Week of Prayer for Sabbath
“Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has love`d it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts.” The Desire of Ages, 641.
How did Christ love the world? “The work of the good Samaritan represents Christ’s mission to the world. Our Saviour came to reveal the character of God, to represent his love for man. He acted just as the Father would have done in all emergencies. Christ manifested for us a love that the love of man can never equal. He died to save those who were his enemies; he prayed for his murderers. When we were bruised and dying, he had pity upon us. He did not pass us by on the other side, and leave us, helpless, and hopeless, to perish. He did not remain in his holy, happy home, where he was honored by all the heavenly host, who loved to do his bidding. He beheld our sore need; he undertook our case, and identified his interests with humanity. He became ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.’ [Isaiah 53:3, 5.]” The Home Missionary, October 1, 1897.
Naturally, our hearts are cold and hard and selfish. This is not just a problem in the world but in the church as well: “There are sins among us as a people. Love is not cherished as it should be. A cold, selfish, indifferent hard-heartedness is increasing, and this has separated us from our God. There are reasons why the Lord does not favor us with his presence and love; there is great need of sharp, pointed testimonies, for selfishness has eaten out the love of God from our hearts. Hear what the Lord says to his people: ‘If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother; but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him; because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land.’ [Deuteronomy 15:7–11.]” Review and Herald, March 11, 1884.
“Those who have the mind of Christ can not look with indifference upon human suffering. They can not be heartless, cold, and selfish. Those who are naturally inclined to tenderness and sympathy when unreservedly surrendered to God will cooperate with him in doing deeds of mercy, in relieving the distressed, tho it may call for the practice of self-denial. But those who do not cultivate gratitude to God for his mercy and love to them, who do not appreciate the great gift of Christ to our world, will not manifest sympathy for the suffering and needy, will not seek to comfort the bereaved, to minister to the fatherless and the widow. They may, like the Pharisees, make long prayers, and yet rob the widow and the fatherless, forgetting in their hardness of heart that the Lord will judge those who neglect the needy and the suffering as though they had neglected him in the person of his saints.” The Signs of the Times, January 23, 1896.
The lack of love makes the gospel presentation nearly powerless, because what is preached from the pulpit is not matched up with what the unbeliever sees in the lives of the professed Christian believers. This is why the non-Christian world is not convinced of the superiority of the Christian religion. Non-Christians, who are called pagans and heathens by Christians, will say that they are more honest, truthful, pure, less covetous, or revengeful than some Christians they know. Christ is misrepresented in the lives of His professed followers, and the world is then deluded by the deceptions of Satan, which could not take effect if the lives of professed Christians reflected the life of Him whom they profess to be following as disciples.
At the same time, those who are in the valley of decision look at the professed followers of Christ and say that they certainly do not appear to be members of one family, since they are divided into almost countless schisms and divisions. Christian leaders for hundreds of years have known that the many divisions of Christians into various sects are a source of weakness to the Christian church. For many years, Christian leaders have been calling for Christian unity.
The papacy entered this challenge in a big way with the Vatican II Council held from 1962 to 1965, and today, the world is racing toward an ecumenical world church. One day soon, God’s remnant will have to face this ecumenical world church, headed by antichrist, which will include not just Catholicism and Protestantism but also the non-Christian world. In comparison with this colossus, God’s children will be a very small group.
Necessary Ingredient for Victory
We will never be able to successfully meet what is before us unless we have something to meet it with that our opponents do not have. What is this something with which we need to meet the future crisis and that the opposing side will not have but which will be powerful enough to win the victory over the whole world? The following quotations point out what the ingredient is that we must have in our hearts to meet the coming crisis.
“ ‘Behold,’ says the Scripture, ‘the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.’ Isaiah 60:2.
“It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. . . .
“Those who wait for the Bride-groom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them. . . .
“This is the work which the prophet Isaiah describes when he says, ‘Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.’ Isaiah 58:7, 8.
“Thus in the night of spiritual darkness God’s glory is to shine forth through His church in lifting up the bowed down and comforting those that mourn.
“All around us are heard the wails of a world’s sorrow. On every hand are the needy and distressed. It is ours to aid in relieving and softening life’s hardships and misery.
“Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing. We are to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and shelter to the homeless. And we are called to do more than this. The wants of the soul, only the love of Christ can satisfy. If Christ is abiding in us, our hearts will be full of divine sympathy. The sealed fountains of earnest, Christlike love will be unsealed.
“God calls not only for our gifts for the needy, but for our cheerful countenance, our hopeful words, our kindly handclasp. When Christ healed the sick, He laid His hands upon them. So should we come in close touch with those whom we seek to benefit.
“There are many from whom hope has departed. Bring back the sunshine to them. Many have lost their courage. Speak to them words of cheer. Pray for them. There are those who need the bread of life. Read to them from the word of God. Upon many is a soul sickness which no earthly balm can reach nor physician heal. Pray for these souls, bring them to Jesus. Tell them that there is a balm in Gilead and a Physician there. . . .
“The whole earth, wrapped as it is in the darkness of sin, and sorrow, and pain, is to be lighted with the knowledge of God’s love. From no sect, rank, or class of people is the light shining from heaven’s throne to be excluded.
“The message of hope and mercy is to be carried to the ends of the earth. Whosoever will, may reach forth and take hold of God’s strength and make peace with Him, and he shall make peace. No longer are the heathen to be wrapped in midnight darkness. The gloom is to disappear before the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. The power of hell has been overcome.
“But no man can impart that which he himself has not received. In the work of God, humanity can originate nothing. No man can by his own effort make himself a light bearer for God. It was the golden oil emptied by the heavenly messengers into the golden tubes, to be conducted from the golden bowl into the lamps of the sanctuary, that produced a continuous bright and shining light. It is the love of God continually transferred to man that enables him to impart light. Into the hearts of all who are united to God by faith the golden oil of love flows freely, to shine out again in good works, in real, heartfelt service for God.
“In the great and measureless gift of the Holy Spirit are contained all of heaven’s resources. It is not because of any restriction on the part of God that the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men. If all were willing to receive, all would become filled with His Spirit.
“It is the privilege of every soul to be a living channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that Christ desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts.
“Christ has made every provision that His church shall be a transformed body, illumined with the Light of the world, possessing the glory of Emmanuel. It is His purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. He desires that we shall reveal His own joy in our lives.
“The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflowing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 415–419.
Love is Powerful
The love of God in our hearts will begin to impel us to do something for the salvation of our fellow men. Nobody can do everything, because God has not given all the talents to any one person, but everybody can do something. The question is, Are we doing what we can do? Jesus said, concerning Mary Magdalene, “She has done what she could.” Mark 14:8. In the day of judgment, will it be said, concerning you and me, “That person has done what he or she could?” When we have the love of God in our hearts, all of us can do a very great deal, because love is powerful. In fact, it is the most powerful force in the universe, as the following quotation shows.
“Love cannot live without action, and every act increases, strengthens, and extends it. Love will gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless. Love works not for profit nor reward; yet God has ordained that great gain shall be the certain result of every labor of love. It is diffusive in its nature and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful and affect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful. Wherever the power of intellect, of authority, or of force is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach assume a defensive, repelling position, and their strength of resistance is increased. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. He came into the world to bring resistance and authority into subjection to Himself. Wisdom and strength He could command, but the means He employed with which to overcome evil were the wisdom and strength of love. Suffer nothing to divide your interest from your present work until God shall see fit to give you another piece of work in the same field. Seek not for happiness, for it is never to be found by seeking for it. Go about your duty. Let faithfulness mark all your doings, and be clothed with humility.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 135.
Strongest Human Impulse
When we have the love of God in our hearts so that we love the world the way Christ loved it, then Christ’s mission for us is complete, and we are ready to go to heaven! In fact, we have heaven already in our hearts! (The Desire of Ages, 641.)
This is no small order of change for us, because: “Selfishness is the strongest and most general of human impulses, the struggle of the soul between sympathy and covetousness is an unequal contest; for while selfishness is the strongest passion, love and benevolence are too often the weakest, and as a rule the evil gains the victory. Therefore in our labors and gifts for God’s cause, it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse.” Counsels on Stewardship, 25.
