Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 22: Saying and Doing
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In the company before Christ there were scribes and
Pharisees, priests and rulers, and after giving the parable of
the two sons, Christ addressed to His hearers the question,
"Whether of them twain did the will of his father?"
Forgetting themselves, the Pharisees answered, "The first."
This they said without realizing that they were pronouncing
sentence against themselves. Then there fell from Christ's
lips the denunciation, "Verily I say unto you, That the [p. 277] publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before
you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness,
and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots
believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not
afterward, that ye might believe him."
John the Baptist came preaching truth, and by his
preaching sinners were convicted and converted. These
would go into the kingdom of heaven before the ones who
in self-righteousness resisted the solemn warning. The
publicans and harlots were ignorant, but these learned men
knew the way of truth. Yet they refused to walk in the
path which leads to the Paradise of God. The truth that
should have been to them a savor of life unto life became
a savor of death unto death. Open sinners who loathed
themselves had received baptism at the hands of John; but
these teachers were hypocrites. Their own stubborn hearts
were the obstacle to their receiving the truth. They resisted
the conviction of the Spirit of God. They refused obedience
to God's commandments.
Christ did not say to them, Ye cannot enter the kingdom
of heaven; but He showed that the obstacle which prevented
them from entering was of their own creating. The door
was still open to these Jewish leaders; the invitation was [p. 278] still held out. Christ longed to see them convicted and
The priests and elders of Israel spent their lives in
religious ceremonies, which they regarded as too sacred to be
connected with secular business. Therefore their lives were
supposed to be wholly religious. But they performed their
ceremonies to be seen by men that they might be thought
by the world to be pious and devoted. While professing to
obey they refused to render obedience to God. They were
not doers of the truth which they professed to teach.
Christ declared John the Baptist to be one of the greatest
of the prophets, and He showed His hearers that they had
had sufficient evidence that John was a messenger from
God. The words of the preacher in the wilderness were
with power. He bore his message unflinchingly, rebuking
the sins of priests and rulers, and enjoining upon them the
works of the kingdom of heaven. He pointed out to them
their sinful disregard of their Father's authority in refusing
to do the work appointed them. He made no compromise
with sin, and many were turned from their unrighteousness.
Had the profession of the Jewish leaders been genuine,
they would have received John's testimony and accepted
Jesus as the Messiah. But they did not show the fruits of
repentance and righteousness. The very ones whom they
despised were pressing into the kingdom of God before them.
In the parable the son who said, "I go, sir," represented
himself as faithful and obedient; but time proved that his
profession was not real. He had no true love for his father.
So the Pharisees prided themselves on their holiness, but
when tested, it was found wanting. When it was for their
interest to do so, they made the requirements of the law
very exacting; but when obedience was required from themselves,
by cunning sophistries they reasoned away the force
of God's precepts. Of them Christ declared, "Do not ye [p. 279] after their works; for they say, and do not." Matt. 23:3.
They had no true love for God or man. God called them to
be co-workers with Him in blessing the world; but while in
profession they accepted the call, in action they refused
obedience. They trusted to self, and prided themselves
on their goodness; but they set the commands of God at
defiance. They refused to do the work which God had
appointed them, and because of their transgression the Lord
was about to divorce Himself from the disobedient nation.
Self-righteousness is not true righteousness, and those
who cling to it will be left to take the consequences of
holding a fatal deception. Many today claim to obey the
commandments of God, but they have not the love of God
in their hearts to flow forth to others. Christ calls them
to unite with Him in His work for the saving of the
world, but they content themselves with saying, "I go,
sir." They do not go. They do not co-operate with those
who are doing God's service. They are idlers. Like the
unfaithful son, they make false promises to God. In taking
upon themselves the solemn covenant of the church they
have pledged themselves to receive and obey the word of
God, to give themselves to God's service, but they do not
do this. In profession they claim to be sons of God, but in
life and character they deny the relationship. They do not
surrender the will to God. They are living a lie.
The promise of obedience they appear to fulfill when this
involves no sacrifice; but when self-denial and self-sacrifice
are required, when they see the cross to be lifted, they draw
back. Thus the conviction of duty wears away, and known
transgression of God's commandments becomes habit. The
ear may hear God's word, but the spiritual perceptive
powers have departed. The heart is hardened, the
Do not think that because you do not manifest decided [p. 280] hostility to Christ you are doing Him service. We thus
deceive our own souls. By withholding that which God
has given us to use in His service, be it time or means
or any other of His entrusted gifts, we work against Him.
Satan uses the listless, sleepy indolence of professed
Christians to strengthen his forces and win souls to his side.
Many, who think that though they are doing no actual work
for Christ, they are yet on His side, are enabling the enemy
to pre-occupy ground and gain advantages. By their failure
to be diligent workers for the Master, by leaving duties
undone and words unspoken, they have allowed Satan to
gain control of souls who might have been won for Christ.
We can never be saved in indolence and inactivity.
There is no such thing as a truly converted person living
a helpless, useless life. It is not possible for us to drift into
heaven. No sluggard can enter there. If we do not strive
to gain an entrance into the kingdom, if we do not seek
earnestly to learn what constitutes its laws, we are not fitted
for a part in it. Those who refuse to co-operate with
God on earth would not co-operate with Him in heaven.
It would not be safe to take them to heaven.
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