Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 23, No. 9 Straight and Narrow September 2014
The sun, the moon, and the stars, the beautiful order of the recurring
the mighty snow-capped mountains, the lofty trees, and other varied wonders
of nature, show a skill beyond human comprehension. Through these works
of the Almighty, the apostles led the minds of the heathen to a contemplation
of the great Ruler of the universe. (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 180 adapted)
In this issue:
Perfection of Character - The Final Generation
From the File Cabinet of History
Be ye therefore perfect . . .
The Title Deed to Answered Prayer
The Perfect Character - The Rose of Sharon
Perfection and Unity
Perfection of Character
Part 3The Final Generation
Someone once commented to Elder C. D. Brooks that he was a great preacher, but Elder Brooks quickly responded, No, no! It is not the man, but the message that is great. The message we have been given as Seventh-day Adventists is a great message, but sadly what you will read here will be difficult to find at Andrews University or at any of Adventisms other institutions of higher learning, but you should be able to find it being taught in such institutions. The truth of the final generation is a theological treat because of the greatness of the message.
The theme of this series, which started last month, is perfection of character, and in this study we will be looking at what has been called the final generation.
The second study of this series discussed systematic theology, which is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs. We compared it to a machine’s gears all interacting together in a harmonious manner. Whatever direction the main drive gear turns affects the other gears. If that gear gets a notch or a tooth broken in it, then it affects the way everything else works. Likewise in theology, whenever you alter foundational teachings or turn the direction into which they head, you can be sure that everything else up the theological line is going to be affected as well. Now we want to study how eschatology, or the study of last-day events, plays into this situation.
Soteriology is the science of salvation. Soteria is the Greek word for salvation or for being saved. Christology is about the nature of Christ and is about his incarnation and his place in the Godhead. Eschatology comes from the Greek word eschatos which means last or last-day events.
As we noted last month, the Adventist Church was raised up to prepare honest seekers of truth to be translated, not to die. God’s design was for this to be done in one generation. God did not intend the Adventist movement to go beyond one generation because only one generation is needed.
The Basis of Salvation
To properly understand how eschatology fits into the picture, we need a proper understanding of law and grace in soteriology. Paul notes that “as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6), but how does one receive Jesus Christ? By faith in the word of God (Galatians 3:1–5); therefore, we are to walk by faith in the word of God.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein [in the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:16–18)
Writing to the church at Rome, Paul declares that something is in the gospel, and that something is “the righteousness of God.” I would like to suggest to you that Psalm 119:172 has the answer to what that righteousness is: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.”
Beloved, the true gospel of God does not eliminate the commandments of God; instead, it is the gospel, and only the gospel, that establishes the Ten Commandment Law of God. In Romans 3:31, Paul proclaims: Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Faith and grace establish the law. We have been told:
Divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work. (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 508)
Divine grace is what we need at every step of our experience and this God has provided through his son, Jesus Christ. Since the very inception of sin, humanity has had a Saviour. Inspiration calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew what He would have to suffer, yet He became mans substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, March 12, 1901)
Christ Is Coming for a Church
Consider with me now two texts found in the book of Isaiah. These texts assure us that God is surely going to deal with the sin problem:
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. (Isaiah 13:9–12)
“The day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger.” This is from the same New Testament God of love. God is holy and will not allow sin to defile his kingdom. Instead of allowing sin to defile his kingdom, God wants to remove sin from the hearts and souls of his people. God is promising to change our hearts. He is promising to take the filthiness and arrogance from those who will surrender to his plan. God will not just take sin away from a single person or from a few, but he will have a righteous nation who have totally overcome sin:
In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (Isaiah 26:1, 2)
What is the truth that this righteous nation keeps? The Psalmist tells us “thy [God’s] law is the truth” (Psalm 119:142). God will have more than just one man or one woman who will be made finer than the golden wedge of Ophir. God will have a whole “righteous nation” keeping the truth (his law), and we can be a part of that righteous nation.
God expects his people to walk in the good way, in the old path. God is looking for his church, not just for individuals, but for the body, the Corpus Christi. Consider the following text:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
Notice the second word in this text, Till we . . . We is not singular, but plural. Notice now a passage from the next chapter of Ephesians. Speaking of his church, God says:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
Paul is speaking about the church, a collective group of people; and he says that Christ is going to come back for a collective group of people; and that group will not have any “spot, or wrinkle.” They will be a pure people.
Peter tells us that God’s people will have holy conversation (lifestyle) and that the land which they look forward to is a place of righteousness:
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (2 Peter 3:11–14)
John also fully agrees with this theme:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2, 3)
Of the 144,000, we read: And in their [plural] mouth was found no guile: for they [plural] are without fault before the throne of God (Revelation 14:5). Revelation 14:12 also notes: Here is the patience of the saints [plural]: here are they [plural] that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. The Bible is clear that God is going to have more than just one Enoch. He is going to have more than just an Abraham. God is going to have more than just a Daniel. God is going to have a group of people, a group of saintsHere are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” This will happen because there is a direct relationship between what Jesus is doing today in the heavenly sanctuary and what his people are doing upon this earth:
This is the great day of atonement, and our Advocate is standing before the Father, pleading as our intercessor. In place of wrapping about us the garments of self-righteousness, we should be found daily humbling ourselves before God, confessing our own individual sins, seeking the pardon of our transgressions, and cooperating with Christ in the work of preparing our souls to reflect the divine image. (Ellen White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 933)
Consider for a moment what it means about our character and what it means about God’s character when we reflect the divine image. One becomes the mirror image of the other.
Unless we enter the sanctuary above, and unite with Christ in working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, we shall be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and shall be pronounced wanting (Ibid.; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
This statement is emphatic. Inspiration says that unless we enter into a special experience, we shall be pronounced wanting. It is vital to our experience. We enter into this sanctuary experience by faith.
Now Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary. And what is He doing? Making atonement for us, cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Then we must enter by faith into the sanctuary with Him, we must commence the work in the sanctuary of our souls. We are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement. We must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, p. 127)
With More Light Comes More Responsibility
One of the most vital messages of the sanctuary doctrine is that since 1844 something special is now required of God’s followers in terms of character development that was not as vital to the development of the church before 1844. There is something that is different today that is required for the development of the character of the church that was not required before 1844. Why and how could that be? The light of the Spirit of Prophecy helps to magnify the degree of character development that Christ is waiting to see in his church.
Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. (Ellen White, Christs Object Lessons, p. 69)
My favorite reformer is Martin Luther. I think Luther was a giant of a man, but neither Luther nor his generation was ready for the coming of Christ. Neither Luther nor his contemporaries perfectly reflected the character of Christ. When Jesus comes back, he will be returning for a people who will have perfectly reproduced his character, and persecuting Sabbath-keepers and Jews and drinking beer at the pubs, as Luther did, simply does qualify one to be a part of the 144,000. That kind of intolerance will not be acceptable for a people who know the three angels’ messages.
Today Luther and men like Calvin and Wesley are rightly considered great reformers. They lived during the early part of the Reformation, but their characters were not developed to the level that Christ will be looking for when he comes back. There is a difference in what Christ is going to expect in the people who have lived since 1844 andwhat he was willing to accept before. We have truth that was not shining upon Luther, upon Calvin, or upon Wesley. These reformers were not living in the time of the final atonement, but we are!
There should be an urgency gripping us as a people, especially those who know the truth about Jesus and who want to truly bring their lives into conformity to every word of God. The solemn truth is that Jesus has entered the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and has begun his last phase of mediation for humanity, which involves the character fitness of the last generation.
If the work should have taken only one generation, there has been an obvious altering of God’s purpose. What happened, then, in 1844? One of the greatest prophecies of the Bible began to be fulfilled in 1844. Daniel 8:14 states that there should be 2,300 prophetic days (or literal years) from a certain point until the sanctuary in heaven would be cleansed. That prophecy began in 457 BC and extended down 2,300 years to AD 1844. Something very specific happened in the year 1844, and that was the beginning of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.
Yet the delay of Christ’s coming since 1844 is due neither to heavenly inefficiency nor to a change in his plans.
Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34 are correctly used in the analogy of Scripture to prove that a prophetic day equals a year of literal time. At the close of Numbers 14:34, God says and ye shall know my breach of promise. If you will look in your margin, you will see that it says or, altering of my purpose.” Was it God’s purpose and design that the children of Israel should have to live in the wilderness for forty years? Of course not! But because of a lack of faith, which produced rebellion and disobedience, Israel was sent to the wilderness for forty years.
Now, let us bring it closer to home. Was it God’s design that we should be alive here today? No, it was not. He wanted his work to be finished long before we were born. It was his purpose to bring a people to perfection, to perfect obedience to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and to finish the work in one generation, yet Jesus could not come immediately after 1844. There had to be a certain delay because character is not given. Character is developed, and it takes time for a generation to develop that character.
Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this  to receive His people to their reward.
But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history! (Ellen White, Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 68; written in 1883)
That an amazing statement! From 1844 to 1883 there are thirty-nine years, no more than one generation by anyone’s standard.
It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in “because of unbelief.” Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.
For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lords professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.Manuscript 4, 1883. (Ellen White, Evangelism, p. 696)
Eighteen years after the above statement was written, Sister White wrote another letter pertaining to the timing of Christ’s coming. In that letter she said this:
We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel, but for Christs sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, pp. 277, 278; Letter to P. T. Magan on December 7, 1901)
Did you notice the date for that letter? Exactly forty years later Pearl Harbor was bombed, bringing the United States into World War II. What if Adventism had done its work? Would Pearl Harbor have ever happened? No, it would not have occurred and neither would the atrocities of that war, including the Holocaust! No wonder God anxiously wants to finish the work of the final atonement and eradicate the universe of sin.
What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time. (Nahum 1:9)
Now, in order for God to do that work, he must first eradicate sin in us.
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. (Zechariah 10:1)
We should be praying fervently for the latter rain. Do you not want to experience the latter rain? I believe with all my heart that God wants to pour out his latter rain upon his people. He longs to do it, but he can only pour out the latter rain on those who have cleansed the soul temple of every defilement.
Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 214)
Our Father longs for his people to be so settled into the truth, so comfortable with God’s way of life, that he can impart his seal of approval and point to them without embarrassment and declare honestly to the universe: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The trouble is that some have become entirely too comfortable with their worldly way of life and they do not want to change things, but God wants a people who are uncomfortable with the world and, instead, comfortable with his way of life.
The concept that the people of the three angels’ messages are going to be held to a higher standard, to a higher accountability, than any generation before has been basic to Adventist thought for more than a century. History reveals that Adventism has understood and has proclaimed that the concept of a cleansed sanctuary in heaven cannot be separated from a prepared, spotless people upon the earth.
Let us now consider a brief synopsis of this understanding among our early pioneers.
Joseph Bates, writing as early as 1850, saw the connection between a cleansed sanctuary and a cleansed people:
And he shall make an atonement for the holy, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins. Verse 16. Will the reader please read these eighteen words again, and see if he cannot tell the meaning of the cleansing of the Sanctuary. Oh yes!! You say, it was to cleanse the people, all of them, from their sins. Very well, do not forget it, when it comes down to you in the antitype. (Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 1850, p. 21)
Stephen Haskell, in 1856, also saw a clear connection between a prepared people and the completion of the gospel message:
A theory of the Third Angels message never, no never, will save us, without the wedding garment, which is the righteousness of the saints. We must perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 6, 1856)
Daniel T. Bourdeau wrote a series of articles in 1864 for the Review in which he emphasized the special responsibilities resting upon Gods people preaching the three angels messages. These Review articles were complied into the book SANCTIFICATION OR, LIVING HOLINESS.
But some do not see the necessity of receiving the truths applicable to the present time in order to be sanctified. They think they can be sanctified by living as other good Christians have lived. But how have good Christians in the past been sanctified? Have they not been sanctified by living up to the light that they had in their day? And if we are favored with more light than they were, if God has other duties for us to perform, can we be sanctified by merely living as they lived? Does God cause light to shine on his word in vain? (Daniel T. Bourdeau, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 2, 1864)
Is this making sense? Brother Bourdeau continues:
It will require a special preparation to meet the Lord when he comes. It will be necessary for the last church to look for Christ; for it is to them that look for him that he will appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Heb. ix, 28. (Ibid.)
Bourdeau was saying that the Advent people have had more light than any other. Since 1844 we have had much greater light than any other generation has had—more light than Martin Luther, more light than John Calvin, and more light than John Wesley, or any of those reformers. Bourdeau is teaching that one is sanctified by living up to the light that one has—the more light that one has, the more that will be required of him or her.
This principle was developed further by W. W. Prescott, when he preached at the 1903 General Conference, saying:
But there is a difference between the forgiveness of sins and the blotting out of sin. There is a difference between the gospel being preached for the forgiveness of sins and the gospel being preached for the blotting out of sin. Always, and to-day, there is abundant provision for the forgiveness of sins. In our generation comes the provision for the blotting out of sin. And the blotting out of sin is what will prepare the way for the coming of the Lord; and the blotting out of sin is the ministry of our high Priest in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary; and it makes a difference to the people of God today in their ministry, in their message, and in their experience, whether they recognize the change of the ministry from one apartment to the other, or whether they recognize and experience the fact of the change. (General Conference Bulletin, April 2, 1903; p. 53)
This concept of increased light, of increased responsibility, and of increased perfectionof more perfectly reflecting the light and image of Christ in a lifetimes generationhas been a part of Adventism from early times. These concepts were refined and expanded by M. L. Andreasen. From the pen of Andreasen comes more fully the concept of what has become known as Final Generation Theology.
One will not hear about or study about final generation theology at Andrews University, unless one hears it negatively discussed in a class, for it is not believed at the seminary. Despite the biblical and the Spirit of Prophecy support for this concept, the teachers at the seminary unquestionably do not believe in any kind of a concept of the three angels’ messages preparing a perfected people who have an experience that is unique, different, and higher than any people before them. I have personally heard professors at Andrews University openly and unequivocally state this. They are not afraid to express their lack of faith in such a theology; in fact, some think it is a “crack-pot theology.” But pioneer-victory-over-all-sin theology is not “crack-pot.” It is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Only final-generation theology truly gives the purpose and the rationale for Adventism. Elder Andreasen noted this in the following manner:
While it is true that many from time to time have dedicated their lives to God and lived without sin for periods of time, Satan claims that these are special cases, as was Jobs case, and do not come under the ordinary rules. He demands a clear-cut case where there can be no doubt, and where God has not interfered. Can such an instance be produced? (M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, pp. 113, 114)
Satan says, There may be an individual here and an individual there who are perfect; yet, God says that he will have a righteous nation, a righteous people, but I dont think he can do it. Can God do it? Andreasen said, Yes he can.
There is a theological concept called prevenient grace. Prevenient means to go before. Prevenient grace is grace that God bestows upon the believer before conversion, so that that person may be able to believe and understand the love of God and thus be drawn to God and drawn to accept Jesus. Christians freely believe in forgiving grace to cover sins committed in the past, but Ellen White speaks of sustaining grace:
It becomes every child of God to vindicate His character. You can magnify the Lord; you can show the power of sustaining grace. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 317)
This is grace that sustains the believer and that keeps him from sin. This is grace that enables the believer to live clean before man and before God.
Andreasen, writing in his book The Sanctuary Service, continues:
He [Satan] demands a clear-cut case where there can be no doubt, and where God has not interfered. Can such an instance be produced?
God is ready for the challenge. He has bided His time. The supreme exhibition has been reserved until the final contest. Out of the last generation God will select His chosen ones. Not the strong or the mighty, not the honored or the rich, not the wise or the learned, but common, ordinary people will God take, and through and by them make His demonstration. Satan has claimed that those who in the past have served God have done so from mercenary motives, that God has pampered them, and that he, Satan, has not had free access to them. If he were given full permission to press his case, they also would be won over. But he charges that God is afraid to let him do this. “Give me a fair chance,” Satan says, “and I will win out.”
And so, to silence forever Satan’s charges; to make it evident that His people are serving Him from motives of loyalty and right without reference to reward; to clear His own name and character of the charges of injustice and arbitrariness. And to show to angels and men that His law can be kept by the weakest of men under the most discouraging and most untoward circumstances, God permits Satan in the last generation to try His people to the utmost. They will be threatened, tortured, persecuted. They will stand face to face with death in the issuance of the decree to worship the beast and his image. (Revelation 13:15) But they will not yield. They are willing to die rather than to sin.
God removes His Spirit from the earth. Satan will have a greater measure of control than he has ever had before. True, he may not kill God’s people, but that seems to be the only limitation. And he uses every permission he has. He knows what is at stake. It is now or never. (pp. 113, 114)
About thirty-five years ago, I was sitting in the balcony of a large conference church, where a very stimulating Sabbath school class was being held, and the conference evangelist’s wife was sitting about two chairs from me. She said, “We can never overcome sin in this world.” And someone next to her said, “That is right, but I believe that when we get to heaven and are not tempted any longer, we will be able to overcome sin then.” And she said, “Yes, that is right. When all the temptations are taken away and our natures have been changed, then we will be able to obey God’s law, and that is what Jesus will do for us when he comes back.”
