No Excuse

Years ago, there was a comedian who portrayed a character that would often say, “The devil made me do it!” The character used this as an excuse for having done things that they knew they shouldn’t do. How many of us use the same excuse, whether we realize it or not? It seemed funny when spoken as part of the comedian’s skit, but there is nothing funny about sin or making excuses for it.

The Bible tells us that none of us is good, not one (Psalm 14:3), that the human heart seeks only to do evil (Genesis 6:5). Why is mankind so bad? Because our first parents chose to believe a lie rather than to trust in their Creator, and as a consequence they were changed and sin entered the world. This is made clear in the Spirit of Prophecy, “The beginning of yielding to temptation is in the sin of permitting the mind to waver, to be inconsistent in your trust in God. The wicked one is ever watching for a chance to misrepresent God and to attract the mind to that which is forbidden.” Mind, Character and Personality, Vol. 1, 31

God had created Adam and Eve in His own image, to be like Him. But disobedience changed them, and their nature became selfish and proud, self-serving and rebellious. Since this change in man’s nature, he naturally is, and seeks to do, evil. Man’s natural sinful tendencies lead him to pursue, nurture, just plain work hard at developing cultivated sins—things such as drinking alcohol, gambling, breaking the Sabbath, adultery, covetousness, jealousy, conceit, pride, and many other things.

James 1:14 describes it this way: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Since Adam and Eve sinned, each subsequent generation is born to want to do evil and Satan is more than happy to help us continue living that way. “Why is there so much misery and suffering in the world today? Is it because God loves to see His creatures miserable? Oh, no! It is because the immoral habits of man have weakened his physical, mental, and moral powers.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 9, 234

Satan has at his disposal a large arsenal that he uses against us with great effectiveness. To begin with, he hates God. God loves us so much that He gave His Son to save us, so consequently, Satan hates us, too. He will do anything and use any means to keep us under his control. He deceives, lies, manipulates, promises, accuses, forces, berates, insinuates, demeans, and tempts. He has spent the last 6,000 years mastering the art of temptation and wielding the other weapons in his armory.

“If he can, he will fasten the mind upon the things of the world. He will endeavor to excite the emotions, to arouse the passions, to fasten the affections on that which is not for your good; but it is for you to hold every emotion and passion under control, in calm subjection to reason and conscience. Then Satan loses his power to control the mind.” Mind, Character and Personality, Vol. 1, 31

First of all, let’s look at what sin is not. Temptation is not sin. You can be tempted all day long, but if you do not yield to temptation, then you have not sinned. Yielding to temptation is sinning.

How many times have you thought your life was all but wasted because of all the sinful things you have done, the wrong choices you have made, the many times you have turned to do your desires rather than to follow God? A hundred times? A thousand? How many times have you thought, “How in the world can God even want me after all I’ve done?” That’s devil talk. Satan is telling you that God cannot love you because you are too bad.

Read the following quotation carefully and, maybe, read it again, “The strongest temptation is no excuse for sin. However great the pressure brought to bear upon the soul, transgression is our own act. It is not in the power of earth or hell to compel anyone to sin. The will must consent, the heart must yield, or passion cannot overbear reason, nor iniquity triumph over righteousness.” Maranatha, 225

Did you get that? You cannot be compelled to sin against your will! You can’t even blame it on the devil. If you or I sin, it is a result of our own action.

“It is not because there is any flaw in the title which has been purchased for you that you do not accept it. It is not because the mercy, the grace, the love of the Father and the Son is not ample, and has not been freely bestowed, that you do not rejoice in pardoning love. … If you are lost, it will be because you will not come unto Christ that you might have life.” Our Father Cares, 92

“ ‘According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.’ Then if you are lost, you will be left without excuse.” Peter’s Counsel to Parents, 11

“Temptation is not sin unless it is cherished. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, will fill the soul with peace and abiding trust. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ [Isaiah 59:19].” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 2, 343

The devil knows us very well. He knows how to tempt us and he will find every possible way to do it. I grew up watching television—what we called good, wholesome family shows in those days—kid shows, nature shows, and family movies. However, as I got older I began to watch other programs. This opened a whole Pandora’s box of worldly things to see and hear and wonder about. There was hardly a day that went by that the TV wasn’t on in my house, even if I wasn’t watching it. I used the excuse that it provided me with company.

The negative influence that TV programs and movies have had on my life is incalculable. So many of my likes and dislikes, the things that drove many of my decisions in life can, to a large degree, be traced back to the hours and hours I spent watching television. All of these did their work over the years to diminish my desire for prayer and Bible study, and also provided the devil with fertile material to use against me. “Decisions may be made in a moment that fix one’s condition forever. … But remember, it would take the work of a lifetime to recover what a moment of yielding to temptation and thoughtlessness throws away.” My Life Today, 322. Think of all the days and hours thrown away that can never be retrieved again and how much work is now required in order to recover.

