1. A CALL TO SERVE
a. In contrast to having a mere profession of religion, what is the strongest evidence that we have allowed God’s law to be truly written in our hearts? Galatians 5:13, 14; Matthew 5:43–48.
“A legal religion is insufficient to bring the soul into harmony with God. The hard, rigid orthodoxy of the Pharisees, destitute of contrition, tenderness, or love, was only a stumbling block to sinners. They were like the salt that had lost its savor; for their influence had no power to preserve the world from corruption. The only true faith is that which ‘worketh by love’ (Galatians 5:6) to purify the soul. It is as leaven that transforms the character.”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 53.
“Faith works by love and purifies the soul, and with faith there will be corresponding obedience, a faithful doing of the words of Christ. Christianity is always intensely practical, adapting itself to all the circumstances of actual life. ‘Ye are My witnesses.’ To whom?—To the world; for you are to bear about with you a holy influence. Christ is to abide in your soul, and you are to talk of Him and make manifest the charms of His character.”—Messages to Young People, p. 200.
2. WATCHING OUR OWN ATTITUDE
a. What warning is given against the vicious habit of harshly criticizing others—and why does this occur? Galatians 5:15; Psalm 59:12.
“Self will ever cherish a high estimate of self. As men lose their first love, they do not keep the commandments of God, and then they begin to criticize one another. This spirit will be constantly striving for the mastery to the close of time. Satan is seeking to foster it in order that brethren in their ignorance may seek to devour one another. God is not glorified but greatly dishonored; the Spirit of God is grieved.
“Satan exults because he knows that if he can set brother to watch brother in the church and in the ministry, some will be so disheartened and discouraged as to leave their post of duty. This is not the work of the Holy Spirit; a power from beneath is working in the chambers of the mind and in the soul temple to place his attributes where the attributes of Christ should be.”—Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, pp. 636, 637.
b. How can we be delivered from the root of divisiveness—unkind thoughts? Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 3:12–15.
“Let all who profess to be Christians open the door of their hearts to His Spirit and to His grace; then the peace of Christ will so rule in their hearts and be revealed in their characters that there will be no discord, no strife, no emulation, no biting and devouring one another, no seeking for the supremacy. The great and earnest effort will be to live the life of Christ. We are to represent His spirit of mercy and give no occasion for anyone to follow our example in doing evil.
“Jesus was courteous, benevolent. He was obedient to all of His Father’s commandments, implicitly and without questioning convenience or any selfish interest.”—This Day With God, p. 207.
“To walk in the light means to resolve, to exercise thought, to exert will-power, in an earnest endeavor to represent Christ in sweetness of character. It means to put away all gloom. You are not to rest satisfied simply in saying, ‘I am a child of God.’ Are you beholding Jesus, and, by beholding, becoming changed into His likeness? To walk in the light means advancement and progress in spiritual attainments. . . .
“What a terrible thing it is to darken the pathway of others by bringing shadow and gloom upon ourselves! Let each one take heed to himself. Charge not upon others your defections of character.”—Sons and Daughters of God, p. 200.
3. IF TREATED UNKINDLY . . .
a. How are Christians in all generations warned against a serious wrong that occurred in Paul’s day? 1 Corinthians 6:1–8.
“[Paul] had trials such as you have never experienced nor ever will be called upon to endure, and yet he turns away from these; he does not dwell upon them but magnifies the grace of God.”—Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 461.
“When troubles arise in the church we should not go for help to lawyers not of our faith. God does not desire us to open church difficulties before those who do not fear Him. He would not have us depend for help on those who do not obey His requirements. Those who trust in such counselors show that they have not faith in God. By their lack of faith the Lord is greatly dishonored, and their course works great injury to themselves. In appealing to unbelievers to settle difficulties in the church they are biting and devouring one another, to be ‘consumed one of another’ (Galatians 5:15).
“These men cast aside the counsel God has given, and do the very things He has bidden them not to do. They show that they have chosen the world as their judge, and in heaven their names are registered as one with unbelievers. Christ is crucified afresh, and put to open shame. Let these men know that God does not hear their prayers. They insult His holy name, and He will leave them to the buffetings of Satan until they shall see their folly and seek the Lord by confession of their sin.
“Matters connected with the church are to be kept within its own borders. If a Christian is abused, he is to take it patiently; if defrauded, he is not to appeal to courts of justice. Rather let him suffer loss and wrong.”—Selected Messages, bk. 3, pp. 299, 300.
b. If unfairly or unkindly mistreated in the church, what do we need to keep in mind? Romans 12:19; Hebrews 12:14, 15.
“God will deal with the unworthy church member who defrauds his brother or the cause of God; the Christian need not contend for his rights. God will deal with the one who violates these rights. [Romans 12:19 quoted.] An account is kept of all these matters, and for all the Lord declares that He will avenge.”—Ibid., p. 300.
“Let every root of bitterness be removed.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 241.
4. A FOUNDATION FOR VICTORY
a. In the ladder of Christian sanctification, what comes before patience—and why? 2 Peter 1:3–7.
“An intemperate man cannot be a patient man. It is not necessary to drink alcoholic liquors in order to be intemperate. The sin of intemperate eating, eating too frequently, too much, and of rich, unwholesome food, destroys the healthy action of the digestive organs, affects the brain, and perverts the judgment, preventing rational, calm, healthy thinking and acting. And this is a fruitful source of church trials. Therefore in order for the people of God to be in an acceptable state with Him, where they can glorify Him in their bodies and spirits which are His, they must with interest and zeal deny the gratification of their appetites, and exercise temperance in all things.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 618, 619.
b. How did Paul summarize the key to victory in this area? Galatians 5:16.
“We are commanded to crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. How shall we do it? Shall we inflict pain on the body? No; but put to death the temptation to sin. The corrupt thought is to be expelled. Every thought is to be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. All animal propensities are to be subjected to the higher powers of the soul. The love of God must reign supreme; Christ must occupy an undivided throne. Our bodies are to be regarded as His purchased possession. . . .
“In the experience of Daniel and his companions we have an instance of the triumph of principle over temptation to indulge the appetite. It shows us that through religious principle young men may triumph over the lusts of the flesh, and remain true to God’s requirements, even though it cost them a great sacrifice. . . .
“We should consider the words of the apostle in which he appeals to his brethren, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies ‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’ This is true sanctification. It is not merely a theory, an emotion, or a form of words, but a living, active principle, entering into the everyday life. It requires that our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing be such as to secure the preservation of physical, mental, and moral health, that we may present to the Lord our bodies—not an offering corrupted by wrong habits, but—‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’ ”—Reflecting Christ, p. 144.
5. HEEDING THE SPIRIT’S GUIDANCE
a. What can we learn from the principles of Christ that guided Paul’s way of dealing with the friction at Galatia? Matthew 5:23, 24; 13:27–29.
“False teachers had brought to the Galatians doctrines that were opposed to the gospel of Christ. Paul sought to expose and correct these errors. He greatly desired that the false teachers might be separated from the church, but their influence had affected so many of the believers that it seemed hazardous to take action against them. There was danger of causing strife and division which would be ruinous to the spiritual interests of the church. He therefore sought to impress upon his brethren the importance of trying to help one another in love. He declared that all the requirements of the law setting forth our duty to our fellow men are fulfilled in love to one another. He warned them that if they indulged hatred and strife, dividing into parties, and like the brutes biting and devouring one another, they would bring upon themselves present unhappiness and future ruin. There was but one way to prevent these terrible evils and that was, as the apostle enjoined upon them, to ‘walk in the Spirit.’ They must by constant prayer seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which would lead them to love and unity.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 243.
“My brother, my sister, when trouble arises between you and another member of God’s family, do you follow the Bible directions? Before presenting to God your offering of prayer, do you go to your brother, and in the spirit of Christ talk with him. . . . [Matthew 5:23, 24 quoted.] Then you can offer it with a clear conscience; for you have cast out the root of bitterness.”—The General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1903.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How is God’s law fulfilled in daily life, even in this present generation?
2. What does the inspired apostle declare to be the bond of perfectness?
3. Why is it important to avoid harboring a root of bitterness against others?
4. How does self-control in appetite promote better relationships?
5. How can I foster greater harmony with people who seem to be difficult?