You and I had nothing to say about our coming into this world; but how and where we spend eternity is entirely in our hands, and depends wholly upon our own choice.
If you choose to spend eternity in God's everlasting kingdom, then you must bring your life into harmony with God's ways, with His ideals and standards, with His laws and patterns of living. For He will not change His kingdom to suit your convenience or to conform to your ideas. His is a kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy. If you want to live in God's kingdom, you must be righteous, at peace with God and man, and full of joy.
The prophet Isaiah states the case very clearly and leaves none in doubt regarding who shall make the changes. He says:
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts . For my thoughts are
not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:6-9).
Such is the difference between God's eternal kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. Here on this earth man's ideas and ways prevail, but over there God's thoughts and standards hold absolute sway. If you do not like them, then you will not be there; for God does not want you in His everlasting kingdom unless you want to be there and are willing to conform your life in every detail to His ways and wishes, to His pattern of righteousness and noble living.
That is it, as far as His kingdom is concerned, and He says in effect, Take it or leave it. There will be no compulsion, no coercion, no undue persuasion. There will be no more compromising or coddling. It is this, or else. God is through with sin and sinners. He has set a day when sin will be eradicated and destroyed wherever it may be found. God knows the kind of people He wants with Him throughout eternity in His kingdom of peace and joy where no more sin, sickness, or sorrow will be found.
As God looks down upon this world of ours He does not see thirteen great religions, or faiths by which men live. He does not even see one of themChristianitydivided as it is into 258 sects, groups, or denominations. This division among the Christian people did not originate with God. It is not recognized in the
Scriptures. For, if we read correctly in the fourteenth psalm, we must come to the conclusion that in God's sight there are in the world but two great classes of people. Verse 2 says, The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
That gives us the basis upon which God divides the people of the world. He does not think of them as Christians, Hindus, Mohammedans, Confucianists, or Taoists. He does not think of them in terms of belonging to any one of the thirteen great religions that are extant in the world today. He thinks of them in terms of just two groupsthose who are seeking after Him and would understand Him, and those who are not interested in Him, not seeking after Him, and do not care to understand Him.
In the eleventh psalm, God has given us the names of these two groups:
The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: his eyelids try, the children of men (verse 4).
Now what does He find?
The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares [margin, quick burning coals], fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright (verses 5-7).
So in God's sight there are but two classes in the
world. And the division is made purely on the basis of relationship to God, willingness to know and accept Him, or determination to resist and reject Him.
That being true, we shall find these two classes of people in every country, every city, every town, every village, every street, and almost every home. There are no national boundaries. There are no geographical areas to which the one group is confined and not the other. The two groups are found everywhere. God intended Christians to be one united, happy body, living in peace with one another and at peace with all the world about them.
Now someone is sure to ask, Why, then, is Christianity divided into 258 sects, denominations, or groups of people?
That is a good question. When I talked to the Confucianists, the Buddhists, and the Taoists in China about Christianity, they would say, But we cannot understand. The Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Adventists, the Catholics, the Congregationalists, and all the restwhy so many groups?
On my first arrival in Hong Kong in the summer of 1917 I met that very problem. It was an exceedingly hot day, and I had nothing but the usual woolen suits worn in the northern part of the United Statesrather uncomfortable for hot weather. So the first thing I did was to go to a Chinese tailor. In our conversation the tailor said, I am a Christian, to which I replied, That is wonderful. Then he added, I am a Baptist.
Well, I said, that is fine. I have many very good Baptist friends. A few minutes later he added, I am also a Presbyterian. In my surprise I questioned, How is that? Why are you both Baptist and Presbyterian? He explained, Belong Baptist, one-piece chance go topside. Belong Presbyterian, two-piece chance go topside. You see, the Chinese are a very practical people.
Really, it is confusing, and we should ask ourselves, Why the divisions? I think the reason is given in 2 Timothy, the first chapter, verse 12:
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
The division among Christians did not originate with Christ. The difficulty is that we do not think of Christianity in terms of a person, or as the union with a person, but rather as a system of doctrines and teachings and beliefs subject to individual interpretation by people who have varying backgrounds and therefore different opinions.
Christianity is divided over the what and not the who. Christ is one, and Christianity has but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. But, somehow or other, Christians have gotten into difficulty, and we Seventh-day Adventist Christians are not entirely free from it. When we begin to discuss Christianity our minds seem to concentrate on
the what of it, and we say very little about the whothe Man Christ Jesus. The interpretation of the messages, the doctrines set forth in the Scriptures, as seen from varying viewpoints, opinions, and convictions, has resulted in the 258 sects of Christians:
But you say, Does that come in among Seventhday Adventists? Frankly we must admit, Yes, to some extent. There are now several reformed groups, most of them quite small, who call themselves Seventh-day Adventists. They have come into existence because some of us are forgetting the who of Christianity and arguing about the what.
These diversions from the Seventh-day Adventist Church have come largely from a difference of opinion regarding the Spirit of prophecy. There is no difference regarding the Sabbath. All these so-called reformed groups observe the seventh-day Sabbath. There is no difficulty over the second coming of Christ, or any of the other great fundamental Christian doctrines, but the difficulty comes over an interpretation and application of the teachings of the Spirit of prophecy, and that is one reason for my interest in trying to better understand the real significance and meaning of that gift in the church.
The difficulty grows out of a tendency on the part of some to take a sentence or a paragraph out of the writings and put their own interpretation, their own emphasis, and their own focus upon it, and thus they differ with their brethren. This to me is a very serious
thing. I am sure God never intended that the Spirit of prophecy should become a cause for division or stumbling. I believe that the Spirit of prophecy was given so that we might be more closely united, and yet we do find these words of caution:
Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority.Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 52.
Seventh-day Adventists are a people of the Word and, like Martin Luther, they take their stand on its sure foundation. The Bible, and the Bible only, is their rule of faith and practice. That is the source of the waymarks that have made us a people, and we shall be preserved as such only as we allow the light of God's Word to shine upon our pathway.
In addition to the Bible, Seventh-day Adventists as a people have an abundance of wonderfully fine materialsome fifteen or sixteen million words written by one who said she was the messenger of the Lord. We now have those messages in forty-five bound volumes and in several thousand articles that have appeared in the church papers over these many years.
God has given us an abundance of material that should throw light on our path and cause us to live better lives than any other Christian group in the world. Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. And so we should know our messages and be able to live by them.
Let me turn to a portion of Scripture that was one of Mrs. White's favorite passages, found in the sixth chapter of Hosea and the fifth verse. I am told that in her home, as the family of workers would gather together for morning or evening worship, some one of the secretaries would hand her the Bible, and she would often open to that passage and read verses one to five. We shall read only the fifth verse: Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets. The word hewed means to fashion, to mold, to cut, to carve. It simply means to shape, to make. The verse then means, Therefore have I made them (or molded them, or fashioned them) by the prophets.
This, then, is a brief, concise statement as to the business, or the purpose, of prophets. Through their messages God wants to make us what He would have us to be in order that we may have a place in His kingdom. In other words, God has in mind a pattern, a mold, a certain ideal for people He wants to have with Him throughout eternity. He wants you and me to know just what He has in mind, and then to allow ourselves to be made into that kind of people. It will be done by means of the messages of the prophets.
These messages can and will mold us and fashion us and make us into the kind of people God wants us to be.
True, we did not have any choice when we came into this world. We came, and what we are, we are; but not so in God's everlasting kingdom. You and I will be in that kingdom solely by our own choice, by our own individual decision. If I do not want to be there, God is not going to force me into His kingdom. If you do not choose to be molded after God's pattern, then you will not be there either. This very fact brings to each of us a most solemn responsibility, one which cannot be shifted to another, cannot be avoided or neglected without dire consequences to ourselves. You cannot choose for me, nor can I for you. It is purely a personal, individual matter. However, you can influence me in my choices, and counsel me regarding my course of action. You can point out to me the possible and probable results of my decisions.
In this way I do assume a certain amount of responsibility, for each of us is indeed a part and parcel of every man we meet. I am consciously or unconsciously bringing to bear upon you the impact of my words, my deeds, my habits of life. What you see in me and hear from me may cause you to make certain choices or decisions of vital import to your life here and the life to come.
For this reason I must be careful how I live, because of the influence my life can have upon you, and
you must be even more careful of what you accept or reject from my life.
No wonder the apostle Paul seriously counsels all of us, and primarily to youth he says,
Let no one think slightingly of you because you are a young man; but in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, be an example to your fellow Christians. Take pains with yourself and your teaching. Persevere in these things; for by doing this you will secure your own and your hearers' salvation (1 Tim. 4:12, 16, Weymouth).
I am indeed my brother's keeper, and to a greater extent than I may want to acknowledge, my words and works may have much to do with your life today and tomorrow. Thus one slip of my tongue, one shrug of my shoulders, one minute of self-indulgence, one unkind, unguarded, careless word of mine may cause you to start in a wrong direction, the end of which may be eternal death, complete annihilation.
My daily prayer must be, O God, help me from day to day to live in such a way that I may be the means of helping those about me in the upward path that leads to everlasting life in Thy eternal kingdom.
God has not left us to flounder in this hopeless, troubled world. Rather He has done everything possible to make sure that we may know the right and better way to live our lives and how best to influence others. To accomplish this God has given us His prophets to mold and help make us the kind of people that will reach God's standardthe standard that He has
set for His kingdom. Does that not put a great responsibility upon the prophets? The messages of the prophets must then be from God. When we think of it in that way, the prophets really become very important people. They transmit from God to the people of the world God's ideas, God's ideals, God's standards, God's pattern.
If I submit, if I subject myself, to that molding process, if I allow God to transform me by His messages, given through His prophets, then I have a hope of being in His kingdom. But if I refuse to submit, if I do not cooperate, if I say, Well, this is not important and that is not important; I will do this, but I will not do that, then God will not have me in His kingdom, because I would manifest that same spirit over there. It is just such a spirit that has been the cause of most of our trouble here in this world. It is, then, my individual idea in conflict with God's idea; and when I do not agree with God I have separated myself from Him.
Reconciliation, then, is the only means by which I can come back to Him, and the call to reconciliation is the work of the prophets. As a part of God's plan you and I have a work to do in calling the attention of the people everywhere to the messages of these prophets. This is our part in the work of reconciliation, and this accounts for the seriousness of the subject and the universal interest in it.