By Elder Lawrence Nelson
Let us begin with the words of Christ found in Matthew 7:24 – 27, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Please note how this passage of scripture begins with the word “therefore.” This infers that the following four verses are the conclusion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in which He foretold of coming events. I quote, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:10 – 12.
This is why Christ ends this sermon with a two-fold parable. He is appealing to the individual who heareth because he who listens sufficiently to grasp the message has sufficient light to act and become responsible before God. It is dangerous to hear the truth and then not to translate such into action. The sons of God who follow the leading of the Spirit will discover that obedience transforms the words of Christ into personal character. Thus the words of Christ, “I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house (that is his character) upon a rock (which is the Lord Jesus Christ),” and he will discover that his mind will remain steadfast when the Sunday Law is enforced. Such individuals have dug deeply upon the solid rock for a firm foundation. Let the winds of temptation and trial burst upon them for they will remain faithful. Praise God, their house will not fail.
Will you join me now as we pray for guidance. Dear Heavenly Father, we are going to study how to prepare for the coming Sunday Law. Please enlighten our eyes with the Holy Spirit that we may understand how to prepare for this final test. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
First of importance, we need to take a look at the close call for Sunday legislation. On July 7, 1998 at the Vatican City there was released the pope’s one hundred page apostolic letter entitled “Dies Domini” – “The Day of the Lord.” This is the pope’s call for Sunday observance and legislation. How has the world reacted to the pope’s call for Sunday observance and legislation? – Let me give you an example. The Washington Post contained an article on Wednesday, July 8, 1998 (p. A-20) which summarized the pope’s apostolic letter. This article says that the pope strongly underlines the importance to observe Sabbath. He used the word “Sabbath” for “Sunday.” The pope said, “Holiness of the Lord’s Day must be protected at all costs.” He described the Sabbath as, “a day of joy, rest and solidarity.” The Sabbath, he said, “should be a day for worship and a day for the family.” The pope’s apostolic letter comprises five chapters, which set forth his conviction of the importance of the obligation of Sunday observance and the need for legislation to facilitate Sunday worship now.
Let’s look for more of these details at how the pope did this in his apostolic letter.
1. First, the legislation passed by Constantine is favorably commented on. Sunday observance was not enforced prior to the civil legislation passed by the Roman emperor Constantine in AD 321. Prior to this edict Christians would, in many cases, attend an early morning worship service and then spend the rest of Sunday working at their various occupations. Therefore the Sunday Law, which was legislated by Constantine, was not “a mere historical circumstance of no special significance for the church.” (p. 72). But in the pope’s opinion it was a providential protection that made it possible for Christians to observe Sunday without hindrance. (p. 72). For the pope the same legislation is to be applied today.
2. The pope mentions the church’s role in making sure there was civil legislation guaranteeing Sunday rest after the fall of the Roman Empire. “Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, the councils did not cease to insist upon arrangements (that’s civil legislation) regarding Sunday rest.” (p. 72).
3. (Listen carefully) The pope expresses his belief in the need for civil legislation to guarantee Sunday rest by directly mentioning that the church made laws to govern Sunday, which were to be enforced by the state. Concerning the church making such laws I quote, “Through the centuries she (the Roman Catholic Church) has made laws concerning Sunday rest.” (p. 73).
4. The pope concludes, “Therefore, also in the particular circumstance of our time Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy.” (p. 75).
From this we can clearly see that the pope is calling for Sunday legislation now. The important thing to understand is that the Sunday issue is taking place in three stages: First, by agitation; second by legislation; and to be followed by the third step, enforcement. Since Pope John Paul is recognized by the world as the spiritual leader of this planet this apostolic letter strongly agitates for Sunday legislation now.
What does the Spirit of Prophecy tell us about such legislation? “The substitution of the laws of men for the law of God, the exaltation, by merely human authority, of Sunday in place of the Bible Sabbath, is the last act in the drama.” Christian Service p. 50. Therefore it is possible that the National Sunday Law in America could be issued at any time now. “America, the land of religious liberty, shall unite with the papacy in forcing the conscience and compelling men to honor the false sabbath, the people of every country on the globe will be led to follow her example.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, p. 18.
Inspiration continues, “And all who prove their loyalty by obedience to the law of Jehovah must be prepared to be arrested, to be brought before councils that have not for their standard the high and holy law of God.” Maranatha p. 195. From this we can see that we must not have the smallest doubts about the fundamental pillars of our faith. And most important we must personally experience true justification by faith (that’s the New Birth) which will give us a living, loving relationship and a friendship with Jesus our Savior and Lord. Without Him, when the storm comes, we will be blown away like leaves in autumn.
