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Character development is said to be the most important work ever entrusted to human beings. During the next hour, we will explore both our privilege and our responsibility to become Christ-like in character. Join us now for this powerful time of personal renewal as Pastor Stephen Wallace takes us “From Glory to Glory.”

Good evening friends; good to see you here tonight. Thank you for making the effort to come and continue to study diligently the most important work ever entrusted to human beings, character building. {Ed 225.3} We had a big day yesterday and we focused on our cooperative role; that is the governance of the mind. Our cooperative role is probably most succinctly and accurately summed up in the words of the wise man, “Keep your heart with all diligence.” {Prov 4:23} That only stands to reason. “…as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” {Prov 23:7} That’s where character is, heart being the intellect and the affections, which comprehend the thoughts and the feelings. And the thoughts and feelings combined make up the moral character. {5T 310.1} Therefore if we are going to be transformed by the renewing of our minds {Rom 12:2}, if we are going to learn to think and feel like Jesus does, which is what character building is really all about, we have to learn to “Keep the heart with all diligence.” That only makes sense.

And we noted that the goal of this governance of the mind has been set for us by God’s Word. We are to be bringing, what? “Every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” {2 Cor 10:5} That is a high standard. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} That’s a high standard. And we noted several reasons why it is our duty – we can’t review those – to keep the heart with all diligence. But we came to the conclusion in those studies that it is impossible for the natural man to do so. In fact, the natural man can’t even bring one thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. How do we know that? Because of what Scripture says. “The carnal mind is,” what? “…enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” {Rom 8:7}

So what’s the solution? My dear friends, the only way that we are going to be able to “keep the heart with all diligence,” is by getting a new one, amen? {Amen} But we went on to recognize that we will not get a new one unless we ask for it, and we won’t ask for it unless we recognize our need. And so we… We spent some time letting the law be our schoolmaster {Gal 3:24}, didn’t we? We let it shine its laser light down to the core of our being, and expose to us the root of the sin problem. We’re pretty good at recognizing fruit because that’s out in the realm of behavior where you can see. But root lies beneath the surface, and it takes spiritual discernment to see beneath the surface. The selfish heart that is ours as an inheritance is the root. {LHU 326.4} And when we discover the root, then we see the fullness of the sin problem.

And when you see the fullness of the sin problem, you will go seeking for the fullness of the sin solution.

And while the law drives us, the Lamb draws us. {1 SM 341.2} And when we come to the foot of the cross, we will cry out with David, not only for forgiveness for our sins, but what else? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” {Ps 51:10} That’s where we ended.

Bless your hearts, many of you, if not all of you, came forward, as we invited you to do so, as an indication of your desire for that new heart. And for all who were genuinely seeking that heart, I know that God fulfilled to you His new covenant promise. It’s twofold: “I will write My law,” where? “…in their heart and in their mind.” {Heb 8:10} – thoughts and feelings – “…and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” {Heb 8:12} See, the new covenant promise meets the twofold need: Forgiveness for sins, but a new heart to help us gain the victory over SIN, that selfish nature.

Now, where are we going to go tonight? We have a very, very important study tonight, bless your hearts. We need to focus on and come to recognize the opposition factor that we will have to contend with even as born again Christians, if we are going to be able to keep the heart with all diligence and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. There is an opposition factor. What is it? The title of the study might give you a good clue: “The Flesh Lusts Against The Spirit.” Now what does that mean? That’s the topic at hand. But spiritual things are only, what? Spiritually discerned. So before we proceed, before we dare open God’s Word, what must we pause to do? Open our hearts and invite God’s Spirit to come in. Would you join me then, as is our practice, for a few moments on our knees. And as you pray for yourself, please, I covet your prayers. Pray for me.

My Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, I come again in my own behalf and in behalf of my blood-bought brothers and sisters, first of all to thank You for the privilege of calling You Father. It’s so good to belong to You. You take such good care of Your children. But Father, we come seeking the most precious gift just now, and that is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Please pour it out upon us. We must understand what it is that opposes us in our quest for a Christ-like character, but to do that we need spiritual discernment. So please Father, pour it out upon us, that Holy Spirit that alone can quicken and energize our mental and spiritual faculties and enable us to grasp the truth with the intellect, to embrace it with the affections, and to submit to it with the will. Father please, by a miracle of grace, take this poor earthen vessel and let me be a channel of the blessing of truth. Grant this prayer, for I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The new heart, that we receive upon request at the foot of the cross, it can be kept. Amen? {Amen} It can be governed, praise God. There is a statement that I wanted to share with you at the end of Lesson 20, but I ran out of time, as usual. It’s found down towards the bottom of page 44. Review and Herald, May 17, 1887: “When the law of God is written in the heart it will be exhibited in a pure and holy life. The commandments of God are no dead letter. They are spirit and life, bringing the imaginations and even the thoughts into subjection to the will of Christ. {2 Cor 10:5} The heart in which they are written will be kept with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” {Prov 4:23}

Which heart alone can be kept with all diligence? Only the new heart that is governed by the law or the spirit of love. Only such a heart can be kept with all diligence. But what I must underscore, my dear friends, is that even a new heart requires all diligence to govern. It requires, what? All diligence. You see, for the first time, we have the capacity to govern our thoughts and feelings when we receive this new heart. But please understand that it is neither easy nor automatic to do so. It still requires, what? All diligence.

Now, my question is this: Why is it that even the new heart still requires all diligence to govern? Because of the remaining, though no longer reigning, opposition factor called the flesh. Are you with me on this? Why does it still require all diligence to govern the activity, the thoughts and feelings, of even the new heart? Because of the remaining, though no longer reigning, opposition factor called, “the flesh.”

Now, that’s the title of our study: “The Flesh Lusts Against The Spirit,” and it’s taken from Galatians 5:17. Note that verse with me; let’s pick it up at verse 16: Paul says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit;” Pause: “Walk in the Spirit.” Who is he obviously addressing with that exhortation? Those who have been born of the Spirit, correct? Nobody can walk unless they’re born. You can’t walk in the Spirit unless you’ve been born of the Spirit. So Paul is addressing those who have made that pilgrimage to the foot of the cross, as we did yesterday, driven there by the law, drawn there by the Lamb, and have cried out sincerely, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” {Ps 51:10} He is talking to those who have been born again, and received a new heart. Only such are capable of walking in the Spirit. Are we all together? Note the next line: “I say then, Walk in the Spirit and you shall not”have– ? “…the lust of the flesh?” Is that what he says?

Don’t let me do that, bless your hearts. Watch me closely – hold me accountable to read Scripture aright. Is that what he says? Walk in the Spirit and you shall not HAVE the lust of the flesh?

No, he says, “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not,” what? “…fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Is there a difference? Oh, yes, there’s a difference. What is it? My dear friends, it’s the simple fact that the born again Christian still has fleshly lusts. But praise God, the born again Christian no longer has to fulfill them. Amen? {Amen} Please recognize that when we are born again, we then have two natures. Are you understanding this? When we are born the first time, we only have, what? One nature, it’s the carnal nature. “Whatsoever is born of the flesh is flesh,” {Jn 3:6} and that’s the only nature we have until we are born again. Then, “Whatsoever is born of the Spirit is spirit.” {Jn 3:6} But please notice that when we gain a spiritual nature, we still have a fleshly or carnal nature. It no longer has us, but we still have it. It no longer reigns, but you better believe it still remains. Are we together on this?

Note how clearly Paul brings this out. And please bear in mind, he’s talking about the born again Christian’s experience in this passage. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” {Gal 5:16-17}

Now, let me note something for you here. In the Greek, the verb that’s translated “lusts,” what verb tense do you suppose that’s in? The present active tense. In other words, literally Paul is saying of the Christian: “For the flesh is,” what? “continually lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit is continually lusting against the flesh.”

Did you hear what I said? The Spirit is continually, what? Lusting. Please understand something very important here. When you and I use this word, lust, we typically think of sexual passion, don’t we? But for the Greek, and in the Greek language, though it was obviously used in reference to such, it had a much more generic sense, and it simply meant strong desires. It simply meant, what? Strong desires, passions. That’s why Paul says that the Spirit lusts against the flesh. The Spirit has strong desires – the spiritual nature, that new heart. And the carnal nature has strong desires, and these are, what? “Contrary one to another.” What does contrary mean? Opposite, they are totally opposite. And we as Christians, my dear friends, will have to deal with this opposition factor. We receive a new heart that has new desires, but we still have this old nature that opposes those new desires. Are you following this? Continually opposing those new desires, and we will have to recognize this opposition factor, and most importantly we will have to learn how to overcome it. We will have to learn how to refuse to “fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” We still have them, but praise God we don’t have to any longer, what? Fulfill them, yield to them, give in to them.

