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The Need for a Line of Distinction Between Saints and Sinners


Revival and reformation! It is the clarion call of our day, urging God's church to a higher spiritual level. We are promised that God will arouse His people from spiritual slumber, empowering them with holy zeal and fervor. As a result of God's glory being revealed in the lives of His remnant, the earth will be ablaze with the manifestation of God's love, so all may have ample opportunity to chose. It is thrilling to contemplate such a revival. Many are even now praying earnestly for such a revival in their own lives.

While revival is being sought, reformation remains a vague concept to many. Reform? What does that mean? Are we only to pray for revival, or are we to also instructed to clear the way for revival? What does it mean to clear the way?

There is nothing that Satan fears so much as that the people of God shall clear the way by removing every hindrance, so that the Lord can pour out His Spirit upon a languishing church and an impenitent congregation. {MYP 133.1}

Clearing the way, clearing the rubbish that Satan has piled up at the door of our hearts takes place as we humble our hearts before God in true confession and repentance, turning away from our sins. The work of revival and reformation is intertwined and interactive. As the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts, pointing out an idol or cherished sin, and we renounce that sin, we are clearing the way for God to pour out His Spirit in our lives.

It is the straight testimony that points out our sins, and shows us our need. How we all need to hear the straight testimony! It cuts down deep, revealing our pride and selfishness. The Laodicean message points out our miserable condition, and shows us our desperate need of the remedy.

The straight testimony is God's loving message calling us to a reformation of heart and life. It is only when we see how far we are from God that we have an intense longing to be transformed into His image. It is only as we sense our unloveliness that we are charmed with His purity and holiness. As we sense our perverse selfishness, we come to abhor ourselves, and cast ourselves on His mercy. Only then can we love the Lord with all our hearts.

Our worldly lifestyles desperately need to be reformed. Laodicean half-hearted professors are entangled in worldly practices. God is calling for a reformation of every area of our lives, through the prompting and empowerment of His indwelling Spirit.

There is one area of reform that is painfully neglected, largely because it is so painful to our pride. This reform touches our lives in a way even more personal than our appetites or our entertainment. It is in the area of our appearance.

The Lord is displeased with the pride manifested among His professed people. He is dishonored by their conformity to the unhealthful, immodest, and expensive fashions of this degenerate age. {4T 634.1}

Have the fashions of the world become even more degenerate than when this was written well over 100 years ago? What are the worldly styles that are so displeasing to God? How can we know God's will in this matter? God tells us:

The fashion of this age is not to be our standard. {3MR 70.4}

Away with the fashions of this degenerate age .. Satan is playing his cards for your soul. We want to stand free and pure from the degradations of this world. {Te 292.1}

We must not yield one inch to the customs and fashions of this degenerate age, but stand in moral independence, making no compromise with its corrupt and idolatrous practices. {CG 449.3}

No yielding, not even one inch, no compromise, but standing in moral independence, that's what God wants. Is this what God's church has done these last 100 years?

Fashion has been the goddess who has ruled the outside world, and she often insinuates herself into the church. {5T 499.1}

Have we noticed fashion marching boldly into our churches? Indeed, Fashion has a strangle hold on many among us.

It is the inventions and fashions of the world that have led God's people, and they are unwilling to move out independent of the fashions and customs of the world. While I study God's word, I am alarmed for the Israel of God in these last days. {4bSG 68.1}

Ellen G. White was alarmed for God's people in her day. Would she be alarmed if she could see us today? Are we alarmed for ourselves? What does it mean to be independent of the fashions of the world? We need to consider this matter more closely.

Having before us the picture of the world's demoralization upon the point of fashion , how dare professed Christians follow in the path of the worldling? Shall we appear to sanction these demoralizing fashions by adopting them? {RH, December 12, 1912 par. 6}

Here is the answer to this rhetorical question:

The people of God should not imitate the fashions of the world . Some have done this, and are fast losing the peculiar, holy character which should distinguish them as God's people. They give the lie to their profession. They think they are not like the world, but they are so near like them in dress, in conversation, and in actions, that there is no distinction between them . {RH, September 9, 1884 par.

Notice that we are told that there is no distinction between some of God's people and the world. As you look around in our churches, we can see that is true. You cannot tell any difference between many who claim to be Seventh-day Adventist Christians and those who are in the world.

Ellen White had a vision entitled "The Two Ways." Please read the entire vision to get the entire storyline. It is found in Testimonies, Vol. 1, pp. 127-128, as well as in other publications.

