Are you a Christian? If so, your life is a constant, daily struggle to overcome sin. This leads to a fundamental question: How do you approach that struggle?
Most people think they can solve their weaknesses and problems themselves. We all have the tendency to think this way. But the truth is, we don’t have the power to solve our problems!
The true Christian needs power in his or her life: power to fight, power to overcome, power to conquer, power to vanquish, power to live a righteous life!
Perhaps you agree with this. Perhaps you know it. But do you realize the depth of it? Do you find it easy to forget and hard to apply?
Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his Author’s Statement in Mystery of the Ages: “I have often said it is much more difficult to unlearn an erroneous supposed truth than it is to learn a new truth. Even in these past 58 years I had not fully and clearly realized the significance of the fact revealed in Genesis 3:22-24—that, in fact, God had closed the Holy Spirit and eternal life to mankind in general until the removal of Satan at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Traditional Christian teaching had always assumed there is a contest between God and Satan—that God has been trying desperately to ‘get the world saved,’ but in this great controversy Satan has been winning. In other words, God had sent Jesus Christ at his first coming to try to win this ongoing war against Satan. Traditional Christianity has taught that ‘whosoever will may come’ and be ‘saved’ through Jesus.
“For some years I had come to partially realize the error of this assumption, but the full truth on this point had not come crystal clear to me until very recently. This truth is indeed mind-boggling. It clears what had been clouded in mystery.”
When it comes to your faults and sins, are you slipping back into the error that you can overcome them yourself? In that moment of choice, that moment of confrontation, that moment when you struggle against sin, does it remain crystal clear to you that you cannot trust in yourself? (Jeremiah 17:5).
“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Again and again, God reveals to us through the Bible that we humans are incapable of guiding our own lives! We are incomplete! We need God to guide us.
Kept From the Tree of Life
The new truth Mr. Armstrong realized shortly before writing Mystery of the Ages was about the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 records what happened there. God created Adam, the man that everyone—the intellectual elite, the politically powerful, you, me—traces back to. Every human being traces his origin back to Adam and Eve and the decisions they made.
There is a cause for every effect. The effects are what we see in this terminally sinful world around us and in our own lives as we struggle against sin. What is the cause?
That tree of life was about power! It represented eternal life through the Spirit of God. If our ancestor, the founding father of the entire world, had eaten the fruit of that tree, he would have subjected himself to God’s family government. He would have come into a direct relationship with God. He would have been begotten as God’s son.
God’s Spirit would have joined with his human spirit, and he would have gained the ability to understand God’s spiritual knowledge and His spiritual purpose. God’s Spirit would have given Adam the capacity to develop the mind of God. And it would have given him the power to overcome Satan the devil!
But Adam did not eat from that tree.
Satan kidnapped Adam through his wife. Eve listened to the devil when he directly contradicted God’s warning recorded in Genesis 2:16-17 and said, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Adam and Eve made the fateful choice to believe Satan instead of God.
Mankind Cut Off From God
God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and set angels to guard it. Since man had already turned to sin, God did not want him to charge back into the garden to take the fruit of the tree of life. “Without any repentance,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages, “without even faith in God or in Christ—mankind would have helped himself to receiving eternal life.”
To prevent sinning human beings from living eternally sinful, miserable lives, God drove them out.
How many churches teach the truth about God’s response to Adam’s sin? God did not fall back in discouragement. He did not fall apart because His plan had been ruined. The Supreme Judge pronounced sentence. He said that Adam had decided on behalf of mankind to reject God and His power to live the righteous way. He had decided to accept Satan’s selfish way. Therefore God cut off Adam and mankind in general from access to Him and His Spirit.
Mankind did not cut himself off from God. God cut mankind off from Himself! And man has been stumbling through his sinful, miserable history ever since.
Why did God do this? Doesn’t He earnestly hate the misery, hatred and violence that has littered our sinful human history? Doesn’t it grieve Him to see it end in the horrific worldwide train wreck that we are about to experience? Our educational system cannot answer that question. Our political system cannot answer it. Even our religions do not know the answer. Why? Because the history of each of these systems traces right back to Adam and Eve’s choice in Eden!
Isaiah 59:1-2 state it is our sins that have separated us from God! Human beings have sinned, and God has cut them off.
Although the world as a whole is and has been cut off from God, He has called a tiny few. These few people have been drafted to succeed where Adam failed: to submit to God’s way and to receive that spiritual power!
Our Relationship With God
Jesus Christ said in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Unless God supernaturally intervenes, it is impossible to enter into a relationship with Him. God closed access to the tree of life from mankind in general. Only if He makes an exception and specifically calls you, can you eat from that tree.
When God responded to Adam’s sin, He did not remove the tree of life. He did not change what the tree of life represented. He did not destroy the Garden of Eden. He did not abandon His plan for man. He simply guarded the tree of life against mankind’s return!
Why? Because He is implementing a time order and conditions for humans to partake of the tree of life.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26 tell us about that time order. This passage says that in Adam all die. Because of mankind’s failure to obey God, ever since Adam mankind has been cut off from the tree of life. But all will be made alive through Jesus Christ, the second Adam (verse 45).
“Man does not seem to realize that he now is the slave of sin,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages. “Sin has cut him off from God the Father. … Man does not realize that only a real repentance—turning from sin—and living by the faith of Jesus Christ can free him from that penalty! Sin enslaves! It punishes! It brings sorrow, remorse, anguish. It inflicts physical injury, sickness and disease. It produces frustration and hopelessness.
“The most unfair, unkind, cruel thing God could have done once Adam and Eve had taken the forbidden tree would have been to leave the way open into the garden, with free access to all comers to the tree of life—symbolic of the gift of eternal life!
“But what did God do? He drove out the man and the woman. He barred reentrance.
“He, however, made salvation and eternal life in extreme happiness and bliss become available to all the human family. But, with godly wisdom, He set a time order and conditions! For the first 6,000 years—now almost completed—all but the predestined few were cut off.
“On this point the entire world of traditional Christianity has been deceived.”
For God’s people, today is our day. Now is our time; judgment is on us (1 Peter 4:17). We must run our race today and look to God to solve our problems. We cannot devise solutions of our own making.
Though God closed access to the tree of life for mankind in general, God’s Church, His called-out-ones, may eat freely of it. How hungry are you? The more you realize that it is not in man to direct his steps, the hungrier you will be for God’s Holy Spirit, the more you will see the need to make decisions that are inspired by God dwelling in you.
But how does the Holy Spirit work in us? Note these five ways in which the power of God works in His called-out children, completing their spiritual creation:
1. The impartation of spiritual knowledge
“It is the supreme intelligence, combined with holy and righteous character of mind that most importantly distinguishes God from every other living creature,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex.
Astoundingly, Scripture reveals that man was created to become a part of God’s Family to share in that character of mind.
The wisdom of mankind is but foolishness to God. No matter how brilliant our “solutions” are, unless they flow from God’s inspiration, they actually lead to death (Proverbs 16:25).
God has a great future in store for mankind once we eat from the tree of life. 1 Corinthians 2:9 shows that our future is so fantastic that our natural minds cannot even conceive of it—but He has revealed it to us by His Spirit, “for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (verse 10).
The physical unconverted mind cannot grasp spiritual truths. The only way you can receive that knowledge is through the Spirit of God.
The decisions we make each and every day must be decisions of the Spirit. If not, our lives will grow darker and darker, like a poorly trimmed oil lamp (sidebar below). We have to realize that we are spiritually and mentally incomplete. Man was made to need another Spirit.
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (verse 11).
This is why those who have never received God’s Spirit do not know or grasp the fact that they are unconverted. They cannot know what it means to be converted, let alone unconverted.
2. The gift of divine love
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us.”
God will give us His Holy Spirit as a free gift if we repent of our sins, are baptized, and sincerely strive to obey Him (Acts 2:38; 5:32). The Holy Spirit is the spirit of submission and obedience to God the Father.
God supplies us with His divine love through the Holy Spirit. That love, supplied by God, actually fulfills the law of God.