And by the way, this really is where temptation comes from. It’s the lower, corrupt nature called the flesh. Is a Christian subject to temptation? Why, of course. And where does temptation come from? James 1 {verse 14} “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lusts.” “His own lusts.” Yes, Satan is involved, sure. But Satan tempts us by stimulating and stirring up those selfish, perverted appetites and passions of our lower nature. And that’s what we must do at this point.

Let’s make sure we understand what this “flesh” is, okay? …that lusts against the Spirit. What is this flesh? Is it this stuff that clings to my bones in such a meager coat? Is that what he’s talking about, this literal flesh? No. Now mind you, it’s closely related to this stuff, intimately associated with this stuff, but it’s not synonymous with this stuff that clings to my bones. What is it? Here is an inspired definition that’s worth the book’s weight in gold in which it’s found. The book is Adventist Home, page 127. Listen closely: “The lower passions have their seat in the body and work through it.” Pause.

Do you see why I say it’s intimately associated with this stuff? The lower passions have their, what? Their seat in the body and work through it.

Reading on: “The words ‘flesh,'” quotation marks, or “‘fleshly,'” again in quotation marks, “or ‘carnal lusts,'” once more in quotation marks, “embrace the lower corrupt nature, the flesh,” not in quotation marks, this literal stuff, “…the flesh of itself cannot act contrary to the will of God.” Do you see what we’ve just been told there? Can this literal stuff that clings to my bones act contrary to the will of God? No. But what about “flesh” in quotation marks? …that has its seat in the body and works through it – through the hormonal system, through the nervous system. Does it have the capacity to work contrary to the will of God? My dear friends, that’s all it does. It is incorrigibly opposed to the will of God, because it is inherently selfish. Did you catch that?

Our natural, lower nature that we receive as a birthright from our fallen parents, is depraved. And the essence of depravity is, what? Selfishness. {ST, December 25, 1901 par. 9} When human nature became depraved, there was a moral derangement {1MCP 228.1}, a perversion of all of our faculties. It’s called depravity. And all of these wonderful god-like faculties which, prior to the fall were exercised to gratify and glorify God, and were only inclined to do so, when they became depraved, when they became infected and morally deranged by selfishness; they now are inherently bent on gratifying and glorifying, who? Self! Self.

And when did that happen? That happened 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. 6,000 years ago. Now, try to understand this with me. It’s very important to do so. Man has always had a lower nature, even before the fall. Man had a lower, or physical, nature. He shared that with the animal kingdom. But man is distinguished from the animal kingdom in that God gave him a higher nature as well, which made him in the likeness of God, in a way that the animal kingdom is not. And this higher nature comprehends man’s conscience, man’s capacity to reason, to remember, to evaluate, to make decisions on the basis of his understanding of God’s will. These are all functions of his higher nature. And man with his higher nature, was to govern his lower nature, and keep it in harmony with God’s will. And as long as man’s higher nature remained submitted to the authority of God, he was able to maintain perfect control over his appetites and passions. And he only indulged them in lawful ways, which only ministered to his health and happiness. And that’s the way God intended man to always be. Are you understanding this picture? Man had no perverted appetites or passions and with his higher nature submitted to God, he had perfect control over his appetites and passions of his lower or physical nature.

Now, what happened at the fall? Something very radical happened at the fall. What was it? Well, Satan comes to our first parents and appeals to the three categories of desires in that lower nature. You remember we noted this earlier, Genesis 3:6: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food,” what’s that? Lust of the flesh {1 Jn 2:16}, that’s what has now become lust of the flesh. “…a delight to the eyes,” what’s that? Lust of the… What has now become lust of the eyes, post-fall. “…and desirable to make one wise,” what’s that? That is now, what has become, post-fall, pride of life.