“A constant battle must be kept up with the selfishness and corruption of the human heart.” Manual for Canvassers, 60.
“Selfishness girds many about as with iron bands. It is ‘my farm,’ ‘my goods,’ ‘my trade,’ ‘my merchandise.’ Even the claims of common humanity are disregarded by them. Men and women professing to be waiting and loving the appearing of their Lord are shut up to self. The noble, the godlike, they have parted with. The love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, have so fastened upon them that they are blinded. They are corrupted by the world and discern it not. They talk of love to God, but their fruits show not the love they express. They rob Him in tithes and offerings, and the withering curse of God is upon them. The truth has been illuminating their pathway on every side. God has wrought wonderfully in the salvation of souls in their own households, but where are their offerings, presented to Him in grateful thanks for all His tokens of mercy to them? Many of them are as unthankful as the brute creation. The sacrifice for man was infinite, beyond the comprehension of the strongest intellect, yet men who claim to be partakers of these heavenly benefits, which were brought to them at so great a cost, are too thoroughly selfish to make any real sacrifice for God. Their minds are upon the world, the world, the world.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 197, 198.
“Schism and division are not the fruits of righteousness; they are of the wicked one. The great hindrance to our advancement at this time is the selfishness that prevents believers from having true fellowship with one another. The last prayer that Christ offered for His disciples before His trial was that they might be one in Him. Satan is determined that this oneness shall not be, for it is the strongest witness that can be borne that God did indeed send His Son to reconcile the world to heaven.—Letter 41, February 24, 1903, to Dr. F. E. Braucht, a physician laboring in Chicago.” The Upward Look, 69.
Needed Change of Heart
How are we going to acquire the change in heart that we so desperately need so the devil may be forced to quit mocking Christ by the lives of His professed followers? This is what the devil is saying to the Lord about us now:
“Satan urges before God his accusations against them, declaring that they have by their sins forfeited the divine protection, and claiming the right to destroy them as transgressors. He pronounces them just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favor of God. ‘Are these,’ he says, ‘the people who are to take my place in heaven and the place of the angels who united with me? While they profess to obey the law of God, have they kept its precepts? Have they not been lovers of self more than of God? Have they not placed their own interests above His service? Have they not loved the things of the world? Look at the sins which have marked their lives. Behold their selfishness, their malice, their hatred toward one another.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 5, 473, 474.
Divine counsel is given for people in our condition:
- Because of our great need for a change of heart, we are counseled to pray every day to be delivered from selfishness: “Let our daily prayer go up to God that He will divest us of selfishness. . . .” Our High Calling, 242.
- Begin to practice self-denial for the good of others.
“What can I say to you, my brethren and sisters, that will arouse you to the importance of the times in which we live, and lead you to a faithful examination of heart and life? Are your lives in harmony with the life of sacrifice that Christ lived on the earth? In giving his Son to the human race, the Father gave to his church a wonderful example of self-forgetting love. Christ came that he might open to the comprehension of men and women the principles that underlie the great plan of redemption, that they might be led to cooperate with him in his work of sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. But the want of fervor, the lack of self-denial, on the part of many who bear Christ’s name, hinder the doing of the very work for which his church on earth was organized. The selfishness and indifference manifested by professing Christians soothes the consciences of many who would be aroused from their unbelief, had they before them in the lives of professing Christians, a living witness to the power of the gospel to transform the character.
“Self-sacrifice is the key-note of Christ’s teachings. Often this is enjoined upon believers in language that seems authoritative, because there is no other way to save men than to cut them away from their life of selfishness. Christ gave, in his life on earth, a true representation of the power of the gospel. He suffered the cruel death on the cross, that we might have a true conception of his love for us, and of the spirit of self-sacrifice that must take possession of every believer in him. He became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich. To every soul who will suffer with him in resistance of sin, in labor for his cause, in self-denial for the good of others, he promises a part in the eternal reward of the righteous. Through the exercise of the spirit that characterized his life-work, we are to become partakers of his nature. Partaking in this life of sacrifice for the sake of others, we shall share with him in the life to come the ‘far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ [11 Co-rinthians 4:17.]” Review and Herald, September 28, 1911.
- Do something active to help people who are suffering.
“There is a great work to be done in our world, and as we approach the close of earth’s history, it does not lessen in the least degree; but when the perfect love of God is in the heart, wonderful things will be done. Christ will be in the heart of the believer as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. But those who manifest indifference to the suffering ones of humanity will be charged with indifference to Jesus Christ in the person of his suffering saints. Nothing saps spirituality from the soul more quickly than to inclose it in selfishness and self-caring. Those who indulge self and neglect to care for the souls and bodies of those for whom Christ has given his life, are not eating of the bread of life, nor drinking of the water of the well of salvation. They are dry and sapless, like a tree that bears no fruit. They are spiritual dwarfs, who consume their means of self; but ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ [Galatians 6:7.]” Ibid., January 15, 1895.
- Practice economy, so you will have money to give to the Lord’s cause in the world and be faithful in returning to the Lord His own in tithes and offerings.
“God calls upon his people to awake to their responsibilities. A flood of light is shining from his Word, and there must be a meeting of neglected obligations. When these are met, by giving to the Lord his own in tithes and offerings, the way will be opened for the world to hear the message that the Lord designs it to hear. If our people had the love of God in the heart, if every church-member were imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice, there would be no lack of funds for home and foreign missions; our resources would be multiplied; a thousand doors of usefulness would be opened; and we should be invited to enter. Had the purpose of God been carried out in giving the message of mercy to the world, Christ would have come, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.
“If ever there was a time when sacrifices should be made, it is now. My brethren and sisters, practise economy in your homes. Put away the idols that you have placed before God. Give up your selfish pleasures. Do not, I beg of you, spend means in embellishing your houses; for your money belongs to God, and to him you must give an account for its use. Do not use the Lord’s money to gratify the fancies of your children. Teach them that God has a claim on all they possess, and that nothing can ever cancel this claim.
“Money is a needed treasure. Do not lavish it upon those who need it not. Some one needs your willing gifts. There are those in the world who are hungry, starving. You may say, I can not feed them all. But by practising Christ’s lessons of economy, you can feed one. ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.’ [John 6:12.] These words were spoken by him whose power wrought a miracle to supply the needs of a hungry multitude.
“If you have extravagant habits, cut them away from your life at once. Unless you do this, you will be bankrupt for eternity. Habits of economy, industry, and sobriety, are a better portion for your children than a rich dowry.” Review and Herald, December 24, 1903.
“But ‘if thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?’ Proverbs 24:11, 12. In the great Judgment day, those who have not worked for Christ, who have drifted along thinking of themselves, caring for themselves, will be placed by the Judge of the whole earth with those who did evil. They receive the same condemnation.” The Desire of Ages, 641.
“To men he offers the kingdom of this world on condition that they will acknowledge his supremacy. He requires that they sacrifice integrity, disregard conscience, indulge selfishness. Christ bids them seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; but Satan walks by their side and says: Whatever may be true in regard to life eternal, in order to make a success in this world you must serve me. I hold your welfare in my hands. I can give you riches, pleasures, honor, and happiness. Hearken to my counsel. Do not allow yourselves to be carried away with whimsical notions of honesty or self-sacrifice. I will prepare the way before you. Thus multitudes are deceived. They consent to live for the service of self, and Satan is satisfied. While he allures them with the hope of worldly dominion, he gains dominion over the soul. But he offers that which is not his to bestow, and which is soon to be wrested from him. In return he beguiles them of their title to the inheritance of the sons of God.” Ibid., 130.
If we are not working for Christ by helping to save a lost world, if we are drifting along thinking about ourselves, caring for ourselves, serving ourselves, we are in as lost a condition as any evildoer. Many of us need to ask ourselves if we are not in a lost condition by our failure to be active in the cause of Christ.
We each have an influence. To every soul a trust is given. Someone is either going to be saved or lost because of our influence. What is our influence in our family? in our local church? in our workplace? among our social acquaintances? Someday, the Judge of all the earth is going to ask us to give an account of our influence. He is going to ask us where those people are whom He gave us to influence. “Of everyone the Chief Shepherd will demand, ‘Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?’ And ‘what wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?’ Jeremiah 13:20, 21.” Ibid., 641.
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas.