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Character development is said to be the most important work ever entrusted to human beings. During the next hour, we will explore both our privilege and our responsibility to become Christ-like in character. Join us now for this powerful time of personal renewal as Pastor Stephen Wallace takes us “From Glory to Glory.”

Beautiful, simple but profound song. That’s really the essence of our cooperative role, isn’t it? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” “Looking unto Jesus,” {Heb 12:2} that’s what it’s all about. Remember that verb that’s translated “looking”? What’s the Greek? “Apo” which means from, and “horao” which means to stare. When you put those together, you have “aphorao,” which means to turn from everything else and fix your mind, or your mind’s eye on Jesus. Remember in the Greek that’s in the present active tense, that means we must be, what? Doing it continually, continually.

It’s only as we learn to do this, my dear friends, that we can experience consistent victory over temptation, or we will experience continual growth into the character likeness of Christ. This is not optional. This is absolutely essential. There’s no way that we can change ourselves from glory to glory. But there’s no way that the Holy Spirit can change us either unless we are cooperating by beholding the glory of the Lord. Beholding Christ is what it’s all about.

As we came to our rather rushed close of our previous study, we pointed out that beholding Christ, essentially and most practically and understandably means studying His life as given in His Word. {6BC 1098.1} Right? Therefore, we must, my dear friends, we must, what? Make time. Please notice I didn’t say “find time,” I said, what? Make time. It’s a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Come on now, admit it. It’s a matter of priorities, and I insist there’s no higher priority for the Christian than to behold Christ, and that means studying His life as given in His Word. Therefore we must make time for personal, meaningful Bible study. And everyone said: {Amen}

I pray that you have been fully convinced and convicted of that, my dear friends, and that you will make appropriate decisions now regarding your daily schedule. You’ve got to if you’re going to be changed, and become an effective witness for the King and a fit citizen for His Kingdom. Yes, yes.

Well, we need to press on now to consider another very important principle of Christian character development. There’s one other statement that I didn’t have time to share that I’ve just got to share with you. But before we get into the inspired material, let’s make sure that we have the same Spirit helping us understand it that inspired it. Amen? {Amen} That’s the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. And it is ours for the asking. “Ask and it shall be given.” {Mat 7:7} There’s nothing you can do to earn it or deserve it. Praise God, all of His good and precious gifts have been earned for us by the life and death of Jesus, and they are now available to us as a free gift, but they are only to be received upon request because God never forces anything on anyone. That’s why the whole economy of heaven works on the simple principle, “Ask and it shall be given.” Please take the time on your knees with me to ask for the outpouring of God’s Spirit. As you pray in your own behalf, please pray in mine as well.

Father in heaven, how precious is the opportunity to gather this afternoon in the quietness of this sanctuary for the purpose of studying Your Word. But Father, we dare not proceed in our quest for a life-changing knowledge of the truth, the truth as it is in Jesus, without first asking for the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Jesus. Please pour out that Spirit upon us. Please especially pour it out on me because I am more needy than anyone. I am but an earthen vessel; I am but a sin-damaged mortal, and You’re going to have to work a miracle if I’m going to be able to proclaim the truth with any degree of accuracy or beauty. Please work that miracle by the Spirit of Truth. Take full possession of me, body, mind and spirit. Guide my thoughts, my words, let me say what You want me to say, nothing more, nothing less, please. Touch my lips with a coal. And what You manage to say through me, may it find receptive hearts and minds, and submissive wills that it might transform lives. This is my prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We closed our study this morning, as you recall, warning you that as you behold Christ, far from being impressed with your own character growth and development, you will become increasingly impressed with your own character faults and defects. {SC 64.2} Are we all together on that? You see, throughout the Scriptures, those who have been the closest to Christ and have beheld most fully His glory are the ones that have made the most startling confessions regarding their own shortfall, their own faults, their own weaknesses, their own defects. Moses, for example, on Mount Sinai, when he beheld the glory, what was the result, as far as his face was concerned? It shone so bright that the children of Israel couldn’t even stand to look at the reflection. Question: Was Moses aware of that though? Very interesting, he was not, and Scripture specifically points that out. Exodus 34:29, “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” He didn’t know it. Why does Scripture bring that point out? Because we are being taught a spiritual object lesson, my dear friends. As we behold God’s glory, we will be changed. We will reflect it, but we won’t know it.

