Chapter 12: Attitudes In Conflict

In the year 1889, a statement was published to the effect that there is not one in a hundred who understands for Himself the Bible truth in regard to the plan of salvation (1SM360). In 1988, ninety-nine years later, the editor of the Christian journal, The Review and Herald, shared his personal conviction that this situation has not improved.

Exceptions granted, this means that in a church of one hundred members, we would be lucky to find even one person who has a right understanding of the true gospel. No wonder our brand of Christianity is having so little impact upon the world. If we do not understand the gospel then, quite simply, we have no good news for the world and, as such, we have little with which to attract others to our ranks.
Yet we are told that as we draw nearer to the end of time, this situation will change, and there will be one message that will dominate the minds of God's children - the gospel message of justification by faith. This message will lie at the heart of the straight testimony and, sadly, it has been prophesied that it is going to split the church into two distinct camps - those who understand and accept the message and those who reject it.
In this chapter we will be considering the attitudes that will characterize these two opposing camps. Let us remember, however, that while in the primary sense we will be considering two attitudes or outlooks that will predominate in the end-time church, we might also be looking at our very own fickle hearts where, at different times, we might find either of these two attitudes in residence.
In order to establish a suitable backdrop for this study, we first need to consider the new and the old covenant.
A covenant is simply a binding agreement or promise that is made between two parties, and the new and the old covenants were but two agreements between God and man involving the matter of obedience.
The substance of the old covenant agreement was Israel's promise that they would obey God's holy law. Like ourselves, Israel too had great difficulty in keeping their promises.
"Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law, and their need of a Saviour." They "did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God's law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, 'All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.' " (PP371-372)
Clearly, Israel did not appreciate the spiritual nature of God's law and, as such, they could not understand that in their own strength they were incapable of perfectly obeying such a holy law.
Yet, knowing that they would fail, God nevertheless entered into this covenant agreement with them. This He did in the hope that their failed promise would help them to realise their desperate need of a Saviour. God needed to teach Israel that . . .
'The best efforts that man in his own strength can make, are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has transgressed.' (1SM363)
And so it was that . . .
"Only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image." Then, "seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour." (PP372)
It is interesting to note that, like Israel, the disciples also needed to learn the same lesson.
'While they [the disciples] had been attracted by the love of Jesus, [they] were not wholly free from Pharisaism. They still worked with the thought of meriting a reward in proportion to their labor.' (COL396)
'When men are stripped of self-righteousness, they will see their spiritual poverty. Then they will approach that state of brotherly kindness that will show that they are in sympathy with Christ.' (TDG326)
From the above we notice that a distinctive characteristic of Pharisaism is a belief that our own works can in some degree meet the demands of God's holy and just law. This belief is a fatal one in that it inevitably leads to pride, self-sufficiency, and the typical "rich . . . and in need of nothing" Laodicean outlook.
The sad truth, however, is that Pharisaism is still alive and well in our day and age, for we have been told that . . .
'There are thousands today who need to learn the same truth that was taught to Nicodemus by the uplifted serpent. They depend on their obedience to the law of God to commend them to His favour. When they are bidden to look to Jesus, and believe that He saves them solely through His grace, they exclaim, "How can these things be?" ' (DA175)
This age-old misconception in regard to the value of man's works can only be overcome through a revelation of the character of Jesus - as is represented in His law. We simply have to see Him dressed in all His glory before we will be able to discern that we are spiritually naked and that our own righteousness is "valueless to meet the holy and just law that we have transgressed." (1SM363)
In 1888, a group of believers had the privilege of seeing Jesus in all His glory when they were exposed to the raw truths of the message of justification by faith. Their response is of particular interest.
'There were many who testified that as the searching truths [in regard to justification by faith] had been presented, they had been convicted in the light of the law as transgressors. They had been trusting in their own righteousness. Now they saw it as filthy rags, in comparison with the righteousness of Christ, which is alone acceptable to God. While they had not been open transgressors, they saw themselves depraved and degraded in heart. They had substituted other gods in the place of their heavenly Father. They had struggled to refrain from sin, but had trusted in their own strength. We should go to Jesus just as we are, confess our sins, and cast our helpless souls upon our compassionate Redeemer.' (3SM182)
And so we see that some are still trying, even today, to keep the old covenant promise - not realizing that God is inviting us to enter into a new covenant agreement with Him.
'For if there had been nothing wrong with that [old] covenant, no place would have been sought for another.' (Hebrews 8:7)
The primary difference between these two covenants is that the substance of the old covenant was Israel's promise to obey God's holy law, while the substance of the new covenant is Jesus' promise that if we failed to keep our promise, which He knew full well would be the case, He would come and obey the law on our behalf.
Old Covenant
New Covenant
Man's Promise To God Jesus' Promise To God
We Will Obey Your Law I Will Obey Your Law On Their Behalf
Yes, we certainly failed to keep our promise, but Jesus never failed to keep His, and now, as a result, . . .
'Every soul may say, "By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which no thread was woven by any human agent." ' (1SM396)
With what happiness and peace we should consider these thoughts. We are not complete in ourselves, and we never will be, but we should find rest in the knowledge that we are complete "in Him." Jesus has provided a garment of righteousness, which is all His and none of ours, one which God is prepared to consider to be ours in exchange for simple faith. And how desperate is our need of this garment, for . . .
'Nothing but His righteousness can entitle us to the blessings of the covenant of grace. We have long desired and tried to obtain these blessings but have not received them because we have cherished the idea that we could do something to make ourselves worthy of them. We have not looked away from ourselves, believing that Jesus is a living Saviour. We must not think that our own grace and merits will save us; the grace of Christ is our only hope of salvation.' (FW36)
Oh how God wishes that we would lose every hint of pride and accept our nothingness, yet . . .
'There are many who hope by their own works to merit God's favor. They do not realize their helplessness. They do not accept the grace of God as a free gift, but are trying to build themselves up in self-righteousness. Their own hearts are not broken and humbled on account of sin.' (COL245/6)
As difficult as it may be for the proud heart to accept, God nevertheless wants us to understand that . . .
'It was the death of Christ that satisfied divine justice. This was the price our ransom cost. Nothing is wanting now but for the will of man to bow, self to be crucified, and Christ to live in the heart.' (TSA48)
Thus we see that the new covenant attitude is diametrically opposed to the old covenant attitude. The old covenant attitude looks to self for the righteousness that saves, the new covenant attitude looks only to Jesus for saving righteousness. Yet our outlook in this matter is of dire importance. If we believe that our own righteousness has no merit whatsoever, and we rely solely on the righteousness of Jesus for salvation, we are decidedly on God's side. Yet, if we weave even a thread of our own righteousness into the garment of salvation, we are decidedly on the wrong side, for, as we saw earlier, . . .
'Thousands upon thousands claiming to be sons of God are children of the wicked one, because they will depend upon their own works.' (6BC1071)
Not only does our attitude towards the righteousness of Christ determine on whose side we are, but it will also affect our outlook on life, our character, our relationship to others and, in fact, it will affect virtually every other aspect of our lives. When we depend on the righteousness of Jesus, meekness and humility will take the place of pride and ambition and, as a result, we will become ever more sensitive to the needs of others. When we depend on our own righteousness, however, we will surely become proud, self-satisfied, and unfeeling, and our religious experience will be inward- instead of outward-looking.
'When men are stripped of self-righteousness, they will see their spiritual poverty. Then they will approach that state of brotherly kindness that will show that they are in sympathy with Christ.' (TDG326)
In consideration of the above we must conclude that there are two primary camps that make up the religious world.
The one camp is represented by the proud Pharisee who considered himself to be a commandment- keeper . . . he was the one who thanked God that he was not like other men.
The other camp is represented by the humble tax collector who bowed his head and whispered through stammering lips, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
These same two camps are also represented by Cain and Able.
'Cain thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a thank offering only. He made no confession of sin, and acknowledged no need of mercy. But Abel came with the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God. He came as a sinner, confessing himself lost; his only hope was the unmerited love of God.' (COL152)
We could label these two attitudes as the old covenant attitude and the new covenant attitude. In both Scripture and the inspired counsel, we find repeated reference to the contrasting outlooks, opinions and reactions that are fostered by these two attitudes. It is of vital importance that we have a clear understanding of the gospel, lest we find ourselves in the wrong camp.
The following is a tabular comparison of these two attitudes. The length of the table attests to the prevalence of these two attitudes - study this carefully to make sure that you are on the right side.
The Bad News
The Good News
Characterized by a people who had not realized the sinfulness of their own hearts and their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law. Characterized by a people who realise the depravity of human nature, and who appreciate their desperate need of a Saviour who would save them by grace alone.
Obey and live Believe and be saved
Provisional and temporary Changeless and eternal
Covenant based on salvation by works Covenant of Grace (unmerited favour)
Made between God and Israel Made between the Father and Jesus
Made at Sinai Made before creation
Ratified by the blood of a sacrifice Ratified when Jesus died
Because the blood by which this covenant was sealed was shed before the blood of the second covenant, it is called the first or 'old' covenant. Called the second or 'new' covenant because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant.
An arrangement to help Israel to realise their utter helplessness and their need of divine aid: and to reveal to them God's power and mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him. An arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God's law - not so much out of obligation, but out of love and gratitude to God
Offers pardon in exchange for an obedience that man is not able to offer Offers pardon and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Jesus
Also contained the promise of redemption on condition of fidelity to God's law - a fidelity motivated primarily by fear and by pride Promises eternal life on condition of fidelity to God's law - a fidelity that is motivated by love for and gratitude to God
Is the vain hope of salvation by works Is the hope of salvation by grace through faith
We trust in ourselves and in our own righteousness for salvation We trust in Jesus for forgiveness, for righteousness and salvation
Man strives to provide a righteousness of His own We accept the righteousness of Jesus, that is put to our account in exchange for simple faith
Man's reaction: 'All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.' (Ex 24:7) Man's reaction: 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' (Luke 18:13)
We strive to make peace with God, and to earn forgiveness, by presenting Him with our filthy rag righteousness His blood atones for our sins. His obedience is accepted by God as though it were our obedience
Maintains the authority of God's law in that the law of God is the basis of this covenant Maintains the authority of God's law in that the law of God is the basis of this covenant
This law was engraved on tables of stone This law is engraved on the tables of the heart

The Promises
'Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the Lord has said; We will obey." ' (Ex 24:7) 'By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me.' (1SM396)
'What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, . . . . . . God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.' (Romans 8:3)

Justification
'Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as it were by works.' (Rom 9:31-33) 'The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith.' (Rom 9:30)
'The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength.' (1MR121) 'No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.' (Rom 3:20)
'Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Gal 3:3) 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.' 'By faith in His merits . . . [we are] free from the condemnation of the law.' (Gal 3:13; 1SM 396)
'You who are trying to be justified by [keeping the] law have been alienated from Christ.' (Gal 5:4) 'We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Rom 3:28)
Under law. We are under the impression that our rigid adherence to a cold and lifeless law can save us. Under grace. We understand that we are saved by God's infinite kindness, poured out in limitless measure, upon us, His totally undeserving children.
'A man is not justified [absolutely forgiven and declared to be righteous] by observing the law.' (Gal 2:16) 'A man is . . . justified [absolutely forgiven and declared to be righteous] . . . by faith in Jesus Christ.' (Gal 2:15)
'You who are trying to be justified by [keeping the] law have been alienated from Christ, you have fallen away from grace.' (Gal 5:4) 'If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law' for 'Christ [has] redeemed us from the curse of the law.' (Gal 5:18; 3:13)
'No one is justified before God by [keeping the] law.' (Gal 3:11) 'His righteousness . . . answers all the demands of the law.' (1SM 396)
Justification only takes place when we, in our own efforts, reach a certain stage of perfection. 'The moment true faith in the merits of the costly atoning sacrifice is exercised, that moment the sinner is justified before God, for he is pardoned.' (3SM 195)

Salvation
'Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?' " (Mt 19:16) 'All that a man can possibly do toward his own salvation is to accept the invitation, "Whosever will, let him take the water of life freely." ' (6BC 1071)
'One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves.' (Gal 4:24) 'But the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother.' 'You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.' (Gal 4:26, Gal 4:7)
The Son of Man came to seek and to save the righteous. 'The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.' (Lk 19:10)
Salvation is God's obligation to us. Salvation is God's gift to us.
The inheritance depends on obedience to the law. (Gal 3:18) The inheritance depends on God's promise. (Gal 3:18)
The primary focus of his religious experience is on receiving Christ, coming to Him, trusting in Him, committing the keeping of the soul to Him, submitting to God, determining to keep His commands, etcetera. The primary focus of his religious experience is Jesus who endured the penalty of the law and who perfectly obeyed its precepts on our behalf.
The sanctuary teaches him about himself and what he must do to serve God and to ultimately be saved. The sanctuary teaches him about Jesus, about His death, life, and mediation on our behalf.

God
Feeling that our righteousness can save us, we have a very dim view of the character of God - and also a very dim perception of the malignity of sin. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' (Isa 55:9)
God is a stern judge God is an infinitely kind Father

The Holy Spirit
The Old Way of the Written Code The New Way of the Spirit. (Rom 7:6)
'Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law?' (Gal 3:2) 'By faith we . . . receive the promise of the Spirit.' (Gal 3:14)

