In the little book that’s called Word to the Little Flock, published in 1847, Ellen White saw in vision the people of God traveling up the narrow path to the Holy City. In recording what she saw, she said people fell off the path all the way, until the voice of God was heard. That is one of the most startling statements in the Spirit of Prophecy. They fell off the path all the way until the voice of God was heard!
When is the voice of God heard? That’s just a few days before the Second Coming. Why do people fall off the path? Let’s read about it from Testimonies for the Church, volume 1, page 187. This reference is talking about, again, God’s people going up the narrow way, walking up the narrow path, and it says: “God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart.” God leads his people on step by step, and He brings them up to different points that are calculated to manifest what is in the heart.
What is in your heart? Think this through. In the process of the shaking, the judgment, whatever is in your heart is going to be manifest, because God is going to arrange it. God is going to lead you up a path, and He’s going to bring you to a point that’s going to reveal what’s in your heart. Now, if there is something in my heart that shouldn’t be there, God’s going to bring me to a point where either that’s going to come out of my heart or it’s going to become manifest that that’s in my heart, and I’ll fall off the path.
Notice what she continues saying: “Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer.” Ibid. Let’s think that through more. When it says the heart is tested and tried a little closer, what is that talking about? What is it that’s coming so close to the heart? Well, if you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you love your neighbor as yourself, it doesn’t matter how you’re tested, because you’ll test out. But if you have selfishness in your heart, if you have pride in your heart, if you have the love of the world in your heart, if you have evil passions in your heart, if you have pride of opinion in your heart, the Lord’s going to bring you to a point where you are going to see that. That must come out of your heart, or you are going to fall off the path. That’s what it’s talking about.
She says, “At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. If the professed people of God find their hearts opposed to this straight work, it should convince them that they have a work to do to overcome, if they would not be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord. Said the angel: ‘God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.’ Some are willing to receive one point.”
What’s one point? I’ll give you an example. One point is health reform. Has God given to His people a message about health reform? Has there been anybody anywhere that’s rejected it? Thousands! Thousands fall off the path on that point. They don’t accept it.
That’s what happened to the children of Israel, too. They got out there in the wilderness, and they said, “This is terrible! All we have is this manna to eat, and we don’t have . . . . When we were in Egypt, we used to eat fish for nothing.” The Scriptures say they were murmuring and complaining because of the fleshpots of Egypt. They said, “We don’t have any garlic out here; we don’t have any cucumbers; we don’t have any leeks; and we don’t have any of the watermelons. We don’t have the fish.” (See Numbers 11:5.) So they fell off the path on the point of health reform. Thousands died.
So some people fall off on that point, but that’s just one point. Can a person accept the message that God has given His people in health reform but then fall off on some other point? Oh, sure! Ellen White says, “Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness.” Ibid.
Whatever point it is you may be struggling with, the Lord is willing to give you time. But, of course, that’s not forever. You’re given time to see if you’ll sacrifice your idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness—that’s the True Witness to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14–22.
“If any will not be purified through obeying the truth . . . .” Ibid. How is it that you keep on the path? If you’re purified. That’s directly from the Bible, in I Peter 1:22. It says, “Purifying your souls by obedience of the truth unto love of the brothers without hypocrisy or without pretense [in other words, genuine] out of a pure heart, see to it that you love one another fervently.” Have you had that experience? You purify your hearts by obedience of the truth. Whatever truth the Lord shows you, as you follow it, you are in a purification process.
God is going to have a people, and when He gets done with His people, they’re not going to have any blemish; they’re not going to have any spot; they’re not going to have any wrinkle; they’re going to be holy, without blemish. (See Ephesians 5:27.)
“If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: ‘They are joined to their idols, let them alone.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 1, 187. That’s a direct reference to Ezekiel. The Lord told Ezekiel, when anybody comes to Me and he has idols in his heart, I will answer that person according to his idols. They’re joined to their idols, let them alone. (See Ezekiel 14:4–7.)
