I have come that men may have life, and may have it in
all its fullness (John 10:10, N.E.B.).
WITH THESE words Christ proclaimed His purpose in
coming to the earthóto give life. It was His own life that He brought
and that He was to give to men.
I am . . . the life (John 14:6).
I am that bread of life. . . . I am the living
bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he
shall live for ever (chap. 6:48, 51).
The witness is this: that God has given us eternal
life, and that this life is found in his Son. He who possesses the Son
has life indeed; he who does not possess the Son of God has not that
life (1 John 5:11, 12, N.E.B.).
Christ, who is our life . . . (Cot. 3:4).
But God, rich in mercy, for the great love he bore
us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins
(Eph. 2:5, N.E.B.).
Man does not have life in himself. Only God has life:
inherent, independent, inexhaustible, immortal. Manís life is derived,
dependent, limited, mortal. When God first put man and woman on this
planet He gave them life. Life flowed from God to man as long as man
remained perfect. Manís life continued by virtue of his union with God.
When Adam and Eve sinned this relationship was broken.
Life from God was withdrawn. Physically they began to die. Spiritually,
they were cut off from God. By their own choice of a life independent of
God, they were banished from His presence. They were now alive to sinning,
but dead to the things of Godóspiritually dead. All of manís faculties
now functioned on the natural, carnal level, outside of a right
relationship with God. Everyone since then has experienced this wrong
relationship. Nowhere is manís life in its natural state seen to be in a
right state of dependence on God. So the Bible speaks of the natural man
as being dead in sin.
Time was when you were dead in your sins, . ;when
you followed the evil ways of this present age, when you obeyed the
commander of the spiritual powers of the air, the spirit now at work
among Godís rebel subjects. . . . But God, rich in mercy, for the
great love he bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we
were dead in our sins. And in union with Christ Jesus he raised us up
and enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:1, 3-6, N.E.B.).
Men still believe Satanís lie that men can have life
in themselves. Consequently, they feel selfsufficient and in no need of
new life from God.
Good morality in man does not give man a title to
anything more than being a good moral man. But this is not spirituality.
Culture and education never in themselves enable a man to see more than
the kingdom of man. Cultivation of the natural man usually ends in more
self-exaltation and pride. There is no entrance as a natural man into Godís
Manís spiritual and eternal destiny lies with God who
alone has life. Most religions in the world express the same need and
desire: to pass beyond this brief mortal life that man now has, into a
life that is immortal. But only Christ makes this available to man. Apart
from Christ, manís life is permeated by sin, self-seeking, and death.
God did not make man to be that way. Christ came to change that, to give
new life, spiritual life. Christís work alone radically transforms human
nature. It involves the integration of the whole human personality with
Jesus Christ. All the impulses, instincts, desires, and urges throb with
the new life from Christ.
The Bible speaks of two Adams: the first Adam, God
created; the second Adam is Jesus Christ incarnate. From the first and the
second Adams, two kinds of life emerge: the natural and the spiritual.
Together they represent the entire human race. In Romans 5 Paul compares
the two kinds and the effects of each upon man. The first Adam was the
head and father of the human race. By his sin he involved all his
descendants in both physical and spiritual death. He lost life from God by
his alienation from God. Jesus Christ is called the second Adam because to
Him was entrusted the task of redeeming man from the first Adamís fall
and separation from God. As men were originally one in Adam, now they are
one in Christ.
The first Adam cannot give the life he no longer has.
Jesus Christ came to give back eternal life to man, obedience instead of
disobedience, justification in place of condemnation, righteousness in
place of unrighteousness. Thus Christ belongs to the entire human family.
He communicates spiritual life to all who receive Him by faith. "The
last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).
In his sinful state, man does not exercise his
faculties in accordance with the will of God. Self-will prevails. Manís
sinfulness does not consist in the lack of capacities, but the perversion
of them owing to his separation from God. The unconverted man is morally
and spiritually unable to do what God requires of him.
"A natural Christian!" This deceptive
idea has served many as a garment of self-righteousness, and has led
many to a supposed hope in Christ, who had no experimental knowledge
of Him, of His experience, His trials, His life of self-denial and
self-sacrifice. Their righteousness which they count upon so much is
only as filthy rags.
