Story – Sin Stinks

Years ago, my husband and I had two dogs, Dixie and Chuck. Neither of them were purebreds and both were rescue dogs. While Dixie was the smaller dog, she was what we call the alpha dog—the boss. Together those two got into all sorts of adventures.

Both Dixie and Chuck had been trained not to chase or harm any other animal or bird in any way, and they obeyed this directive to a tee, with one exception. For a reason known only to her, Dixie loved skunks. Being the boss, Dixie led the way in their adventures and this included the occasional run-in with the skunks that lived in the pasture around our house.

We lived in the country, about a quarter of a mile north of a section of the Chikaskia River. Dixie and Chuck loved playing in the river, which was only ever about six to eight inches deep except for a handful of times in the five or six years we lived there when it flooded.

Many Sabbath afternoons, we would take the path mowed through the waist-high grasses down to the river to watch the dogs play in the water and fetch the sticks we threw for them.

One such Sabbath, we were headed back to the house when I heard my husband say quietly to me, “Run.” I wasn’t sure that I heard him, so I said, “What?” He repeated, a bit more urgently, “Run.”

I said, “Why?” He was already backing up the path away from me and pointing behind me. I turned just in time to see a skunk emerging from the grass with Dixie headed right for it. I yelled, “Dixie! No!” But Dixie wasn’t listening. She had to meet this new friend and she ran right up to the skunk as it turned around and raised its tail. I yelled for Chuck to come, and turned to run just as Dixie’s nose went right to that skunk’s tail. And with a resounding yelp, Dixie backpedaled away from that skunk very quickly.

When surprised or feeling threatened, skunks defend themselves by spraying a foul-smelling chemical that can cause irritation, temporary blindness, violent sickness, and a runny nose. It is strong enough that it can ward off bears and other potential attackers. But here’s the part about skunk spray that made it not only bad for Dixie, but for all of us. Skunk spray and smell can travel in the air as far as 3.5 miles downwind. While the wind that day wasn’t blowing hard, it was blowing straight toward us. My husband, Chuck and I ran as fast as we could to get inside the house, leaving Dixie to fend for herself.

When things had calmed down, we went out to give Dixie what had become a regular occurrence—a bath with some special, heavy-duty shampoo supplied by our vet to remove the smell.

You know, that experience, and the many others that followed for Dixie (because she never did give up her liking for skunks), is a lot like us and sin. Because of our sinful nature, we are attracted to the devil and seem to think that he is our friend, but, my sweet children, he is not. He tempts us to do wrong and when we give in, he just tempts us again and again. And the more we give in, the more sin fills our lives and covers every part of us until we are enveloped in the stink of sin.

But, there is a remedy. Just like we were able to use that special shampoo to get that horrible smell off Dixie, Jesus can cleanse us and remove the stink of sin.

David once did some very bad things, and all he could sense of himself was the stink of sin. So he prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:7, 10

And Revelation 7:14 tells us that God’s people won’t be stinky with sin when He comes to take them to heaven because they will have been washed clean. “These are the ones who come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

I have a great many favorite songs and one of them is titled Are You Washed in the Blood? I’m sharing the words on the right.

Remember, the devil is not your friend. But if you forget or even purposely give in to his temptations and you start to stink of sin, just go to the fountain flowing with the cleansing blood of Jesus and He will wash you, clean you right up, and make you one of His children.

The next time you smell something really bad, say to yourself, “I don’t want to smell stinky with sin, so I’m going to ask Jesus to always help me to do what is right and to remember that the devil is not my friend and that sin stinks.”

 

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

 

Are you walking daily by the Saviour’s side?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

 

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,

And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;

There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,

O be washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Are you washed in the blood,

In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless?

Are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Called to Victory

Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. … O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. … Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

Let those who are engaged in the Master’s service study these eloquent words. What is the object of divine compassion?—The uplifting of fallen humanity. For this purpose messengers from the throne of God are sent to this earth. In Second Kings, we read how holy angels came on a mission to guard the Lord’s chosen servants. The prophet Elisha was in Dothan, and thither the king of Israel [Syria] sent horses and chariots and a great host to take him. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

Angels of God came down in mighty power, not to rule or exact homage, but to minister to those who should be heirs of salvation. They came in mighty power to camp round about the Lord’s faithful servants.

Depend on this: If you study the word of God with a sincere desire to gain knowledge, God will fill your soul with light. The mysteries of heaven will become the treasures of your mind. Your work will be approved by God, and your influence will be a savor of life. Never complain. Let not your lips utter perverseness. Do not talk darkness because appearances are against you. We are in a world of sin and crime. As we work for the Master, we shall feel pressure for want of means, but God will hear and answer our petitions. Let your language be, “The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

Look on the bright side. If the work is hindered, be sure that it is not your fault, and then rejoice in the Lord, even though the experience through which you are passing may be hard and grievous. Heaven is full of joy. It resounds with the praises of the One who has made such a wonderful sacrifice for the redemption of man. Should not the church on earth be full of praise? Should not Christians publish throughout the world the joy of serving Christ?

The Lord desires us to be strong in His strength and joyful in His love. Thus we reveal the power of redeeming grace. We may triumph in the keeping power of the Redeemer. Through faith in Him we may gain victory after victory over self.

Those who enter heaven must learn on earth the song of heaven, the keynote of which is praise and thanksgiving. Only as they learn this song can they join in singing it with the heavenly choir.

Never let your courage fail. The Christian always has a strong helper in the Lord. When, because you are unable to obtain the needed help, you come to a pause in your earnest efforts, cast your burden on the Lord. Be content to leave it there, knowing that He is faithful who has promised. The What and How of the Lord’s helping we know not; but this we do know: The Lord will never fail those who put their trust in Him. When He has fully proved His workers, He will bring them forth refined as gold tried in the fire.

The lessons that God sends will always, if well learned, bring help in due time. “Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Put your trust in God. Pray much, and believe that in His good work the Lord will guide you step by step. Trusting, hoping, believing in the Lord, holding fast the hand of Infinite Power, you will be more than conquerors. In God you will have victory and success. You will see the salvation of the Lord.

Work in faith, and leave the results with God. Pray in earnest faith, and the mystery of God’s providence will bring its answer.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” At times it may seem that you cannot succeed. Hindrances will come. You will be tested and tried. But work and believe, putting faith and life and hope and courage into your work. After you have done what you can, wait for the Lord, declaring His faithfulness, and He will bring His word to pass. Wait not in fretful anxiety, but in undaunted faith and unshaken trust.

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, August 20, 1902

How to Overcome the Devil

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.’ ”

Revelations 12:9–12

Why are there so many tears and disasters? So much worry, sorrow, pain, suffering, and death? The answer is in these scriptures. Satan was cast down, set loose on this earth to wreak havoc, and the Bible says that he will deceive the whole world. Every man and woman has been deceived at some time by this arch deceiver.

I wish that we could, just in the smallest degree, understand the significance of his deceitfulness. From the time you were born, he has studied your life, and for whatever reason, by one means or another, he has become a master artist at deceiving you. Every time we sin, we have been deceived into thinking that Satan’s plan is superior to God’s plan.

Some time ago, I was studying the Bible with a woman in Pennsylvania. Every doctrine we studied from the Bible—the state of the dead, the Sabbath, and many other doctrines—she accepted.

But when we began to study diet—pork specifically—she began to have issues. You see, diet is the downfall of so many people. We all know that the Bible says pork is an unclean food, unfit for mankind to eat, and those who are holy and pure do not eat pork or any other food the Bible identifies as unclean.

Sadly, this woman liked pork. You can see how the devil’s deceptions were working against her. If she didn’t like pork, then it would have been no temptation to her and, like all the other doctrines she had so eagerly accepted, she would have gladly given up unclean foods including pork. But she did like pork, and soon she began the process of rationalization.

Perhaps you have done the same thing. So-and-so does something that is wrong, so it’s okay for me to do it, too. Unfortunately, friends, the old adage, “two wrongs don’t make a right” is absolutely true. Excusing our sin by pointing out someone else’s, doesn’t make our sin any less sinful, nor does it deliver us from the resultant consequences.

Still, the devil wanted to keep her from fully and faithfully following Jesus, and to do this he had a terrible deception ready to use against her. Remember, he is the master deceiver. He had studied this woman her whole life and knew just what he should do.

