“For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7 ESV
Man cannot read the heart of another. The only evidence people have to identify a Christian is by their conduct and outward appearance. Before He left this earth Jesus said to His disciples: “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
The Bible has not left those who desire to represent Him to others in ignorance as to how they should behave and present themselves to be a witness for Him.
The Christian’s Speech
Jesus was on trial. “Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are saying.’ And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ But again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the Man!’ And after a while those who stood by came to him and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, because your speech betrays you.’ ” Matthew 26:69–73.
They knew he was a follower of Jesus by the way he spoke. In an attempt to prove to them he was not connected in any way, “Then he began to curse and swear …” (verse 74). That seemed to be the end of the matter. By cursing and swearing he gave evidence he was none of Christ’s, for a disciple of Jesus does not use those words.
A friend of mine worked for a time as an auto mechanic at the Ford dealership in Fargo, North Dakota. The shop where he worked had many other auto mechanics. One day, another mechanic came to him enquiring about his religion. He had noticed that when a wrench slipped and he hit his knuckles, he refrained from swearing and cussing like the others. His speech betrayed who he was.
People should be able to tell from the way you talk that you are a Christian. We live in a world where people are very careless with their choice of language, discussing and saying all sorts of things that should never be said. Though people cannot read your heart, by listening to you talk, they should be able to determine that you are a Christian. Ellen White wrote: “A large share of life’s happiness is dependent upon our manners and actions toward others. The sharp word must be left unspoken. The passionate words must be quenched in the love of Jesus Christ; for if this dross is not cleansed from the soul, there is no hope of eternal life. The selfish temper, and tirade of passionate words is placed in the same dark list with swearing.” The Voice of Speech and Song, 144.
Do people say when you are not around, “I know that person is a Christian because he or she never loses his/her temper or says the sharp word”? Is it evident to others that you are a Christian?
Concerning our speech, Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, 33, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father Who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father Who is in heaven.”
How do you confess Christ? “He who would confess Christ must have Christ abiding in him. He cannot communicate that which he has not received. The disciples might speak fluently on doctrines, they might repeat the words of Christ Himself; but unless they possessed Christlike meekness and love, they were not confessing Him. A spirit contrary to the spirit of Christ would deny Him, whatever the profession. Men may deny Christ by evilspeaking, by foolish talking, by words that are untruthful or unkind. They may deny Him by shunning life’s burdens, by the pursuit of sinful pleasure. They may deny Him by conforming to the world, by uncourteous behavior, by the love of their own opinions, by justifying self, by cherishing doubt, borrowing trouble, and dwelling in darkness. In all these ways they declare that Christ is not in them.” The Desire of Ages, 357.
We are told in Testimonies, vol. 5, 305: “There is in human nature a tendency to run to extremes and from one extreme to another entirely opposite.”
It is easily seen when other people go to extremes, but how hard is it to recognize when we do it ourselves! There is in human nature a tendency to go off the road into the ditch on one side and then pass over, never stopping in the middle, into the ditch on the other side. Ellen White said, “Many are fanatics. They are consumed by a fiery zeal which is mistaken for religion, but character is the true test of discipleship.” Ibid.
The Christian’s Appearance
People judge whether or not we are Christians by the way we dress. There was a sister who talked to Ellen White about the reform dress and how she was doubting the testimonies of the church because of comments that were made to her about the reform dress. Ellen White said, “This was because the persons who carry matters to extremes had been cautioned not to make the dress question a test of Christian fellowship. What influence do these things have to undermine the confidence in my testimonies! It is not the testimony that is at fault, but perverse human nature.” Pamphlet 104, 12.
Dress is one of the areas where people have a tendency to go to extremes, although people do judge whether you are really a Christian by your outward appearance.
The Christian’s Judgment
People make judgments about others on how they spend time in recreation and amusement. This is another area where people tend to go to extremes one way or another.
Ellen White wrote in Testimonies, vol. 1, 565: “There are persons with a diseased imagination to whom religion is a tyrant, ruling them as with a rod of iron. Such are constantly mourning over their depravity and groaning over supposed evil. Love does not exist in their hearts; a frown is ever upon their countenances. They are chilled by the innocent laugh from the youth or from anyone. They consider all recreation or amusement a sin and think that the mind must be constantly wrought up to just such a stern, severe pitch. This is one extreme. Others think that the mind must be ever on the stretch to invent new amusements and diversions in order to gain health. They learn to depend on excitement, and are uneasy without it. Such are not true Christians. They go to another extreme.”
The Christian’s Diet
How we eat and drink affects what others think of our Christianity. Diet is another area in which people have the tendency to go to terrible extremes, either on one side or the other. If I never ate foods that I have been told not to eat, what foods could I eat? The answer is, “Nothing!” That is not an exaggeration.
