God’s word is based on principles. The word principle comes from a Latin word meaning beginning. Some of the definitions of principle are: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine or assumption; a rule or code of conduct; the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts.
Basically, principles produce actions. Right principles produce right actions and wrong principles produce wrong actions. Jesus said, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:17–20.
In the beginning, “God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:11, 12.
God’s word is law. When He says, “Let every tree and herb yield seed and produce after its own kind,” it happens. Everything necessary is in the seed to produce after its own kind. An apple tree can only ever produce an apple.
“God has ordained laws for the government, not only of living beings, but of all the operations of nature. Everything is under fixed laws, which cannot be disregarded.” The Faith I Live By, 179. There are only two types of principles: those connected with Satan’s kingdom and those principles of God’s kingdom. Whatever kingdom man chooses, he will produce like fruit.
God said, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15. Here is mentioned the two seeds and their relevant produce—two opposing sets of principles.
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto Him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35–40.
Jesus here specified the two underlying principles of the Ten Commandments—love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. John explained this principle further when he said, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” I John 4:7, 8.
The only way that love is possible is through a relationship with the Source of that love, which is God. Our identity is tied up in that relationship. It is God-centered; it is Christ-centered.
One principle of Satan’s kingdom is brought out in the first lie he told Eve: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4, 5.
The result of that lie is to believe you have life in yourself, outside of a relationship with Christ. You would then have the ability to produce your own works and God Himself could not take that life from you, resulting in the lie of eternal hellfire. The seed of the serpent was planted in the heart of the human race and produced a new fruit.
Of Adam and Eve, the Bible says, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Verse 7. In their innocence before sin they were naked and did not know it, but now, they knew that they were naked; they were ashamed and sought to clothe themselves to cover their nakedness.
Ellen White wrote, “From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the divine One.” The Review and Herald, December 31, 1908.
When man sinned, he lost the glory of God. In the earthly temple the light of the glory of God was represented as the Shekinah glory. When Adam and Eve sinned they lost that covering of light, and they were no longer vessels for the indwelling of the Spirit of God. That relationship had been broken, and now they were naked. They were now born of a different spirit.
“The light of the garments of heavenly innocence departed from them; and in parting with the garments of innocence, they drew about them the dark robes of ignorance of God.” Conflict and Courage, 17.
Not only did they lose the presence of God, but their whole relationship to Him had changed. They now had a different view of Him. With the garments of light removed, they found themselves in darkness concerning His character and were governed by the new principles that Satan had planted in their hearts that would produce a different fruit.
Under Satan’s kingdom we are separated from God, and our identity is performance based and determined by what we do. God’s kingdom is an identity based on relationship. Those under God’s kingdom are valued as sons and daughters of God regardless of performance.
God always deals with principles. “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7.
God is more interested in a man’s heart and the motivation for each action. If the heart is right, the relationship is right, and when the good seed is implanted, the fruit will manifest itself. Performance will be based on the relationship and not the relationship based on performance.
God’s perspective and man’s perspective are completely different. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” Isaiah 55:8.
The scribes and the Pharisees were the most religious people at that time, but they operated under the principles of Satan’s kingdom. Their main focus was their performance.
Jesus said to them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hyprocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23:23–28.
To hear this denunciation was a terrible shock to them for they thought themselves righteous. They did all the right things. They tithed, they fasted, and obeyed all external rules, forgetting the weightier matters. Jesus put things in a proper perspective; He said to work on cleansing the inside of the cup and the outside will also be clean.
One man came to Jesus inquiring what he could do to have eternal life. He claimed to have kept all of the commandments since his youth, but when Jesus told him to go and sell all that he had, the young man went away sorrowful for he was very wealthy (Matthew 19:16–22).
The young man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus went straight to his heart discerning his motivation, which was not a desire for a relationship with Him because this man’s identity was linked to his possessions. He rejected a discipleship to keep his treasure, the things of this world, and as a result, he rejected eternal life. The devil knows exactly what is in the heart of man outside of their relationship with God, because he is the author of those principles.
Satan’s first attack toward Christ, when He was led into the wilderness after His baptism, was to doubt His relationship with His Father. He had succeeded in casting doubt on God’s character and His love for them with Adam and Eve.
First he attacked Christ’s relationship, and then he said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Matthew 4:3. Then he appealed to the human nature of Christ—the principles that are inherently in us, in our human nature, to perform or prove ourselves—to prove who He was by performing a miracle. This temptation was repeated throughout Christ’s life as well as on the cross, “If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.” Luke 23:39. The devil continually attacked Christ’s relationship with His Father and appealed to the principles of humanity, but there was nothing in His heart to which the devil could take hold for he was of a different seed. He said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. There are two opposing principles.
|The Devil’s Kingdom||God’s Kingdom|
|Based on receiving the lie||Based on receiving the truth|
|You shall not surely die||You shall surely die|
|You have life in yourself||Your life is in the Son|
|You are able to produce good works||The Son produces works in you|
|Your life is bound up in performance||Your life is bound up in relationship|
|He who has not the Son has not life||He who hath the son hath life|
Jesus said, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you … . Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” John 15:7, 8.
The principles of the devil’s kingdom lead to pride and feelings of superiority. Those who achieve, look down on others who do not. When not doing so well, we get depressed because our value is based on our performance. Under these principles, truth is mixed with error causing confusion and there is an entitlement to heaven because of our good works. This can never create harmony with God or others. In the church, the natural result is a hierarchical structure of government that develops into different classes and different values where people are valued differently.
In God’s kingdom we realize that everything we have comes from God—our life, our talents, and everything that we possess. This promotes thankfulness and humility. All are in harmony with each other knowing that without God we are nothing but dust and ashes. It is God who gave us life and we are all brethren and equal in value. In God’s kingdom, the reward that God gives us is because of unmerited grace, an undeserved gift that is received by faith.
