The Word in Our Lives
Without a humble spirit from God, all the theological study we can do will not change our lives. This explains why some people who know their Bibles inside and out can have lives that are most un-Christ-like.
Even humble people who believe that the second coming of Christ is many hundreds of years away understand the need for a changed life much differently. It is nice to have a “Christian character.” You generally get along with people better. If you’re not careful, you might even believe God blesses you because of that character. It is possible that your focus for having that Christian character is really about yourself, not Christ.
One of the many blessings which result from knowing and understanding the 1888 message is the role believers are given at the end of time. Throughout history, God has always had a believing remnant, but none of those groups have been asked to take up the Cross like those who will see Him come.
At the General Conference of 1893, Elder A. T. Jones presented a lengthy report of hearings in the U.S. Senate. Legislation had been introduced which recognized Sunday as the nation’s official religious day of rest, and observance thereof would be required by the government.
It is fascinating to read those reports and imagine living in that time. “It” really was starting to happen. The urgency was as real as the headlines. Think of the soul searching that many of us would do if this were happening today.
Jones emphasized that those who determine to:
“... stand in our allegiance to the commandments of God, we have to do it in the face of all the power that this earth knows, with Satan using that power. ... in order to stand at all, in order to stand a minute, we need a power that is greater than all the power of this world put together. And the blessedness of it is, there He stands and says, ‘I am with you.’ Thank the Lord” (1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 72; The Third Angel’s Message, p. 26).
Later, Jones refers to “The Crisis Imminent.” This Ellen White quotation describes her contemporaneous understanding of the urgency, even though she is in Australia.
“In the night seasons I am addressing the people in a very solemn manner, beseeching them to ask their own consciences; What am I? Am I a Christian, or am I not? Is my heart renewed? Has the transforming grace of God moulded my character? Are my sins repented of? Are they confessed? Are they forgiven? Am I one with Christ as he is one with the Father? Do I hate what I once loved? Do I now love what I once hated?
“We are standing upon the threshold of great and solemn events. The whole earth is to be lightened with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the channels of the great deep. Prophecies are being fulfilled, and stormy times are before us” (Special Testimonies, Series A, pp. 37, 38).
Jones goes on to describe that we cannot expect any protection, mercy, or justice from the world during these “stormy” times. He makes a distinction between character and reputation, noting that during the end times, Christians who stand by their principles will have their reputations destroyed by the world’s standards. Standing true requires character not reputation.
What does this mean? How do we allow the transforming grace of God to mold our characters? If we think that living the Christ-like life is good because it enhances our standing within our church or community, we are worried about our reputation, not our character. There will be times when we must go against popular programs and ideas even within the church. If we are called to do that, a Christ-like character will always suffer at disagreeing with the brethren. Our manner must always be in humility after much soul searching.
But, agape is not people-pleasing, warm fuzzy hearts and flowers. We bring to the concept of agape a mistaken understanding of “love” when we think this. Elijah loved his nation and remained loyal to it even though God used Him to bring direct criticism to the king and the religious leadership. Elijah’s message was God-pleasing, not people-pleasing. Did he lose his reputation over it? Yes, Ahab told him he was the trouble-maker of Israel. But he is a giant in character because He allowed the word of God to remove him from the world completely.
What are we looking for when we study the Bible? Life style changes which give us a few more years to live? Honorable lives so we are respected pillars in our communities? Nothing wrong with either, but character is something different. It is a gift from God that by beholding the life of Jesus Christ, we become changed. It is only thus that we join the work of the fourth angel which lightens the earth with glory.
(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 7 now in MP3 format.