Remember the way inspiration put it? In the preceding statement there, Bible Commentary, Volume 6, page 1097: “Imperceptibly to ourselves.” What does “imperceptibly to ourselves” mean? We’re not aware of it. “Imperceptibly to ourselves, we are changed day by day from our ways and will into the ways and will of Christ, into the loveliness of His character. Thus we grow up into Christ, and unconsciously reflect His image…” Now everyone else is aware of it, but we aren’t.

What are we aware of? Well, when Isaiah got a glimpse of the glory, what did he say? In 6:5, “So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'” You see, when he got a glimpse of God’s glory, he had a very humble estimation of himself, didn’t he? What about Daniel? Daniel 10:8, from the King James: “Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption…” “My comeliness,” the very best and most admirable things about myself, when I got a glimpse of the infinite perfection of the character of Christ, in contrast, they turned into corruption. My friends, please be warned. You will be tempted to think you are getting worse, not better. But please be assured, you’re not getting worse. You’ve always been that bad. Right? You’ve always been that bad. You’re just now discovering the way it’s always been, but you have been in self-righteous, self-deception. Isn’t that a Laodicea’s position and condition? We think that we’re what? Come on: “rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, and we don’t even know that we are wretched, poor, blind, miserable and naked.” {Rev 3:17} God help us get out of our self-righteous, self-deception. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen}

Now, it’s not going to be a comfortable experience, coming face to face with the way it really is. But my friends, it’s a necessary experience. Amen? And when we discover that, please don’t get discouraged. Praise God for the discovery, I mean, you’ve got to discover it if you and He are going to deal with it. Right? Confess it to Him and claim His promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to,” what? “…cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” {1 Jn 1:9}

But then cooperate with Him in the cleansing process by beholding not the problem, but the solution. I just said something so important there. You know what we often do when we discover problems in our lives? We’re oh, so conscientious, we decide that we’re going to deal with that problem. Come on, now, admit it with me. So we go to work; we wrestle with that problem and we struggle with that problem, and we end up with a much worse problem than when we began. Why? In beholding we are changed. If you are focused on your problem, what are you beholding? The problem, and what are you going to end up with? A worse problem. Come on, you’ve done that, haven’t you? Sometimes we do it oh, so conscientiously, ignorantly, but conscientiously. So what do we do? We get our eyes off the problem and get them onto the solution. We behold the Lamb {Jn 1:29}, and in beholding we are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit deals with the problem by replacing it with the opposite virtue in Jesus. Amen? Did you understand that? Therefore the best way to cooperate is not to focus on the problem, but to ask God to forgive you for it, and then focus on the opposite virtue of that problem in Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He will deal with the problem by developing its opposite virtue in Christ. Is that clear to you? It’s a very important concept. I wanted to share that this morning, but ran out of time.

Here’s a precious promise that I’ve got to share with you too. Desire of Ages, page 302, down at the bottom. Desire of Ages, page 302: “‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.’ {Mat 5:6} The sense of unworthiness will lead the heart to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and this desire will not be disappointed. Those who make room in their hearts for Jesus,” those who, what? “…make room in their hearts for Jesus will realize His love. All who long to bear the likeness of the character of God shall be satisfied.” Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} “The Holy Spirit never leaves unassisted the soul who is,” what? “…looking unto Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto him. If… If the eye is kept fixed on Christ, the work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image.” Is that a precious promise, or what? “The work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image.” But what’s the condition? All the promises of God are conditional. If – if, what? “If the eye is kept fixed on Christ.” My dear friends, how absolutely essential then that we learn to “aphorao,” turn our mind’s eye away from everything else and keep it fixed, riveted, on Jesus. {Heb 12:2}

Okay, now there’s another principle that we need to focus on in character development. I like to call it the law of reciprocal influence. The law of what? Reciprocal influence. What in the world is the law of reciprocal influence? Well, by God’s grace, that’s what we need to come to understand. Please understand that our character is not only formed by mental input, what we behold, it is also formed by mental output, how we behave. Did you see your way through that? I want to repeat it: Our character is not only formed by mental input, what we behold, our character is also formed by mental output. What is mental output? It’s our behavior, the things we say and do. Now, the reason that our character is formed by mental output, is because of the law of reciprocal influence. What in the world is the law of reciprocal influence?