About a month into our studies together, in fact it was during the same time that she was struggling with the truth regarding diet, she had lost her six-year-old daughter, and, oh, how she grieved over the death of her child. It is dangerous to reject truth because we sacrifice the protection of Jesus completely and leave ourselves open to all kinds of deception.

In her home, the daughter’s bedroom was at the top of the stairs on the second floor. One day, she looked up those stairs, still grieving, and for one fleeting moment, she saw her daughter standing there looking at her, smiling, and then she was gone. In that moment, she knew that her daughter was all right, that she was in heaven, and had come down to give her assurance and peace.

Also, in that moment, she decided that the Bible was wrong, or at least the way we were interpreting it was wrong. But the Bible doesn’t need an interpreter, for it plainly says regarding the dead, “The dead know not anything, neither have they any more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

The devil’s deception was so powerful that she believed she had truly seen her daughter, and she was so truly deceived that she determined that everything she had learned and accepted to that point was wrong, and she rejected everything. Satan knew right where to strike. Tragically, this woman loved her daughter and unclean foods more than she loved the truth, and unless she repents of her rejection and again accepts the truth, it will cost her salvation.

Satan has a master file of your life and mine. He has traced every event. He and his angels have studied every aspect of your life. They know your special desires, weaknesses, and insecurities. They know what offends and irritates you the most, and how to upset you.

Is There Anything That Can Cause You to be Lost?

Is there anything in this world that means more to you than the truth as it is in Jesus Christ? Your spouse and children? Family or friends? A job, a position of power, wealth, or possessions? Are you proud of your looks? Do you enjoy the flattery of the world? Do you desire attention? Have you been driven to a dark place because of illness, loneliness, or discouragement?

Is there anything that could cause you to give up the truth and turn away from the Holy Spirit? If there is, then rest assured Satan will bend all his power to bring about your destruction.

God wants you to be happy, but if you seek to follow Him, know that the devil will pull out all the stops to work against you. He has a temptation, probably more than one, that is tailor-made just for you. You see, not all temptations are successful against all people. While one person may struggle with addiction to smoking, drinking, or drugs, another may struggle with gambling or pornography, and another with pride and envy. Yes, the devil has a specific portfolio of temptations for each of us.

We will all be tempted, tested, during our lifetime. No one can expect to have a free ride to the pearly gates. Sooner or later, we will have to meet the devil face to face. We are never alone because the Holy Spirit is always with us to provide the power we need to overcome him. But, just as Jesus did in the wilderness of temptation, we will have to face the devil in battle, and we must be prepared to be conquerors.

The Only One

“The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” Revelation 12:9

Except for One.

Of all of the people who have ever lived in the world, there was only One who was never deceived, the Man Christ Jesus. There is no one who has ever been tempted more than He.

For more than thirty years, Satan had prepared, focusing all his energies into the destruction of Jesus. Throughout His entire life, he had sought to weaken Jesus, to cause Him to give up His faith and confidence in His Father. The time had come. Jesus was about to have that face-to-face confrontation that we ourselves will one day have with Satan.

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.” Luke 4:1, 2

John the Baptist had baptized Jesus in the Jordan, and the Father had declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. But now God was leading Jesus to the wilderness for the fight of His human life. God took Him to the wilderness and left Him there, with no food or shelter, nothing but the hard ground for a bed, and no earthly protection against wild beasts or other dangers. Jesus had the power to provide for Himself, but the Father had ordained that He should come to earth and live as an ordinary man, trusting completely in Him for all of His needs.

Satan determined that Jesus would be overcome, understanding that “he must either conquer or be conquered. … All the energies of apostasy were rallied against the Son of God. Christ was made the mark of every weapon of hell.” The Desire of Ages, 116

Turn These Stones

Even in His weakened and starved condition, Jesus’ trust in God remained strong and He continued to pray until a beautiful angel came to Him, an answer, it seemed, to His prayer.

“He claimed to have a commission from God to declare that Christ’s fast was at an end. As God had sent an angel to stay the hand of Abraham from offering Isaac, so, satisfied with Christ’s willingness to enter the bloodstained path, the Father had sent an angel to deliver Him; this was the message brought to Jesus. The Saviour was faint from hunger, He was craving for food, when Satan came suddenly upon Him. Pointing to the stones which strewed the desert, and which had the appearance of loaves, the tempter said, ‘If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.’ ” Ibid., 118

God accepted Your sacrifice here in the wilderness. He has accepted Your submission to His will. Now He has given You permission, “ ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ ” Matthew 4:3

Let’s look at this temptation. Yes, it was a test on appetite. But this angel said something, just a small word, that should give anyone a clue that he might not be what he appeared to be: “If.” “If You are the Son of God … .” Would God treat His Son this way? is the insinuation. An angel from heaven would know who Jesus is. This angel was not sent from God. Jesus discerned who he was. Imagine the added temptation for Him not to show this imposter just exactly who He is.

Why was Jesus not deceived as mankind usually is? Jesus recognized Satan because His relationship with and faith in His Father prevented even His humanity from being deceived.

But why is mankind so easily deceived?

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception, among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10

Without a saving relationship with Jesus, we will be unable to see Satan for who he is. He will come to us in a way that looks good, but it won’t be good, and if we do not have a love for the truth, we will be deceived.

Jesus loved truth more than He loved life itself. He would rather die than sacrifice even one of God’s precepts. God had said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This was the word of God regarding who Jesus was. Knowing who Satan was from the beginning, Jesus did not enter into controversy with him. He would not parley with temptation and simply replied to Satan, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” Luke 4:4

If You Will Worship Me

From there Satan took Jesus up on a high mountain. From this vantage point, he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world laid out in all their glory, along with all the people who lived in them, the very people Jesus had left heaven for, those He had come to save.

Satan said, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

In that moment, Jesus saw a narrow path strewn with stones and thorns and thistles. As the path stretched tortuously up, He saw a cross, and hanging on that cross is a man; He sees Himself. Here is the choice: a mere act of homage or the cross.

Without hesitation, Jesus replies, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Luke 4:8

At the Cross

I am so happy that Jesus chose the cross, for it was through that choice that He gained the victory over Satan and his temptations and deceptions, and brought victory to us. For it is by that blood that we are saved and can find salvation from the temptations and deceptions Satan will surely bring to each one of us.

Do you spend time with the cross every day? Do you suppose that you can overcome Satan on your own? Do you think you are strong enough? It was at the cross that Satan was overcome. If we are to find victory over Satan and his deceptions, then we must go to the cross.

Revelation 12 says that Satan will deceive the whole world, but there are some who gain the victory.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb (Christ) and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.’ ” Verses 10, 11

Christ gained the victory on the cross, and it is to the cross that we also must go to find victory. It is accomplished by the union of the divine and human, uniting our lives with the life of Christ.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ ” Matthew 16:24–26

How few today have found that personal victory over Satan. Have we? Can we know that we have experienced the same victory that we find in the life of Christ?

“Communion with Christ—how unspeakably precious! Such communion it is our privilege to enjoy if we will seek it, if we will make any sacrifice to secure it.” Maranatha, 74

Oh, Taste and See

What we need is an experimental religion. Putting God to the test, claiming His promises and finding them true. Think of the three worthies, who refused to eat from the king’s table. They did what was right, and they were blessed as a result and were a living testimony for all around them. Daniel continued to pray three times a day in spite of the king’s decree, knowing he would be thrown in the lion’s den. But He trusted that God would save Him, and He did.

“Experience is knowledge derived from experiment. Experimental religion is what is needed now. … Some—yes, a large number—have a theoretical knowledge of religious truth, but have never felt the renewing power of divine grace upon their own hearts. … They believe in the wrath of God, but put forth no earnest efforts to escape it. They believe in heaven, but make no sacrifice to obtain it. … They know a remedy for sin, but do not use it. They know the right, but have no relish for it. All their knowledge will but increase their condemnation. They have never tasted and learned by experience that the Lord is good.

“To become a disciple of Christ is to deny self and follow Jesus through evil as well as good report. … Every darling indulgence that hinders our religious life must be cut off. … Will we put forth efforts and make sacrifices proportionate to the worth of the object to be attained?” Ibid.

That’s when it becomes yours. That’s when you’ve experimented with the promises of God and found them true. That’s when you develop a testimony. Not one in twenty, we are told, have an experimental knowledge of religion (Messages to Young People, 384). Oh, they may know how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, Bible stories like Daniel and the lion’s den, but they have never had an experience like that, nor have they ever relied fully and only on the naked promises of God for deliverance. They have never sacrificed everything for a personal knowledge of God’s saving power.

