Adventists believe that because there was a first advent, there will be a second advent. When jesus comes a second time HE WILL EXPECT to find individuals who have heeded his invitation "be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Now, in this last selection Ellen White adds fascinating detail to the concept of CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. She notes, for example, "none need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of christian character. . . .
God has not apportioned you your lot to merely watch over and care for yourselves. You are required to minister to, and watch over, others, and in this exercise you will manifest those evils in your character which need correcting, and will strengthen those weak points that need strengthening. This is the part of the work we have to perform; not impatiently, fretfully, unwillingly, but cheerfully, gladly, IN ORDER TO REACH CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. To remove from us everything which is not exactly agreeable is not imitating Christ. You should be very jealous for the honor of God. How circumspectly should you walk, where now your course is not as it should be. If you could see the pure angels with their bright, searching eyes intently fixed on you, watching to record how the Christian glorifies his Master; or could you observe the exulting, sneering triumph of the evil angels, as they trace out every crooked way, and then quote Scripture which is violated, and compare the life with this Scripture which you profess to follow but from which you swerve, you would be astonished and alarmed for yourselves. It takes the entire man to make a valiant Christian. Oh, what blind, shortsighted creatures we are! How little do we discern sacred things, and how feebly do we comprehend the riches of His grace!
For many years Peter had been urging upon the believers the necessity of a constant growth in grace and in a knowledge of the truth; and now, knowing that soon he would be called to suffer martyrdom for his faith, he once more drew attention to the precious privileges within the reach of every believer. In the full assurance of his faith the aged disciple exhorted his brethren to steadfastness of purpose in the Christian life. "Give diligence," he pleaded, "to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Precious assurance! Glorious is the hope before the believer as he ADVANCES BY FAITH toward the heights of Christian perfection!
The Scriptures teach us to seek for the sanctification to God of body, soul, and spirit. In this work we are to be laborers together with God. Much may be done to restore the moral image of God in man, to improve the physical, mental, and moral capabilities. Great changes can be made in the physical system by obeying the laws of God and bringing into the body nothing that defiles. And WHILE WE CANNOT CLAIM PERFECTION OF THE FLESH, WE MAY HAVE CHRISTIAN PERFECTION OF THE SOUL. Through the sacrifice made in our behalf, sins may be perfectly forgiven. Our dependence is not in what man can do; it is in what God can do for man through Christ. When we surrender ourselves wholly to God, and fully believe, the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. The conscience can be freed from condemnation. Through faith in His blood, all may be made perfect in Christ Jesus. Thank God that we are not dealing with impossibilities. We may claim sanctification. We may enjoy the favor of God. We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute. Ye are accepted in the Beloved. The Lord shows, to the repenting, believing one, that Christ accepts the surrender of the soul, to be molded and fashioned after His own likeness.
There is a necessity for all who profess to be followers of Christ, to manifest true Christian politeness. . . . And while we profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, we MUST MAKE IT OUR LIFE WORK to bring into the character whatever is amiable in temper, with whatever is firm in principle. "Be courteous," is a Bible injunction. We all have our peculiar temperaments. Some have very quick tempers; some are inclined to be morose, some stubborn, and others coarse and rough, unkind in words. Therefore we need to cultivate our tempers, take ourselves in hand; and the very best way to do this, is to learn diligently meekness and lowliness in the school of Christ. We need to study carefully the lessons that he gave his disciples, meditate upon them, and take them, to ourselves. We should not be satisfied to be half-way Christians. It is not only a privilege to each of us, but a duty, to reach the highest standard of Christian perfection; and especially is this true of those who are contemplating giving themselves to the work, to do errands for God, and to open the Scriptures to their fellow men.
When we reflect upon the amazing love of God to fallen man, and view the small returns we make to him for this great love, we feel deeply humbled. Love of self, and selfish love of the things of the world, cannot find room in the hearts of true Christians. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like. Self is so interwoven in the nature of some that it is the ruling sin of their lives, and not only stands in their own way of attaining Christian perfection, but is a constant stumbling-block to sinners. A vast army might be brought to Jesus Christ through personal effort if selfishness did not obstruct the way.
