A FEW months ago I made a startling discovery. For the first time since just after my baptism some twenty-six years ago, I really wanted the Lord to return. Not at some later date but right then, preferably that same day.
Of course, I had thought I wanted Him to come all along. If you had even questioned me on the subject, I probably would have been offended. I would have replied, "Why, of course I want the Lord to come! I'm an Adventist. As an ordained minister I've held meetings to urge others to get ready for His coming."
But how easily we deceive our selves. Sometimes I think we have clearer insights into the hearts of others than we do into our own. No wonder Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9).
Yes, through these many years I wanted the Lord to come— provided that coming was not scheduled at too early a date. After all, there was that lovely vacation in the mountains coming up, and numerous lesser enjoyments such as the basketball season, the annual corn roast, et cetera. Then, of course, there were a few little things in my personal life that would have to be straightened up before I could actually afford to see the Lord face to face.
Suddenly I realized my commitment to the Lord had been a partial one. There had always been certain reservations—not many, but some. I had not known complete assurance and joy in the Lord because I had never given Him all the pieces of my life.
"Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (chap. 29:13).
When Cod is partially locked out of our heart, then what He can accomplish for us in terms of victory is also partial. We never really know the full joy of serving Him. What I would like to urge is total commitment. Total as in 100 per cent rather than 95 percent. Anything less than total commitment is unacceptable to God and will eventually prove to be fatal.
"Those who would rather die than perform a wrong act are the only ones who will be found faithful."— Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 53.
True Christianity is essentially a love affair with a particular per son, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that He poured out all heaven in one supreme gift; God gave until there was nothing else to give. How can we make a partial commitment in response to a love like that?
It is a true love for God that will see us through the time of trouble and into heaven at last. But before the final seal is placed on God's people, their profession of love must pass inspection. How can the genuine be told from a mere profession? "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3).
Now don't jump to conclusions. I am not an adherent to the "work your way to heaven" school of thought. Obedience will never earn anyone a ticket to heaven. But a day is coming soon when our record will be checked against the immutable standard of God's law, and in this way He will know whether we have really made Him Lord and Master of our life.
But suppose we do want to make a total commitment to the Lord; how shall we proceed? The path that leads to life has been proclaimed "strait and narrow," and sometimes it seems difficult to tell just where the edges are.
So often we find ourselves protesting, "But I can't see what is wrong with that!" The key portion of such a declaration might well be the words, "I can't see." A person who cannot see is blind, and spiritual blindness is one of the disabilities of the church of Laodicea.
Fortunately, our Lord never leaves us without hope, and He points out the remedy for spiritual blindness in Revelation 3:18. He admonishes us to buy eyesalve that we may see. Obviously this eyesalve is something every ear nest seeker for the kingdom ought to possess. Do you know what it is?
"The eyesalve is that wisdom and grace which enables us to discern between the evil and the good, and to detect sin under any guise."— Ibid., vol. 4, p. 88.
Did you notice that last phrase, "to detect sin under any guise"? What a challenge that is to our complaints about how difficult it is to tell right from wrong. But there are other statements equally challenging:
"Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will dis please Cod (a total commitment), will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength."— The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
"If men are willing to be molded, there will be brought about a sanctification of the whole being. The Spirit will take the things of God and stamp them on the soul. By His power the way of life will be made so plain that none need err therein."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 53.
Does this mean then that true religion is merely a list of do's and don'ts—with the don'ts predominating? Not at all. True religion is a very positive affair.
I used to be bothered because all but two of the Ten Commandments are stated in the negative. I like to think of God as a positive Being. But perhaps there is a reason for these negations.
Minimum or Maximum
If you look at the world around you, you will find many minimal absolutes, but few maximal ones. Note just two examples:
1. Temperature. Scientists speak of "absolute zero," and tell us that nothing can be any colder. But when it comes to how hot something can be, there seems to be no limit. Higher and still higher temperatures are constantly being attained.
2. Direction. How far "down" can one go? Only to the center of the earth, and then one is on his way "up" again. And how high is "up"? Our mightiest telescopes always tell the same story; there is more beyond.
Is it not possible that many of God's commandments are stated in the negative because they represent the absolute minimal goal for the dedicated Christian? Take for example the admonition, "Thou shalt not kill." Surely the least we can do for our neighbor is to refrain from taking his life. But how far could we go in showing him kindness, courtesy, tact, helpfulness, et cetera? The only limit would be the measure of our love for him.
Another commandment reads, "Thou shalt not steal." Is not this once again the very least to be expected of us? Should we not be more concerned with how faithful we can be in giving of our means and ourselves in service?
So think of the Ten Commandments as merely the base from which we begin our walk with God, the first rung in the ladder of development. Then we must ask ourselves, "What will it be in my life, minimum or maximum?" The rich young ruler was willing to show a minimal allegiance to Christ, but when the Master called for a greater dedication, he turned away sadly.
The only safe course lies in asking ourselves, "How closely can I walk with my Lord? How much like Him can I be?" With such an attitude, the standards problem will prove to be no problem at all.
One major reason we so often fail in ordering our lives aright is that we begin on the periphery. We try to work from the outside in, removing this bad habit and that improper practice. This may seem like an admirable program, but the sad fact is that it just doesn't work. We may make a few changes for the better, but they turn out to be temporary and soon we are right back where we started. God has a better way.
"The plan of beginning outside and trying to work inward has always failed, and always will fail. God's plan with you is to begin at the very seat of all difficulties, the heart, and then from out of the heart will issue the principles of righteousness."— Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 35.
In other words, we need to get right to the core of the matter; what we really need is a change of heart as a result of a total commitment. When this takes place, bad habits and improper practices begin to drop away almost without notice. Often where we anticipated some great struggle, there is no conflict whatsoever.
This brings me to a most thought-provoking statement in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Have you ever felt life was so complex it was almost impossible to cope with? Consider this:
"The gospel is a wonderful simplifier of life's problems."— The Ministry of Healing, p. 363.
Now this statement is completely contradictory to what many Christians believe. They think, To serve the Lord is a real burden. It means not doing the things I want to do, and doing the things I don't want to do. It's a real drag, but then it's worth it all if I make heaven at last.
Young people, especially, are inclined to consider the gospel a real complicator of life. To them it often means adopting a life style that seems hardly worth the living. Many conclude that it certainly isn't worth pursuing while one is enjoying his youth. They decide to gamble with eternity by waiting until they are a little more decrepit before "settling down."
What a tragic misrepresentation of the true life in Christ! The fruit of the Spirit is joy and peace, not gloom with a guilt complex. Then what is the real problem? Some one phrased it very aptly by stating, "Half of the troubles of living the Christian life come in trying to half live it." The difference between a life of gloom and defeat and one of happiness and victory is a matter of total commitment.
Such a total commitment will bring about some decided changes in your life. There is hardly any area of your life that will not be touched one way or another. Perhaps you will allow me to be specific by demonstrating what a total commitment has meant in just one area of my own life-style.
We need, of course, to live by principle. One great fundamental principle is stated in the following Bible text: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
Now this is not just an arbitrary ruling that God handed down to make life complicated. Whenever God asks us to do something, it is because He loves us and because it is for our own good.
"The better you observe the laws of health, the more clearly can you discern temptations, and resist them, and the more clearly can you discern the value of eternal things."— My Life Today, p. 141.
The laws of health then have been given in love that we might live longer, healthier, and happier lives here, and have a better chance of living eternally.
We have seen these laws of health pay off dramatically in recent years. A survey of residents in California indicated that Seventh-day Adventists live an aver age of six years longer than the other residents of that State. In an ordinary life span, six years is no insignificant amount of time.
The main reason for this impressive advantage is because of the low incidence of lung cancer in Adventists, and the reason for this is in turn because of our prohibition on smoking. Back in the days when physicians were still prescribing cigars for pulmonary problems, Adventists were warned that tobacco was a "slow, insidious, but most malignant poison" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 327).
Some time ago I asked one of our leading church health educators what he thought the result might be if our people really lived up to all of our health message. He replied, "I have no doubt but what Adventists would be living at least ten years longer than the average American." What a marvelous treasure we have in our health message! How avidly we should be studying these God-given instructions and bringing our lives into line with these precepts.
When I became an Adventist I was introduced to our health message, and as a result made a number of important changes in my life-style. For one thing I be came a vegetarian. I also cut back drastically on my sugar intake, quit eating late at night and between meals, began getting a reasonable amount of sleep at night, et cetera. As a matter of fact, I probably was just a bit smug about all I was doing—while conveniently ignoring the things I still was not practicing.
i went right on heavily salting everything on my plate (without even bothering to taste), I over ate at meal after meal, I carried a few extra pounds of weight, I continued to drink liquids with every meal, I avoided my daily exercise, I ate very little (if any thing) at breakfast, and made the last meal of the day the largest.
Now people who have made a partial commitment to the Lord tend to be prickly. They don't like to be confronted with their shortcomings. Whenever my wife kindly pointed out that I was courting high blood pressure with my heavy salt intake, I bristled. She was aware that I knew better, and I didn't appreciate her concern.
But how nicely things smooth out when one makes a total commitment in every phase of life. Now I found myself saying, "Honey, I honestly want to live up to all the light God has given us for taking care of our bodies. If you ever notice me doing some thing that contradicts such instruction, please call it to my attention." And I really meant it.
Now don't misunderstand. I'm not making a "big thing" of these "little" health items. They are just minor matters that fall into place very naturally. I'm not advertising my wares or picking on someone else because he doesn't happen to share my interest. I'm just "doing my own thing" in the field of health, without apologies. And it is paying off. In a matter of weeks I can tell the difference in my over-all sense of well-being. That's what health reform is all about.
Total commitment. It's a big concept, but nothing less will suffice. And no one can make a commitment for another, no matter how dear. Each one must in the inner recesses of his own heart ask, "How much for Christ; minimum or maximum?"
Condensed from Don Hawiey, Getting It All Together, Review and Herald Publishing Association.