We are not saved by good sermons nor by listening to CDs, watching DVDs, or reading books. Going to church will not save us. Even physically being with Jesus, as the disciples were, will not save us. We must have a close, intimate relationship with Jesus, a joining of the divine with the human. The experiences and trials that we live through in this life are meant to teach us that we can and must trust in God.

So, Here’s the Question

Do I have this experience, a testimony of victory in my own life? Remember what Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb (Christ) and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

Think again of the three worthies, standing before the golden image on the plain of Dura. How easy it would have been to just kneel and pray to God. They wouldn’t have been worshiping the image, but their testimony would have looked the same as everyone around them. It would have appeared that they were worshiping the image. It would have shown lack of faith in God. Instead, they did what they knew was right, at the very real risk of their lives, believing that God would save them if it was His will to do so, and they learned that God is faithful to those who put their faith in Him.

What would you have done?  Would you have knelt and prayed to God, rationalizing that you weren’t really worshiping that image? You could have come away from that experience saying, “Well, the Lord saved me from death.” But you wouldn’t have had a testimony. The three worthies received their testimony by going into the fiery furnace. They put their faith in God to the test, they did what was right even though it would mean death, and they found that He is faithful.

We have a testimony when we lose our job rather than work on the Sabbath. We have a testimony when to human eyes there are more bills to pay than money to pay them with and we still pay tithe first. We have a testimony when we pray and ask God for healing, but accept whatever His answer might be, even if it is not healing. When everything is against us and we have nothing but trust in God’s promises, then we have a testimony.

Too many of us do not have a testimony to bear for God because we have never tried Him. We bow down to the idol because we are afraid of the fiery furnace.

“Many look on this conflict between Christ and Satan as having no special bearing on their own life; and for them it has little interest. But within the domain of every human heart this controversy is repeated. Never does one leave the ranks of evil for the service of God without encountering the assaults of Satan. The enticements which Christ resisted were those that we find it so difficult to withstand. They were urged upon Him in as much greater degree as His character is superior to ours. With the terrible weight of the sins of the world upon Him, Christ withstood the test upon appetite, upon the love of the world, and upon that love of display which leads to presumption. These were the temptations that overcame Adam and Eve, and that so readily overcome us.” The Desire of Ages, 116, 117

Our testimony comes when we stand the test through the strength of God, and though Satan works to deceive the world, we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. When Jesus’ wilderness experience becomes ours, when the divine has united with the human, then we can overcome the devil.

Friends, Satan is seeking to deceive the whole world, and he is successfully doing so for much of it today. But he can be overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.

I invite you, morning by morning, to come to the foot of the cross, meditate upon the sacrifice of Christ, and then step out on the promises of God and determine to do what God says, come what may, and see how the Lord will work, so that you also might have a testimony.

[Emphasis supplied.]

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.

The Key to Overcoming

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Matthew 16:24

Ellen White’s book Confrontation deals in great detail not only with the wilderness temptations of Christ, it also explains how Christ came off victorious as Satan used every means imaginable in his efforts to cause Him to fail in His mission, and shows how Christ’s success in resisting and overcoming can be ours.

In the wilderness, we know that Christ’s victories were gained through “Thus saith the Lord.” And of course, that is how we are to gain the victory over temptation as well.

However, it is clear from the details presented in this book that Christ did more than quote scripture in His constant confrontations with the enemy—He continually denied self.

In His assumed humanity, Christ faced the same temptations we face. “Appetite and passion, the love of the world, and presumptuous sins were the great branches of evil out of which every species of crime, violence, and corruption grew.” Op. cit., 47

That being the case, we can quickly and easily recognize that by overcoming those three temptations—also referred to in inspired writings as the world, the flesh, and the devil and in John’s first epistle as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—by gaining the victory in these three critical areas, we are well advanced on the narrow way to the kingdom of glory.

There is no temptation faced by man that is as severe as the temptations Christ endured after forty days of fasting.

It is important to remember that not only during His wilderness trial but throughout His life, “He did not for a single moment doubt His heavenly Father’s love, although He was bowed down with inexpressible anguish. Satan’s temptations, though skillfully devised, did not move the integrity of God’s dear Son. His abiding confidence in His Father could not be shaken.” Op. cit., 41

If we are to come off victorious, we must have that same abiding confidence, a confidence that will give us the victory in every daily trial.

On page 43, is this interesting statement: “Although Christ was suffering the keenest pangs of hunger, He withstood the temptation. He repulsed Satan with the same scripture He had given Moses to repeat to rebellious Israel when their diet was restricted and they were clamoring for flesh meats in the wilderness, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ In this declaration, and also by His example, Christ would show man that hunger for temporal food was not the greatest calamity that could befall him.”

Think about that final sentence for a moment. Although Christ quoted the words that He had instructed Moses to give to the children of Israel when they were murmuring and complaining about their diet, Inspiration says that this statement applies to a much broader area than just temporal food. When we are living by “every word” of God, the application goes well beyond mere hunger for temporal food.

To get a broader understanding of our challenge to overcome appetite, we need to analyze a sentence from pages 50 and 51: “Our Saviour fasted nearly six weeks that He might gain for man the victory upon the point of appetite. How can professed Christians with enlightened consciences, and with Christ before them as their pattern, yield to the indulgence of those appetites which have an enervating influence upon the mind and body? It is a painful fact that habits of self-gratification at the expense of health and moral power are at the present time holding a large share of the Christian world in the bonds of slavery.”

Let’s break down that passage a little. Notice that it states, “… yield to the indulgence of those appetites,” plural.

We commonly think of appetite in terms of a desire for temporal food. However, the dictionary defines appetite as “a strong desire or liking for something, a craving.” Thus in its broadest application, our appetites include food, certainly, but also a craving for any number of things, such as fashion, conspicuous consumption in all its varied forms, preeminence, power, wealth. A hard look in a mirror will reveal more than just the wrinkles we have acquired as we have aged—especially in the mirror of God’s law.

Another word in that passage we need to understand is enervating. It might initially be assumed that it means energizing. However, it means just the opposite: “to cause [someone] to feel drained of energy or vitality; to weaken.”

With this understanding, let’s rephrase the rhetorical question asked in the passage quoted from pages 50 and 51: How can professed Christians yield to the indulgence of cravings that deplete the mind and body of energy?

In order to enable us to resist those cravings, Christ left heaven. There is a wonderful explanation of the victory He gained for us by leaving heaven and how it can be ours.

“Because man fallen could not overcome Satan with his human strength, Christ came from the royal courts of heaven to help him with His human and divine strength combined. Christ knew that Adam in Eden with his superior advantages might have withstood the temptations of Satan and conquered him. He also knew that it was not possible for man out of Eden, separated from the light and love of God since the fall, to resist the temptations of Satan in his own strength. In order to bring hope to man, and save him from complete ruin, He humbled Himself to take man’s nature, that with His divine power combined with the human He might reach man where he is. He obtained for the fallen sons and daughters of Adam that strength which it is impossible for them to gain for themselves, that in His name they might overcome the temptations of Satan.” Op. cit., 45

It is abundantly and encouragingly clear from this paragraph that we are entirely dependent on Christ for the ultimate victory.

On page 57, in the section entitled “Christian Temperance,” we find much guidance regarding temperance versus intemperance. The initial paragraphs are especially powerful.

“God gives man no permission to violate the laws of his being. But man, through yielding to Satan’s temptations to indulge intemperance, brings the higher faculties in subjection to the animal appetites and passions, and when these gain the ascendancy, man, who was created a little lower than the angels—with faculties susceptible of the highest cultivation—surrenders to the control of Satan. And he gains easy access to those who are in bondage to appetite. Through intemperance, some sacrifice one half, and others two thirds, of their physical, mental, and moral powers, and become playthings for the enemy.

“Those who would have clear minds to discern Satan’s devices must have their physical appetites under the control of reason and conscience. The moral and vigorous action of the higher powers of the mind are essential to the perfection of Christian character, and the strength or the weakness of the mind has very much to do with our usefulness in this world and with our final salvation. The ignorance that has prevailed in regard to God’s law in our physical nature is deplorable. Intemperance of any kind is a violation of the laws of our being.”