Can you see that this new theology is the exact opposite of what has been stated? It is a theology that has been echoed many times in many places and has become the standard for much of Adventism today. God is not proposing to have a group of people that have to have everything taken away that is difficult or hard for them in order for them to live victoriously. God is saying, My empowering grace is so great that I can take the weakest of the weak and put him or her into the strongest of strong flak and fire and he or she will still walk victoriously. That is exactly what Revelation 13–15 is saying.
Continuing with Andreasen:
God, to make the demonstration complete, does one more thing. He hides Himself. The sanctuary in heaven is closed. The saints cry to God day and night for deliverance, but He appears not to hear. God’s chosen ones are passing through Gethsemane. They are having a little taste of Christ’s experience those three hours on the cross. Seemingly they must fight their battles alone. They must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor.
But though Christ has finished His intercession, the saints are still the object of God’s love and care. Holy angels watch over them. God provides them shelter from their enemies; He provides them with food, shields them from destruction, and supplies grace and power for holy living. (See Psalms 91) Yet they are still in the world, still tempted, afflicted, tormented.
Will they stand the test? To human eyes it seems impossible. If only God would come to their rescue, all would be well. They are determined to resist the evil one. If need be they will die, but they will not sin. Satan hasno power—and never has had—to make any man sin. He can tempt, he can seduce, he can threaten; but he cannot compel. And now God demonstrates through the weakest of the weak that there is no excuse, and never has been any, for sinning. If men in the last generation can successfully repel Satan’s attack; if they can do this with all the odds against them and the sanctuary closed, what excuse is there for men’s ever sinning?
In the last generation God gives the final demonstration that men can keep the law of God and that they can live without sinning. God leaves nothing undone to make the demonstration complete. The only limitation put upon Satan is that he may not kill the saints of God. He may tempt them, he may harass and threaten them; and he does his best. But he fails. He cannot make them sin. They stand the test, and God puts His seal upon them.
Through the last generation of saints God stands finally vindicated. Through them He defeats Satan and wins His case. They form a vital part of the plan of God. They go through terrific struggles; they battle with unseen powers in high places. But they have put their trust in the Most High, and they will not be ashamed. They have suffered hunger and thirst, but now they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:16, 17. (The Sanctuary Service, pp. 114, 115)
Andreasen completely rejected the concept of sin being inevitable and unavoidable because of human weakness. Why? Because he knew weak humanity, though weak, has an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator who will complete his work in us. Andreasen knew that Jesus’ grace was sufficient for us in the past, is sufficient for us now, and will be sufficient for us in the future.
As Elder W. D. Frazee was fond of saying, the sanctuary will one day soon be shut down “for lack of business.” There will be a time when all persons will be so settled in their experience and in their character that they will never change directions, and Jesus will say:
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (Revelation 22:11)
The wicked will have reached the point of no return, where they will never repent nor ever follow Christ. The righteous, however, due to the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, will also have reached a point of no return, where they will never turn their backs on God in rebellion or in sin:
Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved. Just as soon as Gods people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming (MS 173, 1902). (Ellen White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1161)
But pragmatically, does it work? Can we believe God’s word? The Bible says:
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. (Jude 24)
Remember that one of the basic definitions of being perfect is to be without fault.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–22)
Commenting upon these verses, Greek scholar Archibald Robertson noted: Because of the coming of Christ in the flesh we have the new way opened for access to God (Robertsons Word Pictures of the New Testament).
A new way is opened, a way not opened before, where we have unlimited power to overcome, and that new living way is through Jesus’ flesh:
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3, 4)
Here we are told that God “condemned sin in the flesh” by “sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.” Jesus condemned sin in his flesh, but he also wants to condemn sin in your flesh, too! He wants to do it in your flesh and in mine. He will condemn sin again in the flesh when he condemns it in our flesh. To claim the name of Jesus without claiming his power is not only an embarrassment to God, but is also a major barrier to salvation.
I hear people say, Well, you are not sinless, and I am not sinless. Can you tell me someone who is sinless? I have made mistakes. You have made mistakes. I do not have the faith I need. There is a common thread throughout all those statements, and that thread is the little word I. I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I do not have this, and I cannot do that. However, the problem is not what we are unable to accomplish, but rather that we do not recognize what Jesus can do for us and the sustaining grace he has. Instead of focusing on what I am unable to do, the real issue should be focusing on what Christ can do. Do we have a sinless, all-powerful Saviour? Do we have an all-powerful mediator? Is Christ able to save to the uttermost? Is Christ able to keep us from falling? These are the questions that we need to answer, and we know that the answer to every one of those questions is YES! God has not asked the impossible, and he is just and righteous in requiring perfection of his saints.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:24–26)
Notice that God is not only the justifier, but he is also just in doing it. That means that it is a proper, legal, and right transaction. God has every right to forgive our sins. He has every right to empower us to live differently than we have lived in the past because of what Jesus has done for us.
Gods Honor Is at Stake
Jesus came to reveal the Father.
The Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love; so the Spirit was to glorify Christ by revealing His grace to the world. The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671)
The love of God in sending his son to die and the love of Jesus in dying for humanity should motivate the believer to want to honor the Father and the Son. That should be sufficient for us to want to live the right kind of life.
Like most men, I deeply love my mother. I take her welfare and honor very seriously. Despite two broken hips in the last five years, my mother is still living, bless her heart. She has recently turned eighty years young. If someone spoke harshly, unfairly, and rudely about my mother, I would quickly stand up and say something. I would say it in the right way, but I know anything that might dishonor my mother would not be allowed to pass in silence. I love and appreciate her, and I will uphold her honor. Her honor is important to me, but as much as I love my mother, I love my Lord Jesus Christ more, and I know that is okay with her. But if I honor my mother, surely I want to honor God, and the way I uphold his honor is through obedience to his commandments. Job said:
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
Is that the experience that you want right now? It is the experience that I want right now, even as I type these words for you to read.
In making reference to these words, Sister White comments:
So it came to pass. By his patient endurance he [Job] vindicated his own character, and thus the character of Him whose representative he was. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job: . . . also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. . . . So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. Job 42:1012. (Education, p. 156)
I like to whitewater kayak and before one goes onto a river, he or she learns a basic maneuver called the Eskimo roll. This enables the kayaker to turn his kayak upright, if he is flipped over. It is essential to practice this maneuver until doing it becomes automatic and the kayaker does not have to think about the different steps involved. The muscles have, through repeated actions, formed a habit of doing the right thing. This is an essential maneuver for the kayaker to preserve his physical life and prevent drowning. Interestingly, we have been told concerning our spiritual lives:
Thus actions repeated form habits, habits form character, and by the character our destiny for time and for eternity is decided. (White, Christs Object Lessons, p. 356)
Understanding habits is vital. We must have an experience in forming good habits. We have also been told:
The grace of Christ must mold the entire being, and its triumph will not be complete until the heavenly universe shall witness habitual tenderness of feeling, Christlike love, and holy deeds in the deportment of the children of God. (Ellen White, Gods Amazing Grace, p. 235)
Christlike-living is not just something we do once in a while. It must become habitual and in order for something to become habitual, we must be constantly doing it.
That which at first seems difficult, by constant repetition grows easy, until right thoughts and actions become habitual. If we will we may turn away from all that is cheap and inferior, and rise to a high standard; we may be respected by men and beloved of God. (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 491)
Those who play the piano or other musical instruments know what I mean by the term muscle memory. You move those fingers on the keys so many times that you do not have to think about it after a while. It just happens. The same is true in typing. When a person begins to type, he or she pecks at the keys, trying to find the a, then the s, and then the k, etc. But after a while it becomes almost thoughtless or effortless. It just happens because of muscle memory. It has become habitual because it has been practiced by repetition over and over, just like the kayaker with the Eskimo roll. Brothers and sisters, we need to understand that God wants us to form habits of doing the right things and to become habitual in the right ways.
Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from withinwhen the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance. (White, Christs Object Lessons, p. 384)
Can you say amen to that right now? That is the kind of experience God’s people need. Do you love God so much that there is in your heart a well-spring of wanting to do something good to bless others? When you have learned to love your brother, you have already learned to love God. Loving your brother whom you can see, shows that you have already learned how to love the God that you cannot see. It can be done because the Bible says so. Inspiration has promised it, and the promise is sure.
Though God’s people will live in his holy sight after probation closes without a mediator, we have the promise of Jesus that his spirit will abide with us forever.
Beloved, we are in the last generation that is going to live to see Jesus come in the clouds of heaven. The question is, Are you going to be a part of those who will be faithful? Even if we are old, sick, or in the valley of the shadow of death, we have a promise that all who die in the faith of the third angel’s message will be in the special resurrection before Jesus comes:
All who have died in the faith of the third angels message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear Gods covenant of peace with those who have kept His law. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 637)
Perfection is obtainable through faith in God’s sustaining grace to keep his commandments and to form a character like that of our Father and of his Son. God wants that for each one of us. He wants it for you. He wants it for me, and it will all be done within one generation. Allen Stump (This was Pastor Stumps third camp meeting sermon on perfection.)
