October 8, 2023

The Closer You Come to Jesus

If you are growing in grace, what happens?

Clifford Goldstein

The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan’s delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you.”1

Though we all know these lines, or should, have we all thought through their implications?

If you are growing in grace, what happens? The “more faulty you will appear in your own eyes”; that is, the worse you are going to feel about yourself, at least in terms of character. Your “imperfections,” moral flaws, and faults will be seen in contrast to Jesus’ “perfect nature.” We, who sometimes can barely stand to compare ourselves to other fallen beings—how do we fare before the “perfect nature” of God Himself?

Two other things happen “the closer you come to Jesus.” First, “Satan’s delusions” are, she said, losing their power over you; second, the Spirit of God is “arousing you.” Arousing you to what? To, obviously, just how sinful and fallen you are. Satan’s delusions, in contrast, must involve hiding from you what the Spirit of God is telling you.

Now, the Holy Spirit is not going to lie to you, is He? As Jesus said: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13), which includes, obviously, “all truth” about your faults and imperfections. So if the Spirit tells you that you are imperfect and faulty, then you are imperfect and faulty. And “the closer you come to Jesus,” the more imperfect and faulty the Holy Spirit shows you to be.

Will you, then, ever reach the point where the Holy Spirit won’t have to keep telling you that? Will you ever get to where the Spirit of God says, You’ve arrived; hallelujah! That doesn’t seem possible, does it, at least based on what she says, which is that “the closer you come to Jesus” the more faulty you appear? From what she does say, though, Satan would be the one whispering, You’ve arrived; hallelujah! in your ears.

This truth doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome, or that you can’t be a new person in Christ, or that you can’t reflect the character of Jesus. Of course not. A few sentences later she says, “The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more fully we shall reflect His image.”2

What it does mean is that, however much you reflect Christ’s image, however loving, patient, forgiving, and nonjudgmental you become, you are still an inherently fallen being, hard-wired in sin, and that—even if enduring the time of trouble and remaining alive when Jesus returns—you need “the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22). In fact, “the closer you come to Jesus,” the more you know that you need it.

1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), pp. 64, 65.

2 Ibid., p. 65.