“The great enemy knows that if appetite and passion predominate, the health of body and strength of intellect are sacrificed upon the altar of self-gratification, and man is brought to speedy ruin. If enlightened intellect holds the reins, controlling the animal propensities and keeping them in subjection to the moral powers, Satan well knows that his power to overcome with his temptations is very small.” Op. cit., 58

“Sin drove man from paradise; and sin was the cause of the removal of paradise from the earth. In consequence of transgression of God’s law, Adam lost paradise. In obedience to the Father’s law, and through faith in the atoning blood of His Son, paradise may be regained.” Op. cit., 15

“The indulgence [of appetite] … counteracts the force of truth, and weakens moral power to resist and overcome temptation. …

“The adversary of souls is working in these last days with greater power than ever before, to accomplish the ruin of man through the indulgence of appetite and passions. … Unnatural desires for these indulgences are not controlled by reason or judgment.” Op. cit., 60

“Men and women indulge appetite at the expense of health and their powers of intellect, so that they cannot appreciate the plan of salvation. What appreciation can such have of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, and of the victory He gained upon the point of appetite. It is impossible for them to have exalted views of God, and to realize the claims of His law.” Op. cit., 62

Note well this sentence: “The scene of trial with Christ in the wilderness was the foundation of the plan of salvation, and gives to fallen man the key whereby he, in Christ’s name, may overcome.” Op. cit., 63

Now contemplate this question: After being presented with all of this wonderful light from the pen of Ellen White, what is the foundation of the plan of salvation and the key whereby we, in Christ’s name, may overcome? That foundation and that key is nothing other than self-denial.

Throughout His life, Christ manifested self-denial to perfection. If you think back through the details we are given of His daily confrontations, His perfect self-denial gave Him the victory every time.

He could indeed have turned the stones to bread to satisfy His hunger. He could have given Satan evidence of His heavenly Father’s loving watchcare by jumping from the top of the temple. He could have accepted all the kingdoms of the world offered Him by Satan (though in truth, they were already His, even after they had fallen under the sway of the enemy). He could have wiped the bloody sweat from His brow in the garden of Gethsemane and returned to His heavenly throne. He could have come down from the cross when taunted to do so by His enemies.

But to our eternal benefit, He denied self at every opportunity. By emulating His selflessness, His self-denial, we, too, can be victorious.

Op. cit. – all quotations are taken from the source first identified – Confrontation

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: johnpearson@stepstolife.org

To Him Who Overcomes

It is recorded in several places in Scripture that one day there will be an almost complete reversal of the ranking of mankind so that those who are now last will become first, and those who are now first will become last. What is it that will determine a person’s ranking in society at that time?

Matthew 19 records that Jesus said that those who are first will be last, and the last will be first. He had stated this principle earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) where He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

There are two groups of people involved in this rearrangement of society. Revelation 21:5–7 describes one group: “ ‘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 to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’ ”

Verse 8 describes the other group: “ ‘But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’ ”

These two groups are again described in Revelation 22:14, 15, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”

Revelation 21:5–7 tells us that the one who is promised salvation and an inheritance is the one who overcomes. In the messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3), every church is given a promise, if they overcome.

Ephesus – “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

Smyrna – “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Verse 11

Pergamos – “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Verse 17

Thyatira – “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father.” Verses 26, 27

Sardis – “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the book of life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

Philadelphia – “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Verse 12

Laodicea – “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Verse 21

The church at Pergamos is known as the compromising church. There are many people today who worship in compromising churches, and to them the Lord is saying that if they overcome, they will be given hidden manna to eat.

What is this hidden manna? We find the story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness in Exodus 16. They had no water to drink and no food to eat, but the Lord promised them that He would provide water and send them food from heaven. And the Lord promised each morning for six days a small, round substance, like white coriander seed, like wafers made with honey, that the people were to gather for food. Not knowing what it was, they called it manna which means “What is it?”

What was this manna and what is the difference between it and the hidden manna spoken of in Revelation 2:17? Jesus answered that question for us in John 6:47–51. “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

Of course, the Jews got a little miffed when He said that, and they said, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus responded, “My flesh truly is food, My blood truly is drink. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” They were accusing Jesus of teaching cannibalism, but Jesus was using symbolic language. Verse 63 makes it very clear what He was talking about. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” Jesus wasn’t talking about literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The Bible attributes many names to Jesus and one of those names, found in John 1, is “The Word of God.”

The manna sent to the children of Israel in the wilderness was physical food meant to sustain the body during their wandering. But the hidden manna is Jesus, the true Bread that will give you eternal life if you eat it, and you do this by consuming His word. The word of God is powerful. It is powerful to recreate in a person new life, new desires, a new spirit, a new mind. To consume the Bread of God means receiving Jesus into your life and then living by His word.

When Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted, the devil tempted Him to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3, 4). But Jesus’ response was, “… ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” ’ ”

To be in the kingdom of heaven, to have salvation, to live forever, you must eat the word of God, receiving it into your mind and heart, and then living according to that word. If you live according to the word, then you have received the hidden manna, and your life will be changed; you will be given a new name.

These days, there’s not much in a name. Most people name their children after someone famous or an ancestor or a character in a book or movie, because it sounds nice. But from the beginning of earth’s history, a person was given a name because it expressed something about the person. The Bible records some of these names. For instance, Jesu or Jesus means a Saviour or Deliverer. Elijah, that mighty Old Testament prophet, means Jehovah is my God. Daniel, who wrote so extensively about judgment, means God is my judge.

When you receive the word of God into your life, when your life is changed, then your new name will be in harmony with the character that you have developed; and as promised to the overcomer of the church of Ephesus, you will eat again of the tree of life.

Looking at the promise to the church of Thyatira, the Lord said that the overcomer would “rule over the nations with a rod of iron.” We see this in both the Old and New Testaments. Psalm 2:7–9 says, “ ‘I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son. Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron: You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”

Speaking of what would happen at the end of the world, Isaiah 11:4 says, “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.”

In Revelation 19:13–16, John writes in symbolic language about the Second Coming of Christ, “He [Jesus] was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

There is coming a time when everything in this world is going to be completely reversed. Today, there are people who believe in Christ—the overcomers—all over the world being persecuted, oppressed, and in great difficulty. However, when all things are overturned, they will be delivered, because their names are found written in His book, whereas those who may seem now to have all the power and money and fame, but who are not overcomers, will, when Christ comes, be destroyed.

Those imprisoned, persecuted and in all manner of trouble, but who love the Lord and obey His law, because of the promise given to the people in the church at Thyatira, will fulfill what Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

One other thing was promised to the overcomer of the church of Thyatira: “And I will give him the morning star.” Revelation 2:28

This is one of the most wonderful promises in the Bible. Friends, who and what is the Morning Star? Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.”

“ ‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’ ” Revelation 22:16.

Jesus is the Morning Star. If you are an overcomer, you will have the Morning Star in your heart, the character of Christ will become your character.

What are we to overcome, and how do we do it? The Bible makes this very clear. First, John says in 1 John 5:4, that he that “is born of God overcomes the world.” Then he says, speaking of the world, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15–17

The lust of the flesh (desire for unlawful sexual pleasure), the lust of the eyes (desire for possessions), the pride of life, and the desire for the praise and approbation of men, all are pleasing to the worldly man. However, these are the very things that must be overcome and eliminated from the life of the born-again child of God.

To be an overcomer, one must overcome the world, for everyone who is born of God overcomes the world. But how? “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7, 8

Paul expressed the same principle in Ephesians 4:27–29: “Nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

Both Paul and James say to resist the devil and make no room in our lives for him. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:11, 12, just how to do that. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.”

And Peter is just as direct, “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We do not have to chase after the things of the world nor yield to the temptations put before us. The Holy Spirit can and will give us the power to overcome all of them. Paul dwells upon this repeatedly in his epistles. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:1–9, first part

Friends, we must seek the new birth experience, to fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, so that the devil can find no place in us for him to dwell anymore. The Holy Spirit is waiting to create in us a new heart and a new spirit so that we may overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil and that we may have eternal 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: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Editorial – On Being Perfect

Nobody can go to the kingdom of heaven who is not perfect. “The Lord requires at this time just what He required of Adam in Eden—perfect obedience to the law of God. We must have righteousness without a flaw, without a blemish. God gave His Son to die for the world, but He did not die to repeal the law which was holy and just and good. The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is an unanswerable argument showing the immutability of the law. Its penalty was felt by the Son of God in behalf of guilty man, that through His merits the sinner might obtain the virtue of His spotless character by faith in His name.” Faith and Works, 89, 90

We are imperfect, but there is One who is perfect, with a divine character that He wants to impart to us: “Our claim to Christ’s righteousness is without a flaw, if we meet the conditions upon which it is promised … if we accept Christ as our personal Saviour.” Sons and Daughters of God, 189

“The Son of God so conducted His life that even His unbelieving countrymen were compelled to say, ‘He hath done all things well.’ His character was without a flaw. He did not leave the example of a life of idleness and self-indulgence, although He was heir of all things in heaven and earth, the only-begotten Son of the Father.” The Signs of the Times, November 12, 1896

“The law requires righteousness—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can ‘be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Romans 3:26.” The Desire of Ages, 762

Obstacles

Neither the Old nor the New Testament predicts that the world will be converted in the last days. In fact, it predicts just the opposite, that almost all the world will worship the antichrist. Only a small group of people, a remnant in comparison to the world’s population, will keep God’s commandments in the last days.

Jesus said the last days would be like it was in the days of Noah. He gave Noah a message and 120 years to declare it. Some believed, but were laid to rest before the Flood came. But of all the people still alive on the day the Flood came, only eight people believed enough to be on that ark.

Imagine, eight inside the ark and something north of a billion outside. If you were one of the eight, would you have been thinking “I could be outside with so many more people”?

Almost the whole world right now thinks that way—billions of people, all dashing rapidly to destruction. But a few people still listen to the three angels’ messages, and only this remnant will be saved from the destruction that is coming.

Let’s look at three scriptures that all speak about a similar subject. These scriptures are Zechariah 4:7, first part, Isaiah 40:3, 4, and Matthew 21:18–22:

“ ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!’ ”

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.’ ”

“Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither away so soon?’ So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.’ ”

So what are we to learn from these three scriptures?

Zechariah says that a great mountain will be turned into a plain. Is he talking about a literal mountain? Skeptics will say that they have never heard of such a thing. The Rocky Mountains, Mount Everest, the Himalayan Mountains, the Andes, they all are still where they have been. So these skeptics do not believe that this has happened or will happen. But this scripture isn’t about a literal mountain.

Isaiah 40 sounds like the construction of an interstate highway, where you smooth out the mountains and the valleys, so the road is straight and level. But this isn’t about the literal removal of a mountain and making rough terrain smooth to travel on. We know that Isaiah is predicting the work of John the Baptist, 700 years before he was born, as the one who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah.

And if Jesus’ purpose in Matthew 21 isn’t to simply curse a literal, unproductive tree, what is He talking about?

Obstacles, friends, are the difficulties and trials that are in front of us that seem as big as a mountain, too big to go around and too high to climb over. We have all been confronted at some point in our lives with something that seems completely insurmountable—no way through, no way around, no way over and hedged about on every side. Jesus is talking about a spiritual mountain or obstacle in our lives that we do not know how to overcome. So Jesus says in Matthew 21:22, “[W]hatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Simply believe, ask for guidance and assistance, and these apparent impossibilities can be removed.

The Christian is faced with both external and internal obstacles. Let’s look at some of the external obstacles first since they are the easier ones. The internal obstacles are harder.

In the New Testament, external obstacles are referred to as the world. First John 2:15–17 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust (craving) of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” These are the same three temptations that the devil brought to Jesus in Matthew 4.

The lust of the flesh consists of sensual temptations that include sexual passions and the appetite for food and drink and other harmful substances that are sinful. It is not a sin to eat and drink, but we can sin by what and how we eat and drink. This temptation is very successful for the devil.

The devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “Throw yourself down. For it is written that the Lord will send His angels to protect you.” This temptation is known as presumption. Presumption is when someone claims the promises of God and believes that they will be saved, all while breaking His commandments (see Matthew 7:21–23). It is one of the most common sins in the Christian world today, so much so, that Mrs. White says that the devil is successful nine times out of ten with this temptation (Lift Him Up, 80). We don’t have a very good average when dealing with temptations of presumption.

It is often beyond comprehension just how easy it is to fall in love with the world. The devil promised Jesus the whole world. He didn’t take it, but there are people that will yield to temptation for just a little piece of worldly real estate; they are willing to give up eternal life for just a little something on this earth. But Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:36

The external temptations that every Christian faces—every man, woman, boy, and girl—are present in any one of a variety of ways that will result in breaking the law of God and make the lawbreaker a member of the devil’s ranks. “He who sins is of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

So, if the devil can entice us, seduce us, terrify us into sinning, desiring the world, with its sensuality, presumption, and love for things and possessions, then we have switched to his side of the great controversy; and unless we repent, we lose our souls, and that is his ultimate goal.

No matter how difficult facing these external temptations can be, it is the internal obstacles that are the most difficult for a Christian to overcome.

As Christians, we are to surrender to Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as our Saviour from sin and the Lord of our lives. The entire purpose of the Christian life is to become like Jesus, to be Christlike. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2. Becoming Christlike is hearing and doing what God says.

But many Christians who claim the name of Jesus too often forget the hearing and doing part. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?” Luke 6:46. We cannot call Him Lord and not obey His commands if we are to be true Christians.

So let’s consider this: if a person wishes to be made Christlike, but there is something inside him or her that is not Christlike, what is the problem? There is an obstacle that must be overcome so that there is nothing left inside but the character of Christ. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3

God is able to remove even the most difficult obstacles outside, but it won’t matter if the internal obstacles are not removed first. It is only when the devil’s power over a person’s nature has been replaced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that his power to cause difficulties in a person’s life can be overcome.

Individual Christians are not the only ones who experience obstacles; Christians as a church group also must meet obstacles. One of the greatest obstacles for a church is that of false teaching, or heretical doctrines. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 24, as well as other places in the Bible. He said that many false prophets would arise and deceive many (verse 24). When revival and reformation is happening in a church, then all kinds of heretical and fanatical doctrines will be seen, instigated by Satan to counteract that revival.

However, a much bigger obstacle for the church is found in Last Day Events, 156: “We have far more to fear from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are far greater from the church itself than from the world. … [H]ow often have the professed advocates of the truth proved the greatest obstacle to its advancement!”

“If we hope to wear the crown, we must expect to bear the cross. Our greatest trials will come from those who profess godliness. … The opposition which Christ received came from His own nation, who would have been greatly blessed had they accepted Him. In like manner the remnant church receive opposition from those who profess to be their brethren.” The Review and Herald, August 28, 1883

Another obstacle, particularly for new Christians, is similar to something that the children of Israel said while wandering in the wilderness. They had given their lives to God, had chosen to follow and obey all that He said, but now they were experiencing more trouble in their lives than they had ever experienced before. People are tempted to think that if God is all powerful, and if He is really leading them, then they should be having an easy life, but they aren’t. Why?

“Trial is part of the education given in the school of Christ, to purify God’s children from the dross of earthliness. It is because God is leading His children that trying experiences come to them. Trials and obstacles are His chosen methods of discipline, and His appointed conditions of success.” Reflecting Christ, 362

Trials and obstacles are the appointed conditions to successfully take us from where we are to where we need to be if we would spend eternity with God. God never sends a trial that we do not need.

“God’s care for his heritage is unceasing. He suffers no affliction to come upon His children but such as is essential for their present and eternal good. He will purify His church, even as Christ purified the temple during His ministry on earth. All that He brings upon His people in test and trial comes that they may gain deeper piety and greater strength to carry forward the triumphs of the cross.” Ibid.

Trials and obstacles are God’s chosen methods of discipline and the appointed conditions of success, meaning God has something wonderful in store for us. Let’s look in the Bible for some examples of great men who suffered great obstacles.

Joseph’s life was one of severe trial—sold as a slave at a young age, forced to learn a new language, culture and customs, falsely accused and imprisoned. But the greater the future and destiny that God has for a person, the greater the trials He may allow. Because of his obedience and loyalty to God, Joseph ultimately, according to God’s plan, was exalted to a high position in Egypt, enabling him to save his father and his entire people from famine.

God made David perhaps the greatest king of Israel, but David made many very serious mistakes—a fugitive, an adulterer, a conspirator, a murderer. But when he repented and committed his life to obeying God, he was once again restored to God’s favor.

Daniel was taken captive to Babylon at a young age, but he remained committed to following the things he had been taught regarding obedience to God, specifically how he should eat and drink. While this was a hard trial for him to endure, his most difficult trial came when he was an old man. He had become the prime minister of Persia, but was hated by the other government officials. They conspired together to create a law that they knew Daniel would break because obeying it would mean disobeying God. The law required that all men would worship only King Darius for 30 days. If anyone failed to do so, they would be thrown into the lions’ den. We are all familiar with the story. Rather than attempting to hide his prayers, Daniel chose to continue to pray to God three times a day—as was his custom—with his face set toward Jerusalem. He was thrown into the lions’ den, but God sent His angel to save his life.

