“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” Some conscientious souls on reading this immediately begin to criticize their every feeling and emotion. But this is not correct self-examination. It is not the petty feelings and emotions that are to be examined. The life, the character, is to be measured by the only standard of character, God’s holy law. The fruit testifies to the character of the tree. Our works, not our feelings, bear witness of us.
The feelings, whether encouraging or discouraging should not be made the test of the spiritual condition. By God’s Word we are to determine our true standing before him. Many are bewildered on this point. When they are happy and joyous, they think that they are accepted by God. When a change comes, and they feel depressed, they think that God has forsaken them.
God does not look with favor upon those self-confident ones who loudly exclaim, “I am sanctified, I am holy, I am sinless.” These are Pharisees who have no foundation for their assertion. Those who, because of their sense of utter unworthiness, dare scarcely lift up their eyes to heaven, are nearer to God than those who claim so much piety. They are represented by the publican, who, with his head on his breast, prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and went to his house justified, rather than the self-righteous Pharisee.
But God does not desire us to go through life with a distrust of him. We owe our Heavenly Father a more generous view of his goodness than is accorded to him by our manifest distrust of his love. We have an evidence of his love–an evidence which amazes angels and is far beyond the comprehension of the wisest of human beings. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” While we were yet sinners, God gave his Son to die for us. Can we doubt his goodness?
Behold Christ. Dwell upon his love and mercy. This will fill the soul with abhorrence for all that is sinful, and will inspire it with an intense desire for the righteousness of Christ. The more clearly we see the Saviour, the more clearly shall we discern our defects of character. Confess your sins to Christ, and with true contrition of soul co-operate with him by putting these sins away. Believe that they are pardoned. The promise is positive, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Be assured that the Word of God will not fail. He who has promised is faithful. It is as much your duty to believe that God will fulfil his word, and forgive you, as it is to confess your sins.
Exercise faith in God. How many there are who go through life under a cloud of condemnation! They do not believe God’s Word. They have no faith that he will do as he has said. Many who long to see others resting in the pardoning love of Christ do not rest in it themselves. But how can they possibly lead others to show simple, child-like faith in the Heavenly Father when they measure his love by their feelings?
Let us trust God’s Word implicitly, remembering that we are his sons and daughters. Let us train ourselves to believe his Word. We hurt the heart of Christ by doubting, when he has given us such evidences of his love. He laid down his life to save us. He says to us: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Do you believe that he will do as he has said? Then, after you have complied with the conditions, carry no longer the burden of your sin. Let it roll upon the Saviour. Trust yourself with him. Has he not promised to give you rest? But to many he is obliged to say, sorrowfully, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” Many manufacture for themselves burdens which are grievous to bear.
Look steadfastly to Jesus. Behold him, full of grace and truth. He will make his goodness pass before you, while he hides you in the cleft of the rock. You will be enabled to endure the seeing of him who is invisible, and by beholding you will be transformed. Faith is not feeling. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. There is a form of religion which is nothing more than selfishness. It takes pleasure in worldly enjoyment. It is satisfied with contemplating the religion of Christ, and knows nothing of its saving power. Those who possess this religion regard sin lightly because they do not know Jesus. While in this condition they estimate duty very lightly. But a faithful performance of duty goes hand in hand with a right estimate of the character of God.
There is earnest work to do for the Master. Christ came to preach the gospel to the poor, and he sent his disciples forth to do the same work he came to do. So he sends forth his workers today. Sheaves are to be gathered for him from the highways and hedges. The tremendous issues of eternity demand of us something besides an imaginary religion, a religion of words and forms, where the truth is kept in the outer court, to be admired as we admire a beautiful flower; they demand something more than a religion of feeling, which distrusts God when trials and difficulties come. Holiness does not consist in profession, but in lifting the cross, doing the will of God. Saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? will not secure for us an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.”
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, May 21, 1908