“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
1 Peter 2:21–24
Here Peter says that Christ has left us an example for what we are to do and say. Verse 22 says that He “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” I would like to share with you some gems from the Spirit of Prophecy that I found as I studied the words sinless and sinlessness.
Now what does it actually mean to be my “example”? If I cut some lumber with a power tool, and then I give my nine-year-old daughter Hannah a handsaw and ask her to do what I just did, can I expect her to do her part just as well and as quickly as I did mine? Is she fully equipped to follow my example? Hannah is much smaller and weaker, not to mention less experienced. Even if we both had the same tools, it would take her longer to do the job. I have such an advantage that it is ridiculous for me to require her to follow my example.
We read from 1 Peter 2 that Christ left us an example, that we should follow in His steps. It would be unfair and cruel to us if we were expected to follow Christ’s example without the tools that He had at His disposal. Thankfully, we may be assured that His example is not out of our reach if we will fully surrender to Him and take advantage of the heavenly grace He has offered to us.
“As one of us, He was to give an example of obedience. For this He took upon Himself our nature, and passed through our experiences. ‘In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren.’ Hebrews 2:17. If we had to bear anything which Jesus did not endure, then upon this point Satan would represent the power of God as insufficient for us. Therefore Jesus was ‘in all points tempted like as we are.’ Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God. …
“By His humanity, Christ touched humanity; by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of God. As the Son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey.” The Desire of Ages, 24
“Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was.” Ibid., 664
A Sinless Example
What kind of example did Jesus give us? He lived a sinless life, showing that God’s law—all of it—could be perfectly kept, demonstrating that a sinless character could be developed in man.
“He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.” Ibid., 49
Some have suggested that Jesus’ example is something that I should be striving to follow, but I cannot actually live a sinless life—one of perfect obedience. I will always be relying upon Christ’s covering robe of righteousness to make up for my own deficiencies. But is this what Inspiration teaches?
“Christ has left us a perfect, sinless example. His followers are to walk in His footsteps. If they are not transformed in character, they can never dwell with Him in His kingdom. Christ died to elevate and ennoble them, and those who retain hereditary tendencies to wrong cannot dwell with Him. He suffered all that it is possible for human flesh to suffer and endure, that we might pass triumphantly through all the temptations Satan may invent to destroy our faith.” Sons and Daughters of God, 294
Truly this is a matter of salvation. Christ’s atonement offers justification to the repentant sinner for his past sins and is vital for our salvation; but it is just as vital that we take the next step of complete transformation and submission to God’s revealed will. Those who neglect this latter step “can never dwell with Him.”
“Christ has made every provision for the sanctification of His church. He has made abundant provision for every soul to have such grace and strength that he will be more than a conqueror in the warfare against sin. The Saviour is wounded afresh and put to open shame when His people pay no heed to His word. He came to this world and lived a sinless life, that in His power His people might also live lives of sinlessness. He desires them by practicing the principles of truth to show to the world that God’s grace has power to sanctify the heart.” The Review and Herald, April 1, 1902
“Everyone who believes on Christ, everyone who relies on the keeping power of a risen Saviour that has suffered the penalty pronounced upon the transgressor, everyone who resists temptation and in the midst of evil copies the pattern given in the Christ life, will through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ become a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Everyone who by faith obeys God’s commandments will reach the condition of sinlessness in which Adam lived before his transgression.” In Heavenly Places, 146
Please notice, we are called to “the condition of sinlessness in which Adam lived before his transgression.” Heaven requires that you and I reflect the character of the pre-fall Adam while we still have the sinful flesh of the post-fall Adam—and God has made every provision necessary to make it possible.
It Is the Thought that Counts!
Jesus showed the result of continually keeping the thoughts and feelings pure and elevated. While He had to rely upon His heavenly Father for strength to resist temptations just as we do, He did not have the same desire for sin that exists in the unconverted heart; instead, He recoiled from sin.
“Our Saviour identifies Himself with our needs and weaknesses, in that He became a suppliant, a nightly petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, to come forth invigorated and refreshed, braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil. He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, 201, 202
God has called us to reflect the character of Christ, “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Romans 8:29
“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 69
What does it mean to reflect the character of Jesus? It means that the principles of the ten commandments—God’s law of love—are written upon the heart and will be reflected in our words and actions. It means that when faced with temptation we will recoil from evil. It means we will be disgusted at any thought of sin, and temptation will lose its power over us.
There was a time when I focused almost all my attention on my outward actions, trying my best to make sure that I was perfectly obedient, while inside I still cherished sinful thoughts. At times, I lost my temper and then apologized, but I would still tell myself that I was justified, that the other party was in the wrong. This mixture of success and failure, victory and defeat, was a confusing witness for the Lord:
“A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.” Proverbs 25:26
“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” James, 3:10, 11
Solomon said, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
I had not fully realized that the key to a truly victorious experience has everything to do with the mind and heart—how we think and feel.