Friends, God knows how to deliver us from the obstacles that stand in our way, but He delivers us because we are faithful to Him, as were Joseph, David, and Daniel.

There are many reactions when obstacles come. For instance, someone might say, “Well, my spouse won’t accept the truth” or “I love my son/daughter so much that if he/she doesn’t go to heaven, I don’t want to go either.” Revelation 21:8 tells us, “But the cowardly [fearful] … shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” When the obstacle came, they gave up.

Another common reaction is unbelief. This is what the children of Israel did. Their unbelief was so bad that the Lord must have thought, “I can’t lead these people into the land of Canaan, because they are not ready. They don’t even believe in Me or that I am able to bring them into the promised land.” God could not do for them what He wanted to do because they did not believe.

A third common reaction is discouragement. Someone might say, “But you just don’t know how bad my situation is.” And they would be right. But God does know and He knows how to remove that obstacle or how to get the person through it. However, we will never get through the obstacles that come to us if we have a halting, unbelieving spirit.

Some people in the world today, think that the Christian religion isn’t true because they have encountered an obstacle that they didn’t overcome. They either gave up, experienced unbelief, or became discouraged and did nothing. However, the Christian religion does work because many people have overcome all kinds of apparently insurmountable obstacles when united with the power of God’s grace.

The children of Israel thought their trek through the wilderness to the promised land would be obstacle free because God was leading the way, but God allowed trials and troubles to help perfect their characters, and He does the same for us.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christian churches in Acts 14:22, “[S]trengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ ” In John’s vision recorded in Revelation 7:13 and 14, we are told that those who will be in God’s kingdom will be those “who come out of the great tribulation.”

The most serious obstacles that we must conquer are not external ones, but rather those that are internal such as pride, selfishness, covetousness, and love of the world. So how do we face them?

There are four necessary steps to successfully meeting our obstacles:

  1. Persistent prayer

“Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1

“ ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” ’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’ ” Luke 18:2–8

What is the lesson found in this parable? Be persistent in prayer. As we fulfill the conditions of the promises that the Lord has made, we can believe that He will not go back on His word. When the insurmountable obstacle comes, we are to go to God in prayer and He will deliver us.

  1. Faith like Caleb

In Numbers 13, the children of Israel were camped at the border of the promised land. Twelve spies had been secretly sent to spy out the conditions and people there. Ten of the spies were afraid and expressed their fear openly, telling them that there were mighty giants in the land, and the people then took up the cry of fear and complaining, as they most typically did. But two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Verse 30, last part.

Instead of exercising faith in the One who had brought them through the wilderness and the Red Sea, they refused to believe Caleb and, as a result, they were left in the wilderness to wander another 40 years before finally being permitted to enter the promised land. Even after 40 additional years of wandering, Caleb’s faith was strong and he prayed that the Lord would cleanse his inside obstacles away—any pride, selfishness, covetousness—so that he would have the power to overcome the outside obstacles and defeat the giants. He was 85 years old and yet, by the power of the Lord, he conquered the giants in the land.

  1. Action

We must pray and exercise faith, but we must also act. We must press against the obstacle.

“You will have obstacles and difficulties to encounter at every turn and you must, with firm purpose decide to conquer them, or they will conquer you.” Gospel Workers, 133

“Success will come to them as they struggle against difficulties.” Prophets and Kings, 595

We have to do something, press against the obstacle, ask for God’s help, and keep going.

“The obstacles they encounter, instead of leading them to seek help from God, the only Source of strength, separate them from Him, because they awaken unrest and repining.

“Do we well to be thus unbelieving? Why should we be ungrateful and distrustful? Jesus is our friend; all heaven is interested in our welfare; and our anxiety and fear grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We should not indulge in a solicitude that only frets and wears us but does not help us to bear trials. … It is not the will of God that His people should be weighed down with cares.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 293, 294

There are so many people who have a trial or difficulty in their lives, and they try so hard to overcome it, but fail, and since they failed, they just stop trying. What would have happened to the widow in Luke 18 if she had given up after the first try? Not a thing. But she was persistent and, in the end, the judge granted her request.

“There are strong and subtle influences to bind them to the ways of the world; but the power of the Lord can break these chains. He will remove every obstacle from before the feet of His faithful ones or give them strength and courage [faith] to conquer every difficulty, if they earnestly beseech His help. All hindrances will vanish before an earnest desire and persistent effort to do the will of God at any cost to self, even if life itself is sacrificed.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 147

  1. Correct physical habits.

These habits are very important and have a great deal to do with our state of mind and whether or not we will have the determination to attack and solve the problem with the help of God.

For example, if a person is using alcoholic beverages, the very first drink has an anesthetizing effect on the frontal lobe of the brain. This anesthetizing effect weakens the willpower. The devil takes advantage of that weakened state and sends the imbiber strong, sinful temptations. He may tempt them to try drugs or to smoke while he or she continues drinking. When we do things that weaken our bodies and minds or fail to do the things that strengthen them, the door is opened wide for the devil to work his will against us.

It is important for us to remember that when meeting an obstacle or trial, we should do so in accordance with a way that aligns with God’s direction. When we do this, He promises that mountains of difficulty will be removed. We must pray for strength in meeting them, but our obstacles will not be moved while we sit and expect God to do all the work. We must work with Him.

Christian men and women who meet their obstacles in the way the Lord directs—with prayer, faith, persistent action and following the right physical habits—will overcome them, one after another. It is God’s purpose in allowing obstacles and trials, so that we might become men and women of power who will not be moved.

“When hedged about on every side, this is the time above all others to trust in God and in the power of His Holy Spirit. We are not to walk in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord God of Israel. It is folly to trust in man or to make flesh our arm. We must trust in Jehovah; for in Him is everlasting strength.” The Review and Herald, January 16, 1908

We are in a battle against the devil, against the world, but most importantly we are in a battle against our own sinful, carnal nature. The internal enemy is the most dangerous of all, but we can overcome this enemy if we are willing to fight.

“There are few who are really consecrated, few who have fought and conquered in the battle with self.” The Watchman, June 12, 1906

The Bible teaches that from the beginning to the end, if we want to inherit eternal life, we must fight this battle with self.

“Let the tempted soul remember … it is only by coming in contact with obstacles and difficulties and overcoming them that we become strong. Our necessity is God’s opportunity. If we will hold fast to Christ, every trial will work out for our good.” The Signs of the Times, October 17, 1900

“Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble, all-around character is not inherited. It does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard, stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 331

This process does not happen in a day, but every one of us can be certain that we can become like Jesus Christ. We can surmount these internal obstacles in the character that are unchristlike. Then by facing our obstacles and trials head on with prayer, faith, persistent action, having the right physical habits, and following God’s direction, we will become just like Him.

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: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Why the Inside Comes First

Being ready for Jesus to come involves both inward and outward preparation, but what happens in the heart is the most important, and therefore must occur first.

In Psalm 24:3–5 we read: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Notice, there are two parts to the preparation for heaven. One is the need to have clean hands. This represents the outside of your body—what you say and do, what other people can see. It is important that your hands be clean, that you have done or said nothing that is contrary to the law of God, but that is not enough. You also must have a pure heart, because how we are on the inside eventually will be manifested on the outside.

Jesus was very particular in Matthew 23:25 about the need to be clean first on the inside, and then on the outside, too. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” They realized that they needed to be cleaned up, but Jesus said their problem was that they were only interested in what could be seen, how good they looked on the outside, while inside they were full of wickedness. Then Jesus said in verse 26: “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Jesus was telling them that if the inside is cleaned first, then the outside will also be clean.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that those who were clean on the inside would see God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. A heart cleansed from all defilement is a pure heart.

What defiles the heart? Jesus has made this very clear: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:19, 20. The heart must be cleansed of all that defiles. There are two parts to this inner cleansing process. The first part is what God does. The second part is what we do. We will look at the second part first.

The Bible clearly states that you and I have something to do so that our hearts will be cleansed and purified. John strongly expressed this when he said: “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3.

James 4:7–10 outline several things that we are to do: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Drawing near to God and resisting the devil are two complementary actions. You cannot resist the devil without drawing near to God first because you cannot resist the devil by yourself. But if you hang onto the things that defile the heart and stay close to the devil, then you will not draw near to God.