She saw 2 distinct roads, one leading to eternal life, and the other leading to eternal destruction:

I saw the distinction between these roads, also the distinction between the companies traveling them. The roads are opposite; one is broad and smooth, the other narrow and rugged. So the parties that travel them are opposite in character, in life, in dress, and in conversation. {CET 156.1}

What does it mean to be opposite in dress from the world? It does not mean similar, it means totally different. God showed Ellen White that those who are on the path to heaven dress opposite from the world. That means they are obviously distinct in their appearance from the world. Let's read on:

I saw many traveling in this broad road who had the words written upon them: "Dead to the world. The end of all things is at hand. Be ye also ready." They looked just like all the vain ones around them, except a shade of sadness which I noticed upon their countenances. Their conversation was just like that of the gay, thoughtless ones around them; but they would occasionally point with great satisfaction to the letters on their garments, calling for the others to have the same upon theirs. They were in the broad way, yet they professed to be of the number who were traveling the narrow way. Those around them would say: "There is no distinction between us . We are alike; we dress , and talk, and act alike." {CET 157.1}

The worldly people notice that these professed Christians look just the same as they do.

They think they are not like the world, but they are so near like them in dress , in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction. {MYP 127.1}

This is referring to those who think they're heading to heaven. But they aren't heading there. They have never surrendered to God. They still want to look as much like the world as possible. They are sadly mistaken regarding their destination. Why is this?

Why is it so hard to lead a humble, self-denying life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. . They have a disposition to dress and act as much like the world as possible and yet go to Heaven. Such are seeking to climb up some other way. They do not enter the strait gate, and walk in the narrow path. {RH, December 12, 1882 par. 8}

It is our pride that deceives us. Pride of appearance is a deadly sin that block us from receiving revival and reformation.

The habits and customs of the world, pride of appearance , selfishness, and self-exaltation, too often intrude, and these sins of His professed followers are so offensive to God that He cannot work in power for them or through them. {4T 576.1}

How do we know if we have pride of appearance lurking in our hearts? Is pride manifested in our apparel?

When reproofs come they are ashamed, but not repentant. They have had great light, great opportunities, line upon line, and precept upon precept, but PRIDE buds and blossoms in their apparel , revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart. (MS 52, 1898)

God calls His church to be more separate from the world in their dress than you have thought. God is constantly instructing His people to flee from pride of appearance .{TDG 295.4}

The love of dress endangers the morals and makes woman the opposite of the Christian lady, characterized by modesty and sobriety. {CG 416.4}

We can tell we have pride of appearance if we are not responsive to God's reproofs regarding our need to be separate from the world. If we resist being different from the world, that shows that we love the world.

How many shrink from the purifying process! They are unwilling to live out the truth, unwilling to appear singular in the eyes of the world. It is this mingling with the world that destroys our spirituality, pureness, and zeal. Satan's power is constantly exercised to stupefy the sensibilities of God's people, that their consciences may not be sensitive to wrong, and that the sign of distinction between them and the world may be destroyed . {1T 274.3}

Praise God, there is power to uproot this deadly sin of pride of appearance from our hearts. We are told that when we have the indwelling Spirit,

All love of dress and pride of appearance will be eradicated . There will be no place for love of adornment in the sanctified heart. {RH, September 2, 1884 par. 8}

Let the heart be changed, and it will not be such drudgery to serve God. The love of dress and pride of appearance will be gone . {ST, May 1, 1884 par. 2}

What are the consequences if we reject the light God has given us on dress reform? We are told that

" Those who have had the light upon eating and dressing with simplicity, in obedience to physical and moral laws, and who turn from the light which points out their duty, will shun duty in other things. If they blunt their consciences to avoid the cross which they will have to take up to be in harmony with natural law, they will, in order to shun reproach, violate the ten commandments. There is a decided unwillingness with some to endure the cross and despise the shame. Some will be laughed out of their principles. Conformity to the world's customs and practices will separate the soul from God . There are in the Christian world many who think more of the praise of those who love not God than of the favor of Heaven. These will yield to temptation, and become more firmly wedded year by year to worldly fashions and indulgences of perverted appetite than they are to healthy bodies, sound mind, or sanctified hearts. {ST, August 11, 1887 par. 6}

That is a very serious statement. Ignoring the light on dress reform ultimately separates us from God. By our rejection of the light on health and dress reform, we are setting ourselves up to reject all of God's truth.

It may seem that we are being repetitious in presenting so may quotations regarding the need to be separate from the world, to have a distinct line of demarcation between us and the world. But we present these statements to make a point. If God impressed Sister White to say the same thing over and over and over again, in many different ways, certainly it must be significant. This clear distinction between the Christian and the world must be maintained. Satan wants to destroy this distinction, so he can destroy our spirituality.

