Chapter 38—The Importance of Seeking True Knowledge
More clearly than we do we need to understand the issues at stake in the great conflict in which we are engaged. We need to understand more fully the value of the truths of the word of God and the danger of allowing our minds to be diverted from them by the great deceiver.
The infinite value of the sacrifice required for our redemption reveals the fact that sin is a tremendous evil. Through sin the whole human organism is deranged, the mind is perverted, the imagination corrupted. Sin has degraded the faculties of the soul. Temptations from without find an answering chord within the heart, and the feet turn imperceptibly toward evil.
As the sacrifice in our behalf was complete, so our restoration from the defilement of sin is to be complete. No act of wickedness will the law of God excuse; no unrighteousness can escape its condemnation. The ethics of the gospel acknowledge no standard but the perfection of the divine character. The life of Christ was a perfect fulfillment of every precept of the law. He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” His life is our example of obedience and service. God alone can renew the heart. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” But we are bidden, “Work out your own salvation.” John 15:10; Philippians 2:13, 12.
The Work That Requires Our Thought
Wrongs cannot be righted, nor can reformations in conduct be made by a few feeble, intermittent efforts. Character building is the work, not of a day, nor of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. Without continual effort and constant activity, there can be no advancement in the divine life, no attainment of the victor’s crown.
The strongest evidence of man’s fall from a higher state is the fact that it costs so much to return. The way of return can be gained only by hard fighting, inch by inch, hour by hour. In one moment, by a hasty, unguarded act, we may place ourselves in the power of evil; but it requires more than a moment to break the fetters and attain to a holier life. The purpose may be formed, the work begun; but its accomplishment will require toil, time, perseverance, patience, and sacrifice.
We cannot allow ourselves to act from impulse. We cannot be off guard for a moment. Beset with temptations without number, we must resist firmly or be conquered. Should we come to the close of life with our work undone, it would be an eternal loss.
The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self. He said, “I die daily.” 1 Corinthians 15:31. His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God. Instead of following inclination, he did God’s will, however crucifying to his nature.
At the close of his life of conflict, looking back over its struggles and triumphs, he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” 2 Timothy 4:7, 8.
The Christian life is a battle and a march. In this warfare there is no release; the effort must be continuous and persevering. It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose.
No one will be borne upward without stern, persevering effort in his own behalf. All must engage in this warfare for themselves; no one else can fight our battles. Individually we are responsible for the issues of the struggle; though Noah, Job, and Daniel were in the land they could deliver neither son nor daughter by their righteousness.
The Science to Be Mastered
There is a science of Christianity to be mastered—a science as much deeper, broader, higher than any human science as the heavens are higher than the earth. The mind is to be disciplined, educated, trained; for we are to do service for God in ways that are not in harmony with inborn inclination. Hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil must be overcome. Often the education and training of a lifetime must be discarded, that one may become a learner in the school of Christ. Our hearts must be educated to become steadfast in God. We are to form habits of thought that will enable us to resist temptation. We must learn to look upward. The principles of the word of God—principles that are as high as heaven, and that compass eternity—we are to understand in their bearing upon our daily life. Every act, every word, every thought, is to be in accord with these principles. All must be brought into harmony with, and subject to, Christ.
The precious graces of the Holy Spirit are not developed in a moment. Courage, fortitude, meekness, faith, unwavering trust in God’s power to save, are acquired by the experience of years. By a life of holy endeavor and firm adherence to the right the children of God are to seal their destiny.
No Time to Lose
We have no time to lose. We know not how soon our probation may close. At the longest, we have but a brief lifetime here, and we know not how soon the arrow of death may strike our hearts. We know not how soon we may be called to give up the world and all its interests. Eternity stretches before us. The curtain is about to be lifted. But a few short years, and for everyone now numbered with the living the mandate will go forth:
“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: ... and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11.
Are we prepared? Have we become acquainted with God, the Governor of heaven, the Lawgiver, and with Jesus Christ whom He sent into the world as His representative? When our lifework is ended, shall we be able to say, as did Christ our example:
“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.... I have manifested Thy name”? John 17:4-6.
The angels of God are seeking to attract us from ourselves and from earthly things. Let them not labor in vain.
Minds that have been given up to loose thought need to change. “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16.
The thoughts must be centered upon God. We must put forth earnest effort to overcome the evil tendencies of the natural heart. Our efforts, our self-denial and perseverance, must be proportionate to the infinite value of the object of which we are in pursuit. Only by overcoming as Christ overcame shall we win the crown of life.
The Need of Self-Renunciation
Man’s great danger is in being self-deceived, indulging self-sufficiency, and thus separating from God, the source of his strength. Our natural tendencies, unless corrected by the Holy Spirit of God, have in them the seeds of moral death. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we cannot resist the unhallowed effects of self-indulgence, self-love, and temptation to sin.
In order to receive help from Christ, we must realize our need. We must have a true knowledge of ourselves. It is only he who knows himself to be a sinner that Christ can save. Only as we see our utter helplessness and renounce all self-trust, shall we lay hold on divine power.
It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed. All our good works are dependent on a power outside of ourselves; therefore there needs to be a continual reaching out of the heart after God, a constant, earnest confession of sin and humbling of the soul before Him. Perils surround us; and we are safe only as we feel our weakness and cling with the grasp of faith to our mighty Deliverer.
Christ the Fountainhead of True Knowledge
We must turn away from a thousand topics that invite attention. There are matters that consume time and arouse inquiry, but end in nothing. The highest interests demand the close attention and energy that are so often given to comparatively insignificant things.
Accepting new theories does not in itself bring new life to the soul. Even an acquaintance with facts and theories important in themselves is of little value unless put to a practical use. We need to feel our responsibility to give our souls food that will nourish and stimulate spiritual life.
“Incline thine ear unto wisdom, ...
Apply thy heart to understanding; ...
Seek her as silver, ...
Search for her as for hid treasures:
Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah,
And find the knowledge of God....
Then shalt thou understand righteousness and justice,
And equity, yea, every good path.
For wisdom shall enter into thy heart,
And knowledge shall be pleasant unto thy soul;
Discretion shall watch over thee;
Understanding shall keep thee.”
Wisdom “is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:
And happy is everyone that retaineth her.”
Proverbs 2:2-11, A.R.V.; 3:18.
The question for us to study is, “What is truth—the truth that is to be cherished, loved, honored, and obeyed?” The devotees of science have been defeated and disheartened in their efforts to find out God. What they need to inquire at this time is, “What is the truth that will enable us to win the salvation of our souls?”
“What think ye of Christ?”—this is the all-important question. Do you receive Him as a personal Saviour? To all who receive Him He gives power to become sons of God.
Christ revealed God to His disciples in a way that performed in their hearts a special work, such as He desires to do in our hearts. There are many who, in dwelling too largely upon theory, have lost sight of the living power of the Saviour’s example. They have lost sight of Him as the humble, self-denying worker. What they need is to behold Jesus. Daily we need the fresh revealing of His presence. We need to follow more closely His example of self-renunciation and self-sacrifice.
We need the experience that Paul had when he wrote: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
The knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ expressed in character is an exaltation above everything else that is esteemed on earth or in heaven. It is the very highest education. It is the key that opens the portals of the heavenly city. This knowledge it is God’s purpose that all who put on Christ shall possess.
Chapter 39—The Knowledge Received Through God’s Word
The whole Bible is a revelation of the glory of God in Christ. Received, believed, obeyed, it is the great instrumentality in the transformation of character. It is the grand stimulus, the constraining force, that quickens the physical, mental, and spiritual powers, and directs the life into right channels.
The reason why the youth, and even those of mature years, are so easily led into temptation and sin, is that they do not study the word of God and meditate upon it as they should. The lack of firm, decided will power, which is manifest in life and character, results from neglect of the sacred instruction of God’s word. They do not by earnest effort direct the mind to that which would inspire pure, holy thought and divert it from that which is impure and untrue. There are few who choose the better part, who sit at the feet of Jesus, as did Mary, to learn of the divine Teacher. Few treasure His words in the heart and practice them in the life.
The truths of the Bible, received, will uplift mind and soul. If the word of God were appreciated as it should be, both young and old would possess an inward rectitude, a strength of principle, that would enable them to resist temptation.
Let men teach and write the precious things of the Holy Scriptures. Let the thought, the aptitude, the keen exercise of brain power, be given to the study of the thoughts of God. Study not the philosophy of man’s conjectures, but study the philosophy of Him who is truth. No other literature can compare with this in value.
The mind that is earthly finds no pleasure in contemplating the word of God; but for the mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, divine beauty and celestial light shine from the sacred page. That which to the earthly mind was a desolate wilderness, to the spiritual mind becomes a land of living streams.
The knowledge of God as revealed in His word is the knowledge to be given to our children. From the earliest dawn of reason they should be made familiar with the name and the life of Jesus. Their first lessons should teach them that God is their Father. Their first training should be that of loving obedience. Reverently and tenderly let the word of God be read and repeated to them in portions suited to their comprehension and adapted to awaken their interest. And, above all, let them learn of His love revealed in Christ, and its great lesson:
“If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 1 John 4:11.
Let the youth make the word of God the food of mind and soul. Let the cross of Christ be made the science of all education, the center of all teaching and all study. Let it be brought into the daily experience in practical life. So will the Saviour become to the youth a daily companion and friend. Every thought will be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. With the apostle Paul they will be able to say:
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14.
Thus through faith they come to know God by an experimental knowledge. They have proved for themselves the reality of His word, the truth of His promises. They have tasted, and they know that the Lord is good.
The beloved John had a knowledge gained through his own experience. He could testify:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3.
So everyone may be able, through his own experience, to “set his seal to this, that God is true.” John 3:33, A.R.V. He can bear witness to that which he himself has seen and heard and felt of the power of Christ. He can testify:
“I needed help, and I found it in Jesus. Every want was supplied, the hunger of my soul was satisfied; the Bible is to me the revelation of Christ. I believe in Jesus because He is to me a divine Saviour. I believe the Bible because I have found it to be the voice of God to my soul.”
He who has gained a knowledge of God and His word through personal experience is prepared to engage in the study of natural science. Of Christ it is written, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4. Before the entrance of sin, Adam and Eve in Eden were surrounded with a clear and beautiful light, the light of God. This light illuminated everything which they approached. There was nothing to obscure their perception of the character or the works of God. But when they yielded to the tempter, the light departed from them. In losing the garments of holiness, they lost the light that had illuminated nature. No longer could they read it aright. They could not discern the character of God in His works. So today man cannot of himself read aright the teaching of nature. Unless guided by divine wisdom, he exalts nature and the laws of nature above nature’s God. This is why mere human ideas in regard to science so often contradict the teaching of God’s word. But for those who receive the light of the life of Christ, nature is again illuminated. In the light shining from the cross, we can rightly interpret nature’s teaching.
He who has a knowledge of God and His word through personal experience has a settled faith in the divinity of the Holy Scriptures. He has proved that God’s word is truth, and he knows that truth can never contradict itself. He does not test the Bible by men’s ideas of science; he brings these ideas to the test of the unerring standard. He knows that in true science there can be nothing contrary to the teaching of the word; since both have the same Author, a correct understanding of both will prove them to be in harmony. Whatever in so-called scientific teaching contradicts the testimony of God’s word is mere human guesswork.
To such a student, scientific research will open vast fields of thought and information. As he contemplates the things of nature, a new perception of truth comes to him. The book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. Both make him better acquainted with God by teaching him of His character and of the laws through which He works.
The experience of the psalmist is the experience that all may gain by receiving God’s word through nature and through revelation. He says:
“Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work:
I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.”
“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens;
And Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains;
Thy judgments are a great deep....
“How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God!”
“The children of men take refuge under the
shadow of Thy wings....
And Thou wilt make them drink of the river of
For with Thee is the fountain of life:
In Thy light shall we see light.”
“Blessed are they that are upright in way,
Who walk in the law of Jehovah.
Blessed are they that keep His testimonies,
That seek Him with the whole heart.”
“Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.”
“I have chosen the way of faithfulness:
Thine ordinances have I set before Me.”
“Thy word have I laid up in my heart,
That I might not sin against Thee.”
“And I shall walk at liberty;
For I have sought Thy precepts.”
“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold
Wondrous things out of Thy law.”
“Thy testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors.”
“The law of Thy mouth is better unto me
Than thousands of gold and silver.”
“Oh how love I Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.”
“Thy testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore doth my soul keep them.”
“Thy statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.”
“Thy word is very pure;
Therefore Thy servant loveth it.”
“The sum of Thy word is truth;
And every one of Thy righteous ordinances endureth forever.”
“Let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee;
And let Thine ordinances help me.”
“Great peace have they that love Thy law;
And they have no occasion of stumbling.
“I have hoped for Thy salvation, O Jehovah,
And have done Thy commandments.
My soul hath observed Thy testimonies;
And I love them exceedingly.”
“The opening of Thy words giveth light;
It giveth understanding unto the simple.”
“Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers;
For Thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
Because I have kept Thy precepts.”
“Through Thy precepts I get understanding:
Therefore I hate every false way.”
“Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever;
For they are the rejoicing of my heart.”
Psalm 92:4; 36:5-7; 36:7-9, A.R.V.; 119:1, 2, 9, 30, A.R.V., margin; 119:11, 45, 18, 24, 72, 97, 129, 54, 140, 160, 175, 165-167, 130, 98-100, 104, 111, A.R.V.
Clearer Revealings of God
It is our privilege to reach higher and still higher for clearer revealings of the character of God. When Moses prayed, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory,” the Lord did not rebuke him, but He granted his prayer. God declared to His servant, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee.” Exodus 33:18, 19.
It is sin that darkens our minds and dims our perceptions. As sin is purged from our hearts, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, illuminating His word and reflected from the face of nature, more and more fully will declare Him “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” Exodus 34:6.
In His light shall we see light, until mind and heart and soul are transformed into the image of His holiness.
For those who thus lay hold of the divine assurances of God’s word, there are wonderful possibilities. Before them lie vast fields of truth, vast resources of power. Glorious things are to be revealed. Privileges and duties which they do not even suspect to be in the Bible will be made manifest. All who walk in the path of humble obedience, fulfilling His purpose, will know more and more of the oracles of God.
Let the student take the Bible as his guide and stand firm for principle, and he may aspire to any height of attainment. All the philosophies of human nature have led to confusion and shame when God has not been recognized as all in all. But the precious faith inspired of God imparts strength and nobility of character. As His goodness, His mercy, and His love are dwelt upon, clearer and still clearer will be the perception of truth; higher, holier, the desire for purity of heart and clearness of thought. The soul dwelling in the pure atmosphere of holy thought is transformed by intercourse with God through the study of His word. Truth is so large, so far-reaching, so deep, so broad, that self is lost sight of. The heart is softened and subdued into humility, kindness, and love.
And the natural powers are enlarged because of holy obedience. From the study of the word of life, students may come forth with minds expanded, elevated, ennobled. If they are, like Daniel, hearers and doers of the word of God, they may advance as he did in all branches of learning. Being pure-minded, they will become strong-minded. Every intellectual faculty will be quickened. They may so educate and discipline themselves that all within the sphere of their influence shall see what man can be, and what he can do, when connected with the God of wisdom and power.
Education in the Life Eternal
Our lifework here is a preparation for the life eternal. The education begun here will not be completed in this life; it will be going forward through all eternity—ever progressing, never completed. More and more fully will be revealed the wisdom and love of God in the plan of redemption. The Saviour, as He leads His children to the fountains of living waters, will impart rich stores of knowledge. And day by day the wonderful works of God, the evidences of His power in creating and sustaining the universe, will open before the mind in new beauty. In the light that shines from the throne, mysteries will disappear, and the soul will be filled with astonishment at the simplicity of the things that were never before comprehended.
Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now we know in part; but then we shall know even as also we are known.