Steps to Christ
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 7: The Test of Discipleship
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"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are
become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17.
A person may not be able to tell the exact time
or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in
the process of conversion; but this does not prove
him to be unconverted. Christ said to Nicodemus,
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh,
and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the
Spirit." John 3:8. Like the wind, which is invisible,
yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is
the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart.
That regenerating power, which no human eye can
see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new
being in the image of God. While the work of the
Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are
manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of
God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While
we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to
bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we
must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works,
our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is
dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the
character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will
be clear and decided between what they have been
and what they are. The character is revealed, not [p. 58] by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds,
but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.
It is true that there may be an outward correctness
of deportment without the renewing power of
Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the
esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life.
Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of
evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions.
By what means, then, shall we determine whose side
we are on?
Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts?
Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our
warmest affections and our best energies? If we are
Christ's, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest
thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated
to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe
His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.
Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus
will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, "love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance." Galatians 5:22, 23. They will no longer
fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but
by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in
His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves
even as He is pure. The things they once hated they
now love, and the things they once loved they hate.
The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly
in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious
and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and
the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions
of the world are laid aside. Christians will seek not
the "outward adorning," but "the hidden man of [p. 59] the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the
ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." 1 Peter 3: 3, 4.
There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless
it works reformation. If he restore the pledge, give
again that he had robbed, confess his sins, and love
God and his fellow men, the sinner may be sure that
he has passed from death unto life.
When, as erring, sinful beings, we come to Christ
and become partakers of His pardoning grace, love
springs up in the heart. Every burden is light, for
the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes
a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that
before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright
with beams from the Sun of Righteousness.
The loveliness of the character of Christ will be
seen in His followers. It was His delight to do the
will of God. Love to God, zeal for His glory, was
the controlling power in our Saviour's life. Love
beautified and ennobled all His actions. Love is of
God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or
produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus
reigns. "We love, because He first loved us." 1 John
4:19, R.V. In the heart renewed by divine grace,
love is the principle of action. It modifies the character,
governs the impulses, controls the passions,
subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This
love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds
a refining influence on all around.
There are two errors against which the children
of God—particularly those who have just come to
trust in His grace—especially need to guard. The
first, already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their [p. 60] own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring
themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying
to become holy by his own works in keeping the
law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man
can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness
and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith,
that can make us holy.
The opposite and no less dangerous error is that
belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of
God; that since by faith alone we become partakers
of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do
with our redemption.
But notice here that obedience is not a mere
outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of
God is an expression of His very nature; it is an
embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is
the foundation of His government in heaven and earth.
If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the
divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law
of God be carried out in the life? When the principle
of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed
after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant
promise is fulfilled, "I will put My laws into
their hearts, and in their minds will I write them."
Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart,
will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and
allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.
Thus the Scripture says, "This is the love of God,
that we keep His commandments." "He that saith,
I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is
a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 5:3; 2:4.
Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, [p. 61] and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace
of Christ, which enables us to render obedience.
We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for
salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by
faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith. "Ye know
that He was manifested to take away our sins; and
in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him
sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him,
neither known Him." 1 John 3:5, 6. Here is the true
test. If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells
in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our
actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as
expressed in the precepts of His holy law. "Little
children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth
righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous."
1 John 3:7. Righteousness is defined by the standard
of God's holy law, as expressed in the ten precepts
given on Sinai.
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