Self Must Die

“Let every word and each desire and all my days be Thine.”
My Maker and My King*

Do you believe that every word you speak and every desire you have should be in harmony with God’s will? Or do you have desires that are not in harmony with God’s will?

While the fundamental principle of God’s law is divine love, and the two great commandments are love to God and love to man—which are the ten commandments in action—we still must cooperate with Him and take up our cross and follow Jesus. When Adam and Eve sinned, the natural selfishness that took the place of God’s principle of righteousness in their hearts was passed on to their subsequent generations, making all of mankind sinful, but not just in action. Sin is a part of the human race, just as much as an arm or an eye; sinful is what we are. Man cannot cut it out; there is no medicine he can concoct that can cure it. Sin can only be removed by the miraculous recreative power of the almighty God. And that miracle began 6,000 years ago.

We find in Genesis 3:15 God promises that the devil would not have control over mankind forever. He said that if a man chose to return his loyalty to God, then He would change that man’s heart and mind, replacing his selfishness with His law of love, and would supernaturally give the man the ability to hate sin, going against his carnal nature. He further promised that He would send His Son to be man’s Saviour, who, though killed by the very people He came to save, would rise again and at the end of the present world, completely destroy sin and Satan. Restoration to the image of God and the absolute destruction of sin—this was the covenant promise of God to His people.

How does God supernaturally put this hatred—this enmity—for sin in the heart? “By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus.” The Desire of Ages, 391

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

“God is love and love is life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 258

Satan Misrepresents the Character of God and Deceives the World

During our study of the mystery of godliness, we have found that this mystery deals directly with the nature of Jesus Christ.

“Never before had there been a being upon the earth who hated sin with so perfect a hatred as did Christ. He had seen its deceiving, infatuating power upon the holy angels, causing them to revolt, and all His powers were enlisted against Satan. In the purity and holiness of His life, Christ flashed the light of truth amid the moral darkness with which Satan had enshrouded the world. Christ exposed his falsehoods and deceiving character, and spoiled his corrupting influence.

“It was this that stirred Satan with such an intense hatred of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 118

So, what caused the revolt? “With his [Satan’s] hosts of fallen beings he determined to urge the warfare most vigorously; for there stood One in the world who was a perfect representation of the Father, and in His character and practices was a refutation of Satan’s misrepresentations of the character of God.” Ibid.

And he continues still to misrepresent God’s character in the world today.

“It was the purity and sinlessness of Christ’s humanity that stirred up such satanic hatred. His truth revealed their falsehoods. Satan saw God, whom he had charged with the attributes which he himself possessed, revealed in Christ in His true character—a compassionate, merciful God, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to Him in repentance and have eternal life.” Ibid.

Jesus came to this world and lived a life that was the very essence of God’s true nature. Satan could lie all he wanted, but Jesus came as a man, compassionate, loving, merciful, pleading with all to choose to return to their Maker—He was God’s law personified and thus could not lie.

But Satan still charges God with his own attributes, and people all around the world believe that if there is a God in heaven, He must not be very loving or merciful. Many so-called Christian doctrines are devices of the devil to misrepresent the character of God to deceive people, but these doctrines are totally contradictory to the Bible’s description of God’s true character.

God Offers Transformation

Many people believe, including many Adventists, that God sent His Son in the same sinful flesh as fallen man, and thereby are unwittingly echoing the very same accusations against God that the devil has been making for thousands of years. Satan said that God was unfair and unjust, even cruel because it was impossible for man to keep the law, to offer perfect obedience to God. And God knows that, but demands it anyway. But God sent Jesus to prove that man, with his human nature, could keep the law and could become a partaker of the divine nature, both of which existed in Jesus—the fleshly nature we have, and the holy nature that God offers to sinful, fallen mankind.