But when Satan appealed to those in the pre-fall nature, they were not at all perverted, were they? They were not at all selfish or sinful. Are we all together on this? But, when he succeeded in getting her to indulge those desires in those three areas, in a God-forbidden way, that is by eating of the forbidden fruit {Gen 3:17}, what happened to those desires? Two things:

They became perverted, deranged morally because they were infected with this spirit or principle of selfishness.

And secondly, they gained the ascendancy in human nature.

What two things happened at the fall? The lower nature became perverted; it became a lower, corrupt nature. And secondly, what happened? It gained the ascendancy in human nature. And now we are what the Bible says, carnally-minded. What does that mean? That means that now we obey, or mind, the dictates of the flesh. We are tyrannized by this lower, corrupt nature. Because ever since the fall, it not only became perverted, but it gained the ascendancy. {AH 64.3} Are we all together? Now, that’s the way all of us are born into this world by nature. We are born with the flesh nature, that selfish, inherently deranged, morally deranged, depraved nature, we are born with that in the ascendancy over our higher faculties. And though we still have higher faculties, a conscience for instance, we are incapable of gaining the ascendancy over our flesh nature in and of ourselves. We don’t have that power. Without Him we can do, what? Nothing. {Jn 15:5} We can desire to be better and do better. We can feel guilty about doing wrong. But without God’s help, we are incapable of gaining victory and power over our flesh nature. Are you with me? Our natural man tyrannizes our spiritual nature. It reigns, it reigns even though the spiritual nature still, what? Remains, even in fallen man.

Until of course – and I’ve got to put this qualifier in – through willful indulgence, man completely destroys even the vestiges of his conscience. And then he is only and entirely carnal. And that, by the way, is the condition that the human race reached before the flood, when “every thought of the intents of man’s heart was only evil continually.” {Gen 6:5} And my dear friends, the human race is fast approaching that condition once again. “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.” {Luke 17:26} But there are still many who have vestiges of the spiritual nature. The image of God is “marred and well-nigh obliterated,” {Ed 15.2} in the words of inspiration, but not entirely. Are you following this?

But though it remains, it is incapable of, what? Reigning, without divine power. And where do we get that divine power? We get that divine power when we go to the foot of the cross, and cry out, what? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”{Ps 51:10} When we do that, what does God do? He quickens and energizes our heretofore tyrannized spiritual faculties. And empowers and ennobles them and enables them to gain, what? The ascendancy. Are you following this? We now are what the Bible refers to as spiritually minded, no longer carnally minded. We no longer have to mind or obey the dictates of the flesh. Now we are spiritually minded. Now we have power to mind, or obey, the dictates of the Holy Spirit through our conscience. Are you with me on this?

But here, dear friends, is the question: When this supernatural change takes place, what happens to the flesh nature? Does it just go away? Does it just cease to exist, no longer to bother us? No, not at all, it still remains. Now, mind you, it doesn’t reign, but it still remains. It doesn’t preside, but you better believe it still resides. Are you with me? In the household of me, it doesn’t reign any more, Jesus Christ reigns. But it still remains.

And here is what all of us have to understand, that sinful nature, that flesh nature, and the Bible calls it the “old man,” {Rom 6:6} he is not content to just remain, is he? He wants to, what? Reign. He’s not content to just reside, he wants to preside. He wants to gain control of your life and mine again, and he is continually goaded and encouraged to do so by, who? By Satan and all that is in the world and of the world. And my dear friends, we have just identified the opposition factor. That’s what we must contend with; that’s what we are up against. Manuscript Release, Volume 10, page 288: “Our natural tendencies,” our what? “Our natural tendencies,” post-fall, on account of what happened 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden, “Our natural tendencies, unless corrected by the Holy Spirit of God, have in them the seeds of moral death. The flesh with all its prompting ‘lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.'” Excuse me.

You see, we no longer have what our first parents had, and that is holy flesh. What did our first parents have? Holy flesh. Of course, God made them holy. And they had appetites and passions that were naturally in perfect harmony with God’s holy law. And they had higher faculties that were fully submitted to God’s holy law, and perfectly in control of those natural appetites and passions, so that they had no inclination and they were continually governed and kept in compliance. But when man sinned, that all changed. Now his lower nature is unholy. It’s perverted, it’s defiled and deranged by selfishness. Are we all together on this? And though that nature, after conversion, no longer reigns, that nature still, what? Remains, and that’s why we must ever be on guard, ever be on guard.