“And they [the angels] pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels.” Ibid. Now, that’s why we have so much trouble, friends, in the church. We might as well face it. Why do we have so much trouble in the church? Because there are still some people in the church who have not overcome their evil traits; their sinful traits are unsubdued, and these people, Ellen White says, are under the control of evil angels. And that makes trouble in the church.
“Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.” Ibid.
Would you like to get out of this world? There’s going to be a group of people who get out of this world, and we just read about who they are. They’re the people that, as God reveals to them the truth in His word, obey it. They have to sacrifice selfishness to obey it. They have to sacrifice covetousness to obey it. They have to sacrifice the love of this world to obey it. They have to sacrifice their fallen, sinful appetites and passions to obey it. They have to sacrifice pride to obey it. They have to sacrifice every idol to obey it. If they make that sacrifice and they purify their souls by obeying the truth and overcome, no matter what the price, the people who do that are going to receive the latter rain, and they’re thus going to be fitted for translation. Isn’t that exciting? Now the good part is that this is happening right now!
The awful part is that there are people falling off the path right now, and that’s why the churches everywhere in the world are being shaken. People ask, “What has happened? We’ve had peace in this church for years and years, and now, all of a sudden, everything’s turned upside down.” What has happened is that, as we go up the path, God reveals things to people. He brings them up to a point that’s calculated to manifest what is really in their heart. For example, perhaps you really don’t care for some brother or some sister in the church, but you’ll get along with them. Think this through; you can’t go to heaven that way. God’s going to bring you up to a testing point where either you are going to overcome and learn to love those people or you are going to go the other way and eventually hate them. If the latter happens, then you will fall off the path. That’s true for all of us, and it’s true especially for our enemies.
Have you ever thought about the fact that there might be somebody that is your enemy who could end up in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus said, “love your enemies.” (See Luke 6:27.) You don’t know what’s in their hearts. They may be making a lot of mistakes right now, and they may be doing stupid things, and there may be a lot of growth that they need, but you need to love them, because the Lord may be working with them. When we get to heaven, we’re going to be very surprised by the people that we see there. And we’re also going to be very surprised by the people we thought would be there who aren’t there.
So God takes us up a path, and He brings things that are calculated to reveal what’s in our hearts. If this is happening to you, that’s good news. You better thank the Lord and pray and say, “Lord, help me to purify my soul by obeying the truth and putting away every idol.” If this is not happening to you, you better get alarmed. If this is not happening to you, either you’re already ready for translation, or otherwise, you’re blind and don’t know what’s going on, because this is happening all over the world.
God is leading His children up the path, and things are happening that are revealing to them what’s in their hearts—things they didn’t even know were there before. But God is merciful. Instead of just destroying us because these things are in our hearts that are wrong, He takes us up, and He shows us what’s wrong, and then we have an opportunity to do something about it. Be thankful that the Lord does that.
The subject of how not to fall off the path is a huge subject, but let’s look at a few Bible points. We’ll look at the one big, secret writer first. In I Corinthians 13:8, your Bible may say, “Love never fails.” Actually, if it were literally translated, it would say, “Love never falls.” That’s the sum and substance of it right there! If you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and you really love your neighbor as yourself, you won’t fall off the path! The question is, do you really have that kind of love in your heart?
We can be self-deceived. I have been astounded recently to actually hear people in the church acknowledge publicly that there are people in the church group that they don’t love. Oh, really? What does that mean? Well, brother, sister, if that’s your case, that means you’re not ready to go through the pearly gates yet. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Even if they’re enemies, you’re supposed to love them! You may not love what they do; you may have a personality clash with them, because you think differently. They may have some obnoxious things about their character that the Lord hasn’t yet corrected, but you’re not responsible for all that.
There are churches splitting up all the time. People claim they can’t go to church with the other folks, and they’ll go to church five miles down the road instead. What’s the problem? The problem, friends, is that we don’t love each other. When we go to heaven, there isn’t going to be any other church to attend! Have you ever thought about that? In heaven, there is only one church. Are you ready for this?