In the 1950s I ran into Seventh-day Adventists who said, “We have to get back to the Eden diet.” And the Eden diet did not include vegetables, so they were eliminated from their diet. Shortly after that I heard, “You should never use sugar.” So sugar is gone. I was very fortunate, by the way, that I had a very wise mother who didn’t go off on all these tangents. Then in the 1970s, they said, “The one class of food that you can’t eat is fruit.” So fruit’s gone. By then it was 1971 and I had a church member who told me he was going to quit eating bread and anything that contained wheat.
I have heard lately that a lot of people in our community have decided not to eat wheat, and that’s fine if you replace it with something else. Prevention Magazine came out with a whole series of articles to help people quit eating bread. The titles of these articles were, “Do Not Eat Bread.” All kinds of horror stories were cited. A few years later a physician came out with a diet to help people lose weight and said, “What you must do is avoid all foods that are high in carbohydrates.” Well, if you do that, you eliminate all legumes and all grains from your diet.
Then again in the 1970s, there was a fellow by the name of Pritikin that came out with a new diet that was supposed to cure almost every disease. He said that you must not eat foods high in fat, like nuts, and seeds, avocados, and no oil or salt.
Now let’s just go down the list. If you are not going to eat any vegetables, no sugar, no fruit, no oil, and no salt, no wheat, and no high carbohydrate food, no nuts, no seeds, and no oil, what are you going to eat?
Ellen White wrote: “Because it is wrong to eat merely to gratify perverted taste, it does not follow that we should be indifferent in regard to our food. It is a matter of the highest importance.” Counsels on Heath, 118.
It is also a matter of the highest importance that we do not go to extremes one way or the other. She said, “No one should adopt an impoverished diet. Many are debilitated from disease and need nourishing, well-cooked food. Health reformers, above all others, should be careful to avoid extremes. The body must have sufficient nourishment.” Ibid.
She also said: “Do not go to extremes in regard to the health reform. Some of our people are very careless in regard to health reform. But because some are far behind, you must not, in order to be an example to them, be an extremist. You must not deprive yourself of that class of food which makes good blood. Your devotion to true principles is leading you to submit yourself to a diet which is giving you an experience that will not recommend health reform. This is your danger. When you see that you are becoming weak physically, it is essential for you to make changes, and at once. Put into your diet something you have left out. It is your duty to do this.” Letter 37, 1901.
Some people have gone to such extremes in regard to diet that it has become a disgrace and their religion has become disgusting to other people.
Ellen White wrote to this person: “Do not have a meager, poor diet. Do not let any one influence you to have the diet poverty-stricken. … The great backsliding upon health reform is because unwise minds have handled it and carried it to such extremes that it has disgusted in place of converting people to it.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 211, 212.
The Christian’s Recreation and Amusement
On July 4, in Dalhart, Texas, during the dust storms of 1934, a pastor named Joe Hankins of the First Baptist church decided that in spite of the dust, they needed a revival. So they went into the church, dusted off the seats, and started a revival, with about a hundred young people plus the other church members. The pastor started by asking what was wrong with card playing and dancing. He then preached against them both. At the close of the sermon, about a hundred young people came up and signed a pledge, vowing never to dance or play cards. So, where did this Pastor Hankins get the idea a Christian shouldn’t play cards or dance? The Baptist Church was not alone with those teachings. The Methodist church also was opposed to card playing, dancing and gambling.
John Wesley formulated a list of general rules for the members of his society because he believed they needed concrete standards as well as ideals. So the Methodist church taught the same as the Baptist church taught. Their ideas came from the Bible. It is not that the church is against recreation and amusement. A child is not expected to simply work all the time. They could not endure it. Every child should have access to recreation and amusement, but like every other choice in the world, there are good and bad kinds of recreation and amusement that require a choice to be made. How do you tell which recreation and amusement is all right and which is not?
Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
The first requirement of recreation and amusement is, “Is it true?” Are you looking at television, or videos, or Internet or things that are not true? Many people are looking at things that do not even meet the first requirement for a Christian, yet they want to be known by Christ’s name. This is not to condemn the Internet or television, but you want to make sure that what you are looking at is true. A documentary and a drama are two completely different things. Are you looking at what is right or are you looking at people committing sin? Study for yourself and apply the principles of Philippians 4:8.
The Christian’s Dress and Adornment
Christian dress and adornment have caused many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, great consternation. Ezekiel 28 is about Lucifer or Satan. He is described here as being the real king of Tyre, which was one of the wicked cities of antiquity. “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” Verses 13–15.