Life has met with a changeóa change so marked as
to be represented by death. From living, active life, to death! What a
striking figure! None need be deceived here. If this transformation
has not been experienced by you, rest not. Seek the Lord with all your
hearts. Make this the all-important business of your lives.óTestimonies,
vol. 2, pp. 177-179.
The New Birth
"In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless a
man has been born over again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"But how is it possible," said Nicodemus, "for a man to
be born when he is old? Can he enter his motherís womb a second time
and be born?" Jesus answered, "In truth I tell you, no one can
enter the kingdom of God without being born from water and spirit. Flesh
can give birth only to flesh; it is spirit that gives birth to spirit.
You ought not to be astonished, then, when I tell you that you must be
born again" (John 3:3-6, N.E.B.).
This statement goes right to the heart of manís
problem. To bring about the spiritual change from death to life is spoken
of as being born again. Nicodemus understood the immense difficulty of
spiritual regeneration. He knew that some real change was necessary, that
his own Jewish religion, as popularly understood, had failed to restore
all men to life with God.
What does the believer most need to receive from Jesus
Christ? Christ answered this in His discussion with Nicodemus. First, He
said, man is born of the flesh. That is, the sinner is tied to sin. He
walks in the desires and under the power of his fallen nature. Second,
this "fleshly" nature can produce only after its kind. Third,
spiritual life in man can be created only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason Christ became incarnate. For this reason the Holy Spirit
was sent to communicate spiritual life. The Scripture describes this
experience as being born from above (see John 3:31), indicating
supernatural life. "If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation (2
Cor. 5:17, R.S.V.).
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creation (Gal. 6:15, R.S.V.).
To arouse those spiritually dead, to create new
tastes, new motives, requires as great an outlay of power as to raise
one from physical death.óELLEN G. WHITE in Review and
Herald, March 12, 1901.
The gift of eternal life is the Christianís starting
point. Each manís natural life has a beginning. So has the spiritual
life, which is not fallen human nature renovated, but a new life from
heavenó"the new man, which after God is created in righteousness
and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24).
Regeneration and conversion are other words used to
describe the new birth. It has been argued that there is a difference
between regeneration and conversion: the first being the divine side of
the new birth; the second, the human side. From the human side conversion
is manís turning from sin to God. "Repent . . . and be
converted" (Acts 3:19). "When thou art converted, strengthen thy
brethren," Christ said to Peter (Luke 22:32).
The Greek word for conversion is strepho. It is
used because the subject of conversion is always man. The word is also
used of the believerís turning to God. "Ye turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9). For simplicity we
shall use the terms the new birth, conversion, and regeneration synonymously.
Men need more than a perfect example; they need life,
supernatural life. Therein lies the great secret of the Christian life.
Life from God awakens and gives new spiritual capacity to every part of
man. The whole man, body, soul, and spirit, is brought under the guidance
and control of the Holy Spirit. There is a spiritual resurrection from the
dead. The Christian is united with God.
God does not give us supernatural life to possess on
our own. He does not make man immortal. Spiritual life is not given to us
except as we remain in Christ. The gift of new life is communicated with
the Son and never apart from Him.
I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never
perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28).
Salvation is participation in the life of Christ.
Perdition is exclusion from that life. The life of Christ and of the Holy
Spirit is real and present in us as long as we maintain and cherish this
life through faith. Always it is true that in ourselves we are nothing and
Godís redemption in Christ stands in contrast with
all human methods of improvement and self-development. Human theories,
ideas, rules, and ethical principles are initiated and presented to the
natural man. Man hopes that by a clear understanding and acceptance of
these principles men may be motivated to live accordingly. But human
"progress" leaves man himself as the center of life. He is still
egotistic, regardless of his refinements and cultural developments.
Here lies the difference between secular and Christian
education, between human progress and divine salvation. The one comes by
natural methods, human. promotion and communication. The second comes by
divine intervention. One of lifeís great problems is getting man to see
the bankruptcy of all purely human systems and the urgent need of an
entirely new life from God. The last thing man gives up is trust in
The New Testament records five individual instances of
conversion. The Ethiopian eunuch questioned Philip about the passage the
eunuch had been reading in Isaiah 53 concerning the Messiah, and he was
converted (see Acts 8:26-39). Cornelius, the Roman centurion, asked the
angel for an explanation of the vision that God gave him. Peter came and
led him, along with the members of his household, to accept Jesus Christ
(see chap. 10:24-48).
Paul encountered the Lord directly on the Damascus road
(see chap. 9). The Lord opened the heart of Lydia as Paul preached the
gospel. She was a seller of purple cloth in the city of Thyatira (see
chap. 16:13-15). The jailer in Philippi was confronted with the Lordís
miraculous deliverance of Paul and Silas from prison. Paul told him of
Christ. He believed, along with all his family, and was baptized (see
verses 25-33). All of these individuals were directly or indirectly
confronted with the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Paulís conversion is the most spectacular, and
pictures for us the nature of the change that takes place when one is born
of the Holy Spirit. Up to this time Paul had opposed Jesus Christ. Paul
was an orthodox Pharisee, committed entirely to the law and what it stood
for. He had not the slightest leaning toward Christianity. He was
diametrically opposed to Jesus Christ and His teachings. But the hand of
God reached out and arrested him. A great miracle took place in his life.
The veil dropped from his face when he met Christ. He surrendered to the
risen Lord. Paul the rebel became the most earnest and devoted Christian
in the Christian era. From that time on the living Christ became the
center of all Paulís thinking, working, and living.
What Is the New Birth?
What is the new birth? What really happens? Can we know
what actually takes place? The new birth is a miracle by the power of the
Holy Spirit. Therefore it is not possible to analyze all that is involved
and how it is brought about. We do not know just how the Spirit works or
the degree of the Spiritís control of the Christian convert.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it
goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
Ellen White makes some keen observations relative to
the new birth. She draws analogies from life in nature and compares it
with the "germination of the good seed. . . . So from natural life,
illustrations are drawn, to help us better to understand the mysterious
truths of spiritual life."óSteps to Christ, p. 67.
The germination of the seed represents the
beginning of spiritual lifeóEducation, p. 105.
In dwelling upon the laws of matter and the laws of
nature, many lose sight of, if they do not deny, the continual and
direct agency of God. They convey the idea that nature acts
independently of God, having in and of itself its own limits and its
own powers wherewith to work. . . . This is false science.... It is
not by an original power inherent in nature that year by year the
earth yields its bounties and continues its march around the sun. The
hand of infinite power is perpetually at work guiding this planet. It
is Godís power momentarily exercised that keeps it in position in
its rotation.óTestimonies, vol. 8, pp. 259,
The same principle holds true in the spiritual life.
Life in the physical world and in nature is dependent upon a direct
connection with God, who continually exercises His power and energy. So it
is in the spiritual life. However, we must not interpret this analogy to
mean that God operates mechanically or that His action is impersonal. just
the opposite is true.
What is significant is that not only physical life but
spiritual life is dependent upon Godís continued action. A bond of union
is created between the human and the divine. Man is restored to a vital
relationship with God, which makes fellowship between God and man
possible. The regenerative communication of the power of Christ occurs in
a vital personal relationship with Christ. Jesus teaches this when He
"Dwell in me, as I in you. No branch can bear
fruit by itself, but only if it remains united with the vine; no more
can you bear fruit, unless you remain united with me. I am the vine,
and you the branches. He who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears
much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. He who does not
dwell in me is thrown away like a withered branch" (John 15:4-6,
The Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the only
begotten Son of God, binds the human agent, body, soul, and spirit, to
the perfect divine-human nature of Christ. This union is represented
by the union of the vine and the branches. Finite man is united to the
manhood of Christ. . . . We are made one with God in ChristóELLEN
WHITE, in Review and Herald, April 5, 1906.
Your birth, your reputation, your wealth, your
talents, your virtues, your piety, your philanthropy, or anything else
in you or connected with you, will not form a bond of union between
your soul and Christ.ó Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 48,
These statements are significant in an understanding of
the experience of conversion. When a man is born again, a personal union
is formed, as it is in the marriage relationship. Christ unites the
believer with Himself by the Holy Spirit. Goodspeed puts it this way in
his translation: "We shall be saved through sharing in his life"
(Rom. 5:10). This union begins at the new birth. There is a divine
presence and power available for the believeróthe very life of Jesus
Christ. The believer must be linked up with God.
