The “Perfect” Debate
avatar

In Christ’s day in Palestine, you could start a heated debate in the church by just saying the word “resurrection.” Today you can accomplish the same thing during fellowship lunch by just casually using the word “perfect.”

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

In my 47 years of being an Adventist I have observed something ironic. I have met people who have told me, that if I don’t believe that we can live without sinning, that I am not a real Adventist. Others tell me that if I do believe we can live without sinning then I am a heretic! So, I have two opposing groups telling me their version is what Adventism is all about. I have heard people argue till they are blue in the face, telling me their opinion is gospel truth and if I don’t agree with them, then I must not be a real Adventist. I have listened to other people tell me, we can be almost perfect, but not totally perfect because …..well … well…..we just can’t!

I have an idea. Let’s just fall totally in love with Jesus and not worry about it! I mean, whether we can be almost perfect, or totally perfect, let’s just let Jesus work it out. We agree God can “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:30 NLT, so arguing just how perfect we can be won’t get us anywhere, because once we decide just how perfect we can be, Paul comes along and tells us the possibilities are infinitely more than we think.

Now, as you’re reading this, I know you have an opinion, and you just can’t wait to get to the part where I say exactly what you want me to say, so you can send this link to your friends who don’t have their theology all together like you do. Maybe if I don’t say what you want me to say, you will label me a heretic and not read my posts any more. Chances are you either want to hear me say, “We can live without sinning” or, if you are on the other extreme, you want to hear me say, “Jesus will forgive you no matter how many times you fall.”

Well guess what? Everybody is right and everybody is wrong! Each extreme has partial truth, which means they are also partially wrong. So what is the truth? Put both partial truths together and you have a whole truth. We can live without sinning, but Jesus will forgive us no matter how many times we fall.

Now before you go straight to the comment section so you can warn me that probation will close and there is a limit to God’s forbearance, which I well know, and don’t disagree with, take a deep breath and take a look with me at the big picture and what I’m saying. I have heard people say that the great controversy is over whether or not God’s law can be perfectly obeyed or not. While I agree that with God’s sustaining and practical grace, we can perfectly obey God’s law, I still have never read anything in the Bible or even the writings of our pioneers telling me that perfection is what the great controversy is all about. (Please just stay with me for a moment, before you hop on your Ellen White program so you can find all those quotes you need to send me to prove that you are right and I am wrong.)

Fact: In the five-volume set of the Conflict of the Ages series, the very first line in the very first volume is “God is love.” And the very last sentence in the very last volume reads, “God is love.” That, my friend, is what the conflict of the ages or great controversy is all about! It is about the character of God – whether or not God is love! So the great controversy is not really about if I can go a whole week without eating cheese, or better yet, a whole week without taking a second glance at the perfectly proportioned lady I see at the bus stop every day. If I just fall in love with Jesus, all those things will just work themselves out perfectly, but they are still not the goal. The goal is to love Jesus and let Him love others through us!

Fact: Heaven will be filled with people who believed just about everything while they were on earth. Heaven won’t include any who argued their case till they were blue in the face and to the point of bullying others out of the church or social circles for not thinking the same way they did.

Fact: While some debate whether or not we can be “perfect,” they often have a different definition of the word “perfect” (no pun intended for all you computer geeks) than the person they are debating, which makes for a pointless debate. Regardless as to how perfect we think we can become, I think we all agree the Holy Spirit is capable of overcoming our addictions and helping us love our enemies.

Since we all have our own idea of what “perfect” means, we must also have our own ideas as to what “sin” means.  For years we as Adventists have used 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin, which is “transgression of the law.” How would things change if John 16:9 was the primary definition of sin, which is unbelief?

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition we have God kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden and punishing them with death because they ate one piece of fruit they were told not to. That is not unbiblical but it is only half of the story and, more importantly, half the picture of God’s character. With John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin we have Adam and Eve placing their trust in Satan’s lies and not believing in God’s word. Thus they themselves turn their backs on God and forfeit their home through unbelief, thus breaking their relationship with God in favor of the really cool serpent and fancy lies.

