HOW THE WILL OF MAN CAN OVERCOME ALL SINby Elder Lawrence Nelson
In my personal devotions with God one early morning I discovered a most profound truth that I must share with you. I was reading the book Christ Object Lessons and found this mind-boggling inspired quotation: "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it become omnipotent." (p. 333).
At first I found this difficult to comprehend for only God is omnipotent. Could it be possible that God loves us so much that He is willing to share this unbelievable power of omnipotence with you and me? Since I am a firm believer that both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, I was overwhelmed with this revealed truth that God would share His omnipotent power with sinners like you and me, so that we may overcome every temptation of Satan and live victoriously as Jesus did.
I dare not proceed further without heavenly guidance to contemplate such astounding truth. Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we humbly bow before Thy mighty power pleading that Thy Holy Spirit will energize our sin-weakened minds, enabling us to catch a glimpse of salvation's plan that makes it possible for us to live victoriously over every sin before Jesus comes. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
As we begin this study let us keep in mind that there is no question concerning the eternal truth that is found in Romans 8:3 - "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." It was thus that Christ, as our example, demonstrated for us how He, in the likeness of our sinful flesh joined His will with God's omnipotent power making it possible for Him to live on earth without committing one sin. This is why He could say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" John 8:46. Only Christ could make such a statement, for in His daily life He fully surrendered His will to God's will.
We read of this dedication in John 6:38, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." This was demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane in choosing death rather than life when He stated, "Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt." Mark 14:36.
Christ has revealed how He cooperated with God in joining His human will with God's divine will. This is why the Bible pleads, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5. If we will follow the example of Christ, and place our will in the hand of God, we too can have absolute victory over sin.
Now, this brings us to a most important question: "What is the will?" I believe this can best be described by what it is not. Please let me illustrate. Most of you have no doubt experienced something similar to what I am about to tell you. You have been in someone's home when it was bedtime for their children. I was making a pastoral call with my wife one evening in one of the homes of our church members. Their little boy, Johnny, was excited to see the pastor. As we visited, the boy's bedtimes became past due so Mother said, "Johnny, it's time for you to go to bed."
Instantly he shook his head – No! and began to pout. But mother insisted. "Johnny, come now, let's go to bed." At these words he began to reveal his real nature. He stamped his feet, fell on the floor kicking and screaming. His mother picked the little fellow up as he struggled to resist. Mother blushed as she said, "My boy has such a strong will power." Now that was a misnomer. Johnny was not displaying his God-given will power, but instead a disobedient "won't power." What's more, "won't power" is not to be confused with "want power."
Let me explain further. An old man in the jungle was in such pain that he walked ten miles to one of our dispensaries in a small town. The doctor took one look at his swollen jaw and told the man his tooth must be taken out. The man got in the dental chair and watched the doctor make preparations. First, he put on a white jacket and then placed a hypo with a long needle on it on a nearby table. The jungle man's eyes grew bigger and bigger. Next, the doctor placed a small lance and forceps next to the hypo. After rolling up his sleeves, the doctor told the man, "Open your mouth." Suddenly he yelled, "No, no." You see this jungle man had never seen a dentist before in his entire life and he was scared to death.
The doctor pleaded, "You will only feel a tiny prick. When the tooth is gone you will not have any more pain."
"No, no." The man got up, got out of the chair and rushed to the door and ran back into the jungle with his terrible pain. Why? – Because he was not willing.
Now, what have we learned thus far? – The will of man is not "won't power," it is not "want power," the will is the "deciding power" of man. Let me give you the best definition of the will that I have ever found. "Pure religion has to do with the will. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power which works in the children of men unto obedience to God or unto disobedience." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 513.
We have arrived at the proper definition. The will is not "won't power," the will is not "want power," the will is the deciding power. These words, "deciding power," imply there is a council of judges, so let us consider your mind. Your brain is the chamber in which three judges sit. The first judge is called "the voice of reason." This is why God pleads, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord." Isaiah 1:18. Only man has this power of reasoning. This ability leads to choice; it is not found in the animal kingdom. The greatest gift of God that He gave to mankind is His Son, Jesus Christ. The next greatest gift is the power of choice. If man is to be saved to everlasting life, he must accept this precious gift of Jesus and then properly use the gift of choice. We read in Deuteronomy 30: 19, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may life."
Now, let's consider this judge called "Reason." He's cold and factual. He will argue the pro and the con, pointing out the good and the bad. He pays no attention as to whether you like it or not. Without question, he points out the advantages or disadvantages. What makes our reasoning power tick?
Reasoning power is developed by your home life – the teachings and example of your parents, Bible study and prayer and how you use the television and the radio.
Your reasoning power is determined by the school you attended. Were Christian standards taught and upheld? Are modern scientific theories accepted without question, or is the final answer found in God's Word?
The church you attend affects your power of choice. Are it's teachings based on God's Word or on tradition? Do you attend for the excitement of its weekly drama, and the beat of the Christian rock music, or to be quietly, spiritually fed by the Holy Spirit?
