Self-indulgence in Religion's Garb

Professed Christians engage in feastings and in scenes of amusement which degrade the religion of Jesus Christ. It is impossible for those who find pleasure in church socials, festivals, and numerous gatherings for pleasure, to have ardent love and sacred reverence for Jesus. His words of warning and instruction have no weight upon their minds. Should Christ come into the assembly of those who were absorbed in their plays and frivolous amusements, would the solemn melody of His voice be heard in benediction, saying, “Peace be to this house”? How would the Saviour of the world enjoy these scenes of gaiety and folly? Con 64.3

Christians and the world unite, one in heart and one in spirit, in these festal occasions. The Man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief, would find no welcome in these places of amusement. The lovers of pleasure and luxury, the thoughtless and the gay, are collected in these rooms, and the glitter and tinsel of fashion are seen everywhere. The ornament of crosses of gold and pearl, which represent a Redeemer crucified, adorn their persons. But the One whom these highly prized jewels represent finds no welcome, no room. His presence would be a restraint upon their mirth and their sensual amusements, and would remind them of neglected duty, and bring to their remembrance hidden sins which caused that sorrowful countenance and made those eyes so sad and tearful. Con 65.1

The presence of Christ would be positively painful in these gatherings for pleasure. Surely, none could invite Him there, for His countenance is marred with sorrows more than the sons of men, because of these very amusements which put God out of mind and make the broad road attractive to the sinner. The enchantments of these exciting scenes pervert reason and destroy reverence for sacred things. Ministers who profess to be Christ's representatives frequently take the lead in these frivolous amusements. “Ye are,” says Christ, “the light of the world.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.” Con 65.2

In what manner is the light of truth shining from that thoughtless, pleasure-seeking company? Professed followers of Jesus Christ who indulge in gaiety and feasting cannot be partakers with Christ in His sufferings. They have no sense of His sufferings. They do not care to meditate upon self-denial and sacrifice. They find but little interest in studying the marked points in the history of the life of Christ upon which the plan of salvation rests, but imitate ancient Israel who ate and drank and rose up to play. In order to copy a pattern correctly we must carefully study its design. If we are indeed to overcome as Christ overcame, that we may mingle with the blood-washed, glorified company before the throne of God, it is of the highest importance that we become acquainted with the life of our Redeemer and deny self as did Christ. We must meet temptations and overcome obstacles, and through toil and suffering, in the name of Jesus, overcome as He overcame. Con 66.1

The great trial of Christ in the wilderness on the point of appetite was to leave man an example of self-denial. This long fast was to convict men of the sinfulness of the things in which professed Christians indulge. The victory which Christ gained in the wilderness was to show man the sinfulness of the very things in which he takes such pleasure. The salvation of man was in the balance, and to be decided by the trial of Christ in the wilderness. If Christ was a victor on the point of appetite, then there was a chance for man to overcome. If Satan gained the victory through his subtlety, man was bound by the power of appetite in chains of indulgence which he could not have moral power to break. Christ's humanity alone could never have endured this test, but His divine power combined with humanity gained in behalf of man an infinite victory. Our representative in this victory raised humanity in the scale of moral value with God. Con 66.2

Christians who understand the mystery of godliness, who have a high and sacred sense of the atonement, who realize in the sufferings of Christ in the wilderness a victory gained for them, would see such marked contrast between these things and the church gatherings for pleasure and the indulgence of appetite, as would turn them in disgust from these scenes of revelry. Christians would be greatly strengthened by earnestly and frequently comparing their lives with the true standard, the life of Christ. The numerous socials, festivals, and picnics, [Note: A term at times used by Mrs. White to refer to fashionable and often public social entertainments in which each person contributed food to a common table. Fourth of July picnics sometimes took on the characteristics of a circus or fair. The word as used today usually refers to outdoor recreation of a character commended by Ellen G. White, in which one or more families participate.—White Trustees.] to tempt the appetite to overindulgence, and the amusements which lead to levity and forgetfulness of God, can find no sanction in the example of Christ, the world's Redeemer, the only safe pattern for man to copy if he would overcome as Christ overcame. Con 67.1

We present the faultless Pattern to all Christians. Says Christ, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Con 67.2

The light of heaven is to be reflected through Christ's followers to the world. This is the Christian's lifework to direct the minds of sinners to God. The Christian's life should awaken in the hearts of worldlings high and elevated views of the purity of the Christian religion. This will make believers the salt of the earth, the saving power in our world; for a well-developed Christian character is harmonious in all its parts. Con 67.3

We tremble for the youth of our day because of the example that is given them by those who profess to be Christians. We cannot close the door of temptation to the youth, but we can educate them that their words and their actions may have a direct bearing upon their future happiness or misery. They will be exposed to temptation. They will meet foes without and foes within, but they can be instructed to stand firm in their integrity, having moral principle to resist temptation. The lessons given our youth by world-loving professors are doing great harm. The festal gatherings, the gluttonous feasts, the lotteries, tableau and theatrical performances, are doing a work that will bear a record with its burden of results to the judgment. Con 68.1

All these inconsistencies, sanctioned by professed Christians under a garb of Christian beneficence, to collect means to pay church expenses, have their influence with the youth to make them lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. They think if Christians can encourage and engage in these lotteries and scenes of festivities, and connect them with sacred things, why may not they be safe in taking an interest in lotteries and in engaging in gambling to win money for special objects. Con 68.2