Well, what does the word reciprocal mean? Two-way, two-way. You know, a reciprocal engine is one with a piston that goes, what? Back and forth, contrasted to a rotary engine that goes around and around. Reciprocal: two-way. Now please know that there is a reciprocal influence, a two-way influence in other words, between our thoughts and feelings, and our words and actions. Are you with me on this? Please let me know you’re understanding; I need feedback. There is a two-way influence, a reciprocal influence, between our, what? Our thoughts and feelings. What are we talking about class? Thoughts and feelings combined? Character. {5T 310.1} There is a two-way influence between our thoughts and feelings and our words and actions, our behavior. This is why mental output, i.e., behavior, has a direct and dramatic effect upon our character development, because of this law of reciprocal influence. We all understand that our behavior is influenced by our thoughts and feelings. But what many fail to understand is that our thoughts and feelings are then in turn influenced by our words and actions, our behavior. There is a, what? …a reciprocal influence.

Now, it is precisely this principle that is the premise upon which this promise, that we’re about to read, is made. By the way, all God’s promises are, what? …conditional {2SAT 195.5}, and what is the condition? It’s obedience to God’s principles, God’s laws; and the reason for that, my dear friends, is because blessings are ours only in obedience. {RH, Jan 28, 1875 par. 16} Did you hear what I just said? That’s a crucial concept. I want to repeat it: Blessings are ours only what? In obedience. You see, so many of us think that God blesses us FOR obedience. Is that true? No, God blesses us IN obeying. The blessing is inherent in the obedience. Did you understand that? That’s a key concept. I want to repeat it: The blessing is what? Inherent in the obedience. God doesn’t bless you FOR obeying, He blesses you by enabling you to obey and reap the blessings inherent in obedience. Is there a difference? You bet there is, a big difference.

Also, please know that the suffering is inherent in disobedience. God doesn’t punish you FOR disobeying, you punish yourself IN disobeying. Come on, I need response, are you understanding this? You’re just looking at me again. We bring punishment on ourselves by disobeying, by choosing to live outside of that channel of blessing. The channel of blessing is the life of obedience, because the blessing is inherent in obedience. It is precisely for this reason that all God’s promises are conditional, and the condition is always obedience, because the promises are the assurance of the blessing. But can you have the blessing if you’re not obeying? No, because the blessing is inherent in obedience. Now I said the same thing several times, but I hope it’s really clear.

Now, this promise that we’re just about to read here, it’s found in Proverbs 16:3 and it’s from this verse that we take the title of our study, is based upon this law of reciprocal influence. Listen to it closely: “Commit your works to the LORD,” What are we talking about? “Commit your works to the Lord.” That’s your behavior. That’s your word and action. That’s the mental output, all right? “Commit your works to the Lord, and,” what will happen? What will happen? “…your thoughts will be,” what? “…established.” What does “established” mean? Strengthened, encouraged, confirmed, established. Okay? Made permanent, that’s what it means. Now, if we want right thoughts, Christ-like thoughts, to be established, what have we got to do? We’ve got to commit our works to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Because our behavior, if it is not Christ-like, will not establish Christ-like thoughts and feelings. Is that clear to you? Because of this law called the law of, what? Reciprocal influence.

Now, Signs of the Times, November 14, 1892: “The daily acts of life tell the measure and mould of our disposition and character…” See, they reveal much about what’s going on up here. But that’s not all they do; what else do they do? Reading on: “The habits of speech, the character of our actions, put a mould upon us.” In other words, our thoughts and feelings not only influence our words and actions, but our words and actions in return influence our thoughts and feelings; they put a mould on us. Do you see this? Here’s another one: Testimonies, Volume 4, page 657: “Every act of life…” What does that include, my dear friends? That’s all our words and actions. “Every act of life, however unimportant, has its influence in forming the character. A good character is more precious than worldly possessions, and the work of forming it is the noblest in which men can engage.” Not only the noblest, but the most important. {Ed 225.3}

Okay, now, what I want to do that we hopefully understand this law of reciprocal influence, is apply it to the acts of that most active member of the human body; and what is the most active member of the human body? The tongue. You know that. What’s the most active member of the human body? The tongue. And my dear friends, this law of reciprocal influence, has particular and special application to the works of the tongue, better known as our words. Please apply this principle with me now to the works of the tongue. The works of the tongue must be committed to the Lord if right thoughts are going to be established. Did you hear what I said? The works of the tongue must be committed to the Lord if, what? Right thoughts are to be established. This is precisely why David prays… What’s his prayer? “Let the words of my mouth and,” what else? “…the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” {Ps 19:14} Why does he pray that both be acceptable? Because of the law of reciprocal influence. One can’t be acceptable unless the other is acceptable because they have a dramatic reciprocal influence on each other. Amen? The works of the mouth have to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, if the thoughts are going to be Christ-like, my friends.

Now, let me try to explain and illustrate this. There is an avenue, okay, let’s call it the avenue of influence, that leads from the brain to the tongue, or from the thoughts to the words, whether you’re talking about the organ or its function. Okay? An avenue called, what? The avenue of influence. Now all of us readily recognize the flow of influential traffic from the brain to the tongue, from the thoughts to the words. As Scripture puts it, Luke 6:45, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth,” what? “…speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” That’s the flow of influential traffic from the brain to the tongue, from the thoughts to the words. But my dear friends, please understand something very important here. This avenue of influence from the brain to the tongue, from the thoughts to the words, is a two-way street. It’s a, what? It’s a two-way street, and the influential traffic flowing in the return direction is just as heavy. Just as directly and dramatically as our thoughts influence our words, so our words in turn influence our thoughts. It is a reciprocal influence, a two-way influence. I have to drive that point home and underscore it. That is the key to this whole study.

Listen; Desire of Ages, pages 323, quote: “The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ But the words are more than an indication of character; they have power to react on the character. Men are influenced by their own words.” Are we all together? And dear sisters, that includes you – that’s the generic use of the term “men;” yes, it does. We are all influenced by our own words. Please, how many of us are influenced? All of us.

What is the extent of the influence? Listen: Signs of the Times, March 1, 1905: “All,” how many class? “All are to a great extent,” to what extent? “…a great extent under the influence of their own words. They act out the sentiments expressed in their words. Thus the government of the tongue is closely bound up with personal religion. Many are by their own words led to believe that a wrong course is right. Thoughts are expressed in words, and the words react upon the thoughts;” what do you see there? Reciprocal influence. “Thoughts are expressed in words, and the words react upon the thoughts and produce other words. The influence is felt, not only upon oneself, but upon others.”

My friends, how great is this influence? It’s so great – hear me – it’s so great that if we say something enough, even though initially we know full well it’s not true, we can bring ourselves to actually believe that it is true. You can do it, you can do it, by this powerful law called the law of reciprocal influence. We’re not talking about something that is, you know, incidental or unimportant here when it comes to character development, my friends. Though this principle is, by and large, not understood by most people it is powerful and its potential to either help or hinder us in the development of a Christ-like character is enormous, depending upon whether we use it or misuse it. Did you hear what I said? Please let’s learn how to not misuse it, but use it and reap the blessings inherent in obedience to this principle. That’s our goal.

Now, probably one of the best and clearest statements of this principle is to be found in Ministry of Healing, page 251. I want to share that with you. Ministry of Healing, page 251: Quote: “It is a law of nature,” oh, I’ve got to pause there. It is a, what? A law of nature. What law of nature do we have here?

We’ve done this before, but I’ve got to do it again. {Pastor drops the pen.} Is the law of gravity a respecter of persons? No. Is it a respecter of personal belief? No. Personal preference? No. Always works whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, no matter who you are, it’s law. Are we all together? Now listen, here’s a law; here’s a law which always works.