Christ said to the Pharisees, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:34, 35
“Through Christ you may and should be happy and should acquire habits of self-control. Even your thoughts must be brought into subjection to the will of God and your feelings under the control of reason and religion. Your imagination was not given you to be allowed to run riot and have its own way without any effort at restraint and discipline. If the thoughts are wrong, the feelings will be wrong, and the thoughts and feelings combined make up the moral character. When you decide that as Christians you are not required to restrain your thoughts and feelings, you are brought under the influence of evil angels and invite their presence and their control. If you yield to your impressions and allow your thoughts to run in a channel of suspicion, doubt, and repining you will be among the most unhappy of mortals, and your lives will prove a failure.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 310
If we desire to reflect Christ’s character, we need to give proper attention to thinking and feeling as Christ thought and felt. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
“As God works upon the heart by His Holy Spirit, man must cooperate with Him. The thoughts must be bound about, restricted, withdrawn from branching out and contemplating things that will only weaken and defile the soul. The thoughts must be pure, the meditations of the heart must be clean, if the words of the mouth are to be words acceptable to heaven and helpful to your associates.” Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, 657
“Gird up the loins of your mind, says the apostle; then control your thoughts, not allowing them to have full scope. The thoughts may be guarded and controlled by your own determined efforts. Think right thoughts, and you will perform right actions. You have, then, to guard the affections, not letting them go out and fasten upon improper objects. Jesus has purchased you with His own life; you belong to Him; therefore He is to be consulted in all things, as to how the powers of your mind and the affections of your heart shall be employed.” The Adventist Home, 54
When I began to see that victory over temptation begins with right thoughts, then I started experiencing victory over my besetting sins.
“You may think that there can be no sin in permitting your thoughts to run as they naturally would without restraint. But this is not so. You are responsible to God for the indulgence of vain thoughts; for from vain imaginations arises the committal of sins, the actual doing of those things upon which the mind has dwelt. Govern your thoughts, and it will then be much easier to govern your actions. Your thoughts need to be sanctified. Paul writes to the Corinthians: ‘Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ When you come into this position, the work of consecration will be better understood by you both. Your thoughts will be pure, chaste, and elevated; your actions pure and sinless.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, 82, 83
Did you catch that? If we keep our thoughts in submission to Christ, the result will be that our actions will be pure and sinless. If you are frustrated by a “yo-yo” experience of victory and defeat, then lay the axe at the root of the tree (Matthew 3:10), rather than trying to pick off the ugly fruit. Focus on your thoughts.
“There is earnest work before each one of us. Right thoughts, pure and holy purposes, do not come to us naturally. We shall have to strive for them.” Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, 656
How to Control the Thoughts
There are two simple principles that help me to control my thoughts:
- “You are what you eat”
Your life will show what your mind is feeding on. Therefore, dedicate time for study and prayer at the beginning and end of the day. Don’t let anyone or anything take away that time. In addition to feeding on God’s word, you must also refrain from feeding the mind on sinful and worldly things. Resist the enemy’s temptation to make you believe you won’t be affected by watching that movie, reading that book, spending time on the Internet and social media, or listening to that music. Be always on guard, for Satan is looking for us to just crack the door open, and then he will be inside before we realize it.
- The Replacement Principle
When you are tempted to think wrong thoughts, send up a quick prayer to God for help. Then don’t just try to stop those thoughts; focus your mind on something better. Memorize scripture; sing songs; converse with God in prayer—out loud if no one is nearby. Let your imagination picture the scenes that you have studied in the Scriptures, particularly the life of Christ and the beauties of the new earth. Use the time to think about ways to work more effectively for the Lord.
As we follow these principles in keeping all of our thoughts in submission to Christ, He will fulfill in us this powerful promise:
“Christ was obedient to every requirement of the law. He said of Himself, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.’ Psalm 40:8. When on earth, He said to His disciples, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments.’ John 15:10. By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God’s commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 312
May this be our experience.
[All emphasis supplied.]
Taken from: Our Firm Foundation, Volume 19, Number 5, May 2004, 8–11
Harvey Steck is a life-time Seventh-day Adventist who has worked in the Lord’s vineyard for many years. He was a book and magazine editor by profession, but subsequently transitioned to Internet work. Yielding to the call for missionary work, He and his wife, Brenda, are currently working to alleviate the needs of the many internally displaced persons on the border between Thailand and Burma as missionaries with the “Border Light” project through development and implementation of several humanitarian and Gospel projects.