“By a momentary act of will you may place yourself in the power of Satan, but it will require more than a momentary act of will to break his fetters and reach for a higher, holier life. The purpose may be formed, the work begun, but its accomplishment will require toil, time, and perseverance, patience, and sacrifice. The man who deliberately wanders from God in the full blaze of light will find, when he wishes to set his face to return, that briars and thorns have grown up in his path, and he must not be surprised or discouraged if he is compelled to travel long with torn and bleeding feet. The most fearful and most to be dreaded evidence of man’s fall from a better state is the fact that it costs so much to get back. The way of return can be gained only by hard fighting, inch by inch, every hour.” Ibid.

These are all sobering thoughts and quotations, but my purpose for this writing is not to discourage or cause anguish of heart. Yes, we are tempted. Yes, we have yielded, but, praise God, we don’t have to yield. “There is no excuse for man to remain in transgression and sin, because strength has been provided for him in Jesus, that he may overcome. The God of heaven Himself is working by His Spirit.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 9, 233. Imagine! God Himself is working on your behalf to make us strong enough to resist temptation.

Christ came to this world to pay the penalty for sins on behalf of every man, woman, and child, but He also came to live the very life that God has promised to every man. God doesn’t just say, “Do this.” Or “Be this.” No. He says I have shown you the way, walk in it. I have provided everything you will need, including My promise that you will be able to do it (Christ’s Object Lessons, 333).

“Not only did Christ give explicit rules showing how we may become obedient children, but He showed us in His own life and character just how to do those things which are right and acceptable with God, so there is no excuse why we should not do those things which are pleasing in His sight. …

“In Him was found the perfect ideal. To reveal this ideal as the only true standard for attainment; to show what every human being might become; what, through the indwelling of humanity by divinity, all who received Him would become—for this, Christ came to the world. He came to show how men are to be trained as befits the sons of God; how on earth they are to practice the principles and to live the life of heaven.” Our Father Cares, 310

“We are ever to be thankful that Jesus has proved to us by actual facts that man can keep the commandments of God, giving contradiction to Satan’s falsehood that man cannot keep them. The Great Teacher came to our world to stand at the head of humanity, to thus elevate and sanctify humanity by His holy obedience to all of God’s requirements showing it is possible to obey all the commandments of God. He has demonstrated that a lifelong obedience is possible. Thus He gives men to the world, as the Father gave the Son, to exemplify in their life the life of Jesus Christ.” Lift Him Up, 170

Some have said that Christ did this because He was God. But if Jesus had had a single advantage that is not available to us, how could we follow what He says, live as He lived?

“We need not place the obedience of Christ by itself as something for which He was particularly adapted, by His particular divine nature, for He stood before God as man’s representative and [was] tempted as man’s substitute and surety. If Christ had a special power which it is not the privilege of man to have, Satan would have made capital of this matter. The work of Christ was to take from the claims of Satan his control of man, and He could do this only in the way that He came—a man, tempted as a man, rendering the obedience of a man.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, 340

“Our Lord was tempted as man is tempted. He was capable of yielding to temptations, as are human beings. His finite nature was pure and spotless, but the divine nature that led Him to say to Philip, ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’ also, was not humanized; neither was humanity deified by the blending or union of the two natures; each retained its essential character and properties.

“The divine nature, combined with the human, made Him capable of yielding to Satan’s temptations. Here the test to Christ was far greater than that of Adam and Eve, for Christ took our nature, fallen but not corrupted, and would not be corrupted unless He received the words of Satan in the place of the words of God. To suppose He was not capable of yielding to temptation places Him where He cannot be a perfect example for man, and the force and the power of this part of Christ’s humiliation, which is the most eventful, is no instruction or help to human beings.” Ibid., Vol. 16, 182, 183

“Obedience is the outgrowth and fruit of oneness with Christ and the Father. …

“Bear in mind that Christ’s overcoming and obedience is that of a true human being. In our conclusions, we make many mistakes because of our erroneous views of the human nature of our Lord. When we give, to His human nature, a power that it is not possible for man to have in his conflicts with Satan, we destroy the completeness of His humanity. His imputed grace and power He gives to all who receive Him by faith. The obedience of Christ to His Father was the same obedience that is required of man.” Ibid., Vol. 6, 340, 341

Wait, I am to give the same obedience to God as Christ gave? How is that possible?

Man cannot overcome Satan’s temptations without divine power to combine with his instrumentality. So with Jesus Christ, He could lay hold of divine power. He came not to our world to give the obedience of a lesser God to a greater, but as a man to obey God’s holy law, and in this way He is our example.

“The Lord Jesus came to our world, not to reveal what a God could do, but what a man could do, through faith in God’s power to help in every emergency. Man is, through faith, to be a partaker in the divine nature, and to overcome every temptation wherewith he is beset. The Lord now demands that every son and daughter of Adam through faith in Jesus Christ, serve Him in human nature which we now have.

