The Purifying of God's Remnant Church
History has plenty of examples of misguided zeal, yet the Lord nonetheless bids us cultivate the real thing in His appeal: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” ().
To be zealous for God is a decision. We are not to wait for some catastrophe or momentous crisis to impel us to action; we must be zealous for God because it is the right thing to do, whether we feel like it or not.
When our zeal is languishing, we are to look to Calvary. “He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” ().
We need not wait for zeal. We should choose it by principle, humbly remembering that “we are unprofitable servants, [doing] that which was our duty to do” ().
The psalmist describes his zeal for the Lord and the way it was misunderstood by others. “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them” ().
This kind of zeal was manifested in the life of Jesus on earth when “the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” ().
“Paul could not labor as he had hoped, yet before the close of [his] two years’ imprisonment he was able to say, ‘My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;’ and among those who send greetings to the Philippians, he mentions chiefly them that are of Caesar’s household.
“The zeal and fidelity of Paul and his fellow workers, no less than the faith and obedience of those converts to Christianity, under circumstances so forbidding, should be a rebuke to slothfulness and unbelief in the followers of Christ. Never let us, by our human, short-sighted judgment, limit the plans and work of God. Never let us excuse ourselves from efforts to win souls to Christ, even in the most unpromising fields. The apostle and his subordinate ministers might have argued that the servants of Nero were subjected to the fiercest temptations, surrounded by the most formidable hindrances, exposed to the most bitter opposition, and that under such circumstances it would be in vain to call them to repentance and to faith in Christ. Should they be convinced of the truth, how could they render obedience? But the gospel was presented to those souls, and there were some among them who decided to obey it at any cost. Notwithstanding the obstacles and dangers, they would walk in the light, trusting in God for opportunity to let their light shine forth to others.
“Who is placed in circumstances more unfavorable to a religious life, or required to make greater sacrifices, to encounter greater dangers, or to bring upon himself fiercer opposition, than would follow the exchange of heathenism for Christianity by those who were in office in the court of Caesar? No man can be so situated that he cannot obey God. There is too little faith with Christians of today. They are willing to work for Christ and His cause only when they themselves can see a prospect of favorable results. Divine grace will aid the efforts of every true believer. That grace is sufficient for us under all circumstances. The Spirit of Christ will exert its renewing, perfecting power upon the character of all who will be obedient and faithful.”1
If the Lord ignites us to zeal, we had better not become self-righteous about it like Jehu, who boasted, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord” (). Why?
“If Satan cannot keep souls bound in the ice of indifference, he will try to push them into the fire of fanaticism. When the Spirit of the Lord comes among His people, the enemy seizes his opportunity to work also upon different minds and lead them to mingle their own peculiar traits of character with the work of God. Thus there is always danger that they may allow their own spirit to mingle with the work and that unwise moves may be made. Many carry on a work of their own devising that is not prompted by God.”2
“The truth has taken hold of hearts. It is not a fitful impulse, but a true turning unto the Lord, and the perverse will of men is brought into subjection to the will of God. . . .
“If the enemy can push individuals to extremes, he is well pleased. He can thus do greater harm than if there had been no religious awakening. We know that there has never yet been a religious effort made in which Satan has not tried his best to intrude himself, and in these last days he will do this as never before. He sees that his time is short, and he will work with all deceivableness of unrighteousness to mingle errors and incorrect views with the work of God and push men into false positions.”3
“Our only sure defense against besetting sins is prayer, daily and hourly prayer. Not one day zealous and the next careless, but through watchfulness and earnestness becoming vitalized by intercourse with God. Prayer is necessary, and we should not wait for feeling, but pray, earnestly pray, whether we feel like it or not. Heaven is open to our prayers. Prayer is the channel that conducts our gratitude and yearnings of soul for the divine blessing to the throne of God, to be returned to us in refreshing showers of divine grace. With very many, this channel is allowed to freeze up, and then the connection with heaven is interrupted. . . . Oh, that we would spend more time upon our knees and less time in planning for ourselves and in thinking we may do some great thing.”4
“ ‘Be zealous and repent,” is the admonition of Jesus to the Laodicean church. There is something to repent of. Worldly-mindedness, selfishness, and covetousness have been eating out their spiritual life. While they flatter themselves that they are rich, and increased with goods, and in need of nothing, Christ declares them to be ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked’ ().
“Among the greatest dangers that threaten the church is the love of the world. Out of this spring the sins of selfishness and covetousness. With many, the more they get of earthly treasure, the more they set their affections on it, and still they reach out for more. . . . Many who profess to believe that we are now giving the last warning to the world are striving with all their energies to place themselves in such a position, that it would be easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for them to enter the kingdom.
“Satan employs every means which he can devise to overthrow the followers of Christ. With marvelous skill and cunning he adapts his temptations to the peculiar temperament of each. Those who are naturally selfish and covetous he often tempts by throwing prosperity in their way. He knows that if they do not overcome their natural temperament, the love of mammon will cause them to stumble and fall. His object is often accomplished. When the riches of the world are offered them, many eagerly grasp the treasure and think they are wonderfully prospered. The strong love of the world soon swallows up the love of the truth. . . .
“If those who are thus prospered would lay all their possessions upon the altar of God, they might overcome their selfish, covetous spirit, and so thwart the design of Satan. Worldly wealth may be made a blessing, if rightly used. All who possess it should realize that it is lent them of God to be employed in His service. By giving freely to advance the cause of truth, and to relieve the wants of the needy, they may be the means of saving others and thus bring a blessing to their own souls here, and lay up in heaven a treasure that shall be theirs hereafter.
