You do realize, do you not, that the entire universe is watching you? Do not forget that you have been granted a probationary period in which to demonstrate your loyalty to the god you serve. “During probationary time the grace of God is offered to every soul. But if men waste their opportunities in self-pleasing, they cut themselves off from everlasting life. No after-probation will be granted them. By their own choice they have fixed an impassable gulf between them and their God.” God’s Amazing Grace, 243.
“Probationary time is granted us, opportunities and privileges are given us, to make our calling and election sure. How we should prize this precious time and improve every talent God has given, that we may be faithful stewards over ourselves!” In Heavenly Places, 359.
“Fallen man has the privilege of becoming intelligent in regard to the will of God. While probationary time is granted us, we should put our faculties to the very highest use, that we may make of ourselves all that it is possible; and while we endeavor to reach a high standard of intelligence, we should feel our dependence upon God, for without his grace, our efforts cannot bring lasting benefit. It is through the grace of Christ that we are to be overcomers; through the merits of his blood we are to be of that number whose names will not be blotted out of the book of life. Those who are final overcomers will have the life that runs parallel with the life of God, and wear the crown of the victor. When such great and eternal reward awaits us, we should run the race with patience, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The Signs of the Times, June 15, 1891.
This is a Test
Perhaps Abraham was called to give the greatest sacrifice ever required by a human being. Imagine being asked to cut the throat of your son! Do you realize that, because of Abraham’s earlier demonstration of lack of faith, Satan made accusations against him before the angels?
“The sacrifice required of Abraham was not alone for his own good, nor solely for the benefit of succeeding generations; but it was also for the instruction of the sinless intelligences of heaven and of other worlds. . . . Because Abraham had shown a lack of faith in God’s promises, Satan had accused him before the angels and before God of having failed to comply with the conditions of the covenant, and as unworthy of its blessings. God desired to prove the loyalty of His servant before all heaven, to demonstrate that nothing less than perfect obedience can be accepted, and to open more fully before them the plan of salvation.
“Heavenly beings were witnesses of the scene as the faith of Abraham and the submission of Isaac were tested. . . . All heaven beheld with wonder and admiration Abraham’s unfaltering obedience. All heaven applauded his fidelity.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 154, 155.
As with Abraham, because of our lack of faith, the test of loyalty we must go through (and should strive to excel) will tax our faith to the uttermost. The universe is watching us today. As we face our temptations, tests, and trials, heavenly beings are watching with great interest. One day soon our probationary time will be over. We do not know when, but we do know that the time will surely come. We will not receive a warning notice in the mail, nor will we be able to make arrangements for an extended period of grace. The books will be closed. What will be your final tally? It is up to you. Only you can make the difference.
The Work of Faith
One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Hebrews 11. What an inspiration to read the accounts, “By faith . . . .” Our Bible heroes accomplished great things! Why don’t you put this study aside for a few minutes, get your Bible, and read that motivating chapter right now! Again and again we read the accounts where Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others feared, trusted, and obeyed the Lord and were blessed. Consistently, they received instruction from the Lord, acted upon it and received a blessing. Instruction + Action = Blessings!
While chapter 11 is an historical account, chapter 12 is for us today. I encourage you to go through this chapter in your personal study time, but for right now, take a close look at the first four verses: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
“The weights that are here referred to [Hebrews 12:1] are the evil habits and practices we have formed by following our own natural dispositions. Who are the witnesses? They are those spoken of in the previous chapter—those who have breasted the evils and difficulties in their way, and who in the name of the Lord have braced themselves successfully against the opposing forces of evil. They were sustained and strengthened and the Lord held them by His hand.
“There are other witnesses. All about us are those who are watching us closely, to see how we who profess a belief in the truth conduct ourselves. At all times and in all places, so far as possible, we must magnify the truth before the world.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 934.
For the most part, we do not know what it means to resist unto blood, striving against sin. Usually, we do not even work up a good sweat. When one of our “desires” presents itself to us, we may, at first, put up a little resistance. We may even mentally give a decided No! But before long, we are smitten. We parley with the tempter. Then we begin to negotiate—“Just a little of this. Maybe just this once.” We begin to justify what we are about to do. Before we know it, we are seduced. We are in the spider’s web. Captured.