It is Satan's studied plan to clothe sin with garments of light to hide its deformity and make it attractive. And ministers and people professing righteousness unite with the adversary of souls to help him in his plans. Never was there a time when every member of the church should feel his responsibility to walk humbly and circumspectly before God as at the present. Vain philosophy, false creeds, and infidelity are on the increase. And many who bear the name of Christ's followers are, through pride of heart, seeking popularity, and are drifting away from the established landmarks. The plain commands of God in His Word are discarded because they are so plain and old-fashioned, while vain and vague theories attract the mind and please the fancy. In these scenes of church festivities there is a union with the world that the Word of God does not justify. Christians and worldlings are united in them. Con 68.3

But the apostle inquires:— Con 69.1

“What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Con 69.2

When we are able to comprehend the temptations and victories of the Son of God while in severe conflict with Satan, we shall have a more correct idea of the greatness of the work before us in overcoming. Satan knew that if he failed his case was hopeless. If he succeeded he had gained a victory over the entire race, and his life and kingdom he thought would be established. Con 69.3

In professedly Christian gatherings Satan throws a religious garment over delusive pleasures and unholy revelings to give them the appearance of sanctity, and the consciences of many are quieted because means are raised by these to defray church expenses. Men refuse to give for the love of Christ; but for the love of pleasure, and the indulgence of appetite for selfish considerations, they will part with their money. Con 70.1

Is it because there is not power in the lessons of Christ upon benevolence, and in His example, and the grace of God upon the heart, to lead men to glorify God with their substance, that such a course must be resorted to in order to sustain the church? The injury sustained to the physical, mental, and moral health in these scenes of amusement and gluttony is not small. And the day of final reckoning will show souls lost through the influence of these scenes of gaiety and folly. Con 70.2

It is a deplorable fact that sacred and eternal considerations do not have power to open the hearts of the professed followers of Christ to make freewill offerings to sustain the gospel as the temptation of feasting and general merriment. It is a sad reality that these inducements will prevail when sacred and eternal things will have no force to influence the heart to engage in works of benevolence. Con 70.3

The plan of Moses in the wilderness to raise means was highly successful. There was no compulsion necessary. Moses made no grand feast, and he did not invite the people to scenes of gaiety, dancing, and general amusement. Neither did he institute lotteries or anything of this profane order to obtain means to erect the tabernacle of God in the wilderness. God commanded Moses to invite the children of Israel to bring their offerings. Moses was to accept gifts of every man that gave willingly from his heart. But the freewill offerings came in so great abundance that Moses proclaimed it was enough. They must cease their presents; for they had given abundantly, more than they could use. Con 70.4

Satan's temptations succeed with the professed followers of Christ on the point of indulgence of pleasure and appetite. Clothed as an angel of light he will quote Scripture to justify the temptations he places before men to indulge the appetite and in worldly pleasures which suit the carnal heart. The professed followers of Christ are weak in moral power and are fascinated with the bribe which Satan has presented before them, and he gains the victory. How does God look upon churches that are sustained by such means? Christ cannot accept these offerings, because they were not given through their love and devotion to Him, but through their idolatry of self. But what many would not do for the love of Christ, they will do for the love of delicate luxuries to gratify the appetite, and for love of worldly amusements to please the carnal heart. Con 71.1

The conflict of Christ with Satan in the wilderness will be regarded with sacred interest by every true follower of Christ. We should have feelings of the deepest gratitude to our Redeemer for teaching us by His own example how to resist and overcome Satan. Jesus did not visit scenes of gaiety and feasting to attain the victory so essential to our salvation; but He went into a desolate wilderness. Many do not even contemplate this scene of Christ in conflict with the fallen chief. They do not enter into sympathy with their Redeemer. Some even doubt whether Christ really felt the pangs of hunger in His abstinence from food during the period of forty days and forty nights. Con 71.2

He who suffered death for us on Calvary's cross, just as surely suffered the keenest pangs of hunger as that He died for us. And no sooner did this suffering commence than Satan was at hand with his temptations. We have a foe no less vigilant to contend with. Satan adapts his temptations to our circumstances. In every temptation he will present some bribe, some apparent good to be gained. But in the name of Christ we may have complete victory in resisting his devices. Con 71.3

It is more than eighteen hundred years since Christ walked upon the earth as a Man among men. He found suffering and wretchedness abounding everywhere. What humiliation on the part of Christ! For, though He was in the form of God, He took upon Himself the form of a servant. He was rich in heaven, crowned with glory and honor, and for our sakes He became poor. What an act of condescension of the Lord of life and glory, that He might lift up fallen man. Con 72.1

Jesus did not come to men with commands and threatenings, but with love that is without a parallel. Love begets love; and thus the love of Christ displayed upon the cross woos and wins the sinner, and binds him repenting to the cross, believing and adoring the matchless depths of a Saviour's love. Christ came to the world to perfect a righteous character for many and to elevate the fallen race. But only a few of the millions in our world will accept the righteousness and excellency of His character and fulfill the requirements given to secure their happiness. Con 72.2

His lessons of instruction and His holy life, if followed, would stay the tide of physical and moral wretchedness that has so defiled the moral image of God in man that he bears scarcely a resemblance to the noble Adam as he stood in Eden in his holy innocency. Every prohibition of God is for the health and eternal well-being of man. In obedience to all the requirements of God there will be peace and happiness unaccompanied with shame or reproaches of conscience. Con 72.3

But very few of the Christian world are following their Master in a course of humble obedience, progressing in holiness and perfection of Christian character. Intemperance and licentiousness are greatly increasing, and are practiced to a large extent under the cloak of Christianity. This deplorable state of things is not because men are obedient to God's law, but because their hearts rise in rebellion to His holy precepts. Con 73.1

Repentance toward God, because His law has been transgressed, and faith in Jesus Christ are the only means whereby we may be elevated to purity of life and reconciliation with God. Were all the sins, which have brought the wrath of God upon cities and nations, fully understood, their woes and calamities would be found to be the results of uncontrolled appetites and passions. Con 73.2