As long as Satan has power to work upon human minds that are not barricaded with the Holy Spirit, there will be stern and earnest conflict between good and evil, and evil will be manifested even among those who claim to be the children of God. The characters of God’s people are to be developed by the relation that exists between man and God, between man and his fellow-man. In the Scriptures God has set forth practical lessons to govern the life and conduct of all; but though he has given minute particulars in regard to our character, conversation, and conduct, in a large measure, his lessons are disregarded and ignored. Besides the instruction in his word, the Lord has given special testimonies to his people, not as a new revelation, but that he may set before us the plain lessons of his word, that errors may be corrected, that the right way may be pointed out, that every soul may be without excuse. There is no reason for us to fix our eyes upon error, to grieve and complain, and lose precious time and opportunities in lamenting the faults of others. We are to turn our eyes away from this, and store the mind with truth, that we may have pure and holy practices. Right practices are set forth in contradistinction to the error, and every one who loves God, who will learn in the school of Christ to be meek and lowly in heart, will find rest from all turmoil, confusion, and strife of tongues. But if any do not take upon them the yoke of Christ, if they do not cast away the yokes and burdens of their own manufacturing which gall so, they will be filled with dissatisfaction, complaints, faultfinding, and evil speaking. They will be so engaged in looking upon the imperfections of others that they will fail to see and appreciate that which is desirable and precious. They will fail to fill memory’s hall with the pictures of that which is pure and lovely and of good report.
The apostle says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” By beholding we become changed into the image of that upon which we dwell; then let us turn away our eyes from beholding the imperfections of those who are in the church, but who have not the likeness of Christ. We shall not be held responsible because those who make a high profession do not possess corresponding virtues. Let us thank God that it is our privilege to turn away our eyes from these defective Christians, and look upon those who are truly devoted, who are doers of the word, and who in life and character bear the image of the Divine. And above all things, thank God that it is your privilege to look upon Christ, the perfect pattern. We shall be without excuse if we do not study the word of God that we may understand how inseparable are Christian doctrine and Christian practice.
In the lessons of Christ the true and the false are set in contrast. We need not hesitate to find our delight in what is pure and heavenly, to talk upon what is good, to bring the brightness that God has given before our minds. We should earnestly desire to be like the perfect Model. We should thank God that through the aid of his Spirit, we can distinguish between the pure and holy, and the impure and unholy. By beholding and copying the perfect Model, we shall present to the world a character that is Christlike. We have much desired that others should possess such a character, and have been greatly perplexed because they did not manifest Christlikeness in their life; but let us see to it that others are not perplexed at seeing this same lack in our own character. God has given a clear principle to guide every sincere lover (of his own ideas, of his own opinion?—NO!) of that truth and wisdom which cometh down from above, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
In this world we shall become hopelessly perplexed [as the Devil wants us to be], if we keep looking upon those things that are perplexing; for by dwelling upon them, and talking of them, we become discouraged. In criticising others because they fail to manifest love, we shall kill the precious plant of love in our own hearts. Have we individually appreciated and felt the warmth of love which Christ represented in his life? Then it is our duty to manifest this love to the world. Let us fear to dwell upon, to behold and talk of, the great mistakes that others are making by not manifesting love to their brethren and sisters. Spend as little time over this question as possible; but be sure to give due attention to the precious truths which come to us from lips that have been touched with a live coal from off the altar. Praise God that light has been sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Talk of the instruction that you have received that was to your soul as a feast of fat things. See to it that you bring into your character-building the solid timbers of truth. Let the exalted truths you have heard be manifested in the faithful performance of God’s precepts.
We may create an unreal world in our own mind or picture an ideal church, where the temptations of Satan no longer prompt to evil; but perfection exists only in our imagination. The world is a fallen world, and the church is a place represented by a field in which grow tares and wheat. They are to grow together until the harvest. It is not our place to uproot the tares, according to human wisdom, lest under the suggestions of Satan the wheat may be rooted up under the supposition that it is tares. The wisdom that is from above will come to him who is meek and lowly in heart, and that wisdom will not lead him to destroy, but to build up the people of God.
With every consecrated human agent, who is free from all selfish partiality, from guile and hypocrisy, heavenly intelligences will co-operate. None need to err, none need to lose the golden moments of time in their short life history through seeking to weigh the imperfections of professed Christians. Not one of us has time to do this. If we know what is the manner of character Christians should develop, and yet see in others that which is inconsistent with this character, let us determine that we will firmly resist the enemy in his temptations to make us act in an inconsistent way, and say, “I will not make Christ ashamed of me, I will more earnestly study the character of Christ in whom there was no imperfection, no selfishness, no spot, no stain of evil, who lived not to please and glorify himself, but to glorify God and save fallen humanity. I will not copy the defective characters of these inconsistent Christians; the mistakes that they have made shall not lead me to be like them. I will turn to the precious Saviour, that I may be like him, follow the instruction of the word of God, which says, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’”
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, 8/8/1893
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