From the File Cabinet of History
It is as certain that we have the truth [1881, seven years before 1888]
as that God lives; and Satan, with all his arts and hellish power,
cannot change the truth of God into a lie.
(Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 595)
Youth’s Corner—A Group of Witnesses in France
(Our story this month continues Chapter 18 of Youthful Witnesses by W. A. Spicer, entitled Under the Iron Regulations of Militarism.)
A company of Seventh-day Adventists were serving in the non- combatant forces in France during the World War. They had found officers who had regard to their Sabbath principles, and arranged duties accordingly. The young men were engaged in unloading cargo from ships. But now and then officers were in charge who were only irritated by religious convictions out of the ordinary.
On one occasion, after various measures of discipline and punishment for declining Sabbath duty in the cargo moving, a group were sentenced to the punishment known as “crucifixion.” It meant being tied with arms and legs outspread to the wheel of a gun carriage. As the time came for the punishment, search for a physician was made, to and fro in the camp, for the ordeal could not proceed without a medical certificate that the offender was physically able to endure the punishment; but no physician could be found. So the young men were marched back to the barracks.
Later that evening an officer appeared, saying, in substance:
Now, look here, lads. We have been discussing your case. You are good workers. We wish all the men were as faithful in work. But you cannot play with the British army. Orders are orders. But we do not want to see young men like yourselves punished. We have had a council about it, and have this proposition to make. You work overtime during the week to make up time lost on your Saturday, and we will let you off that day; we will also revoke this punishment. I will call the guard out and leave you alone to consider it. In five minutes I will come back for your answer.
The young men needed no five minutes to consider. They spent the minutes rejoicing at this manifestation of the delivering Hand. When the officer returned, they said: “We are glad, sir, to accept the proposition, and are thankful for it.”
But later some of these youth in France fell into the hands of men who decided to break down with a hard hand this regard for the Sabbath on the part of a little group of noncombatants, troublesome enough in war time.
Seventeen of the young men were in it. They were roughly handled, cruelly beaten and knocked about, — contrary to regulations, — and at last, exhausted and bruised and some seriously injured, they were put into the barrack prison, each in a room by himself. Then a little later, when they were sorest and weakest with reaction from the beatings, they were visited, each one alone, and each one was told that the other sixteen had given in. and had consented to work on Saturday; and each one replied, “I am sorry to hear the others have decided to do it, but I cannot. 1 cannot disobey God on any account.”
That was a fine answer from seventeen young men. They were like other youth — had their faults, their weaknesses. But when the crisis came, the grace of Christ gave them patience and strength to answer like “men of the martyr breed.”
The sequel should be told, in a few lines. After the answers had been given, an army chaplain passed. He heard groaning. He inquired, and demanding of the guards his right to know and investigate, he found the young men, learned their story, and took the case up with the higher authorities. The result was the return of the young men to England, and ultimately their release from all army service.?
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
By Ellen G. White
The word “therefore” implies a conclusion, an inference from what has gone before. Jesus has been describing to His hearers the unfailing mercy and love of God, and He bids them therefore to be perfect. Because your heavenly Father “is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35), because He has stooped to lift you up, therefore, said Jesus, you may become like Him in character, and stand without fault in the presence of men and angels.
The conditions of eternal life, under grace, are just what they were in Eden—perfect righteousness, harmony with God, perfect conformity to the principles of His law. The standard of character presented in the Old Testament is the same that is presented in the New Testament. This standard is not one to which we cannot attain. In every command or injunction that God gives there is a promise, the most positive, underlying the command. God has made provision that we may become like unto Him, and He will accomplish this for all who do not interpose a perverse will and thus frustrate His grace.
With untold love our God has loved us, and our love awakens toward Him as we comprehend something of the length and breadth and depth and height of this love that passeth knowledge. By the revelation of the attractive loveliness of Christ, by the knowledge of His love expressed to us while we were yet sinners, the stubborn heart is melted and subdued, and the sinner is transformed and becomes a child of heaven. God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart. By it He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.
The Jews had been wearily toiling to reach perfection by their own efforts, and they had failed. Christ had already told them that their righteousness could never enter the kingdom of heaven. Now He points out to them the character of the righteousness that all who enter heaven will possess. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount He describes its fruits, and now in one sentence He points out its source and its nature: Be perfect as God is perfect. The law is but a transcript of the character of God. Behold in your heavenly Father a perfect manifestation of the principles which are the foundation of His government.
God is love. Like rays of light from the sun, love and light and joy flow out from Him to all His creatures. It is His nature to give. His very life is the outflow of unselfish love.
Ellen G. White's writing area in her home
“His glory is His children’s good;
His joy, His tender Fatherhood.”
He tells us to be perfect as He is, in the same manner. We are to be centers of light and blessing to our little circle, even as He is to the universe. We have nothing of ourselves, but the light of His love shines upon us, and we are to reflect its brightness. “In His borrowed goodness good,” we may be perfect in our sphere, even as God is perfect in His.
Jesus said, Be perfect as your Father is perfect. If you are the children of God you are partakers of His nature, and you cannot but be like Him. Every child lives by the life of his father. If you are Gods children, begotten by His Spirit, you live by the life of God. In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9); and the life of Jesus is made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11). That life in you will produce the same character and manifest the same works as it did in Him. Thus you will be in harmony with every precept of His law; for the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. Psalm 19:7, margin. Through love the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:4.?
(Reprinted from the book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pp. 76–78
The Title Deed to Answered Prayer
By Kenneth S. Wuest
FAITH is the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). The Greek word translated substance had a technical meaning in the business world of the first century. It referred to ones property or effects. It was used in such expressions as Out of this estate I declare that my husband owes me, or, more land than I actually possess,” the italicized words being the translation of the word. It was also used to refer to “the whole body of documents bearing on the ownership of a person’s property, deposited in the archives, and forming the evidence of ownership.”
Moulton and Milligan in their “Vocabulary of the Greek Testament” say of these uses, “These varied uses are at first sight somewhat perplexing, but in all the cases there is the same central idea of something that underlies visible conditions and guarantees a future possession.” Thus they translate “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.”
To substantiate this usage, there is in Living Yesterdays, a delightful brochure by H. R. Minn, the story of a woman named Dionysia. She is described as a woman of set jaw and grim determination. It seems that she had lost a case in a local court over a piece of land to which she laid claim. Not satisfied with the decision of a lower court, she determined to take her case to a higher court in Alexandria. She sent her slave to that city, with the legal documents safely encased in a stone box. On the way, the slave lost his life in a fire which destroyed the inn where he had put up for the night. For 2,000 years the sands of the desert covered the ruins of the inn, the charred bones of the slave, and the stone box. Archeologists have recently uncovered these remains. In the box they found the legal documents. They read the note which this woman had sent to the judge in Alexandria, In order that my lord the judge may know that my appeal is just, I attach my hupostasis (uJpostasiV).” That which was attached to this note, she designated by the Greek word translated “substance” in Heb. 11:1. The attached document was translated and found to be the title deed to the piece of land which she claimed as her own possession, the evidence of her ownership.
What a flood of light is thrown upon this teaching regarding faith. The act of exercising true faith as one prays, or as one leans on the resources of God, is itself the title deed or evidence of the sure answer to our prayer or the unfailing source of the divine supply. It is Gods guarantee in advance that we already possess the things asked for. They may still be in His hands, awaiting the proper time for their delivery, but they are ours. If the answers to our prayers are not forthcoming at once, let us rest content with the title deed which God has given us, namely, a Holy Spirit energized act of faith. We may be absolutely certain that our God will honor this title deed at the right moment. (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuests word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Logos Edition.)
The Perfect Character, Part 1The Rose of Sharon
By Thomas Akens
The Little Details
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. (Song of Solomon 2:1)
Have you ever wondered why the Lord refers to himself under the symbol of a flower? What is it about flowers that make them such a fitting symbol for the Lord? Consider for a moment the following from inspiration:
The delicate leaf, the spires of grass, every lofty tree is an expression of the love of God to His children. They tell us that God is a lover of the beautiful. He speaks to us from natures book that He delights in the perfection of beauty of character. (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, p. 19; from a letter written June 11, 1886).
The beauty with which the Lord garbed the herbs of the field is to be to us a symbol of the beauty of character. As beautiful and as attractive as flowers are outwardly, there is often something that attracts us to them before we are aware of their outward beauty. It is the fragrance. Have you ever wondered why God made them smell so good and look so beautiful? It is because he wants us to come and look, and he invites us to look today.
