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SALVATION THROUGH TRUTH, OR DOCTRINAL SUICIDE
Part 5 -- The Human Will
In our past sermons, we examined the issue of how to overcome sin and become perfect through Christ. We clearly saw that perfection of character is indeed possible and attainable--but only through union with Christ. Yet Christ will not do this work for us--it is a combination of faith and works. This then leads us to examine the last in this series on Salvation through Truth, or Doctrinal Suicide--or the Issue of the Human Will.
The main point at stake with this issue is that since sin is a choice, must we exert the will power to resist sinning, or will Christ overcome the sin for us? Most all of the churches of Babylon downplay the idea of the human will being used to overcome sin, and strongly teach that Christ has already overcome sin for us, so there is no need to put forth any will power or efforts to combat sin.
Their theological "learned" men teach that any person who attempts to use their will in putting forth efforts to overcome sin, are therefore not finding rest in Christ, and thus will end up defeated. So, they declare, there is no need to control ourselves or attempt to live a life like Christ, because it is impossible for us to do so--and that is why it is all of grace and by faith alone! And this includes the S.D.A. church and its theological leaders!
"The gospel is not doing something in order to make ourselves better. It is not reforming ourselves, using our will power to stop bad habits...this is not the gospel....Its good news: not that we should do something for God...it is salvation by faith...'Its all of Grace.'" Voice of Prophecy News, February, 1976, p 6, H.M.S. Richards, Sr.
"He [Christ] gives us rest...from our own attempt to overcome sin and the devil, and from fighting the battles that Jesus has promised to fight for us." Adventist Review, December 24, 1981, p 5.
"Many people accept the premise that justification is by faith alone, but find it hard to turn loose of the idea that there is something we can do to save ourselves in the process of sanctification. Some consider it dangerous to give up the idea that the method of living the Christian life is by faith plus works....If we put our effort and our will-power toward that which is impossible for us to do [keep God's commandments and overcome sin], then we will end in defeat." Faith That Works, p 188.
"Rest from what?...Rest from trying to control ourselves..." Adventist Review, January 2, 1986, p 13.
"If we direct all of our will power toward seeking the faith relationship with Christ, we will have none left to fight sin and the devil. And that's how it should be, for Christ has promised to do this for us." Faith That Works, p 209.
"If we are sinners, and cannot produce genuine obedience apart from God, then all we can do regarding ourselves is to surrender ourselves--give up on the idea that we can ever produce genuine obedience....We will never be just like Jesus....Jesus must do all of this [overcome our sins, obey God, and produce righteousness] for us." Faith That Works, p 168-72.
"It is wrong for a person to attempt to live the Christian life. We are not asked to do so." Salvation by Faith and Your Will, p 38-40.
Whereas others believe that no one will be able to be saved unless they indeed use their will power in putting forth efforts to obey God through Christ in resisting sin. So which position is correct?
First of all, what exactly is the will?
"This (the will) is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will." Steps to Christ, p 47.
So our will is the power or force in our natures. We can choose to do something all day long, but it will not be accomplished until we act upon our choice. The power to perform the action in harmony with our choice is accomplished by the force of our will. Thus the will plays a most vital and important part in our daily lives. This can be easily understood from the following example.
Picture an electrical fan which has only two switch positions--one to blow air outward, and the other to suck air inward. You can choose all day long to have the fan moving the air one way or the other, but until it has the needed electricity to power it, the fan blade will not move at all. The same with us. We can choose to perform either a positive or a negative action, but until our will powers the action in harmony with our choice, we will not move at all. Thus in using our will power, we would be DOING something by putting forth ACTION, EFFORT, WORK, LABOR, etc., to accomplish our choice and desire. So in order to move at all, the will must be set to work. Thus you can clearly see that we are constantly using our will in every action of our daily lives. From the time when we wake up in the morning until we fall asleep at night, we are constantly using our will to act upon our choices and decisions. Therefore our lives are made up from the different choices WE make and the actions WE perform! When we continually choose to repeat a certain action we begin to form a habit, and our characters will be made up according to the particular habits we form. Therefore we become exactly what we choose ourselves to be. And, to the Christian, it means everything to be able to spend eternity close beside our King and our merciful Saviour. That is why "everything depends on the right action of the will."
What does God's word state regarding the will? Are we to use our will in obeying God, putting forth earnest efforts to resist and overcome the temptations of the Devil? Or are we to do nothing and by faith alone believe that Christ will do all the overcoming for us?
Christ tells us in Luke 13:24 that we are to "strive to enter in at the straight gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." The Greek word for "strive" is #75, and it means to "struggle, fight, labor fervently, to contend with an adversary". So why were the majority not able to enter in through the gate and obtain eternal life? Because they either did not strive or struggle with the adversary at all, or they gave up the struggle too soon! They did not continue to fight and contend with the enemy of our souls, but gave up the warfare and joined him!