The line of demarcation between those who serve God and those who serve Him not, is ever to remain distinct . The difference between believers and unbelievers should be as great as the difference between light and darkness. When God's people take the position that they are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Christ Himself abiding within, they will so clearly reveal Him in spirit, words, and actions, that there will be an unmistakable distinction between them and Satan's followers. . . . {3SM 211.2}

An unmistakable distinction means there is absolutely no question on which side we stand. This can be seen clearly by our appearance. But how is it with those professed Christians who worship fashion?

[Professed] Christians seek to build as worldlings build, to dress as worldlings dress ,- to imitate the customs and practices of those who worship only the god of this world. The instructions of God's Word, the counsels and reproofs of His servants, and even warnings sent directly from His throne, seem powerless to subdue this unworthy ambition. When the heart is estranged from God, almost any pretext is sufficient to justify a disregard of His authority. The promptings of pride and self-love are gratified at whatever expense to the cause of God (ST July 13, 1882). {2BC 1013.1}

Professed Christians are those who call themselves Christians, but still love the world. True Christians have renounced the world. God wants us to understand our need to be distinct and separate in the way we dress.

Will everyone that is in moderate circumstances consider that they are to be a people distinct and separate in their fashions of dress, their speech, their deportment, from the world? Will they see their idolatry in small as well as large matters and that it is separating them from God? . (MS 52, 1898)

Will God's true people actually look different from the world?

The age in which we live is one of temptation, and if the people of God stand clear from the corrupting influences around them, they will be termed, "peculiar," "old-fashioned," and "odd." {RH, November 18, 1890 par. 8}

The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself; this consecration to God and separation from the world is plainly and positively enjoined in both the Old and the New Testament. There is a wall of separation which the Lord Himself has established between the things of the world and the things He has chosen out of the world and sanctified unto Himself. The calling and character of God's people are peculiar, their prospects are peculiar, and these peculiarities distinguish them from all other people . {1T 286.2}

As we read the word of God, how plain it appears that His people are to be peculiar and distinct from the unbelieving world around them. {1T 286.3}

Can we look just like the world, and be God's people?

Our only safety is to stand as God's peculiar people. {PH117 60.3}

If we truly long for revival, we need to wake up to our condition. How conformed are we to this world?

I was shown that the people of God should not imitate the fashions of the world . Some have done this, and are fast losing the peculiar, holy character which should distinguish them as God's people. . If God's professed people had not greatly departed from Him, there would now be a marked difference between their dress and that of the world . .The inhabitants of earth are growing more and more corrupt, and the line of distinction between them and the Israel of God must be more plain , or the curse which falls upon worldlings will fall on God's professed people. {1T 188.3}

Are Seventh-day Adventists in general so near like the world that you can't pick them out of a crowd? In Ellen White's day, around the turn of the century, many professed Christians were hardly distinguishable. How is it today?

The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable . {GC88 588.3}

If this is true, then how did we get to this place? What are we to do about it? What does God think about it?

The distinction between Christians and worldlings must be more marked . {TMK 343.2}

It was heading downhill in her day, and she made this prophetic statement that has truly come to pass.

Ambition, covetousness, the mania to follow the fashions , the customs, and practices of the world in order not to be thought singular, will soon obliterate all lines of distinction between the Christian's lines of pursuit and the practices of the world. {HP 165.2}

God is calling for a clearer distinction than ever, for His last-day remnant people.

Christ's followers are to seek to improve the moral tone of the world, under the influence of the impartation of the Spirit of God. They are not to come down to the world's level, thinking that by doing this they will uplift it. In words, in dress , in spirit, in everything, there is to be a marked distinction between Christians and worldlings. This distinction has a convincing influence upon worldlings. {TMK 305.4}

As he draws near to God, the Christian gains a clearer knowledge of the divine character and requirements; he attains to a higher degree of holiness, and as a result, the line of distinction between himself and the world is more clearly marked . When the people of God will stand firmly and fearlessly on the holy ground of their solemn faith, not seeking to assimilate to the world, they will enjoy the presence of the Lord as in earlier years. {RH, July 18, 1882 par. 23}

By conforming entirely to the will of God, we shall be placed upon vantage ground, and shall see the necessity of decided separation from the customs and practices of the world. We are not to elevate our standard just a little above the world's standard, but we are to make the distinction decidedly apparent . 6T 146.

In reality, what has been happening over the years?

