The Sanctuary 
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

25 – Afflicting the Soul (Deny Yourself)

Leviticus 16:19-21:

He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.  When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat.  He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites — all their sins — and put them on the goat’s head.  He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task.

As already mentioned in the past two chapters the Day of Atonement was a very solemn day of soul searching.  It was the day when God would bring to an end the plan of salvation.  We saw that two very important events took place on the Day of Atonement which in reality points to two wonderful truths:

  1. The first one is that, on the Day of Atonement, Christ is going to vindicate the saints.  The issue is not whether you are qualified for heaven or not.  The issue is God has to silence the accusations of Satan.  He is the accuser of the brethren.  Day and night he accuses you and me.  On the Day of Atonement, Jesus is going to vindicate the saints.  The judgment, says Daniel 7:22, is to be in the favor of the saints.  That will take place before Christ comes with His reward:

    ...Until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

  2. The second important event which took place on the Day of Atonement is that the blame for sin which God assumed for six thousand years is ultimately going to be placed on Satan, who carries the responsibility.  God assumed it for six thousand years but, at the end of time, in order for the sanctuary in heaven to be cleansed, God cannot take the blame for sin.  If He does, the great controversy could never come to an end.

In this study, we will turn to how the Day of Atonement affects us living here on earth.  Is there any part that you and I have to play?  According to Leviticus 16:29-31, there were two things that God’s people were required to do:

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you:  On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work — whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you — because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.  Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.  It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.

It was a solemn occasion.  As the King James Version of the Bible puts it, the first thing was for them to “afflict their souls.”  The New International Version (above) says they had to “deny themselves.”  That’s what it means to afflict their souls.  The other requirement was they had to do no work on that day.  It was assigned a Sabbath rest.  It was one of the key Sabbaths in the ceremonial law and they were to do no work.  In chapter 23 of Leviticus, it tells us that, if they did not do these two things, they were cut off.  Leviticus 23:29-32:

Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people.  I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day.  You shall do no work at all.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.  It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.  From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.

In this study, we want to look at that phrase “afflicting the soul” and what the Bible meant when it said that God’s people had to afflict their souls or deny themselves.  (In the next study, we will deal with the significance of that day being a Sabbath rest.)

In you looking at Leviticus 16:32-34, we notice that the high priest on that day would cleanse or purge God’s people from their uncleanness:

The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement.  He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you:  Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Hebrew puts it — the defilement of sin.  There has been confusion in interpretation here.  There are some who have taken this passage and said that the cleansing of the people means the eradication of the sinful nature.  That is not true.  The Bible doesn’t teach the doctrine of holy flesh.  You and I will have sinful natures until the second coming of Christ.  Not until “this corruption puts on incorruption” will we be cleansed of our nature.  What the priest does on the Day of Atonement is to cleanse the people from the defilement of sin.  We need to discover what that is.

At the heart of the sin problem is the principle of self.  That is what defiles us:  this egocentric nature, the principle of self.  Isaiah 53:6 says:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This own-wayness is what the Bible calls our uncleanness.  Can God redeem us from the problem of self?  Let us look at some texts in the New Testament that talk about the cleansing of God’s people.

Ephesians chapter five talks about the priestly ministry of Christ and what He is to accomplish in that priestly ministry.  Ephesians 5:25:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her....

Christ gave Himself for the church that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.  Through the preaching of the word, the application of Christ our Righteousness, God wants to cleanse and sanctify the church.  Ephesians 5:27 says:

...And to present her to himself [He presents the church at the end of time] as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Jesus wants to present a purified church, purified from what the principle of self.  He will present a sinless church at His second coming, but before He does that, He will present a purified church.  The New Testament defines this last generation of Christians as the one hundred and forty-four thousand.  To find out what these people are like, see Revelation 14, which is the chapter on the Three Angels’ message.  Revelation 14:1-4a:

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.  The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.  And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.  No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins.

Notice that these people whom God defines as the 144,000 “who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins.”  The word “virgins” is not literal.  I have some members say to me, “This is only for the singles,” but this is not true.  You must not take Revelation literally.  It is a symbolic book.  Revelation 14:4b:

They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.  They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

They may be the last generation, but they are the firstfruits in terms of experiencing the full power of the gospel.  In the previous verses, you will notice that they were God’s people who have experienced the victory of the gospel.  In Revelation 14:5 we are told:

No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

Then in Titus 2:14 we have a similar passage:

[Jesus Christ] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The Greek word for iniquity means “bent to self.”  He redeems us from all selfishness and purifies or cleanses unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.  To understand how God redeems us from uncleanness, we need to understand the dual problem of sin.  The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, presents sin as a dual problem.

Most of us look at sin only in terms of acts, but that is only one of the problems of sin.  It is true that sin is an act.  Sin is doing something wrong.  Sin is disobeying the law of God but sin is also what we are.  Sin has to do with what is in us.  Now sinful acts God can forgive because of the blood of Jesus Christ.  But sinfulness God cannot and does not forgive.  He forgives us for our sins.

We need to know how God deals with our sinfulness.  First let us come to grips with our sinfulness.  One of the big questions that is asked about Romans 7 is, “Is Paul talking about the believer or is he talking about the unbeliever?”  That’s the wrong question.  If you look at the context, that question makes no sense.  Here is why.  He is dealing with our innate sinfulness and there is no difference between the sinfulness of a believer and an unbeliever.  We both have sinful natures.  The only difference is in our position and our status but in terms of our nature.  Our nature and the nature of the unbeliever on the street is identical.  They are both sinful.  What Paul is doing in Romans 7 and in verse 15 and onwards is simply proving that a holy law and a sinful nature are incompatible.

He makes a statement in verse Romans 7:14:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

“God’s law is spiritual, but I (the corporate I, the human race) am carnal, fleshly, unspiritual, sold under sin.”  (I am dominated, my nature is dominated by the principle of self.)  Because of this he says:  “It is impossible for me to do what I want to do.  I want to do good, I hate sin, but what I want to do I cannot do and what I don’t want to do I am doing.”

Twice in this passage, in Romans 7:17 and Romans 7:20 he says the same thing:

As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

In other words, “It is not my wish, my desire, my purpose to live a bad life, but I have a problem:  sin lives in me.”

One way to find the difference between what we are and what we do is:  when the Bible talks of our acts of sin, it uses the word “sin” in the plural.  When it talks of our sinfulness, it uses the “sin” in the singular.  Look at John 1:29 where John the Baptist says:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

The word “sin” is in the singular.

Jesus Christ did not only come to take away our sins, but He also came to deal with sin, otherwise His mission would be incomplete.  Romans 7 is dealing with not only our acts of sin but with the sin problem, sin dwelling in us.  We read in at Romans 7:21:

So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Then he goes on to explain this in verse Romans 7:22:

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law...

Paul is saying, “in my innermost being, I really want to keep the law of God.”  All of us are facing this problem.  In Romans 7:23 he says:

...But I see another law [another principle, another force] at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

The law of God is the force of love which seeks not its own.  And here in Romans 7:23, he is talking about another principle, another force.  The word “law” means a constant, unending force that is dwelling somewhere.  In the English language, we have the law of gravity.  This law means that we have a constant, unending force which pulls everything in our atmosphere toward the center of the earth.  Within our nature, there is a force that is pulling us toward self and everything we do is affected because that’s the pull.  And Paul is saying, “I see another law in my members (in my human nature) warring against the law of my mind.”  My mind wants to keep the law of God that seeks not its own.  Love is a fulfilment of the law.  My flesh doesn’t want to fulfil the law.  It wants to fulfil self.  So this battle is going on within you.  And, of course, it says here that this law of sin brings your mind into captivity to the law of sin which is in your nature.