“The Lord Jesus has bridged the gulf that sin has made. He has connected earth with heaven, and finite man with the infinite God. Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, could only keep the commandments of God, in the same way that humanity can keep them. ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ 2 Peter 1:4. …

“… by thinking and talking of Jesus we become charmed with His character, and by faith we become changed from character to character. ‘And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ … We must practice the example of Christ, bearing in mind His Sonship and His humanity. It was not God that was tempted in the wilderness, nor a god that was to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself. It was the Majesty of heaven who became a man—humbled Himself to our human nature.” Ibid., 341, 342

Because of the example set forth in the life of Jesus Christ we “need not retain one sinful propensity. …

“Christ was obedient to every requirement of the law. …

“By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God’s commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.

“Through the plan of redemption, God has provided means for subduing every sinful trait, and resisting every temptation, however strong.

“The strongest temptation is no excuse for sin. However great the pressure brought to bear upon the soul, transgression is our own act. It is not in the power of earth or hell to compel anyone to sin. The will must consent, the heart must yield, or passion cannot overbear reason, nor iniquity triumph over righteousness. …

“As we partake of the divine nature, hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are cut away from the character, and we are made a living power for good. Ever learning of the divine Teacher, daily partaking of His nature, we cooperate with God in overcoming Satan’s temptations. God works, and man works, that man may be one with Christ as Christ is one with God. Then we sit together with Christ in heavenly places. The mind rests with peace and assurance in Jesus.” Maranatha, 225

“By faith and prayer all may meet the requirements of the gospel. No man can be forced to transgress. His own consent must be first gained; the soul must purpose the sinful act, before passion can dominate over reason, or iniquity triumph over conscience. Temptation, however strong, is no excuse for sin.” The Signs of the Times, February 8, 1883

“The work to which Christ calls us is to the work of progressive conquest over spiritual evil in our characters. Natural tendencies are to be overcome. … Appetite and passion must be conquered, and the will must be placed wholly on the side of Christ.” The Review and Herald, June 14, 1892

Friends, this is good news. Never again do you have to feel like a failure. Never again do you have to believe that you are too great a sinner and therefore are unable to change. Never again will the devil be able to say that you are his.

“If you will stand under the bloodstained banner of Prince Emmanuel, faithfully doing His service, you need never yield to temptation; for One stands by your side who is able to keep you from falling.” Maranatha, 225

David is an example of one who was tempted, and who yielded with grave and horrible consequences. When darkness was brought upon his soul by his sins with Bathsheba and his desire to have her at all cost, he offered no excuse. Immediately, he accepted responsibility for what he had done and the painful results that would follow.

“David awakens as from a dream. He feels the sense of his sin. He does not seek to excuse his course, or palliate his sin, as did Saul; but with remorse and sincere grief, he bows his head before the prophet of God, and acknowledges his guilt. …” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, 1023

Christ met Satan, a defeated foe, and prevailed. “The humanity of Christ received the fallen foe and engaged in battle with him. He was sustained in the conflict by divine power just as man will be sustained by his being a partaker of the divine nature. He gained victory after victory as our Champion, the Captain of our salvation … .

“All heaven rejoiced because humanity, the workmanship of God, was placed in an elevated scale with God by the signal victory gained. Christ was more than conqueror, leaving the way open that man may be more than conqueror through Christ’s merits, because He loved him. …” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 183, 184

“Temptation and trial will come to us all, but we need never be worsted by the enemy. Our Saviour has conquered in our behalf. Satan is not invincible. … Christ was tempted that He might know how to help every soul that should afterward be tempted. Temptation is not sin; the sin lies in yielding. To the soul who trusts in Jesus, temptation means victory and greater strength.” Our High Calling, 87

Do you want to walk with Jesus in truth and righteousness? Then claim the promise “It is not in the power of earth or hell to compel anyone to sin.” It is in the time of trial and temptation that we are able to measure our faith in God and the firmness of our character.

“Do not say, ‘It is impossible for me to overcome.’ Do not say, ‘It is my nature to do thus and so, and I cannot do otherwise. I have inherited weaknesses that make me powerless before temptation.’ In your own strength you cannot overcome, but help has been laid upon One that is mighty. …

“God has given His Holy Spirit as a power sufficient to subdue all your hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong-doing. By yielding the mind to the control of the Spirit, you will grow into the likeness of God’s perfect character, and will become an instrumentality through which He can reveal His mercy, His goodness and His love.

“Whatever may be your defects, the Holy Spirit will reveal them, and grace will be given you to overcome. Through the merits of the blood of Christ you may be a conqueror, yes, more than a conqueror. Will you who read these words resolve never again to excuse your defects of character by saying, ‘It is my way’? Let no one again declare, ‘I cannot change my natural habits and tendencies.’ Let the truth be admitted into the soul, and it will work to sanctify the character.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 2, 1902

“All the satanic legions cannot injure you unless you open your soul to the arts and arrows of Satan. Your ruin can never take place until your will consents. If there is not pollution of mind in yourself, all the surrounding pollution cannot taint or defile you.” Our Father Cares, 96, 97

“I must continually have my strength in God. My dependence must not waiver. No human agency must come between my soul and my God. The Lord is our only hope. In Him I trust, and He will never, no never, fail me.” That I May Know Him, 266

Judy Rebarchek is the managing editor of the LandMarks magazine. She may be contacted by email at: