We live in an epoch of time in which the prevailing belief, thought, teaching, is that it is impossible to overcome sin in this life and that this blessed gift will not be fulfilled to the saints until Jesus comes. Is this true, or is it a dangerous, and in fact fatal deception which the father of lies has fabricated, just for this time when it is so essential to have that pure “faith which works by love and purifies the heart.” The Sanctified Life, 83.
There is a statement from Inspiration that introduces a subject which I believe is at the core of our “fear,” our perceived sense of powerlessness and hopelessness in regard to overcoming sin. On the surface this statement may seem to be totally disconnected from the subject at hand, but we will see in this study an integral connection.
“It is impossible to estimate the evil results of removing one of the landmarks fixed by the word of God.” The Great Controversy, 525. If that be the case then what are the landmarks? If it is not known what they are, it would be possible to avoid removing one, or more. In fact, as Adventists, we have not only removed just one, but I have come to the realization that we have lost, or at the very least seriously minimized every one of the “landmarks fixed by the word of God”! I believe this is at the core of our weakness.
One of these pillars is Creation as presented by inspired writers (The Great Controversy, 582, 583.) It is mind blowing to study the great facts of creation and the God of creation, the significance of who He is, what He has done, and what He is to the sinner. The following are words inspired by this God:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). In six days this earth was created out of nothing, by the breath of His mouth! That is power.
“The theory that God did not create matter when He brought the world into existence is without foundation. In the formation of our world, God was not indebted to pre-existing matter. On the contrary, all things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things therein, are not only the work of His hand; they came into existence by the breath of His mouth.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 258, 259.
In addition to physical matter all other things are of His creation. “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). All thought, all law, all principle, all language, was brought into existence by our Creator. And this creation was perfect. Nothing marred the workmanship of anything God had created. But when we turn to the study of the creation of man, there are new thoughts to contemplate.
When man was created, he was created in the image of a perfect God. “Man was to bear God’s image, both in outward resemblance and in character. Christ alone is ‘the express image’ (Hebrews 1:3) of the Father; but man was formed in the likeness of God. His nature was in harmony with the will of God. His mind was capable of comprehending divine things. His affections were pure; his appetites and passions were under the control of reason. He was holy and happy in bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 45. These are marvelous truths.
But then man sinned (the fall of man—another landmark that is little understood) and as a result no longer bore the image of the Creator. But, the divine God of love had created a plan whereby man could be restored to His perfect image. Who created or made this plan? It was the God of creation, this same God of power!
So, you might ask, what does this have to do with perfection of character?
Inspiration goes on to say, “The creative energy that called the world into existence is in the word of God. This Word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and recreates the soul in the image of God.” The Signs of the Times, April 11, 1906.
If God could create man “in His image” with a nature “in harmony with the will of God,” with a mind “capable of comprehending divine things,” with pure affections, with “appetites and passions under the control of reason,” and “holy and happy in bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will” does He not have the power to re-create us in His image—in His own timing? If He can do this when He comes, is it not possible He has the power to do this before the close of probation?
Inspiration is very clear that our characters must be made perfect before the close of probation. The following are just a small sample of statements that show this to be true. “Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort, they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in Heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.” The Great Controversy, 425.
“By the king’s examination of the guests at the feast is represented a work of judgment. The guests at the gospel feast are those who profess to serve God, those whose names are written in the book of life. But not all who profess to be Christians are true disciples. Before the final reward is given, it must be decided who are fitted to share the inheritance of the righteous. This decision must be made prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven; for when He comes, His reward is with Him, ‘to give every man according as his work shall be’ (Revelation 22:12). Before His coming, then, the character of every man’s work will have been determined, and to every one of Christ’s followers the reward will have been apportioned according to his deeds.
“It is while men are still dwelling upon the earth that the work of investigative judgment takes place in the courts of heaven. The lives of all His professed followers pass in review before God. All are examined according to the record of the books of heaven, and according to his deeds the destiny of each is forever fixed.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310.
For many people this belief or teaching that we must be perfect and stand “in the sight of a holy God without a mediator” causes a panic, fear, and sometimes despair. Why should this cause such hopelessness? Are not the promises of our God as sure as His admonitions and warnings? Why believe the admonitions and warnings and cast off the promises?
“The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life [eternal life]. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God.” Education, 126. This is a divine promise from the very God that sent His Only Begotten Son, “at the risk of failure and eternal loss” (The Desire of Ages, 49 and 131) to this world to provide for us His power “which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). These are powerful words!
“Now we have opportunity to prepare for the solemn scenes before us. We may be converted to God, and have a change of character; but when Christ shall come there will be no time for this. The change then will be with our bodies. ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality’ (1 Corinthians 15:53).” The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, January 15, 1889.
“When He comes He is not to cleanse us of our sins, to remove from us the defects in our characters, or to cure us of the infirmities of our tempers and dispositions. If wrought for us at all, this work will all be accomplished before that time. When the Lord comes, those who are holy will be holy still. Those who have preserved their bodies and spirits in holiness, in sanctification and honor, will then receive the finishing touch of immortality. But those who are unjust, unsanctified, and filthy will remain so forever. No work will then be done for them to remove their defects and give them holy characters. The Refiner does not then sit to pursue His refining process and remove their sins and their corruption. This is all to be done in these hours of probation. It is now that this work is to be accomplished for us.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 355.
“I will never advocate the popular theory that it does not matter what doctrine men espouse, if they only have faith. ‘Faith without works is dead, being alone.’ Genuine faith will be expressed by good works. We are looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. We may not be living when Christ shall come in power and great glory, for all are subject to death at any time, but if we are righteous, in harmony with the law of God, we shall respond to the voice that will call the people of God from their graves, and shall come forth to receive immortality. It is only the blessed and holy who will be ready for the first resurrection; for when Christ comes, he will not change the character. The change that will take place will be that change spoken of by Paul when he says: ‘… we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality’ (1 Corinthians 15:51–53). The word of God declares that we must be found blameless, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Now we are to learn obedience, submission to the divine will, that God may work in us to will and to do of His good-pleasure, and that we may work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. But our own efforts are of no avail to atone for sin or to renew the heart. Only the blood of Christ can atone for us; His grace alone can create in us a clean heart, and enable us to obey God’s law. In Him is our only hope.” The Signs of the Times, February 9, 1891. [Emphasis supplied.]
Do we believe what God says? Do we really believe in the God of creation, “who spoke … and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9)? Do we have that “faith which works by love, and purifies the soul?”
Christ, Himself, when He walked the paths of earth once posed a significant, and plaintive question. “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8)? He was looking down the long years to the time just before He would return to this earth. He saw the skepticism, the lack of belief in His mighty power. If we read and understand aright the words of Holy Writ, we find that Christ had to leave whole towns with little healing. Why? Because of their unbelief! If we do not believe, we will not receive the blessing.
“Where is the faith of those who claim to be the people of God? Shall they also be included among that number of whom Christ questioned, ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth’ (Luke 18:8)? Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of sin and from sin itself, and shall we render Him only a feeble half of those powers which He has paid such an infinite price to ransom from the hands of the enemy of our souls?” The Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
“Will we put forth most earnest efforts to form this alliance with Christ, through which alone these blessings are attained? Will we break off our sins by righteousness and our iniquities by turning unto the Lord? Skepticism and infidelity are widespread. Christ asked the question: ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth’ (Luke 18:8)? We must cherish a living, active faith. The permanence of our faith is the condition of our union.
“A union with Christ by living faith is enduring; every other union must perish. Christ first chose us, paying an infinite price for our redemption; and the true believer chooses Christ as first and last and best in everything. But this union costs us something. It is a union of utter dependence, to be entered into by a proud being. All who form this union must feel their need of the atoning blood of Christ. They must have a change of heart. They must submit their own will to the will of God. There will be a struggle with outward and internal obstacles. There must be a painful work of detachment as well as a work of attachment. Pride, selfishness, vanity, worldliness—sin in all its forms—must be overcome if we would enter into a union with Christ. The reason why many find the Christian life so deplorably hard, why they are so fickle, so variable, is that they try to attach themselves to Christ without first detaching themselves from these cherished idols.
“After the union with Christ has been formed, it can be preserved only by earnest prayer and untiring effort. We must resist, we must deny, we must conquer self. Through the grace of Christ, by courage, by faith, by watchfulness, we may gain the victory.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 231. This is a promise, an infallible promise by the God of the universe.
Here are just a few more mighty and powerful promises from our God that should inspire hope, courage, love kindling within us that “faith which works by love, and purifies the soul.”
” ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). He in whom ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9) descended to our world, humiliated Himself by clothing His divinity with humanity, that through humanity He might reach the human family. While He embraces the human race with His human arm, He grasps the throne of God with His divine arm, thus uniting humanity to divinity. The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, descended the path of humiliation step by step until He reached the lowest point possible for humanity to experience; and why? That He might be able to reach even the lowest of mankind, sunken in the very depths of degradation though they be, that He might be able to elevate them to the heights of heaven. He has promised, ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne’ (Revelation 3:21). Wonder of wonders! Man, a creature of the earth; dust, elevated to the throne of the King of the universe! Marvelous love! inexpressible, incomprehensible love!” The Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not” (Numbers 11:23).
“Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver” (Isaiah 50:2)?
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1).
“The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the Word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the Word must be their source of power. Like their Master, they were to live ‘by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).” The Desire of Ages, 390.
Oh, if we only understood the spiritual significance of these words! “Healing disease!” As with all words of Inspiration, this paragraph has deep spiritual meaning. “Healing disease,” that is, the dread and fatal leprosy of sin! He can heal it! “Stilled the sea,” that is, the raging human heart of passion and pride—He can still it! “Raise the dead” that is, the heart “dead in trespasses and sin”—He can raise the spiritually dead! And the power for this is “in His word.” Just as the power of creation was “by the breath of His mouth.” Oh, the beauty of Inspiration. The chapter in The Desire of Ages, “Thou Canst Make Me Clean” has such hope, power and beauty.
Often, when our Saviour healed disease He bade the restored soul, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Are these idle, empty words, words that Christ did not mean to be taken literally? By no means. This is where true faith comes in, that faith that “works by love and purifies the soul.”
“Faith works by love and purifies the soul. Through faith the Holy Spirit finds access to the heart, and creates holiness therein. Man cannot become an agent to work the works of Christ unless he is in communion with God through the Holy Spirit. We can be fitted for heaven only through a transformation of character; we must have Christ’s righteousness as our credentials, if we would find access to the Father. We must be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. We must daily be transformed by the influence of the Holy Spirit; for it is the work of the Holy Spirit to elevate the taste, to sanctify the heart, to ennoble the whole man, by presenting to the soul the matchless charms of Jesus.” The Bible Echo, February 15, 1893.
“All heaven is interested in our salvation. The angels of God, thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, are commissioned to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. They guard us against evil and press back the powers of darkness that are seeking our destruction. Have we not reason to be thankful every moment, thankful even when there are apparent difficulties in our pathway?” Testimonies, vol. 6, 63.
“The grace of Christ and the law of God are inseparable. In Jesus mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In His life and character He not only reveals the character of God, but the possibility of man. He was the representative of God and the exemplar of humanity. He presented to the world what humanity might become when united by faith with divinity. The only-begotten Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, and established His cross between earth and heaven. Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man. Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied. Through the cross the sinner was drawn from the stronghold of sin, from the confederacy of evil, and at every approach to the cross his heart relents and in penitence he cries, ‘It was my sins that crucified the Son of God.’ At the cross he leaves his sins, and through the grace of Christ his character is transformed. The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the sinner looks upon the Redeemer, he finds hope, assurance, and joy. Faith takes hold of Christ in love. ‘Faith works by love, and purifies the soul.’ ” Selected Messages, Book 1, 349.
Promise after promise, after promise. How can we doubt? Do we have this faith? Are we strong in the Lord and of a good courage, not doubting His word who created the entire universe “by the word of His mouth?” Again I pose the question. Are not the promises of our God as sure as His admonitions and warnings? Why believe the admonitions and warnings and cast off the promises?
It is the pillar of creation, rightly understood that gives the assurance that what our God says He can do, He can indeed do. There is no need for doubt or skepticism. It is essential that we understand the great pillar of creation and know the power of the God of creation as penned by the inspired writers. This pillar, creation, is one of the mighty saving truths of our God to protect us from the skepticism and doubt of this time. It is one of the powerful truths which constitute the “faith of Jesus” and which characterize “the saints” that “keep the commandments.” This pillar, rightly understood, will keep us from the doubt and fear that will lead to defeat and give us the courage and faith to overcome, “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dear friends, will you doubt the Lord of Glory with such promises set before us by the very One with the creative power that “He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9)?
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She is director of The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders, a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.