Then James says that we are not to be doubled minded. A double-minded person is trying to serve God and the devil at the same time. This is not possible. Remember Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Finally, we see that we are to be sorry and to mourn because of our defiled condition, and then humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord.

The wise man Solomon said in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” As you think, so you are. Peter said: “Therefore gird up the loins [the waist, as in putting on a girdle to control] of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13. Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1, 2. So if we are to be purified, then our thoughts must be controlled.

Our words can affect our thoughts, so we also must be careful how we express ourselves. “[T]hat you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:22–27. We all have the blessings of the great mercy and love of God, and expressing our joy and thankfulness for those blessings will have an effect on our thoughts. The Ministry of Healing, 253 says, “No tongue can express, no finite mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a wellspring, never failing, because fed by the streams that flow from the throne of God.”

We must understand that our thoughts and feelings are not only encouraged, but strengthened by what we say. And since our hearts are defiled by evil thoughts, if we want to gain control of our thoughts, we should be expressing thankfulness and rejoicing to the Lord for His blessings and this will change our thoughts from evil to good.

A Christian life is revealed by Christian thoughts, words, and deportment. If we consecrate ourselves to the Lord every day, choosing to obey His law, then our choice will purify our thoughts. The Signs of the Times, September 1, 1890, tells us, “If your thoughts, your plans, your purposes, are all directed towards the accumulation of things of earth, your anxiety, your study, your interests, will all be centered upon the world. The heavenly attractions will lose their beauty. … Your heart will be with your treasure, … You will have no time to devote to the study of the Scriptures and to earnest prayer that you may escape the snares of Satan … .” If your only purpose is to gain money, property, position, power, fame, or success in this world, the Lord may give you all of those things, but you will become so overburdened with trying to achieve success in the world that you will have no time to devote to the study of the Scriptures and to earnest prayer. And as a consequence, you will not escape the snares of Satan.

Many have allowed their minds to dwell upon earthly things for a long time, and now they realize that if the current of their thoughts is not changed, they will be conformed to this world; there will be no transformation to ready the mind for Jesus to come. “When the mind has been long permitted to dwell only on earthly things, it is a difficult matter to change the habits of thought.” Lift Him Up, 144. Dwelling most of one’s life on earthly things will make it difficult to exclude the things of the world and think only of divine things.

It too frequently occurs that Christians gather together on Sabbath and talk about anything but spiritual things, because their minds have so long dwelt upon the things of this earth—how to make a living, a business, a job, investments, property, and other things having to do with the world. Mrs. White tells us that as long as we are in this world we will have to conduct worldly business, so these things are not evil in and of themselves. But if that is all you are thinking about and talking about, then your mind is being conformed to this world and you will not be ready for Jesus to come.

“That which the eye sees and the ear hears too often attracts the attention and absorbs the interest. But if we would enter the city of God, and look upon Jesus in His glory, we must become accustomed to beholding Him with the eye of faith here.” Ibid.

Are we filling our minds and hearts with Jesus? Are we allowing the things of this world to preoccupy our minds and thoughts so that we will not be ready to go to heaven? Are we conformed to this world?

“If we would enter the city of God,” here is how we are to do it: “The words and the character of Christ should be often the subject of our thoughts and of our conversation; and each day some time should be especially devoted to prayerful meditation upon these sacred themes.” Ibid.

If our minds are to be transformed, then we must daily spend time in meditation upon the words and character of Jesus Christ, or we will be caught up with the evil thoughts that will defile the heart and mind.

Do we spend as much time, or more, thinking and talking about Jesus Christ as we do in thinking and talking about worldly things? When a person loves someone, that someone is all they can talk about. They tell everyone about this wonderful person that they love. But here is the biggest problem for most people: though they say they love Jesus, they do not spend time in His word, nor meditate upon His character, nor talk about Him to their family and friends.

Many professed Christians are troubled because they have struggled for a long time with low and debasing thoughts. But friend, this is something you can talk about with Jesus. If you don’t want to be a victim of worldly, evil thoughts, if you want to be cleansed on the inside and be made pure, then Jesus is the only One to talk to. Only He, through the power of the Holy Spirit in the life, can change a heart so that the thoughts will reflect the purity of the soul. But Satan doesn’t want you to know this.

“… Satan has his evil angels around us; and though they cannot read men’s thoughts, they closely watch their words and actions. Satan takes advantage of the weakness and defects of character that are thus revealed, and presses his temptations where there is least power of resistance. He makes evil suggestions, and inspires worldly thoughts, knowing that he can thus bring the soul into condemnation and bondage. To those who are selfish, worldly, avaricious, proud, fault-finding, or given to detraction—to all who are cherishing errors and defects of character—Satan presents the indulgence of self, and leads the soul off upon a track that the Bible condemns, but which he makes appear attractive.

“For every class of temptations there is a remedy.” Gospel Workers, 417, 418. Praise God, there is a remedy for every temptation. “We are not left to ourselves to fight the battle against self and our sinful natures in our own finite strength. Jesus is a mighty helper, a never-failing support.” Ibid., 418.

Are you in trouble because of your thoughts and helpless to do anything about it? You need only to go to Jesus in prayer. When tempted, take your struggles to Him, for He is a mighty helper.

“The mind must be restrained, and not allowed to wander.” Ibid.

The mind is not an empty void. It must be occupied. Saying that we will no longer think about something is not the way to gain the victory in the struggle for pure and holy thoughts. The devil and his angels cannot read our minds, but they can put thoughts into our imagination. Concentrating on what we should not think about will not help us to have pure thoughts.

“The mind … should be trained to dwell upon the Scriptures, and upon noble, elevating themes.” Our High Calling, 88.

“Portions of Scripture, even whole chapters, may be committed to memory, to be repeated when Satan comes in with his temptations. …

“When Satan would lead the mind to dwell upon earthly and sensual things, he is most effectually resisted with ‘It is written.’ ” Ibid.

We must fight the battle to discipline our thoughts, to keep our minds restrained, preventing the imagination from wandering.

If our thoughts are disciplined, our words will be right. “ ‘Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.’ ” Matthew 12:33–35

“Many thoughts make up the unwritten history of a single day; and these thoughts have much to do with the formation of character. Our thoughts are to be strictly guarded; for one impure thought makes a deep impression on the soul. An evil thought leaves an evil impress on the mind. If the thoughts are pure and holy, the man is better for having cherished them. By them the spiritual pulse is quickened, and the power for doing good is increased. And as one drop of rain prepares the way for another in moistening the earth, so one good thought prepares the way for another.” The Faith I Live By, 222

What we look at and what we listen to all have an effect on our thoughts. These are the channels by which the mind is fed. The Bible is full of instruction on this point. “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” Psalm 101:3, first part. David understood this all too well. Keeping before ourselves violence, immoral sexuality, swearing, and drinking is evil, and what is evil is sin, and sin is breaking God’s law. It doesn’t matter how you come into contact with evil, if you are participating in evil, you are sinning. The law of the mind is that by beholding we become changed, and the more we behold evil, regardless of its form, that is what we will be like. And in the end, we will not be ready for heaven, but rather hellfire. “In that day they will roar against them like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and sorrow; and the light is darkened by the clouds.” Isaiah 5:30. “Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.” Isaiah 8:22.

We are free moral agents with a responsibility over what our eyes see, what our ears hear, over everything we subject ourselves and our senses to. Satan is trying to paralyze our senses so that we will be insensitive to the warnings and reproofs sent from God. He does not want us to heed them, lest they are received in the heart and reform the life.

“My brethren, God calls upon you as His followers to walk in the light. You need to be alarmed. Sin is among us, and it is not seen to be exceedingly sinful. The senses of many are benumbed by the indulgence of appetite and by familiarity with sin.” The Adventist Home, 401

“Sin means dishonor and disaster to every soul that indulges in it; but it is blinding and deceiving in its nature … [W]e should close every avenue by which the tempter may find access to us.” Ibid., 402, 403.

We are living in a cesspool, a morally-defiled world filled with wickedness, and our only safety is to be shielded by the grace of God every moment. We must cooperate with the heavenly agencies and not be presumptuous, walking right into temptation.

We must continually be on guard, watching every avenue of the soul by which Satan may gain access. We need to avoid reading, seeing, or hearing anything that would lead to impure thoughts. We need to place ourselves and our families where we cannot watch the evil and iniquity practiced all over the world. We must guard what we look at and listen to so that the terrible things going on around us do not become the subjects of our meditation and cause us to be defiled.