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we struggle with John 3:16 and wonder where works come in. With John 16:9 as our primary definition we see that God gave His son to die for us and show us the truth about God’s love. Thus as we believe in Him, we now turn our backs on Satan’s lies, our relationship is restored and we have the eternal life that was originally granted in the Garden of Eden. We are now free to obey God, and the secondary definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 is fulfilled because we now trust God and therefore we trust that His commandments are always good and only good. This removes the incentive for disobedience.

Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews is about the sanctuary and even the cleansing of the sanctuary.  In Hebrews 10:26 Paul writes, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Now if we use 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we have people going to hell because they made one mistake after knowing the truth.

It is important to note that the entire book of Hebrews is explaining why Jesus has not returned yet and what He is doing in the sanctuary before His return. Paul admonishes the early believers not to give up their faith and stop assembling together – Christ will return. So it seems to me that the primary definition of sin in Hebrews 10:26 is the sin of unbelief. Paul is not saying that if you break the law after knowing the truth there is no more forgiveness. He is saying that if we sin in not believing in Jesus as the Son of God there will be no other sacrifice or Savior.

Now as we look at the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14, we see that while God can and does give complete victory over the sin defined in 1 John 3:4, that still is not the main focus or goal of the cleansing of the sanctuary. “Our characters are not to be weighed by smooth words and fair speeches manufactured for set times and occasions; but by the spirit and trend of the whole life.” (Review and Herald, August 16, 1892.) And “the character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.”  (Steps to Christ, p. 57)

If we take John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin in the cleansing of the sanctuary it changes things. In the cleansing of the Sanctuary our minds and hearts are cleansed from the lies mankind started believing in the Garden of Eden. We see the true character of God revealed on the Cross, and we believe in Him. When our minds are cleansed of Satan’s lies we can make intelligent choices and choose the One who has already accepted and chosen us all along.

This changes how we look at a popular passage in the Christ’s Object Lessons,  “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 Object Lessons, p. 69)  Traditionally  we have taken this passage to mean that once we get our act together and show the world God’s Word can be perfectly be obeyed without making one single mistake, then God will come back to take us home. It is true that, by God’s grace, we can have complete victory over every single sin. However that is not what the great controversy is all about. The great question in the great controversy is whether God is love or not. When God’s church perfectly reflects the character of God’s love, then the world can make an intelligent decision as to if they will believe in God’s love and accept His salvation or not.  God does not want us to be perfect so we can go to heaven. He wants to perfect our love so that we give Him proper representation in the judgment, where His character is on trial. When the church perfectly appreciates God’s love, the chasm that we ourselves created, by believing Satan’s lies, will be healed.

I believe that if we keep 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin, we will always be legalists and never be able to deal with the sin problem defined in John  16:9 or 1 John 3:4. I believe if we use John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin, we can bypass the legalism, grasp the big picture of what sin really is and what the great controversy is all about, and allow grace to do its work in healing the sin problem defined in both John 16:9 and 1 John 3:4.

I think I would like to add my own chapter to the story of “The Good Samaritan.” After the priest and the Levite passed by the poor man dying in the ditch, they met up with each other and started arguing and debating over the law and perfection. Meanwhile the Samaritan, who was totally clueless as to what they were even talking about “came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.” Luke 10:33-34 NLT.

We already know which one was being a neighbor, but now, you tell me, which one of the three really had their theology together?

Now, go and do thou likewise.

Share Button

Comments

The “Perfect” Debate — 33 Comments

  1. Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.

    His righteousness is manifested in His "passing" over the sins. Like Joseph wanted to let Mary go in secret because he was a rightous man.

    All biblical history is evidence that God is postponding The Day of His wrath. Judgement Day.

    Last words in OT are in Malachi 4, The Great Day of God

    4 “For behold, the day is coming,
    Burning like an oven,
    And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
    And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
    Says the Lord of hosts,
    “That will leave them neither root nor branch.
    2 But to you who fear My name
    The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
    With healing in His wings;
    And you shall go out
    And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
    3 You shall trample the wicked,
    For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
    On the day that I do this,”
    Says the Lord of hosts.
    4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
    Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
    With the statutes and judgments.
    5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
    Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
    6 And he will turn
    The hearts of the fathers to the children,
    And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
    Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

    So when Jesus comes, He comes like when men came to Abraham on the way to destroy Sodom and Gomorah. Jesus could destroy mankind even from the cross. In that postponing we see that God is love. He loved the world and wants to save all.