Now, as we stop for a moment to consider the flowers of the field, ask yourself the question, Have I ever stooped down to investigate a flower with a magnifying glass? You reply, Why should I do such a thing? Let me tell you a little story, and perhaps you will understand my reason.
One day, not too many years ago, when I was around seventeen, my mother, who likes beautiful things, invited me to go with her to visit an art museum. I thought that sounded like a fine thing; after all, I liked art. So we went to visit this art museum. It was a beautiful time, and we were able to see a lot of impressive art work. One thing, however, (the significance of which would not become significant for years to come) happened that day as we were walking through that museum. As I would approach these impressive pieces of art, I would often stop at a distance and admire them, allowing the first impression to make its mark upon my mind. Often I was overcome with that first impression. They seemed so beautiful, so perfect. After a few moments of relishing that first impression, I would then make my way closer to these works of art to take a closer look. It was then that I noticed something even more impressive. What looked so beautiful, so perfect at a distance, did not always look so good after a closer look. When, at last, I stood face to face with them, I began to notice little imperfections here and there. Those things, which at first appeared beautiful in their perfection, now began to reveal flaws and defects, which marred their perfection, which from a distance my eyes could not discern.
At the time the full significance of these flaws and imperfections did not sink in fully, but after my conversion to Christ, I began to think back to that experience, and I realized that the closer we come to the things of men’s creation, the more flaws we see in them. That is because nothing which proceeds from man alone is flawless. What appears to our eyes as perfect from a distance becomes flawed when viewed with a close, critical eye.
If this is true not only with the outward works of mens hands upon canvas, stone, wood, or pen, how much more is it true of his inward works, i.e., his thoughts and imaginations?
Never forget that thoughts work out actions. Repeated actions form habits, and habits form character. . . (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, p. 194)
You see, the closer you come to me and the more you study my actions and habits, the more flaws and defects of character you will see; and your first impression, which may have been favorable, will soon give way to a less favorable opinion, when once you come closer to me. But with the flowers, the works of God’s hands, that which to us represents some small portion of the beauty of their Author, Jesus, the closer we come to them, the more we will see the perfections in every minute detail. Study as we might to discover some flaw, time and further investigation will serve only to magnify the perfection of both the flower and their divine Author.
. . . the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2, 3)
Where should we be going to find wisdom and knowledge? Well, if you want to find treasure, you must go where it is hidden; for men do not leave treasure out in the open, but they hide it out of sight, so that the casual passerby is unaware of the treasure hidden beneath his feet. The treasure is only for those who will dig in search of that which they can only hope to find, yet God, in his mercy, has allowed enough of that precious gold to penetrate through to the surface in order to invite admiration, in hopes that we might begin to dig.
Such is the lesson which God’s creation holds for us—the closer we come to it, the more taken we are with its beauty of perfection. We shall begin to see the attention to detail which its great and marvelous Author put into each spire of grass and into every petal of even the smallest of flowers.
You know, some of the most impressive flowers are not to be found in the gorgeous gardens of men, but in the bleak and barren deserts of the western United States—places like Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, to name a few. There you will find the little desert flowers. And when I say little, I mean little. There are flowers so small that you truly need a powerful magnifying glass to even see them. But, if you will take the time to stoop down and admire these tiniest of flowers, which cannot be seen with the naked eye, you too will be overcome with the amazing detail put into something so tiny, so insignificant, something of which few know, and fewer still have ever stopped to appreciate.
Why did God make something so small so beautiful? They were put there to be the tiny, silent, yet powerful, witnesses to God’s attention to the little things, even for those things which most will never see nor know. Who cares about those things no one will ever see or know, anyway? Well, friends, God knows, and God cares. You mean to tell me that God cares about those little hidden things in my life? Yes, indeed. You see, God took care to make sure that the smallest details of the smallest things were perfect; and he expects that we should do the same. As God is perfect in his sphere, so let us be perfect in our own.
A question for you who are familiar with the writings of Sister White: Aside from The Review & Herald and The Signs of the Times, which periodical did Sister White write for the most? AnswerThe Youth Instructor. Why? The answer, I believe, is she had a love for young people to educate them, to point them to Jesus, and to prepare them to do a work for the Lord. Where, too, should our focus be, parents, pastors, and teachers? Are we preparing our next generation to bear the burdens that our ministers and elders are bearing today? And are we ready, young people, to take up that load?
Consider the following remarks found in that periodical:
As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Many thoughts make up the unwritten history of a single day; and these thoughts have much to do with the formation of character. Our thoughts are to be strictly guarded; for one impure thought makes a deep impression on the soul. An evil thought leaves an evil impress on the mind. If the thoughts are pure and holy, the man is better for having cherished them. By them the spiritual pulse is quickened, and the power for doing good is increased. And as one drop of rain prepares the way for another in moistening the earth, so one good thought prepares the way for another.
The longest journey is performed by taking one step at a time. A succession of steps brings us to the end of the road. The longest chain is composed of separate links. If one of these links is faulty, the chain is worthless. Thus it is with character. A well-balanced character is formed by single acts well performed. One defect, cultivated instead of being overcome, makes the man imperfect, and closes against him the gate of the Holy City. He who enters heaven must have a character that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Naught that defileth can ever enter there. In all the redeemed host not one defect will be seen.
Gods work is perfect as a whole because it is perfect in every part, however minute. He fashions the tiny spear of grass with as much care as he would exercise in making a world. If we desire to be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, we must be faithful in doing little things. That which is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. Whatever your work may be, do it faithfully. Speak the truth in regard to the smallest matters. Each day do loving deeds and speak cheerful words. Scatter smiles along the pathway of life. As you work in this way, God will place his approval on you, and Christ will one day say to you, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. (Ellen G. White, The Youth Instructor, January 17, 1901)
Is it your desire to hear the words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant? It is my desire, and I hope yours also.
The Knowledge of God
Consider with me 2 Peter 1:2–8. There, the Apostle Peter declares:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby [the knowledge of God] are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence [putting forth all effort], add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:2–8)
This is a chapter that we should all study because it teaches us the pathway of perfection, the ladder of perfection—the steps whereby we attain to Christ’s character. Rung by rung, we reach from earth to heaven, as it were, and are finally able to span the gulf that sin has made between heaven and earth.
Let us for a moment consider the steps above mentioned whereby we are to attain to Christlikeness. The first step, and the one which is listed as the foundation in coming to Christ, is to believe (have faith) in him, and that faith is the simple childlike belief in him personally, as it reads, He that cometh to God must believe that [or what] he is . . .” (Hebrews 11:6). True faith accepts God as he is revealed in his word, as it is written “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). As we hear the word of God, we believe it, and that is the foundation of our faith. It is a simple faith at first, which grows as our understanding of him is unfolded to us by the inner workings of his spirit. This faith must come first, BUT to this faith are to be added other qualities, which the apostle then mentions by name. They are:
Virtue We all know what virtue is. It is that word we use to describe all that makes us men and women in Christall that is honest, pure, good, noble, and true. The word virtue came to us from the Latin vir, which is the word for man. It signified the manly traits or qualities—those qualities which we instinctively associate with the model of manliness. Therefore, the first step in Christian perfection is to learn to be a man or a woman in Christ Jesus. And what manner of men we become is wholly determined by what man we pattern ourselves after. To whom are we looking for our pattern to imitate? Are we looking to Jesus? If we hope to be like him when he comes, we must then endeavor to portray in our characters the one who is the epitome of manliness or virtue. And this will inevitably lead us to the next rung of Christian perfection.
Knowledge – As we look to Jesus in his word as the pattern for our lives, we will thus gain a more perfect knowledge of those things which pertain unto life and godliness. To this end we are admonished by Paul, who said “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Timothy 2:15). And this daily application to the study of his word will prepare us for the next rung to be attained.
Temperance – As we study to show ourselves approved to God, we will undoubtedly be called upon to exercise temperance; that is, we will be called upon to exercise self-restraint. We will learn to govern ourselves according to the right principles of living as laid down by Christ in his word. This process we call self-government, without which no man can attain unto the next step of perfection.
Patience The exercise of temperance or self-government teaches us the way of patience. By restraining ourselves from all that is harmful or evil, we are learning how to exercise patience. We are training ourselves to endure hardship, delay, perplexity, stress, and a multitude of other trials, which we will be called upon to endure as Christian soldiers. And as we thus learn patience, we are paving the way for climbing to the next rung.
Godliness or God-likeness – The exercise of patience teaches us how to be like God; for patience is the means whereby we learn of him, as he said, “Come unto me, . . . take my yoke upon you and learn of me, . . .” (Matthew 11:28, 29). As we are yoked up with Christ, we are thus brought into close fellowship with him whereby we learn what it means to be like him. Through fellowlabourers together with Jesus, the Christian learns what it means to love his neighbor as himself. Thus by bearing the burden of service together with Christ for others, he prepares himself for the next rung to be reached.