The Works of Man
'They were very punctilious in the observances of the church, very rigorous in following their forms, but they were destitute of religious devotion.' (1SM 386) 'Where faith is, good works appear. The sick are visited, the poor are cared for, the fatherless and the widows are not neglected, the naked are clothed, the destitute are fed.' (1SM 398)
'This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation, and has built our synagogue.' (Lk7:4-5) 'Lord, . . . I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.' (Lk 7:6-7)
'They had been performing many and burdensome works in order to recommend themselves to God; and they were ready to hear of any new observance by which they could secure greater merit. Their question meant, what shall we do that we may deserve heaven.' (DA 385) 'The price of heaven is Jesus. The way to heaven is through faith in the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' (DA 385)
Always striving to do 'good.' 'You must be good before you can do good.' (MB 128)
'The proud heart strives to earn salvation but; . . . both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ.' (DA 300)
We consider church and personal devotions as the journey of religion. We consider church and personal devotions as merely the filling station of religion.
'Some . . . were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.' (Lk 18:9) 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.' (1 Tim 1:15)
'Some . . . were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.' (Lk 18:9) 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.' (1 Tim 1:15)
'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and "sinners" '. (Mt 9:11) 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' (Mt 9:13)
'The boasting of what He has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.' (1 Jn 2:16) 'May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' 'I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.' (Gal 6:14; 2 Cor 12:9)
'The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself. "God I thank you that I am not like other men . . . I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." ' (Lk 18:11-12) 'The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God have mercy on me a sinner." ' (Lk 18:13)
'They insist on being saved in some way by which they may perform some important work. When they see that there is no way of weaving self into the work, they reject the salvation provided.' (DA 280) 'Our great need is our only claim on God's mercy.' 'The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end.' (DA 317, FW 24)
'Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.' (Rom 10:3) 'But now a righteousness from God, apart from [keeping the] law, has been made known' - 'a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.' (Rom 3:21; 1:17)

Church
The purpose of the church is to minister to the needs of the church members. 'The Saviour has given His precious life in order to establish a church capable of ministering to the suffering, the sorrowful, and the tempted.' (MH 106)
'The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a sad deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.' (DA 280) 'Not in idle mourning, in mere bodily humiliation and multitudinous sacrifices, is the true spirit of devotion manifested, but it is shown in the surrender of self in willing service to God and man.' (DA 278)

Others
'Many who profess His name have lost sight of the fact that Christians are to represent Christ. Unless there is practical self-sacrifice for the good of others, in the family circle, in the neighborhood, in the church, and wherever we may be, then whatever our profession, we are not Christians.' (DA 504) 'If we are Christians, we shall not pass by on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our help. When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction or through sin, we shall never say, This does not concern me.' (DA 504)
We see everyone, barring a few close friends, as worthy of condemnation. We see all as sinners redeemed by God's great love.
We are convinced that Jesus came to judge the world - hence we feel justified in judging others. Pointing out the sins and mistakes of others is our solemn duty. We rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus came not to judge the world but to save it. Thus we work with Him in pointing fellow-sinners to the cross and to the loving Cross-bearer.
We are convinced that Jesus came to call the righteous and not sinners, thus we blindly cling to our self- righteousness and have great difficulty in confessing our sinfulness. We rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners - thus we lay claim to His righteousness through faith and we eagerly confess our sinfulness.
We strives to find a reason to bring 'sinners' under the curse of the law. We rejoices in the knowledge that Jesus has freed all the world from the condemnation of the law.
Being convinced that our righteousness is acceptable to God, we cannot discern the extent of our guilt, and we thus consider ourselves better than others. As such it is hard to forgive and easy to judge. Understanding the extent of our guilt and the forgiveness that is ours through faith in Jesus, we are ever ready to forgive others and to forget their mistakes and wrongs.
We will give Bible studies to others, but they will focus on Christless doctrines. Our studies will prove how right our doctrines are and how wrong the rest of the religious world is. We will give Bible studies to others, but they will focus primarily on Jesus and His perfection. Our studies will prove how right Jesus is and how wrong we all are.
Having converted our new candidate on the strength of the correctness of our doctrine, he falls in love with the church, and He becomes but another 'rich . . . and do not need a thing' legalist.' Having converted our new candidate on the strength of God's love, he falls in love with Jesus, and he devotes His life to the Lord and to the service of others.

Character
You will know them by their gifts and by their strict adherence to the tenets of their religion. 'By their fruit (character) you will recognize them.' (Matt 7:16 - see Gal 5:22)
Inclined to be gloomy and full of criticism. Inclined to be cheerful and full of words of encouragement.
We take pride in what is seen. (2 Cor 5:11) We take pride in what is in the heart. (2 Cor 5:11)

Obedience
We must strive to be obedient to the commandments. 'It is God Himself whose power creates within you both the desire and the power to execute His gracious will.' (Phil 2:13, Weymouth.)
We strive to obey the commandments in order to satisfy the demands of the law. We respond to God's graciousness and we become obedient, not in order to satisfy the law, but because Jesus suffered our punishment and thus satisfied the law on our behalf.
Obedience is our outward compliance with the law of God. 'Obedience to God is liberty from the thralldom of sin, deliverance from human passion and impulse.' 'Obedience [is] the service and allegiance of love.' (MH131, SC 60)
'To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life is still as pleasing to the un-renewed nature as it was in the days of the Jewish teachers.' (AA 387) 'The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.' 'No one can live the law of God without ministering to others,' for 'love is the fulfillment of the law.' (Gal 5:6; DA 584, Romans 13:10)


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