“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:14, 15.
Although temptation alone is not sin, when it is ignited by the sparks of humanity’s lustful desires, sin is the result. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4), a departing from Him alone Who can save us.
“The tempted one needs to understand the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man—the power of decision, of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. Desires for goodness and purity are right, so far as they go; but if they stop here, they avail nothing. Many will go down to ruin while hoping and desiring to overcome their evil propensities. They do not yield the will to God. They do not choose to serve Him.” The Ministry of Healing, 176.
“The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven.” The Desire of Ages, 555, 556.
The Way of Escape
“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].” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This [is] the way, walk ye in it . . . .” Isaiah 30:21.
“I have seen the tender love that God has for His people, and it is very great. I saw angels over the saints with their wings spread about them. Each saint had an attending angel. If the saints wept through discouragement, or were in danger, the angels that ever attended them would fly quickly upward to carry the tidings, and the angels in the city would cease to sing. Then Jesus would commission another angel to descend to encourage, watch over, and try to keep them from going out of the narrow path; but if they did not take heed to the watchful care of these angels, and would not be comforted by them, but continued to go astray, the angels would look sad and weep. They would bear the tidings upward, and all the angels in the city would weep, and then with a loud voice say, ‘Amen.’ But if the saints fixed their eyes upon the prize before them and glorified God by praising Him, then the angels would bear the glad tidings to the city, and the angels in the city would touch their golden harps and sing with a loud voice, ‘Alleluia!’ and the heavenly arches would ring with their lovely songs.” Early Writings, 39.
Obviously, we do not realize the effort expended in heaven to provide us every opportunity to be successful, because if we did, we would take full advantage of it. When the temptation comes, a way of escape is made available. The same power available to Jesus, by which He was victorious, is available to us today. Right now!
“In Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This is why, although He was tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world, from His first entrance into it, untainted by corruption, though surrounded by it. Are we not also to become partakers of that fullness, and is it not thus, and thus only, that we can overcome as He overcame?” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 907.
When you resist this effort—the heavenly power to keep you from falling to temptation—you demonstrate the true power of your will. If need be, all of heaven would be emptied in answer to your cry. Jesus is waiting, and the angels are ever ready and willing to come to your aid. But when the temptation comes, you cry, “I am weak,” and in your “weakness” (which is more accurately your strength, because in reality, you desire to partake of the temptation), you resist the power of the entire Godhead. That is what you and I do each time we decide to sin. In our “weakness” we manifest our true strength and desire to sin. But when we choose to do the right thing, and then do it, all heaven rejoices!
“As soon as we incline our will to harmonize with God’s will, the grace of Christ stands ready to cooperate with the human agent.” In Heavenly Places, 27.
“In the whole Satanic force there is not power to overcome one soul who in simple trust casts himself on Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 157.
“Satan is ever ready to insinuate that prayer is a mere form, and avails us nothing. He cannot bear to have his powerful rival appealed to. At the sound of fervent prayer, the hosts of darkness tremble. Fearing that their captive may escape, they form a wall around him, that Heaven’s light may not reach his soul. But if in his distress and helplessness the sinner looks to Jesus, pleading the merits of his blood, our compassionate Redeemer listens to the earnest, persevering prayer of faith, and sends to his deliverance a re-enforcement of angels that excel in strength. And when these angels, all-powerful, clothed with the armory of Heaven, come to the help of the fainting, pursued soul, the angels of darkness fall back, well knowing that their battle is lost, and that one more soul is escaping from the power of their influence.” The Signs of the Times, November 18, 1886.
“We want to become so sensitive to holy influences, that the lightest whisper of Jesus will move our souls.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 355.
Partakers of the Divine Nature
“Those who would overcome must put to the tax every power of their being. They must agonize on their knees before God for divine power. . . . Men may have a power to resist evil—a power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master; a power that will place them where they may overcome as Christ overcame. Divinity and humanity may be combined in them.” Review and Herald, February 18, 1890.