“The True Witness counsels, ‘Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed’ ‘and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see’ (). The gold of faith and love, the white raiment of a spotless character, and the eyesalve, or the power of clear discernment between good and evil—all these we must obtain before we can hope to enter the kingdom of God. But these precious treasures will not drop upon us without some exertion on our part. We must buy—we must ‘be zealous and repent’ of our lukewarm state. We must be awake to see our wrongs, to search for our sins, and to put them away from us.
“Those who have set their affections upon earthly treasures have a work to do to overcome their love of the world. Many are not giving heed to the admonition of the True Witness. They desire the blessings which He offers but do not seek them with earnestness proportionate to their value. While striving for the possessions of earth, what zeal and energy they manifest! What cool calculations they make! They plan and toil early and late, and sacrifice their ease and comfort to obtain a treasure that must soon pass away. A corresponding zeal on their part to obtain the gold, the white raiment, and the eyesalve would place them in possession of these heavenly treasurers and of everlasting life in the kingdom of God.
“Jesus is saying, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (). But many have so much rubbish piled up at the door of the heart that they cannot admit Jesus. Some have difficulties between themselves and their brethren to remove; others have evil tempers, pride, covetousness; with others, love of the world bars the entrance. All this must be taken away, before they can open the door and welcome the Saviour in.
“How precious is the promise, ‘I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’ (). Oh, the love, the wondrous love of God! After all our lukewarmness and sins He says, Return unto Me, and I will return unto thee, and will heal all thy backslidings.
“ ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne’ (). We can overcome. Yes; fully, entirely. Jesus died to make a way of escape for us, that we might overcome every fault, resist every temptation, and sit down at last with Him in His throne.
“It is our privilege to have faith and salvation. The power of God has not decreased. It would be just as freely bestowed now as formerly; but the church have lost their faith to claim, their energy to wrestle, as did Jacob, crying, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’ (). Enduring faith has been dying away. It must be revived in the hearts of God’s people. They must claim the blessing. Faith, living faith, always leads upward to God and glory; unbelief, downward to darkness and death.
“Many are so absorbed in their worldly cares and perplexities that they have little time to pray, and feel but little interest in prayer. They may observe the form of worship, but the spirit of true supplication is lacking. Such have departed widely from the pattern. Jesus our example was much in prayer; and oh, how earnest, how fervent were His petitions! If He, the beloved Son of God, was moved to such earnestness, such agony, in our behalf, how much more need that we, who are dependent upon heaven for all our strength, have our whole souls stirred to wrestle with God.
“We should not be satisfied until every known sin is confessed, then it is our privilege and duty to believe that God accepts us. We must not wait for others to press through the darkness and obtain the victory for us to enjoy. Such enjoyment will not be lasting. God must be served from principle instead of from feeling. Morning and evening we should obtain the victory for ourselves, in our own families. Our daily labor should not keep us from this. We must take time to pray, and as we pray, believe that God hears us. We may not at all times feel the immediate answer, but then it is that faith is tried. We are proved to see whether we will trust in God, whether we have living, abiding faith.
“ ‘Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it’ (Thessalonians). We must trust the promises of the Lord, trust God in darkness; that is the time to have faith. But many let feeling govern them. They look for worthiness in themselves when they do not feel comforted by the Spirit of God; and they despair because they cannot find it. They do not trust enough in Jesus, precious Jesus. They do not make His worthiness to be their all. The very best that we can do, we shall not merit His favor. It is the worthiness of Christ that must save us, His blood that must cleanse us. But we have efforts to make. We must do what we can, be zealous and repent, then believe that God accepts us.
“Many measure themselves among themselves, and compare their lives with the lives of others. This should not be. No one but Christ is given us as an example. He is our true pattern, and each should strive to excel in imitating Him. . . .
“Many know little of what it is to deny self for Christ’s sake. They do not study how they can best glorify God and advance His cause. But it is self, self, how can it be gratified? Such religion is worthless. In the day of God, those who possess it will be weighed in the balance and found wanting.
“The true Christian will wait to learn the will of God and watch for the leadings of His Spirit. But with many, religion is a mere form; vital godliness is lacking. They flatter themselves that they will be saved at last; but God has no pleasure in them. They are offensive in His sight. Christ now bids them, ‘Be zealous and repent.’ He kindly and faithfully admonishes them to seek for love, and faith, and purity. They can choose either to heed the warning, repent, and secure the blessing of the Lord, or remain in their lukewarm condition, and be rejected of God as abhorrent to Him. God will not always bear with the backslidings of His professed people. He is long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy; yet His Spirit, long resisted, will at last be withdrawn forever. The time will come when mercy’s sweet voice will no more be heard. Its last notes will have died away, and those who have slighted its pleadings will be left to their own ways. . . .
“In the time of peril before us, the professed followers of Christ will be tested. None will be able to stand but those who have had a deep and living experience in the things of God. . . .
“Many hardly know, as yet, what self-denial is, or what it is to sacrifice for the truth’s sake. But none will enter heaven but by the same path of humiliation, self-sacrifice, and cross-bearing that the Saviour trod. Only those who are willing to sacrifice all for eternal life will have it; but it will be worth suffering for, worth crucifying self and sacrificing every idol for. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory will outweigh every earthly treasure and eclipse every earthly attraction.”5