    Jesus is given to all men to draw us away from Adam's attracting power of sin. We neglect the fact that we all fall short of the glory of God. Jesus even called us "children of the devil".

    So, what is for us to be perfect? If we confess our sins in front of the Law, and try to do good, is not that a maximum for us? In First John epistle, it is stated that who says he has not sinned is calling God a liar. That subject you started is of great importance for Adventists because we must be sure what it means to "keep" the Law. I think keeping it is having it with us and not rejecting it or changing it. We give the honor to Law but only to have good repentance.

    Like(0)
  2. Dear William,

    Thanks for a very insightful and thought-provoking article. This is more proof that the best gospel is a complete gospel, and that even when looking at very important issues, we can get side-tracked based upon the perspective we embrace.

    I pray that this article proves to be helpful to many in achieving the completion that God desires for each one of us.

    Like(0)
  3. [Moderator note: Please use first and last name when commenting on this site. ]

    Thank you. There is a lot more that can be said--you recognized this--but this distillation I think may demonstrate the true purpose of our journey: To love, trust and develop a relationship with Christ that will help us to achieve better behavior (and through that, a better life) and to learn how, through genuine repentance, to seek forgiveness (A la David) when we fall.

    Like(0)
  4. William, your theology is soundly displayed here and I think I am blessed having read your blog. I see God's grace sufficient for all my sins. All I need to do is believe in Him and never doubt that what He has promised will come to pass. I keep on trusting Him for He is able.

    Like(0)
  5. I think we have to realize that without Christ we can do nothing good and we can do all things through Christ. Christ is our all in all and by His help we allow Him to live out His perfect life though us. Start by praying to Him each day and night to live His perfect life through us day and night.

    Like(0)
  6. Perfect is a big word, and when used to describe anyone from the fallen race, can only be speaking of faith. Our best works will fail of perfection while faith appropriates Jesus' perfection and receives His promises whereby we become partakers of His divine nature. Only He is able to keep us from falling, and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Didn't Peter prove this while trying to walk on water? He did this perfectly only when walking close beside Jesus, relying completely on Him.

    Jesus invites us to be perfectly yoked with Him, washes our robes perfectly white with His blood, and will keep us in perfect peace if our minds are stayed on Him.

    Like(0)
  7. It sounds as though the conversations being held were with narrow minded people. It is clearly stated in the Bible that perfection can be attained and is measured by God. Three people proved that by being taken straight to heaven and 2 of the three did not die! Moses whom did die, was later seen by Jesus on the Mountian top and also questioned by Satan as to the whereabouts was Moses body after his death. Therefore, in summary we finite human beings have no earthly ideal(s) what God's definitiion of perfection is,... because we are not God!

    Like(0)
  8. William, your article meant a lot to me in many ways but I have to admit that I still struggle with the concepts of law and covenants. Perhaps I do that because there is so much in the Bible about it. Even Paul who is so strong on salvation by grace through faith spends a major portion of his letters dealing with works and our relationship with one another.

    In this world we live in it seems to be a necessity to have love specifically defined and codified. We need to have direction and understand at least to a point how love manifests itself. All of us were born immersed in the environment of sin with a propensity (bent) to it. None of us really knows what love is although we sometimes think we do. We can only see the tip of the iceberg as it were. We look at the cross and say that is love and so it is but we can only understand a small portion of what was involved and the rest flies right over our heads. So to me to say that all we need to do is to love God becomes inadequate and overly simplistic.

    I think Paul understood the pickle we are in and knew how far away from the ideal he was when he penned the words he wrote in Romans 7:14-23 and again when he said, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" (Phil. 3:12-13 NKJV). To him life is a journey on a pathway called sanctification where only the direction we are generally travelling in really matters - even if we occasionally slip and fall or even do so great a thing as to slide backward a bit God still looks at it from an overall perspective.

    Paul spends most of his effort in defending the concept of justification because it overlooks where we actually are on the path. It intercedes and declares us righteous when, in fact, we really aren't. That to me is why Paul ended Rom 7 by crying out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24-25 NKJV). That is where he saw the victory; that God was going to work things out in spite of our pitiful showing. What we need is to have faith in God to do the seemingly impossible; to bring something good out of what appears to be so discouragingly beyond hope.

    Certainly the great controversy is about God's character but it is, like the business of law, more complicated than that. There are reasons why God chose to allow sin to rise up in a sinless universe. It is a mystery so deep that a lot of it is beyond our understanding. From our narrow point of view we can at least see that it was necessary because His creatures really didn't understand Him and didn't understand the necessity for a law that they didn't even know existed. The whole thing is a teaching plan that will extend throughout all eternity.

    For those that feel that we will reach a state of perfection in this life here is a quotation from Ellen White for contemplation concerning its relationship to the great law expressed by Jesus when He said, "`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment" (Matt. 22:37-38 NKJV). Think of what the process of sanctification involves and how far it extends. We should also wonder how far we really are from the ideal and how much sin has deceived us into thinking that we are better than we really are.

    And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise. (Great Controversy, p 678.1)

    Like(0)
  9. We often tie ourselves in knots over this perfection thing. An enormous amount of effort goes into trying to express the idea. And no matter how we express it, someone takes exception to what we have said and accuses us of being either too conservative or too liberal in our views. The moment we suggest that we have to do something, someone accuses us of being legalists, and when we say that God still loves us no matter what we do, we are accused of being in the "once saved, always saved" camp.

    The issue for some of us is that we are so concerned about the semantics that we forget about the Christianity. That defeats the whole purpose of the idea. I grew up during the 1950s and early 60s when some of these questions exercised the local church considerably. I saw people lose their faith over the discussion.

    I do not think that God cares whether we get the semantics right or not. That is not the point. Of Abraham in was said, "And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Gen 15, 6.

    There are going to be those who never fully understand the semantics, or have indeed got the semantics completely wrong, who are going to be saved, not because of what they have done, but because they put they faith in Jesus, and it will be counted to them for righteousness.

    I am going to suggest that there are those who argue the semantics and theology of perfection, who are not going to be saved because they have put their faith in their ability to express the ideas of perfection, perfectly. And that would be really sad!

    Like(0)
    • I agree with everything you say, Maurice, and I suppose that most of what you said can be applied to me since I have been accused of being too argumentative at times. Believe it or not, there actually are times when I get tired of argumentation like anyone else especially when it becomes endless and very repetitive.

      However, while I believe that too much argument is not good I also think that having no discussion, even argument, in the church is not necessarily a sign of a healthy church either. It may only be a symptom of compliancy and satisfaction with the status quo whether it is right or wrong. The fact is that throughout history all the important beliefs of the Christian church have been debated and hammered out in council after council starting with the Jerusalem council where "there had been much dispute" (Acts 15:7 NKJV). It is only in discussions like these that our system of beliefs can be tested and if it stands the test then we can be reasonably sure that what we believe is correct.

      To me the idea of relying mostly on the Holy Spirit for guidance is dangerous as has been shown by what happened in the church of the Middle Ages when the idea was that the internal councils of the church provided adequate guidance with the Bible as a secondary source. It was that church that thought that the scriptures were the prerogative of church leaders only and that what it said needed to be interpreted through church officials. The problem was that many church leaders had less education than a significant number of lay people so it is no wonder that scripture was twisted through ignorant, corrupt minds.

      I think that if we as a people cannot defend our beliefs then there is reason to believe that we really have no basis for those beliefs; that in reality we are essentially living in la-la land and resting our case on sand instead of the rock. So, to me, each of us needs to be sure of what we believe without resorting to another's opinion. We need, as individuals, as good Bereans, to be able to stand solidly on scripture for all our beliefs; if not then the devil will have a field day with us in the future.

