The natural, selfish mind, if left to follow out its own evil desires, will act without high motives, without reference to the glory of God or the benefit of mankind. The thoughts will be evil, and only evil, continually. The soul can be in a state of peace only by relying upon God, and by partaking of the divine nature through faith in the Son of God. The Spirit of God produces a new life in the soul, bringing the thoughts and desires into obedience to the will of Christ, and the inward man is renewed in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things unto himself.
We have each of us an individual work to do, to gird up the loins of our minds, to be sober, to watch unto prayer. The mind must be firmly controlled to dwell upon subjects that will strengthen the moral powers. The youth should begin early to cultivate correct habits of thought. We should discipline the mind to think in a healthful channel, and not permit it to dwell upon things that are evil. The psalmist exclaims, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” As God works upon the heart by his Holy Spirit, man must co-operate with him. The thoughts must be bound about, restricted, withdrawn from branching out and contemplating things that will only weaken and defile the soul. The thoughts must be pure, the meditations of the heart must be clean, if the words of the mouth are to be words acceptable to Heaven, and helpful to your associates. Christ said to the Pharisees, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
In the sermon on the mount, Christ presented before his disciples the far-reaching principles of the law of God. He taught his hearers that the law was transgressed by the thoughts before the evil desire was carried out in actual commission. We are under obligation to control our thoughts, and to bring them into subjection to the law of God. The noble powers of the mind have been given to us by the Lord, that we may employ them in contemplating heavenly things. God has made abundant provision that the soul may make continual progression in the divine life. He has placed on every hand agencies to aid our development in knowledge and virtue; and yet, how little these agencies are appreciated or enjoyed! How often the mind is given to the contemplation of that which is earthly, sensual, and base! We give our time and thought to the trivial and commonplace things of the world, and neglect the great interests that pertain to eternal life. The noble powers of the mind are dwarfed and enfeebled by lack of exercise on themes that are worthy of their concentration. “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.”
Let every one who desires to be a partaker of the divine nature, appreciate the fact that he must escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. There must be a constant, earnest struggling of the soul against the evil imaginings of the mind. There must be a steadfast resistance of temptation to sin in thought or act. The soul must be kept from every stain, through faith in Him who is able to keep you from falling. We should meditate upon the Scriptures, thinking soberly and candidly upon the things that pertain to our eternal salvation. The infinite mercy and love of Jesus, the sacrifice made in our behalf, call for most serious and solemn reflection. We should dwell upon the character of our dear Redeemer and Intercessor. We should seek to comprehend the meaning of the plan of salvation. We should meditate upon the mission of Him who came to save his people from their sins. By constantly contemplating heavenly themes, our faith and love will grow stronger. Our prayers will be more and more acceptable to God, because they will be more and more mixed with faith and love. They will be more intelligent and fervent. There will be more constant confidence in Jesus, and you will have a daily, living experience in the willingness and power of Christ to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him.
By beholding we are to become changed, and as we meditate upon the perfections of our divine Model, we shall desire to become wholly transformed and renewed in the image of his purity. There will be a hungering and thirsting of soul to be made like Him whom we adore. The more our thoughts are upon Christ, the more we shall speak of him to others, and represent him to the world. We are called to come out and be separate from the world, that we may be the sons and daughters of the Most High; and we are under sacred obligation to glorify God, as his children upon the earth. It is essential that the mind should be stayed upon Christ, that we may hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven. The coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it is necessary for us to keep before us this blessed hope, that we may not say in our hearts, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” Unbelief in the heart will be expressed in the actions, and if you cherish it, you will soon deny the faith and become bodies of darkness.
There is a great work to be done, and the nearer we live to Jesus, the better fitted we shall be for fulfilling our mission in the world. We are to gather sheaves for the Master. We cannot afford to live simply to please ourselves, and to seek our own will. “Even Christ pleased not himself.”He lived a life of self-denial and sacrifice. He passed through every pathway of human suffering and temptation. He gave his life that he might reach to the very depth of human misery, and lift up a fallen race. What an infinite price he gave for the life of this rebellious world! He bought us with his own precious blood, and we are not our own. Our thoughts and affections belong to him. There are many who profess to love Jesus, but they seek nothing but the gratification of their own selfish desires. They are not seeking to gather with Christ; but, by example and influence, they are scattering abroad. It is only in proportion to the devotion and consecration to Christ, that the “Christian exerts an influence for the blessing and uplifting of mankind. If there is no actual service, no genuine love, no reality of experience, there is no power to help, no connection with Heaven, no savor of Christ in the life. The church can reflect light to the world only by the manifestation of sincere piety and devotion.
How many feel as did the servant with the one talent, that the Lord is an austere man, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewn. This view of the matter is a delusion of the wicked one; for what have we that we did not receive? “All things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given Thee,” should be the language of our grateful hearts. Those who are engrossed in the service of self and the world, feel a spirit of grudging when they are urged to devote their service to the God of love. They give to the world their best thought, their tact, their talents, their means, their influence. When self is served, they do not withhold anything, but give their lives for the passing pleasures of earth. But when it comes to the service of God, do men manifest the same zeal for his work as they formerly manifested in the service of the world? Do they put the tact and talent and aptness into the work of saving souls, that they displayed in the selfish work of the past, and yet does not reason tell us that the work for God is as far above the service of the world, as the heaven is higher than the earth? God would have every one of us feel that now is the time of golden opportunity and privilege. Heaven’s blessings are showered upon us. The precious hours of probation are still prolonged. The Lord has waited long for us to prepare for the eternal world. We must seek the Spirit of Christ who gave himself for us. We must go out and seek to win others, as he has won us. Every word you speak, every action you perform, has an influence for good or evil upon those who associate with you; and, oh! how necessary it is that you have Christ dwelling in your heart by faith, that your words may be words of life, and your works, the works of love. The words and deeds of the Christian are ordained to form a part of the great plan that God has devised for the salvation of lost man. The Lord has directed the world to his professed followers, and he has declared, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If we would work from the high standpoint of pleasing our Heavenly Father, we would be in harmony with the spirit of heaven; we would express to the world the love of Jesus in our lives and characters.
We must set our feet upon the platform of eternal truth. The truth as it is in Jesus, will be our salvation; and if the spirit of truth is in our hearts, it will shine through our words and actions. You are to reach the high standard of the law of God. Christ is your example. You are not to be conformed to this world, but you are to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You have been taken out of the quarry of the world, and now you are to submit to be hewn, and fitted, and polished for the heavenly building. You will have trials and disappointments; but nothing need separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus your Lord. The love of God is an infinite love, and when you are about to distrust that love, look to Calvary’s cross. Does not this speak to you of the infinite compassion of your Heavenly Father? He that spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, shall he withhold from you anything that is for your highest interest and best good? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Those who are pressing toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Jesus, are giving to the world an example of faith and obedience. They are directing attention to the world to come, and impressing upon souls the worth of eternal life. You cannot do this great work without taking the Saviour with you; but you may have his presence, and rejoice in associating with the Prince of peace. You may communicate with Jesus by the way. You may speak with him as with a friend. You may know that he is at your side as an ever-present helper. You may ask him to give you strength to resist every temptation of the evil one. You may have confidence that he bears your prayers, understands your perplexities, weighs your burdens, and pities your weakness. He was tempted in all points like as we are; he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and can and will succor those who come unto him in hours of distress and temptation. Let him abide in your heart, that you may honor God and be a vessel filled with the blessing of heaven; then you will be a gatherer with Christ, and will bear fruit unto eternal life.
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, 6/12/1888