Then he cries out (Romans 7:24-25a):

What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

“O wretched man that I am! Who will cleanse me?  Who will deliver me from this body that is pulling me to the grave, to death, because of the law of sin?”  Look at the very last part of verse 25, since in the last part he sums up what is his condition:

So then, I myself in my mind [without the gospel, without Christ, without the Holy Spirit] am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

In other words, I can choose to do right, I can choose to do the law, but I cannot perform it because, with the flesh, I serve the law of sin.  If I try to put the law of sin against my will, the law of sin will always win — always!  I’ll tell you why.  The will is not a law.  What do I mean by “law”?  Remember, the word “law” means a constant force.

Here is an illustration:  I am holding the Bible up.  Is the law of gravity pulling the Bible down?  Yes.  Why does the Bible not fall?  Because I am using another force, we call it muscle power, to hold the Bible from falling down.  But my muscle power is not a law or a constant force.  Right now it is strong but I am beginning to feel weaker.  If I hold this Bible much longer, the muscle power gets weaker and weaker.  The law of gravity doesn’t change.  It’s constant.  Sooner or later, the muscle power gets weaker and weaker and the law of gravity takes over.

That’s the same as an airplane.  An airplane creates a force because of aerodynamics by going through the wind.  With the shape of the wings, there is a force that lifts the airplane up.  The airplane is not conquering the law of gravity, it is defying it!  So you can defy the law of sin and that’s what happens when you go to a campmeeting and make resolutions or at the beginning of the new year you say, “From now on, I am not going to watch T.V.”  That promise lasts only as long as your willpower is strong.  Then, when life is back to normal, and you have to work and you get tired, the law of sin takes over.  It is possible for a human being to defy the law of sin.  It is impossible for us to conquer it.  Your will cannot conquer it.

What happens often in a Christian church that has high standards, is that those who have a strong will and are able to defy the law of sin longer than those who have a weak one will tend to look down upon those whose wills are weak.  They say, “I don’t know why this man is having such a difficulty in giving up smoking.  I did it with no trouble at all.”  Well, they may have given up smoking with no trouble at all, but they have other problems that they can’t give up.  When you have to put up with these strong-willed men and women in the committee meetings, that’s where you loose your hair.  It’s hard because strong-willed men and women want their own way.  The gospel is not salvation by willpower.  Willpower has a part to play and that part is to deny self, including performing righteous deeds.  The gospel is:  “Not I, but Christ.”

It is possible for the law of sin to be conquered.  That is found in Romans 8:2 but, before we go to verse two, you need to be clear on verse one.  We are told what happens to the Christian who is struggling with the law of sin and who’s having defeat.  I thank God for verse one:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...

But you see, sinful acts God can forgive.  Sinfulness God cannot forgive.  Here’s the problem.  I sin, I’m forgiven; I sin, I’m forgiven.  That’s a rat race!  I want more than forgiveness.  I want victory!  I’m tired of going in circles.  Romans 8 gives us the answer but please notice that the answer is not in you.  The answer is in Jesus Christ.  Look at verse two where we have two laws:

...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Paul is saying that the law of sin (which is the law of self) and the law of the Spirit (which is love) met in one person, Jesus Christ.  Please notice they are both laws, which means they are both constant forces.  This means that one cannot win one time and the other another time; they are constant.  If the law of sin wins, it will win all the time.  If the law of the Spirit wins, it will win all the time, because they are two constant forces.  We need to know which of the two forces is greater — the law of sin or the law of the Spirit.  Paul is saying, “The law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin.”

Then in verse three, he explains how it happened:

For what the law [that is, the Ten Commandments] was powerless to do...

God’s moral law cannot free us from the law of sin.  All that the Ten Commandments can do is simply demand righteousness from you; it cannot free you. 

For what the law was powerless to do...

It could not do because the flesh is weak.  Paul proved in Romans 7 that the flesh is incapable of keeping the commandments.  Romans 8:3:

For what the law was powerless to do [Please don’t try to save yourself by the law.] because it was weakened by the flesh, God did [How?] by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh...