      I think what you say about those who are saved is also true but to me that doesn't erase the value and necessity of doctrines. It only says that God will judge impartially and fairly and that those that only have limited understanding will be dealt with that in mind providing it is not because of negligence.

      Like(0)
      • I am not condemning discussion Tyler. There is a big difference between discussion where there is a willingness to learn and understand, and the endless fly-past-the-ears argument about perfection that has been an end in itself. Been there, done that, now I want to move on to the next phase, "Living in Christ"! My aim is to develop a creative passionate love for Christ to share with others.

        Like(0)
    • I would tend to agree with Tyler here about the value of "discussion" whenever sincere questions are being asked and finding truth is the objective. To merely argue in order gain some advantage over an opposing view is too often the reason, but even in this God can reach the sincere seeker for truth.

      I believe that profitable discussion will always be a part of our earthly experience since the counsel to the church calls for forbearance, patience, lowliness and meekness. (Eph 4:2,3) This is the true purpose of our SS classes every week isn't it? I have sat through some that were more of a lecture/sermon that gave the opinions and conclusions of a single mind, and this does not seem to be profitable for anyone. Looking to learn should be companion to trying to convince.

      I'm sure most here have had some experience with "missionaries" and/or "witnesses", who come to teach, but never to learn. I always invite them anyway since planting seed does not call for us to discriminate the condition of the soil. Too much we can't see with human vision. We've been commissioned to broadcast the seed "to the uttermost part of the earth.

      On this topic of perfection: I pray our discussions will always have the goal of obtaining the experience God's Word promises, and not only to determine who is right or wrong.

      Like(0)
  10. Wow! Wonderful article. This has made my day! I finally understand what's at stake in the great controversy. And now I see that God wants to cleanse my heart of the lies Satan has tried to sow and bring to fruition: God's plan is boring, if you choose Christ your life will be miserable, hard, full of suffering and pain, etc. Thank you Jesus for the cross!

    Like(0)
  11. Amen. Being perfect is a journey, not a destination. It's part of the sanctification process. It will not be complete until the good Lord bestows upon us the glorified body.

    Like(0)
    • Yes Newton, and won't that journey continue on through eternity? Otherwise it would be a destination. Eternal life begins in this life, and the glorified body/mind will allow us to be unfettered in our learning experience. Our knowledge and understanding of God will never cease to unfold as our experience grows in the endless ages that will ever lay before us. What a thrilling thought!

      Like(0)
  12. Really good blog, reminds me of the book Sin and Salvation by George Knight where he talks of sin being rebellion against God and disbelief in his Promises. I like that you have considered the root cause of sin and it does come down to not believing, trusting in God. Once you disbelieve Christ as Saviour or disbelieve in his promises you reject God in whole or in part thus leaving you open to transgressing the law.

    Good blog

    Stay blessed

    Like(0)
    • Ah, yes, George Knight likes to say, with a twinkle in his eyes, "I used to be perfect," before going on to tell of his experience with performance-centered Christianity. I believe he draws the difference between seeing sin as "actions" and sin as a relationship and character issue. And he points out that if we define sin as "actions," we can easily define sin in a way that doesn't touch us - like the man who sees a wedding ring as sinful while driving an expensive luxury car. ;) (That's my interpretation of some writings of George Knight, one of my favorite Adventist authors.)

      Like(0)
      • I used to be conceited, but I worked on that. Now I am perfect! (TIC for those who think the comment is too oblique.)

        Like(0)
    • Don't some translations render 1 John 3:4 as "sin is lawlessness"?

      In other words it implies a general rejection of God's law of love and a desire to live outside of it--rather that just random acts of disobedience against "random" laws.
      I think it captures the mindset better--or rather to me it is a better description of the problem (the sinful nature).

      That seems to me to mesh very well with the other definition of sin in John 16:9.

      Like(0)
      • Andrew, I think you are right; in fact, most of the newer translations render it as lawlessness. I think they do that because it comes from the Greek word "anomia" which simply means without law.

