Many try to live the life of a Christian, desiring to serve God in every way. At the same time, we must face the reality that many have become discouraged at their continual failure. Maybe you are just drifting along in this Christian life, thinking that there is no hope of living like Jesus. But I want to tell you the good news; there is hope! This hope has already been given to us in the word of God.
We have been told: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. This is the utmost challenge. How in the world can I be as perfect as the Father of Jesus? It is impossible, so why expect this? There are some Bible examples of Christian perfection. There are those who have walked through our same experiences and have succeeded, after coming to Jesus, and live a sanctified life. There are stories of others who have fallen and later repented of their sins that are encouraging examples of victory.
The first righteous man the Bible mentions is Enoch. It is recorded, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:24. What did he do right? He walked with God. That sounds very simple. The apostle Paul adds a little more information and explains that it was “by faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death.” Hebrews 11:5. Enoch walked with God by faith. His faith was in the promise of the Redeemer Who would come. Because he had this hope, he lived by faith. It continues: “… and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” He not only walked with God, but he pleased God. All that God required was for him to walk with Him. This is so simple, yet it is so hard for people to grasp the concept and allow this beautiful truth to sink into their hearts. Praise God for His patience!
Another example of an excellent person who walked with God and who is a favorite Bible character with many people is Joseph. Joseph was raised in a God-fearing family. It was not perfect, like all of our families, but he grew up fearing God. He was the favorite of his father, Jacob, which unfairly provoked so many relationships that were not conducive to harmony in the family. The ensuing jealousy of his brethren was the cause of him being sold to the Ishmaelites, which landed him as a slave in Egypt. For many years Joseph’s life was not one to be envied however, God had His hand over Joseph for a special purpose and there were many experiences he went through that prepared him for this work. We also can learn from the experiences of Joseph. He was a very attractive young man, and Potipher’s wife attempted on a number of occasions to lure him into an illicit relationship. But Joseph walked with God and repelled her advances saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9. Joseph’s refusal to sin and the consequent accusations against him caused him to be thrown into prison. “But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Verse 21. Mortal eyes could not yet see God’s big plan for Joseph’s life, but God had His hand over Joseph and was in control of every event affecting him. Joseph’s faith did not falter, and while in prison he shared his faith to his captive audience.
To have victory over our own sinful nature we must walk with God continually. We must have Him with us even as we go to the grocery store and allow Him to direct us in what items we purchase to put into our bodies to keep us healthy, giving the enemy no room to distract us.
The story told of the three worthies while captive in Babylon is one that parallels well with the time in which we live today. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the princes that were taken captive and given the new names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, of which we are more familiar. There are several points in this account that are very important to understand. Daniel 3:8–10 says, “Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image.” Nebuchadnezzar felt so proud and honored to have an image of his own interpretation of the dream God had given him. Considering himself a god in his high position, like Satan, he craved the worship of all the people.
Continuing their accusation: “And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?’ ” Verses 11–15.
There is a movement today happening around the world, particularly in Europe, pushing for a day off each week, apparently to be set-aside for the family. Bible students know what is behind this push, which of course is Sunday and will be the spurious Sabbath that all will be required to acknowledge. It is hidden behind the guise of a necessity for the family, which would absolutely be a benefit.
At first, Nebuchadnezzar looks like a nice guy, a patient king. He offers a second chance and an opportunity for them to change their minds. He basically said, You can save your skins if you just bow down! But then followed the awful declaration in which he was really challenging the God of heaven, the God of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. His declaration was similar to Pharaoh’s when he said to Moses, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” Verses 16, 17. What a statement of faith! They knew their God, that He would not be mocked.
We can identify with these men as we make spiritual preparation for the Sunday law that we know is coming. We must determine in our minds not to worship the image that will be set up and be prepared to tell the authorities that our God, Whom we serve, is able to deliver us out of any punishment that is devised for those who refuse to conform to this law. That is all fine, but …!
What if God doesn’t deliver you? What if God has assigned that you and I be martyrs for His honor and glory? Those faithful men fearlessly standing before the king of the greatest nation on the earth at that time said, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” Nobody dared to challenge the king as they did. So, he “… commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” Verses 18–24. Suddenly God opened this king’s eyes and he saw what you and I today don’t physically see while we walk with God, the presence of Jesus safeguarding His loved ones.