Verse 17: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.” Covered with all manner of precious stones, Lucifer became proud. Malachi says that the day is coming when all the proud will be stubble (Malachi 4:1). Pride is at the root of the sin problem.
Consider the great harlot woman “who sits on many waters” (Revelation 17:1) and how she is dressed. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup.” Verse 4. She is covered with jewelry.
Jewelry itself is not the problem. God made the jewels. The redeemed will walk on golden streets and live in a city that has foundations made of precious stones and gates made of pearl. They will have access to more jewels and precious stones than anybody in this world.
But before anyone walks the streets of gold, pride has to be eradicated. The Bible gives us counsel that because of our fallen human nature, we all struggle with pride. So while on this earth we need to lay those things aside.
God told Jacob to go up to Bethel and dwell there. “And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree.” Genesis 35:2–4.
In Exodus the Lord told Moses: “ ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’ So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments.” Exodus 33:5, 6.
“ ‘I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,’ says the Lord.” Hosea 2:13.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” I Peter 3:3, 4.
In the New Testament, the apostles forbid the wearing of gold or expensive clothing. Notice what Paul said about it: “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” I Timothy 2:9, 10.
Probably the biggest problem with our clothing in Christendom today and especially in western countries like the United States is simply the lack of it. The Bible describes someone as naked and shameful if they do not have enough clothes on.
Ellen White wrote: “I had an interview with a sister who wore gold, and yet professed to be looking for Christ’s coming. We spoke of the express declarations of Scripture against the wearing of gold. But she referred to where Solomon was commanded to beautify the temple, and to the statement that the streets of the city of God were pure gold. She said that if we could improve our appearance by wearing gold, so as to have influence in the world, it was right. I replied that we were poor fallen mortals, and instead of decorating these bodies because Solomon’s temple was gloriously adorned, we should remember our fallen condition, and that it cost the suffering and death of the Son of God to redeem us. This thought should cause in us self-abasement. Jesus is our pattern. If He would lay aside His humiliation and sufferings, and cry, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him please himself, and enjoy the world, and he shall be My disciple,’ the multitude would believe and follow Him. But Jesus will come to us in no other character than that of the meek, crucified One. If we would be with Him in Heaven, we must be like Him on earth. The world will claim its own; and whoever will overcome, must leave what belongs to it.” Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 113, 114.
Millions of people are being ruined because of the clothes they wear. “Showy, extravagant dress too often encourages lust in the heart of the wearer and awakens base passions in the heart of the beholder. God sees that the ruin of the character is frequently preceded by the indulgence of pride and vanity in dress. He sees that the costly apparel stifles the desire to do good.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 645.
The Christian’s Diet
God is so interested in all that we eat and drink that we need not be ignorant in this regard. Genesis 1:29 says, “God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’ ” That was the original diet of the human race. However, when man sinned, his diet was changed. “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.” Genesis 3:18. A more precise translation would say, “You shall eat the green herb of the field.”
When I first started studying nutrition back in the 1950s, I thought that God had left the human race in such abject ignorance about vitamins, resulting in so many health problems. Millions of people lost their eyesight and had all kinds of problems because they did not get certain vitamins. No one knew anything about vitamins in 1950 and as I studied I wondered why God left the human race in such ignorance. Well, obviously He didn’t. We just did not pay careful attention to what He said. He told us what to eat in Genesis 3:18. If everybody had regularly eaten the green herb of the field, which includes foods like spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale and other foods, there would have been far less suffering from diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. God did not tell us about vitamin A in Genesis 3:18. He just told us what to eat.
In Genesis 9 after the flood man was given permission to eat flesh food, though not all flesh food. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 explain the distinction between clean and unclean flesh foods.
Many people believe that the health law was for the Jews and was done away with at the cross. In a dream, Peter saw the sheet filled with all kinds of unclean animals lowered down. “And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ ” Acts 10:13, 14. Clearly, Peter had not been given instruction since the resurrection that he could now eat anything he wanted. He continued to abstain from unclean foods. This dream, by the way, actually had nothing to do with eating. It was an object lesson to explain to Peter that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.
Then in Acts 15:20, it says, “But that we write to them [the Gentiles] to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” The Gentiles were taught that certain flesh meats were never to be eaten.
Both the Old and New Testaments give instruction about eating the wrong thing. For everything that God has given instruction, there is a reason that man does not immediately discover. For several thousand years man did not understand why God said in Genesis 3:18, that after the fall it was necessary to eat the green herb of the field and he suffered the consequences.
The Lord is going to have a people in the last days who, by faith live according to Bible principles and reflect the One Who left the glories of heaven to walk on this earth to show them the way of salvation. They will stand out against the crowd and be identified as Christians in all their actions.
Will you be a Christian?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.