It is a truth that is beyond human comprehension; it is a truth that should fill our hearts with undying love and gratitude; and it is a truth that should make the world and everything it has to offer seem as nothing: that every single one of us, though fallen and degraded through sin, can, through the power of God and our own diligent effort, actually and truly become like Christ:

“All who study the life of Christ and practice His teachings will become like Christ.”  {Evangelism 269}

There are other important truths that need to be correctly understood and properly combined with this great truth, especially as it relates to having a correct understanding of the life of Christ.

The first truth I want to point out, a truth that in some ways does not even need to be pointed out, yet for the purpose of leading us to another truth, does need to be pointed out, is brought to view in the last few words of that quote from Evangelism: “…will become like Christ.” It is a truth that every true child of God has often been made painfully aware of: that as wonderful a miracle that it is to come to Christ, there is still much changing to be done before we become fully like Christ:

“Man has fallen; and it will be the work of a lifetime, be it longer or shorter, to recover from that fall, and regain, through Christ, the image of the divine.”  {2 Testimonies 448}

“Redemption is that process by which the soul is trained for heaven. This training means a knowledge of Christ. It means emancipation from ideas, habits, and practices that have been gained in the school of the prince of darkness.”  {Desire of Ages 330}

Another truth that I want to point out, right along side of that last one, is that some have descended much deeper into the “pit of sin” than others, and therefore have a great deal more ideas, habits, and practices that they need to be emancipated from:

“The souls who came to Jesus felt in His presence that even for them there was escape from the pit of sin…Their very misery and sin made them only the more the objects of His compassion. The farther they had wandered from Him, the more earnest the longing and the greater the sacrifice for their rescue.”  {Christ’s Object Lessons 186}

“The chain that is let down from the throne of God is long enough to reach into the lowest depths of sin…He is able to reach to the lowest depths and lift them up from the pit of sin, that they may be acknowledged as children of God, heirs with Christ to an immortal inheritance. They may have the life that measures with the life of God.”  {Review & Herald, Nov. 26, 1895}

“He passed by no human being as worthless, but sought to apply the saving remedy to every soul. In whatever company He found Himself, He presented a lesson that was appropriate to the time and the circumstances. He sought to inspire with hope the most rough and unpromising, setting before them the assurance that they might become blameless and harmless, attaining such a character as would make them manifest as the children of God. Often He met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, and fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood.”  {Desire of Ages 91}

(I often wish that every human being could just read the Spirit of Prophecy.)

I would like to combine one more truth with those other truths.

It has always been true, and it always will be true, that:

“The Scriptures are the great agency in the transformation of character.”  {Christ’s Object Lessons 100}

Every step of the way, from the lowest depths to the very heights of glory, God, through His word, guides us, warns us, encourages us, strengthens us, corrects us, and transforms us. (His word is certainly not the only agency through which He works, but it is the one through which all others are to be tested.)

Now I want to try to put all of this together in a way that will help to keep us from falling into that trap the Spirit of Prophecy warns us about:

“Let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be.”  {5 Bible Commentary 1129}

Many of the quotes that I have used in this chapter make it abundantly clear that there are tremendous changes that need to take place in order to transform a fallen human being into the likeness of Christ. And as the next quote will so solemnly explain, these changes are not instantaneous (neither do they come easily). And right here is where I want to stress what to me is a very important point: God, in His infinite wisdom and love, has given us instruction and help for every step of the way. Words that are given to help me to overcome a particular problem at a certain stage of my growth may not be at all necessary for you; and visa versa. We have to be very careful not to take certain truths that are specifically designed to meet us in our less than perfect conditions and improperly apply them to Christ.

Now that solemn quote I mentioned up above:

“The infinite value of the sacrifice required for our redemption reveals the fact that sin is a tremendous evil…
“Wrongs cannot be righted, nor can reformations in conduct be made by a few feeble, intermittent efforts. Character building is the work, not of a day, nor of a year, but of a lifetime. The struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. Without continual effort and constant activity, there can be no advancement in the divine life, no attainment of the victor’s crown.
“The strongest evidence of man’s fall from a higher state is the fact that it costs so much to return. The way of return can be gained only by hard fighting, inch by inch, hour by hour. In one moment, by a hasty, unguarded act, we may place ourselves in the power of evil; but it requires more than a moment to break the fetters and attain to a holier life. The purpose may be formed, the work begun; but its accomplishment will require toil, time, perseverance, patience, and sacrifice.”  {Ministry of Healing 451, 452}

I would like to say one thing in reference to that last quote before continuing on. Please be extremely careful about accepting any message that would lessen the force of those words. Any message that promises holiness apart from the path marked out in that quote is certain to lead to one of two places: utter discouragement or a false experience.

I have never been very good or very open in giving my testimony; but as I sit here reading over some of those earlier quotes I feel as if my heart is breaking and must express itself; hopefully to the glory of God and to the encouraging and uplifting of others who have fallen into the pit of sin.

I spent the first twenty-some years of my life “without Christ…and without God in the world” {Ephesians 2:12}, and managed to “gain” some very destructive “habits and practices in the school of the prince of darkness.” I found out many years ago that “it costs so much to return.” I believe with all my heart that the Spirit of Prophecy, as always, is right when it says: “The way of return can be gained only by hard fighting, inch by inch, hour by hour.” I have also found out all too many times, and all too painfully, that she is also right, when she says: “…by a hasty, unguarded act, we may place ourselves in the power of evil.” But I can also tell you that I have found the “pearl of great price,” and that the years of pain and struggle are as nothing compared to it. (This is not to say that the pain and struggles are all over. But I can honestly tell you that the way continually gets better and brighter. I can also honestly tell you that I would not trade where I am at right now for anything in the world.) And to every one of you, no matter where you have been, or where you are at now, I say with Jeremiah, “Seek Him with all your heart and you will find Him.” {Jer. 29:13} I say with Paul, “Everything else is worthless when compared to knowing Him.” {Phil. 3:8 NLT} And I say with Ellen White:

“Not one who complies with the conditions will be disappointed at the end of the race. Not one who is earnest and persevering will fail of success. The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong. The weakest saint, as well as the strongest, may wear the crown of immortal glory. All may win who, through the power of divine grace, bring their lives into conformity to the will of Christ.”  {Acts of the Apostles 313}