The Desire to Overcome
At the heart of repentance

God’s perfect, sinless nature is the result of His superior will, as Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The Incredible Human Potential. But Mr. Armstrong also clarified that God is not exerting that will in some sort of effort to resist something He deep down really wants to do.

“Is He sinless because He has such supernatural power to restrain Himself?” he asked in the March 1979 Good News.A thousand times, no! The living Christ has never sinned because He does not want to sin! What is His mind, that should be also in us? It is a mind that hates sin, that loves righteousness. It’s a matter of attitude!”

He explained that if we really want to sin and “have to use self-resistance, self-discipline and willpower to prevent going along in this world’s ways” then we “have not yet been really conquered by the all-loving God!”

Using willpower to resist sin is a start, but that’s not the end goal. The aim—the actual transformation we undergo—is becoming God. That means not even being tempted by sin (James 1:12-13)—abhorring sin! Real repentance therefore is a change of mind, actions and even desires.

“Christ’s mind must be in us, so we are thinking like Him,” Gerald Flurry writes in How to Be an Overcomer. “It is not a human effort. We may not actually want to overcome a problem. But God says that He will give us that desire. We must go to God for the desire to overcome. If we do, He promises to give us that desire. Our repentance will be toward God, and then we will be able to overcome any obstacle!”

If we have trouble stopping sins we’ve been committing, or doing things we’ve been omitting, then we must take that to God. We must go to Him for His mind—to truly detest things we should not do and to be zealous for things we should do.

God’s Power Over Hearts

Consider God’s power over the human heart. When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God turned the Egyptians’ hearts to hate His people (Psalm 105:25). God was working a long-term plan that would fulfill an incredible purpose and teach eternal lessons.

When God first called Moses to be His human instrument in leading the Hebrews out of slavery, He said of Pharaoh, “I will harden his heart” (Exodus 4:21). This is one of 19 verses that refer to Pharaoh’s heart being hardened, and over half of those credit God with doing it! You can read similar accounts for other individuals in Deuteronomy 2:30 and Joshua 11:20; see also John 12:40.

God can harden a heart, and He can also soften it. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

The king of Persia gave favor to Ezra to beautify the temple in Jerusalem. Why? God “put such a thing as this in the king’s heart” (Ezra 7:27). In prophecy, when 10 kings turn on the symbolic woman riding the beast, John records that “God hath put it in their hearts to fulfill his will …” (Revelation 17:17).

We should yield our heart to God’s influence. Nehemiah credited God with his desire to take certain actions in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:12; 7:5). Paul credited God for putting a certain care for the Corinthians in Titus’s heart (2 Corinthians 8:16).

If God’s Holy Spirit dwells in you, consider what He can do with your heart as it is yielded to Him! Your heart can be oriented toward God’s will, His wants and desires. This is not God magically removing lust or taking away free moral agency. You have to use your power to choose, to ask God to help you yield to His power!

A Spiritual Heart Transplant

When God gives us His Holy Spirit, He is working on creating a new heart in us. Jeremiah prophesied of God doing this worldwide after the Messiah is ruling. Not only does God promise to write His law into hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), He states: “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever …” (Jeremiah 32:39); and “… I will put my fear in their hearts …” (verse 40).

Ezekiel 11:19-20 use similar imagery: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” That is the process we’re involved in right now. Ask God daily for a spiritual heart transplant.

This takes the power of God. Where we play a key role is in not hardening our own hearts (Psalm 95:8). That is exactly what so many of God’s people are doing in this end time. God says they have “made their hearts as an adamant stone” (Zechariah 7:12). Ezekiel calls them “stiffhearted” (Ezekiel 2:4).

“We have to make sure we are not hard like that, and that we overcome that hardness with the power of God’s Spirit” (ibid).

The malleable kind of heart God wants to create in us is described in Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” The Hebrew for “incline” means to stretch or extend—like unfolding a tent. We want God to stretch our hearts toward His law and away from covetousness.

What God Desires

With a heart like God’s, we will desire what God desires. This is our goal.

The desires of our human heart can easily be contrary to God’s desires. Even when we desire something good, we still need the power of God to make spiritual progress. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:18, “… to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” He described in the following chapter that to overcome spiritually takes being led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).

“In Romans, Paul willed it, but it wasn’t God’s will,” Mr. Flurry writes. “That is why his efforts were getting him nowhere spiritually” (ibid). He references Philippians 2:13, which states: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Mr. Flurry continues: “Paul had learned that we must have both God’s will and God’s power working in us in order to produce real spiritual fruit. It is God’s will in us that makes it possible for us to do—to fulfill His will, His purpose and His good pleasure. You can’t do that with something human! … Here God says that both of these—the willing and the doing—are done by God, through the power of His Holy Spirit.”

Will refers to God’s intents, purposes and desires. In fact, the Greek word for will is actually translated over a dozen times in the King James Version as a form of “desire.”

In His prayers, Jesus sweat blood to yield to the will of His Father. Likewise, we need to cry out to God if our human will wants something different. Yielding to God doesn’t put us on autopilot. We don’t sit back and let God do everything for us. That’s not what it means to have God’s desires. In Christ’s case, that yielding sometimes took intense effort.

Romans 12:2 says you are “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” When we examine our minds, do we find the will, or desires, of God?

Creating a New, Clean Heart

God described King David as “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). David actively pursued God’s heart.

Consider the famous song of the repentant David in Psalm 51. He cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (verse 10). He proclaimed, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (verse 6). Mr. Flurry comments, “God desires truth in the inward parts—just as He Himself has. He wants us to think like He does. It’s not enough to pretend we are thinking in the right way. It must be who we are, to our core” (ibid).

David prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit”—which most translations render as “willing spirit” (verse 12). David was asking God, Sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Help me to be willing to obey you.

That is a man going to God for the desire to overcome—asking God for more of the Holy Spirit, the new heart he needed. This would be a heart on which God could write His laws, that He could stretch toward those laws and away from evil, that God could guide like a river. That’s the kind of heart King David was after. In short, he was after God’s desires.

We must “learn everything we can about His will, and learn to love what He loves, follow where He leads, hate what He hates, grow excited about what excites Him” (ibid). And if our human will is different from God’s, we must cry out to Him for help!

Remember this inspiring truth: “We may not actually want to overcome a problem. But God says that He will give us that desire. We must go to God for the desire to overcome. If we do, He promises to give us that desire. Our repentance will be toward God, and then we will be able to overcome any obstacle!” (ibid).