This can be illustrated by the operation of electrical
appliances. Plugged into the source of electricity, they function as they
are intended to do. Unplugged, they are useless. So it is with the
Christian. If we are detached or separated in any way from Christ, we are
spiritually void and lifeless. United to Christ by the Spirit, we function
as God intended us to do. Therefore we must abide in Christ. This miracle
of regeneration reverses in part the original break with God brought about
by sin. With the new birth we are once again united with God. We live
within the life of the Holy Spirit. The agency and presence of the Holy
Spirit are indispensable. Says the apostle Paul, "No man can say that
Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 12:3).
Oneness With Jesus Christ
And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them;
that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that
thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John
The concern of our Lord just prior to His crucifixion
was for the restoration of the believers to oneness and union with Himself
and with His Father. The consciousness of personal oneness with God in
Christ is the distinctive feature of the Christian religion. "In
Christ Jesus" speaks of a living relation to a living Person, as
opposed to the adoption of opinions and conformity to rules.
A man apart from Christ is not a Christianó he can do
nothing. To be in Christ or in the Spirit means that the whole man is on
the side of Christ, living under the control and direction of the Holy
Spirit. This oneness is as real and intimate as the union of husband and
wife. We cannot live the Christian life. Only Christ can do that in us. We
cannot bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. Only the Spiritís
presence and control can do that. The supreme offense to Christ and to the
Holy Spirit that leads to the unpardonable sin is to affirm in deed and
word that we do not belong to God and that we find nothing in God that
Oneness with Christ means that in Him we have found
lifeís true meaning. We really want Him to have us. We donít want more
rules, more works, more self-concentrationóeven in our religion. It is
not ecstasy we seek, or the sensational. We desire to be possessed by
Christ. Under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit we relinquish
ourselves to Christ. We have discovered that He is the kind of Being with
whom we want to identify.
The Holy Spirit does not become incarnate in the
believer. He ever remains personally distinct from ourselves. He is never
fused or amalgamated with our spirit. He never takes over our human
personality. Surrender to the Spiritís leading means control by the
Spirit, but not replacement. He never supersedes human responsibility. He
never weans the mind from the objective truth of the Bible and replaces
the individual intelligent response of man with some form of mysticism or
magic. He arouses the mind, inspires the desires and affections, until the
Word of God lives and imparts life.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel
of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the
seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and
in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his
season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall
prosper (Ps. 1:1-3).
The Holy Spirit works in cooperation with the
faculties, through the mind of man. He does not overwhelm the believer. He
empowers and heightens every faculty and ability that man has so that life
is filled with all the fruits of the Spirit. Never before was life so
wonderful. The Spirit does not abrogate or absorb manís individuality,
but strengthens, purifies, renews, frees, enlightens it. This is in direct
contrast with evil spirits who throw their victims into ungovernable
ecstasies, casting them to the floor, taking away their self-control.
The Holy Spirit leaves the Christian with a clear mind.
He provides increased spiritual insight, vitality, and power. Man is
allowed the full use of his normal faculties, but is free from the
degrading, enslaving power of sin and egoism. The mind, heart, and life
are all alive to Christ and to the truth of His Word. The born-again
Christian bears witness to all that Christ is and to all that He taught.
The Spirit works upon human hearts through the Word of
God. He does not inscribe upon our hearts and lives things not taught in
Scripture. He writes the faithfulness, the love, the purity, the wisdom,
and the mercy of God, until we are caught and captivated by the beauty of
When we have done our best to capture the meaning of
the new birth and the oneness we have with Christ, we sense that unless
the Holy Spirit moves toward us through the Word of God, nothing really
happens. Without the Holy Spirit truth is likely to appear only as
definitions and cold ideas. The faculties of the unconverted man are
spiritually lifeless and averse to the things of God. Nothing but the
influence and power of the Spirit can change this. We should despair of
eternal life and living truth, unless the power of the Spirit is exerted
to this endóthe submission to Christ as man s rightful Sovereign and
Henceforth through the Spirit, Christ was to abide
continually in the hearts of His children. Their union with Him was
closer than when He was personally with themóSteps to Christ,
Satan will constantly present allurements to induce
us to break this tie,óto choose to separate ourselves from Christ.
Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may
entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do thisóPage
Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul
with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our
life, purity and holiness flow back to God.ó Page 98.
We may keep so near to God that in every unexpected
trial our thoughts will turn to Him as naturally as the flower turns
to the sunóPages 99, 100.
How Is a Man Born Again?
What is the response required of man in order to
experience the new birth and new life in Christ? The characteristic of the
natural man is his inclination to exercise self-will and stand independent
against God. The great enemy, then, is self-will, with all its attendant
forms: self-love, self-exaltation, self-sufficiency. With the gift of
salvation offered from our Lord, we are confronted with the quality and
nature of manís response and responsibility.
To receive this gift without working for it seems
incredibly simple. But is it that simple? Surrender and commitment often
involve a struggle. Furthermore, the way we understand this offer depends
on how we interpret Christís invitation to follow Him.
In Mark 10:17-30 and Acts 16:27-34 are presented two
men: one a Jew, the rich young ruler; and the other a Gentile, the jailer
at Philippi. The young Jew apparently possesses great moral integrity. He
has been educated in the Jewish faith to great purpose. He is no
delinquent, no carouser, no prodigal son. He confidently affirms that he
has kept the commandments from his youth up. The other man, older, no
doubt, probably has little or no religious training. Both men ask the same
question: What must I do to be saved? What must I do to inherit eternal
For the Gentile, Paul gives a very simple answer. He
says that what you have to do to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ. That same night the jailer gives his heart to Christ and is
baptized. It is as simple as that. For the young Jew, Christís answer
appears more complicated and difficult. He said that you must keep the
commandments. The Jew affirms he has met those requirements. Then Jesus
said that you must sell all that you have and give to the poor. This
seemed to the rich man an insurmountable obstacle to his being converted
to Christ. It proved to be just that.
Why did not Jesus give the same answer that Paul gave:
"Just believe in Me and you will be saved"? The instructions to
the jailer seem extremely simple and easy. No extended questions or
studies. The instructions to the Jew were incredibly difficult. Now
suppose you choose to attend two different churches and ask this same
question: What must I do to be saved? The one gives you a very simple
answer: "Just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." The other
church says: "You must keep the commandments, and you must sell all
your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor." If you could be
saved in either of these churches, which church would you join?
Why is the jailer so easily saved and the moral young
Jew so easily lost? Is Paul making salvation easy, while Christ is making
it difficult? Is not part of the good news of the gospel that Godís
redemptive love and salvation can be had for the taking? Is salvation not
a gift freely offered to all who will reach out and accept it? Is not
regeneration as simple as accepting Jesus invitation, "Come unto me,
all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"
Do we not proclaim the clear, simple gospel to all the
world in order to secure a verdict for Jesus Christ? Is it not as simple
as that, especially in a world where most people have hardly learned to
read? Strangely enough, it is not simple at all. To get people to make the
right response and place themselves entirely on the side of Christ and be
converted can be the most difficult thing imaginable.
Christ made it clear that if any man chose to become
His disciple he must be prepared to make a total surrender. He must take
the kingdom of God seriously, not casually. He must accept the unqualified
rule of God over his life.
A certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I
will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him,
The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son
of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples
said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But
Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by
the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is
that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat
manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for
ever... . Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this,
said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? . . . From that time
many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John
6:57, 58, 60, 66).
We must be on guard against making easy decisions. The
difference between the Jew and the Gentile jailer was not that God was
laying down a different set of requirements. The jailer was prepared to
make the kind of surrender and commitment that accepted the Lordship of
Christ in his life. The Jew was not.
Satan does not want anyone to see the necessity of
an entire surrender to God. When the soul fails to make this
surrender, sin is not forsaken; the appetites and passions are
striving for the mastery; temptations confuse the conscience, so that true
conversion does not take place.óTestimonies~ vol. 6,
p. 92. Emphasis supplied.
There is in reality no such thing as an incomplete
surrender or partial conversion. We are either surrendered as completely
as we know how, or we are not. The Christian life does not consist in only
giving up a few bad habits. It is not only setting up a moral rule and
keeping to it. It involves the dedication of our lives to Christ, say ing
"Yes" to Him on everything.