We must not be discouraged for we know that God is love and He is full of mercy. He wants us all to be with Him for eternity. If we commit our souls to Him and cooperate with Him He will prepare us for the Sunday Law and sustain us. Why has God revealed this time of trouble to come? – Let the Spirit of Prophecy answer, “God has revealed what is to take place in the last days that His people may be prepared to stand against the tempest of opposition and wrath.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 452. “Those who delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the time of trouble or at any subsequent time. The case of all such is helpless.” Great Controversy p. 620.
Through His prophet, Ellen White, God warns us, “I saw that the remnant were not prepared for what is coming upon the earth. Stupidity, like lethargy, seemed to hang upon the minds of most of those who profess to believe that we are having the last message. My accompanying angel cried out with awful solemnity, ‘Get ready! get ready! get ready! for the fierce anger of the Lord is soon to come. His wrath is to be poured out, unmixed with mercy, and ye are not ready.’” Early Writings p. 119.
Romans 13:11 also contains an urgent message for you and me today which says, “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep.” This can only mean that we should arouse from our lukewarm condition. But when? – the Scriptures says, “Now.” Why? – Because we need to be ready for the last act in the drama.
If I should ask you, “Who believes that the end is near?” I am sure that every one of you would raise your hand. But this is the problem – we have always believed that the end is near. But now, when we live in the very end of the last and final generation the “end” in reality is not near, it is here now. If the pioneers of the Advent Movement, with Ellen White, were to be resurrected today and they could see the last end-time prophecies fulfilling before their very eyes they would shout, “Adventist people, wake up! The Lord is coming.”
Inspiration tells us, “If you are right with God today, you are ready if Christ should come today.” Heavenly Places p. 227. So we must remain right with God every day and in every moment of our lives or we won’t be ready for the Sunday Laws and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Procrastination is not only the thief of time but also the thief of eternity.
But some may ask, “How can I be right with God all the time?” In the book Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, p. 84 we are given this very wise counsel, “God would have His servants become acquainted with the moral machinery of their own hearts.” We need to consider what is the meaning of the word “heart.” In a spiritual sense it is our mind. Let us now consider how this moral machinery of our own heart functions and works. If we can understand this then we will come to know our own spiritual condition – if we are right with God today.
The seed of sin is in what the Bible calls the “heart” or the “mind.” God tells us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23. Christ reveals that it is the person’s thoughts that defile for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19. It is by the heart that the entire person, the intellect, the will, the affections, emotions and the body is influenced. Because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9.
Our human nature can be described as corrupt, depraved and thoroughly sinful, so we can see that the control center of sin is in the human mind. Now the question: “What is God’s divine plan to change our sinful hearts?” The Spirit of Prophecy says, “It was Christ’s mission to bring to man complete restoration.” Ministry of Healing p. 17. Putting this in simple words, Christ came to restore what sin had marred. How can this restoration take place in my life? – In Bible Commentary, Volume 7, p. 926 the Spirit of Prophecy answers, “Jesus came to earth that He might restore to man the original mind which he lost in Eden.”
Here are a few statements from the Spirit of Prophecy that tell us about the original mind that was lost in Eden after the fall into sin:
1. “The heaven-entrusted faculties of the mind are to be treated as the higher powers, to rule the kingdom of the body. The natural appetites and passions are to be brought under the control of the conscience.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, p. 63.
2. Before Adam’s fall, man’s “appetites and passions were under the control of reason.” Patriarchs and Prophets p. 45.
3. “The body is to be brought into subjection. The higher power of the being are to rule. The passions are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control of God.” Ministry of Healing p. 130.
From these statements we see that when God created man He gave him the higher powers of reason, will and the conscience to control the lower powers of appetite, desire and passions. All is to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, who from the very beginning dwelt in Adam and Eve. The Spirit of Prophecy says, “From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.” Desire of Ages p. 161. This is why Adam and Eve had spiritual minds before they sinned. In the human nature before the fall the spiritual mind of reason, the will and the conscience were the higher powers of the brain or “heart” and they controlled the lower powers of appetite, desire and passion.
Please see the chart that accompanies this sermon. This was the original mind that man lost in Eden. The higher powers consisting of reason, will and conscience function in the frontal lobe of the brain. Functions of the lower powers such as the appetite, desires and passions are located in the back lobe called the limbic system. Both the higher powers and the lower powers are directly connected to all parts of the body by an intricate chemical and electrical system. All parts minister to the needs of all the other parts and each responds to impulses from all the others.
Now the question: “What change took place as a result of Adam’s sin?” – Just the reverse. The human nature after the fall was governed by the carnal or the lower power of the mind in which appetite, desires and passions now controlled the reason, the will and the conscience. Now you can understand the change that took place. Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve had a spiritual mind, but after the fall they had a carnal mind. So what’s the solution to this problem? – It’s not simple to stop sinning or to stop doing sinful acts because our sinful acts are only a symptom of the problem for it is the nature of the carnal mind to sin.
How can we then resolve the matter of sin in our lives? – Let’s see how the Apostle Paul discovered the answer. I am reading from Romans 7, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. …For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. …O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is here that Paul, through the Holy Spirit discovered the problem for Romans 7:14 says, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” Who sold him under sin? – It was Adam by his personal decision to obey Satan rather than God.
From this you can see with Paul that the real sin problem in our sinful, carnal mind condition was brought about by the fall of Adam. It is this condition of our minds that underlies all our sinning. It is well to keep in mind that we are not personally guilty for Adam’s sin, yet we are still very much affected by the results of that transgression. Every child of Adam that is born into the world, except Jesus, is born with a selfish human nature.
Then in what way was Jesus different? – Christ “was to take His position at the head of humanity by taking the nature, but not the sinfulness, of man.” Signs of the Times May 29, 1901. This is why we read, “In him was no guile or sinfulness; he was ever pure and undefiled; yet he took upon him our sinful nature.” Review and Herald December 15, 1896. From this we can see that sinful nature, or sinful flesh, which Christ and we inherited does not constitute sin. But the sinfulness of the carnal mind that Jesus didn’t take we inherited from Adam and this is what causes us to sin. This is the real problem of humanity.
As I mentioned before, the seed of sin is in what the Bible calls the “heart” which we know as the mind. “From the heart springs the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23. Christ reveals that it’s the person’s thoughts that defile. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19.
Beloved, I have some good news. A person who has experienced justification (or the New Birth) does not have the sinfulness of a selfish, carnal mind, because he has the mind of Christ – the spiritual mind. However, he still has sinful flesh as did Jesus. The majority of people today think and concentrate only on avoiding acts of sin and forget the source from which sinful acts emerge. They do nothing about their sinful, carnal mind condition. This is why they continue sinning and confessing, sinning and confessing. If we stay in this condition we will be “justly condemned by the holy God.” Review and Herald September 17, 1895.
But, praise the Lord, in Romans 8:1 it says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after (according to) the flesh, but after (according to) the Spirit.” This means that those who are “in Christ” do not walk according to the carnal mind but according to the spiritual mind.
How can I be delivered from the dominion of sin of the carnal mind and instead be “in Christ” and walk according to the spiritual mind? Is it possible for man to deliver himself from this carnal dominion and be “in Christ”? The messenger of the Lord says, “It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing? Not one.’ Job 14:4. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ Romans 8:7. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but there they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart….
“It is not enough to perceive the…wisdom and the justice of His law, to see that it is founded upon the eternal principle of love. Paul the apostle saw all this when he exclaimed, ‘I consent unto the law that it is good.’ ‘The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ But he added in the bitterness of his soul anguish and despair, ‘I am carnal, sold under sin.’ Romans 7:16, 12, 14. He longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain and cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:24. (Now comes the answer that we have been looking for…) Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all there is but one answer, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29.” Steps to Christ p. 18, 19. We should praise God for only Jesus can reverse and transform our hearts so that the spiritual mind of reason, the will and the conscience takes their rightful place as the higher powers. Look once more at that illustration that accompanies this sermon.
Oh what a Savior! Jesus made this possible on Calvary’s cross and the only way we can obtain this change of heart is to come to Christ. Do I hear someone ask, “How do we come to Jesus?” We have the answer from the Lord Himself, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. This means come to Christ just as you are – with all your sins, with all your worry. Come in your lost condition with your sinful, carnal mind; yes, in the condition where your lower powers are dominating your higher powers. Jesus wants us to come to Him just as we are. We are to come with an entire surrender, having faith in Him and in His sacrifice.
The Spirit of Prophecy says, “As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Christ Object Lessons p. 163. Oh what a wonderful God we have! What a wonderful plan of salvation!
“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. These two acts of forgiveness and cleansing are tied together and can never be separated. The holy scripture says, “A new heart also will I give you, (that’s the original mind before the fall) and a new spirit (the spiritual mind) will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart (the carnal mind) out of your flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.
“To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives.” Sons and Daughters of God p. 100. “When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature.” Desire of Ages p. 324. So, when Jesus dwells in our hearts (our minds) with His righteousness, then he produces righteousness which will be revealed in a character filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Now we know how to be born again and justified by faith. This makes it possible to receive the Holy Spirit in the Early Rain. The Early Rain of the Holy Spirit will prepare us for the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain to give the Loud Cry through which we will be able to finish the work, ready for the coming Sunday Law. Ready for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Would you like to recommit your life to God today, asking Christ to give you a spiritual mind in which He rules your life? If so, please join me in earnest prayer. Oh Loving Father, please change our carnal minds by Thy creative power that our minds may become spiritual with divine power controlling our reason, our will and our conscience. We want to be ready now and every moment to come. For this we ask in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.