In the ministry of Jesus it was apparent that He was not so concerned about a large number of followers, as He was about the depth and genuineness of the experience of those whom He had chosen as His representatives. No effort was made to enroll in the apostolic church those who were shallow, worldly, selfish, or pleasure loving. It was a solemn step to unite with the early church.
As we near the last hour of probationary time, it is a solemn thought that very soon our work must inevitably come before the heavenly tribunal for the final test. Shall the toil of years stand before God as gold, silver, and precious stones, or will it appear as wood, hay, and stubble? Most thorough and prayerful work should be done for every new believer who takes his stand with God's remnant people. Just note the counsel:
" There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them. .. None can depend upon their profession of faith as proof that they have a saving connection with Christ. . . . Whenever one renounces sin, which is the transgression of the law, his life will be brought into conformity to the law, into perfect obedience." —" Testimonies," Vol. VI, pp. 91, 92.
This is in harmony with the teaching of Paul concerning those he was instrumental in winning to Christ: " Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. 1:28.
Many new converts have no idea that God requires them to reach such a standard, and unfortunately they are not always so instructed by those who deal with them. There are many sins which all believe must be overcome, even before the believer unites with the church. The drunkard, the adulterer, the murderer, the thief, must all repent of and overcome these flagrant sins, or be lost. We do not permit them to discontinue these habits gradually, but require them to stop at once. They do not protest against this rigid requirement, but acknowledge its reasonableness and necessity. Often they have remarkable experiences of divine deliverance from lifelong habits of sin.
Now if any man or woman on earth who is a slave to drink, must and can stop in order to be saved, is there any other sin which he or she cannot stop? If there is such a sin, then sin is inevitable, and there is no such thing as real victory or present salvation. If there is no such sin, and every sin can and must be stopped before we enter heaven, why do we not teach every convert, earnestly and plainly at the very beginning, that God's purpose for him is victory now?
It seems easy for any one to believe, or at least to hope, that sometime before it is forever too late, of course —he will attain to " holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Probably such a vague and uncertain hope is quite satisfactory to the devil, and will result in the loss of a vast number- of souls.
Hundreds of church members haye told me that the Lord has given them the victory over their worst sins, the really bad ones or big ones, but they have smilingly admitted that they still have some little things in their lives that they know do not meet God's standard. Then I have pressed them strongly with such questions as these: If God could give you victory over the big' sins, is He not able to deliver you from the small ones, if you are really serious about it? Are the small sins more difficult for God, or is it because you think they do not make much difference? Tell me honestly just how many of these so-called little sins you believe you can take to heaven with you; do you think you can get in with ten? or five? or two? Invariably they reply that they cannot enter heaven while indulging in one sin. I often wonder if they have been taught seriously and solemnly that they must and can stop sinning.
I ask a congregation how many of them expect to sin again, and they practically all raise their hands. Now it is hardly reasonable to think that any man will stop sinning who expects to continue. Nor is it reasonable to think that God will keep a man from sinning when the man does not expect to be kept. Of course they are all " trying to stop." But the difference between trying to stop and stopping may be just the difference between hell and heaven. God has not promised to save all who try to stop sinning. In fact, the statements made so frequently that they are trying to overcome shows that they do not understand the supreme fundamental of the gospel,— that Jesus saves His people from their sins. They are not gaining the victory either by the power of God or by their own efforts.
As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.' This power is not in the human agent. It is the power of God. When a soul receives Christ, he receives power to live the life of Christ. God requires perfection of His children.
His law is a transcript of His own character, and it is the standard of all character. This infinite standard is presented to all that there may be no mistake in regard to the kind of people whom God will have to compose His kingdom."—" Christ's Object Lessons," pp. 320, 321.
Surely it is time now to lift up the true standard of God's requirements before the people, and not only tell them what the Lord demands, but how, in Christ, they may perfectly meet God's ideal.