Christians are sometimes more committed to a given
moral standard than to Jesus. Here conformity to the law provides man with
a measure of personal achievement. This gives man something to be proud
of, something to stand on in the presence of God. Here man can still claim
a measure of independence from God. This was the primal sin of Adam and
Eve. To the degree that we depend upon ourselves and on our
accomplishments, to that degree we have fallen away from Christ.
To have the religion of Christ means that you have
absolutely surrendered your all to God, and consented to the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. . . . The surrender of all our powers to God
greatly simplifies the problem of life. It weakens and cuts short a
thousand struggles with the passions of the natural heart.óMessages
to Young People, p. 30.
Surrender requires the reign of Christ and not the
reign of sin.
Conversion is not a half-and-half work, a serving
God and Mammon, but an entire turning to God.ó ELLEN G. WHITE, in
Review and Herald, Feb. 19, 1901.
Christ demands undivided heart-service, the entire
use of mind, soul, heart, and strength.óELLEN G. WHITE, in Review
and Herald, July 25, 1899.
The whole heart must be yielded to God, or the
change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to
His likeness. . . . God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since
this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole
nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to HimóSteps to Christ,
To follow Christ requires wholehearted conversion
at the start, and a repetition of this conversion every day.óThe
SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Numbers
13:30, p. 1113.
The peril is that the dimension of Christian commitment
may be lost in a demand for nothing more than moderate achievement on the
purely ethical and moral level. The explicit concern of Christ was that He
should rule in the Christianís life. This is where "straight is the
gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life" (Matt. 7:14).
Those who desire an easygoing Christianity should realize that a man
cannot be a Christian by that kind of response. When Christ asks a man to
follow Him, He is calling for nothing less than complete commitment. This
can involve conflict and struggle with self-will. The self-willed life
does not give up easily.
Self is the enemy we most need to fear. No form of
vice has a more baleful effect upon the character than has human
passion not under the control of the Holy Spirit. No other victory we
can gain will be so precious as the victory over self .óThe Ministry
of Healing, p. 485.
This union costs us something. It is a relation 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 inward
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, they try to attach
themselves to Christ without first detaching themselves from their
cherished idols.óELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald,
Dec. 13, 1887.
The less you cherish self, the more distinct and
full will be your comprehension of the excellence of your Saviour.ó The
Desire of Ages, p. 493.
Godís method of communicating life and spiritual
health to the Christian is not like that of the physician. The latter
seeks to effect such a cure that the patient does not need to return for
further treatment. Godís method seeks permanently to bind the repentant
believing sinner to Himself forever.
Jesus is our example. He Himself shows us the way. On
earth He lived His life totally surrendered to the Father. He lived by
faith. More than once He said of Himself:
I can of mine own self do nothing.., because I seek
not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. ...
The Son can do nothing of himself (John 5:30, 19).
Jesus Christ came to establish the kingdom of God, not
upon human obedience to a moral code, human independence, or by the
brilliance of menís wisdom and organization. The kingdom of God is
rooted and grounded upon the truth that human nature must itself be
radically changed, and its whole course of self-will and independence from
God be reversed. The way Christ lived in submission to the Fatherís will
and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, shows the believer how to live in
submission to Christ. Christ was the one life lived on earth in which the
will of God alone was obeyed from the beginning to the end.
Let your bearing towards one another arise out of
your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature was his from the
first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God, but made
himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave. Bearing the human
likeness, revealed in human shape, he humbled himself, and in
obedience accepted even deathódeath on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8, N.E.B.).
Dependence on His Father and the surrender of His own
will to live by the will of the Father was the inner principle and
motivation of Christís entire life on earth. "Lo, I come to do thy
will, 0 God" (Heb. 10:7). Here is human nature as God intended it.
"For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of
him that sent me" (John 6:38). This does not mean that Christ did not
make His own choices. Every step He took was based on His own voluntary
decision. But in the use of His will, He chose to make Godís will His
own. When Christ healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, He was
challenged by the Pharisees who sought to kill Him. In reply Jesus said:
The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he
seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth
the Son likewise (John 5:19).
In Gethsemane we behold Him choosing only the Fatherís
will and not His own.
My soul is exceeding sorrowtul, even unto death.
... 0 my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:
nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matt. 26:38, 39).
Our living by Jesus Christ means the end of self-will,
the end of life apart from God. The one plague spot in our lives, the one
infection men have, is self-centeredness. At the new birth we shift our
center to Christ.