Radio, television, movies, music, social media, there are hundreds of avenues by which we today can become defiled. “The lust of the eye and corrupt passions are aroused by beholding and by reading. The heart is corrupted through the imagination.” Ibid., 408. How is it with your soul? Are you being conformed to this world by the music of this world, the sights and the sounds of this world, or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind, by beholding Christ through His word?

Clean hands and a pure heart, the two requirements to be ready for heaven. We need to be memorizing the Scriptures and studying and meditating upon the character of Christ and His words every day. We must be in control of what we look at and listen to. This is what we must do. But everything that we do will be absolutely hopeless and useless unless God does something. “In describing to His disciples the office work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus sought to inspire them with the joy and hope that inspired His own heart. He rejoiced because of the abundant help He had provided for His church. The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure.” The Desire of Ages, 671

The heart is made pure by the inworking of the Holy Spirit. Unless you receive the Holy Spirit into your life, you will be unable to resist sin and overcome it. So we must be praying day by day that we might receive the Holy Spirit. Without this, the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross of Calvary would be of no avail. “Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.” Ibid.

Human power is not enough, so Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.

Friend, it is important that we cooperate with the divine agencies, but what God does is vital. We can never be made pure, we can never be made ready for heaven unless the Holy Spirit works a miraculous work of re-creation in our hearts. He does not modify our old life. Instead, He makes a completely new creature. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

It doesn’t matter what your past has been. If you are willing to fall on your knees before the Lord and say, Lord, I want to be born again, I want this change, help me to cooperate with the agencies of heaven, this miracle will happen in your heart and soul.

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: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Question – Why do I have to change?

Question:

The Bible says God accepts you where you are.  If that is true, then why do I have to change?

Answer:

Yes, God does accept you as and where you are. As sinners, we have no way to change ourselves for the better so that we can come to Him ready for heaven. But this does not mean that we should believe that God does not require a change of heart. He does not leave us where He found us.

“The religion of Christ never degrades the receiver; it ennobles and elevates. Upon certain conditions we are assured that we may become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. … Through faith in Christ, and obedience to the requirements of His law, we are offered a life that shall run parallel with the life of God.” The Review and Herald, May 5, 1891

“Transformation of heart means an entire change of the entire man. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,’ Christ declared (John 3:3). This change of heart is unseen; for it is an inward work, and yet, it is seen, because it works outward from within.

“Has the leaven of truth been at work in your heart? Has it absorbed the whole heart, the whole affections by its sanctifying power? …

“Our first work is with our own hearts. The true principles of reform should be practiced. The heart must be converted and sanctified else we have no connection with Christ.” This Day With God, 48

“When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being. To have a change of heart is to withdraw the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ. To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives. What is the sign of a new heart?—A changed life.” Our High Calling, 159

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:7, 9–11

Achieving Perfect Flight

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

We are all familiar with the statement Christ made in His Sermon on the Mount to be perfect. It is a verse that Adventists accept as an enabling command. In the nominal Christian world, there are some who try to ignore or explain it away, while many others expect that at some point in their life’s journey, perhaps at the second coming or at the resurrection, Jesus will accomplish this act for them with a wave of His miracle-working hand.

Allow me to use a metaphor as a means of clarifying the challenge we face as Bible-believing Christians.

Suppose that instead of telling us to be perfect, God told us to fly. We know that He wouldn’t tell us to do that without also providing the means for us to fulfill the command.

We might be tempted to say, “I can’t fly.” Well, of course we cannot fly by ourselves, but God says, “I have an airplane, I have a pilot, and I have fuel.”

The airplane is the Bible and the hope it so unfailingly supplies; the Pilot is Jesus and the faith we have in Him to fulfill His promises and His enablings; and the fuel is the working of the power of the Holy Spirit and our trust in the working of that power in response to our prayers of faith.

These elements are also exactly what we need to enable us to achieve perfection. Although God provides the means, it is up to us to use them correctly and faithfully. The Bible is our instruction manual telling us how to fly—how to obey and overcome, thereby achieving the perfection that we seek in our sphere and the fulfilled hope that we harbor and yearn for so dearly.

Jesus is our Pilot, our Guide, who has trodden the narrow way before us. His life is clearly laid out as our example. As Adventists, we have been blessed not only with the description of Christ’s character in the sacred canon of God’s word, but we also have The Desire of Ages, an incredibly detailed and uplifting look into His daily life and faultless character. As fuel—the energy we need—we have the Holy Spirit to empower us as we seek to know and do God’s will.

Most importantly, though, we have the privilege of prayer. Inspiration tells us that prayer is (1) “the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse.” Steps to Christ, 94, and (2) a means—“We cannot bring Christ down, but, through faith, we can lift ourselves up into unity and harmony with the perfect standard of righteousness.” The Review and Herald, October 30, 1888. What a privilege we have of beginning and ending each day’s activity in conversation with our Creator!

So, indeed, we can fly. We can achieve the obedience necessary to be awarded robes and crowns, palm leaves of victory, and golden harps!

Passages found in chapters 27 and 28 in Messages to Young People should provide us great encouragement as we seek to fly a straight course over the Jordan to the promised land.

“We have little idea of the strength that would be ours if we would connect with the source of all strength. We fall into sin again and again, and think it must always be so. We cling to our infirmities as if they were something to be proud of. Christ tells us that we must set our face as a flint if we would overcome. He has borne our sins in His own body on the tree; and through the power He has given us, we may resist the world, the flesh, and the devil. Then let us not talk of our weakness and inefficiency, but of Christ and His strength. When we talk of Satan’s strength, the enemy fastens his power more firmly upon us. When we talk of the power of the Mighty One, the enemy is driven back. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. …

“Many of us fail to improve our privileges. We make a few feeble efforts to do right, and then go back to our old life of sin. If we ever enter the kingdom of God, we must enter with perfect characters, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Satan works with increased activity as we near the close of time. He lays his snares, unperceived by us, that he may take possession of our minds. In every way he tries to eclipse the glory of God from the soul. It rests with us to decide whether he shall control our hearts and minds, or whether we shall have a place in the new earth, a title to Abraham’s farm.” Messages to Young People, 105

“Christ has made every provision for us to be strong. He has given us His Holy Spirit, whose office is to bring to our remembrance all the promises that Christ has made, that we may have peace and a sweet sense of forgiveness. If we will but keep our eyes fixed on the Saviour, and trust in His power, we shall be filled with a sense of security; for the righteousness of Christ will become our righteousness. …

“We dishonor Him by talking of our inefficiency. Instead of looking at ourselves, let us constantly behold Jesus, daily becoming more and more like Him, more and more able to talk of Him, better prepared to avail ourselves of His kindness and helpfulness, and to receive the blessings offered us.

“As we thus live in communion with Him, we grow strong in His strength, a help and a blessing to those around us. If we would only do as the Lord desires us to, our hearts would become as sacred harps, every chord of which would sound forth praise and gratitude to the Redeemer sent by God to take away the sin of the world.” Ibid., 107

“While true faith trusts wholly in Christ for salvation, it will lead to perfect conformity to the law of God. Faith is manifested by works.” The Review and Herald, October 5, 1886

And faith is the element that brings together all of the components we need to be able to fly safely through this sin-filled world to the world beyond the Jordan.

There are several scriptures, when used together as we kneel before the throne of grace in conversation with our Maker that should give us great hope and encouragement as we recognize the love God has shown for us erring mortals by inspiring Paul to write them.

Through the inspiration and guidance these scriptures provide, we are privileged to pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Jesus Christ so that we may set our minds, our affections, on things above and not on things of the earth, allowing us to be hid with Christ in God, thereby, by faith, quenching the fiery darts of the wicked one (2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 3:2, 3; Ephesians 6:16).

Thanks to inspiration, we know that Satan uses the avenues of the soul—our senses—in his efforts to dislodge us from the path of truth and righteousness. However, if, when Satan injects unholy thoughts into our consciousness, either by what we see, hear, or sense in any way, we can remember the promises and the enabling commands that these verses provide. Then by making the conscious effort to direct our thoughts to things above, we are able to thwart the enemy’s efforts and can abide safely under the shelter of the Almighty, taking safe refuge under His wings.

We can indeed achieve perfect flight!

[Emphasis supplied.]

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: johnpearson@stepstolife.org