The Scruples of Childhood

What do we do when we feel like the earth is shaking and reeling under our feet? when what we thought was solid ground for our feet seems to be moving? We want to reach out to something or someone to steady us. But, sometimes we cannot find anything sturdy enough to hang onto. At times like this, the following text can become the anchor to our soul: “If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17. This text was spoken by Jesus when people were wondering about Him—”And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; But he deceiveth the people.” John 7:12. The earth felt like it was shaking under these people’s feet. Jesus was challenging what they had been taught since babyhood. This brings a real “shaking” in a person’s mind. Martin Luther realized how difficult it is to change your mind on things you have always held. He said, ” ‘I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood.’ ” Great Controversy, 143.

Scruples of Childhood

What were the “scruples” that Martin Luther was writing of that he had held since childhood? What was it that he was struggling over? We can find the answer in Martin Luther’s own words. ” ‘I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood. Oh, how much pain it has caused me, though I had the Scriptures on my side, to justify it to myself that I should dare to make a stand alone against the pope, and hold him forth as antichrist! What have the tribulations of my heart not been! How many times have I not asked myself with bitterness that question which was so frequent on the lips of the papists: “Art thou alone wise? Can everyone else be mistaken? How will it be, if, after all, it is thyself who art wrong, and who art involving in thy error so many souls, who will then be eternally damned?” “Twas so I fought with myself and with Satan, till Christ, by His own infallible word, fortified my heart against these doubts.” ’ ” Ibid., quoting Martyn, 372, 373.

When Luther, in reading the Scriptures, found that Christ is the head of the body, he began questioning whether there was any head of the whole church other than Christ. There came a point in his experience where he was engaged in the Leipzig debates, and as a result of that experience, Luther began coming to grips with the issue of authority in the church. He finally came to doubt whether, after all, any other head of the whole church had been appointed upon earth except Christ. Once he accepted the principle that the authority of God’s Word is above counsels, popes and all human authority, it began to transform all human life, changing even people’s concept of the church.

This same conflict is what brought such a shaking to the Jews, described in John 7—Jesus was challenging the scruples they had held since childhood. What were these scruples? Read the story for yourself in John 7 and 8. There you will see that the present contest between Jesus and the Jews was that He had healed on the Sabbath day—against their manmade laws. John 7:23, 24. This struck at the very root of the scruples the Jews were taught from babyhood —unquestioning obedience to the priests. Today we are still struggling with this same issue. Who will we obey—God or man? Whether we like to admit it or not, we have been taught from babyhood to obey man. Just as the Jews, we have been taught that the priests are God’s church. So we continue to shake—until we wonder if we can trust anyone.

“Brethren and sisters, look up; you who are tried, tempted, and discouraged, look up. Let no weary, halting, sin-oppressed soul become faint-hearted. The promises of God that come down along the lines to our times assure you that heaven can be reached if you will continue to climb. It is ever safe to look up; it is fatal to look down. If you look down, the earth reels and sways beneath you; nothing is sure. But heaven above you is calm and steady, and there is divine aid for every climber. The hand of the Infinite is reaching over the battlements of heaven to grasp you in its strong embrace. The mighty Helper is nigh to bless, lift up, and encourage the most erring, the most sinful, if they will look to Him by faith. But the sinner must look up; he must see the glory of God above the shining ladder, and the angels ascending and descending with messages of mercy.” Review and Herald, February 17, 1885.

We had better learn what this means to look up. These words are not merely rhetoric! “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32. It is not time to quit—it is time to continue holding to the Word of God, time to look up!

People today are shaking to their very roots in consternation over those they see joining back up with apostasy. The Word of God still says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” John 7:17. The devil is trying to destroy God’s people—he has come down with great fury—knowing that he hath but a short time. The real question is: Are we fully surrendered. (The devil is no match for the weakest one who is surrendered to Jesus.) Are we doing His will so John 17:17 can be fulfilled for us? Are we surrendered in the area of health reform? Or are we holding out on God so we can enjoy “little” cherished impulses? What about gossip and rumors? God’s people today seem to be having a hard time telling the difference between God’s messengers giving rebuke and reproof to a sleeping church, and criticism. Friends, there is a big, BIG difference. One is under the unction of the Holy Spirit and the other comes from an unregenerate human heart. The devil knows this is a trump card for him.

Evil Surmising

Thinking about evil surmising, I wonder what was said of Jesus’ disciples. Peter—ordained three or so years earlier by Jesus—attempted murder on the “secretary” of the “General Conference President.” John and James wanted a city to be burned with its inhabitants for not allowing Jesus to pass through. (Maybe this city had a good working relationship with the “powers that be” and this would jeopardize it!) Then, what about Judas? Any of these would give fertile soil to one who had a bent toward tale-bearing and evil surmising. In fact, you would not even have to surmise; you could just talk about facts! Do not let evil surmising steal your crown. (However, the only one who went and made a deal with the priests was Judas. After that he was not a part of the disciples.)

Have you ever wondered how the spectators could tell any difference between the disciples and the priests? It would certainly be easy to rationalize, would it not? Something like this: “I see faults on both sides;” or “If that Peter has anything to do with the camp meeting, I certainly will not attend.” Oh, friends, many in Jesus’ day lost eternal life because of the false scruples they had grown up with were not thrown off through the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of the false scruples that bound them were:

#1 — That the corrupt priesthood was the church.

#2 — That the Messiah was to establish a kingdom on this earth.

#3 — That the true Messiah would come through the priesthood and clean up the corruptions.

#4 —That Jesus and His little band of faulty disciples could not be the movement of truth.

The weaknesses and faults of men mar the work of God—but they cannot stop it. The truth will triumph. Do not let David and Bathsheeba, Peter, Judas or Paul and Barnabas (with their split) keep you from triumphing with the truth. There are experiences just ahead that have not been experienced yet—do we have something ahead for us as devastating as the death of Jesus was to the disciples? If we cannot keep up with the footmen, how will we keep up with the horses in the swelling of the Jordan? Jeremiah 12:15.

Friend, if the ground you are standing on seems to be quaking, reach out and grab hold of Jesus—Jesus dying alone. He will sustain you. Take time to pray; He will hear you. God’s Word is still true. “If any man will, he will know of the doctrine.” On your knees, investigate the doctrine; not from the scruples of childhood—but from a plain thus saith the Lord. Many refuse to stand on a plain Thus saith the Lord.

“But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority— not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” Great Controversy, 595.

No one should be afraid to have what they believe come under careful investigation from the Word of God! If people are afraid, they are not clinging to truth, but to the scruples of childhood. These scruples may be either right or wrong. The only thing that will stand is what is based upon the naked, unaided Word of God.

“Never give up your faith and hope in God. Cling to the promises. Do not trust in your feelings, but in the naked Word of God. Believe the assurances of the Lord. Take your stand upon the plain ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and rest there, feeling or no feeling.” Upward Look, 176.

Caving In

When we see one after another apparently caving in to preconceived ideas that were formed in childhood—the belief that even in apostasy, the conference is the church—we feel shaken. But, the weakest one may stand firm in the Three Angels’ Messages. Not a thing has ever happened to God’s people—His church—that He has not foreseen. His purposes are steadily marching on to a certain triumph. Consider the following quotation as one reason why the Lord allows us to witness others falling back to cooperate with apostasy.

“Before the great trouble shall come upon the world such as has never been since there was a nation, those who have faltered and who would ignorantly lead in unsafe paths will reveal this before the real vital test, the last proving, comes, so that whatsoever they may say will not be regarded as voicing the True Shepherd.” 1888 Materials, 1002.

“To those who thus yield themselves to God, having an honest desire to know and to do His will, the truth is revealed as the power of God for their salvation. These will be able to distinguish between him who speaks for God, and him who speaks merely from himself.” Desire of Ages, 456.

With our eyes anointed with the eyesalve from above we will not be found accusing or condemning those who are joining back up with apostasy. No! We will walk humbly before the Lord lest we also fall back. It is time for us to weep between the porch and the altar. “Now is the time for us to lay hold of the arm of our strength. The prayer of David should be the prayer of pastors and laymen: ‘It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void thy law.’ Let the servants of God weep between the porch and the altar, crying, ‘Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach.’ God has always wrought in behalf of His truth. The designs of wicked men, the enemies of the church, are subject to His power and His overruling providence. He can move upon the hearts of statesmen; the wrath of the haters of His truth and His people can be turned aside, even as the waters of a river could be turned, if thus He ordered it. Prayer moves the arm of Omnipotence. He who marshals the stars in order in the heavens, whose word controls the waves of the great deep—the same infinite Creator will work in behalf of His people,if they will call upon Him in faith. He will restrain all the forces of darkness, until the warning is given to the world, and all who will heed it are prepared for His coming.” Review and Herald, November 23, 1905.

“I looked for the burden bearers who in such a time as this should be weeping between the porch and the altar, crying, Spare thy people, Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach; but I heard no such supplications. A few earnest humble ones were seeking the Lord. At some of these meetings one or two ministers felt the burden, and were weighed down as a cart beneath sheaves. But a large majority of the ministers had no more sense of the sacredness of their work than children.” Review and Herald, August 15, 1882.

May you be one of these earnest humble ones who are seeking the Lord. We are told that ONLY those who are sighing and crying for the abominations done in the land will be spared the judgments of an offended God. May you be found in this small company, humbly entreating the Lord to spare His people.