Peter, in 1 Peter 2:11, he exhorts us, “Beloved, I beg you…” Do you hear the anxiety and the earnestness in his voice? “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from,” what? “…fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” He’s talking to born again Christians, isn’t he? He knows that they still have, what? Fleshly lusts. Because the flesh is continually lusting against the Spirit, even in the born again Christian. And so he exhorts them with his whole heart: Please “abstain from fleshly lusts which,” what? “…war against the soul.” You see, it is the desire of the old man, and his allies, the kingdom of darkness, to dethrone Jesus Christ, to war against our spiritual experience, and regain the ascendancy in our lives. We have got to be on guard continually.

Now, this lust, this fleshly lust that we must abstain from, what does it comprehend? And please understand the broad generic sense of this word. Inspiration helps us to do that. Review and Herald, July 28, 1891: “This lust is not to be understood as referring simply to licentiousness, but to,” what? “…all unlawful desires, to ambition, grasping for power, desire for the praise of men. It comprehends all the desires of the selfish heart.” That’s pretty inclusive, isn’t it? Pretty comprehensive. “…all the desires of the selfish heart.”

Now, at conversion, yes, we get a new heart, a spiritual nature. But please recognize we still have an old, or flesh, nature. We have a selfish heart with selfish tendencies and desires. And we have to continually be on guard against them. Testimonies, Volume 5, page 397: “A constant battle must be kept up with the selfishness and corruption of the human heart.” You see, we’ve got two hearts, we’ve got two natures. Only one can reign; the other remains. And so what must the Christian be constantly on guard against and doing battle with? Testimonies, Volume 5, page 397: “A constant battle must be kept up with the selfishness and corruption of the human heart.” Here’s another one, Manuscript Release, Volume 21, 158: “God’s people must be suspicious of their lower nature.” Don’t trust it, folks. “God’s people must be suspicious of their lower nature. They must war against fleshly lusts. The evil heart of unbelief is constantly at war with the purposes of God, tempting souls away from the side of Christ into forbidden paths.”

Do you see, my dear friends, in the Christian experience then, the primary opposition factor, enemy number one that we must contend with, is what? It’s our own selfish nature; it’s self. It’s what? It’s self! Oh, please recognize this. You see, most Christians think that enemy number one is Satan. And yes, Satan is a formidable foe, but please understand, the foe we need to fear most is the one that resides within the camp. It’s the old man that still remains, and is naturally allied to and in perfect harmony with Satan and the kingdom of darkness. And he is, by the way, deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. {Jer 17:9} And he really gets good at disguising himself, and getting you to think that indulging him is not doing something wrong, it’s all right. Please watch out; be suspicious. I like what inspiration says there: “God’s people must be suspicious of their lower nature.” Be very, very leery regarding the desires that spring from your own heart, your selfish heart.

Now, this statement beautifully sums up what we’ve just been sharing, and I want to read it to you. It’s found in Acts of the Apostles, page 476 and 477. “But because this experience is his…” Pause. In the context, this experience is in reference to conversion, okay? That pilgrimage to the foot of the cross where we receive the new heart. “Because this experience is his, the Christian is not therefore to fold his hands, content with that which has been accomplished for him.” Why? “He who has determined to enter the spiritual kingdom will find that all the powers and passions of unregenerate nature,” What are we talking about? The flesh. “…all the powers and passions of unregenerate nature, backed by the forces of the kingdom of darkness,” Who’s that? Satan and all of his hosts. “…are arrayed against him.” Whoa, awesome opposition factor, dear friend! Those who are converted, what will they find? They’ll find that the old man, allied with the kingdom of darkness, are in opposition, arrayed against them. The truly converted will experience that. Reading on: “Each day he must renew his consecration, each day do battle with,” what? “…evil.” Each day! Now, what is this evil that he must specifically do battle with, though? I appreciate so much what follows. It really helps us understand what we’re up against. “Old habits and hereditary tendencies to wrong, will strive for the mastery, and against these he is to be ever on guard, striving in Christ’s strength for victory.” Oh, my dear friends, this is an awesome opposition factor. But praise God, He who is for us is greater than he who is against us. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} But it will take a constant battle in the strength of Christ to gain and maintain victory over old habits and, what? Hereditary tendencies. That is the evil that we must daily do battle with as born again Christians.

Now, work with me on this: old habits and hereditary tendencies. In light of the fact that that’s what the born again Christian must overcome and that’s what opposes him, that’s what opposes her, every day after conversion, can we not see that one Christian may have a significantly more intense opposition factor to deal with than another? Do you see that? If it’s old habits and hereditary tendencies, can you see that one might have a significantly more potent, virile old man to contend with than the other?

Let me illustrate. Let’s take Jimmy, okay? Nothing personal if we have any Jimmys here tonight, just for the sake of illustration. Let’s take Jimmy. Now Jimmy is conceived of godless parents, very self-indulgent parents. And by the law of heredity, Jimmy receives a terrible birthright. He has an inordinate bent towards evil in precisely those same areas where his parents did. There is an inheritance factor, my dear friends. We see it graphically portrayed in say, “crack babies.” You’ve heard of that? Babies that are born addicted to “crack,” because, they indulged? No, because mommy indulged, but they receive it as a birthright. And that’s just one illustration in the more obvious realm of physical addictions. But my dear friends, there are much more subtle tendencies and inclinations that are passed on by the law of heredity. Now Jimmy, by this law of heredity, has been terribly disadvantaged right from the day of his birth. Actually, from the moment of his conception, we could say.

Now typically, follow this: Typically, the same godless parents that terribly disadvantaged Jimmy through the law of heredity further disadvantage Jimmy by failing to exercise godly discipline in raising him up, right? Typically. So poor little Jimmy, he is, you know… mommy doesn’t want to have anything deprive her of time for herself, so what does she do? She gets a big TV, and she puts Jimmy in front of it, and she lets him watch whatever. And the enemy just really has a wonderful time of programming his little impressionable mind with all sorts of garbage. {AH 284.2} When Jimmy gets a little older, he goes outside, runs around, and is allowed to play with whoever, and he learns all sorts of bad habits from ungodly associates, and those inherited tendencies become cultivated tendencies, and he acquires a lot of new, wrong practices and habits from his lifestyle. Can you not see that when Jimmy comes to the foot of the cross… And by the way, God’s grace is sufficient even to save Jimmys. {2 Cor 12:9} Yes it is! Can you not see, though, that when Jimmy comes to the cross, he is going to have a significantly more intense opposition factor to contend with, from that day forward, than Johnny.

Now, who’s Johnny? Well, Johnny is conceived by godly parents, parents who were overcomers. And by the law of heredity, Johnny received a tremendous advantage as a birthright. Now, please don’t take that too far; don’t misunderstand me. Am I suggesting that if we “choose our parents well enough,” we can be born without any tendencies or inclinations to sin? Oh no, my dear friends; no one is “born born-again.” Yes, we can receive a tremendous advantage, a much less radical bent towards evil, by being conceived by godly parents. But all of us; how many of us? All of us have a bent towards evil, a force, which unaided we cannot resist. Note how inspiration clearly states this for us. It’s on the top of page 46. Education, page 29: “The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience.” That includes Jimmy’s, doesn’t it? And Johnny’s. “The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience. There is in his nature a bent towards evil, a force which, unaided, we cannot resist.” So even Johnnys have a, what? “a bent towards evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist.”

But hear me, follow: That bent towards evil can be significantly more or less radical. All of us, as descendants from Adam, who ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, will inevitably have a bent towards evil. But what is it that determines how radical that bent is? What is it that determines what particular kind of evil we have a bent towards? It’s our more immediate parentage. “Visiting the iniquities of the fathers unto the children unto the,” what? “…third and fourth generation.” {Ex 20:5} There you have it. That’s what determines the particular bent towards evil that each one of us receives as an inheritance. It’s our more immediate parentage.

And by the way, is that important to take into consideration? Is it? Oh, my dear friends… Testimonies, Volume 4, page 439: “It will be well to remember that tendencies of character are transmitted from parents to children. Meditate seriously upon these things, and then in the fear of God gird on the armor for a life conflict with hereditary tendencies, imitating none but the divine Pattern. You must work with perseverance, constancy, and zeal if you would succeed. You will have yourself to conquer.” You will have who to conquer? Yourself! “…which will be the hardest battle of all. Determined opposition to your own ways and your wrong habits will secure for you precious and everlasting victories.”

But my dear friends, it’s going to be a battle. Especially is it going to be a battle for, who? Jimmys. Now, Johnny, let’s go back to Johnny; we’re not through with him. The same godly parents that advantaged him through the law of heredity, typically will further advantage him by exercising godly discipline in raising him up. Right? Yes. They will judiciously and conscientiously protect him from wrong influences on his young, impressionable mind. They will not raise him in front of the television. But they will tell him the precious stories of God’s Word, and about the love of Jesus. And they will protect him from the negative influence of wrong associates. They will carefully monitor who he is running around with, for they understand the powerful influence that his peers will have on him. And they lead him, at a very young age, to the foot of the cross, and he experiences a genuine conversion. Now, can you not see how Johnny will have a much less formidable opposition factor to deal with, when it comes to old habits and hereditary tendencies, than Jimmy? You can see that, can’t you?

Now, my dear friends, why have we developed this? Well, for several reasons: First of all, please understand that we need to take these things into consideration as we relate to each other. I want to repeat that. We need to take these things into consideration as we, what? Relate to each other. You see, what’s really, really challenging is for Johnnys to be patient with Jimmys. Why? Because they don’t have any idea what they’re going through. Do you hear what I’m telling you? And by the way, do you know what’s really challenging? It’s when somebody from the Johnny end of the scale gets married to somebody from the Jimmy end of the scale. That’s really challenging, and that happens. Does God take these things into consideration as He relates to us? Does He? Absolutely, my dear friends, absolutely.

Now please, don’t misunderstand me though. Does God say to Jimmys, “You know, you’re so terribly disadvantaged, I tell you what, I’ll just wink at that. I’ll just overlook that indulgence. We’ll go ahead and let you indulge that.” Is that what I’m saying? No, most definitely. I’m not. But I am saying this, my dear friends, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” {Rom 5:20} Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} Jimmys take courage! I don’t care how disadvantaged you are on account of your inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil, His grace is sufficient. Listen to this beautiful promise. I want to share this with Jimmys. And there may be some out here tonight. Bottom of page 45, Desire of Ages, page 440: “Angels of glory, that do always behold the face of the Father in heaven, joy in ministering to His little ones. Trembling souls, who have many objectionable traits of character, are their,” what? “…special charge. Angels are ever present where they are most needed, with those who have the hardest battle with self to fight, and whose surroundings are the most discouraging. And in this ministry Christ’s true followers will cooperate.” Do you hear that Johnnys? We need to be extra patient with Jimmys. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} God is, God is.

Now, quickly, whether you’re a Jimmy or a Johnny, how long… Or somewhere in between, and you understand what we just did. We illustrated extremes. Most of us are somewhere on the continuum, between those two extremes, right? Some of us may be right about in the middle, some of us tend to be on the Jimmy side of the scale, some of us tend to be on the Johnny side. But whether you’re a Jimmy or a Johnny, or somewhere in between, how long will you have to contend with this opposition factor called the flesh? How long? Until death or glorification, whichever comes first. Oh, dear friends, let me nail this one down; please understand this. We will have to contend with the opposition factor called the flesh, with the old man, until death or glorification, whichever comes first. You see, hear me.

I want to make a radical statement, but I insist it’s true. Why must we continually have to contend with the old man? With the flesh nature? Because the old man is never converted. Did you hear what I just said? The old man is, what? He’s never converted. That’s precisely why you’ve got to die to him daily. {1 Cor 15:31} You must overcome him, until “in a moment in a twinkling of an eye,” {1 Cor 15:52} he’s finally eradicated, and you get holy flesh. You see, my friends, there is no such thing as holy flesh this side of glorification. That’s why you and I have to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires every single day. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} If he ever got converted, you wouldn’t have to do that. But he doesn’t get converted! That dimension of your nature is incorrigibly opposed, incorrigibly opposed to the will and sovereignty of God. That’s why you’ve got to overcome it every single day of your life. Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} Do you understand this?