Brotherly kindness – This brotherly kindness is more than mere mutual forbearance or what the world terms tolerance, but it is just what it says—that kind, gentle, protective, strengthening, guiding spirit of a brother. As the Christian learns what it means to “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10), so he is strengthening himself to take the final step in his perfection.
Charity or Love Thus we see that love is the culmination of all things that pertain to life and godliness and that which makes us partakers of the divine nature. It is who and what God is, as it is written, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Love is to character what white is to the painter’s palate, for as white is the perfect blending of all the colors into one, so also love is the perfect blend of all the graces of Christian character into one, even into one man, the perfect man, Christ Jesus our Lord and our Righteousness.
Consider also that the first rung of that ladder (faith in Jesus) is the base which connects it to earth, and it is the top rung of that same ladder (love) which reaches to heaven and thus connects to the eternal throne of Jehovah. Thus it is by the combined work of our faith and of God’s love that heaven and earth are connected and the Christian is perfected. Note also that faith reaches forth to love and love begins by faith, and so it is the “faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6).
For if these things be in you, and abound . . . (2 Peter 1:8)
We are called upon by the apostle to not only have these things in us, like a stagnant pool has water, but we are admonished to make them “abound,” or bounding forth as a living spring whose waters issue forth their fresh, life-giving waters. So it is that we are to cause God’s word to flourish in us. If we will do these things, says Peter, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If these things abound in us, will our Christian experience be barren or fruitless? God forbid! For our soil will have been thoroughly cultivated to bring forth fruit in abundance, like the good ground in Jesus’ parable of Matthew 13.
In this way will be fufilled in us the words of the prophet and apostle Paul:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:1–3, 13)
So we see that by walking in the way of Christ and by allowing him to work in us that good work of character perfection, we will be brought to the point where we all come in the unity of the faith. The various callings of God to the work of the ministry are Gods gift to his church to bring about its perfection. They are given to bring us unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Note also that the apostle speaks of it in the singularunto a perfect man [singular],”—representing all Christians as one body or as one man, and that man is the “perfect man.” Now, can we be a perfect body or man if we are not joined to the head by the various joints and sinews that hold the body together? Certainly not. Therefore, as we search and strive for the perfection of these gifts in our own lives, let us take with us the following counsel:
In our search for the gifts of heaven, we are directed to do one thing, and this includes all others. We are to believe on Him whom God has sent as His commissioner to reconcile man to God. The attributes of Christ are to be studied and earnestly sought for, that we may be complete in Him, revealing His beauty of character. As through Christ man returns to his loyalty and draws nigh to God, rest and peace and security come to him.
To believe in Christ, we must come to Christ and follow Him. Repentance toward God means the confession and forsaking of all sin. It means laying hold of Christ as a personal Saviour, and continuing to hold fast to Him as the chief good. He is our Prince, our Saviour. Only through Him can we approach the Father. Loving Him day by day and hour by hour, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, taking Him as the man of our counsel, living by every word that proceedeth out of His mouth,only thus can we reach heaven. (Ellen G. White, The Review & Herald, August 13, 1901)
Only thus, that is, by all that was just said, only thus can we reach heaven. And we are exhorted to persevere in this work of character perfection in the following manner:
None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision has been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection and places before us the example of Christs character. In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through co-operation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is Gods assurance to us that we, too, may obtain complete victory. (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 531; 1911 ed.)
Did you note how the author linked the phrases “constant resistance of evil” and “co-operation with Divinity”? Note how they are used in parallel, much as did the Hebrew poets of old. Let the thought sink into your mind that co-operation with God means a constant resisting of evil on the part of the believer. This is the example the Savior left us of how to form a perfect life or character; and if we are to be like him, we too must follow his example.
God has given to each one of us his personal assurance of attaining complete victory, and that perfect and complete victory is found only in Christ Jesus and only as we surrender our lives to be shaped and molded by his spirit in the inner man.
The Hope of Glory
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:26–28)
We need to understand what this means. What does it mean to have “Christ in you”?
To be Christs is to be consecrated to his work, to employ every power of the mind and every member of the body to do his will and to advance his glory. It is to open the heart to his word, to reveal the testimonials of his love. It is to have Christ formed within, the hope of glory; to contemplate his matchless charms until the overflowing tribute of the soul shall be, Hear what the Lord has done for me. (White, The Review & Herald, January 1, 1884)
The above quote helps us to understand the language of Jeremiah, when he said: “. . . this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:6; see also 33:16). Our righteousness is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” As love for him wells up in the soul, the result will be righteousness; for Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Such will be the out-flowing of that love, and it will not be able to be stopped
One of the most powerful illustrations of this is given to us in the sanctuary with all its service. It was given to the Hebrews to help them to see that God wanted to dwell among them, as said the Lord, Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8). Not only did God want to dwell among them, but as it may also be translated, he wanted to dwell in them.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks of the system of types and offerings that were a part of the sanctuary service. He calls them a shadow of things to come in Colossians 2:17, and in Hebrews 8:5 those things to come were not merely earthly things, but heavenly things. And these heavenly things were in themselves good things” (Hebrews 10:1). Just as the shadow, if followed, leads to its substance or that which casts the shadow, so all the types and ceremonies (shadows) of the sanctuary service, if followed, would inevitably lead the one who took part in them to heavenly things, to those good things, to Christ Jesus himself, the Lord our Righteousness. That is where the sanctuary was to lead the Hebrew people, and through them, all the world. It was to bring them to Christ Jesus by faith.
Hiding the Sun
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. (Psalm 50:2)
Zion refers more than to the land of Canaan and to its capital of Jerusalem. It more specifically refers to the holy mount upon which the temple was built. It was from that temple, “the perfection of beauty,” the earthly type or reflection, that “God hath shined.” That temple was a reflection of the beauty of Jesus. This is why those who were given the charge of building both the tabernacle, and later the temple, were imbued with a knowledge and skill, for no mere human talent would be acceptable. Its perfection could not be wrought by mere human skill or knowledge. It required a divine power and a knowledge which were infinitely superior to man, in order to fashion its perfection and thus make the temple the glory of all the earth. So it is that we read:
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” (Psalm 77:13)
How little is the second clause of this verse quoted, yet it is the inevitable conclusion which must be drawn from the first clause. For, it is only as we behold God’s way in the sanctuary that we begin to see just how great a God our God really is. So it is that, when we look unto the one to whom all the types and ceremonies of the sanctuary pointed, we too shall exclaim in exultation as the Psalmist, “Who is so great a God as our God?!” We too shall exclaim with the blood-bought throng, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
Have you ever thought how hard a thing it is to try to hide the glory of the sun? No earthly garb can hide the radiant beams of its glory. Try as one may to hide it, yet it is all in vain. So it was with Jesus while upon earth. The glory of God could not be hid, even in the humble garb of Christ’s humanity; the garb of sinful flesh. It was no outward glory that attracted men to the lowly Savior, as the prophet wrote, “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b). When he came to this earth, he did not come with outward beauty; but he came to reveal to us that beauty which is truly attractive to God. That glory, that goodness, that love and beneficence could not be cloaked. Its glory penetrated even the garb of sinful flesh. It was that glory which drew men and women to him.
Speaking of Jesus’ glory before he came to earth, the Apostle Paul wrote of him “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6, 7). The charm of God-likeness of form could not hold Jesus in heaven, while the woes of transgression left men in bondage of sin and its cruel author. Christ Jesus counted not the glory of godly form a thing to be coveted or grasped, but rather he humbled himself to be garbed in the form of sinful flesh. Oh glorious thought! What matchless love is this!?
To illustrate the truth of this, I want to take our minds back for just a moment to a scene which took place in the temple at Jerusalem. As Jesus was teaching in the temple one day, the Pharisees and rulers decided to take open action against Christ, and so they sent officers to take Jesus into custody. As those officers entered the temple precincts, they heard words like had never before fell upon their ears. They stood as in a trance until the words of Jesus were at an end. It was not so much that the words themselves had the power to hold these men spellbound, but it was the power which flowed from within Christ himself, the out-flowing of that inner beauty of character, that enraptured the souls of those hardened soldiers that day. Never before had such gracious and wonderful words been heard by these men, and in deep humiliation and contrition of heart they returned empty handed to the Pharisees and rulers who had sent them. The story continues, saying:
The day was over, and the Pharisees and rulers waited impatiently for a report from the officers whom they had set upon the track of Jesus, in order to arrest him. But their emissaries return without him. They are angrily asked, “Why have ye not brought him?” The officers, with solemn countenances, answer, “Never man spake like this man.” Dealing with violence and crime had naturally hardened the hearts of these men; but they were not so unfeeling as the priests and elders, who had resolutely shut out the light, and given themselves up to envy and malice.
The officers had heard the words of Jesus in the temple, they had felt the wondrous influence of his presence, and their hearts had been strangely softened and drawn toward him whom they were commanded to arrest as a criminal. They were unequal to the task set them by the priests and rulers; they could not summon courage to lay hands upon this pure Being who stood, with the light of Heaven upon his countenance, preaching a free salvation. . . . (Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, pp. 347, 348)
These officers were no ordinary men, but were familiar with violence and crime, and their hearts were softened and subdued by the words of Jesus, while the hearts of Israel’s religious leaders remained unaffected, as if shielded from its glorious rays by sheer walls of cold stone. That glory, which no earthly veil could hide, penetrated even the hardened hearts of those officers; yet, its beams could not penetrate the stone walls which enclosed the hard hearts of those religious leaders. What a marvel that men hardened by violence and crime could not bring themselves to lay hands upon one whose countenance shone with the light of heaven and whose words revealed an inward beauty of no earthly origin, yet those whose hearts and lives should have been the well-springs of God’s knowledge and glory were eagerly demanding his blood! What a shameful testimony for those wicked men!! Yet what shall the books of heaven declare of this generation when the judgment is closed?
You see, beloved,
. . . The words of men express their own human thoughts; but those of Christ are spirit and life. If ye continue in My word, He says, then are ye My disciples indeed. He that is of God heareth Gods words, but these divine utterances find no place in the heart of one who is of the world and loves its pleasures. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 433)
Settling for Less
Are we settling for less? Have we allowed ourselves to lower the standard of perfection to a purely human level? In the last book of the Bible, we read Jesus’ words to a church that did just that. Speaking to this church, Jesus said:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 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: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:15–18)
This church lowered the standard of perfection, and so began to think themselves in need of nothing; when, in reality they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They thought they were good enough, when in truth they were all wrong. It is this spirit which produces a Laodicean church. That church is representative of the last period through which God’s church must go. It too denotes the peculiar struggles and trials which God’s last-day people must overcome, in order to be saved at last.
Now, notice carefully Christ’s parable in Matthew 12:41–45:
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
As the men of Christs generation failed to improve upon the truths of Gods word afforded them in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ himself, so will we fail to make our hearts the eternal residence of Christ by his spirit if we, like Christs generation, receive the benefits of his ministration in the Most Holy Place today and have the evil spirit cast forth from our lives, but harbor unbelief and hardness of heart. Nineveh and Sodom will rise up against us in judgment and condemn us. We shall find that the place in our hearts and lives which should have been occupied by Christ will be filled by evil spirits more wicked than the first one that was cast out, and so our last state will be worse than had we never known the truth. So shall it be to this generation, this kind, who are called Laodicean.
Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt hardly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence.
It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.
As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. If we are Christs, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18. (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 83)
Now, in conclusion, let us ponder Paul’s words to the Hebrews, for these words express my desire for us today:
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus is here called “the author and finisher of our faith.” He is not only the one who authored our faith, the one who began or originated it, but more than this, he is the finisher, the one who brings our faith unto perfection. That is why the Apostle Paul writes:
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
Jesus will finish that good work. He is the author of that good work which he has begun in each of us, and he is the finisher, the perfecter of that work. He will bring us to perfection, if we will let him. Let us, therefore, look unto Jesus, the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys, from now on and for ever more; and let us not look to another. Amen.
This is Brother Thomas Akens first sermon from the WV camp meeting.
Perfection and Unity
by David Sims
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16)
In verse 12, Paul speaks about a progressive work of “perfecting,” which is to continue until the “perfect” is achieved. How or when does that take place? “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. . .” As we reach perfection, we will also reach unity.
I read a statement recently which said that unity comes first, then conformity of doctrine. Consider that sentiment with the words of the Apostle Paul. Does unity of mind and heart come first and then doctrinal conformity, or does doctrinal conformity come first and then unity of mind and heart?
These verses teach that the true unity it is speaking about is not reached until the perfection is reached. Perfection and unity are reached simultaneously. This perfection and unity are the end, or the goal, which God had in mind when he gave to his church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Now ask yourself, What do these different offices or callings have in common? The common denominator to all these offices is that they teach doctrine. “The work of the ministry” is “for the edifying of the body of Christ . . .” And how is that done? They all preach the word of God, whether in the atmosphere of an evangelistic series, in the environment of the school room, in the Sabbath school class, or even from the church pulpit. In all these various ways they impart “the knowledge of the Son of God,” speaking or preaching the word of God. It is this edification through the word that results in perfection and unity.
Notice the characteristic of this unity in Ephesians 4:14:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
This ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, this preaching of the word of God in love, does a work in the lives of the believers which results in what Paul calls “a perfect man,” and when it becomes a collective experience, we will not be blown about by every wind of doctrine. We will be firmly established upon an immovable platform of truth, and we will have perfect unity with our brethren, the “unity of the faith.”
Let us now consider, in this context, perfection on a purely physical level in relation to this unity that we are talking about.
In the science of the physiology of the human body, we learn that every member of the body has to act in perfect harmony and in perfect balance with every other member of the body, in order to maintain perfect health. Consider the process of digestion for a moment. The stomach has to produce digestive juices, not in the middle of the night when no food is present, which would cause ulcers, but while the mouth is still eating or chewing. The mouth, too, can only chew its food if the hand works in conjunction with the arm to put food into it.
When the legs are brought into vigorous action, the heart must also work with equal vigor and in harmony with the legs in order to provide the needed blood supply to the muscles of the legs. The blood supply carries the much-needed oxygen, which in turn can only be provided by the equally vigorous and harmonious action of the lungs.
So you can easily see that in the physiological realm there has to be a perfection of each member properly performing its function in order to bring about a physical perfection and unity.
Now, apply this same principle to the mental aspect of man. In our minds we have a number of different faculties. There are faculties of faith, judgment, will, choice, reason, conscience, memory, etc.
Now consider the following scenario:
While working in the field, our God-given human mental faculty of judgment tells us that we need food. We then exercise the mental faculty of choice, choosing to go to the house to obtain food. We may have a mountain or river to cross, and we have to exercise the faculty of the will to keep us on our way to obtain that needed energy and nourishment. As we make our way to the house to satisfy that carnal but authentic need, we happen to see an injured child who needs immediate medical attention. What do we do? It is at just such a time that we need to understand the proper place for those good faculties of the mind which are wanting to satisfy the bodys physical needs. At this point in time, there needs to be a higher, or more superior, faculty of the mind (the conscience) to direct the judgment, will, choice, etc., toward a more pressing object, which means holding the reins and saying no to ourselves because the child needs immediate care first. Our physical needs must come later.
We need to have each faculty of the mind in its proper place, working in balance and in harmony with all of the other aspects or parts of the mind.
Let us consider another example:
When the human or physical part of the mind says to us, I need to provide for and feed myself and my family and when we plan necessary business transactions to provide for that need, but the Sabbath rolls around, what do we do? Do we reason thus: Well, theres nothing wrong with making business plans to feed myself and my family. Once again, when the Sabbath begins, there must be a higher faculty of the mind which holds the reins and says, I will do nothing common upon Gods holy day. We should immediately put all lower and common thoughts away. We need that higher faculty to step in and direct the mind to higher and holier things than the purely physical.
Again, another example:
Let us say that Jesus bids me, like Peter, to walk upon the water. Reason, which God has given us for our guidance and protection, would tell me that if I obey Jesus command to step out of the boat, I am going to sink. Right then I need the higher faculty of faith to be holding the reins and say, No, Jesus has said, Get thee out of the boat and come unto me, and I will obey that command. Right then I need reason and faith to be in their proper places and working together in the proper balance. I must understand the proper place of both reason and faith, and not allow reason to persuade me to disobey a direct command of God. Faith must govern the reins of the mind and body.
These are but some examples of the perfecting of the individual mental faculties, resulting in a proper balance and unity of action, each faculty knowing its proper place.
But, if we were left to ourselves, would we have the faculty of choice? No, for Satan robbed the human race of that in the garden of Eden. Yet, the power of the will, or choice, has been restored to man through the gift of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. Through him and through the atonement He began in the garden of Eden at the fall, the possibility of every child of Adam to choose the right was restored to the human race. Every child of Adam now has a conscience, and it is only as each one grows older that each hardens their tender conscience through continued disobedience. To every child of Adam has been given “the measure of faith.” It goes without saying that every mentally normal child has a will, a choice, judgment, and reason.
Were it not for this atonement, the moment Adam sinned (for it was then that Christ stepped in and took the responsibility for man’s transgression) we could not have these precious privileges. We could not have the power to accept Christ into our life, the power to choose.
