Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

November 5, 1896

Be Ye Therefore Perfect

By Mrs. E. G. White

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him.”

There is opened before all Christians a path of continual advancement. They have an object to reach, a standard to gain, which includes everything good, and pure, and noble, and elevating; and they should make constant progress toward perfection of character. The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. The religion of Jesus Christ never degrades the receiver, never makes him coarse or rough, discourteous or self-important, passionate or hard-hearted. On the contrary, it refines the taste, sanctifies the judgment, and softens the heart. It purifies and elevates the thoughts, bringing them into captivity to Christ.

The living God has given us in his law a transcript of his character, and this law he calls upon us to obey, saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” As God is perfect in his high sphere of action, so man may be perfect in his human sphere.

The case of Daniel may be studied with profit by all who desire perfection of character. He and his companions were sincere, faithful Christians. To them the will of God was the supreme law of life. They knew that in order to glorify God all their faculties must be developed, and they sought to gain knowledge, that they might perfect a Christian character, and stand in that heathen nation as fitting representatives of the true religion. In order to preserve health, they resolved to avoid the luxuries of the king's table, they refused to partake of any stimulating drink, but practiced strict temperance in all things, that they might not enfeeble brain or muscle. They exerted all their powers to work out their own salvation, and God worked in them to will and to do of his good pleasure. Under his training, their faculties were able to do the highest service for him; and of them it is written: “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

When Nebuchadnezzar's golden image was set up on the plains of Dura, Daniel's three companions were commanded to fall down and worship it; but their principles forbade them to pay homage to the idol, for it was a rival to the God of heaven. They knew that they owed every faculty they possessed to God, and while their hearts were full of generous sympathy toward all men, they had a lofty aspiration to prove themselves entirely loyal to their God.

These faithful witnesses were cast into the fire for refusing to obey the command of the king, but God manifested his power for the deliverance of his servants. One like unto the Son of man walked with them in the midst of the flame, and when they were brought forth, not even the smell of fire had passed upon them. “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him.” “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.”

Thus these three Hebrew youth, imbued with the Holy Spirit, declared to the whole nation their faith that he whom they worshiped was the only true and living God. This demonstration of their faith was the most eloquent presentation of their principles. In order to impress others with the power and greatness of the living God, his servants must reveal their own reverence for him, making it manifest that he is the only object of their honor and worship, and that no consideration, not even the preservation of life itself, can induce them to make the least concession to idolatry.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and all who live in communion with their Creator, will have an understanding of his design in their creation, and a sense of their own obligation to employ their faculties to the very best purpose. They will seek neither to glorify nor to depreciate themselves, but they will glorify God; for the man who consents to be molded and fashioned after the divine similitude, is the noblest specimen of the work of God.

The Divine Agent

But without the divine working, man can do nothing toward the perfection of his character. God calls every man to repentance; yet man can not even repent unless the Holy Spirit works upon his heart. A principle of divine origin must pervade his conduct, and bind him to God. But the Lord wants no man to wait until he thinks he has repented, before he turns his steps toward Jesus. The Saviour is continually drawing men to repentance; they need only to submit to be drawn, and their hearts will be melted and subdued, fit temples for the indwelling of Christ.

The Holy Spirit comes to convince of sin, and to soften hearts hardened by estrangement from God. It comes to reveal the love wherewith God loves us, and the possibilities that open before every believing child of God. But are not some afraid of this heavenly guest? At times it comes with an all-pervading influence, but is it received? Do those to whom it comes bow before God with contrite hearts, pleading that they may be prepared to receive the blessings he is presenting to them? I entreat of all to receive this heavenly visitant as an abiding guest; for it will guide you into all truth, and give you joy and peace in the Lord.

God calls upon all men to avail themselves of the blessings he has set before them, that they may co-operate with him in carrying forward the great work of redemption. He has given his Holy Spirit as a power sufficient to overcome all man's hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong. By yielding his capabilities to the control of this Spirit, man will be impressed with God's perfect character, and will become an instrument through which he can reveal his mercy, his goodness, and his love.

The Culture of the Mind

In the attainment of a perfect Christian character, the culture of the intellect is necessary, in order that we may understand the revelation of the will of God to us. This can not be neglected by those who are obedient to God's commandments. In our intellectual faculties, we possess God's endowment. These faculties were not given us for the service of self, but for the service of God; and they are to be treated as a higher power, to rule the things of the body. They are derived from God, not self-created, and should be consecrated to his work.

The knowledge which will give the highest culture, is obtained from God's word. The words of revelation, carefully studied, strengthen the intellect as well as the heart. The experimental knowledge of true godliness, found in daily consecration and service for God, gives true culture of the mind, soul, and body. This consecration of our powers prevents self-exaltation; and the impartation of divine power honors our sincere striving after wisdom in order that we may know how to use our faculties to honor God and to bless our fellow men.

This is the will of God concerning every human being, even your sanctification. In urging our way heavenward, every faculty must be kept in the most perfect condition, in order that it may do the most faithful service. The powers with which God has endowed man are to be put to the test. That which God requires of those whom he has created and redeemed, is summed up in the words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, to will, and to do of his good pleasure.”

Co-operating with God

Man is allotted a part in the great struggle for everlasting life. He must respond to the working of the Holy Spirit. It will require a struggle to break through the powers of darkness, but the Spirit that works in him can and will accomplish this. Man is no passive instrument, to be saved in indolence. He is called upon to strain every muscle in the struggle for immortality, yet it is God that supplies the efficiency. No human being can be saved in indolence.

Christ assumed human nature, to demonstrate to the fallen world, to Satan and his synagogue, to the universe of heaven, and to the worlds unfallen, that human nature, united to his divine nature, could become entirely obedient to the law of God, that his followers by their love and unity would give evidence that the power of redemption is sufficient to enable man to overcome. And he rejoices to think that his prayer that his followers might be sanctified through the truth, will be answered; they will be molded by the transforming influence of his grace into a character after the divine similitude. All who would possess a perfect Christian character must wear the yoke of Christ. If they would sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, they must learn of him while on this earth. Christ says to all such: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

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