Part 1: Our theology must be correct
Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. Jer 9:23,24
The history of mankind will show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or corrupt as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the most important question before the Christian is the question of God Himself. Who is He, and what kind of Person is He? "It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature, that by beholding, we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence." _The Great Controversy, p.555
What fault did God find with the Jews' concept of Him during the time of the prophet Asaph? Psalm 50:21
Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is, and substitues for the true God one made after its own likeness.This god will resemble the image of the one who created it and will be evil or good, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.
What is the root reason why men eventually end up worshipping a false and degrading concept of God? Rom 1:21_23
When men refuse to acknowledge and reverence God as He reveals Himself to them, the end result is that they create a God in their own image. "From the beginning it has been Satan's studied plan to cause men to forget God, that he might secure them to himself. Hence he has sought to misrepresent the character of God, to lead men to cherish a false conception of Him. The Creator has been presented to their minds as clothed with the attributes of the prince of evil himself,--as arbitrary, severe, and unforgiving,... By sin the minds of our first parents were darkened, their natures were degraded, and their conceptions of God were molded by their own narrowness and selfishness." _ Testimonies for The Church vol.5, p. 738
The most significant fact about any man is what he in his heart conceives God to be like.
Part 2: That our faith may be correct
To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? (Isa 40:18)
"There is comfort and peace in the truth, but no real peace or comfort can be found in falsehood. It is through false theories and traditions that Satan gains his power over the mind. By directing men to false standards, he misshapes the character. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself." _ Desire of Ages, p. 671
How may we obtain a right concept of God? Hosea 6:3
"The Lord bids you to come up higher, to reach a holier standard. You must have an experience much deeper than you have yet even thought of having. Many who are already members of God's great family know little of what it means to behold His glory, and to be changed from glory to glory. Many of you have a twilight perception of Christ's excellence, and your souls thrill with joy. You long for a fuller, deeper sense of the Saviour's love. You are unsatisfied. But do not despair. Give to Jesus the heart's best and holiest affections. Treasure every ray of light. Cherish every desire of the soul after God. Give yourselves the culture of spiritual thoughts and holy communings. You have seen by the first rays of the early dawn of His glory. As you follow on to know the Lord, you will know that His going forth is prepared as the morning." --Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 318
How did Jesus emphasize the importance of having correct knowledge? John 17:3
"In His prayer to the Father, Christ gave to the world a lesson which should be graven on mind and soul. "This is life eternal," He said, "that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." John 17:3. This is true education. It imparts power. The experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, transforms man into the image of God. It gives to man the mastery of himself, bringing every impulse and passion of the lower nature under the control of the higher powers of the mind. It makes its possessor a son of God and an heir of heaven. It brings him into communion with the mind of the Infinite, and opens to him the rich treasures of the universe. This is the knowledge which is obtained by searching the word of God. And this treasure may be found by every soul who will give all to obtain it." _ Christ's Object Lessons, p. 114
Nothing but a true knowledge of God will enable us to have a right relationship with Him.
Part 3: That our worship may be correct
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. "(John 4:23-24)
...God is a spirit; yet He is a personal being, for man was made in His image. As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son. Jesus, the outshining of the Father's glory, "and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3), was on earth found in fashion as a man. As a personal Savior He came to the world. As a personal Savior He ascended on high. As a personal Savior He intercedes in the heavenly courts. Before the throne of God in our behalf ministers "One like the Son of man." Daniel 7:13. The Teacher from heaven, no less a personage than the Son of God, came to earth to reveal the character of the Father to men, that they might worship him in spirit and in truth." Education, p. 131
How does God feel about the worship of false gods? Isa. 42:8
The day has come when there are lords many and gods many, and Satan has purposed to interpose himself between God and the human soul, so that men shall not give homage to God in keeping his law. Satan has wrapped about him garments of angelic brightness, ... God is so misrepresented to him that he cares not to retain the true and living Father in his knowledge, but turns to the worship of false gods. He knows not that the love of God is without a parallel, yet Christ has revealed that love to a fallen world. John calls upon the world to behold the wondrous love of God, saying, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." _ Review & Herald, March 9, 1897
For what did Christ teach us to pray in anticipation of that time when the purposes of God shall be finally accomplished and the universe restored to its rightful state? Matt. 6:10
"The seraphim around the throne are so filled with reverential awe as they behold the glory of God, that they do not for an instant look upon themselves with admiration. Their praise is for the Lord of hosts. As they look into the future, when the whole earth shall be filled with His glory, the triumphant song is echoed from one to another in melodious chant, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." They are fully satisfied to glorify God; abiding in His presence, beneath His smile of approbation, they wish for nothing more." _ God's Amazing Grace, p. 72
Our worship will never satisfy our Creator until our worship is in harmony with His revealed truth.
