Contemplate CHRIST’s Perfection, Not Man’s Imperfection
Many have left foreign countries, and have come to America to obtain an experience and an education. Some have not been turned from the object for which they came by seeming imperfection in the brethren. Their faith has not been shaken because they found those who were not true among the disciples. They found brethren who were true and sincere, the beloved of God, whose words were words of wisdom, whose hearts where humble, who walked in the light as Christ is in the light. These learners would not be turned aside from their purpose or become discouraged. They came to learn the truth through which they were to be sanctified, and to lay up in the storehouse of the mind those broad, essential facts of most vital importance. They studied the doctrines, finding in the links of truth precious things that were like jewels hung upon a golden thread. Christ, his character and work, is the center and circumference of all truth, he is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked. In him is found the complete system of truth.
The learners must walk in all humility, putting self under discipline to God. They must work with Christ, the center of truth, and by faith in him gain salvation for their souls. Living faith will be made manifest in a Christ-like character, and in perfect obedience to all his requirements.
Christ was infinite in wisdom, and yet he thought best to accept of Judas, although he knew what were his imperfections of character. John was not perfect; Peter denied his Lord; and yet it was of men like these that the early Christian church was organized. Jesus accepted them that they might learn of him what constitutes a perfect Christian character. The business of every Christian is to study the character of Christ. The lessons which Jesus gave his disciples did not always harmonize with their reasonings. There was an immense contrast between the truths which he taught, which reached to heaven and compassed eternity, and those things that related to the common, temporal, earthly life. The Redeemer of the world ever sought to carry the mind from the earthly to the heavenly. Christ constantly taught the disciples, and his sacred lessons had a molding influence upon their characters. Judas alone did not respond to divine enlightenment. To all appearance he was righteous, and yet he cultivated his tendency to accuse and condemn others. He had come to Christ in the same spirit as did the young man who had great possessions, who inquired, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” In this requirement Jesus touched the plague-spot of his heart,—selfishness and covetousness. “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” Judas had come to Christ in the same spirit of self-righteousness; and if he had asked, “What lack I yet?” Jesus would have answered, “Keep the commandments.” Judas was selfish, covetous, and a thief, yet he was numbered with the disciples. He was defective in character, and he failed to practice the words of Christ. He braced his soul to resist the influence of the truth; and while he practiced criticising and condemning others, he neglected his own soul, and cherished and strengthened his natural evil traits of character until he became so hardened that he could sell his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.
O let us encourage our souls to look to Jesus! Tell every one how dangerous it is to neglect his own soul’s eternal healthfulness by looking upon the diseased souls of others, by talking upon the uncomeliness of character found in those who profess the name of Christ. The soul does not become more and more like Christ by beholding evil, but like the evil which it beholds. The same love of self, the same indulgence of self, the same hastiness of spirit, the same petulance of temper, the same sensitiveness and pride of opinion, the same unwillingness to receive counsel, the same unsanctified, independent judgment, will be manifest in those who criticise as in those whom they criticise. They will act as if they had not Christ as their pattern and example. O, how much we need to guard against Satan’s devices!
The apostle Paul writes of God’s chosen people, and says, “With many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” Then follows an enumeration of the sins that grieve the Spirit of God; and again the apostle says, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”
It is not an uncommon thing to see imperfection in those who carry on God’s work. Go into any place where there is a large church, where there are important interests at stake, as there are at Battle Creek, and there we may behold the deep plottings of Satan; but this should not lead us to dwell upon the imperfections of those who yield to his temptations. Would it not be more pleasing to God to take an impartial outlook, and see how many souls are serving God, and glorifying and honoring him with their talents of means and intellect? Would it not be better to consider the wonderful, miracle-working power of God in the transformation of poor degraded sinners, who have been full of moral pollution, who become changed so that they are Christ-like in character, partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust?
We are a part of the great web of humanity. We become changed into the image of that upon which we dwell. Then how important to open our hearts to the things that are true and lovely and of good report. Let into the heart the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Do not cherish one root of bitterness that may spring up whereby many may be defiled. The most unfavorable matters that are developed in Battle Creek or elsewhere should not cause us to feel perplexed and discouraged. Everything that causes us to see the weakness of humanity is in the Lord’s purpose to help us to look to him, and in no case put our trust in man, or make flesh our arm. Let us remember that our great High Priest is pleading before the mercy-seat in behalf of his ransomed people. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. The blood of Jesus is pleading with power and efficacy for those who are backslidden, for those who are rebellious, for those who sin against great light and love. Satan stands at our right hand to accuse us, and our advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for us. He has never lost a case that has been committed to him. We may trust in our advocate; for he pleads his own merits in our behalf. Hear his prayer before his betrayal and trial. Listen to his prayer for us; for he had us in remembrance. He will not forget his church in the world of temptation. He looks upon his tried and suffering people, and prays for them. Let every word be engraven upon the tablets of the soul. He says, “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are…. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil…. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world,” that they may be partakers with me in self-denial, self-sacrifice, and in my sufferings. Yes, he beholds his people in this world, which is a persecuting world, and all seared and marred with the curse, and knows that they need all the divine resources of his sympathy and his love. Our fore-runner hath for us entered within the vail, and yet by the golden chain of love and truth, he is linked with his people in closest sympathy.
He is making intercession for the most lowly, the most oppressed and suffering, for the most tried and tempted ones. With upraised hands he pleads, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” God loves to hear, and responds to the pleadings of his Son. Paul writes ( Hebrews 4:14-16), “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Look, O look to the open door which God hath opened, and no man can shut. Jesus Christ hath he exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel and forgiveness of sins; and will he not with these costly mercies freely give us all things? The full promise is ours; God will not falsify his word. Jesus says, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Do not separate your soul from God by unbelief and unfaithfulness. Only believe, only be doers of the word, and you may be able to touch every perfection of his being. You are one with Christ, as he is one with the Father. Concerning his followers Jesus prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” O what a request! What tender, inexpressible love is contained in this petition! Our living Head longs to have the members of his body associated with him. They have had fellowship with him in his sufferings, and he will not be satisfied with anything less than that they shall have fellowship with him in his glory. This he claims as his right. John writes of the majesty of Christ in his vision on Patmos, saying, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and gird about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever-more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
O, why are the human agents so ready to yield to temptation? Why are they so irresolute in purpose, so weak to practice the word of God? Why are they so feeble in action? Why is the glory of Jesus so dimly seen? Why is his preciousness so little realized, his love so imperfectly experienced? Let this be our prayer, “Lord, show me thy glory.” If we see the Redeemer’s glory by faith on earth, we shall see it in its fulness in the heaven above.
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, 8/15/1893