What Shall we do to Inherit
November 24, 1887
This Do and Thou Shalt Live
[Sermon at Laurvig, Norway, July 4, 1886.]
By Mrs. E. G. White
"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live."
An important question was addressed to Christ by this lawyer: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The answer is direct and positive: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus presented the whole law of God, and said, "This do, and thou shalt live." The first four commandments of the law grow out of our relation to God, and demand the loving loyalty of our whole hearts. The last six grow out of our relation to our fellow-man, and require us to regard his interests as our own. The keeping of these commandments comprises the whole duty of man, and presents the conditions of eternal life. Now the question is, Will man comply with the requirements? Will he love God supremely and his neighbor as himself? There is no possible way for man to do this in his own strength. The divine power of Christ must be added to the effort of humanity: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Repentance toward God for our failure to keep his law, is the first step in the Christian life, while faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ claims the merits of his blood for the remission of sins that are past, and makes us partakers of the divine nature. The carnal heart, that "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be," is made spiritual, and exclaims with Christ, "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart."
Note by Ron: "No one can believe with the heart unto righteousness, and obtain justification by faith, while continuing the practice of those things which the Word of God forbids, or while neglecting any known duty....As God works in the heart, and man surrenders his will to God, and co-operates with God, he works out in the life what God WORKS IN by the Holy Spirit, and there is harmony between the purpose of the heart and the practice of the life. Every sin must be renounced as the hateful thing that crucified the Lord of life and glory....It is by continual surrender of the will, by continual obedience, that the blessing of justification is retained." E.G. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 1, pp. 396-397. End note by Ron.
There are many who say they believe in Christ; but do they? Have they the spiritual mind, the mind of Christ, that delights in the law of God? They claim to be the children of God, but they do not the works of God. We cannot afford to make any mistakes in this matter, for our eternal interests are at stake. A correct faith will be made manifest in godly works, and will bring the whole life into harmony with the law of God. Faith and works must go hand in hand. Christ referred the lawyer to the law, and inquired, "What saith the law? how readest thou?" And he showed that those righteous statutes require our perfect obedience. When, through the goodness of God, our attention has been called to the demands of God's commandments, and light shines on us from his word, we are to believe and obey from the heart.
Many put their own interpretation upon the words of God; but we cannot depend upon them. We must know for ourselves "what saith the Scriptures." An infinite price has been paid for our redemption, and ought we not to bestir ourselves to search the chart and prove to our souls that we are in the highway cast up for the righteous, and walking in the path of humble obedience? We are warned to "make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way." We are examples to others, and if we pursue a wrong course, and lead others away from the path of right, we shall be held accountable.
We can see the importance, then, of having true faith, for it is the motive power of the Christian's life and action; but feeling is not faith; emotion is not faith. We must bring our very work and thought and emotions to the test of the word, and true faith will be profoundly impressed by the voice of God, and will act accordingly. If people would only search the Scriptures more diligently, false doctrines and heresies would be fewer. When anyone comes to you with a new doctrine, you should challenge him to prove it by the word of God. The test is written: "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Forty-five years ago, when I commenced my labors, we met many erroneous doctrines. One and another would say, "I have the truth, because my feelings tell me so." Others declared that they were led of the Spirit; but there are two spirits in the world,—the Spirit of God and the spirit of Satan. We are not left to be guided by the uncertainty of feelings, nor by the deceptive spirit of error. Here is the word of God. Christ declared, "Thy word is truth;" and the Spirit that Christ promised to his disciples, was to lead them into all truth. Then can we not test what spirit we are of? If we are led into harmony with the explicit commands of God, we have the Spirit of truth. These I have spoken of had gone beyond the need of their Bibles; they had left that for those not so far advanced as themselves. As I endeavored to reason with them, with my Bible in hand, they pushed me away, unwilling that their errors should be tried; "but he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." We want to know "what saith the Scriptures." Let God be true, but every man a liar. He has declared the conditions of eternal life, and we want to know that we are complying with them, and are preparing for the world to come.
Adam and Eve were placed upon probation in the garden of Eden, and they were to prove their loyalty to their Creator by obedience to his law of love; but they fell, through the temptation of a wily foe. A great and infinite sacrifice has been made, that man may have another trial. God provides that man may have another probation, and his efforts to keep the law are made acceptable through Christ. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Christ came to bear the conflict in which man was conquered. The earth was the battle-field. Just before the temptation he bowed on Jordan's bank and offered up a prayer that cleared its way to the throne of his Father. The Heaven opened and the voice of God responded, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, like burnished gold, descended upon his head.
This is of wonderful significance to us. It tells us of the power of prayer,—how the human voice may reach the ear of God, and man's petitions find access to the courts of Heaven. Though earth was struck off from the continent of Heaven and alienated from its communion, Jesus has connected it again with the sphere of glory. His love has encircled man and reached the highest Heaven; and now the light that fell from the open portals on the bowed head of our Saviour, may fall upon us as we petition our Father for help to meet and conquer temptation.
Christ passed from this scene of joy to meet the cruel temptations of his adversary. He passed step by step over the ground that man had trodden, and was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." Where man stumbled and fell, Jesus came off more than conqueror. Had he failed on one point, in reference to the law, all would have been lost; he would not have been a perfect offering, nor could he have satisfied the demands of the law; but he conquered where Adam failed, and by loyalty to God, under the severest trials, became a perfect pattern and example for our imitation, and he is able to succor those who are tempted. There is enough in this idea to fill our hearts with joy and gratitude every day of our lives. He took our nature upon him that he might become acquainted with our trials and sorrows, and, knowing all our experiences, he stands as Mediator and Intercessor before the Father.
Everyone who shall follow Christ will keep the commandments of God. The question will arise. Is this convenient for me? But if you flatter yourself that God does not require you to keep his commandments, because it interferes with your convenience, you make a sad mistake. Another leader is commanding you, instead of the Captain of your salvation. Jesus suffered and withstood the severest temptations, and, finally, yielded his life on Calvary's cross, to demonstrate to every member of the human family that the law of God is immutable, and that not one jot or tittle can be put aside. Satan has deceived the Christian world with the story that when Christ died he abolished the law. It was the cross of Calvary that exalted the law of God, and made it honorable. The cross is a monument of its immutability; and thus it is demonstrated before all worlds, and before the angels, and before all men, that the law cannot cease to exert eternal jurisdiction. It sustains the throne of God, and is the rule of his Government. If God could have changed one iota of his law, Jesus need not have come to our world to suffer and die; but he who was equal with the Father came and suffered even the death of the cross, to give man another probation.
Then if this great and infinite sacrifice has been made in our behalf, let us ask ourselves, What are we doing? Do we say, "Believe, believe on Christ, and that is all"? If we have not the faith that works by love, and purifies the soul from every stain of sin, then we have a spurious faith. Christ is not the minister of sin. And what is sin? The only definition given in God's word is, "Sin is the transgression of the law;" and the apostle Paul declares, "Where no law is, there is no transgression." The law is the great standard that will measure every man's character. The very test that was brought upon Adam in Eden will be applied to every member of the human family. We stand as Adam did, with opportunity for a second trial, to prove our allegiance to the Government of God. If we listen, as Adam did, to the first adversary of God's law, we shall be led to treat the words of God as of little consequence, and transgress the commandment. "The wages of sin is death." The Father loves us, and his love led him to suffer his beloved Son to make an atonement for us, that we might not perish but have everlasting life. To as many as received this precious Jesus, "to them gave he power to become the sons of God." John exclaims: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." It is no cheap faith, that costs nothing and requires nothing, that we are to have. But John continues: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
Believe, believe, believe in Jesus, is the soothing lullaby that is lulling the world to sleep in the cradle of carnal security. Why, the devils believe and tremble. We need to be alarmed. We need to sound the cry, "Depart from all iniquity." When you bring Jesus into your daily life and character, you will not make your feelings the criterion of your religion; you will exalt him in the darkest hour; you will seek to point those around you to the cleansing fountain. You will not cry, "Away with God's commandments; I do not want to hear about them;" but with your Saviour you will "magnify the law and make it honorable."
We are in the perils of the last days, and Jesus has bidden us beware of false teachers. You are to know them by their fruits. Do they teach obedience to God, and yet break his plain words of command? God has given us reasoning faculties, and he wants us to use them. We are to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good." He has given us the revelation of his will, and we shall be without excuse if we do not study the Sacred Word. Hear what the voice of the true Shepherd says to you, and walk in the path of obedience and love. "This do," said Jesus, "and thou shalt live." We cannot afford to lose eternal life. May God grant that we may meet you around the throne of God, to sing with you the song of redemption in the kingdom of glory.