Jude tells us that we must "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). The Greek word for "contend" is #1864, and it means to "struggle for". So here again, God is telling His people that they must strive, contend, struggle, fight, labor fervently against the sins which so easily beset us in order to keep the true Gospel faith as it is in Jesus and obtain eternal life. Thus our will must be used in this fight, struggle, and contending for the faith--because without the will, no struggling or contending can occur.
God created you and I to represent Him, not just in outward appearance, but especially in character! (see Patriarchs and Prophets, p 45). But because of Adam's sin, human nature fell and became sinful, full of evil lusts and desires, with a strong inward driving inclination to continue on sinning. Thus when faced with a temptation, our fallen nature, with all its evil desires and inclinations, exerts an almost overpowering desire to give in to that temptation and commit sin, while our conscience is telling us to resist the temptation and do good. Hence a war builds within us either to give in and commit sin or to resist and follow the will of God. Which means that we are forced to use our will in walking whatever pathway we decide to follow.
But what makes this fact even more difficult, is that after the fall, our will was given into Satan's control!
"This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the fall given into the control of Satan; and he has ever since been working in man to will and to do of his own pleasure, but to the utter ruin and misery of man." Testimonies, vol 5, p 515.
So with Satan having the mastery over our will, and with man's fallen nature exerting an almost overpowering urge and desire to sin, we certainly would stand no chance of overcoming sin. We would continue to lack enough strength and power on our own, to stand against temptation, and we would continually find ourselves yielding to temptation and choosing sin even though we didn't want to. Paul says this very thing in Romans 7:18-19, 22-24.
Is there any hope for the human race under these conditions? No, we would continue to be the servants of sin and remain under bondage to the devil. All the good things that we would do; all our righteousness would be as filthy rags to God. Satan would continue to claim us as his own, and he would be our master and father.
Then where could humanity look for help out of this dark pit of despair? The New Age teaches that we need to look within for the power to escape this pit of despair and become like God. But the Bible states that the only thing we will find if we look within is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9). The advocates of the New World Order declare that humanity must look to each other and their community for the collective consciousness and power to escape the pit of despair and become like God. But the Bible states that we would be cursed and the enemies of God if we trusted to the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5; James 4:4). The apostate churches teach that humanity must look to them for the power to escape the pit of despair and become like God. But the Bible teaches that if humanity trusts their salvation to the polluted church, they will be destroyed along with their sinful church (Micah 2:10; Isaiah 52:11; Revelation 18:1-4).
Thus the only hope for the entire human family would be help from above--from God!
"The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in the every man's experience. There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided he cannot resist. To withstand this force, to attain that ideal which his inmost soul he accepts as alone worthy, he can find help in but one power. That power is Christ." Education, p 29.
After the fall, our will was bent downward toward evil. Thus our only hope of salvation is from God. But God cannot just pardon man and his sin, because it would prove the penalty to be useless, and sin would be allowed to live forever. The only way to break Satan's claim and bondage upon us and save humanity, would be for a son of the human race to choose to live his entire life without sinning. To continually war, struggle, and fight against the almost overpowering desire and lusts of a fallen human nature; to continually force his will to overcome all temptations, relying upon God for help, and then to walk in the path of humble obedience to God's commands perfectly. This is the only way to break Satan's control over our will and his claim upon us, because it would then prove that the law of God is holy, just and good, and that it could be obeyed perfectly by humanity. There is no other way for man's salvation and freedom from the bondage of Satan and sin! And who is this son of the human race which would volunteer to engage in this seemingly impossible task? Jesus Christ!
God, our merciful and blessed Father, gave His only begotten Son to become bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; to be our Substitute, our Surety and Sacrifice for sin; to wrestle with and overcome the strong foe. And, as we discovered earlier, Christ overcame all sin through a fallen, sinful human nature with sinful flesh.
"For in that he (Christ) himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." Hebrews 2:18.
Christ suffered by being tempted. Now why would Christ suffer by being tempted if He had the unfallen nature of man? Can God be tempted to do evil? No (see James 1:13). Yet Christ was tempted to do evil. Then in what nature did Christ have to be living in to be tempted and to suffer by these temptations? He had to be living in a fallen, sinful human nature.
Our dear Saviour had the same nature, the same fallen, sinful, human nature as you and I inherited, so that He could be tempted just like you and I are tempted; and yet He overcame them all.
"For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15.
So in all areas, Christ was "tempted like as we are" with the same fallen nature, with the same driving and almost overpowering desires to commit sin, yet He did not sin in one instance.
"Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Hebrews 2:17.