“He [Jesus] 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.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 140

“Satan is ever seeking to bring about a state of things in which righteousness may be termed unrighteousness, and unrighteousness righteousness.” The Review and Herald, April 15, 1890

“If this matter were rightly understood and closely guarded, God’s servants would feel a continual burden of responsibility to counterwork the efforts of the men who do not know what they are about, because they are enchanted by the delusive allurements of Satan. When God’s people are fully awake to the danger of the hour, and work fully on Christ’s side, there will be seen a sharp contrast between their course and that of those who are saying, ‘Good Lord, and good devil,’ and we shall see much firmer and more decided work done to counterwork the schemes of satanic agencies.” Testimonies for the Church Containing Letters to Physicians and Ministers Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists, 11

In the humanity of Christ, the covenant promise was fulfilled. God prepared for His Son a human body and inscribed in His human heart His own divine attributes—the principles of righteousness and His law of love. The covenant promise was forever established and ratified when Jesus died on the cross, and the penalty demanded for man’s transgression was paid.

This natural enmity, this hostility that exists in the natural heart of man hates God’s law and the principles of righteousness and the love on which that law is founded. Man cannot love both selfishness and righteousness; the principles are diametrically opposite. If man is willing to return his loyalty to God, then He has promised to supernaturally give to man this enmity against sin through the process of sanctification, which begins with justification by faith. We are told that by studying God’s word, our natural, carnal nature will be destroyed and, in its place a new life in Christ Jesus will be found. This is sanctification.

The Example of Cain

Genesis 4 tells us that in response to God’s request for a burnt sacrifice, Cain brought an offering of fruit from his field. The Bible tells us that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, so did Cain’s offering meet that requirement? And what are the implications of his offering?

  1. There was no confession of sin. The apostle John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9. According to this verse you cannot expect to be forgiven if you do not confess.
  2. There was no acknowledgment that he was in need of a Saviour.

Yes, Cain brought an offering, but his offering did not meet God’s requirements, instead, it showed a reliance on self. Today, there are tens of thousands of people making the same mistake as Cain. Trusting to themselves and to their own wisdom, their self-righteousness prevents them from realizing their own spiritual poverty. The Lord addressed this problem in Revelation 3:17 when He said, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” If we fail to see the spiritual nature of the law and therefore fail to recognize our own spiritual poverty and sinfulness, then we are in the Laodicean condition. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8–10

“Those who have permitted their minds to become beclouded in regard to what constitutes sin are fearfully deceived. Unless they make a decided change, they will be found wanting when God pronounces judgment upon the children of men. They have transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant, and they will receive according to their works.” Testimonies, Vol. 9, 267

This fearful, Laodicean deception involves breaking the everlasting covenant. Jesus counsels those in the Laodicean church to come to Him for a change of clothing—putting off their own filthy rags and putting on His white raiment—so that they are properly dressed for the wedding supper of the Lamb. We cannot attend the wedding supper clothed in our man-made, natural, fig-leaf garments. We must have a garment woven in the loom of heaven, and this we cannot make for ourselves.

Cain was not an atheist. He came to worship God, but he came to worship Him in his own way rather than according to God’s instruction. He decided that God should be satisfied with what he offered.

The Example of Paul

Before Paul was a Christian, he was an exemplary Pharisee, stringent in his belief that he followed the law implicitly. And in his outward life, Paul was blameless in terms of his outward actions (Philippians 3; Acts 26:5). It would be difficult to find anything that he had said or done that was contrary to the law of God, but true obedience involves more than just how a person behaves on the outside.

The problem with the religion of the Pharisees was that it did not touch the soul. Paul was not seeking Godlikeness of character, or for a heart filled with love and mercy. He was satisfied with the religion that touched only the outward life. His righteousness was the fruit of his own works.

But, when Paul was convicted of the spiritual nature of the law he said, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” Romans 7:9. He was alive as a Pharisee without the law and thought he was perfect, but when he understood the spiritual nature of the law, he could see that his heart was evil. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Verse 18. When Paul understood the spirit of the law, he could see himself for the sinner he was, and then self was able to die.

“When the spiritual character of the law was discerned, when he [Paul] looked into the holy mirror, he saw himself a sinner. Judged by a human standard, he had abstained from sin, but when he looked into the depths of God’s law, and saw himself as God saw him, he bowed in humiliation, and confessed his guilt.” The Review and Herald, July 22, 1890

When sin is limited narrowly to a choice of action, rather than regarded as encompassing every aspect of our existence, the spiritual character of the law is not discerned, and a human standard is set up in the place of the great moral standard of righteousness.

Paul was convicted by the tenth commandment. “I had not known sin except by the law. I had not known lust except the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ” Romans 7:7. How is the sin of covetousness related to false gods and false worship?

“All covetousness is condemned as idolatry.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 261

“All selfishness is covetousness, and is, therefore, idolatry.” The Review and Herald, May 23, 1907

“No selfishness is of Christ. Selfishness lies at the foundation of all sin.” The Signs of the Times, April 11, 1900

A person who is not selfish will never commit a sin. You see, this is our problem: we believe that sin is just something we do, but really sin is what is on the inside. Our outward actions are simply an expression of our inward condition. If I have a selfish heart, then I am a sinner, and because of that selfish heart, I will covet what my neighbor has; I will be prideful, desiring worldly fame and fortune, power, and recognition; I will resent that my friend has a better job than I do or a bigger house. These are all feelings, part of a person’s sinful nature and character. They don’t require action to be sin.

“Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 330

“The time demands greater efficiency and deeper consecration. … ‘Raise up and send forth messengers filled with a sense of their responsibility, messengers in whose hearts self-idolatry, which lies at the foundation of all sin, has been crucified.’ ” Testimonies, Vol. 9, 27

We see, then, that selfishness is not only a natural human trait of character, it is an imperfection of character that must be crucified. Since imperfection of character is sin, our natural selfishness is sin. All selfishness is covetousness and is therefore idolatry. Self was the idol of Cain and his descendants, and also the Pharisees. Laodicea believed they were worshiping God, but in fact were worshiping at the idol of self.

“Self must be crucified, else sin will remain to defile the whole being. The Cain-spirit must not be allowed to enter the heart; for the hatred it brings is next of kin to murder. …

“They love themselves and their own ways, failing to realize that their ways, their words, and their characters are opposed to God. Such can never reach perfection unless they see themselves as they are.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 21, 1899

Once I understood the spiritual nature of the law, I could see that unless I allow a change in my heart and mind, I am lost, even though I profess to be religious. It was then that I went to the Lord, admitting that I am totally lost unless He saves me. I must put my trust in Him for I cannot save myself.

“Blessed is the soul who can say, ‘I am guilty before God: but Jesus is my Advocate. I have transgressed His law. I cannot save myself; but I make the precious blood that was shed on Calvary all my plea.’ ” Sons and Daughters of God, 120

On the road to Damascus, Paul met Jesus and realized that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour. He also realized that if his natural disposition wasn’t miraculously changed, he would be lost.

While in prison, Paul wrote the book of Philippians and in its chapters we find Paul’s story of transformation—no longer a Pharisee, but now a disciple of Christ.

“For we are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:3–14

The Example of Christ

While Jesus possessed the likeness of sinful flesh in the mortal body of man, He did not possess the same sinful flesh, the disposition of the carnal mind (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:7; 3:21). Suffering was more keenly felt by Him, for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin, and it is this nature, the character of Christ, that He wants to give to you and me.

“Christ’s perfect humanity is the same that man may have through connection with Christ.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 181. “It is the privilege of every believer in Christ to possess Christ’s nature, a nature far above that which Adam forfeited by transgression.” The Upward Look, 18

“The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled.” Steps to Christ, 60

In the old covenant, the law was written on tables of stone, but in the new covenant, God says that He will put His law in the hearts of His people, and when the law is written in your heart, you will want to always seek to do what is right. “And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” Ibid.

It is the love of self that brings unrest. Jesus invites us to accept from Him a new heart and mind. When we are reborn from above, we will have the same mind as Jesus, only then will we find the peace that He offers. “ ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ” Matthew 11:28

It is the glory of God to give His virtue to His children. Jesus said to His disciples, “ ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.’ ” John 14:27, first part. The peace that Jesus gives is the result of His love for the law of God and the principles of righteousness written in His human heart, just as they were written in the heart of Adam before his fall.

“From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.” The Desire of Ages, 161 That was God’s purpose from eternal ages. “Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of heaven is fulfilled.” Ibid.

Friends, we were meant to be a temple for the indwelling of our Creator. It is sin that has made us unfit to be His dwelling place.

It is Christ’s mission to deliver you from sin and to make your heart and mind a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Will you let Him?

* The words to My Maker and My King, were written by Anne Steele as an “expression of praise to her Maker and a heart of thankfulness for all the blessings of life.”

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.