“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God….I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (1Cor. 15:56;Gal. 2:19-21).
Case One: Paula determined with all her willpower that she would be a good girl. She strove and strove, and when finally invited to join an extremely conservative group of SDAs, she jumped at it and threw herself into the work of overcoming sin and of stifling the voice of temptation, working hard to purge herself of her fallen nature.
She really got down to business because she genuinely hated how self was destroying the happiness of her marriage and little family. She caught a glimpse of freedom from self and yearned for it. And as extreme as this all sounds, she got points with Jesus for it; not because she dove so headlong into trying to become perfect, which is forbidden in the Bible, but because she has a spark of hope in God and His love.
Perfectionism, forbidden in the Holy Bible?!
Most definitely! But “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!”
(Matt. 5:48). Whoever uses that scripture to support perfectionism needs to go back to Bible101. The bottom line—and let it be seen perfectly
clear—the Lord God wasn’t the center of focus among the Jews of Christ’s day, nor was Jesus the center of focus at that perfectionist Adventist compound. Self was the central mission there, and their perfectionism receives a promise of divine retribution, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness
.” (Rom. 1:18).The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin.
Desire of Ages, p. 324.
So Paula found her new-found lifestyle to be a futile and endless round of trying hard to stamp out the sin in her nature and to finally please God. Eventually the futility and frustration brought her to a new conclusion.
When it dawned on her what a fool she had been talked into becoming, her pride, which the oppressively austere religion had never come close to uprooting, rose up in revolt and with all her Irish ire, she vomited that abomination of desolation out of her psyche and life, and ran headlong into another extreme—the growing SDA movement of liberal, fist-shaking, law-denying religion of anti-Adventist activists.
Now Satan wasn’t as happy as when he had her gnashing her teeth to overcome sin, but she was still separate from Jesus and the devil rests satisfied hoping that he can get her back into that galling yoke. Nevertheless, despite the activists’ greatest promises of grace and holiness and fun through freedom from restraint, she is still in a desperate search for peace in her soul. She has simply joined another group of lost souls.
What was really happening? What is the real root of the problem here? A knowledge of God’s love was denied Paula all through her childhood and the new self-imposed, extreme, religious fad; and He is still denied her, even in her new freedom from law. He has not become her full focus. She has not fallen broken at Jesus’ feet because of His undying love for her. Her destructive human nature remains intact and in full force.
Case Two: It was an upstanding self-supporting school, full of upstanding young people, being trained to get involved in a world-wide mission to start similar schools and to make disciples of all nations. But they failed a vital test of discipleship—Jesus, His life and death, His love and grace, was removed from their primary focus. A substitute, subtle in its justification and, by far the least likely candidate, had taken His place—Ellen White and the Spirit of Prophecy. Impossible to pierce with conviction, its sanctimonious bulwarks are impenetrable.
The most steadfast among them were being drained, and eventually would be drained, of tenderness and life. Their form of education, in all its dignity, discouraged interaction between male and female students. Childlike, holy love will lead to warm contact. Even science is seeing the vital place of the warm touch as a necessity for life. “For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.” (Deut. 32:31).
Yet, while denying Christ His worthy place at the center of attraction through its righteousness by works system of training, they boast of having “true education.” “Christ Jesus
... is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” “That no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1Cor. 1:30,29).
What do we really get when we have an education without Christ and His gracious love lifted up and glorified at the center? We get a Christless education, a Christless religion; we get a Christless law—legalism. And this can happen so silently and insidiously.A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion.
DA p. 280.The True Witness says of a cold, lifeless, Christless church, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15, 16). Mark the following words: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Here is represented a people who pride themselves in their possession of spiritual knowledge and advantages. But they have not responded to the unmerited blessings that God has bestowed upon them. They have been full of rebellion, ingratitude, and forgetfulness of God; and still He has dealt with them as a loving, forgiving father deals with an ungrateful, wayward son. They have resisted His grace, abused His privileges, slighted His opportunities, and have been satisfied to sink down in contentment, in lamentable ingratitude, hollow formalism, and hypocritical insincerity. With Pharisaic pride they have vaunted themselves till it has been said of them, “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”
1SM 357. Truths Ellen White Had Presented Since 1844.—At this meeting I bore testimony that the most precious light had been shining forth from the Scriptures in the presentation of the great subject of the righteousness of Christ connected with the law, which should be constantly kept before the sinner as his only hope of salvation. This was not new light to me, for it had come to me from higher authority for the last forty-four years, and I had presented it to our people by pen and voice in the testimonies of His Spirit. But very few had responded except by assent to the testimonies borne upon this subject. There was altogether too little spoken and written upon this great question. The discourses of some might be correctly represented as like the offering of Cain—Christless.
