The saving and keeping of a believer is a work of God, and all of grace.
Tell me: which is more important—winning a person to faith in Jesus, or keeping that person in the faith of Jesus?
Like many other divisive queries posed to us today, the question represents a false choice. Clearly, no one can stay with Jesus who hasn’t first come to Him. And those who come to Him but never stay to walk with Him aren’t counted His disciples. As Jesus said in sorrow: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, NRSV).
The question also unrighteously inflates the importance of human activity in building a lasting relationship with Jesus. On our best days, our efforts to evangelize reach only those whom the Spirit has long been nurturing. We count the moment when they step into the water, while heaven values the long and quiet process in which they listened to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Their membership in God’s remnant church is undoubtedly supported by the preaching of the Word, by strong, consistent pastoral care, and by participation with small, caring groups of fellow believers. But they won’t stay within this fellowship unless they find a vital, daily relationship with Jesus in which they hear the Spirit’s voice and increasingly do the Spirit’s bidding. The saving and keeping of a believer is a work of God, and all of grace.
The media of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is well-tuned to report the wonderful results of Spirit-filled preaching and witnessing. This magazine, with many others, regularly reports the joyous days when 30,000 persons—10 times the number of those who came to faith in Jesus on the day of Pentecost—are baptized in a single day or at the close of a public evangelistic series. But we also honestly report the alarming statistics increasingly apparent in data the world church collects: “During that half century and more, our loss rate is 41 percent. This doesn’t include deaths. It’s living members who leave our church family.”*
Those who come to faith in Jesus are called out of one religious system, named in Scripture as “Babylon,” and to citizenship in the coming New Jerusalem. Between those two cities, they are urged to find fellowship in a church—an ekklesia, “the called-out ones”—where they are loved, challenged, nurtured, and developed into disciple-makers themselves. The church of Jesus is always both a soul-winning and soul-keeping reality—a single, integrated place of witness and fellowship that continually births new witness and new fellowship.
This unique edition of Adventist World is designed to make you more fully aware of the many resources that both help you build a vital relationship with Jesus and share the good news with those who don’t yet know Him. In print, on the Web, through video, in podcasts, and even in virtual reality (VR), this ministry is building strength into the body of Christ, preparing it for more effective witness, and leaning toward that day when Jesus comes to take all who love Him to live with Him forever.
* David J. B. Trim, Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, published in “Why Do They Walk Away? The Heart-Cry of Adventist Parents,” https://adventistreview.org/commentary/why-do-they-walk-away-the-heart-cry-of-adventist-parents.