Don't forget the effect of your associations upon your reasoning ability. Are your close friends worldly, with evil habits, or are they the kind you love to discuss spiritual truths with? Each of these four factors effect the reasoning ability of this judge.
The second judge is your "heart's ideal." Some may call it your "feelings." We are not talking about your mind of knowledge but of your heart's seat of affections. God says in His Word in 1 Kings 3:9, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart." Our "heart's ideal" judge is developed by the same four standards of our personal environment – the home life, the school, the church and your associates. The important question is, "Are these four factors Christ-centered?" The poet has stated, "Be like Jesus, this my song, In the home and in the throng; Be like Jesus all day long! I would be like Jesus."
The third judge is "the voice of conscience." As with the other two judges, the counsel of this judge is also developed by the home, school, church and our associates. We are not born with a conscience, and we must not consider our conscience infallible. Take the example of Saul of Tarsus. It was his home life, schooling, church and associates which all played a part in the development of his ungodly conscience. Keep in mind, he was taught that tradition was above the Word of God, that he could work his way to heaven, that higher education should be trusted above the counsel of God, that priestly teachings and commands were to be obeyed with a cadaver-like conscience. Is it any wonder that he acted as he did? He persecuted the people of God believing that he was doing God a favor.
But on the road to Damascus he met Jesus and he was never the same again. As he looked in His face, Christ became his ideal. His conscience was renewed by the Holy Spirit enabling him to see the folly in fighting God's truth. He immediately forsook his former associates, his reasoning power no longer was based on tradition but on God's eternal Word. No longer do we talk of Saul the persecutor, but of Paul the apostle. Why? – Because the three judges in his mind chamber now acted differently. His reasoning power was now based on scripture. His heart's ideal was no longer to be like the Jewish priests, but to be like Jesus. His conscience followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. His new associates encouraged him to stand faithful to God. The Bible explains this is two words – "Born Again." We praise God for Paul's New Birth experience, but we must ever keep in mind that if this change of mind does not reveal a death of the old nature and a resurrection of a new, Christ-like nature, this apparent change of character will not last, but end in complete failure.
Consider the following. An individual may accept God's Word as the basis of his reasoning, but if he continues to make his ideal that of some TV movie star the power of this worldly ideal will become so strong as to eventually overrule the Word of God. If one permits the Holy Spirit to develop within him a holy conscience, but he reasons to question God's Word because of the teachings of "higher education" he will discover that doubt will become the master, actually destroying his faith in God.
What's more, you may have good reasoning, heavenly ideals and a holy conscience, yet if you allow your closest friends to be those which are unconverted, with evil habits, all of your godly counsel, high ideals, and saintly conscience will avail you nothing. The power of evil associates is so great that it will overpower these Christian qualities, thus you will never be able to join your human will power with that of omnipotence. Victory over sin will be unattainable.
Consider once more this "will chamber" in man's mind. Sometimes it often takes a few moments to make the right decision and this requires a porter called self-control to take control and give time to the three judges to take action. For an instance, when a problem arises demanding a decision, this self-control porter opens the door to the will chamber, stating, "Just a minute. Don't be too hasty for we expect the right decision."
Paul explains this action with these words, "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." 1 Corinthians 9:25. Ellen White uses these words found in Messages to Young People p. 134, "The highest evidence of nobility in a Christian is self-control. He who can stand unmoved amid a storm of abuse is one of God's heroes. … It is God's purpose that the kingly power of sanctified reason, controlled by divine grace, shall bear sway in the lives of human beings. He who rules his spirit is in possession of this power."
So, at the doorway to the council chamber of the will sits this porter of self-control. Whatever the source of impulse - be it habits, hereditary tendencies or some emotion - your mind chamber becomes alerted for action. Self-control gives your three judges (your will) time to come to the right decision. It may take only a split second for reason, desire and conscience to act. Then again, it may take more time. But to act impulsively, without the decision of these three judges, can be a disaster; the difference between life or death, heaven or hell.
Let me make this practical. Take the example of hunger. This is a God-given desire implanted at birth. As it follows the nerve pathway to the brain, if it is unhampered by reason, ideal, or conscience, the result is obvious. We will eat anything, at any time, in any quantity to satisfy the impulse. This could lead us to become a glutton or a drunkard. But if we channel this desire to our will chamber immediately the porter of self-control says, "Wait a minute. Your three judges need to act." Instantly reason takes over.
"So, you want to eat? Well, that's perfectly alright, but remember, the work you are doing determines the quantity that you eat. Don't forget, you should wait at least four to five hours between meals. You will need some protein, carbohydrates and minerals. What? You don't like greens? – That doesn't matter, eat it. It's good for you."
And then the heart's ideal continues, "Remember, you are what you eat. Have you forgotten that over-weight person you saw yesterday? Wasn't it a sight? You want to be alert, clear-eyed, quickly able to distinguish between truth and error, don't you? It's a known fact the man who follows God's prescribed diet of fresh fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables is found to be in the best of health."
