker.
In addition to writing more than 30 books about Jesus, Venden was a widely sought-after speaker and has been described as a master of the art of preaching who loved Jesus.
Venden’s son, Lee, said “Dad will be remembered for the one string on his violin that he consistently talked about; Jesus, and the privilege available to everyone to have a meaningful friendship with Him. At this point it seems clear Dad will be able to sleep this disease off; the long sleep from our perspective, the short sleep from his.”
Venden’s memorial service will be held in the Loma Linda University Church, on Sunday, March 3, at 10 a.m. ... more