I used to live in the Loma Linda, California, area where there was the Loma Linda University Church, the Hill Church, and the Azure Hills Church; then there was the Riverside Church, and the San Bernardino Church. If you didn’t like one church, you just drove ten minutes in the other direction and went to another church. People did that all the time—they didn’t like the pastor; they didn’t like one of the elders; they didn’t like one of the Sabbath School teachers; they didn’t like this; they didn’t like something; so they just got in their car and went somewhere else. Well, when we go to heaven, we won’t be able to do that.
I’ve thought sometimes, when people get scrappy, that we could all split up and every family could just have their church in their own home. But you know, that wouldn’t work either. You know why? When there is that much scrappiness in the church, the people wouldn’t even get along in their own homes. Ellen White says that what happens in the homes is going to eventually happen in the church. (See Review and Herald, July 2, 1889.) So if you have strife in the church because people can’t get along and don’t love each other, that means you’ve got the same thing in the homes of those people—at least some of them, otherwise you wouldn’t have that kind strife in the church.
It’s long overdue, friends, for us to pray for ourselves and say, “Lord, put Christ-like love in my heart for my enemies.” Don’t worry about your friends. Jesus said that even the wicked love their friends. (See Luke 6:32.) But His followers love their enemies. You don’t have to like what they do. You don’t have to think like them. You don’t have to dress like them, or anything else like them, but you need to love them. If we don’t love our enemies, we are going to fall off the path. It’s just that simple!
Love is something that we can’t generate. The world likes to sing about it on the radio and on television, but they still don’t’ know what it is. A lot of people in this world have been married for a long time and never loved each other once. Never! Because they are both selfish, and love and selfishness are opposites. They both got married for what they could get out of it. That’s not love.
There are a lot of people who go to church for what they can get out of it. That’s not love either. They don’t love the church; they don’t love their brothers and sisters in the church. When the time comes that they can’t get out of it what they want or need, they’re not there anymore. They’ve fallen off the path.
“Love never falls.” If you pray in your daily devotions, are you asking God to put the love of Jesus in your heart? Because if you don’t have it, sooner or later something is going to happen and you’re going to fall.
The second reason that people either fall or don’t fall, is in Psalm 25:9. The last part of the verse says, “He will guide the humble according to judgment [justice].” A big reason people fall off the path is because they don’t have humility. That’s the way the devil fell off the path in the beginning. God worked with Lucifer for a long time. Ellen White says that such efforts were made as only infinite love and wisdom could devise to convince Lucifer that he was wrong. And Lucifer was convinced he was wrong! Why didn’t he change? Because of pride. She says, “Pride forbade him.” (See The Great Controversy, 495, 496.) He had been the leading angel in heaven; it was too humiliating to confess that he had been in error. He felt he couldn’t do it, so he didn’t do it. That’s why we’re where we are right now.
Jesus talked about the meek, the humble in Matthew 5 in the Beatitudes. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Verse 3.) What is a person who is poor in spirit? Well, for one thing, it’s somebody who’s not proud, who recognizes his or her spiritual poverty. And that, by the way, is one of the bigger problems of Adventists, because we say we have the truth. Well, I would never deny that; we do have the truth. But we better not get proud about it! We have the truth not because we’re smart, but because God has given it to us. The poor in spirit are people who recognize their spiritual poverty. The people who recognize that they’re all done, they’ll never make it, unless God works a miracle in their lives, are the people who recognize their spiritual poverty.
Then Jesus said, in verse 5, “Blessed are the gentle [or the meek, or the humble—the word praus means all of those things], because they shall inherit the earth.” This, too, is one of the big reasons that people fall off the path. The first reason is because we don’t have the love of God in our hearts, and the second reason is because we’re not humble. Everyone that’s proud will fall off the path at some point, unless they overcome their pride. You know, it’s up to you and me. Are we going to overcome our pride, or are we going to fall off the path? The Lord’s going to work things out so that we come to a testing point. Either we overcome our pride or we are going to hold on to it and fall off the path.
You know, pride is a very dangerous disease. Let’s read in Malachi 4:1 how dangerous it is: “Behold, the day is coming that will burn like a furnace, and all the proud [that’s the arrogant people], and everyone who does wickedness will be like straw: and they will be set to blaze in that day that is coming, says Jehovah. And not will be left of them a root or branches.” How dangerous is pride? Well, if we have pride in our hearts, the day is coming when we are going to burn up. But the dangerous thing about pride is that we can have it and not even know it. It doesn’t hurt. So the Lord’s going to bring us up to a point in the path where it’s going to be revealed to us that that’s one of our problems, and unless we overcome that, we’re going to fall off the path.
Since pride is something that can’t be seen, you can be a minister, a physician, a lawyer, an elder in the church, a Sabbath-School teacher, or a deacon and be full of pride and nobody know a thing about it. It doesn’t necessarily have outward symptoms, but the Lord’s going to bring you to a place where you’re going to see you have a problem.
What are some of the symptoms of pride? Here are a few. Ever met anybody who, if they’ve ever made a wrong statement, can never acknowledge that they’re wrong? That’s pride. That was the devil’s problem. Once he’d taken his position, he couldn’t acknowledge that he’d made a mistake. If it’s hard for you to acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, watch out.
Here’s another one. Ellen White says, concerning the devil, that he was proud. Because he was proud, he wanted to control the angels. (See The Desire of Ages, 21.) Ever met somebody who just has to be in charge? They’ve got to control what other people do. That’s pride. That’s how it manifests itself.
Here’s another one. Most of us couldn’t get to where we need to go if we didn’t have a car to drive, because public transportation is not always available. When you go to buy a car, there are at least two different ways to buy a car. One is that you’re buying a car because you need wheels to take you where you have to go. But if you’ve looked around, you know you can do more than just buy wheels to take you where you need to go. You can try to find a vehicle that would make a display or, as we say, make a statement. How do we make these statements? If we get something—doesn’t matter if it’s a car, clothes, jewelry, a business, or what it is—to make a statement, a display, watch out. You see, two people may have the same thing, but one of them bought it because they want to use it to glorify the Lord, to bring honor and glory to Him, but the other one bought it because of pride. Is there a difference? Sure there is. Ellen White says it’s the motive that gives character to our acts. (See The Desire of Ages, 615.)
So the second reason people fall of the path is that they don’t have humility.
Matthew 4:4 reveals the third reason people fall off of the path. The setting of this verse is the devil and Jesus on the mount of temptation, and it says: “In answering he said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” If you don’t want to fall off the path at some point, you need to make the decision that you’re going to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Don’t apologize to the devil or to anybody else for it, because it says in Deuteronomy 6 that God has commanded us to do these things for our good always. You don’t have to apologize to anybody for deciding to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. God is a good taskmaster, a lot better than any we can have down here.
But, if, as the Lord reveals to me more truth in His Word, I do not follow it, I will fall off of the path. When we give Bible studies to people, we see this happen over and over. They study the Bible, and they say that they believe and accept it, and they keep going. But then they come up to a testing truth that they won’t accept. Have you ever seen that happen? Oh, they may have accepted ten things already and made lots of changes in their lives. One of the most common testing truths that people fall off the path over is the Sabbath. They fall off the path right there, because they don’t want to be different from other people, so they follow a multitude that do evil instead of obeying the Lord’s Word. They have no hope of eternal life. If you know that the seventh day is the Sabbath and you’re not keeping it, you’re breaking one of the commandments, and you can have no assurance of eternal life. None! A lot of people fall off there. I remember one couple coming to church and keeping the Sabbath, until we studied about tithing. That was too much! Ten percent of your income! Well, now wait a minute. You may say to yourself, 90 percent of your income with God’s blessing is worth way more than 100 percent with His curse. But they couldn’t see it. That was the end right there. I remember a lady, who not only was coming to church but to prayer meeting. She was studying the Bible; she wanted to be baptized, ‘til one day when the Bible-worker studied with her about things like tea and coffee and tobacco. She came to me at the prayer meeting that night with tears running down her face. She said, “I’m going to have to separate from you; I can’t be with you any more.” When I asked what the matter was, she responded that she could not quit drinking coffee. She and her husband were connoisseurs of coffee. They knew all the best coffees in the world. They even make their own blends. I’ve only seen her once or twice since then. She was almost ready for baptism, everyone thought she’d be baptized in a few weeks, until she found out about coffee.
