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Spring 1998 Newsletter: He is Able
Publish date: Oct 5, 2009
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“Claim God’s power,” the pastor urged. “Praise Him for the victory. Faith is praise; praise is faith.”
I was a student at the University of Sydney, Australia. There were sins in my life that I could not overcome. In sheer desperation, I approached a pastor who served as a chaplain for the university students.
“What is the problem?” He asked.
“I am a Seventh-day Adventist and the son of an Adventist minister,” I said, “but there are sins in my life that I cannot overcome. I pray, and pray, and pray some more, but I never gain the victory.”
“You know,” he replied, “your much praying may be a clue to your problem.”
At that my heart sank. I began to think I had come to the wrong person.
“But doesn’t the Bible say we should pray constantly?” I asked.
“Yes, or course,” he answered. “But what do you do when you’re tempted to commit your besetting sin?
“Well, I pray for the victory.”
“And what do you do next?”
“I pray the same prayer again. I ask the Lord to help me overcome the temptation.”
“And what next?”
“I go on praying the same prayer.”
“Yes,” he said, “and then you commit the sin?”
“Well, yes, I do,” I admitted.
“Don’t you see what you’re doing?” He replied. “You are asking over and over again but never claiming the victory. God is waiting and eager to give you the victory. He wants you to claim it by faith. Thank Him for the victory. Praise Him for it. It’s yours for the asking.”
Then we knelt and he prayed a beautiful prayer. I don’t remember the words, just the impression. Then he said, “Now you pray.”
So I began, “Lord forgive me for the sins of the past and give me the power not to commit the same sins again.”
Then I prayed the same prayer in different words and was about to repeat it a third time, when he placed his hand on mine and said, “Hush a moment. Don’t you see what you’re doing? You are making the same request over and over again. Claim the victory. It’s yours for the asking. Praise God for hearing your prayer. Faith is praise; praise is faith.”
“All right, I’ll try it again”, I responded. Then I prayed, “Lord, I praise You for Your forgiveness. I praise You for the victory. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
From that experience in my university days I learned to pray three prayers when I’m tempted: first, “Lord, I’m helpless; I like this thing” (I wouldn’t be tempted if I didn’t like it); second, “Lord, I know this is wrong; please give me the victory. I praise you for Your strength not to commit this sin. Thank You, thank You!” It’s possible to pray those three prayers mentally in a few seconds. And the third prayer is the most important one. Then God gives the victory, because we have exercised faith in His enduring might.
To admit weakness is important; to ask for power to overcome is vital; but to “claim by faith” Christ’s overcoming strength is absolutely essential!
The Bible Promises Victory Over Sin.
Jude 24 says, “Now unto him that is able to seep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
Jesus is able to keep you from falling! The implications of that statement are enormous. He is able to give you victory over pride, bigotry, selfishness, impurity, bitterness, hypocrisy. He is able to take a sin-racked soul and give that soul freedom from the crippling power of evil. He is able to give you peace in place of passion, love in place of hatred, trust in place of fear.
The Scriptures abound with assurances of Jesus’ ability to keep you from falling. Jesus said, “My Father… is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:29 RSV
Paul underlined the point. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Cor 10:13 If God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our strength, and if He will provide a means of escape from any temptation, then we don’t have to sin. Through Christ’s power, we can have victory over all sin. To the Ephesians Paul wrote, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” Eph 3:20 I ask you for victory over sin, and Jesus says, “I can do much more than that for you. I will live in your heart by the Holy Spirit. I will make you a reflector of My character. My love will be the motivating force in your life, because you trust Me.”
In the same epistle, Ephesians, Paul explains how we can have victory over sin. It is by “taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Eph 6:16 “All” is an absolute word. By submission to Christ and total dependence upon Him we can overcome all of Satan’s temptations. We don’t have to fall into any sin.
“For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Heb 2:18) Jesus never sinned, and He is able to help us to overcome every temptation.
If you accept the simple logic of the statement, He “is able to keep you from falling” (Jude 24), you accept by faith the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ can give you victory over all sin. The text doesn’t say that He is able to keep you from falling today, but not tomorrow. Nor does it say that He can keep you from falling while you are sitting in church but not while you are walking down the main street of your town. The text means that he is always able to keep you from falling. There is mighty, unlimited power in the Lord Jesus Christ to give his believing people uninterrupted victory over sin.
Abiding Actively in Jesus.
How does Jesus do this? And under what circumstances will He do it? In His beautiful sermon in John 15, Jesus admonishes us, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:4-7) Abiding in Christ means speaking to Him every day and allowing Him to speak to us through His Word. Abiding in Christ means appealing to Him whenever we are tempted, praying those three prayers, (1) Lord, I’m helpless, (2) Lord give me the victory, (3) Thank you, Jesus, Thank you!
James instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7,8) First, we submit to God by asking for and claiming His power. Then we resist the devil with all our might, always remembering that it is God who gives the victory. Because Satan’s will is stronger than ours, our resistance is not enough. We must depend on the Lord for victory.
