Revelation 12 tells us that Satan is very aware of the times in which we live. This has caused him to put forth more effort to deceive as many as possible, even the very elect of God. But Satan is not the only one at work today. God is at work today, also, because He knows, better than any one of us, the time in which we are living. God has a burden for humanity. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” that they might be saved. 11 Peter 3:9. The question I would ask you is this, Is God working in your life?
John 15 gives an illustration of Jesus’ relationship with His people—the abiding of the branch in the vine. He tells us there of the experience of either being fruit bearers or of not being fruit bearers. Someday He is going to have to burn those branches that have no fruit, but interestingly enough, those who are bringing forth fruit are going to receive the pruning knife, the close work of God upon their hearts. Is God working on your heart? It is a close work, and it will become so close that it will hurt. But do not draw back, because He that holds the knife loves you. (See Hebrews 12:6.)
Run the Race
Let us look at some thoughts from God’s Word that will lift us up, knowing and believing that God is and that He is all that He says He is. (See Hebrews 11:6.) Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” 1 Corinthians 9:24.
Did Paul realize that the Christian life was going to involve some effort, some discipline? Oh, yes, he did. He portrayed the Christian life as a race. Thinking of this takes me back to my high school days when I ran track. I ran in those races to be the first across the finish line. I never finished first, but I did finish second. Is second good enough in this race that Paul is talking about? No, we must be winners in this race, if we are to win the crown.
Essentials for Victory
There are definite attributes essential for victory, whether we are running a physical race in this world or running the race of salvation. One of the most important attributes is given in The Desire of Ages, 437: “It was not enough [essential but not enough] for the disciples of Jesus to be instructed as to the nature of His kingdom. What they needed was a change of heart that would bring them into harmony with its principles.” What principles? The principles of His kingdom. They needed a heart that would be in harmony with the nature of His kingdom.
You and I have been called in these last days to give a warning message to the world, very similar to that given in the days of Noah. We find that message in Revelation 14:6–12. It is a message full of truth, but there is more to truth than the truth! Jesus said to the woman at the well, “For the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” John 4:23. Friends, it matters how we tell the truth and in what spirit we tell it. There must be a balance between the truth and the spirit. For example, it is not enough to know merely that the Sabbath is Saturday in the weekly cycle and that it is God’s day. God wants us to worship on this day in the spirit of the Sabbath.
We often take for granted the knowledge that God has given us of Himself and of heaven through His Word. If I asked you the question, Who does God dwell with in heaven, and you did not know the answer, you would be very curious, would you not? You would want to know, especially if you had begun a race to eventually be in heaven. We have just noted that the truth is not enough; we must have the spirit of the truth.
By the Knife
There are 12 gates to God’s city. Someday we, by His grace, will have the privilege to walk through one of those 12 gates. Have we stopped to think about what is in that city and what kind of people we will have to be to walk through one of those 12 gates? God makes it very clear who will dwell with Him: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place], with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15. Do you know that God is in the business, in regard to salvation, of giving you and me a spirit like that of heaven? That spirit is a spirit of humility or humbleness of mind. But it does not come as a result of just naturally possessing it, because we come into this world totally on the opposite end of that spirit of humility and humbleness. It comes only by the knife, as we allow God’s Word to do His work upon us, to cut out the things that stand between Him and us.
For three and one-half years the disciples were constantly focused on one object. They had a preoccupation with the question of who would be first in Christ’s kingdom. “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1–3. The disciples wanted to know who would be the greatest, and if He gave them the answer, then that was the goal they would attempt to achieve, because they had decided to run the race. You will not be able to walk through one of those 12 gates into My Father’s house, Jesus told them, if you do not become as a little child in spirit. What does that involve? It involves change. Some of the changes we make in this world are totally painless. When my wife and I left Texas and moved to Kansas, it was not too much of a pain. We moved our bank account from one bank to another, and that was not too much of a pain. But there are some changes that involve pain, and the change identified in these verses is one of them.
Ellen White comments on this verse: “They did not understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom, and this ignorance was the apparent cause of their contention. But, the real cause lay deeper. By explaining the nature of the kingdom, Christ might for the time have quelled their strife; but this would not have touched the underlying cause. Even after they had received the fullest knowledge [let us not be deceived by a mere knowledge of truth; it will not save us], any question of precedence might have renewed the trouble.” The Desire of Ages, 435. The knife had to go farther in to cut out the obstacle that was in the way, so they would not only be able to perceive the true nature of His kingdom but also to receive the spirit by which they could enter that kingdom.
Most Precious Attribute
God lays out a principle for us in Proverbs 15:33: “The fear of the Lord [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.” This is one of the most precious attributes of God, and it becomes more precious as we understand the power and the wisdom that our God has. This humility is the most marvelous attribute in the character of God. Before honor is humility, and before the crown is the cross.
The apostle Paul has told us that the things God has left on record in His Word are for our learning.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4. We can have hope, because God is well able to take a proud heart and humble it, to give to us the very spirit of humility that is in harmony with heaven’s spirit. He can do that.
I am reminded of the statement that Gabriel said to Mary regarding the miracle Child that was to be born. He said, “With God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37.) Here is a being who stands in the very presence of God; he is right next to the Father today; he knows Him, and he says, “Nothing is impossible with the God Who created us!”
Examples for us
We have the record of Moses. He was not known as a humble man! He was a great general; he was very arrogant, proud, and aware of the abilities that God had given him. But there came a time in his life when God called him, and he fled into the wilderness. He spent 40 years in the wilderness before God called him again. What happened to this man’s proud, arrogant heart in 40 years? The Pen of Inspiration tells us, “Shut in by the bulwarks of the mountains, Moses was alone with God. Moses was shut in with God. The magnificent temples of Egypt no longer impressed his mind with their superstition and falsehood. In the solemn grandeur of the everlasting hills he beheld the majesty of the Most High, and in contrast realized how powerless and insignificant were the gods of Egypt. Everywhere the Creator’s name was written. Moses seemed to stand in His presence and to be over-shadowed by His power. Here his pride and self-sufficiency were swept away.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 248. How was he humbled? As he viewed God and the greatness of God, he took on the spirit of humility.
Another character that is recorded in Scripture had the tremendous privilege of physically walking with Jesus Christ for three and one-half years. His name was John, and he had a brother, James. God tells us that they had a nickname; they were known as “The Sons of Thunder.” (See Mark 3:17.) That does not sound too humble, does it? They were not; they were just like us. But something took place in the life of John that caused him to become humble-minded like his Saviour and Lord. “During the years of his [John’s] close association with Christ, he was often warned and cautioned by the Saviour, and these reproofs he accepted. As the character of the Divine One was manifested to him, John saw his own deficiencies, and was humbled by the revelation. Day by day in contrast with his own violent spirit, he beheld the tenderness and forbearance of Jesus, and heard His lessons of humility and patience. Day by day his heart was drawn out to Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master.” The Acts of the Apostles, 557. Accepting reproof and correction is one of the ways we are to receive humility. Before pride is swept away, before self is laid down, we must see Someone greater that we admire and desire to be like.
Saul of Tarsus was another person who was filled with pride. How was he brought to the point of being humbled in spirit? “As Saul yielded himself fully to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he saw the mistakes of his life and recognized the far-reaching claims of the law of God. He who had been a proud Pharisee, confident that he was justified by his good works, now bowed before God with the humility and simplicity of a little child, confessing his own unworthiness and pleading the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour.” Ibid., 119. Receiving humility of spirit involves acknowledging our deficiencies and our mistakes.
What the gospel of Jesus Christ did for these men, it can do for us in this day. It can change us; it can help us run the race and win the crown. But as you read about the lives of these men, you will find that their humility did not come without effort. These men were changed, not by a theory, but by a Person. There is a power beyond what you and I can see, and He is very real.
I have decided and determined that I, by the grace of God, am going to walk through one of those 12 gates someday. I am going to be there, and I want you to be there, but there is only one way we are going to be there. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21.
One Spirit; One Truth
Jesus was not merely our substitute. The majority of the Christian world is deceived regarding this, because they believe that a mere acknowledgement and confessing of sin is sufficient in and of itself for salvation. That is not true! Jesus is not only our substitute at Calvary; He is our example in life. He not only paid the penalty for our sins, but He wants to provide us with power to overcome sin. He was tempted in all points, yet without sin. (See Hebrews 4:15.) He is our example. He is the One who changed Moses’ heart; He is the One that changed John’s heart; He is the One who did the work on Paul’s heart. Jesus Christ lives today in the Most Holy Place. He knows you, and He wants to change your heart. He wants to bring your spirit into harmony with His truth, that they will be one spirit and one truth.
Paul gives us counsel in this matter: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Philippians 2:5, 6. There was a being in heaven one time who thought it was sufficient to grasp God’s power. Ellen White wrote: “While Lucifer counted it a thing to be grasped to be equal with God, Christ, the Exalted One, ‘made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’ Philippians 2:7, 8. Now the cross was just before Him; and His own disciples were so filled with self-seeking—the very principle of Satan’s kingdom—that they could not enter into sympathy with their Lord, or even understand Him as He spoke of His humiliation for them.” The Desire of Ages, 436. To enter into an understanding of the spiritual significance of those truths that God wants us to proclaim to the world, we must have a spirit by which we receive from Him understanding of those truths. Humility, a humbleness of mind, a willingness to be taught, corrected, instructed, and reproved if necessary, is the very means by which God is going to give us the ability to understand His Word and His truth.