3SM p.168. Impact of Jesus’ Love on the Speaker’s Heart—There have been entire discourses, dry and Christless, in which Jesus has scarcely been named. The speaker’s heart is not subdued and melted by the love of Jesus. He dwells upon dry theories. No great impression is made. The speaker has not the divine unction, and how can he move the hearts of the people? We need to repent and be converted--yes, the preacher converted. The people must have Jesus lifted up before them, and they must be entreated to “Look and live.”
How is this system of death any different from Roman Catholicism, which quietly moved into the church under the radar in the early years of Christianity through the asceticism of Egyptian paganism? Through purely human effort, those poor folks hid themselves away in caves of the wilderness or laid out under the burning sun of the deserts, seeking to purge themselves of the ugly, painful emptiness that Roman hedonism had left upon their souls.As if the ransom of the Redeemer was not sufficient without their own sufferings, those who practiced asceticism imposed appalling torments upon themselves. They undermined the doctrine of Christ’s full and sufficient atonement for sin. Processions were formed, relics displayed, and incense burned before the tomb of some exalted ascetic.
Monasticism followed on the heels of asceticism. Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) was prominent among the early apostates because of his perverted teachings. He was followed by his pupil Tatian, who in turn taught Clement (A.D. 190), a founder of the ecclesiastical school at Alexandria.
Clement declared he would hand down the gospel mixed with heathen philosophy. But it remained for Origen, Clement’s pupil, who mutilated himself, to start the glorification of celibacy.
Monasticism is not a product of Christianity. It was imported from non-Christian religions. Christianity saw it first introduced from Egypt, evidently coming from Buddhism. There were two classes of monks. The first, the anchorites, sought to live alone in the gloomiest and wildest spots in the wilderness. The second class, monks, evading the solitary life, gathered into communities called monasteries.
Truth Triumphant, chap. 5.
Thus, when the church had fully descended into corruption, it adopted the world-wide pagan practice as official policy, that righteousness by asceticism and monasticism must become institutionalized as the driving force of the path to God. The hopeless, Godless temple had long before lost its first love, and tried to satisfy the infinite, God-sized hole in their hearts through endless vigils and scourgings to wrestle down the man of sin in them. The church had become so ignorant of God’s love, so dark, so barren of a heart broken and contrite in deference to His love, that it had turned from legalism to spiritualism. Now it was completely cut off from God. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1Tim. 4:1-3).
Ignatius Loyola, the father of the Jesuits, passed through the same galling bondage to perfecting the soul without learning of Jesus.Reflecting that he was a soldier of Christ, that great Monarch who had gone forth to subjugate all the earth, he resolved to eat no other food, wear no other raiment than his King had done, and endure the same hardships and vigils. Laying aside his plume, his coat of mail, his shield and sword, he donned the cloak of the mendicant. "Wrapped in sordid rags," says Duller, "an iron chain and prickly girdle pressing on his naked body, covered with filth, with un-combed hair and untrimmed nails," he retired to a dark mountain in the vicinity of Manressa, where was a gloomy cave, in which he made his abode for some time. There he subjected himself to all the penances and mortifications of the early anchorites whose holiness he emulated. He wrestled with the evil spirit, talked to voices audible to no ear but his own, fasted for days on end, till his weakness was such that he fell into a swoon, and one day was found at the entrance of his cave, lying on the ground, half dead.
The history of the Jesuits, chap.1.
As early as the 4th century, similar events were recorded when Egyptian asceticism had moved into the church.Such were the scenes related to Vigilantius by Sulpicius, if not actually witnessed by him; and he could not remain blind to the fact that his patron
[Sulpicius] was neither happier nor better for his visit to the bishop of Tours. After his return home, the image of Martin haunted the sensitive historian
[Sulpicius]: he was pursued by the recollection of the ascetic prelate sleeping on the cold earth, with nothing but ashes strewed beneath him, and covered with sackcloth only; refusing a softer bed, or warmer clothing, even in severe illness; declaring that a Christian ought to die on ashes; feeding on the most unwholesome food, and denying himself every indulgence; praying in the most irksome posture, forcing sleep from his eyes, and exposing himself to the extremes of heat and cold, hunger and thirst. The imagination of Sulpicius dwelt on what he had seen and heard at Marmoutier, until he believed that heaven would be closed upon him, unless he should practice the same austerities. The love of the marvelous, the habit of dwelling upon tales of wonders and of practicing ascetic austerities, had seized the employer of Vigilantius
[Sulpicius]. On the other hand Vigilantius saw in the system a form of religion without the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.