In What Do You Mean—‘The Unpardonable Sin’?, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “In John 7:37-39 Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as ‘rivers of living water,’ flowing into us from Him, and then flowing out of us, in fulfilling God’s law. God’s Spirit is God’s love—‘the love of God … shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5). God’s law is a spiritual law (Romans 7:14), and requires the spiritual love we can receive only from God to fulfill—for love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8, 10). Your own human (carnal) love cannot properly fulfill God’s spiritual law! … Now a flowing river flows down a riverbed—and God’s ‘riverbed’ down which the ‘living water’ of His Spirit flows out from us is His law. In other words, God’s Spirit flows out of us by fulfilling God’s law.”
Since godly love is the fulfilling of the law, we could also say that God’s Spirit is the means by which we obey God’s law in its spiritual intent.
3. Receipt of the faith of God
True Christians are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16‑17). “Of” denotes ownership. It’s Jesus Christ’s faith. He owns it. But God puts it in us by the power of the Holy Spirit!
God’s people need to be people of faith, people who are prepared to stake their lives on God’s promises.
Notice what Paul writes in verse 20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Christ’s mind can come into yours! His mind enables you to put wrong thoughts out. With the faith of Christ, you are plugged into this power supply from Christ, enabling you to think and act like Him. Philippians 2:5 admonishes us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Having the mind, or mental attitude, of Jesus Christ requires the power of God!
Few people fully grasp how great the mind of God truly is. Even more astounding is the fact that God makes that mind available to us—we can actually have the mind of God (1 John 4:13).
4. The supply of divine power and strength
We are strengthened by God’s might (Ephesians 3:14-16). God gives us the power to overcome Satan and sin. This is how we obtain tremendous victories: through Christ coming in the flesh!
Don’t underestimate God’s power and might! The Spirit of God, if we submit to it, will guide our lives. It will give us supernatural help from God. God will intervene in matters that are beyond our control. He will fight our battles for us!
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10).
5. The power by which God gives eternal life
Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
When God imparts His Spirit within you, that is the beginning of eternal life! Man is entirely mortal, but God’s Holy Spirit is divine, immortal, eternally existing life, and that Spirit dwells in us!
We inherited mortal life through Adam, and we inherit eternal life through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11‑12). God gives us eternal life through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).
Our Spiritual Umbilical Cord
“Thus, from that moment, Satan had spiritually kidnapped Adam, and all his human family has ever since been held captive by Satan,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages. “God would have revealed to Adam God’s way of life—which is God’s spiritual law. That law is the way of outflowing love—but it would have been ‘the love of God’ …. Human natural carnal love cannot fulfill God’s holy law.
“But, even as a human embryo has been begotten by human parents, and just as the embryo must develop through the process of gestation before being born, so is the Spirit-led Christian, and so would have been Adam.
“But he would have experienced a direct connection and contact with God. … Adam would have had the in-depth spiritual knowledge to live God’s way, and also would have been supplied with the divine love that, only, can fulfill that perfect law of love and put it into action.
“He would also have received by the Spirit of God the very faith of God. He would have received knowledge, guidance and help from God. He would have had reliance on God to intervene in matters beyond his control.”
This is what would have happened had Adam eaten from the tree of life. It would have completed his creation. He would have ultimately become God! Though it didn’t happen to Adam, this is what is now happening in the Spirit-led Christian. God has granted members of His Church access to the tree of life. They have not been barred from reentering the Garden of Eden to eat from that tree!
Therefore, God’s spiritual creation in us is being completed!
“I like to compare this to the umbilical cord connecting the newborn baby with its mother,” Mr. Armstrong continued. “Its human life and physical nourishment has been supplied during gestation from the mother to the child. God’s spirit life is imparted to the Christian through the Holy Spirit. Also, spiritual knowledge is imparted by God but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). Full comprehension of God’s law (His way of life) is imparted by God through the Holy Spirit. But the law of God requires action and performance, and love is the fulfilling of God’s law (Romans 13:10) ….”
This is the means by which God is reproducing Himself. And yet, as powerful as God’s Spirit is, of and by itself, it does not develop righteous character. It will never push or pull you. Instead, it guides you in God’s way, without forcing you. You must make the decisions to go God’s way!
How thankful we can be for what God is creating in us. Remember that the way of a man is not in himself (Jeremiah 10:23).
We need God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in every step of our lives. Let’s make sure we never quench His Spirit—it is our power to live righteously.