The conscience speaks up, "Everything that can be eaten shouldn't be eaten. Some things are poison and God has declared that some things are unclean." So, in the will-chamber of your mind you will have made a right decision - I will eat the right food, in the right quantity, at the right time. The result – you are a happy, contented, healthy, clear-minded thinker on the road to the best of health all because of the correct action of your will.
Now, what about sex? There are two paths that can be taken. One is controlled sex, the other is uncontrolled sex. God gave us sex, and there is nothing wrong with His wonderful gift, but if uncontrolled by the will it can lead to indiscretion, petting, lasciviousness, adultery, perversion and even incest. What was true love can become lust, breaking the marriage vow and ruining the life. Uncontrolled sex is a curse and it's always promoted by the devil.
You might not like the comparison that I am about to give, but it is absolutely true. A young women, with the proper will power can become an unselfish mother, rearing her beautiful children for Christ in her Christ-like home, or she can become a harlot, roaming the streets like a dog in heat. Both are inspired by the same instinctive urge of sex. What makes the difference? – It's the will power. No wonder the wisest man that ever lived said in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." The apostle Paul added in Romans 8:13, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." This fact remains as long as there is life on earth.
Your will is the determining factor between eternal life or death. Inspiration makes this very clear in Messages to Young People p. 31, "O that every one might realize that he is the arbiter of his own destiny. Your happiness for this life, and for the future, immortal life lies with yourself." Does this mean that God doesn't have anything to do with your salvation? – Of course not. What it means is that you must do the "willing" and then God can to the "saving."
Let me read further from this inspired book on p. 212. "Remember … that each day, each hour, each moment, you are weaving the web of your destiny. Each time the shuttle is thrown, there is woven into the web a tread which either mars or beautifies the pattern. If you are careless or indolent, you spoil the life which God designed should be bright and beautiful. If you choose to follow your own inclinations, unchristlike habits will bind you will bands of steel."
Now let me conclude with the profound truth I read to you in our introduction of this important message. It is found in Christ Object Lessons p. 333, "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent." What a tremendous thought! Omnipotence – why that's a power belonging only to God! What does this mean? – Your will can become omnipotent when it is completely dominated by God's will because your reasoning, your ideal, your conscience, and your choice of associates are all in tune with God.
This is how Jesus, as a man, made in the likeness of our flesh, was able to overcome every temptation of Satan and never sin. God pleads with you and me to do likewise. As we read before in Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." As Christ gave His will completely to God, His will power became omnipotent over every temptation. And praise the Lord, we too can live victoriously over sin when we can say as Christ said, "Not my will but Thy will be done."
God never forces the will. The power of choice was God's original gift to man and it will always be as long as eternity lasts. When we willingly give our reasoning, ideal, and conscience to God He shares His divine power with us. Praise His name! What love! What a Savior! You can hear His voice calling now. I'm reading Isaiah 1:19, 20, "If ye be willing (there it is again – the power of the will) and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Praise God.
It is so simple. Messages to Young People p. 120 says, "Put your will on the side of Christ. Will to serve Him, and in acting upon His word you will receive strength. Whatever may be the evil practice, the master passion which through long indulgence binds both soul and body, Christ is able and longs to deliver. He will impart life to the soul that is 'dead in trespasses.' He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin." Don't you like this kind of a God; doesn't this appeal to your heart? With the help of His omnipotent power you can say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13.
So beloved, with God's help I have laid before you life or death. Your will determines what your choice will be. A missionary told me of an old man who walked into the mission hospital asking for some medicine to heal his broken finger. As the doctor unwrapped the dirty rag covering his hand he discovered the finger was dead. It was black; rotten to the bone.
Alarmed the doctor said, "There's no medicine that I can give you that can cure your finger. It must be amputated immediately or the blood poison of your dead finger will kill you."
But the man would have none of this. He insisted, "Doctor, if you won't give me medicine to cure my finger I'll return to the jungle and find my old witch doctor. He will give me medicine. If it won't work I'll come back in ten days."
Two weeks later the doctor inquired of a patient who knew this man. "Tell me, what happened to the man with the infected finger?"
"Oh," said the friend, "he died five days ago."
Why did he die? Was it because there was no doctor to save him? – No. He was not willing. When we shall soon see Jesus coming in the clouds of angels to bestow eternal life to the faithful, if any of us should find ourselves calling for the mountains to hide us from His glory it will not be because God made no provision to share with us His omnipotent power to gain victory over every sin; it will be because we were not willing for Christ to save us.
I beg of you, let your reasoning be developed by a daily study of God's Word. Let your ideal be to become like Jesus. Keep friends with those who do likewise. Let your conscience be the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and you will be living day by day ready to meet Jesus. Remember, "You cannot control your impulses, your emotions, as you may desire, but you can control the will, and you can make an entire change in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, your life will be hid with Christ in God, and allied to the power which is above all principalities and powers." Messages to Young People p. 152.
Beloved, that is omnipotent power. Praise God. "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." Christ Object Lessons p. 333.
Let us pray, Loving Father, how we praise Thy name for sharing with us Thy omnipotent power so that our sin-weakened wills of humanity can overcome sin just as Jesus did. Please help us to submit our wills to God's will. This we ask in Jesus' name, Amen.