On account of the standard of piety being so low among professed Christians generally, it is much more laborious and trying for those who wish to follow Christ in sincerity. The influence of worldly professors is injurious to the young. The mass of professed Christians have removed the line of distinction between Christians and the world. And while they profess to be living for Christ, they are living for the world. {4bSG 146.1}

The conformity of professed Christians to the world is a disgrace to their profession, a disgrace to the cause of God. They profess to have come out from the world and to be separate, yet are so near like them in dress , in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction . {RH, December 12, 1882 par. 9}

While a specific article of clothing or a certain decorative application may rightfully be termed "worldly," it is not the case that certain clothing can be labeled "godly". Why is this? Because it is not the clothing itself that causes consecration to God. It is the surrendered heart and the obedient will within that constitutes true godliness. God wants our entire hearts. He wants us to understand that we have been specially chosen by Him. We are to be unreservedly and wholeheartedly His. He wants our clothing to reflect our connection with Him. But the fashions of the world lure us away from our devotion, and deceive us.

Many who suppose they are going to heaven are blindfolded by the world . Their ideas of what constitutes a religious education and religious discipline are vague, resting only on probabilities; there are many who have no intelligent hope, and are running great risk in practicing the very things which Jesus has taught that they should not do, in eating, drinking, and dressing , binding themselves up with the world in a variety of ways. They have yet to learn the serious lessons so essential to growth in spirituality, to come out from the world and be separate . The heart is divided, the carnal mind craves conformity , similarity to the world in so many ways that the mark of distinction from the world is scarcely distinguishable . {FE 311.2}

It is not because God's people dress differently that makes them stand out from the world. They are different because their hearts are consecrated to God. Because of their loyalty to God, they refuse to dress like the world. They are willing to be distinct from the world because their highest priority is to please God.

Notice that the unconverted heart longs to look just like the world. "The carnal mind craves conformity , similarity to the world." Naturally, we don't want to be distinct from the world. It is only a surrendered heart that is willing to be noticeably different in appearance.

Those who claim to know the truth and understand the great work to be done for this time are to consecrate themselves to God, soul, body, and spirit. In heart, in dress, in language, in every respect, they are to be separate from the fashions and practices of the world. They are to be a peculiar and holy people. It is not their dress that makes them peculiar; but because they are a peculiar and holy people, they cannot carry the marks of likeness to the world. {HP 167.2}

Truly consecrated people cannot carry the marks of likeness to the world. They are have strong convictions regarding their appearance, which makes them stand out from the crowd.

Those who are truly seeking to follow Christ will have conscientious scruples in regard to the dress they wear ; they will strive to meet the requirements of this injunction so plainly given by the Lord. (1Peter 3:3,4) {YI, November 5, 1896 par. 3}

We need to search our hearts and ask ourselves some hard questions.

The question to be settled is, " Are we willing to separate ourselves from the world , that we may become children of God?" This is not the work of a moment or of a day. . . . It is a lifelong work. Love to God must be a living principle, underlying every act and word and thought. {HP 167.5}

Here is another question we need to ask ourselves:

It is the duty of every child of God to inquire, Wherein am I separate from the world ? Let them suffer a little inconvenience and be on the safe side. What crosses do God's people bear? They mingle with the world, partake of their spirit, dress , talk, and act, like them. {4bSG 68.1}

God, speaking through the prophetess, admonished us to ask ourselves, "How am I separate from the world?"

How does my appearance reveal that I am willing to sacrifice my pride and vanity for my Lord? Can people who see me discern that I am not worldly, but that I dress opposite from the world, distinct, separate, because I am set apart for a holy purpose? God is calling us to make a marked contrast between us and the world:

The principles of heaven must be brought into our experience, that we may be distinguished from the world. There must be a marked contrast between us and the world; for we are God's denominated people. . . . {4MR 60.2}

That marked contrast will include modesty and purity.

When once the barriers of female modesty are removed, the basest licentiousness does not appear exceeding sinful. Alas, what terrible results of woman's influence for evil may be witnessed in the world today! {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 20}

Fashion has successfully removed these barriers of female modesty, and Satan has taken the territory of our bodies by removing our covering inch by inch for over 100 years. Remember, the servant of the Lord declared that we are not to give in one inch?

We must not yield one inch to the customs and fashions of this degenerate age.{CG 449.3}

We are told that the truly converted will not

yield an iota from his stand of fidelity to God, in opposition to pride, to indulgence in selfish amusement, to expenditure of means for the gratification of inclination or love of display, but will be an example in spirit, deportment, and dress . {CSW 95.1}

God has drawn this line of distinction between saints and sinners, so that is so obvious when you see them. How easy is it to tell the day from the night? It should be that easy to tell who are Christ's followers.

The Eternal God has drawn the line of distinction between the saints and the sinners, the converted and the unconverted. The two classes do not blend into each other imperceptibly, like the colors of the rainbow. They are as distinct as midday and midnight. {CT 341.1}

If this line is so distinct, where is this line? Do we know where to draw the line in selecting clothing?

This will be the focus of our next presentation

Where Does God Draw the Line of Distinction?