Part 4: That our characters may be right
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. (Psa 115:8)
"Like our Saviour, we are in this world to do service for God. We are here to become like God in character, and by a life of service to reveal Him to the world. In order to be co-workers with God, in order to become like Him and to reveal His character, we must know Him aright. We must know Him as He reveals Himself. A knowledge of God is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. It is the only real safeguard against temptation. It is this alone that can make us like God in character. This is the knowledge needed by all who are working for the uplifting of their fellow men. Transformation of character, purity of life, efficiency in service, adherence to correct principles, all depend upon a right knowledge of God. This knowledge is the essential preparation both for this life and for the life to come. "The knowledge of the Holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10. _ Ministry of Healing, p. 409
What ignorance on the part of the Jews led to their attempt to stone Christ? John 8:54,55
Ignorance of the true nature and character of God made it impossible for the unbelieving Jews to appreciate or to understand the works of Christ. His every deed, though being the perfect work of God irritated them and stirred up their enmity because it was so contrary to their own nature and principles. They had become so accustomed to the false concept of God which they had manufactured in their own minds that the pure holy deeds and words of the Son of God appeared to them to be the greatest blasphemy.
The popular motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale once said, " We become like what we think about most of the time." In saying this, he was merely rephrasing the great rule of life stated by both the Bible and Ellen White. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor 3:18) "It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature, that by beholding, we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence. Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth. If self is his loftiest ideal, he will never attain to anything more exalted." _ Great Controversy, p. 555
Our characters will always reflect the image of whatever we fix our gaze upon.
Part 5: That our behaviour may be right
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. (John 16:2,3)
"Men think they are representing the justice of God, and they do not represent His tenderness and the great love wherewith He has loved us. Their human inventions, originating with the specious devices of Satan, appear fair enough to the blinded eyes of men, because it is inherent in their nature. A lie, believed, practiced, becomes as truth to them. Thus the purpose of the satanic agencies is accomplished, that men should reach these conclusions through the working of their own inventive minds. But how do men fall into such error? By starting with false premises, and then bringing everything to bear to make the error true. In some cases the first principles have a measure of truth interwoven with the error, but it does not lead to any just action, and this is why men are misled. In order to reign and become a power, they employ Satan's methods to justify their own principles. They exalt themselves as men of superior judgment, and they have stood as representatives of God. These are false gods." _ The Publishing Ministry p. 127
What critical quality characteristic of God's faithful people in the past, will characterize the remnant who face the final crisis on the earth? Daniel 11:32
"Only by knowing God here can we prepare to meet him at his coming. "This is life eternal," said Christ, "that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent." But many of those who profess to believe in Christ do not know God. They have only a surface religion." _ RH, July 20, 1897
What action of Jehphtah demonstrates that his understanding of God's character was faulty? Judges 11:30-35
Did God require Jephthah to carry out his vow in sacrificing his only daughter? Jephthah was a sincere man and obviously meant to serve God faithfully. On the other hand God specifically forbade the offering of human sacrifice and made it clear that it was not His will that people should kill one another. Jephthah was faithful in carrying out his vow, but had he understood the true nature of God's character he would have known that such an act was contrary to the will of God. The last generation of God's people on this earth will develop characters which reflect the character of God. This will never become a reality as long as God's people continue to harbour faulty ideas concerning Him.
Every evil act is the result of men either being ignorant of what God is like, or a result of refusing to believe the truth about God.
Part 6: That our witness may be right
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psa 46:10)
"It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. This is the work outlined by the prophet Isaiah in the words, "O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him." Isa. 40:9,10. Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, "Behold your God." The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them." _ Christ's Object Lessons, p. 415-6
What promise of God reveals His deepest desire for the earth, as well as the essence of the message which his people must bear to the world? Isaiah 11:9
The love of God is to be revealed to the world. God's character in all its beauty is yet to be manifested through His people. Is it possible that this is the real reason why the Lord has not yet returned? Have we been unable to understand, and therefore to manifest that character because we have been blinded by false concepts of God? When we understand this then we will realise that our first and most important work is to obtain a true knowledge of God such as is revealed in His word. "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God." (Rom 8:19 NRSV)
"A revival in Bible study is needed throughout the world. Attention is to be called, not to the assertions of men, but to the Word of God. As this is done, a mighty work will be wrought. When God declared that His Word should not return unto Him void, He meant all that He said. The gospel is to be preached to all nations. The Bible is to be opened to the people. A knowledge of God is the highest education, and it will cover the earth with its wonderful truth as the waters cover the sea." --Manuscript 139, 1898." _ Evangelism, p 456
"When the character of Christ shall be fully reproduced in His people then He will come to claim them as His own" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 69)