"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Galatians 5:22, 23.
"There can be no growth or fruitfulness in the life that is centered in self. If you have accepted Christ as a personal Saviour, you are to forget yourself, and try to help others. Ö As you receive the Spirit of Christóthe Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others-you will grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more you will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely."óChristís Object Lessons, pages 67,68.
The goal of the one who follows his divine Guide can be nothing less than the perfection of character which Jesus displayed. Of course, this cannot be done without Godís help-such a character is a miracle. Were Godís plan for manís redemption less inclusive, it would fail of restoring our world to harmony with the rest of the universe. Many devout Christians fail to accept this obvious fact because they cannot see that God is now accomplishing this miracle in lives round about them. They may even be unaware at the moment of changes being wrought in their own lives. As a result they look for an explanation of the absence of such character transformations and find it in a denial of the possibility of the miracle rather than in manís resistance to the Holy Spirit. Yet the Scripture attests the validity of Godís plan to lift man back to the plane for which God created him.
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Revelation 14:5.
This perfection of character expected of the saints who will unashamedly greet their returning Lord represents the peak of Christian living. This is righteousness by faith which has been wholly imparted. This is total sanctification. John has pictured it in his thumbnail sketch of the saints: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12.
The faith or steadfastness here depicted is the result of the daily infilling of the Spirit of God, completing the transformation of fallen man into the image of his Saviour. This is what marks the 144,000, above described as being "without fault" in the sight of God.
"The sanctification of the soul by the working of the Holy Spirit is the implanting of Christís nature in humanity."
"The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. It means divine illumination, rejoicing in God. It means a heart emptied of self, and blessed with the abiding presence of Christ. When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fullness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life. The acceptance of the Saviour brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance. The beauty and fragrance of the character of Christ revealed in the life testifies that God has indeed sent His Son into the world to be its Saviour."óChristís Object Lessons, pages 384, 419, 420.
The attainment of such a character will cost us all that we possess, even though we are assured that salvation is free. This paradox is made understandable when we realize that nothing we can do will earn for us the right to eternal life, while only our determined clinging to human frailties can prevent our receiving it. The man plowing the field which contained the buried treasure thought his discovery worth giving up all else in order to obtain it. So did the merchant feel who found the goodly pearl. Neither of these thought of sacrifice when he gave up all to obtain these riches. Just so will the earnest Christian view the availability of the heavenly treasure, and will joyfully surrender everything else to obtain title to it. Only thus may we hope to enter into Christís experience and hence into His joy.
"For the joy of seeing souls redeemed, Christ endured the cross. He became the living sacrifice for a fallen world. Into that act of self-sacrifice was put the heart of Christ, the love of God; and through this sacrifice was given to the world the mighty influence of the Holy Spirit. It is through sacrifice that Godís work must be carried forward. Of every child of God self-sacrifice is required. Christ said: ĎIf any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.í Luke 9:23. To all who believe, Christ gives a new character. This character, through His infinite sacrifice, is the reproduction of His own."óTestimonies, vol. 6, p. 449.
It is the failure of man to surrender his life to this process of transformation that accounts for his weakness in things of the Spirit. Satan and not Jesus is the pattern for our stubborn insistence on managing the course of our own lives rather than leaving it quietly in Godís hands.
"Why are so many of us so weak and inefficient? It is because we look to self, studying our own temperaments and wondering how we can make a place for ourselves, our individuality, and our peculiarities, in the place of studying Christ and His character. Ö
"We are not to seek to maintain a peculiar identity of our own, a personality, and individuality, which will separate us from our fellow laborers. We have a character to maintain, but it is the character of Christ. Having the character of Christ, we can carry on the work of God together. The Christ in us will meet the Christ in our brethren, and the Holy Spirit will give that union of heart and action which testifies to the world that we are children of God. May the Lord help us to die to self and be born again, that Christ may live in us, a living, active principle, a power that will keep us holy."óIbid., vol. 9, pp. 187, 188.
We have been given an abundance of instruction as to the transformation of character which God pleases to bestow on those who are willing to surrender to the working of the Spirit. None need remain in ignorance of what God has in mind, nor in doubt as to whether or not he has such a power at work in his life.
"While the wind is itself invisible, it produces effects that are seen and felt. So the work of the Spirit upon the soul will reveal itself in every act of him who has felt its saving power. When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven. No one sees the hand that lifts the burden, or beholds the light descend from the courts above. The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God."óThe Desire of Ages, page 173.
"The kingdom of God comes not with outward show. It comes through the gentleness of the inspiration of His word, through the inward working of His Spirit, the fellowship of the soul with Him who is its life. The greatest manifestation of its power is seen in human nature brought to the perfection of the character of Christ."óTestimonies, vol. 7, p. 143.
"As the stars tell us that there is a great light in heaven with whose glory they are made bright, so Christians are to make it manifest that there is a God on the throne of the universe whose character is worthy of praise and imitation. The graces of His Spirit, the purity and holiness of His character, will be manifest in His witnesses."óThe Great Controversy, page 476.
"The Spirit of God produces a new life in the soul, bringing the thoughts and desires into obedience to the will of Christ; and the inward man is renewed in the image of God. Weak and erring men and women show to the world that the redeeming power of grace can cause the faulty character to develop into symmetry and abundant fruitfulness."óProphets and Kings, page 233.