Now let me ask you something. After you’ve been baptized, and you’re not drinking coffee, and you’re keeping the Sabbath, and you don’t have a problem with tithing, is there a possibility that there’s anything else in God’s Word He has to teach you that, if you decide to reject it, you could fall off the path? Yes. That’s the third thing to consider, if you don’t want to fall off the path. Have you made the decision? Have you made a covenant with the Lord and said, “Lord, whatever You tell me in Your Word, I trust You; I know I don’t have to worry; anything You tell me, I’ll do it”?
Here’s a fourth reason. Have you ever met somebody and things either have to be their way or no way? Do you realize that that’s a way to fall off the path? The Bible talks a lot about it. In fact, it has some very harsh language to say about it. Have you ever read any place in your Bible where the term “stiffnecked” is used? (See Deuteronomy 9:13.) That’s somebody that says, “It’s going to be my way or else.”
In my own personal devotions, I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, the sections in the books of Kings and Chronicles about the kings of Israel. I just read the other day about this fellow by the name of Uzziah. Now Uzziah was a king during the time that Isaiah was a prophet. He’d been king a long time and had been very, very successful. He had followed the Lord, and the Lord had blessed him. But he was the king, you know, and he got to the point where he thought to himself that it wasn’t right that only the priests should be able to offer incense. After all, he was the king. He decided he was going to offer incense too. So he got a censer, and he walked into the sanctuary with it. The chief priest and 80 other priests followed. He had 81 opponents following him and telling him he could not do what he was doing, that only the priests, the descendents of Aaron were authorized to do this act. The Bible says he became furious, but his fury changed a little bit when the high priest noticed that leprosy appeared on his forehead. They led him out of the sanctuary, and the Bible says he was a leper to the day of his death. (See II Chronicles 26:16–21.) What was his problem? He was a person who was going to have it his way. And the minimum punishment that the Lord devised to give to him to let him know that it wasn’t going to be his way was leprosy.
That’s a way to fall off the path—if we decide that it’s got to be our way. Here’s what the Lord says: “Because My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways, says Jehovah, because as high as the heaven is above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9. Or, as Amos put it, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. So if God has one idea, one thought, and I have a different one, who should change their mind?
We’re living in a world where the majority of Christians have decided that God should change His mind, just like the devil did. God isn’t going to do it. Even if the whole world said, Lord, we think You’ve made a mistake, we think we should go to church on this day instead of that day, the Lord is not going to change His mind. Everyone would just fall off the path. Do you want your own way? If you do, that’s a way to fall off the path.
Here are several other points to just think over if you want not to fall off the path.
Number five. Do you ever allow your feelings to get hurt? We can illustrate this in the Bible. This was Judas’ problem. Judas allowed his feelings to get hurt; he felt that Christ wasn’t using the best judgement, and he allowed his feelings to get hurt about it. We know first that he got his feelings hurt at the feeding of the 5,000, and he really got his feelings hurt when Mary anointed Jesus with the ointment. He started to spread a report around the disciples that this ointment could have been sold for 300 pence and given to the poor. Jesus actually didn’t directly rebuke him, but by commending the woman, He indirectly rebuked him. Judas couldn’t take it. He could not stand to be rebuked. Let me tell you something. I’m sorry this is going to be harsh. If you cannot endure to be rebuked, you will fall off the path at some point. You will.
When this happens, what I always hear is that the way they did it was wrong. I’ve heard that happen a number of times. People will say, “Yes, I acknowledge the rebuke was alright, but the way they did it was wrong.” Watch out. If you need to be rebuked, forget about whether the way it was done was right or wrong, or who it was. If you need it, you better take it, and ask the Lord to help you to improve and reform. Otherwise, you’ll fall off the path. Just study religious history. Sometimes God sends somebody to rebuke someone else that is younger, that is the wrong sex, that has less education, less money, or may be inferior in every other way. But the Lord sends that person with a rebuke. If you need it, watch out. If you allow your feelings to be hurt, you won’t make it; you’ll fall off the path.