Said Christ: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." The branch can maintain its connection with the living vine only on condition that it bear fruit. And the fruit borne on the Christian tree is "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Rich clusters of this precious fruit will appear on every branch that is subjected to the pruning of the wise Husbandman. The result of union with Christ is PURIFICATION of HEART, a circumspect LIFE, and a faultless CHARACTER. Yet those who have attained to this degree of Christian perfection are the last to claim that they have any merits of their own. "Accepted in the Beloved," objects of their heavenly Father's constant care and unfailing mercy, they feel unworthy of the divine favor, and have too vivid a sense of utter dependence upon God to boast of their exalted position.
No Time for Vacillation. --Purity of life and a character molded after the divine Pattern are not obtained without earnest effort and fixed principles. A VACILLATING PERSON WILL NOT SUCCEED IN ATTAINING CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. Such will be weighed in the balances and found wanting. Like a roaring lion, Satan is seeking for his prey. He tries his wiles upon every unsuspecting youth. . . . Satan tells the young that there is time enough yet, that they may indulge in sin and vice this once and never again; but that one indulgence will poison their whole life. DO NOT ONCE VENTURE ON FORBIDDEN GROUND. In this perilous day of evil, when allurements to vice and corruption are on every hand, let the earnest, heartfelt cry of the young be raised to heaven: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" And may his ears be open and his heart inclined to obey the instruction given in the answer, "By taking heed thereto, according to thy word."
NO MAN, WOMAN, OR YOUTH CAN ATTAIN TO CHRISTIAN PERFECTION AND NEGLECT THE STUDY OF THE WORD OF GOD. By carefully and closely searching His word we shall obey the injunction of Christ, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me." This search enables the student to observe closely the divine Model, for they testify of Christ. The Pattern must be inspected often and closely in order to imitate it. As one becomes acquainted with the history of the Redeemer, he discovers in himself defects of character; his unlikeness to Christ is so great that he sees he cannot be a follower without a very great change in his life. Still he studies, with a desire to be like his great Exemplar; he catches the looks, the spirit, of his beloved Master; by beholding he becomes changed. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." ...
I took the precious Bible, and surrounded it with the several "Testimonies for the Church," given for the people of God. "Here," said I, "the cases of nearly all are met. The sins they are to shun are pointed out. The counsel that they desire can be found here, given for other cases situated similarly to themselves. God has been pleased to give you line upon line and precept upon precept. But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God's word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God's inspired book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.
Let us make God's holy word our study, bringing its holy principles into our lives. Let us walk before God in meekness and humility, daily correcting our faults. Let us not by selfish pride separate the soul from God. Cherish not a feeling of lofty supremacy, thinking yourself better than others. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Peace and rest will come to you as you bring your will into subjection to the will of Christ. Then the love of Christ will rule in the heart, bringing into captivity to the Saviour the secret springs of action. The hasty, easily roused temper will be soothed and subdued by the oil of Christ's grace. The sense of sins forgiven will bring that peace that passeth all understanding. There will be an earnest striving to overcome all that is opposed to Christian perfection. Variance will disappear. He who once found fault with those around him will see that far greater faults exists in his own character.
Be anxious and earnest to grow in grace, seeking for a more distinct and intelligent understanding of the will of God concerning you, striving earnestly for the mark of the prize before you. Christian perfection alone will win the spotless robes of character which will entitle you to stand before the throne of God among the blood-washed throng, bearing the palm branch of everlasting victory and eternal triumph.
The apostle continues in these words: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (verse 10). Paul would not have appealed to them to do that which was impossible. Unity is the sure result of Christian perfection. . . .