"His Spirit will develop in man all that will ennoble the character and dignify the nature. It will build man up for the glory of God in body and soul and spirit." "All who long to bear the likeness of the character of God shall be satisfied. The Holy Spirit never leaves unassisted the soul who is looking unto Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto him. If the eye is kept fixed on Christ, the work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image. The pure element of love will expand the soul, giving it a capacity for higher attainments, for increased knowledge of heavenly things, so that it will not rest short of the fullness."
"Zeal for Godís glory is the motive implanted by the Holy Spirit; and only the effectual working of the Spirit can implant this motive. Only the power of God can banish self-seeking and hypocrisy. This change is the sign of His working. When the faith we accept destroys selfishness and pretense, when it leads us to seek Godís glory and not our own, we may know that it is of the right order."óThe Desire of Ages, pages 341, 302, 409.
"He who is a true Christian combines great tenderness of feeling with great firmness of purpose, with unswerving fidelity to God; he will in no case become the betrayer of sacred trusts. He who is endowed with the Holy Spirit has great capacities of heart and intellect, with strength of will and purpose that is unconquerable."óTestimonies to Ministers, page 176.
Not only will the sanctified Christian who lovingly follows his divine Guide receive a character that is like Christís but he has been promised mental vigor that is beyond his inherited capabilities. Centuries ago an unnamed psalmist recorded this gracious promise of God: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments." Psalm 11:10.
"In your intellectual faculties you are in possession of Gods heavenly endowment, and you should not allow your thoughts to be cheap and low. A character formed in accordance with the precepts of Godís word will reveal steadfast principles, pure, noble aspirations. When the Holy Spirit cooperates with the powers of the human mind, high, holy impulses are the sure result."óTestimonies, vol. 8, p. 65.
Old Testament prophets used the graphic illustration of the two rainy seasons in Palestine to depict the work of the Spirit of God in the preparation for and the finishing of the work of salvation in human hearts. To the Occidental mind this illustration is not as pregnant with meaning as it doubtless was to Oriental thinking. "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month." "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to everyone grass in the field." Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1.
On this natural phenomenon with which literal Israel was so familiar, we find the following comment:
"In the East the former rain falls at the sowing time. It is necessary in order that the seed may germinate. Under the influence of the fertilizing showers, the tender shoot springs up. The latter rain, falling near the close of the season, ripens the grain, and prepares it for the sickle. The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit. As the dew and the rain are given first to cause the seed to germinate, and then to ripen the harvest, so the Holy Spirit is given to carry forward, from one stage to another, the process of spiritual growth. The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of Godís grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ."óTestimonies to Ministers, page 506.
As in the field of nature, where the falling of the early rain in the time of planting presupposed the coming of the latter rain at harvest time, so did the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost indicate a later outpouring of spiritual power on a far grander scale to finish the work of the gospel. Similarly we must understand that all spiritual growth must be accomplished under the influence of the early rain. The showers of the latter rain are not to promote growth but to ripen what has already grown. God, who knew when the Palestinian crops needed the finishing touch of the latter rain, will be watching over spiritual growth in human hearts. It is unthinkable that the gospel message is to close with a lesser degree of intensity than the symbolic picture would indicate. It was the former rain, not the latter, which fell "moderately."
"It is true that in the time of the end, when Godís work in the earth is closing, the earnest efforts put forth by consecrated believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are to be accompanied by special tokens of divine favor. Under the figure of the early and the latter rain, that falls in Eastern lands at seedtime and harvest, the Hebrew prophets foretold the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon Godís church. Ö
"But unless the members of Godís church today have a living connection with the Source of all spiritual growth, they will not be ready for the time of reaping. Unless they keep their lamps trimmed and burning, they will fail of receiving added grace in times of special need.
"Those only who are constantly receiving fresh supplies of grace, will have power proportionate to their daily need and their ability to use that power."óThe Acts of the Apostles, pages 54, 55.
Here is both the pictured need of the church for the time of the end, and the promise that need is to be supplied by the Spirit of God. We have in this promise of the sure bestowal of the latter rain, assurance that the work of character transformation not only can, but must be brought to completion before our Lord can return for His people. This is an experience for which a wise God has planned and stands ready to provide for all who will submit to the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be realized by earnest desire nor by prayer-alone. It requires steady, constant exercise of the will to remain always at His command. Therefore, it must needs be that the latter-rain experience will be for the few and not the many, not because God has willed it so, but because the many have not made enough effort to know and trust.
"All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence."óThe Desire of Ages, page 827.
When this work has been completed in the individual life, then the intensity of the latter rain may be borne without damage. It is useless to beseech God for such outpouring before the needful preparation has been accomplished. This special unction from God will simply be the intensification of gifts already belonging to men and women who possess a spirit like Gods. His power stems naturally from the perfection of His nature. It follows naturally then that those who have made room for such loveliness in their lives will have room for "all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19.
"Character is power. The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence. Ö When those who profess to serve God follow Christís example, practicing the principles of the law in their daily life; when every act bears witness that they love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves, then will the church have power to move the world."óChristís Object Lessons, page 340.
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