There was this great consciousness of God in the life
of Jesus. This intimate access to His Father was always marked by an
attitude of dependence and submission to the will of God. Never by His own
inherent power did Jesus perform any of His miracles. He denied Himself
the use of His own divine power. He was perfect God and perfect man. Did
not the Father give all power into His hands (see John 13:3; Matt. 28:18)?
Of all men born into this world, is He not the one man who could truly
have lived by His own power and depended on Himself? Yet He chose to live
by faith alone.
Could He not have turned the stones into bread when
tempted in the wilderness? Could He not have come down from the cross when
challenged to do so? In the wilderness, Satan sought to get Christ to
resort to the use of His own power and perform a miracle on His own
behalf. In every case Jesus refused to have the question referred to
Himself. On every point He depended upon the will and the power of God. He
surrendered Himself completely to the guidance and control of the Holy
Spirit, even though this meant fasting for forty days and nights.
Christís temptations invariably were directed against
trust in His Father. "If You are the Son of God," says Satan,
"Your heavenly Father would provide for all Your physical needs. No
earthly father would see his child go hungry for this length of time. If
You are the Son of God, then exercise divine power on Your own
But the Spirit had led Jesus into the wilderness to be
tempted of the devil (see Matt. 4:1-11). Jesus must not take Himself out
of His Fatherís hands and from the control of the Spirit even though it
means starving for physical sustenance. There can be no leading or action
except by the Holy Spirit. The plan of salvation depended entirely upon
Christís living by His Father and not by Himself, even though He was the
Son of God and had the power of life within Himself. His whole life was
organized around trust in the Father.
Men are often inclined to believe that for Christ to be
tempted in all points like as we are (see Heb. 4:15), He must have had a
sinful nature as we do. But this fails to understand the basic issue of
temptation, to live by oneself rather than to live entirely by faith in
God. Jesus Christ was sinless, free constitutionally from every taint of
sin and defilement, and in that sense holy, harmless, undefiled,
"separate from sinners" (chap. 7:26). This created for Him a far
greater difficulty in living by His Father.
If we found ourselves starving in some desert place, it
would be no temptation to depend on ourselves, to turn stones into bread,
because we could not do it. It would be no temptation to come down from a
cross, for we have no power to do it. But Christ could have done it.
Temptations of this kind are in proportion to a manís power to change
the situation. But to trust in His Father, to live by the guidance of the
Spirit even though this meant going hungry, rejected and despised of men,
nailed to a tree when He could Himself come downóthat is what it meant
for Christ to live by faith and by His Father.
How does a man "make Himself of no
reputation" and still retain his sense of personal significance and
self-worth? Is not Jesus of equal significance with the Father in heaven
and on earth? Yet He needed not to grasp at anything for personal status
and significance. He could let all things go.
Most of us have a reputation to make and to keep. The
great illness of man is his anxiety over himself, always trying to grasp
after something that will give him a standing. Worldly speaking, the
significant man is he who is able to acquire an abundance of things,
education, position, prosperity, popularity, and power. Yet what he grasps
after is quite meaningless. As Christians, how do we gain our sense of
personal significance? How do we preserve our sense of self-worth? Are we
motivated by self-concern? Are our lives marked by anxiety because other
people are a threat to us? This anxiety and self-concern is the cause of
much that is unredemptive in our lives.
The Christian is called to identify himself with
Christ. Jesus Christ is the representative Man, the ideal Man, in order
that death to self-will might be realized in those for whom He died. The
cross for us requires our total surrender, a continued confession of our
ability to save ourselves and other people. "The kingdom of God
cometh not with observation" (Luke 17:20). This is a day of outward
observation, of human things and methods. There is always the temptation
to search for them and let them absorb our attention and divert our minds
from God. "Cease ye from man," God says (Isa. 2:22).
Jesus is the supreme witness to what commitment to the
will of God means. His relation to His heavenly Father in trust and daily
surrender must be our example. Christ is an utter stranger to the modern
spirit that grasps after self-esteem, status, reputation, and power. Our
rejection of self-will and self-exaltation, our complete surrender to God,
will lead us through the darkness and temptations of these final days to
lifeís consummation and eternal life with Christ.