Peter adds one virtue to another like a ladder showing the Christian experience (II Peter 1:5–7). The closer the relationship is to Christ and the Father, the higher up the ladder we will be, but it has nothing to do with our own works and no one is higher or better than another.
Two Principles Produce Different Fruits
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19–21.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Verses 22, 23.
Which principles are guiding your life; which seed has been planted in your heart?
Jesus told a parable of a son who decided to separate from his father’s house, take his inheritance and go off into a far country to make his own life and to experience life. We are like the young man. The inheritance we have received is everything that God has given to us in this life—our strength, our health, our talents, our ability, and money, whatever it may be.
His inheritance was spent supporting his new life of riotous living. He lived what we call today “the high life” associating with harlots, and in drunkenness he experienced the temporary pleasures of sin. But as always happens, after a while when things start going wrong, it all stops being fun. There was a famine in the land and he found himself destitute and his friends disappeared when his money ran out. Desperate and all alone he hit rock bottom. He was so hungry that the food with which he was feeding the pigs was tempting to him, but no one helped him. Finding no power within himself to change his condition, “He came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17.
In his distress, his thoughts went back to his father’s house. Though this parable focuses mainly on the son, we can get an idea of what the father was doing while he was away. “How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of the them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12–14.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20.
The father did not just wait at the gate for his son to return; he was actively searching for him. “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising. Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” Psalm 139:1–12.
The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6) and God loves us so much, even when we chose to separate ourselves from Him and were yet enemies, that He sent His Son to die in our place so we might be reconciled to Him. What love!
“The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring him back to the Father’s house. The prodigal son in his wretchedness ‘came to himself.’ The deceptive power that Satan had exercised over him was broken. He saw that his suffering was the result of his own folly, and he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father’ [Luke 15:17, 18]. Miserable as he was, the prodigal found hope in the conviction of his father’s love. It was that love which was drawing him toward home.”
A Call to Stand Apart, 12.
Even as the prodigal son responded to his father’s love and turned his heart toward home, he wondered what he could do to gain his father’s favor and be accepted. The prodigal son still did not understand the unconditional love that his father had for him and that there was nothing he could do to increase that love.
Jesus spoke this parable to show His Father’s love for man. “For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:16, 17.
“Little did the gay, thoughtless youth, as he went out from his father’s gate, dream of the ache and longing left in that father’s heart. When he danced and feasted with his wild companions, little did he think of the shadow that had fallen on his home.” A Call To Stand Apart, 13.
How little do we understand the ache in the Father’s heart when we are separated from Him. “And now as with weary and painful steps he pursues the homeward way, he knows not that one is watching for his return. But while he is yet ‘a great way off’ the Father discerns his form. Love is of quick sight. Not even the degradation of the years of sin can conceal the son from the father’s eyes. He ‘had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck’ [Luke 15:20] in a long, clinging, tender, embrace.” Ibid.
This is a picture of our heavenly Father, one that the devil does all in his power to hide from us.
“The father will permit no contemptuous eye to mock his son’s misery and tatters. He takes from his own shoulders the broad, rich, mantle, and wraps it around the son’s wasted form, and the youth sobs out his repentance, saying, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son’ [Luke 15:21].” Ibid. His plan was to confess his sins to his father and then ask to be accepted as one of his hired servants, but his plan was thwarted.
“The father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry’ [Luke 15:22–24].
“In his restless youth the prodigal looked upon his father as stern and severe. How different his conception of him now! So those who are deceived by Satan look upon God as hard and exacting. They regard Him as watching to denounce and condemn, as unwilling to receive the sinner so long as there is a legal excuse for not helping him. His law they regard as a restriction upon men’s happiness, a burdensome yoke from which they are glad to escape. But he whose eyes have been opened by the love of Christ will behold God as full of compassion. He does not appear as a tyrannical, relentless being, but as a father longing to embrace his repenting son.
“Do not listen to the enemy’s suggestion to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better; until you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until then, you will never come.” Ibid.
The parable ends with a restored relationship. The son received a robe and a ring. The father commanded his servants to kill the fatted calf and to rejoice and be merry. There was a feast in the father’s house, but the parable does not end there. When the older brother returns from the field, he heard the music playing and enquired of the reason for the festivities. On hearing the story, he was angry. He had always stayed home and worked in his father’s house, yet he had never received the reception that was spent on his wayward brother who had wasted his inheritance on harlots and drinking. He reminded his father of all the things he had done for him, but his motivation was from a performance-based philosophy and not from his heart.
“One son had for a time cut himself off from the household, not discerning the father’s love. But now he has returned, and the tide of joy sweeps away every disturbing thought. ‘This thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found’ [Luke 15:32].
“Was the elder brother brought to see his own mean, ungrateful spirit? Did he come to see that though his brother had done wickedly, he was his brother still? Did the elder brother repent of his jealousy and hardheartedness? Concerning this, Christ was silent. For the parable was still enacting, and it rested with His hearers to determine what the outcome should be.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 209.
What principles are guiding your life? Whether part of a church or not, the choice is yours. The only way we can be freed from Satan’s kingdom is to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be restored back into a relationship with God. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” John 3:5–7.
The only way that we can inherit eternal life is to be born again and restored into the relationship that man had with the Father in the Garden of Eden before man sinned. We know that we have this relationship when we love one another. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” I John 4:7, 8.
It is time to be honest with yourself. You may fool others, but you cannot fool God, for He knows your heart. Ask yourself the question, What principles are guiding me? “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12.
Jim Stoeckert worked in many capacities for Steps to Life over many years; video department, Bible worker and maintenance. He is currently living in Australia with his wife.