        Here is an interesting commentary from the NET Bible on 1 Jn 3:4.
        The Greek word ἀνομία (anomia) is often translated "iniquity" or "lawlessness" and in the LXX refers particularly to transgression of the law of Moses. In Jewish thought the ideas of sin (ἁμαρτία, hamartia) and lawlessness or iniquity (ἀνομία) were often equated because sin involved a violation of the Mosaic law and hence lawlessness. For example, Ps 51:5 LXX sets the two in parallel, and Paul in Rom 4:7 (quoting Ps 32:1) does the same. For the author, it is not violation of the Mosaic law that results in lawlessness, since he is writing to Christians. The 'law' for the author is the law of love, as given by Jesus in the new commandment of John 13:34–35. This is the command to love one's brother, a major theme of 1 John and the one specific sin in the entire letter which the opponents are charged with (3:17). Since the author has already labeled the opponents "antichrists" in 2:18, it may well be that he sees in their iniquitous behavior of withdrawing from the community and refusing to love the brethren a foreshadowing of the apocalyptic iniquity of the end times (cf. 2 Thess 2:3–8). In Matt 24:11–12 Jesus foretold that false prophets would arise in the end times (cf. 1 John 4:1), that lawlessness (anomia) would increase, and that "the love of many will grow cold" (which would certainly fit the author's portrait of the opponents here).

        Like(0)
  13. I suppose that this will be a popular blog post one way or another.

    I think that it is critical, as you say, that people understand what the Great Controversy is all about.

    I also think that it is critical people understand that by beholding we become changed. If we behold Christ we will become like Him. If we behold ourselves, well...

    Like(0)
  14. You know the cross measures what God's love will do FOR a man, while the church demonstrates what God's love can do WITH a man.

    The highlight and focal point of the entire Bible is without question the CROSS. We fall in love with Christ as we behold his sacrifice for us. That the God of the universe would forever become one of us and suffer and die because of my sins just throws me to my knees and compels me to worship and praise him. "The love of Christ compels us" Paul said in 2 Cor 5:14. There is no greater demonstration of love in all the universe.

    But there is one that comes close: The triumphant church.
    Filled with ex- prostitutes, ex-murderers, ex-child molesters, ex-wife beaters, ex- sex addicts, etc. All transformed into the very image of Christ. With John we shout: " O what manner of love the father has bestowed on us that we should be called the sons of God!"
    That his love can transform me is absolutely amazing!!

    God has promised that this last generation, amidst the height of iniquity and evil will demonstrate the perfect character of Christ. Isn't that amazing news!!! He has promised that he will not reap until the harvest is ripe. So each day I pray that I may grow to maturity by his power and be a part of that harvest.

    Like(0)
    • Our behavior (works) doesn’t determine our eternal destiny. Our behavior merely reflects who we’ve chosen as our leader and THAT determines our eternal destiny.

      Like(0)
      • Sieg, why were Adam and Eve expelled from the garden? Their actions(works) were what they were judged by, not their promise to obey(assuming they gave such a response). The Bible teaches that every soul will be rewarded according to their works, not their profession or even their choice. Works are tangible evidence for all to see, and thus God is glorified by our good works, as Jesus taught.

        But works, as you say, are only the evidence of an underlying choice, but it is the works that anyone can judge us by, even a child. In this manner our faith, or lack of, is revealed to all watching eyes. And they are watching.

        We are told to examine our selves to see if we have "the faith". What is the evidence of "the faith" or lack of it? What are we to examine? Our profession? Our hope? Our "beliefs"? The Holy Spirit brings conviction to every soul of what is sinful in their lives, and it's our actions of faith/unbelief that speak louder than our profession of faith. Yes, our works and even our words will either justify or condemn us.(Matt 12:37)

        None of this teaches us to focus on our works, but to identify our faith or unbelief by the tangible evidence, which will be the focus of the judgement for every soul.

        If you had asked the Priest and Levite passing along the road to Jericho who they chose as their Leader, they would have both proudly said "Jehovah God!". Did their works reveal this as true or false? Yes, they chose God, but did not know Him. This is what saves us; knowing God. Then our choice is with knowledge and our works confirm it.