“They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Verses 24, 25. That is one reason why they were able to answer the king and say, “No,” and even if he was going to take their lives, they said, “We’re not going to obey you anyway.” They were confident in their individual relationship with their God, they were in His presence; they walked with Him.
The only reason we sin and fall into the traps that Satan has set for us is because we lose the awareness that God is with us. When we forget or neglect our morning devotions, we walk away from Him and miss His guidance. The day never goes well without His companionship.
The story continues in verses 26 and 27, “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” What an encouragement is this story from past times; we cannot thank God enough for giving us this story of faith.
The Bible is full of stories of faithfulness. In John 1:47, it says, “Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to Him, and said to him, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” Nathaniel, a person that walked with God, and Jesus declared him to be righteous, an Israelite in whom there is no guile.
Our greatest example of faithfulness is our Saviour, Jesus Christ. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:14, 15.
Was He tempted beyond our human capability? Absolutely not! In this one sense, I have to clarify, but He was tempted in everything that we humans could be tempted. I do believe He was tempted even more, because for Him, being part of the Godhead, and knowingly, that He could not yield His power so He could be our example. He could have called a legion of angels to come and save Him, but He would have ruined His example for us and broken the agreement He had with the Father. In that sense, He was harassed even harder by the enemy. In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells us to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The battle we fight is in the mind, and all power is given to us to win this war by having the mind of Christ.
Jesus, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but 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 the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Verses 6–8. As a man He became obedient unto death. Are you ready to die, to die for your faith? We need the fullness of God in us.
In I Peter 2:21–25, it reads, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” How can I follow the example of Somebody that has more power than I and “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” Jesus committed Himself to His Father Who was the source of His power. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
“For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:16–18.
Jesus went through suffering and temptations and He succeeded, by the power of His Father. We are living in the time of the end, and we want to be part of that group who sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. “And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1. That name describes their character, the character of God, their Father. That name is engraved in every cell and in every feeling. It influences everything they do.
“These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Verses 4, 5. In Jesus there was not found any guile, neither was there in the three Hebrews who were tossed into the fiery furnace. God says, in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Never are we asked to do anything without being given power to accomplish the task.
An instruction manual for righteousness has been given to man, the Bible. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished into all good works.” II Timothy 3:16, 17. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:28. Our ignorance is without excuse.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” John 15:1–4. The key word is abide. The word abide came from the word abode, which is dwelling, a house.
If we are attached to the vine, we will produce fruit. To increase fruit production the branches must be pruned. Ever so lovingly He prunes away our bad habits, all the time giving us grace so we don’t get discouraged. We may not notice the changes in our own lives, but others will see the evidence when patience is displayed instead of the past quick temper. Paul identifies these fruits in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Do these attributes describe you?
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed remaineth in him.” I John 3:9. That sounds very simple. Looking at the parable in Luke 8:11, we see that the seed is the word of God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1, 2. Paul said, “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6, 7. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
God certainly understands human nature but makes no excuse for sin when He has provided a remedy in abundance. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take need lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” I Corinthians 10:12–14. One of our biggest idols is self – my needs, my wants, my own opinion and my own comfort – the importance of me!
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. How many blessings are missed that can never be recovered because we don’t take the time to “be still, and know that I [God] am God.” Psalm 46:10.
There is a promise found in I John 3:5: “And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.” God is able to keep us from falling through Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:21 tells us, “And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. This is so encouraging, for if we do fall we can raise a hand and call out as did Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus and sunk into the water, “Lord, save me!”
“But when he [Peter] saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:30. Immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him. Paul spoke of this great mystery: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but is made manifest to His saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26, 27.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. Surround yourself with the things of God and don’t give the devil any ground. Jesus has shown the way, and His word overflows with counsel how to live a righteous life – walk with Jesus! He is coming soon to take His children home. “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputed not iniquity, and is whose spirit there is no guile.” Psalm 32:2. Let this be our prayer!
Harold Cortes serves as the pastor for 7th Day Sabbath Church in Colton, California. He has a wife and two children. Brother Cortes grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist faith in Colombia, South America and received his medical degree in Mexico. After coming to the United States he obtained a Master of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, and it was there that he received the call from the Lord to become a pastor and has been serving the church in Colton since 1977.