Losing sight of Jesus is always dangerous. This is what caused the great
apostasy in the early church. It will cause not only apostasy but unimaginable problems for us today. This is the progression of events that happened in the early church as recorded by Ellen White in The Acts of the Apostles:
1. The change from apostolic Christianity was gradual—many did not perceive that anything was happening.
2. The believers began to look for defects in others.
3. They discovered defects in others and began to dwell on these mistakes. (Notice they were not keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus. They had lost sight of the Savior and His love.)
4. They became more strict in regard to the forms of outward ceremonies. This was a first consequence of losing sight of Jesus.
5. They became more particular about the theory of the Christian faith. We hope to have more to say about this later. It became very important that everybody agree on theology and when they did not gigantic controversies erupted. Notice that this was one of the results of losing sight of Jesus.
6. They became less particular about the practice of the faith! In other words whether your theology was correct or not became of paramount importance but whether or not you lived out what you professed was not so important. When the vision is focused on Jesus your faith is part of your life and not just an intellectual assent to doctrine.
7. Since they were dwelling upon the mistakes of others they manifested great zeal to point out these mistakes of their fellow Christians. The root cause was that their vision was not on Jesus.
8. At the same time they came to overlook their own errors! (When we are constantly looking to Jesus, our own stark defects of character stand out in bold relief in comparison to the One we are concentrating on. (See Steps to Christ, 63–65.)
9. They lost the brotherly love which the early Christian church had. When we lose sight of Jesus and are studying each other’s character defects brotherly love disappears.
10. Worst of all they were unconscious of their loss! They had lost sight of Jesus and were about to go into the stygian darkness of the greatest apostasy in world history to that point and did not know it! (See The Acts of the Apostles, 548.)
Happiness and joy were going out of their lives, the love of God was shut out of their hearts (without the love of God in your heart you are lost no matter how much theology you know—Luke 10:25-28; I John 4:7, 8; John 17:2, 3) and they did not know the terrible dilemma they were in. Is there any chance that this could happen to God’s last-day remnant people? Is there any chance that we could go down a road that ends in utter darkness and gloom and not know where we are going being oblivious to our real condition? What is the solution?
"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross." Desire of Ages, 83.
The people of God who go through to glory will be the ones whose eyes are fixed on Jesus:
"In the time of the end the people of God will sigh and cry for the abominations done in the land. With tears they will warn the wicked of their danger in trampling upon the divine law, and with unutterable sorrow they will humble themselves before the Lord in penitence . . . But the anguish and humiliation of God’s people is unmistakable evidence that they are regaining the strength and nobility of character lost in consequence of sin. It is because they are drawing nearer to Christ, because their eyes are fixed on His perfect purity, that they discern so clearly the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Meekness and lowliness are the conditions of success and victory. A crown of glory awaits those who bow at the foot of the cross. Prophets and Kings, 590.