Thus Vigilantius saw on one side vainglorious exaltation, spiritual pride, and pretension to miraculous power; and on the other side, a false humility and prostration of the understanding, both growing out of the same mistaken system of asceticism: a system which undermined the doctrine of Christ’s full and sufficient sacrifice, and assigned an undue value to the inflictions and performances of men like Martin of Tours: and which he probably foresaw would in the end elevate them in the minds of weak brethren, to mediatorial thrones, and render them little less than objects of divine worship….
And, following that encounter with Sulpicius, later Vigilintius met “Saint” Jerome, and this description was given:A narrow bypath leading off from the street, at the spot where the tomb of King Archelaus formerly stood, conducted the traveler to the cell of Jerome; here he found the ascetic clad in a vestment so coarse and sordid, that its very vileness bore the stamp of spiritual pride, and seemed to say, “Stand off, my wearer is holier than thou.” The face of the monk was pale and haggard. He had been slowly recovering from a severe illness, and was wasted to a shadow. Frequent tears had plowed his cheeks with deep furrows; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; all the bones of his face were sharp and projecting. Long fasting, habitual mortification, and the chagrin which perpetual disputation occasions, had given an air of gloominess to his countenance, which accorded but ill with his boast, that his cell to him was like an arbor in the Garden of Eden.”
Truth triumphant, chap. 5.
For 1260 years, this abomination of desolation laid the church waste, as prophesied by Daniel. “In the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes.” (Dan. 8:23-25). “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High
, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” (Dan. 7:25). “And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” (Rev. 13:2).
So we see in asceticism and monasticism the human effort to remove the emptiness caused by the separation from the love of God, rather than trusting that God will accept them, and coming to Him through the effort spent on obtaining an acquaintance with Jesus.
And here is what the Bible says about trying to overcome sin without Jesus. “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev. 14:9-11).
John’s commentaries on the Revelation, which are his gospel and epistles which he penned after being freed from Patmos, provide invaluable interpretation of the third angel’s message which he saw while in vision on the island.
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn. 3:36). “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1Jn. 5:11-13).
John was speaking of Christ’s righteousness by faith versus Satan’s substitute of a righteousness by human works. When the Adventist champions of holy living point their finger at the Pope, they need to be aware that three fingers are pointing back at them.
A dire pain for the lack of Christ, His righteousness and love, pervades Christianity—the Evangelical and formal Protestant landscapes alike, and Adventist have fallen in with their Protestant neighbors. Like a dull smog it is settling on the churches and people, stimulating to the flesh, but lethally toxic in its results.
It would be well for SDAs, to pay special heed to a statement by EGW.Through heathenism, Satan had for ages turned men away from God; but he won his great triumph in perverting the faith of Israel. By contemplating and worshiping their own conceptions, the heathen had lost a knowledge of God, and had become more and more corrupt. So it was with Israel. The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion; it had now become the principle of the Jewish religion. Satan had implanted this principle. Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin.
To SDAs the ax is laid to the root of the trees. “Search the [testimonies]; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you…. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.” (Jn. 5:39-42,45).
Rather than trusting in Moses; rather than trusting in Buddha or Peter, Oprah Winfrey, Alice Bailey, or Chuck Swindoll; rather than trusting in even Ellen White for eternal life, let us trust in “Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Jn. 17:3;Acts 4:12). Buddhas and Oprahs and Moses and Ellen White never loved the whole world; they aren
t the parent and Creator of the world. They never sacrificed themselves for the world. So they haven’t proven that they love me; neither have they tried to claim that. They haven’t made the offer of Christ with arms nailed wide open to me, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Let us look through the law and the testimonies and past them
to their divine Originator. Let us not eat the banana peelings; let’s peel them back and eat that which they protect and halo, the real meat which satisfies the soul.
Let us heed His word through His human agents given in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy; however, their words will condemn us if we don’t look to Him to whom they point, Jesus, the Son of God, “a tender plant” who “lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” “because of truth and meekness and righteousness,” made subservient to the law and “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Is. 53:2;Ps. 45:8,4;Gal. 4:4;Phil. 2:8).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. 2:20,21).