Time of Laodicea
In the history of this world, we are at the end of time, but where are we in the race for the crown? In Revelation, a sad, sad condition is brought to view. You and I form a part of that period called Laodicea, the church at the end of earth’s history. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, in regard to Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” These are the people who have been given the special truths with which to warn the world, but there is an obstacle that stands in their way. What is it? “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing . . . .” Revelation 3:17. What spirit is that? That is the spirit of arrogance toward God. They feel satisfied with just having a Bible, if I may illustrate it as that. They feel comfortable—”I have my Bible, and I take it with me to church once a week. I feel comfortable with that.” God tells us that there is going to be, in these days of which we are talking, a form of godliness that denies the power. (See 11 Timothy 3:5.) What are we denying when we deny the power? We are denying the very means by which God wants to give to us a spirit that He will be able to take safely to heaven someday, and that spirit is the spirit of humility. Laodicea has pride standing in the way. Pride, pride of opinion, is the greatest obstacle to humility, and we all come into this world bent in that direction. There is only one Being in the entire universe Who can bend us back straight, and He has done it for many people.
He is willing to help us. Christ wants to give to us a spirit of humility, a spirit of brotherly love one to another, wherein we are not striving against each other but working together. With this spirit of humility, we are not wondering who has the greatest work and who does not, but we are doing the work God has given us to do.
Who Will Give the Loud Cry?
We are living at the last days, and Jesus said He was going to cut the work short. (See Romans 9:28.) Who is God going to use to give the Loud Cry in the last days? Is He going to use us? “Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions.” The Great Controversy, 606.
I do not want you to misunderstand what I am saying. I am not devaluating truth, but truth involves far more than the mere doctrine. If we are truly His people, we shall carry His message with His spirit. We will be humble instruments, used by Him to give a most marvelous message to the world. “Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power—all will be unmasked [by a humble instrument]. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred.” Ibid.
We Can Win!
The gates to the city in heaven are going to open someday, all 12 of them. Who will enter? “That which even the greatest and wisest can not earn, the weakest and most humble may receive.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 404. We have the potential, through His grace, to win the race, to enter those gates. We can win! Satan wants to tell us just the opposite, but we can quell his suggestions and his temptations with the Word of God.
Do you feel weak and inferior? We should not be comparing ourselves with one another in the gifts that God has given, but we need to have a spirit where we can appreciate the gifts that God has given others—that is the spirit of humility. Heaven’s golden gates open not to the self-exalted, to the proud in spirit, but the everlasting portals will open wide to the trembling touch of a little child.
Jesus our Example
Jesus is our tremendous example. “It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26–28.
I believe one of the most marvelous attributes and characteristics of our God is humility. In my own personal experience I see a God who is so great, so awesome, and so powerful, who is able to do anything, yet He is humble enough to wash my feet. That contrast makes the attribute of humility stand out. If we are not humbled by that contrast, we will never, ever be humbled. This is the King of kings. He is equal with the Father. He took our flesh and came into this world 2,000 years ago to save us from pride and from every other sin that would seek to keep us from Him. He was a servant, yet He was and is a King. To the proud heart and mind, that is a contradiction, but not in heaven. Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit dwell with beings who are of a humble and contrite spirit. I stand amazed at the humility of our Creator!
By His Grace
We are going to win the race, by His grace, if we allow Him to do the cutting work to cut out all obstacles. What is the key obstacle? It is pride; it is striving to be number one; it is striving to be seen of men. Jesus portrayed a character totally opposite from that. “Blessed [are] those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Luke 12:37. Everyone who walks through those 12 gates is going to be a servant. They will have come to be a servant on this earth, to experience the humility of Christ and serve others instead of themselves.
Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—He never changes. When we get to heaven, we are going to find the Being that we have read about, the One whom we became like, and He is going to serve us! The God of heaven is going to gird Himself, and He is going to wait upon each one of the redeemed. I want to be there to say “Thank you” to His face, how about you? We can have courage, because God has made provision, and He has a willingness, far above and beyond what we can understand, to do the needed work in our hearts. He wants to do that, and He is able, but time is running out. We are told in Revelation 22 that there is coming a time when God is going to say, He that is humble, let him be humble still; and He that is proud, let him be proud still. It is over; it is done! (See Revelation 22:11.) Today is the day of salvation. Today, let Him cut away the obstacle; let Him have it; it is not worth losing the race. Be satisfied with what He has given you and with what He has promised to do for you. Let us determine to exchange our pride for His humility, that we may have a place with the humble and contrite ones that will make up His eternal kingdom! What do you say?