In dealing with students over the years, there are several spiritual trends that I have observed that can be extrapolated to describe spiritual human nature in general which I have labeled in the terms of Students A, B1, B2 and C. While it is students that have shown these trends, it isn’t just teenagers that tend to demonstrate these characteristics, but adults, institutions, churches, schools and even the denomination as a whole. In sharing these observations, I give one caveat: Often life is not as clear-cut in real-life as it is in theory, and so it is with these observations. There are many people and groups that do not fit neatly into one box.
The first student, Student A is the student who has not had a spiritual awakening yet. This student doesn’t want to be bad, but they don’t want a relationship with God in particular yet. The text that best describes his spiritual mind frame is: "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" (Eccl 7:16)
Later on, Student A has a spiritual awakening and becomes what I call Student B1. Student B1 wants sincerely to do what is right. He reads everything in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and seeks earnestly to carry it out. The text that best describes his mind frame is:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD. Exodus 19:6-8
He has an entire list of things that he does and doesn’t do (mostly comprised of “doesn’t”). He doesn’t eat cheese, meat, vinegar, baking soda (and this can be expanded to dairy products, sugar, oil, white flour, preservatives, non-organic produce, etc. Diet is a big deal to him. This list unfortunately can go on ad infinitum as when each new health specialist that has a new idea or requirement.) He doesn’t eat in-between meals, watch movies, play sports, and listen to anything other than hymns. You could say that he is slightly, but nevertheless truly, legalistic in the technical sense.
Unfortunately, despite his sincerity and earnestness, Student B1 has some problems. First of all, even though he is in earnest and sincere, he finds that he just cannot completely carry things out. Sure, outwardly it looks pretty good. His fellow students and his staff often consider him the model student, but inside he knows that things are not working out the way that he wants and knows that it should. He is often struck with guilt over his indiscretions and inconsistencies that are unknown or are unnoticed by others. This experience is best described by Romans chapter 7.
He knows how to come to Jesus for forgiveness for these indiscretions. He prays long and hard. He tries more earnestly, prays longer and attempts to have more faith, but this just doesn’t seem to be working. (Some examples of Student B1 have more self-control, and thus more success than others. They can’t seem to figure out why other B1's just can’t get their act together). There is something missing. Student B1 doesn’t realize that this phase of experience is a precursor to the experience found in Galatians 3:24: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
There is another problem as well. Student B1 notices that there are many others that are not seeking to carry out God’s plan in their lives, at least not very earnestly, it seems to him. He becomes a “corrector in righteousness.” He gives the “straight testimony” to those not “in the way.” Loose standards bother him exceedingly. You could say that Student B1 is judgmental. Unfortunately, his correction becomes more and more obnoxious, especially to Student A. He becomes unpopular and can be the brunt of some very not nice jokes. He actually ends up being an “anti-witness.” Student A does not want to give his life to God because he is actually afraid that he will become like Student B1.
For the most part Student B1 is miserable. He doesn’t have success personally, and he is failing socially, but that is okay. God is planning to move Student B1 to a Student C experience, but before that can happen Satan tries to subvert this move through what I call a Student B2 experience.
Student B2 is the student B1 that hears a speaker gives a talk or he reads a book about the freedom to be found “in Christ” and that the Students B1 are in legalism and in bondage. He states that Student B1 needs to be free from the law and is miserable, which is true. The speaker’s message resonates in Student B1’s mind. In reaction, Student B1 throws most or sometimes all of the former standards away. He is now a Student B2! He sees himself as “free in Jesus!” He is happier, more relaxed and is more socially accepted and is even popular. This change in experience reinforces the idea that he was formerly totally wrong and now he is right. Unfortunately, Student B2’s obedience is no better, and in fact is actually worse, than during his Student B1 days. He really is a “Student A” in religious clothing. This gives him a degree of guilt, but the idea of going back to his B1 experience is just too horrifying. Any talk of obedience, the law, standards, etc. takes him emotionally right back to his Student B1 experience and he rejects it. He can even have a physical reaction to such things, making him nauseous, tense, and nervous, etc. Student B2’s experience is best described by the text:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:19-27
But Student B2's experience is not what God wants. It is actually a counterfeit of the true experience. The true experience that God wants him to have is what I call Student C.
Student C has had a Student B1 experience in the past. It isn’t necessary to walk that path; a person can go straight from a Student A to a Student C experience, but it is very, very common to go through the Student B1 experience to get to a Student C experience.
Student C has discovered what it truly means to be “in Jesus”. He doesn’t rely on his obedience, whether good or bad, for his standing with God. It is no longer relevant. His experience concerning this is best exemplified by the text: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Romans 10:4).
Instead of seeking to obey to fulfill the law to be righteous, Student C relies on Jesus’ merits for his righteousness. Now Student C’s obedience is based on totally different principles than when he was a B1; it is based on seeking to glorify God and to bless others. He reads the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy earnestly and carefully so that he can glorify God better and bless others more. He has found that in the past his ignorance often caused a failure in glorifying God and sometimes he even dishonored God and he has not been a blessing to others but rather been a curse. It is a careful application of the full principles from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy that prevents this. He repents deeply of damage he has done and grows more and more into the image of Jesus. He grows to become more and more of a blessing; he becomes more and more winsome. God looks more and more attractive to those seeking true love and unselfishness.
What is interesting is at this same time Student C is becoming better and better he is becoming more and more acutely aware of his own shortcomings. This creates regret and repentance but it does not create guilt. He sees where he has dishonored his Lord and corrects it as soon as it comes to his attention. He does not see himself as better than the other students but merely seeks to share the insights which have given him peace and happiness.
Unfortunately, to Student B1, because Student C is no longer seeking the law for righteousness, often confuses Student C’s experience with that of a Student B2. Likewise, for Student B2, because Student C is seeking earnestly to follow the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, confuses Student C with a Student B1 experience. (It is ironic, isn’t it that both Student B1 and B2 see Student C as the other?) But Student C doesn’t have the judgmentalism and rigidity of a B1, and on the other hand he doesn’t have the disobedience of a B2.