Beholding Christ
(Article)

Introduction

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 the well-known chapter on Christian love. In this chapter we find some important bible verses on the type of character that true Christians should possess.

As 1 Corinthians 13:2 points out, knowledge of Bible doctrines without having true Christian love is nothing. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2).

This article focuses on the central Person of our Christian experience, which is none other than our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is very important to behold Christ because by beholding Him, we will become changed in our character, that is, our character will become more Christlike.

The preaching of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 and another angel’s message of Revelation 18:1-4 will not be effective without having the character of Jesus in our souls. Jesus’ character is the character of godly love which is also a reflection of the character of our Father in heaven.

1. The Experience of John

John the beloved was one of the apostles of Jesus. He was the one who wrote the epistles of John in the New Testament. The epistles of John focussed very much on love. John is distinguished above the other apostles as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John 21:20. What was his character like before he became very well acquianted with Jesus?

“The confiding love and unselfish devotion manifested in the life and character of John present lessons of untold value to the Christian church. John did not naturally possess the loveliness of character that his later experience revealed. By nature he had serious defects. He was not only proud, self-assertive, and ambitious for honor, but impetuous, and resentful under injury. He and his brother were called ‘sons of thunder.’ Evil temper, the desire for revenge, the spirit of criticism, were all in the beloved disciple. But beneath all this the divine Teacher discerned the ardent, sincere, loving heart. Jesus rebuked his self-seeking, disappointed his ambitions, tested his faith. But He revealed to him that for which his soul longed—the beauty of holiness, the transforming power of love.” – Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, pages 539-540.

It is all too natural for those in the church with strong leadership drive to insist this or require that of church members. However, although God does have His requirements which He desires His faithful people to fulfill, God does not desire the leaders of the church to display fierce character and use sharp or unkind words. Such words should be weeded out of our Christian language as they are contrary to the love which the apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 13. [Note: There is a difference between presenting the truth using sharp or unkind words and, giving the pointed testimony of the third angel’s message to the world. A pointed testimony, given in Christian humility, love and kindness is not sharp thrust. A pointed testimony is not sharp thrust unless it is given by means of making sharp or unkind words or statements. This matter is further explained in another article entitled “Calebs Needed for the Last Days”]

“It is no part of Christ’s mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederated with evil angels sometimes bring suffering upon their fellow men in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love.” – Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 541.

What were the lessons of Christ which John learned?

“The lessons of Christ, setting forth meekness and humility and love as essential to growth in grace and a fitness for His work, were of the highest value to John. He treasured every lesson and constantly sought to bring his life into harmony with the divine pattern. John had begun to discern the glory of Christ—not the worldly pomp and power for which he had been taught to hope, but the ‘glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14.” – Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 544.

As a result of beholding Christ, the apostle John became one of Christ’s closest disciple.

“The depth and fervor of John’s affection for his Master was not the cause of Christ’s love for him, but the effect of that love. John desired to become like Jesus, and under the transforming influence of the love of Christ he did become meek and lowly. Self was laid in Jesus. Above all his companions, John yielded himself to the power of that wondrous life. He says, ‘The life was manifested, and we have seen it.’ ‘And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.’ 1 John 1:2; John 1:16. John knew the Saviour by an experimental knowledge. His Master’s lessons were graven on his soul. When he testified of the Saviour’s grace, his simple language was eloquent with the love that pervaded his whole being.” – Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 544-545.

2. Spending Time With Jesus

The apostle John had the privilege of being physically close to Jesus.

“It was John’s deep love for Christ which led him always to desire to be close by His side. The Saviour loved all the Twelve, but John’s was the most receptive spirit. He was younger than the others, and with more of the child’s confiding trust he opened his heart to Jesus. Thus he came more into sympathy with Christ, and through him the Saviour’s deepest spiritual teaching was communicated to the people.” – Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, page 545.

How do we behold Christ today as Christians in God’s church? As Jesus is no longer visibly with us today, we can behold Christ only through His written word the Bible. The Bible records of Christ’s dealings with His people, both during the Old and also the New Testament times.

Sister White tells us in her book, Desire of Ages:

“It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.” – Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, page 83.

3. Abiding in Christ

Our Christian life is like a growing plant. In order for each branch to grow well, it must be properly connected to the stalk in order to receive its life-sustaining materials so as to be able to bear fruit.

“What can I say to you, my brethren, that shall arouse you from your carnal security? I have been shown your perils. There are both believers and unbelievers in the church. Christ represents these two classes in His parable of the vine and its branches. He exhorts His followers: ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.’

“There is a wide difference between a pretended union and a real connection with Christ by faith. A profession of the truth places men in the church, but this does not prove that they have a vital connection with the living Vine. A rule is given by which the true disciple may be distinguished from those who claim to follow Christ but have not faith in Him. The one class are fruit bearing, the other, fruitless. The one are often subjected to the pruning knife of God that they may bring forth more fruit; the other, as withered branches, are erelong to be severed from the living Vine.

“I am deeply solicitous that our people should preserve the living testimony among them, and that the church should be kept pure from the unbelieving element. Can we conceive of a closer, more intimate relation to Christ than is set forth in the words: ‘I am the Vine, ye are the branches’? The fibers of the branch are almost identical with those of the vine. The communication of life, strength, and fruitfulness from the trunk to the branches is unobstructed and constant. The root sends its nourishment through the branch. Such is the true believer’s relation to Christ. He abides in Christ and draws his nourishment from Him.

“This spiritual relation can be established only by the exercise of personal faith. This faith must express on our part supreme preference, perfect reliance, entire consecration. Our will must be wholly yielded to the divine will, our feelings, desires, interests, and honor identified with the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom and the honor of His cause, we constantly receiving grace from Him, and Christ accepting gratitude from us.

“When this intimacy of connection and communion is formed, our sins are laid upon Christ; His righteousness is imputed to us. He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We have access to God through Him; we are accepted in the Beloved. Whoever by word or deed injures a believer thereby wounds Jesus. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to a disciple because he is a child of God will be regarded by Christ as giving to Him.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, pages 228-229.

Abiding in Christ, a Christian is able to overcome all his character defects, all the roughness of his character, and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is “love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Galatians 5:22-23.

4. Representing Christ

When we have received the character of Christ through our constant growth in grace through our connection with Him, we will be able to represent Him to the church and to the world.

“Freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8.

“The gospel invitation is not to be narrowed down and presented only to a select few, who, we suppose, will do us honor if they accept it. The message is to be given to all. When God blesses His children, it is not alone for their own sake, but for the world’s sake. As He bestows His gifts on us, it is that we may multiply them by imparting.

“The Samaritan woman who talked with Jesus at Jacob’s well has no sooner found the Saviour than she brought others to Him. She proved herself a more effective missionary than His own disciples. The disciples saw nothing in Samaria to indicate that it was an encouraging field. Their thoughts were fixed upon a great work to be done in the future. They did not see that right around them was a harvest to be gathered. But through the woman whom they despised a whole cityful were brought to hear Jesus. She carried the light at once to her countrymen.

“This woman represents the working of a practical faith in Christ. Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. No sooner does he come to know the Saviour than he desires to make others acquainted with Him. The saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver. The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all, and making those who are ready to perish eager to drink of the water of life. In doing this work a greater blessing is received than if we work merely to benefit ourselves. It is in working to spread the good news of salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour.

“Of those who receive His grace the Lord says:

“‘I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing.’ Ezekiel 34:26, A.R.V.

“‘On the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:37, 38, A.R.V.

“Those who receive are to impart to others. From every direction are coming calls for help. God calls upon men to minister gladly to their fellow men. Immortal crowns are to be won; the kingdom is to be gained; the world, perishing in ignorance, is to be enlightened.

“‘Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.’ John 4:35, 36.” – Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, pages 102-103.

The messages which God has entrusted to His last day church to be preached to the world will be presented by those who have been growing and abiding in Christ. Although they proclaim faithfully the pointed messages of the three angels in Revelation 14:6-12 and another angel’s message of Revelation 18:1-4, they do it with Christian humility, kindness and love. They are able to portray their Christlikeness in their presentation of the last gospel messages of warning to the world because they have Jesus as their Saviour and Ruler of their lives. Such individuals will not be found making sharp or unkind thrusts in their proclamation of the pointed third angel’s message but instead they will display true Christian love and genuine concern for souls that may be perishing around them.

Conclusion

It is important that we proclaim the last messages of mercy to the world. We are to do it with the character and love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Pointed testimonies have to be preached, with Christian humility, love and kindness. When that is done, then we may hope that our Lord Jesus will return soon.

Let us prepare ourselves spiritually in our character and also physically in our bodies in health and physical strength to do the work which God has entrusted to us in proclaiming the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 and another angel’s message of Revelation 18:1-4.

May we each do our part faithfully to hasten the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and may God grant us the grace and strength to live for Him, overcoming our sins and growing in grace and knowledge of the truth.

Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, thank You so much for giving us Your love and for showing us how to have a loving character. Please help us to present the last gospel messages of the three angels which You have entrusted us to present to the world with Christian humility, love and kindness and without sharp or unkind thrust. In Jesus’ name, amen.”


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Questions for Thought:

1. What is the difference between a pointed testimony and sharp thrust?
2. Is the third angel’s message a pointed testimony to be preached without sharp thrust to the world?
3. How can we preach the three angels’ messages to the world without sharp thrust?