Notice the word “sin” is in the singular.  In other words, sin dwelling in me, the law of sin in my members, and sin in the flesh are synonymous.  He condemned that law of sin.  He conquered it and He took it to the grave.  He did this (Romans 8:4):

...in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh [which is our natural strength] but according to the Spirit.

If you walk in the Spirit, it is possible for God to give you victory over sin.  We need to know that!

Another text, all of which has to do with the cleansing of the sanctuary is Galatians 5:16.  Verse 16 is a statement.  People read Galatians 5:17, which is the explanation, without reading verse 16, and, if you do that, you get the wrong interpretation.  Galatians 5:16:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

So it is necessary to know how we can conquer the law of sin in our members, which expresses itself in terms of lust.  In each case, of course, it may be different.  We can overcome the law of sin in the flesh by walking in the Spirit.  Then, in verse 17, Paul gives the struggle:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

In other words, the flesh and the Spirit can never be partners.  They are enemies; they are opposites.  Now the last part of the verse:

...So that you are not to do whatever you want.

If you take that verse Galatians 5:17 by itself, it means that the flesh cannot keep the law.  It cannot do righteousness.  But, in the context of verse 16, it simply means the flesh cannot do what it wants if you are walking in the Spirit.  The flesh does want to sin and the flesh will still want to sin after probation closes.  There are some who think that after probation closes you will have no desire to sin.  That’s a lie.  Your desire to sin will exist until Christ comes.  Your desire to live for self will exist until Christ comes — “ when this corruption puts on incorruption” — because the law of sin is still there.  It will always pull you, but, if you walk in the Spirit, you have a force that is greater than the law of sin.

We want to learn how the law of the Spirit controls us and what it means to “walk in the Spirit.”  We are not required to pay some money to the Spirit and say, “If I give you ten dollars will you walk in me?”  If you go to Jerusalem and visit the Holy Land, the Holy Spirit will not walk in you because you went there.  The Holy Spirit walks in you simply when you say, “Not I, but Christ.”  When you say, “Not I,” that is afflicting the soul.  The New International Version says we must “deny ourselves,” not in terms of sin but in terms of doing good.  The formula is the same:  “Not I, but Christ.”  With this in mind, let’s turn to the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 9:23:

Then he said to them all [talking to the disciples]:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

All His life, Jesus denied Himself.  In John 5:19, 30 He says:

Jesus gave them this answer:  “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

“By myself, I can do nothing.”  What He meant was, “I cannot allow myself to do anything.”  In John 14, in talking to Philip, He said (John 14:10b):

“The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

At Gethsemane He said (Mark 14:36):

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

“Not My will, but Yours be done.”  In John 6:57, Jesus said:

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

All through His life, Jesus did not allow the self principle to control Him.  He surrendered.  He denied Himself.  That is the meaning of the cross.

There was a very famous preacher in Uganda, one of the finest preachers that Africa has ever produced.  He nearly died under Idi Amin.  He was preaching a sermon on revival to the students there in the university.  He asked the question, “What is the center letter of the word revival?”  They said, “I.”  He said, “That is the problem.  We need another letter.  We need to take the “I” and put it across this way and we have a cross.  The cross of Christ is the answer to the “I” problem.”  Then he quoted Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now folks dying to self is the hardest part of Christian living.  It is impossible for self to crucify self; therefore, we must depend on the cross.  We must surrender ourselves to the cross where it belongs.  You are familiar with the statement about carrying your cross.  Most people have the wrong idea.  Most people think that God gives each believer a different cross.  Some have heavy crosses and some have light crosses.  Some have big crosses and some have small crosses and, of course, my cross is always bigger than yours.

Another problem with this passage is that some think that crosses are sickness and hardships and trials.  So when you lose your job and can’t find another, you say, “My cross is very heavy.”  That’s not the cross of Christ.  That is a misinterpretation of the text.  The unbeliever has trials.  Is he carrying the cross of Christ?  No, he is an unbeliever.  There is only one cross that saves you.  The thief on the cross next to Christ carried his own cross but his cross did not save him.  The only cross that saves is the cross of Christ.  It is only in the cross of Christ that self can be denied.  Our job is by faith to surrender to that cross.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we will discover in the New Testament that Christian living was a dual process that takes place simultaneously.  The formula of the gospel is two things:  “Not I, but Christ,” negative and positive.  And Christ lives in you through the Holy Spirit in direct proportion to how much self is crucified.  Look at 2 Corinthians 4:10-11:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus...

Paul explains what he meant by that.  What did Jesus die to on the cross?  His flesh said, “I do not want to die.”  “Father, if it is possible, remove this cup from me.”  That was the cry of His flesh.  The Spirit said, “No, you must die,” and Christ obeyed the Spirit.  “Always carrying around in our body the death of the Lord Jesus Christ” — the dying to self.  Verse 10:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

In other words, the more you die to self, the more Christ will live in you.  Remember, we are dealing now with Christian living.  We are not dealing with salvation.  Salvation is a gift, but Christian living is a struggle, because you are always surrendering yourself to the cross.  Continuing in verse 11:

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

Even in Christian living it is not:  “I plus Christ.”  It is:  “Not I, but Christ.”  And the amount of Christ that lives in you is in direct proportion to how much you surrender “I” to the cross.  Another text is in Philippians 3:9, where he is talking about his salvation.  He said:

...and be found in him [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

In verse 10, he is talking about Christian living.  He says as a Christian who is now justified:

I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death....

Paul wanted to know the power of His resurrection because the resurrection of Christ was the greatest revelation of the power of God.  We see that God allowed sin to put Christ in the grave, but did not keep Christ in the grave.  He conquered sin by the resurrection.  And that’s why Paul says, “I want now to experience this power.  Sin is pushing me down all the time.  I want to experience the resurrection power — “...becoming like him in his death.”  The only way you can experience the resurrection power of God is by becoming like him in His death.  In other words, “Not I, but Christ.”  Again I will say, the “Not I” is the most difficult part in Christian living.

Now, with this in mind, I want to go to a subject that is controversial in our church today.  One day I was giving a Bible study to a young lady in Idaho.  She asked me, “Will you show me one text in the Bible where it says that we should not wear jewelry?”  Have you ever had that subject put to you?  You try and prove it.  You won’t find one text.  Even the ones we use in Timothy and Peter do not say that.  What the texts say is, “Women, let your priority be the inward adornment rather than the outward adornment.  It doesn’t say you mustn’t wear jewelry.

This has created a problem.  In fact, if you go to the Old Testament, you will find texts where God Himself says, “You may wear jewelry.”  If you read Exodus, what do you find that God said to the Jews?  He said, “When you leave Egypt go to the Egyptians and take their jewelry.”  Exodus 3:21-22:

And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.  Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters.  And so you will plunder the Egyptians.

And what do you do, melt them and make a sanctuary?  No.  He says, “Give it to your sons and daughters and let them wear it.”  He did not tell them to keep it in a case.  There are many more texts like that.  But when you look at the Day of Atonement, it is another question.

The Jews were allowed even to drink alcohol in moderation.  On the Day of Atonement, they were not allowed to wear jewelry and they were not allowed to drink.  We need to apply our dress restrictions only in the context of the Day of Atonement.  We are living in the antitypical Day of Atonement.  It is a solemn time.  And that is part of the self denial.  In other words, please turn away from self to God, because we are living in the end of time.  Only in the context of the Day of Atonement can I ask the lady, “Do you believe that we are living in the last days, in the Day of Atonement?”  Then we are to afflict our souls.  The Jews were not allowed to wear jewelry and they were not allowed to drink alcohol on the Day of Atonement.  That was forbidden because it was a solemn day.  They had to deny themselves.  So we are living in a time when God wants to reveal Himself.

The purpose of all this and the issue is whether God can produce a people who are not mechanically keeping the Ten Commandments.  The Jews did that.  Can God produce a people who love their neighbors more than themselves, a people who are living unselfishly?

There is an organization, an ideology that claims this today.  That is Marxism.  You see, Karl Marx realized that the heart of the human problem is selfishness.  This is what he said, “Men are selfish because of their environment.”  By that, he meant capitalism.  “Capitalism,” he said, “teaches us how to be selfish.  It condones selfishness.  It encourages selfishness.”  He called it “self alienation.”  But he said, “Let us change the environment and we will redeem man from selfishness.”  Russia has changed the environment and the movement by which she has changed the environment is called socialism, confiscation of private ownership and forcing the people to share.  For 70 years Russia has been forcing its people to share, but the evidence is that the Russians are not liberated from selfishness.  I met some of them in Ethiopia and found them to be still selfish, just as we all are.

The problem is not environment.  The problem is the law of sin.  It is possible for the gospel to produce a people who will live unselfishly.  That’s what Jesus meant when He said:  “Here are my people who are keeping the commandments.”  Revelation 14:12:

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

I said to one Russian, “What you fellows are trying to do is to produce oranges from an apple tree.”  It is impossible.  You can tie apples on an orange tree but please don’t say that the orange tree is producing apples.  Jeremiah 13:23:

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

“Can a leopard change his spots or can an Ethiopian change his skin?  Then how can we, who are by nature sinful, produce righteousness?  Can a bitter spring produce sweet water?”  These are the questions the Bible asks.  The answer is “No.”  Man is totally depraved.  But the fulfilment of the law is love — unselfish love.  God can produce unselfishness out of a people whose nature is selfish.  He can produce righteousness out of sinful man.  It is possible for us to get victory over self.

In Exodus 32, Moses is on the mountain.  He had just come down beforehand with the Ten Commandments.  He had given the Ten Commandments and then came back again.  And what did he find?  The people were worshipping a golden calf.  He got mad and he broke the tables of stone.  Then he goes back to God.  God said to Moses, “Moses, I am tired of this rebellious people.  I’m going to wipe them out and I’m going to make out of you, Moses, a great nation.  And Moses said, “Thank you, God.  I have been waiting all along for this.”  Did he do that?  No.  In verse 32 he said:

But now, please forgive their sin — but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.

In other words, “I am willing to be lost forever that they may live.”  Can you reach that stage through the gospel yet?  Moses had gained, through the power of the gospel, victory over self.  Then, in Romans 9:1-5, Paul says:

I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

Like Moses, the Jews had given Paul a hard time.  In fact, if you look at Acts 21:21, they accused him of being against the temple, against the law, and against his own people.  And yet Paul says:

Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?  I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I am willing to be lost forever that my Jews might be saved.  Paul was willing to give up heaven for the Jews.  That’s what the cleansing of the soul temple is.

One day at workers’ meeting, I asked the pastors:  if God would open the windows of heaven today and announce to us, “I am sorry to inform you that the heavenly mansions are all full, there are no more rooms.  I’m sorry, I can’t take you to heaven.”  I asked the pastors, “Will you still be pastors for the church if heaven is closed to you?”  One pastor stood up and said:  “I’m not a fool.  Why should I serve if there is no heaven?”  And I said, “You have not yet been cleansed from your defilement.”

Can God produce a people who can live without living for self?  That will be the issue of the time of trouble.  The issue in the time of trouble is not whether you are living a sinless life.  The issue is, “Can God produce a people who are willing even to say ’good-bye’ to heaven rather than let God down?  Can God produce such a people?”  And the answer is “Yes.”  That was part of His mission.  And what is our part?  We must afflict our souls.  We must deny self.  May God help us that we will realize that God is on display through the church.  Can He produce a people who will reflect the character of Christ?  And the answer is “Yes.”

We need to know what the issues are.  There are two things required from you.  Number one:  Afflicting the soul.  In the next study, we will deal with entering the Sabbath rest.  May God bless us that we may realize the time in which we are living and that God is waiting to produce that people, who will glorify the earth with His character and not theirs.  May God bless us!


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