It reminds me of a situation that occurred in Cooranbong, Australia when I was teaching at Avondale College. There was a big rock in the middle of the walk that led up to our house. On dark nights people would trip over that rock. One morning I said to my wife, “I’m going to dig around that rock, put it in the wheelbarrow, and throw it up the back yard.” My little for year-old son said, “Dad, I’ll come and help you.” So together we dug around the rock until it came loose. Then we put our hands under it and lifted. The little fellow exerted all his might to help me lift that rock. His face went red, and he strained his little muscles to help me put it in the wheelbarrow. Then he rushed into the house and said to my wife, “Mum, Dad and I moved that big rock!”
“Dad and I.” If I had let go of the rock, my little son could never have lifted it alone. But I was delighted that he put forth every effort to help me. That showed his love for me and is trust in me. Just so, Jesus wants us to work with Him to exert all our willpower to overcome sin, at the same time recognizing that He is doing the lifting and giving victory. “No one sees the hand that lifts the burden.” Desire of Ages, p. 173
What If We Fail?
What if we fail? What if we give in to the devil and sin? O, my friend, we must never become discouraged. Jesus is always ready to forgive and restore us when we come to Him in penitence.
“There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, nor forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, ‘These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1 And do not forget the words of Christ, ‘The Father Himself loveth you,’ John 16:27. He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently; believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of the Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance.”Steps to Christ, p. 64.
Enoch’s Victory May Be Ours.
“O let me walk with Thee, my God, as Enoch walked in the days of old,” prayed Mrs. Avery Stuttle in a well-known hymn. What was so special about Enoch? Genesis 5 says that Enoch was taken to heaven at the age of 365 without seeing death. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” Gen 5:24
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him.”Heb 11:5
Why did God take Enoch? “Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Heb 11:5-6 You and I will be translated at the second advent of Jesus only if, before that event, we walk with Him by faith.
We can please God only if we have faith. Why? What is so important about faith? “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith”. 1 John 5:4 Enoch pleased God because by faith he overcame the world.
But what does the Bible mean when it says that faith is the “victory that overcomes the world”? What does it mean to overcome the world? Look at the context of 1 John 5:4. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” verse 2 The text doesn’t say that God is satisfied if we obey some of His commandments some of the time. He wants us to obey all His commandments all of the time. “For this is the love of God.” The bible says otherwise. It ways that “His commandments are not burdensome.”
Why are they not burdensome? How is it possible for us to obey them? “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world by the who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” verses 4-5
Overcoming the world is obeying the commandments of God. Enoch had faith and the result was that he overcame the world and kept God’s commandments. No wonder Hebrews 11 says that he pleased God. The Lord kept him from falling because of his daily surrender to the love and will of God.
We know that Enoch’s victory may be ours, because Jude 24 says that God is able to keep is from falling.
“As was Enoch’s must be their holiness of character who shall be redeemed from among men at the Lord’s second coming.” Testimonies for the Church, 8:331.
“We can discern the character of God, and accept Christ by faith, only as we consent to the bringing into captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ. To all who do this, the Holy Spirit is given without measure. In Christ ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, And ye are complete in Him.’” Colossians 2:9,10, Ibid., p. 334.
In writing that our “every thought” must be brought into obedience to Christ, Mrs. White was simply reiterating the teaching of Scripture. “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Cor 10:3-4
Our spiritual warfare is a battle for the control of our minds. The question is, who is to control our minds, Christ or the evil one? The Bible says that we can so submit to Christ that every thought will be under the control of His will. Enoch enjoyed such victory, and we may enjoy it too.
Where Else in Scripture Do We Find the Ideal of Victory Over All Sin?
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” 2 Cor 7:1 Through Christ’s power, we can cleanse ourselves “from every defilement of body and spirit.” It’s not possible to be more comprehensive than that!
“But as he who called you is holy, be yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”1 Peter 1:15-16
The word “conduct” translates the Greek word anastrophe, which means “way of life,” “behaviour”. So our conduct includes our thinking, speaking, and doing. The Bible standard is that we should be holy in all our thinking, speaking and doing. How? He is “able to keep you from falling.” Jude 24
Paul taught that we are all to come “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:13 The word “perfect” translates the Greek word teleios, which means “having attained the end or purpose”, “complete, full grown, mature, fully developed.” Some Bible students attempt to de-emphasize the concept of perfection taught in the passage by arguing that teleios means merely “mature”. But the true meaning of the word is defined by the added phrase, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The standard for perfection in Scripture is Christlikeness. What was Christ like? “He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:22-23 RSV
In The Great Controversy, p. 263, Mrs. White repeated the Bible standard of victory over all sin through the power of Christ: “Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation… This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.”
Again in The Acts of the Apostles, p. 531: "None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision as been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection, and places before us the example of Christ’s character. In his humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through cooperation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is God’s assurance to us that we too may obtain perfect victory.”
Character Perfection Is Not Nature Perfection.
Some Bible students teach nature perfection before Jesus comes. They think that God’s people will be free from all human imperfection before the close of probation. I don’t believe the Bible teaches this, for it says that at the second coming “this corruptible must put on incorruption”. 1 Cor 15:53 KJV What does this statement imply? It implies that up to the second coming of Jesus we will have “corruption” in us; that is, we will have imperfect, fallen natures until Jesus comes!
