I have been a Christian for over 40 years. Sad to say, I know from personal experience the guilt, frustration and sadness that comes into the Christian’s life when sin seems to be the rule rather than the exception in the life. Discouragement often takes over the believer when he reads such Bible verses as:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6
“Likewise 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.” Romans 6:11-12
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14
“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” 1John 3:19
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1John 3:9
When the struggling Christian turns to the writings of Ellen White he finds similar statements.
“Moral perfection is required of all. Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong doing. We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin. All righteous attributes of character dwell in God as a perfect, harmonious whole, and every one who receives Christ as a personal Saviour is privileged to possess these attributes.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p.330
“He who has not sufficient faith in Christ to believe that He can keep him from sinning, has not the faith that will give him an entrance into the kingdom of God.”–Manuscript 161, 1897.
Again and again discouragement sets in and the victorious life that the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy appear to call the Christian to seems impossible to attain. It is easy to then begin to reason; perhaps such statements about victory are simply an ideal that the Christian is to strive to attain. God knows it is actually impossible to live this kind of victorious life and He covers us with the righteousness of Christ. After all, what else could God say? He certainly cannot condone sinful behavior. The only kind of life He can call the Christian to is one of complete obedience.
The Lord has given us examples in both the Bible and history of individuals who have learned lessons in life as they have either obeyed God or turned from His ways. Paul tells us that “all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1Corinthians 10:11). One such example is that of J. Hudson Taylor, the well known 19th century missionary to China.
Taylor experienced frustration, confusion, and discouragement at the beginning of his service for the Lord. At the age of thirty-seven he shared his inner most feelings with his mother in a letter. In it we read of the feelings of failure and defeat he felt because of his inability to be faithful to His Lord in all things. Taylor wrote:
“My own position becomes continually more and more responsible, and my need greater of special grace to fill it; but I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious master. I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I had. Yet I do know that I love God and love His work, and desire to serve Him only in all things. And I value above all things that precious Savior in Whom alone I can be accepted. Often I am tempted to think that one so full of sin cannot be a child of God at all; but I try to throw it back, and rejoice all the more in the preciousness of Jesus, and in the riches of that grace that has made us ‘accepted in the Beloved.’ Beloved He is of God; beloved He ought to be of us. But oh, how short I fall here again! May God help me to love Him more and serve Him better. Do pray for me. Pray that the Lord will keep me from sin, will sanctify me wholly, will use me more largely in His service.”
John McCarthy, a fellow missionary in China, wrote Taylor a letter describing a recent understanding he had come to concerning victory over temptation through Christ. In the letter McCarthy wrote:
“To let my loving Savior work in me His will, my sanctification is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving or struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; . . . resting in the love of an almighty Savior, in the joy of a complete salvation, ‘from all sin’—this is not new, and yet ‘tis new to me. I feel as though the dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a boundless sea; to have sipped only, but of that which fully satisfies. Christ literally all seems to me, now, the power, the only power for service, the only ground for unchanging joy. May he lead us into the realization of His unfathomable fullness . . . Not a striving to have faith…but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity.”
God used this letter to open Taylor’s eyes to the wonderful truth of our abiding in Christ and His abiding in us; the truth of the mystery of the believer’s union with Christ. From that day forward Taylor’s walk with God was one of peace, rest and victory in Christ. This amazing change could be seen by his colleagues in ministry who said, “Mr. Taylor went out, a new man in a new world, to tell what the Lord had done for his soul.”
Taylor wrote his sister in England seeking to explain to her this wonderful truth he had discovered and the marvelous experience he was having in His Lord. He said:
“As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps, the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful – and yet, all is new! In a word, ‘Whereras once I was blind, now I see.’
“When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): ‘But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.’
“As I read I saw it all! ‘If we believe not, he abideth faithful.’ I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) I thought. ‘I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me?’ And, dearie, He never will!”
Taylor went on in his letter to describe how the Lord had opened up his understanding concerning Christ’s words that He is the vine and the believers are the branches. He wrote: “Oh, the joy of seeing this truth!” Then he said:
“The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.”
Yes, J. Hudson Taylor found the secret of victory in his walk with God and great peace in all circumstances of service for Christ. God offers to each of His children this same victory and peace. Do you desire such victory and peace? My prayer is that all who read this book will find just that – victory and peace in Christ; a joy that seemed so impossible to maintain before.
However, every Christian who discovers this glorious truth of “Christ in us” has followed a similar path as their fellow travelers. They had accepted Christ as their Savior, but were burdened and bewildered by their Christian walk that was so sporadic in obedience and unfruitful in service. They longed for a consistently faithful walk with their Lord, but never found it. They struggled with besetting sins, but the sins seemed to win the battle. They prayed and studied their Bibles, but that didn’t seem to bring the victory they longed for. After perhaps years of struggle they came to the point of despair and weariness. Their sense of failure was overwhelming. The life of continual victory over sin seemed impossible to attain. Then one day they discovered the reality of the mystery of union with Christ; Christ living in them. Once discovered they were amazed at how simple this marvelous truth was; yet it had eluded their understanding for years. After this discovery their life was never again the same. Their joy in the Lord was deep and abiding. Their life was now consistently victorious, even over besetting sins. They no longer felt burdened or anxious and their service became the most fruitful for the Lord.
The truth of abiding in Christ and His abiding in us, and how we are to experience a victorious Christian life is so simple and yet so elusive that most Christians have never discovered it to the fullest. Today God is calling us to this amazing experience in Christ. Why? Jesus is coming soon. All who are ready to meet Him will be just like Him (1John 3:2). Their daily experience will have had to become one of complete victory in Christ if they are to be “like” Jesus when He comes. Therefore, this wonderful biblical truth is of no small consequence to Christians living in our day. Jesus is coming soon and God is calling us to a much higher experience with Him than most of us have ever had. This book is dedicated to the goal of leading all who read it to understand and experience the “abiding” God is offering to us; “Christ in us” the hope of glory for His people (Colossians 1:27).
When this truth is understood and discovered the believer will proclaim from the depths of his heart, “Christ did it all.” The deliverance Christ gives lays all of man’s boasting in the dust. Man can claim no glory for the victories over temptation and sin. All the glory will go to God and will be proclaimed throughout all eternity.
Those living when Jesus returns will be living during a time in history that is very different from any other previous time since the fall of Adam into sin. Ever since the fall of man God’s mercy has been seen and felt in this world. God has many times intervened to hold back Satan’s destructive efforts. Even now the angels are holding back the destructive forces of this earth until God’s children are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Revelation 7:1-3, Ephesians 4:30). However, during the time after the judgment has ended all cases of man’s destiny will have been decided. Those who have chosen to follow Christ will remain faithful and those who have chosen Satan as their leader will stay in his camp (Revelation 22:11-12). During that time the seven last plagues will fall without any of God’s mercy mingled with these judgments from God (Revelation 15:6, 8; 16:1; 14:9-10).
A Purification Time Up
The time period just prior to Christ’s second coming is called the time of trouble, which begins when Christ “stands up” having completed His mediatory work as high priest of His people (Daniel 12:1). God does a mighty work of purification among His people just prior to when Christ “stands up” and completes His high priestly ministry after which the world enters the tribulation or time of trouble. Ellen White wrote of this time period in the book, The Great Controversy.
“Says the prophet: ‘Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.’ [MAL. 3:2, 3.] Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above, are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort, they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative Judgment is going forward in Heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14.
“When this work shall have been accomplished, the followers of Christ will be ready for his appearing. ‘Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.’ [MAL. 3:4.] Then the church which our Lord at his coming is to receive to himself will be ‘a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ [EPH. 5:27.] Then she will look forth ‘as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.’” The Great Controversy, p.425
Notice several very important points in this statement. The prophet Malachi foretold of a time just prior to Christ’s second coming when a great refining process would take place among God’s people. This purifying process will cause God’s children to have spotless characters. They will have been conquerors over every temptation and sin in their life. Ellen White wrote of this experience.
“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69
Note that Ellen White says the character of Christ will be “perfectly reproduced in His people.” This is not justification only where Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the sinner. She refers here to Christ’s perfect character being imparted to His people. Christ will be fully and perfectly manifesting His character in and through them. That is the only way they can live in the sight of a holy God without a mediator.
When Ellen White refers to this purification process happening “through the grace of God and their own diligent effort” she is referring to the diligent watchfulness they have practiced in order to allow Christ to shine out in their life at every point of temptation. They have been putting forth diligent effort in studying God’s Word so they can be very aware of God’s will in their life. They have also been diligent in keeping a moment-by-moment communion with their Lord.
A Time Without Sin Up
Also, since Christ is no longer mediating as their high priest they will have to have attained a condition of complete victory over all sin in their lives. They will be living in no known sin. They will not be sinning in thought, word or deed. Christ is fully manifesting Himself in and through their lives. In relation to this Ellen White wrote:
“’The prince of this world cometh,’ said Jesus, ‘and hath nothing in Me.’ John 14:30. There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan’s sophistry. He did not consent to sin. Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us.” Desire of Ages, p.123
This must be the experience of those who are ready to meet Jesus since they will no longer have the mediatory intercession of Christ to turn to if they sin in thought, word or deed. That may sound like an impossibility. Yet it is true. How to experience that level of obedience to God is what this book is all about. Jude also refers to the experience of that last generation of Christians who are living when Jesus comes.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24
Here we read that Jude says those who allow Christ to “keep them from falling” into sin will be able to stand in the “presence of his glory with exceeding joy” when He returns and not be consumed. Jesus described His coming in glory, which is the same Greek word used in Jude 24 for glory.
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30
In contrast, those who have not experienced the purifying power of God will be killed by the “brightness” of His coming (2Thessalonians 2:8).
Jude also says that the Lord will present His people “faultless” when they stand in the presence of his glory. This is the same Greek word used to describe that last generation of Christians who give the three angels’ messages in power just before Jesus comes (Revelation 14:5).
Let the Rain Fall Up
The victory over temptation and sin must happen in our lives under the early rain power of the Holy Spirit. If this does not happen the latter rain of the Spirit will be of no benefit to us. Ellen White wrote:
“I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful, and were looking to the time of ‘refreshing’ and the ‘latter rain’ to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord, and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation; therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God.” Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen White, p. 112
It is a deception of Satan if we believe we do not have to take seriously the sin problem in our lives. Ellen White confirms this with the words:
“I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ unless they obtained the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action.” Ibid.113
The early or former rain of the Spirit, which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, brings us to the spiritual maturity required in order to benefit from the latter rain.
“The latter rain, ripening earth’s harvest, represents the spiritual grace that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man. But unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection.” The Faith I Live By, p.333
Full spiritual growth under the early rain baptism of the Spirit is necessary for us to even be able to recognize the latter rain of the Spirit when it is falling.
“Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it.” Testimony to Ministers, p.507
Hence, it is absolutely vital that every Christian take seriously God’s call to be filled with His Spirit and allow Jesus to manifest Himself in and through them. Only then will they gain the victory over every temptation and sin in their life. This is why Ellen White wrote:
“Nothing but the baptism of the Holy Spirit can bring up the church to its right position, and prepare the people of God for the fast approaching conflict.” 2MR 30
The teachings that I am presenting in this book about the complete victory we can have over the temptations and sins in our life are necessary for every Christian to understand and experience if they are living when Jesus comes. I personally believe God is calling that final generation into existence today.
At the time of the writing of this book, Dennis Smith is serving as pastor in the Southern New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Dennis has served the church as an active layman, and in pastoral and departmental positions for over 35 years.
Dennis received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University. While at Colorado State, he became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. After working in engineering for a short time, he felt the call to full time ministry. To fulfill that calling, Dennis attended Andrews University Theological Seminary and received a Masters of Divinity degree. Dennis has also done studies in the area of public health from Loma Linda University.
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