There is a vitally important question for all those who are seeking to prepare for heaven. How did Jesus in His humanity overcome Satan? In The Desire of Ages, 123, we find the answer: “He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” This knowledge is vitally essential in our daily battle with sin, for sin can “be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead.” Ibid., 671.
The Plan of Redemption and the Holy Spirit
As Jesus invaded this rebel planet, some two thousand years ago, He came to live a sinless life by the power of the Holy Spirit, making it possible that we, too, can overcome all sin. However, His victorious life and death could not have worked out our redemption without the regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit which makes the new birth experience possible. In Selected Messages, Book 3, 137, we read: “Of what avail would it have been to us that the only begotten Son of God had humbled Himself, endured the temptations of the wily foe, and died, the just for the unjust, if the Spirit had not been given as a constant, working, regenerating agent to make effectual in our cases what had been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer?”
Just as Jesus came to reveal the Father, so the Holy Spirit interprets Christ’s life to us. This is of vital importance, for the Scripture states in John 17:3, “This is life eternal, that we might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” One may attain to all the knowledge this world can offer, but if he does not know God the Father, it will all be worthless. For God measures our moral worth by the knowledge we have of Him. “The value of a man is estimated in heaven according to the capacity of the heart to know God. This knowledge is the spring from which flows all power.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 354, 355.
Lucifer’s goal has always been to misrepresent our God of love as a selfish tyrant. Jesus left heaven to glorify God by correctly interpreting the love of the Father to us, and when Jesus ascended to heaven He promised that this work would be continued through the ministry of the Holy Ghost. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” John 16:13, 14.
The Incarnation and the Holy Spirit
It is of interest to note that Christ did not come to our world of Himself, for Isaiah quotes the Lord as saying: “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me.” Isaiah 48: 17, 16.
The decision for Christ to come to this world was jointly made by all three members of the Godhead. And Christ chose to be born into this world by the agent of the Holy Spirit. “The angel answered and said unto her [Mary], the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35.
Through this mysterious process, Jesus came into this world, a combination of humanity and divinity being truly both “the Son of God” and “the Son of Man.” And at what a cost! “Christ at an infinite cost, by a painful process, mysterious to angels as well as to men, assumed humanity.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 915.
Christ was fully human and fully divine. And His humanity was not that of Adam before the fall. “Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 49. However, “Christ had not ceased to be God when He became man.” Ibid., 663, 664. Despite this, He exercised no power that man cannot have. He was wholly dependent upon the Holy Spirit as a man to overcome every known temptation. Just so every son and disciple of God must depend on a power outside and above himself if we are to overcome sin as Christ did. “The enemy was overcome by Christ in His human nature. The power of the Savior’s Godhead was hidden. He overcame in human nature, relying upon God for power. This is the privilege of all.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1108. Oh, that we would comprehend this mighty power of the Holy Spirit! “The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every contrite soul.” The Desire of Ages, 490. “It is through the mighty agency of the Holy Spirit that the government of Satan is to be subdued and subjected.” The Review and Herald, April 25, 1893.
The secret of our Lord’s success over sin is to be found in His union of divinity with humanity. And for us to fully appreciate this incarnation, we must also experience this union ourselves, and this can only be achieved through the work of the Spirit. “The impartation of the Spirit is the impartation of the life of Christ.” The Desire of Ages, 805. “The divinity and humanity are blended in Him who has the Spirit of Christ.” Sons and Daughters of God, 24.
Overcoming and the Holy Spirit
Throughout His life on this earth, Christ was assailed with the worst the devil could bring against Him. “Satan summoned all his forces and at every step contested the work of Christ.” Ibid., 257. “The serpent himself made Christ the mark of every weapon of hell.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1080. When Christ’s resistance was wasted to its lowest level Satan would bring his most wily temptations. Likewise, we who are loyal Seventh-day Adventists are the special target of Satan. But praise God! We have the Captain of the Lord’s host on our side and also the third person of the Godhead to help us. Speaking of the remnant, we read in The Desire of Ages, 352: “They are to contend with supernatural forces, but they are assured of supernatural help.…More than angels are in the ranks. The Holy Spirit, the representative of the Captain of the Lord’s host, comes down to direct the battle.”
Could we ask God for more? How we should praise Him! But each individual Christian must make a decision to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Spirit or do the bidding of demons. Those are the only options given in inspiration. “Those who turn from the plain teachings of Scripture and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit are inviting the control of demons.” The Desire of Ages, 258.
We dare not consider this lightly. We are a part of the great conflict between the good and the evil angels when we are told that “satanic agencies in human form will take part in the last great conflict.…And heavenly angels in human guise will be on the field of action.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1142. Surely we need the protection and leadership of the angels of God under the control of the Holy Spirit. But how can we be assured of the Holy Spirit’s presence? Inspiration gives these uncomplicated instructions. “By thus contemplating His [Christ’s] teachings and sufferings,…we may…become more deeply imbued with the Spirit which sustained our Savior.…Everything noble and generous in man will respond to the contemplation of Christ upon the cross.” We must look to Jesus and study His life, especially the closing scenes.