“It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are,” what? “…encouraged and strengthened.” What does that mean? “Established,” the word in our key text. {Prov 16:3} “It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance.” Whoa, did you hear that? “While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words.” What do you have there? Reciprocal influence. “While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If,” listen, listen! “…If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have – the great mercy and love of God – we should have more faith and greater joy.” Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} My dear friends, every time you verbalize your faith, by the law of reciprocal influence, what are you going to end up with? Stronger faith. Every time you verbalize your joy, by the law of reciprocal influence, what are you going to end up with? More joy. “No tongue,” reading on: “No tongue can express, no finite mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a wellspring, never failing, because fed by the streams that flow from the throne of God.” Wow! Do you see the potential of using this law to bless us in our Christian experience? Do you see its potential?

But my dear friends, I’ve got to warn you, equal to its potential to help us, if we use it aright, is its potential to hinder us if we misuse it. Now listen for both of those in the following statement. Mind, Character and Personality, Volume 2, page 579: “The more you talk faith, the more faith you will have.” Please notice how definitive that is. “The more faith you,” what? “…you will have.” Is this “iffy?” No, it’s not iffy, it’s a sure thing. Why? Why? Why is it a sure thing? Because it’s law. It’s law. You talk faith, by the law of reciprocal influence, you’re going to have more faith. Use the law, dear friends. It’s a tremendous blessing if you’ll use it. But watch out! Listen to its potential to harm, to hinder. “The more,” I read on: “The more you dwell upon discouragement, talking to others about your trials, and enlarging upon them, to enlist the sympathy which you crave, the more discouragements and trials you will have.” “The more discouragements and trials you,” what? Come on, you, what? “…you will have.” By law, if you talk about your discouragements and trials, you will have more discouragements and trials.

My friends, you know I am quite convinced that many of us do more damage to our Christian experience and our character development, with our own tongues than with anything else. Many of us do more damage to our own Christian experience with our own tongues than with anything else. We go moaning and groaning and griping and complaining, and talking about all of our trials and all of our tribulations and all of our discouragements, and by law, what do we do? We make ourselves all the more depressed and discouraged.

You know, I’ve got to share this story. I’ll make it brief. I had the privilege of standing in for a Bible teacher who was out on account of health reasons. I had to take his full class load, six classes, for a quarter; and I came to school that first day eager to be helpful and have a positive influence on the students; and I remember she came up to me in the hall as I was going to the classroom. Let’s call her Susie. She had this long, drawn-out, sad, lost her last friend expression on her face, and my heart went out to her. The poor girl was obviously sad and unhappy, miserable in fact. She said to me, “Are you the new Bible teacher?” And I said, “Yes.” She said, “I want to talk to you.” And I said, “Sure, Susie. Come to my office during break; and I gave her the time.” Sure enough, she was there. Opened, the door, invited her to sit down, and Susie began to download.

She began to talk about all of the things that were sad and miserable and unfortunate about her young life. As I listened I began to think, “This poor child.” Then as I listened further, I began to realize that a whole lot of what she was saying was not real. Now it was to her, but she would say things for instance, “All my teachers are trying to flunk me.” I happened to know her teachers, and I knew that wasn’t the case, but she was very convinced that it was the case; and she was so discouraged that she started crying while she was downloading; and that shouldn’t have surprised me. That’s the law of reciprocal influence at work. You know, I wanted to help her and I made suggestions, and she said, “You know I’ve tried that, but that doesn’t work for me.” The whole hour went by and, you know, we got nowhere. So I told her, I said, “You know, Susie, we’re going to need to get together again. Come tomorrow, same time. I’ll be here.” Frankly I found it a bit challenging to give her that invitation, because it had been such a miserable failure, but I thought I ought to.

Next day, right on time, she came in. I was hoping, of course, that we had gotten all of the negative stuff, you know, taken care of and now we could get on with some positive things. Oh, no. No, I had heard only the half of it, and she proceeded to download, and I proceeded to try to interject some hopeful suggestions, some helpful things that she might do. “No, that won’t work for me; tried that. That won’t work for me.” She left the office crying again, and I was really depressed. I was depressed. I mean, we weren’t getting anywhere. So I really mustered the courage and I told her, “You know, Susie, we’re going to have to get together again; you come back tomorrow.” That was tough to tell her, but I went back that evening and talked to the Lord about it. I said, “Lord, I’m not helping this poor child. She desperately needs help. What should I do?” He gave me a plan.

Next day, right on time. Knock on the door, opened it, and before she could say a thing, a single thing, I mustered all the authority of the new Bible teacher in the school, looked her right in the eye and I said, “Susie, not one word, not one word from you regarding your problems until you tell me something you are happy about and thankful for.” She was a bit startled; she knew I meant what I said. I said, “Welcome, come in, sit down, but not one word about your problems until you tell me something, at least one thing, you’re happy about and thankful for.” She sat down and I sat down, and I expected her to tell me something because I knew she wanted to talk to me about her problems. She couldn’t think of anything, and bless her heart, I watched her as she was racking her brain to think of something, something that she was happy for. She’d look at the floor, she’d look at the ceiling, she’d look at the walls. She was searching her mind for something that she was thankful for, and she couldn’t think of anything. Bless her heart. This is what you can do to yourself, my friends, if you misuse this law. She couldn’t think of anything, and she spent that whole period silent in my office. Finally I told her, I said, “You know, Susie, I’ve got to use my time. I’m going to correct papers and as soon as you have something, you tell me what it is, and I’ll give you my undivided attention.” I corrected papers the whole time; she sat there silent the whole time. She left, and I said “You know, Susie, you can come back tomorrow, but the same thing holds true for tomorrow, not one word about your problems until you tell me something you’re thankful for.”

Tomorrow she didn’t come back, and I was feeling bad, I was tempted to say, “You can come and we’ll talk regarding…” But no I decided to hang in there. Every time I’d see her, I’d say, “Susie, any time you want to back, but you’ve got to tell me something you’re thankful for.” Big smile on my face. I told my wife about the experience, and when I was home, we got a phone call. She picked it up, and she handed me the phone and she said, “I think this is Susie.” So I took the phone and I said, “Susie, same thing goes on the phone. Not one word, not one word about your problems until you tell me something you’re thankful for.” Silence. I could hear her breathing; I could here her sniffling; but nothing.

Finally, bless her heart, finally she came up with something. You know, it’s been so long, I cannot remember exactly what it was, but it was something very generic. But I grabbed on it, and I started to encourage her to explore implications and ramifications of that one thing, and you know, we never got on her problems in that conversation. We just were talking about the very real blessings that that child enjoyed every day. I said, “You know, Susie, I want you to come to my office tomorrow and tell me something else you’re happy about.” She said, “Okay, I will.” She was already feeling better.

She came in and we spent the next day talking about her blessings. Her blessings. You know what, I was there for just one quarter, but I saw some absolutely remarkable things happen in Susie’s life. She became a different person by simply using this law rather than abusing it. You see, most of her problems were purely imaginary. {MH 241.2} She had just created them by focusing on the negative and talking about the negative, and it got unrealistically negative to her; everything was negative.

Of course she had no friends, because she was a dark cloud to be with, and depressing to hang around with, and nobody wants to hang around with somebody like that. So she was creating the situations that she was imagining, by getting so depressive to be with that nobody wanted to be with her. But when she started to get positive, she started to get friends. I left after that quarter; I had really bonded with those students, and they invited me to come back and do a week of prayer the next year. I’ll never forget, I walked into the back of the chapel, and who do you suppose was up front leading song service with her guitar and a huge grin and smile on her face? Susie. I looked at her and I said, “Praise the Lord.” She came running back to me as soon as she saw me, through her arms around me and said, “I’m so happy to see you, and by the way, I am so happy in school this year.”

My friends, please use it, don’t abuse it. This principle, equal to its potential to bless you and help you, is its potential to curse you and hinder you. Choose to give utterance to only that which will help you in the development of a Christ-like character. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen}

Now, with that principle in mind, what I want to do is focus on some of the specific dos and don’ts in the Bible regarding what we ought to say and what we ought not to say. You will be amazed as you are aware of the importance of this law of reciprocal influence, you will be amazed how many specific injunctions there are in the Bible regarding what we ought to say and what we ought not to say. Now, understanding the principle behind the dos and don’ts, you will better understand why it’s so important to say things and why it’s so important not to say other things. Are you with me? This is why it’s so valuable to understand underlying principles. Then specific rules and regulations, dos and don’ts, make a whole lot of sense. You understand that. Okay, now let’s look at some of the specific Biblical injunctions regarding what we ought not to say.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first, and then we’ll move on to the positive. By the way, tomorrow morning’s studies will be dealing with what we ought to say, and you’re all going to be back tomorrow morning, aren’t you? Come on, that wasn’t unanimous. You’re all going to be back tomorrow morning, aren’t you? {Amen} Yes, good. Okay, what ought we not to give utterance to in light of this law of reciprocal influence? First off, we must not give utterance to anything filthy or foolish. Filthy or foolish; Ephesians 5:4, “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving,” what? “…giving of thanks.” Giving thanks. My dear friends, please, please don’t let anything filthy escape your mouth.

By the way, there’s just all sorts of off-color jokes out there. You know what I’m talking about. We should have absolutely no part in passing that kind of thing on. None. You see, if you give utterance to that which is filthy, by law you make yourself more, what? Come on, say it, filthy. Until what is – God forbid – but what is the Judge going to have to say? “He who is filthy, let him be filthy still.” {Rev 22:11} And that’s forever. Please don’t let that happen in your case. But my dear friends, it will happen if you give utterance to that which is filthy, because by law you’re going to make yourself filthier still. Don’t do it, please. Guard carefully the tongue, and give utterance to nothing that is morally impure. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen}

But there’s also foolish talk that we are not to give utterance to. This is a tough one, and some of you are going to resent what I have to say on this, and you might even resent me for saying it. But bless your hearts, I’ve got to take that risk, because I love you enough to tell you what you need to hear even if you might resent it. Foolish talk: If we give utterance to foolish talk, what by law do we make ourselves? …more foolish. Proverbs 15:2, “…the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth,” what? “…speaketh.” {Lk 6:45} But by the law of reciprocal influence, when you verbalize foolishness, what do you make yourself? More foolish. Until you can make yourself so lightweight and superficial and silly that you are incapable of any substantive, sober, deep thoughts or words. You can do it; you can make yourself a total clown.

You know, the thing that makes this so easy for us to do, talk foolishly, is because of a very high estimate that the world places on somebody who can make people laugh. Are you hearing what I’m saying here? In the world, it is thought that one of the most desirable virtues is a, what? Sense of humor. Come on now, you know that. That’s thought to be one of the most desirable virtues, and when you really want to complement somebody, you say, “Oh, he’s really funny; he’s a bundle of laughs.” Question: Is that really a desirable virtue for a Christian? Come on, now, a little courage. Is it a desirable virtue for a Christian? If it was a desirable virtue for a Christian, wouldn’t we see it manifest in the life of Christ? Come on, now. Aren’t all Christ-like virtues on display in Jesus Christ? Yes. Tell me, how often do you see Christ telling jokes? Jesting, talking foolishly to get a laugh, how often do you see that? No; therefore, what must we conclude? This must not be a genuine Christian virtue. Perhaps this is a counterfeit to what a true Christian has, and that is real joy and happiness.

Work with me on this. Please understand what I’m trying to say here. This is a fine line we’ve got to walk and I don’t want to be misunderstood. Let’s stick close to inspiration. Evangelism, page 641, Evangelism, 641: “When anyone can point to one trifling word spoken by our Lord, or to any lightness seen in His character, he may feel that lightness and jesting are excusable in himself. This spirit is unchristian; for to be a Christian is to be,” what? “…Christ-like. Jesus is a perfect pattern, and we must imitate His example. A Christian is the highest type of man, a representative of Christ.” Was Christ a jokester? No. Therefore a Christian, who is to represent Christ, will not be a jokester. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} You can’t argue intelligently against this.

