In 1961, in the matter of McGowan v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it was constitutional to have a Sunday law. The effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling was that the passing of new legislation and the administration of existing Sunday laws would be left within the purview of the States.
My family and I were living in Colorado. The Colorado legislature, at that time, was attempting to pass a statewide Sunday law. There was a great deal of agitation within Adventism. The Religious Liberty Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was very active in fighting against this legislative effort, and it is probably more the result of their work that the law did not pass. However, the fight against Sunday laws was more than a legislative one. It was a battle against a false teaching, persecution, boycotting, the inability to buy or sell, the threat of imprisonment, or even death. But the real battle we face is a spiritual one, fought in our own minds and hearts; and winning the battle inside will make it possible to win the battle out there.
We all have a sinful nature. Some people think that when they surrender their heart to Christ and are born again, their sinful nature no longer exists. But the New Testament is clear that we will do battle against our fallen, sinful nature as long as life lasts. It is only by the grace of God that we will learn to be successful in winning this battle.
“Christ desires nothing so much as to redeem His heritage from the dominion of Satan. But before we are delivered from Satan’s power without, we must be delivered from his power within.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 174, 175.
If we have sinful thoughts, sinful feelings, sinful words, and sinful actions, the devil still has a hold on our hearts. This is what the real battle is about. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles [trickery] of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10, 11. The devil uses trickery and deception to keep us in his grasp.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Verse 12
Our battle is not with each other or with people in the world. Paul says our battle is with the world, the rulers of the darkness, with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. One might say that this is the devil, and that would be correct, but it includes the agents of the devil as well.
Ephesians 6:13–17 continues: “Therefore, take up [put on] the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Notice that we are to be fully clothed with the armor of God, and that Paul describes both offensive and defensive weapons and says that we will need to use them all. Wearing the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness, being shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, your waist girded about with truth, and bearing the shield of faith leaves no place where the devil can attack. Furthermore, carrying the sword of the word of God gives you the ability to mount an offensive attack against the devil. But here is an important question: Will the sword do you any good if you have never practiced using it?
Verses 18–20: “[P]raying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication of all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12. This is the most important battle in which we will ever engage. It is a life or death battle, and if we lose this battle, we will lose our souls and eternal life. That is why Paul says to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
In the messages to the seven churches found in Revelation 2 and 3, each church is given a promise, but that promise is only given to a group of people in that church with a specific characteristic. “To him who overcomes [to conquer or gain the victory] I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21. Think of the stakes involved in this battle. If we lose this battle, we have eternal death, but if we win the battle, we will have eternal life and will be treated as royalty by the King of the universe. Jesus overcame in our behalf and gives to us an example of how we are to overcome.
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely [without cost] to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Revelation 21:5–7. God knows that the battle we are facing will be fierce. He knows that we will be tempted to quit. He wants you to see how high the stakes are in winning this battle, to encourage us to stay in the fight. Christians must understand that the only way we really lose is to give up. God guarantees success in this fight, but only to those who do not quit.
Hebrews 12 talks about resisting sin unto blood. Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight. We must surrender to the Lord, but we must also resist the devil (James 4:7). This involves putting to death our carnal [fleshly] nature (Romans 8:13). It involves crucifying the old man (Romans 6:6). This is our battle.
Discouragement is one of the devil’s main weapons, and God knows that we will be tempted to be discouraged. The devil brings to us thousands of temptations and we fall so many times. Then the devil tells us it isn’t worth the fight, that it is impossible to win. How could we win? Just see how terrible we are! But it is up to us to determine that no matter how many times we may have fallen, we will get back up and stay in the fight with God’s help.
We’re in a battle against inward corruption and outward temptation. Outward temptations are so strong because the devil knows how to match the outward temptation to the inward corruption. The devil knows what our sinful natures crave and he knows exactly what our individual natures desire and how to tempt us. The world calls that addiction. We are addicted to sin.
“The warfare between good and evil has not grown less fierce than it was in the days of the Saviour. The path to heaven is no smoother now than it was then. All our sins must be put away. Every darling indulgence that hinders our religious life must be cut off.” The Review and Herald, August 25, 1896
Jesus said, “[O]n this Rock I will build My church, and the gates [host] of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18. That is a divine promise. If we choose to surrender our wills and lives to Jesus, and if we choose to resist the devil and stay in the fight, He has promised to give us the victory. These encouragements are placed in the Bible so that no matter how we feel, we will know that we cannot afford to quit. We have to win and we can win because God has promised victory in this battle. Every moment of every day He observes what is in our hearts, and if we have committed our lives to Him, He directs the battle. He allows temptations to come, some of a very severe nature, because unless the temptations come, and unless we fight them and overcome them, we will never develop spiritual strength. The Lord does not say He will take the temptations away; He says He will fight with us until we are overcomers (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Ellen White wrote, concerning the leaders in the Adventist church, “There are few … men … who have fought and conquered in the battle with self.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 82
“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought.” Steps to Christ, 43. That is quite a statement if you study history. There have been some very significant battles in this world, but she says that the battle one fights to overcome the natural, sinful heart and soul is the greatest battle that has ever been fought. No matter how long we have been Christians, day by day we must wage the battle against our sinful, fallen nature and overcome it, or else we will be overcome.
“Till the conflict is ended, there always will be a departing from God. Satan will so shape circumstances that unless we are kept by divine power, they will almost imperceptibly weaken the fortifications of the soul. We need to inquire at every step, ‘Is this the way of the Lord?’ As long as life shall last, there is need of guarding the affections and the passions with a firm purpose. Not one moment can we be secure except as we rely upon God, our lives hid with Christ. The safeguards of our purity must be watchfulness and prayer. We must do nothing to lower the standard of our religious principles.” The Review and Herald, February 22, 1906
Ellen White also says, “There are many things to be overcome. Day by day the battle goes on. The struggle is lifelong; for Satan watches every opportunity to take advantage of us, that he may ensnare us to our ruin.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 18, 138
“Character will always be tested. If Christ dwells in us, day by day and year by year, we shall grow into a noble heroism. This is our allotted task, but it cannot be accomplished without help from Jesus, without resolute decision, unwavering purpose, continual watchfulness, and unceasing prayer. Each has a personal battle to fight; each must win his way through struggles and discouragements. Those who decline the struggle, lose the strength and joy of victory. No one, not even God, can make our characters noble or our lives useful unless we make the effort necessary on our part.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 29, 1907. Even God cannot save us if we are not willing to put forth effort in our own behalf. “We must put features of beauty into our lives. We must seek to expel the unlovely traits, while God works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Ibid.
Imagine what would happen within a church if over 50 percent of the congregation had expelled all their unlovely traits of character. The latter rain of the Holy Spirit has not been poured out because we still possess unlovely traits of character. But if those traits are expelled, the Holy Spirit can then be poured out in the form of the latter rain, and by the power of God signs, wonders, and miracles will be seen and His work in the world will rapidly be finished. We will be able to go home.
We must ask the Lord to help us fight against our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
“Jesus came to this earth, marred and seared by the curse, for the purpose of bringing moral power to men. He fought the battle in man’s behalf in the wilderness of temptation, and it was the same battle that everyone of us must fight till the close of time.” The Signs of the Times, September 30, 1889. We must gain the victory for then we can lay down our weapons, lay off our armor, and enjoy the pleasures of eternity.
“Not one who complies with the conditions will be disappointed at the end of the race. Not one who is earnest and persevering will fail of success. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. The weakest saint, as well as the strongest, may wear the crown of immortal glory. All may win … .” The Acts of the Apostles, 313
No matter how weak we may be, we can win. How do we know? Because Jesus has promised to help us gain the victory.
“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy [satisfaction, pleasures]. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. In the presence of God there is fullness of joy, pleasures forever. Whatever sinful pleasure we are struggling with, is it worth losing this?
“To reject the Holy Spirit, through whose power we conquer the forces of evil, is the sin that surpasses all others; for it cuts us off from the source of our power—from Christ and communion with Him.” The Review and Herald, August 25, 1896
The power that enables us to overcome comes only from the Holy Spirit. In the book Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, Series A, No. 10, 37, Ellen White, talking about the time of the apostles, said, “The prince of the power of evil can only be held in check by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.”
If there is no other way by which we can be overcomers, should we not be asking for the power of the Holy Spirit as we engage in this battle against self? Without Him we will not win. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds [works] of the body [our sinful nature], you will live.” Romans 8:13. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit are we enabled to put to death the deeds of our sinful natures. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient [enough] for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. That was written for every saint, the weakest as well as the strongest.
“The conflict is not yet ended; and as we draw near the close of time, the battle waxes more intense.” The Review and Herald, April 14, 1896
The Lord will give us the victory over self if we do not give up. [Emphasis supplied.]
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: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.