God has set up a standard which we must reach, or we will be lost. Only a few people will reach this standard. Sister White writes, “I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.
“I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful and were looking to the time of ‘refreshing’ and the ‘latter rain’ to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation; therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. . . .
“I saw that none could share the refreshing unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. We should, therefore, be drawing nearer and nearer to the Lord and be earnestly seeking that preparation necessary to enable us to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. Let all remember that God is holy and that none but holy beings can ever dwell in His presence.” –Early Writings, p. 71
God has given us time to prepare ourselves to reach His standard, but, if we waste this time suddenly it will be too late.
“It is no small thing to be a Christian and to be owned and approved by God. The Lord has shown me some who profess the present truth, whose lives do not correspond with their profession. They have the standard of piety altogether too low, and they come far short of Bible holiness. Some engage in vain and unbecoming conversation, and others give way to the risings of self. We must not expect to please ourselves, live and act like the world, have its pleasures, and enjoy the company of those who are of the world, and reign with Christ in glory.
“We must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings here if we would share in His glory hereafter. If we seek our own interest, how can we best please ourselves, instead of seeking to please God and advance His precious, suffering cause, we shall dishonor God and the holy cause we profess to love.” –Ibid., p. 47
When Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall, it was too late for him to avert the destruction.
When the foolish virgins wake up, it is too late for them to buy oil and be saved. When Achan finally made a confession, it was too late for him to be forgiven. If we have not lived up to the standard of God in our lives, one day it will be too late for us. In worldly schools the passing mark is between 60% and 80%, but in the school of Christ it is 100%. If we come short in one point, we will lose heaven.
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. Adam was perfect in all points except in one point, and for this he was cast out of paradise. Before God will accept us and seal us we must pass the test in every point, and reflect the character of God. All who delay their character building, will find themselves suddenly outside.
Let us study a few points where we must reach the standard of God. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” 1 Peter 2:20
When we do well and suffer for it, and take it patiently, without retaliating, without anger, and without self-defence, this is acceptable with God. Nothing less is accepted.
“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:10–11
The prophets are our examples of patience, who suffered affliction and yet loved their persecutors and tried to save them. “In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, In distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.” 2 Corinthians 6:4–5
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
“God has shown me that He gave His people a bitter cup to drink, to purify and cleanse them. It is a bitter draught, and they can make it still more bitter by murmuring, complaining, and repining. But those who receive it thus must have another draught, for the first does not have its designed effect upon the heart. And if the second does not effect the work, then they must have another, and another, until it does have its designed effect, or they will be left filthy, impure in heart. I saw that this bitter cup can be sweetened by patience, endurance, and prayer, and that it will have its designed effect upon the hearts of those who thus receive it, and God will be honored and glorified.” –Ibid., p. 47
Moses failed in this point and hit the rock in impatience and anger for the sin of the Israelites. For this reason he could not lead the people across the river into Canaan.
If we come up to the standard of God in all other points except patience, we fail in reaching God’s standard. To teach us patience, God gives us thorns in the flesh like He gave to Paul. He also gives us loss of property and health, like he gave to Job. There are people who irritate us, and get on our nerves. There are accidents, losses, and troubles. All these are God’s workmen to teach us patience. In a quiet and peaceful life we would not learn the divine grace of patience.
Peter writes to us, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:7
James writes to us, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2–4
When your faith is severely tried, you have passed the test if do not raise your voice in an angry tone, and do wish evil to anyone, or never complain of your lot. After learning this lesson there are more lessons to learn.
Another lesson we need to learn is forgiveness. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14–15. This is the standard of God. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
There are different ways to forgive, and how we decide to forgive, is how God will forgive us.
Many have said, “I have forgiven him, but I cannot forget what he did to me,” and he keeps telling others what this person did to him. This is not genuine forgiveness. Also, we may forgive, but then separate ourselves from his company, and have nothing to do with him.
How long do we continue to forgive someone? Peter asked this of Jesus. “Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21–22
God continues to forgive us our sins as long as we continue to forgive others who sin against us. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
A person who has learned this lesson is never offended. As soon as someone does something wrong to him, he already forgives and forgets. “We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. . .
However sorely they have wounded us, we are not to cherish our grievances and sympathize with ourselves over our injuries; but as we hope to be pardoned for our offenses against God we are to pardon all who have done evil to us.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 113–114
We are also tested on selfishness. Selfishness is self-love. “Selfishness is abomination in the sight of God and holy angels. Because of this sin many fail to attain the good which they are capable of enjoying. They look with selfish eyes on their own things, and do not love and seek the interest of others as they do their own.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 551
Selfishness is idolatry, it is self-worship. “Selfishness always blinds and deceives.” –Ibid., vol. 2, p. 129
Christ was tested on this point and He overcame by sacrificing His life for others. This same victory we must gain. “May you see the heavy weight that rests upon you in consequence of your selfishness, which is a curse to yourself and to all around you.” –Ibid., vol. 2, p. 543
“When we have entire, wholehearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of His spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers, together with God. God cannot pour out His spirit when selfishness and self-indulgence are so manifest; when a spirit prevails that, if put into words, would express that answer of Cain,—‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 52
A selfish person is moody, often downcast, gloomy, and unhappy. Instead of happiness he finds only misery.
“Selfishness is death.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 417
A selfish person is not a living Christian, but dead spiritually. A selfish person justifies himself, seldom admitting his wrongdoing. He is always defending his actions and words. “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Job 9:20
Millions of Christians who started out bravely fighting against sin, overcame bad habits and joined the church, but they failed in this point; they fell victims to selfishness. If we do not overcome in this point, all will be lost.
Let us study one more point in which we must overcome. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2: 15–17
What is in the world that people love? Is it not gratification of the eyes, television, shows, movies, unhealthy foods, sensualism, immorality, and worldly books and magazines? People get addicted to them because they are habit forming, and these habits are not easy to break. Many bring them into the Christian life from the world. When Jacob left Laban to go into his homeland, his wife Rachel took along small idols of her father’s. So we also can leave the world, but take little idols with us from the world. If we do this, then we are not dead to the world. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2
We touched only four points, but there are many more where we are tested daily to see if we are ready for heaven or not.
How many Christians will say, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24
Often years go on, and our characters remain unchanged. Yet there is a remedy, and Peter found it. We can become holy and pure. Selfishness can be overcome, love of the world can die, there is a way to forgive and forget, even patience can be learned. All these come by fiery trials, by afflictions, sorrows, and pain. These trials are more precious than gold, they change us to Christlikeness.
“When we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we shall have no relish for sin, for Christ will be working with us. We can make mistakes, but we will hate the sin that caused the suffering of the Son of God.” –The Review and Herald, March 18, 1890
Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. If we do not bear fruit, we will be cut off of the vine. If we bear fruit, He will cleanse us and we will bear more fruit. Then the love of Jesus will fill our hearts, and we will be free. We will be free from self and free from the world. Thus we will be fit for heaven, ready for the company of angels, and for the company of God Himself. We will be without spot and wrinkle reflecting the image of Jesus fully. Amen.