At His second advent, Jesus will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body”. Phil 3:21 As long as we are in these imperfect bodies, we will have imperfect minds, and all our behaviour will be tinged with human imperfection.
This is why Mrs. White wrote, “We cannot say, ‘I am sinless’ till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed how is ours of standing before the throne of God without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, complete in Christ, robed in his righteousness and perfection.” That I May Know Him, p. 361
We need to recognize that although all sin is imperfection, not all imperfection is sin. Everything we do is imperfect, because our minds and bodies are imperfect. We are fallen human beings, who are unable to do anything absolutely perfectly. But our imperfection works, if wrought by faith, are acceptable in God’s sight.
A friend of ours is a sweet 98-year-old Christian lady. She forgets things once in a while and condemns herself because of her poor memory. Is she sinning when she forgets? Of course not! Loss of memory for one who is chronologically challenged is a natural human imperfection. But it is not sin. Sin is choosing to act contrary to God’s will. Even when we are doing His will by faith all we do is imperfect.
When I was editing the Sabbath School Quarterly, I was assisted by the most capable proofreaders and copywriters. We all read and corrected the manuscripts carefully. But once in a while, despite all our efforts, a spelling mistake or a wrong reference would appear in the printed version. Was that sin? I don’t think so. It was evidence of our human imperfection. We didn’t deliberately put errors into the Quarterly; we constantly prayed that the Lord would enable us to produce perfect copy. But we were imperfect people, and sometimes an error escaped our notice.
We will be fallen, imperfect, and, in that sense, “sinful” in nature until Jesus comes. But we are to have victory over all sin before the close of probation. Revelation 1:1-3 teaches that God’s people are sealed for eternity before the winds of strife are let loose, that is, before the close of probation. Only those who are sealed before probation closes will be saved for eternity.
“When Jesus leaves the sanctuary, then they who are holy and righteous will be holy and righteous still. [See Rev 22:11]; for all their sins will then be blotted out, and they will be sealed with the sail of the living God. But those that are unjust and filthy will be unjust and filthy still; for then there will be no Priest in the sanctuary to offer their sacrifices, their confessions, and their prayers before the Father’s throne. Therefore what is done to rescue souls from the coming storm of wrath must be done before Jesus leaves the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.” Early Writings, p. 48.
Some Bible students present an argument that amounts to the following: Proposition 1: All imperfection is sin. Proposition 2: We will be imperfect until Jesus Comes. Conclusion: Therefore, we all sin until Jesus comes.
No such argument is valid if one of the propositions is incorrect. Proposition 1 is unbiblical. It is not true that all imperfection is sin. It is true that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” Rom 14:23, but the imperfect works that we do in faith are acceptable in the sight of God. We will be humanly imperfect until Jesus comes, because our minds and bodies will remain fallen until then. But we will not go on sinning till Jesus comes. U His unlimited grace, we are to have victory over all sin before the close of probation.
Dr. Schweitzer and His Pedal Piano.
Albert Schweitzer was a brilliant young man. At the age of 25 he was a Doctor of Philosophy, a Doctor of Theology, and a recognized European organist. At the age of 28, he was the principal of St. Thomas’s theological college at the University of Strassburg.
As Schweitzer walked into his office one morning, he picked up from his desk the journal of the Paris Missionary Society. In it he read an advertisement for physicians to go as missionaries to equatorial Africa. Pensively he put the magazine down, saying to himself, “I will continue in my current position until I am 30. Then I will resign, study medicine, and go to Africa as a medical missionary.” He did precisely that. At the age of 30, he resigned his position and entered the medical department of the same university as a student. His colleagues in the psychiatric department wanted to subject him to therapy. They thought he was crazy. He studied medicine for six years, received his degree, married, and went to Africa as medical missionary.
Because Schweitzer couldn’t take a pipe organ with him to equatorial Africa, the Paris Bach Society presented him with a piano that had organ pedals. But when he arrived in Africa, he left the piano in its crate! Then one day he thought to himself, “If I were to practice on that piano with the organ pedals, I could memorize all of Bach’s organ music. I could go back to Europe put on recitals, and raise money for my mission station.” So he took the piano out of its crate, and night after night his fellow workers heard the beautiful music of Bach wafting though the tropical air. Schweitzer memorized all of Bach’s organ music. Indeed, he became a world of authority on the music of Bach. He took furloughs to Europe, put on recitals, and raised money for his missionary station.
Schweitzer used a very imperfect instrument. It wasn’t an organ; it was a piano with organ pedals. But he played it like a master artist, and the music that came from it was as perfect as possible for that imperfect instrument. We are that piano with organ pedals; we are very imperfect instruments. But when we are played upon by the Master Artist—and when, as we have seen, we cooperate with the Master Artist in ways that no piano-organ can—the harmonies of heaven that emanate from our souls are as perfect as possible for these imperfect instruments.
This is what the Bible teaches about victory over sin and perfection of Christian character. Fallen imperfect human beings though we are, we can have victory over sin by acting by faith through the power of the indwelling Christ and thus be ready for the seal of God to be placed upon us before the close of probation.
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