Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Philippians 4:8.
The dealings of God with His people often appear mysterious. His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. Many times His way of dealing is so contrary to our plans and expectations that we are amazed and confounded. We do not understand our perverse natures; and often when we are gratifying self, following our own inclinations, we flatter ourselves that we are carrying out the mind of God. And so we need to search the Scriptures, and be much in prayer, that, according to His promise, the Lord may give us wisdom.
Our work is aggressive. We are to be awake and discerning as to the devices of Satan, and to press the triumphs of the cross of Christ. While Satan is planting his dark banner among us, perhaps even in our families, we should not be indifferent and inactive. But though we have an individual work and an individual responsibility before God, we are not to follow our own independent judgement, regardless of the opinions and feelings of our brethren; for this course would lead to disorder in the church. It is the duty of ministers to respect the judgement of their brethren; but their relations to one another, as well as the doctrines they teach, should be brought to the test of the law and the testimony; then, if hearts are teachable, there will be no divisions among us. Some are inclined to be disorderly, and are drifting away from the great landmarks of the faith; but God is moving upon His ministers to be one in doctrine and in spirit.
Brethren sometimes associate together for years, and they think they can trust those they know so well just as they would trust members of their own family. There is a freedom and confidence in this association which could not exist between those not of the same faith. This is very pleasant while mutual faith and brotherly love last; but let the “accuser of the brethren” gain admittance to the heart of one of these men, controlling the mind and the imagination, and jealousies are created, suspicion and envy are harboured; and he who supposed himself secure in the love and friendship of his brother, finds himself mistrusted and his motives misjudged. The false brother forgets his own human frailties, forgets his obligation to think and speak no evil lest he dishonour God and wound Christ in the person of His saints, and every defect that can be thought of or imagined is commented upon unmercifully, and the character of a brother is represented as dark and questionable.
There is a betrayal of sacred trust. The things spoken in brotherly confidence are repeated and misrepresented; and every word, every action, however innocent and well-meaning, is scrutinised by the cold, jealous criticism of those who were thought too noble, too honourable to take the least advantage of friendly association or brotherly trust. Hearts are closed to mercy, judgement, and the love of God; and the cold, sneering, contemptuous spirit which Satan manifests toward his victim is revealed.
The Saviour of the world was treated thus, and we are exposed to the influence of the same malicious spirit. The time has come when it is not safe to put confidence in a friend or a brother.
As in the days of Christ, spies were on His track, so they are on ours now. If Satan can employ professed believers to act as accusers of the brethren, he is greatly pleased; for those who do this are just as truly serving him as was Judas when he betrayed Christ, although they may be doing it ignorantly. Satan is no less active now than in Christ’s day, and those who lend themselves to do his work will represent his spirit.
Floating rumours are frequently the destroyers of unity among brethren. There are some who watch with open mind and ears to catch flying scandal. They gather up little incidents which may be trifling in themselves, but which are repeated and exaggerated until a man is made an offender for a word. Their motto seems to be, “Report, and we will report it.” These talebearers are doing the devil’s work with surprising fidelity, little knowing how offensive their course is to God. If they would spend half the energy and zeal that is given to this unholy work in examining their own hearts, they would find so much to do to cleanse their souls from impurity that they would have no time or disposition to criticise their brethren, and they would not fall under the power of this temptation. The door of the mind should be closed against “they say” or “I have heard.” Why should we not, instead of allowing jealousy or evil surmising to come into our hearts, go to our brethren, and, after frankly but kindly setting before them the things we have heard detrimental to their character and influence, pray with and for them? While we cannot love and fellowship with those who are the bitter enemies of Christ, we should cultivate that spirit of meekness and love that characterised our Master–a love that thinketh no evil and is not easily provoked.
This is a matter that rests between God and our own souls. We are living amid the perils of the last days, and we should guard every avenue by which Satan can approach us with his temptations. A fatal delusion seizes those who have had great light and precious opportunities, but who have not walked in the light nor improved the opportunities God has given them. Darkness comes upon them; they fail to make Christ their strength, and fall an easy prey to the snares of the deceiver. A mere assent to the truth will never save a soul from death. We must be sanctified through the truth; every defect of character must be overcome, or it will overcome us, and become a controlling power for evil. Commence without a moment’s delay to root out every pernicious weed from the garden of the heart; and, through the grace of Christ, allow no plants to flourish there but such as will bear fruit unto eternal life.
Cultivate whatever in your character is in harmony with the character of Christ. Cherish those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report; but put away whatever is unlike our Redeemer. Selfishness is cherished to an extent that few realise; guard against it at all times and in all places. Do not excuse yourself in any error. If you have one objectionable trait which you find it difficult to subdue, do not talk of your weakness that others must bear with. Do not soothe your conscience with the thought that you cannot overcome the peculiarities that deform your character, nor listen to Satan’s suggestion that they are not very grievous. There is no way by which you can be saved in sin. Every soul that gains eternal life must be like Christ, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” Hebrews 7:26. The followers of Christ must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Some seek to control their surroundings, thinking that if they are placed in favourable positions, the bad traits in their character will not be developed. But God orders our surroundings, and He will place us where we shall have test after test, to prove us and to reveal what is in our hearts. Again and again we shall be brought into strait places, that it may be known whether we are indeed crucified with Christ or full of self-love. How will this proving, testing process end with each of us? The prince of darkness will put forth all his power to retain us in his possession; but we have a Mighty Helper.
Self-love will prompt to a much better opinion of self than the Word of God will warrant, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. God’s Word is the standard that we must all reach. It is unsafe to consult feeling or trust to our own heart; for the wise man declares, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Proverbs 28:26. And yet how prone we are to trust this deceptive heart, and have confidence in our own goodness!
Church membership will not guarantee us heaven. We must abide in Christ, and His love must abide in us. We must every day make advancement in the formation of symmetrical character. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. As God is perfect in His sphere, so are we required to be perfect in ours. There is a great work before us individually to reach this high standard, and some have scarcely learned their A B Cs in the school of Christ. Our attainments will be just in accordance with the efforts we make, our character just what we choose to make it; for through the divine aid promised us, we can overcome. Jesus knows our frame; “he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14. In pitying tenderness, He will give us the help and strength we need.
Our souls have been purchased at an infinite cost, and we should value them according to this standard. Let us shun the first approach to the world’s heedless, irreverent, and ungodly ways; but let us diligently cultivate the pure principles of the gospel of Christ–the religion, not of self-esteem, but of love, meekness, and lowliness of heart. Then we shall love our brethren, and esteem them better than ourselves. Our minds will not dwell on the dark side of their character; we shall not feast on scandal and flying reports. But “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,” we shall “think on these things.”1White, Ellen G. “Love Among Brethren.” The Review and Herald , 3 June 1884. EGW Estate, egwwritings.org.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||White, Ellen G. “Love Among Brethren.” The Review and Herald , 3 June 1884. EGW Estate, egwwritings.org.|