Now let us consider this in the realm of the church. Let us consider perfection or unity within the church. We need to apply the same principles which we have applied in both the physical and the mental realms to both the personal realm and the realm of the church. We have seen that perfection is parallel with unity; they are reached simultaneously. How then do we get this unity? Consider Ephesians 4:11:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.
The offices described here are very different from those of a lawyer, a policeman, a drill sergeant, a public speaker, or a choir director, etc.
Why do we need the five callings Paul mentions for perfection or and unity? We have seen that all of these different offices which are required for the perfecting of the saints have something in common: they share, preach, or teach the word of God. This is why in John 17:17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Sanctification comes through the word of God, his truth. We cannot be united in the truth unless we are first sanctified by that truth.
So which comes first? The truth must come first, then the sanctification, or perfection, of the individual by that truth, and finally, when all have thus been sanctified by that truth, collectively we will have the sum of the parts all coming into the true unity of the faith.
Consider the picture below of the students in uniform. Here we see a type of unity. Each of these students are dressed in the same school uniform. Here is represented a type of unity, but it is not the unity which we are looking for.
Now consider the next picture, where we see a group of West Point cadets that are not only dressed in uniform, but even move uniformly. Every arm and leg move together with precision and outward unison of motion. This also is a type of unity, but neither is it the unity for which we are looking.
Sports cheerleaders perform certain co-ordinated movements. They are all working together to accomplish a common object, but neither is this the unity of which the apostle Paul speaks.
These people in the next photograph are all playing music to the same song. A choir may even be singing the same notes in unison with each other, but neither is this true biblical unity.
These folks below are all attending a camp meeting, but the privilege of attending a camp meeting is not the unity for which we look.
And in the photo below we see Tony Palmer, Pope Francis, Kenneth Copeland, and other religious leaders who have united on certain doctrinal points. They represent Evangelical Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Catholicism. They do not all have the same doctrines, but they have all chosen some doctrines which to them seem to be more important than others, and these they have chosen to unite upon, doctrines like: Sunday sacredness, the Trinity, and the immortality of the soul, which they view as essential. This kind of unity is sufficient for them, but is it for us? Shall we simply erect a platform of select doctrines that seem essential to us and which we choose to agree upon and offer this as the platform upon which all must unite together with us?
Photo courtesy of Kenneth Copeland Ministries
I recently read an email calling for unity which stated that “we are not called to be Adventists, but Christians!” The author’s point was that Christ, not the Adventist faith, is the foundation of our faith and the source of our unity. Though it sounds sanctimonious, it is wrong. It implies or supposes a disharmony where none exists. Those who promote the idea that holding to the Seventh-day Adventist faith is not compatible with Christianity do not understand the true Seventh-day Adventist faith. I have received many emails expressing similar sentiments and calling for unity on Christ alone or on the Father and the Son and leave aside our God-given Seventh-day Adventist heritage.
Just to give you an example of this, one individual calling for “unity meetings,” wrote:
Let us reaffirm our knowledge of the one true God and His Son in love and truth. Let this confession bind us together.
The above statement states fairly well the overall sentiment that I have received from the entire email. The author offers the truth about God as our foundation and gives me the impression that not too much else really matters.
Unity will not come out of doctrine, but rather shared doctrine will come out of unity. This is because the indwelling of the spirit of Christ lives within his body, the channel of blessing to save the world.
This author has it backwards. It is completely reversed from what the apostle Paul states in Ephesians 4:11–16.
I am also concerned that ________ [a brother’s name] commitment to the Seventh Day Adventist foundation teachings and his concept that the teachings of Ellen White are always correct has led him to overlook or to ignore some serious problems with Adventist interpretations, and it seems to me at times that he is more committed to Adventism than he is to the Bible. _________ says that he has this attitude, because he has tested Adventism by the Bible, and found it stands the test in every way. I have not found this to be the case.
(The above was not in the same thread of emails as the others, but in a different email.)
A Christian is “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ” (Merriam Webster), “a real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety” (Noah Webster 1828). Let it be clear, the Seventh-day Adventist faith is more than simply professing belief in the teachings of Christ, more than following Christ’s example and precepts, more than some vague, or nebulous, calling to be “in Christ.” The Seventh-day Adventist faith calls one to not only follow the Christ who was upon earth two thousand years ago, but it also imparts an intelligent understanding of the types and prophecies revealing Christ’s present work and location and of His work of atonement there for them. It leads its adherents to follow Him by faith to where He is now, in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, so they can receive the indwelling of Christ in third person, i.e., in spirit.
It is only the Seventh-day Adventist faith which can impart true unity [for it’s only the Seventh-day Adventist faith which has the truth]; it is the only faith which takes its adherents by faith into the place where Christ is to be found today.
You cannot have unity without Christ, and if you are seeking Christ where he is not to be found, you are not going to find him, and you will never, and can never, have unity with those who know and believe the truth for this time.
The Seventh-day Adventist faith reveals the work of judgment in which Christ is now engaged and the responsibilities we have toward God in light of his investigation of our lives, based upon God’s moral code of the Ten Commandments.
Let none be mistaken. To receive the Seventh-day Adventist faith is to be a Christian, but not merely a Christian, for it is a calling to be numbered among those 144,000 Christians who “follow the lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4).
Are we following Jesus whithersoever he goeth, even into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary? And more importantly, are we doing the work which is required of us to follow him there? That work is the perfection of character. We cannot find Jesus if we are not doing the work of character perfection. He is not to be found any longer in the Holy Place, but in the Most Holy. On October 22, 1844, as light from the sanctuary fell upon the moral law, obedience to the Sabbath of the Lord became the test whereby all men must be measured, and so perfection of the moral character became a test.
It is a calling to be numbered among those 144,000 Christians who “follow the lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4), of whom it is said: “. . . here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
In order to secure unity, the spirit of Christ will not lead us away from Christ. To retreat from the Seventh-day Adventist faith to that of being merely “Christian” is to leave Christ. It is only the Seventh-day Adventist faith that reveals where he is to be found. True unity in this anti-typical day of atonement can only be obtained upon the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist faith.
True unity cannot be found in an ecumenical conference. It cannot be achieved by simply coming together in a camp meeting. True biblical unity is not in wearing the same clothes or in singing the same songs; it is not even in doing the same things, going to the same church, or in attending the same camp meetings. No, true unity goes far deeper. It brings about a unity of minds, not just hearts. It forms a perfect unity of thought and belief, not simply an outward confession or conformation to some creed or the like. The unity which is in Christ goes far, far deeper than any earthly or natural unity can achieve, and that is why it tells us in Ephesians 4:14:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, . . .”
Biblical unity cannot be ecumenical. It cannot be a unity that is not based and founded upon truth. I have asked the question myself, How much truth do we have to have to unite? and I have come to conclude that we must unite upon all of it. For, you see, as perfection is by degrees, so also is unity by degrees. All the groups that we considered above have some degree of unity, but the unity of which the apostle speaks in Ephesians 4:11–16 is a perfect unity. That is why we read the following statement from the pen of inspiration:
I . . . also told them all that the messengers of God should be perfectly united in their views of Bible truth and should consult with each other, and should not advance any new view until they first went to the messengers and examine those views with the Bible, and if they were correct let all the messengers spread them, and if they were error lay them to one side. Then the gospel seed would be sown in union and raised in strength; and all the messengers East and West, North and South, would be telling the same story. (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, pp. 401, 402; Letter 8, 1851, pp. 4, 5; written to Brother and Sister Howland on November 12, 1851)
Some, in recent emails that I have received and in other sources, have expressed the desire to unite with anyone who claims to be a Christian, but this is not wise. There are many false Christs, and they all have false gospels. To unite with any and all who profess Christ without a regard for his truth would be folly and against the direct teachings of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Image a group composed of a rabbi, a priest, a Buddist monk, and a Protestant minister coming together in unity in their belief of God. This would be a group of many different religions uniting on a common belief in God, but God calls us to be united upon much more than just a vague, nebulous belief in him or in any other such doctrine. There have been many other such attempts at unity in the past.
My mind recalls a time when, after a long and protracted war, the Papacy went to the people of Bohemia and said, We would like to unite. Just make this little concession here or that little concession there. Just allow us to preach in your churches. But that was the end for the Bohemian Christians. They lost the war. God had given them the victory on the battle field over and over again, even against great odds, but their mortal enemy won the war by feigned, or pretended, so-called words of friendship. They won the day by association, by a so-called unity. I pray that our eyes of discernment will be open because Satan has many tactics. He does not always use open warfare. He often uses apparent friendship, like he did in Balaams day.
Pastor David Sims shared this message at the 2014 West Virginia camp meeting. Pastor Sims is currently in Europe, helping to hold camp meetings in several places. He will then be in Asia and Australia, working with the good brethren ofRestitution Ministries. Your prayers for his ministry are greatly appreciated.