The suffering that Christ experienced when tempted was by Him fighting against it and using all the power of His being in grabbing hold of His will, forcing it upward to resist and overcome the clamors of a fallen nature, choosing instead to follow the will of God in all things and doing the will of God perfectly. Thus Christ crucified self; He denied the downward inclinations of a fallen nature, and this caused internal suffering, but gained the victory over the temptation.
Christ did not commit sin to obtain our fallen nature, but He took it upon Himself in order to endure the same strong inward inclinations of the fallen nature; and He overcame them all--being our perfect example in all things. Thus He can indeed help us overcome these same downward inclinations in every time of need!
"He knows how strong are the inclinations of the natural heart, and He will help in every time of temptation." Testimonies, vol 5, p 177.
When we choose to follow the example of our Saviour, and yield our wills unto God, resisting the clamors of a sinful nature by doing the will of God, we too will experience internal suffering as self is crucified and Jesus is revealed through us instead! But this suffering means that we are gaining the victory over that sin and thus perfecting our characters through the grace and strength of Christ. So if we find ourselves suffering in the flesh, then sin has been refused; but if we do not suffer by crucifying self, then sin is retained.
"Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God....
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:1-2, 5:8-11.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13.
Indeed may everlasting praise be given to God! And may everlasting praise be given to Jesus because He was willing to humble Himself in taking our sinful nature upon Him so that He would be acquainted with all the internal struggles against sin which are common to us all, and to know from personal experience how strong are these inclinations of the natural heart and thus be able to help us in every time of our need! Oh, may we fully comprehend this vital and solemn truth and then come boldly to the throne of grace, knowing that we will find the help in Christ that we need to overcome every temptation and resist every sin! (Hebrews 4:16).
Christ has made us free from the power of the devil and sin, setting us a perfect example of how we can also overcome sin and perfect our own characters in righteousness. And we can! But we must surrender ourselves to God, being daily converted unto Him, and we must understand the power of the will.
"It is through the will that sin retains its hold upon us." Mount of Blessings, p 61.
"The stronghold of sin is in the will." Letter 24a, Jan 27, 1890 (Manuscript Release (MR) #448, p 12-13).
Since it is through the will that the stronghold of sin is found in us, then the reverse of this is also true: that it is through the will that the stronghold of righteousness is also to be found! Therefore knowing how to yield our will unto God and forcing our body to perform God's will in walking the pathway of righteousness would break sin's strangle-hold upon us! And if we continually forced our will to do God's good pleasure, then instead of our will being the stronghold of sin, it would become the stronghold of righteousness!
But some just do not know how to give themselves completely to Jesus and become converted to Him--being born again and obtaining the new heart. Yet it is very simple.
"What is the new heart? It is the new mind. What is the mind? It is the will. Where is your will? It is either on Satan's side or Christ's side. Now it is up to you. Will you put your will today on Christ's side of the question? That is the new heart. It is the new will. A new mind. `A new heart will I give thee.' Then let us begin right here.
"Conversion is simple, very simple. Let us commence right here to come into the kingdom of heaven. How? As a little child. Just as simple as simple can be. You may get all your mysteries of the new birth, and you cannot make anybody understand it, or understand it yourself. But the best way for you is to give your mind to Jesus Christ, and the mind is the will..." Manuscript 36, September 19, 1891 (MR #551 p 3).
"Many are inquiring, `How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?' You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
"Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.
"Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God, you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith." Steps to Christ, p 46-47.
Our Saviour has showed us how to overcome every temptation, and it is by yielding our will to God's will every moment of our life. That is exactly how we overcome and are able to sit with Christ on His throne!
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame..." Revelation 3:21.
How did Christ overcome? When temptation came His way, He met it with a "Thus saith the Lord," and instead of following His own will and the inclinations of a fallen nature, He chose to always follow the will of His Father. He forced His will to obey, drawing divine strength from His Father to continue walking the straight and narrow pathway. The same with us.
This whole process is taught by living example throughout the scriptures. When the children of Israel came to the Jordan River after wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, it was overflowing its banks during that particular time of the year and so was so swift that it was humanly impossible for all to swim across it. The promised land was just on the other side, yet to all human eyesight it was impossible to overcome this formidable obstacle and gain the sought after goal. But God told them to go forward! What did they have to do? They had to show faith in God's word, yield up their wills to God, and then exert their will-power in harmony with their faith by taking one step forward in obedience to God: they had to place their feet in the water. As soon as their feet touched the water, God's power then came through, parted the Jordan River, and they were able to overcome that great obstacle by continuing to walk forward until they had gained the promised land. The exact same lesson was acted out during Christ's healing miracles.