I saw that you do not naturally possess reverence and respect for those older than yourself. You should be faithful in the little errands and duties you are required to perform, and not go murmuringly about them as though they were a drug. You cannot see how unpleasant and unlovely you make yourself. You cannot thus be happy yourself, nor make those around you happy. You should bear in mind that God requires of you, as His servant, to be faithful, patient, kind, affectionate, obedient, and respectful. You cannot attain to Christian perfection unless you possess perfect control of your own spirit. You allow feelings to arise in your heart which are sinful, which are a great injury to you, and which tend to encourage a hard, defiant spirit, unlike the spirit of Christ, whose life you are commanded to imitate.
The body is not kept under by many professed Sabbathkeepers. Some have embraced the Sabbath whose minds have ever been depraved. And when they embraced the truth they did not feel the necessity of turning square about and changing their whole course of action. They have been for years following the inclinations of an unregenerate heart, and have been swayed by the corrupt passions of their carnal natures, which had defaced the image of God in them and defiled everything they touched; therefore their entire future life would be all too short, at the longest, to climb Peter's ladder of Christian perfection, preparatory to their entering into the kingdom of God. But there are not many who feel that they cannot be saved by a profession of the truth, UNLESS THEY BECOME SANCTIFIED THROUGH THE TRUTH in answer to the prayer of our divine Lord to His Father: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth."
It is impossible for those who give the reins to appetite to attain to Christian perfection. The moral sensibilities of your children cannot be easily aroused, unless you are careful in the selection of their food. Many a mother sets a table that is a snare to her family. Flesh-meats, butter, cheese, rich pastry, spiced foods and condiments are freely partaken of by both old and young. These things do their work in deranging the stomach, exciting the nerves, and enfeebling the intellect. The blood-making organs can not convert such things into good blood. The grease cooked in the food renders it difficult of digestion. The effect of cheese is deleterious. Fine-flour bread does not impart to the system the nourishment that is to be found in unbolted wheat bread. Its common use will not keep the system in the best condition. Spices at first irritate the tender coating of the stomach, but finally destroy the natural sensitiveness of this delicate membrane. The blood becomes fevered, the animal propensities are aroused, while the moral and intellectual powers are weakened, and become servants to the baser passions. The mother should study to set a simple yet nutritious diet before her family.
The Lord is coming. The end of all things is at hand. There remains but little time in which to develop character. Our experience, our testimony, our daily conduct, are having an influence either for good or for evil. What shall it be, henceforth? Shall we choose to humble our hearts before God? Those who constantly advance in Christian perfection, from grace to grace, are a mighty, moving force for good in this world.
Those who are connected with God's service should be sanctified, body, soul, and spirit, else they will mar God's work and put Christ to open shame. What does God's Word mean when it declares that Christ will present to Himself a church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing? It means that God's people can and must reach the standard of Christian perfection. But, in order to do this, they must learn of Christ His meekness and lowliness.
At every camp-meeting, instruction should be given on all these points. How can we expect the special blessing of God, unless we shun with abhorrence the smallest sin. We should choose to suffer inconvenience, loss, or privation, rather than disregard the instructions of the Lord. Our lack of spirituality has been caused by our own course. We have gradually and insensibly chosen to please ourselves instead of seeking to honor God. Christian perfection consists in the complete harmony of our will with the will of our Creator. The inhabitants of Heaven find, in obeying the will of God, their joy and blessedness.
When such possibilities are presented to us; when we see that it is our privilege to attain Christian perfection, should we not strive to reach the standard? Should not our one purpose be to appreciate and understand the high honor conferred upon us? Christ has shown us how the heavenly universe values the beings for whom He made so great a sacrifice. Men and women are God's by creation and by redemption, and those who receive Christ He invests with His strength. They are bound up with Him, and are fully capable of reaching the highest elevation of character.
Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No Error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man. I May be perfectly sincere in following a wrong road, but that will not make it the right road, or bring me to the place I wish to reach. The Lord does not want us to have a blind credulity, and call that the faith that sanctifies. The Truth is the principle that sanctifies, and therefore it becomes us to know what is truth. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual. We must prove all things, but hold fast only that which is good, that which bears the divine credentials, which lays before us the true motives and principles which should prompt us to action. Selected Messages Bk2, pg. 56
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