What testing point are you at? Some people say that the church they’re attending is the problem, so they leave the church. When I hear that, I wonder what’s happening in that church. If they tell me that false doctrines are being taught in the church, that it is tolerating open sin, well then, they will have to leave it. But that’s not usually the reason. Usually the reason is because people have their feelings hurt by what somebody said or did in the church, or they have a problem with the leaders, a problem with the pastor, the elder, or somebody. Watch out. That’s a way to fall off the path.
Even if that person is making mistakes, what if the Lord’s getting them ready to go to heaven? Do you want to go with them, or do you not want to go? If you want to go to heaven and if the Lord’s getting them ready to go to heaven, where are you going to learn to get along with that person? Down here or up there? Are we all just going to split up into different, little, home churches, because we can’t get along with each other, and then after we do that, the Lord’s going to take us all up to heaven, bring us all into unity, and all of a sudden everything will be alright? Is that the way it’s going to be? That’s ridiculous! You know it’s ridiculous, because Ellen White says that when Jesus comes our character is not going to be changed. (See Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 429, 430.) If we can’t get along down here, we couldn’t get along up there, and the people who are going to go up there are going to learn to get along down here.
Frankly, friends, do you know that that is one of the main reasons that the church was established? Because you and I have to learn to get along with other people that are different than we are, that think different than we do, that have different character defects than we do. They are just different from us. We have to learn to love those people and get along with them before we go to heaven. It’s just that simple. And if we can’t get along down here, there are a lot of people that, when they quit going to a church, have fallen off the path right then. They can’t get along with somebody; they quit going to the church; they fell off the path. And very often, friends, they never get back on again. I could tell you story after story. I sometimes meet such people a few years later, and it is astounding what has happened with their religious experience. You can tell by their dress, their conversation, their diet, everything.
Who is the leader in your church that you have a problem with? People say, “Pastor John, you don’t know how many mistakes, and how this person speaks, and how they . . . .” You know what, that’s as old as Moses! The Bible says that Moses was the meekest man that was on the face of the whole earth (see Numbers 12:3), and the children of Israel couldn’t get along with him. Imagine that! Now it doesn’t say he was perfect; it just says that he was the meekest man in the world. The children of Israel couldn’t get along with him, and he was doing his best to get along with them! [“In order that Moses might know how to be kind and tender toward his erring brethren, God taught him, through the hardships incident to the life of a shepherd, precious lessons of kindness and tenderness, patience and self-sacrifice. Years afterward, while leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, he was often severely tried by the waywardness of his brethren, but at such times he pleaded with God to work for them.” The Youth’s Instructor, February 12, 1903.] Finally God took Moses to heaven and left them in the wilderness, dead.
Oh, friend, we have a lot of praying to do, because we have a lot of people that can’t get along. And when we have a lot of people who can’t get along, one of two things is going to happen. Either we’re going to pray, and we’re going to learn how to get along, or some of us aren’t going up to heaven when Jesus comes. We’ll just stay right here, because Jesus isn’t going to take turbulent spirits up there. That’s how Ellen White describes the children of Israel in the wilderness; she talks about their turbulent spirits. (See Education, 39.) We have turbulent spirits down here now, but you know what? Those turbulent spirits are going to get cured down here, not up there. We have a lot of praying to do.