The man with the withered arm, not only had to have faith in God, but he had to exert the will-power and stretch forth his hand before God's power came through and healed him. The paralytic man, not only had to have faith in God, but he had to exert the will-power to rise up off his bed before God's power came through and healed him. The leper had to take the first step in going to show himself to the priests before God's power came through and healed him. Etc. All these were told by Christ that they had to do something in order to gain the goal of being healed. To them it seemed impossible and even ludicrous to obey, but when they decided to yield up their wills to God, and then acted upon their faith--exerting their will-power in taking the first step in obedience to God, then and only then did the power of God come through and gain the victory over their obstacle.
That is how those healed by Christ gained the victory, and the children of Israel gained the promised land--how they all obtained their desired goal! And the exact same process is for us today! How may we overcome all sin and gain the promised land of heaven? Through the force of our will! By forcing our will to obey God in taking the first step in obedience, and then with God's divine power being given to us--in other words humanity and divinity combined through Christ, we may continue walking on to victory!
"There is but one power that can bring us into conformity to the likeness of Christ, that can make us stead-fast and keep us constant. It is the grace of God that comes to us through obedience to the law of God." My Life Today, p 100.
"The Son of God came to our world in human form to show men that divinity and humanity combined does not commit sin." Manuscript Releases, vol 8, p 291 (Manuscript 16, February 10, 1898).
Oh, brothers and sisters, we have been given the exalted honor of uniting together with our Lord and putting forth earnest efforts to perfect holiness in the fear of God--bending our will upward and walking hand-in-hand with Christ up that straight and narrow pathway of perfection (see 2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
"...every temptation resisted is a priceless victory gained in subduing self; it bends the powers to the service of Jesus, and increases faith, hope, patience, and forbearance." Review and Herald, vol 1, p 291.
Let us therefore yield our wills unto God that we can then perform the doing of His will in being servants unto righteousness and no longer servants of sin!
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him (Christ), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him...reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you...Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Romans 6:6-8, 11-18.
"Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have." 2 Corinthians 8:11.
As we have been made free from the power of sin, let us then use our freedom to always yield our wills unto God and continue to gain the victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ which strengtheneth us!
Dear ones, as unworthy as we are, we have been privileged to be partakers of the great and unfathomable love which God the Father has bestowed upon us through Jesus! As unworthy as we are, we have been privileged to be partakers of the divine nature to be able to escape from sin! As unworthy as we are, we have been privileged to have the Son of God become one of us and be able to call Him our Elder Brother! Who are we to have such precious gifts bestowed upon us, and to also have the promise of eternal life through Jesus if we remain faithful to God and His truth to the end? Yet, this is not all!
We have been given the exalted privilege of showing our deep love for God by developing our characters, as well as the faculties of our mind, into the highest possible development. And how high is that?
"For the mind and the soul, as well as for the body, it is God's law that strength is acquired by effort. It is exercise that develops. In harmony with this law, God has provided in His word the means for mental and spiritual development....
"He who with sincere and teachable spirit studies God's word, seeking to comprehend its truth, will be brought in touch with its Author; and, except by his own choice, there is no limit to the possibilities of his development." Education, p 123-25.
Now how high is that?
"Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness--godlikeness--is the goal to be reached." Education, p 18.
And how high is that?
"God created man that every faculty might be the faculty of the divine mind..." Christ's Object Lessons, p 355.
Oh, dear friends, this is God's highest ideal for us, that we develop our faculties of mind and our characters into the exact image of our Creator and God--which is exactly what Jesus did when He was on this earth! So may we allow "this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5.
But we can choose not to follow God's highest ideal for us, and instead of perfecting our chartacters and developing our mental faculties, we can choose to sin and abuse this precious treasure hidden within us. But if we do such a thing, we must then suffer the ETERNAL consequences.
"Every sin, every unrighteous action, every transgression of the law of God tells with a thousand-fold more force upon the actor than the sufferer. Every time one of the glorious faculties with which God has enriched man is abused or misused that faculty looses forever a portion of its vigor and will never be as it was before the abuse it suffered. Every abuse afflicted upon our moral nature in this life is felt not only for time but for eternity. Though God may forgive the sinner yet eternity will not make up that voluntary loss sustained in this life. To go forth into the next, the future life, deprived of half the power which might be carried there is a terrible thought. The days of probation lost here in acquiring a fitness for heaven is a loss which will never be recovered. The capacities of enjoyment will be less in the future life for the misdemeanors and abused moral powers in this life. However high we might attain in the future life we might soar higher and still higher if we had made the most of our God-given privileges and golden opportunities to improve our faculties here in this probationary existence." This Day With God, p 350.
That's quite a solemn thought! But it does not have to be our experience! We do not have to continue in sin.
WE CAN CHOOSE NOT TO!