Note how this battle is ongoing and continuous:

Testimonies, Volume 4, page 439: “Gird on the armour for a life-long conflict with hereditary tendencies…” How long? Lifelong.

Testimonies, Volume 2, page 479: “Constant war against the carnal mind must be maintained…” What kind of war? Constant war.

Testimonies, Volume 3, page 537; listen to this one: “God is molding the heart into something more like Himself. And yet self clamors constantly for the victory.”

Wow, you know human reasoning would say, “Well if God is, you know, if He’s molding my heart into something more like Himself, then I would have less and less opposition until finally I’m so sanctified I don’t have any.” Wouldn’t human reasoning tell you that? My dear friends, don’t trust human reasoning. Yes, God is molding your new heart, your new nature more and more into His likeness, but you still have this, what? This old nature, and he is not ever converted. And he will always be opposing you. That’s why, though “God is molding the heart into something more like Himself, yet self clamors,” what? “constantly for the victory.” You know that from personal experience, if you’ve been truly born again, and are fighting the good fight of faith, anyway.

Here’s another one; Acts of the Apostles, page 565: “His children… must maintain a constant battle with self.” What word do you hear over again? Constant, constant, constant.

Here’s another one; Review and Herald, May 30, 1882: “We must daily strive against outward evil and,” what else? “…inward sin.” “Daily strive against outward evil,” yes, but what else? “…inward sin.”

What is this inward sin? It’s the capital S-I-N, that sinful nature, that selfish nature. Though it no longer reigns, it still, what? Remains. But it’s not content to just remain, so we have to daily strive against inward sin, for it’s constantly trying to regain the throne, regain the throne.

Now, here’s one that I particularly appreciate because it not only marks the commencement of the battle, but it marks the finale, spells out the whole duration. Listen closely; Review and Herald, November 29, 1887: “From the cross to the,” what? “…crown,” symbolic language. We’ll come back and explain it. “From the cross to the crown there is earnest work to be done. There is wrestling with inbred sin; there is warfare against outward wrong. The Christian life is a battle and a march. Let us go forward, for we are striving for an immortal crown.” Oh, do you see the picture? What’s the duration of the battle? When does it begin? At the cross. What’s that symbolize? Conversion. {AA 246.1} That’s what we were talking about last night, or yesterday. When we are driven by the law and drawn by the Lamb, and we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” {Ps 51:10} That’s when we’re converted; that’s when we’re born again. And that’s when the battle, what? Begins, bless your hearts! You know, so many people think that when they get converted the battle’s over. No way! The battle only begins when you’re converted, the spiritual battle, the battle for the governance of the mind. You can’t fight that fight unless you get a new mind.

And that battle continues till when? From the cross to the, what? …crown. What’s the crown? That’s the crown of immortality, the crown of incorruption. That’s what receive “in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye at the,” what? “…last trump.” {1 Cor 15:52} Do I hear an “amen”? {Amen} From the cross to the crown, there is wrestling with, what? Inbred sin.

Now, what in the world is inbred sin? Historical Sketches, page 138: “Selfishness is inwrought in our very being. It has come to us as an inheritance…” That’s inbred sin. And that selfish nature we will have to contend with throughout the whole duration of our Christian life. Now, bless your hearts, if that sounds discouraging, please, we need to come back and consider further how it is that we can not only fight and win, but be blessed in doing so. And I insist that there is a blessing in fighting and winning the good fight {1 Tim 6:12} against this opposition factor called the flesh. But let’s stand for prayer, and then after a short break, we’ll continue our study.

Father in heaven, thank You so much for helping us better understand what opposes us as we press on towards the mark, and seek to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be changed from glory to glory by the renewing of our minds. There resides within us an opposition factor called the flesh, and it will oppose us at every step of the way. The flesh is continually setting its desires against our spiritual nature. But Lord teach us, please, not only how to overcome this, but help us to learn that in doing so, we receive a tremendous blessing. And that’s why You’ve allowed this opposition factor to remain, and that’s why You give us grace sufficient to keep it from reigning. Help us to understand these things as we continue in our study is our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen. Thank you, dear friends. 


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