We have another formula: Humanity + Divinity = Victory. How does this happen? The first ten verses of 11 Peter 1 give us a glimpse, but let us look at verse 4: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This theme lies at the root of many of Paul’s writings. (See also Ephesians 2:1–6.)
Inspiration gives us clear illustrations of how this happens. “We must realize that through belief in him [Jesus Christ] it is our privilege to be partakers of the divine nature, and so escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. Then we are cleansed from all sin, all defects of character. We need not retain one sinful propensity. . . .
“As we partake of the divine nature, hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are cut away from the character, and we are made a living power for good. Ever learning of the divine Teacher, daily partaking of His nature, we co-operate with God in overcoming Satan’s temptations. God works, and man works, that man may be one with Christ as Christ is one with God. Then we sit together with Christ in heavenly places.” Review and Herald, April 24, 1900.
“It is our privilege to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. God has plainly stated that He requires us to be perfect; and because He requires this, He has made provision that we may be partakers of the divine nature. Only thus can we gain success in our striving for eternal life. The power is given by Christ. ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God’ (John 1:12).” Selected Messages, Book 3, 203.
“God’s purpose for us is that we shall be partakers of the divine nature. Only thus can we overcome the evils that beset us. It is by beholding Christ that we are made partakers of his nature. Keeping him ever in view, we are changed into his likeness. Thus we gain strength to overcome as he overcame. God does not ask us to fight the battle against sin in our own strength. He has given Christ to be our helper in every time of need.” Review and Herald, September 3, 1903.
“Christ has pledged himself to co-operate with those who work with him. He has pledged himself to train us to be his colaborers. He will help us to follow his example, doing good, and refusing to do evil. By Christ’s wonderful union of divinity with humanity, we are assured that even in this world we may be partakers of the divine nature, overcoming the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Ibid., May 13, 1909.
“The human agent who yields obedience to God, who becomes a partaker of the divine nature, finds pleasure in keeping the commandments of God; for he is one with God; he holds as vital a relation with God as does the Son to the Father. He understands the oneness that Christ prayed might exist between the Father and the Son.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 24, 1895.
“When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” The Desire of Ages, 668.
My friend, you and I suffer from the same terminal disease—sin. Yours may not be as far advanced and widespread as mine, but it is, nonetheless, just as deadly. Just as my neighbor and her husband are willing to do “whatever it takes” to overcome his cancer [see Part I in the February 2004 LandMarks], so must we be willing to do whatever is necessary to overcome our sins. The sins, which so easily beset us, must be resisted unto blood—now! Just as the addict and alcoholic must forsake their drug of choice, we must turn away from our cherished sins. There is only one type of offering that will be accepted by the God of Heaven. It has no blemish. It has no taint of carnal humanity.
There is coming a day—and I believe it is sooner than we would like to believe—when each of us will have to face our life’s record. On that day, there will be no negotiations, no explanations, and no exemptions. Our lives, our words, and our deeds will be measured alongside God’s unchangeable law—the same law that has governed this universe from the beginning and will continue throughout eternity. This may be your last reminder.
“Your only safety is in coming to Christ, and ceasing from sin this very moment. The sweet voice of mercy is sounding in your ears today, but who can tell if it will sound tomorrow?” The Signs of the Times, August 29, 1892.
It is far too late in this earth’s history to be playing games with your eternal destiny. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . .” Joshua 24:15.
“If man will cooperate with God by returning willingly to his loyalty, and obeying the commandments, God will receive him as a son. Through the provision Christ has made by taking the punishment due to man, we may be reinstated in God’s favor, being made partakers of the divine nature. If we repent of our transgression, and receive Christ as the Life-giver, our personal Saviour, we become one with him, and our will is brought into harmony with the divine will. We become partakers of the life of Christ, which is eternal. We derive immortality from God by receiving the life of Christ for in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This life is the mystical union and cooperation of the divine with the human.” The Signs of the Times, June 17, 1897.
Cathy Summers Timmons, a Steps to Life staff member and a member of LandMarks’ editorial staff, writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas. She may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.