How often have you packed for a trip and included more than you needed and maybe forgot what you needed most?
In this life, if we are to be children of God, we must, by His power, rid ourselves of our worldly baggage. Pride, selfishness, fear, impatience, passion (including appetite and anger)—so many things that we carry around with us every day. But as we give up, or lay off, these things, what is necessary for us to have in our heavenly suitcase for this worldly journey that will take us to, and follow us into, eternal life?
“God has called His people to glory and virtue, and these will be manifest in the lives of all who are truly connected with Him. Having become partakers of the heavenly gift, they are to go on unto perfection, being ‘kept by the power of God through faith’ (1 Peter 1:5).” Reflecting Christ, 313
We are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that Christ is ready to hear, ready to render assistance, that “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, and charity are the elements of the Christian character. …
“As you receive the Spirit of Christ and grow, you will bring forth fruit [Galatians 5:20–25]. These graces increase faith, deepen conviction, and love is made perfect.” As a result, you will “more and more reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely. …
“This fruit can never perish, but will produce after its kind a harvest unto eternal life.” Sons and Daughters of God, 32
“It is the glory of God to give His virtue to His children. He desires to see men and women reaching the highest standard; and when by faith they lay hold of the power of Christ, when they plead His unfailing promises, and claim them as their own, when with an importunity [perseverance] that will not be denied they seek for the power of the Holy Spirit, they will be made complete in Him.” The Acts of the Apostles, 529–530
“A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next. Those who are under the instruction of Christ in this world will take every divine attainment with them to the heavenly mansions.” Child Guidance, 161
The Bible tells us in Matthew 5:48 that God wants us to be as perfect in our sphere as He is in His. What does this mean? “The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. There is opened before us a path of constant advancement. We have an object to gain, a standard to reach, that includes everything good and pure and noble and elevated. There should be continual striving and constant progress onward and upward toward perfection of character.” Testimonies, Vol. 8, 64
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16:24–25
“It is love of selfish ease, love of pleasure, your self-esteem, self-exaltation that prevents you from learning the precious life lessons in the school of Christ. It is the Christian’s duty not to permit surroundings and circumstances to mold him; but to live above surroundings, fashioning his character according to the divine Model. … We are to surrender the will, the heart, to God, and become acquainted with Christ. We must deny self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. Not one of us can reach heaven, save by the narrow, cross-bearing way. But how many wear the cross as an ornament of the person, but fail to bear the cross in practical, everyday life?” The Review and Herald, September 22, 1891
We read above that we are to have a character formed “in the divine likeness.” But how do we achieve that? We are given this guidance, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5–11
“We have a part to act in this work. Let none think that men and women are going to be taken to heaven without engaging in the struggle here below. We have a battle to fight, a victory to gain. God says to us, ‘Work out your own salvation.’ How? ‘With fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12, 13). God works, and man works. … Thus only can we be partakers of the divine nature.” In Heavenly Places, 59
So, we are told that there will be a struggle that we must engage in, “a battle to fight, a victory to gain.” I think we all know what this entails. It is by the process of sanctification that we are made ready to spend eternity with Christ. We must strive daily with our nature to resist the natural desires of the sinful heart as well as those cultivated desires acquired over a lifetime of sin. It is only by keeping God’s commandments that it truly can be known that we love Him. Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And God does not leave us alone in this work, in fact, there is no victory without Him, for “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).
“Sanctification is the work, not of a day or of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. … Paul’s sanctification was the result of a constant conflict with self. He said, ‘I die daily’ (1 Corinthians 15:31). … It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy, and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose. …
“Man, in the work of saving of the soul, is wholly dependent upon God. …
“The Spirit of God does not propose to do our part, either in the willing or the doing. … 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; but it will not be the substitute to do our work independent of our resolving and decidedly acting. … It is only the human agent accepting the light, arousing the energies of the will, realizing and acknowledging that which he knows is righteousness and truth, and thus cooperating with the heavenly ministrations appointed of God in the saving of the soul.” In Heavenly Places, 26, 27
“Your obedience to God’s commandments will prove your right to an inheritance with the saints in light. All who would reach this standard of character, will have to employ the means that God has provided to this end. If you would inherit the rest that remaineth for the children of God, you must become a co-laborer with God. You are elected to wear the yoke of Christ,—to bear His burden, to lift His cross. You are to be diligent ‘to make your calling and election sure.’ Search the Scriptures, and you will see that not a son or a daughter of Adam is elected to be saved in disobedience to God’s law. The world makes void the law of God; but Christians are chosen to sanctification through obedience to the truth. They are elected to bear the cross, if they would wear the crown.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 125
Friends, if we are to make a successful journey to heaven, we must allow the Holy Spirit to complete the work of conversion in our lives. We must submit our will to God and seek only to do His will. We must confess and repent and rely upon the grace and power that He provides daily. It is through His Spirit that we are made able to do that which He asks us to do. We must pray and study His word and obey His commandments. As a result, the fruit of the Spirit will be manifest in our lives. And as we continue on from justification through sanctification, taking up our cross and following after Christ, the remaining attributes of a true Christian will grow in our lives: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Love for God enough to always do as He asks and love enough for our fellow man that through us they can see the love of a God who gave His life so that they could be saved. These are the things that must be in our heavenly bag.
“Remember that it was your sins that made the cross necessary. When you accepted Christ as your Saviour you pledged yourself to unite with Him in bearing the cross. For life and for death you are bound up with Him, a part of the great plan of redemption.” Lift Him Up, 58
“The transforming power of Christ’s grace molds the one who gives himself to God’s service. Imbued with the Spirit of the Redeemer, he is ready to deny self, ready to take up the cross, ready to make any sacrifice for the Master.
“The cross … is to be lifted and borne without a murmur or complaint. In the act of raising it, you will find that it raises you. You will find it alive with mercy, compassion, and pitying love.” Sons and Daughters of God, 245