But please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not, most emphatically, I am not advocating a mournful, gloomy spirit and disposition. The Christian ought to be the happiest person on the face of the earth. {LHU 376.5} But there’s a difference between true joy and happiness, which is the byproduct of holiness {RC 161.7}, there is a big difference between that and this counterfeit cheap substitute called foolishness or silliness. Yes, telling a joke brings a temporary laugh, but then it’s, what? It’s over. But the genuine, a word spoken in due season {Prov 15:23}, something to encourage and uplift, to remind of the love and faithfulness of God, that brings true, lasting joy to the one who hears it. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} Was Jesus Christ always ready to speak a word in due season? To bring joy and comfort to the hearts of the sorrowing, suffering human race? Was He? Yes. But did He go around telling jokes, making people laugh? No. There is a difference, isn’t there? God help us go for the genuine, not the counterfeit. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen}

Bible Commentary, Volume 7, page 938: “It is right to be cheerful, and even joyful. It is right to cultivate cheerfulness of spirit through sanctification of the truth; but it is not right to indulge in foolish jesting and joking, in lightness and trifling…” Do you see the distinction between the genuine and the counterfeit? Do you see it? Here’s another one. Child Guidance, page 146: “There is nothing gloomy in the religion of Jesus. While all lightness, trifling, and jesting, which the apostle says are not convenient {Eph 5:4}, are to be studiously avoided, there is a sweet rest and peace in Jesus that will be expressed in the countenance. Christians will not be mournful, depressed, and despairing. They will be sober-minded, yet they will show to the world a cheerfulness which only grace can impart.” Does that help? Do you see the distinction here? Please understand the difference between the counterfeit and the genuine though. What I’m afraid we have done, yes, even in this church, is that we have bought into the counterfeit and we consider that to be a desirable virtue. It’s not. It’s not, because we don’t see it in Jesus.

Review and Herald, October 29, 1903: “Be careful of your words. Do not waste precious moments in foolish conversation. Live so near to Christ that you will always be ready to speak a word in season to him that is weary. {Is 50:4} Put away all pride, all selfishness, all lightness and trifling. Jesting and joking are an offence to God, and a denial of your faith. They unfit the mind for solid thought and earnest labor, making men superficial and inefficient. Be circumspect, and at the same time cheerful and happy, showing forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} Oh, brother, sister, you see, Christians should be sunshiny people. Amen? {Amen} We should have a positive, uplifting, encouraging disposition and spirit and influence on everyone with whom we come in contact. But we can have that only as we behold and talk about the virtues and the power and the grace that is ours in the Sun of Righteousness. In beholding you are changed; you reflect His light and love and power. That’s how you become sunshiny, by beholding the Sun of Righteousness. Amen? And talking about Him.

Bottom of the page, Review and Herald, March 12, 1872. Listen to this; this is remarkable. “There are those who do not feel that it is a religious duty to discipline the mind to dwell upon cheerful subjects, that they may reflect light rather than darkness and gloom. This class of minds will either be engaged in seeking their own pleasure, in frivolous conversation, laughing and joking, keeping the mind continually elated with a round of amusements; or they will be depressed, having great trials and mental conflicts, which they think but few have ever experienced or can understand. These persons may profess Christianity, but they deceive their own souls. They have not the genuine article.”

My friends, you see, you can go one of two ways, can’t you? You can either go the cheap counterfeit way, or you can go the gloom and doom way. But what is the solution? Looking to the Sun of Righteousness, beholding Him. And in beholding Him, you will be, what? You will be changed. You will be the happiest person on the face of the earth {LHU 376.5}, and you will have a word to speak in due season {Is 50:4} that will be a blessing to others. It’s so important to understand how this works. Please don’t be fooled by the counterfeit. Don’t express foolishness, jesting, joking, but always be ready to speak of the love and the grace and the precious promises of God that you might bring lasting joy and happiness to others. Let’s stand.

Father in heaven, I thank you so much for helping us not only understand this law of reciprocal influence, but helping us understand why it is so important to carefully guard what escapes our mouths. O Lord, we have considered what the Apostle Paul has forbidden us to give utterance to: filthiness and foolish talking. There are several other things, and Father help us to recognize that every time Scripture exhorts us not to do something, it’s for our own good and we need to take that seriously, and in the strength of Christ refuse to give utterance to anything inappropriate. Especially this is important when we understand the law of reciprocal influence. So continue to be with us as we continue our study this afternoon, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. God bless you, friends.


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