Contemplating the Life of the Savior
Now, let us contemplate the trials and temptations Christ endured leading to the cross.
In The Desire of Ages, 117, we read of our Savior’s nature: “He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation.” Our Savior depended on divine power continually to meet the supernatural foe and this was His secret to success. “Daily He received a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 139.
The keynote of Christ’s life was His prayer, “Father, glorify Thy name.” And He glorified God through perfect obedience to His will. God’s people, in the last days, have been called to live with the same purpose in mind—to vindicate and glorify God’s name before the universe that is watching this final battle in the great controversy. But such an experience involves our will. (Steps to Christ, 47.) The choice to do right belongs to us alone. God will never force anyone to do as He commands. Our will must be placed on God’s side and brought into obedience to the will of God. The Holy Spirit is given to aid us in the work of character perfection, but even this mighty power cannot take the place of the right action of the will. “Were it possible to force upon you with a hundred fold greater intensity the influence of the Spirit of God, it would not make you a Christian.…The will must be placed on the side of God’s will. You are not able, of yourself, to bring your purposes and desires and inclinations into submission to the will of God; but if you are ‘willing to be made willing,’ God will accomplish the work for you.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, 142. What a wonderful promise if we will only submit our will to God!
Christ Surrenders the Will
Christ had to make this same surrender of His will to His Father, and under circumstances more difficult than any of us will ever have to face. In the Garden of Gethsemane a terrible struggle raged within Him. He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Matthew 26:28. “He felt Himself becoming separated from His Father by a gulf of sin, so broad, so black, so deep, that His spirit shuddered before it.” The Review and Herald, October 9, 1888.
At this moment, the destiny of the world hung in the balances. No one could force Christ to take punishment that He did not deserve. His sinless nature recoiled as He contemplated the tortures of the doomed. His anguishing plea was “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Matthew 26:39.
Such a request pierced the heart of Infinite Love, but no answer came from the Father. God’s silence told the suffering Savior, “It is impossible,” for without the infinite sacrifice man could not be saved. For a few moments the mysterious cup trembles in His hand. Will Christ refuse the cup? Or will He offer the Father a surrendered will? As He beholds the doomed world, His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself, and in entire submission He cries, “Not My will, but Thine be done.”
When Christ accepted God’s will, He sacrificed His own will. Immediately an angel ministered to the prostrated Lord, not to release Christ from His dedication but to strengthen Him to perform that which He willed to do. Thus Calvary became possible. “Hanging upon the cross, Christ was the gospel.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7A, 458.
Enduring the Cross
On the cross, Christ suffered a death beyond death. Our Sin-bearer endured the wrath of divine justice and for our sakes became sin itself. (The Desire of Ages, 756.) God’s hatred of sin is beyond our human conception, yet herein we can also see God’s love revealed: for God the Father suffered with His Son. God felt every pain. Inspiration tells us, “God Himself was crucified with Christ.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1108.
Through this infinite sacrifice the victory was gained over Satan. “The death of the Son of God made the death of Satan unavoidable.” The Review and Herald, September 7, 1897. But, beloved, let us not forget that Satan will not perish alone. In The Signs of the Times, April 3, 1884, we find these words. “Those who flatter themselves that God is too merciful to punish the sinner, have only to look to Calvary to make assurance doubly sure that vengeance will be visited upon every transgressor of His righteous law.”
The cross condemns with double guilt, for the wicked must die for the sins they have committed and for refusing salvation so dearly purchased. “God’s spirit will not always be grieved.…After all has been done that God could do to save men, if they show by their lives that they slight Jesus’ offered mercy, death will be their portion, and it will be dearly purchased. It will be a dreadful death; for they will have to feel the agony that Christ felt upon the cross.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 124. The most acute part of this agony was not the bodily suffering. We read in God’s Amazing Grace, 170, that “It was not bodily suffering which so quickly ended the life of Christ upon the cross. It was the crushing weight of the sins of the world, and a sense of His Father’s wrath.”
Dear friend, we must understand the experience of Christ if we are to represent a suffering Christ to the world with the convicting power of the latter rain. We must comprehend the suffering that our sins still cause Christ every day. “Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator.…That suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him.…Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon.…Yet, God feels it all.” Education, 263, 264.
As servants of Christ, we must reveal to the world a clear concept of Christ’s atonement. This alone will bring conviction to the sinner’s heart. “Christ on the cross was the medium whereby mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. This is the means that is to move the world.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1113.
The marvelous love of God will keep our eyes fastened to the cross as the Holy Spirit conforms our inmost being into the image of Christ. Remember, “The Holy Spirit never leaves unassisted the soul who is looking unto Jesus.…If the eye is kept fixed on Christ, the work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image.” The Desire of Ages, 302. Thus victory is assured through and by the Holy Spirit. We must give the world a new revelation of Christ with hearts that are afire with Christ’s atonement. Through the empowerment of the latter rain, the Lord will use His faithful to lighten the whole world with a loud cry that will shake the nations.
Lawrence Nelson retired after thirteen years as General Conference Associate Youth Director, and is now speaker of Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry.