Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

December 18, 1893

The Character to Be Tested

By Mrs. E. G. White

We are to form characters after the divine Model, Jesus Christ, and bring every power and capability of our natures into subordination to him in this life, that we may through him have a right hold of the future immortal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” Those who have a character that will be found worthy of a place in the kingdom of God, will be those who have become acquainted with God, who have obeyed the explicit directions given in his word. They will be entitled to a seat at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The only way in which we can distinguish between the true Christian and the pretender to Christianity is by the fruit of the life. The works will testify whether or not Christ, the hope of glory, is formed within. Everyone who enters the kingdom of heaven will have been tested and proved. Judas was one who was favored in being associated with Christ and his disciples. He was with Jesus during the time of his public ministry, and he possessed qualities of character that would have made him a blessing to the church had he but submitted to the discipline that Jesus desired him to have. He was privileged to have the same advantages as did John and the other disciples, and might have been benefited by the education and training of the greatest Teacher the world ever knew.

In Christ he beheld a character that was pure, harmless, and undefiled, and his heart was drawn out in love for his Master. But the light that was shed upon him from the character of Christ, brought with it the responsibility of yielding up every natural or acquired trait that was not in harmony with the character of Christ. In this Judas did not stand the test. The love of the world was deeply rooted in his heart, and he did not give up his love for the world, nor surrender his ambition to Christ. He never came to the point of surrendering himself fully to Jesus. He felt that he could retain his own individual judgment and opinion. While he accepted the position of the minister of Christ, yet he never brought himself under the divine moulding of Christ. He clung to his objectionable traits of character, and indulged in his own sinful habits, and, instead of becoming pure and Christlike, he became selfish and covetous. Selfishness became the controlling power of his life.

Judas listened to the lessons which Christ gave to his disciples and to the multitudes, and he did not offer any opposition, or seem to question their importance. He made no outward murmur until the time that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. The record says:

“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”

In the circumstance of Mary's anointing Jesus’ feet, the plague spot of Judas’ character was revealed. The crisis had come in the life of Judas, and the ruling trait of character took its supremacy over every other trait. Covetousness, which is idolatry, had been cultivated, and had strengthened in his heart, and when temptation came upon him, he was held under its control. The temptations of Satan will ever thus meet a response from the elements of depravity that are in the human character that have not been resisted and overcome. The covetous greed that Judas had indulged for years, now held in control and overpowered every other characteristic of his nature. He harmonized with the drawings of Satan, and evil triumphed as he yielded to temptation. Although he was professedly a follower of Jesus, yet he was in heart strengthening the evil of his character. Jesus knew every transgression, and he now looked sorrowfully upon him who was numbered with the twelve, and who was yet not a doer of the words of Christ.

The disciples could not discern the evil of Judas’ heart; only the eye of God could discern the hidden motive, the unholy desire. When an impure thought is welcomed, an unholy desire cherished, a rebellious purpose formed, the purity of the soul is stained and its innocence is ruined, temptations prevail, and hell triumphs. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” A man is tempted to sin when some attractive object or indulgence is presented to him, and he is drawn to overstep principle, and to violate his conscience in doing that which he knows to be wrong. This was what Judas was doing. He had no oil in his vessel with his lamp. He professed to have a deep interest in the welfare of the poor, but all his professions were pretenses, mere hypocrisy. He wanted to give others the impression that he was a very pious man, but the fact was that he was nothing else than a self-conceited sinner.

It was his day to seek grace and purity and holiness; but he failed to seek them. He did not cultivate humility, and die to the world. He did not cultivate hope and love, and manifest pure devotion to God. He did not obtain a strong, noble character, full of faith and holy endeavor, but permitted the wild, unsanctified elements of character to prevail. During his whole life he continually repeated acts of selfishness, though wearing the garb of religion.

Those who are satisfied in having merely a form of religion, who do not carry out the lessons of Christ in their practical life, make manifest the weakness of their character when trial and temptation come upon them, and they prove that they were not Christians. Every duty that is performed in love to Jesus, in simplicity and humility, divested of all selfishness, has its effect on the character and shapes it after the divine Model. Through faithfulness in the Christian life the soul is braced to withstand sudden assaults of temptation; for the true Christian learns to depend upon Christ for strength and grace. When the first temptation is met and resisted, the second is more easily met and resisted. We may be able to resist every temptation that assails the heart by calling upon our mighty Deliverer.

It is not in the power of Satan to force anyone to sin. Sin is the sinner's individual act. Before sin exists in the heart, the consent of the will must be given, and as soon as it is given, sin is triumphant, and hell rejoices. But there is no excuse for sin, either great or little. Christ has been provided as the tempted one's refuge. “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Temptation is not sin, and is no indication that God is displeased with us. The Lord suffers us to be tempted, but he measures every temptation, and apportions it according to our power to resist and overcome evil. It is in time of trial and temptation that we are enabled to measure the degree of our faith and trust in God, and to estimate the stability of our Christian character. If we are easily jostled and overcome, we should be alarmed; for our strength is small. Let us consider the words of comfort that have been left on record for our instruction: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God has apportioned the temptation in proportion to the strength he can supply, and he never permits us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist or to endure. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Through prayer and the word of God we shall be enabled to overcome temptation.

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