Walking with God
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:48].
Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. [Philippians 2:14-16].
The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Enoch walked with God three hundred years.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [Colossians 4:12].
Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. [Colossians 1:27-29].
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The Need to Correct in Love
The faithful servants of Christ are called upon to warn every man, teaching every man in all wisdom; and in those whom they are called upon to instruct, there should be a teachable spirit, a willingness to receive instruction. Young men and women are to take heed to their ways, and to correct every wrong habit, as it is made apparent to their understanding.
The one who is cherishing the wrong may not see his defects, although they are plainly discerned by those with whom he associates. Because of relationship or connection with those who are in error, we are under obligation to set before them, not indifferently, but in a serious manner, the wrongs and defects that are marring their character and conduct, and exercising an evil influence upon those around them, detracting from the peace and happiness of the family, or from the happiness of those with whom they are associated.
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Do We Look on in Silence?
Can we look on indifferently, and know that the course that one of our relatives or friends is pursuing, is a course that will greatly hinder his usefulness, and, because we fear he will take offense at a word of reproof, warning, or instruction, keep our lips closed? Shall we not advise, counsel, and caution him concerning his danger?
Shall we see persons pursuing a wrong course to their own detriment and to the injury of others, and yet have nothing to say? Do we love souls, and still let them pass on in evil, flattering themselves that they are all right, and never tell them that the work they are doing will not stand the test of the judgment?
Shall the faithful servant of God keep silent when there is under his notice one who makes it evident by the way he performs his daily duties, that unless his evil habits are changed, he will work at a great disadvantage? There are some young men and women who have no method in doing their work. Though they are always busy, they can present but little results. They have erroneous ideas of work, and think that they are working hard, when if they had practised method in their work, and applied themselves intelligently to what they had to do, they would have accomplished much more in a shorter time.
By dallying over the less important matters, they find themselves hurried, perplexed, and confused when they are called upon to do those duties that are more essential. They are always doing, and they think, working very hard; and yet there is little to show for their efforts. Under circumstances like these, where young men and women are making such mistakes in their life discipline, it would be sinful not to speak words of advice and counsel.
The Heart Full of Pride and Stubbornness
It is an extremely delicate thing to tell people of their faults. The reprover is likely to find that in those reproved, pride and stubbornness assert themselves, and the will is arrayed in defiance and opposition. But for all this, advice should be given, and faults should be laid bare. Let the young cultivate a teachable spirit, that they may be benefited by the efforts of those who seek to help them. You may feel that you are doing your best, and that you have been reproved for very trifling matters, and you may be impatient that any one should feel it his duty to reprove you for such small matters; but this is the injunction given by the apostle:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for this is unprofitable for you. [Hebrews 13:17].
These specific directions would not have been given, unless there were those who needed reproof and counsel.
There are persons who will never receive reproof, who build themselves up in their own way, and insist on clinging to their own evil habits and practices. When reproved, they say,
Why do you tell of these things? I cannot be any different.
But they deceive themselves in saying this. They could make changes if they would; but they prefer to have their own way, rather than make a determined effort to seek a better and more perfect way, by which their usefulness might be greatly increased, and their ability developed to fill positions of trust.
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Those who will never admit that they are wrong, feel injured when reproved, and bring forth reasons as numerous as vain, to justify themselves. They always think they are right, and so continue to practise their wrong habits, thus making it more and more improbable that they will reform. They are too indolent to put forth a determined effort to make reformation.
Cautions, counsels, prayers, entreaties, result in making little change in their course of action. They do not see that they are defective, and are satisfied with their own erroneous way of doing, and think that every one else should be as satisfied with them as they are with themselves. They see no necessity for reproof and counsel. The word of God describes such cases in this language:
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him? [Proverbs 26:12].
Will those who are so well satisfied with themselves, consider that in order to become perfect in character, it is necessary to be under discipline and training in the school of Christ? The great Teacher has his human agents, whom he terms under-shepherds; and to these, under his direction, he commits the work of setting things in order. The human agent is to do thorough and earnest work, both in preaching the word and in personal labor, watching for souls as one that must give account.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works [2 Timothy 3:16].
Those who are defective in character, in conduct, in habits and practices, are to take heed to counsel and reproof. This world is God’s workshop and every stone that can be used in the heavenly temple, must be hewed and polished, until it is a tried and precious stone, fitted for its place in the Lord’s building. But if we refuse to be trained and disciplined, we shall be as stones that will not be hewed and polished, and that are cast aside at last as useless.
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The Heart Must be Changed
Human agents are not able to read our hearts, but they can observe our lives, watch our actions, scrutinize our manners, and weigh us in the scales of human judgment.
We are made a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men [1 Corinthians 4:9].
It may seem that we are to study our own hearts, and square our own actions by some standard of our own; but this is not the case. This would but work deform instead of reform.
The work must begin in the heart and then the spirit, the words, the expression of the countenance, and the actions of the life, will make manifest that a change has taken place. In knowing Christ through the grace that he has shed forth abundantly, we become changed, and the character is sanctified through belief of the truth. The inward life grows strong, and the entire conduct will be in conformity to the will of God. Humility will be cultivated, because we shall feel our nothingness, and realize our dependence upon God.
We shall remember that we have been bought with the price of the blood of the Son of God, and that every faculty of our being must be brought into captivity to Christ, that we may glorify him. In humility we shall correct every fault and defect of character; because Christ is abiding in the heart, we shall be fitted up for the heavenly family above.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world [James 1:23-27].
The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace [James 3:17].