        Choosing, though vital, is not enough. Knowing the Lord is everything. Proverbs 2:1-5 teaches us how to "find the knowledge of God".

        Like(0)
        • Hi Robert,

          I don't see Sieg as saying that our eternal destiny is determined by promises or profession. He wrote that our behavior reflects whom we have chosen as leader. Whether we choose Christ or Satan will, indeed, determine our destiny.

          It seems to me that if there is a difference between your view and Sieg's, it is one of emphasis. Or, as we used to say, it's a question of which comes first - the cart or the horse. Maybe nowadays we should ask which comes first - the truck or the trailer.

          I'm old enough to have ridden in a cart behind a horse, and I know that putting the cart before the horse doesn't get you very far. Neither does putting a truck in front of a trailer.

          Spiritually, it's a matter of focus. Focusing on our behavior won't get us any farther than putting a cart before a horse. Mind you, it's possible to push the cart or trailer for a ways. It takes a lot of effort and is unlikely to get anyone to a distant destination.

          Focusing on Christ, on the other hand, is like focusing on making sure the horse is well fed and pulling the wagon - or like making sure the truck is fueled and running. As long as the horse is pulling its load or the truck is pulling its load, the cart or the trailer will get to its destination.

          Christ has asked us to yoke up with him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). That's because He's pulling most of the load. Our responsibility is merely to stay close to Him.

          It seems to me that a focus on behavior tends to make people exacting and judgmental. And that's not getting them to the "destination" of a character like that of Christ. And it is no more likely to get them to the heavenly destination than it got the Pharisees there. (I think we don't give the Pharisees enough credit. They were the "good" people of the day - careful in their lifestyle and church attendance. But their focus on behavior had so blunted their spiritual sensitivity that they crucified the Lord of glory.)

          Like(0)
        • As for the importance of choosing, one Christian writer had this to say:

          Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.

          I think that writer had it right. Choosing is all we can do - moment and moment, and day by day - and He supplies the power to work and to do. Realizing this made all the difference in my Christian experience. Not focusing on my goodness or badness, but focusing on Christ instead has brought a sense of freedom and joy that a focus on performance never could.

          The gospel is really very simple - as exemplified by the brazen serpent in the desert. (John 3:14) All the people had to do was to look, and they would live. (Numbers 21:8,9) So, today, we need to look to Jesus, and we will live, for by beholding Him we become changed. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

          Like(0)
  15. This helped me definitely. At times i fall and think surely am over and done with, as i fall a lot. But such a balanced view is very helpful because truth is we are all a work in progress to be completed when He comes. We should and must hate sin, however if, and i dare say WHEN we fall, we have an Advocate. Halleluya!!! the is hope for a sinner wretched like me!

    Like(0)
  16. That's right Sieg, as James tells us we show we have faith by our works and obedience. If we love and trust God perfectly then we obey Him perfectly. One of the first posts I ever wrote for SSNET illustrates that. (See "Mulligans and Grace")

    Right now I am at the Georgia-Cumberland conference camp meeting at Southern Adventist University, and the preacher, Dana Edmond, said in his sermon, "We will never realize that God can do everything, until we realize we can't do anything." I can't obey on my own, but through God's grace He can perfectly obey in and through me. Romans 8:4 tells us that by Christ's perfect obedience and sacrifice the law is fulfilled not just for us but in and through us.

    Like(0)
    • Thank you William. I think that there is still some confusion for many people as illustrated by Nosipho Hlatswayo’s comment that we can never attain perfect behavior on earth and when we fail to, Satan uses this fact to cause some of us to believe we are lost. Your comment “If we love and trust God perfectly then we obey Him perfectly” implies that we can achieve this on earth. I guess the question then is, can we love and trust God perfectly and thus obey him perfectly?

      I like how you characterize sin above in “The perfect debate.” To wit, if faith in Jesus saves us and sin condemns us, then sin must be the opposite of faith in Jesus. John 16:8-9 "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me… "(sin is defined as lacking faith in Jesus). I don’t believe that we can obey God perfectly (on earth) and, because it is our nature, we will frequently fail in our attempts to attain this “perfection.” Does this then mean we are lost? By God’s grace only, NO! As Nosipho states, we are a work in progress and as we work toward perfecting our faith, our behavior increasingly reflects that. This is not to say that we are free to sin, but that as we increase our faith in and surrender to Jesus, we become more and more like him. Hence, perfect faith (as reflected in perfect behavior and obedience) is a journey, not an earthly destination.

      So FAITH = choosing, having a relationship with and becoming more and more like Jesus. And SIN is choosing, having a relationship with and becoming more and more like Satan (thereby rejecting Jesus). So in essence, FAITH and SIN are relationship choices that will determine our eternal destiny and, in end times, will determine who gets the Seal of God and who gets the mark of the beast.

      Like(0)
      • Your comment “If we love and trust God perfectly then we obey Him perfectly” implies that we can achieve this on earth. I guess the question then is, can we love and trust God perfectly and thus obey him perfectly?

        I have always found this to be a peculiar preoccupation.
        People who have obtained perfection (whenever) would be the last people to recognize it in themselves.
        The only way to achieve this would be through God's power--and He would be the one to set the timing in my thinking.

        I say this out of a reflection on the idea by Ellen White that the closer we come to God, the more sinful we will appear. We certainly won't be resting/sitting pretty except in the arms of Jesus and in the confidence we have in His salvation.

        Like(0)
  17. As Adventist we have always had problems when it came to understanding where our good works comes in with respect to salvation. I think William presented a very strong argument for the concept of Christ working through us or as Paul would say, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27 NKJV) which is a matter of righteousness by faith.

    Unfortunately, when a subject is presented so strongly questions arise because in the Bible rarely is a subject presented that is truly univocal (singular view). Works vs. faith is one of those things where there is tension so that we see both being presented that seem to conflict with one another. That tension produces a balance between them.

    Paul was extremely strong when it came to salvation by grace through faith yet he knew that people would misinterpret what he was saying and take a fanatical, exclusive stand that focused on his presentation alone. In order to stop such a thing from happening after arguing against the involvement of works as the means of salvation he carefully included in his letter to the Romans, "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31 NKJV). That apparently wasn't enough to stop people from going off the deep end so James had to enter the picture with his epistle that argues for the necessity of works in the Christian's life. Together we get a balanced picture.

    Our current problem is to understand our relationship to ultimate perfection which is what God has. If we ever achieved that we would be God knowing everything. But then that was the devil's argument to Eve in the garden (Gen 3:5). In spite of our lack, the simple fact is that when we first accepted Jesus as our personal savoir we were justified. That means that at that point God accepted us as though we had never sinned. The condemnation that was produced by our sins was erased and we stood as fully righteous people even though we still had a lot of problems that were certainly not Christian.

    Even though we learn and improve throughout our lives we should be able to see that our lives are anything but perfect - we still have a long way to go. Even during the time of trouble, after probation is closed, as Ellen White saw it, "As they review the past, their hopes sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their weakness and unworthiness" (Great Controversy, p 618.3). While they are aware of that they are nonetheless justified and therefore considered perfect, fully righteous in the eyes of God.

    The necessity of those works are never put aside and replaced by faith because faith always leads to works but since we are continually having problems with righteousness of necessity our salvation must be based on the grace of God that we appropriate through faith in Him.

    As we become one with Christ all these things are taken care of. Our salvation is secured and we improve through life becoming closer day by day to the character of Christ. The improvement that we experience is what is called sanctification as Ellen White explains:

    Sanctification is not the work of a moment, an hour, a day, but of a lifetime. It is not gained by a happy flight of feeling, but is the result of constantly dying to sin, and constantly living for Christ. Wrongs cannot be righted nor reformations wrought in the character by feeble, intermittent efforts. It is only by long, persevering effort, sore discipline, and stern conflict, that we shall overcome. We know not one day how strong will be our conflict the next. So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience.
    None of the apostles and prophets ever claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived the nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit a wrong act, men whom God has honored with divine light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted wholly in the righteousness of Christ. (Acts of the Apostles, p 560.3-561.1)

    Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.