Here’s another reason. Who are you upset with? What should you do when you’re upset with them? Go and talk to them. Jesus said if somebody has sinned against you, go talk to them, see if you can resolve it. (Matthew 18.) Go talk to them, don’t go talk behind their back to somebody else. That’s forbidden. In fact, that’s sinful; that’s called backbiting. That disqualifies you to go to heaven. Read Psalm 15. If you take up a reproach against your neighbor—taking up a reproach against your neighbor is when you’re talking about him behind his back—you will not go to heaven. By the way, Ellen White says that if you listen to that person talk, you’ve taken up the reproach—not just the person talking behind somebody’s back, but the person listening behind somebody’s back has taken up the reproach too. (See Testimonies, vol. 5, 58.) They’re not going to heaven, either. We’ve been studying this in our church; we’ve been going over it with our staff; we’ve been studying with elders. The Lord has blessed. When people have come to some elders in our church and started to say something, the elder has interrupted them and said, “Wait a minute, I can’t listen to you. It’s not right for me to listen to you. Have you gone to that person and done everything you could to straighten it out?”
“Then I can’t listen to you. You’ve got to go talk to them first, not me. If you go talk to them, and you can’t straighten it out, I’ll go with you, and we can talk. Until you talk to them first, I can’t listen. You can’t talk to me; I can’t listen. This conversation has to stop right now.”
That’s the way it should be. We are not to allow ourselves to listen to gossip or backbiting or tale-bringers. If we listen, we’re taking up the reproach, and we are disqualified to go to heaven. That’s how people get upset with each other. They talk about somebody behind their back, but they’ve never even gone to their face to talk to them and see if they can straighten out the situation.
Who are you upset with? The children of Israel were upset with Moses. Later they were so upset with the prophets that they killed a bunch of them. Later on they were upset with John the Baptist; later on they were upset with Jesus; later on they were upset with Paul. A lot of people were upset with Martin Luther; a lot of people were upset with James and Ellen White. If you’re a leader in God’s church there’ll be somebody upset with you until Jesus comes, but they’re not going to heaven when He comes. You will get to go when He comes, if you perfect your character.
Oh, friend, I’m sorry if it sounds hard, but these things are practical. It has to do with falling off the path. Do you realize that people can fall off the path, and they don’t even know they’ve done it? They just decided they wouldn’t go to church here any more. They’ve fallen off the path. Unless they get back on the path, they’re lost. Those people that rejected Jesus after the feeding of the 5,000 Ellen White says never changed their minds. (See Review and Herald, September 18, 1900.) Now they hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin right yet. They could have returned, but they didn’t. That’s the way it is when somebody quits attending church and the reason is because they didn’t get their own way; they’re upset with somebody. It’s not because of open sin or heresy. They’ve fallen off the path. Unless they come back and get on the path, what’s going to happen? I’m not the judge; God’s the judge, but I can read the sacred history. I know what happened to those people that quit following Jesus after the feeding of the 5,000. You won’t see a single one of them in heaven. They will not be there. They fell off the path right then. I know what happened to the people that complained against Moses; the Bible says their carcasses were strewn in the desert. (See Numbers 14:29–33.) They fell off the path.
One last reason. The Pharisees had this problem; you can read about it in Luke 18. They could see the faults in others, but they couldn’t see the faults in themselves. That’s a universal human problem until the Holy Spirit puts the eye salve on, and then, all of a sudden, you’re so overwhelmed with your own wretchedness and sinfulness you don’t even worry about other people any more. You just say, Lord be merciful to me a sinner. Change my own wretched heart; work a work of salvation in me. And when we all get the eye salve on and see how filthy we are and how much cleansing we need and we start praying about our case, something’s going to happen in the church. Are you going to do it?
Are you going to say, Lord, give me the eye salve, help me to see what’s the matter with me that needs to be changed? Because if you go and reprove all the other people in the church for all their faults and if they correct all their faults and all go to heaven, that won’t take you to heaven. Isn’t that true? If you rebuke everybody else in the church for their faults, and they go to the Lord and pray about them, and the Lord helps them to overcome their faults and they all go to heaven because you rebuked them, that won’t take you to heaven. You’ve got to overcome your own. I have to overcome my own. If we overcome, the price be what it may, we’ve accepted the counsel of the True Witness. Then we’ll receive the latter rain and be fitted for translation.
Do you want that experience? I want that experience. Have you ever said to the Lord, Lord whatever it takes, help me to stay in the path until the end of the line. If that’s what you want, pray about it, and ask the Lord to help you do it so you won’t fall off the path.