Enemy at the Gate

THE Bible designates two things which are at absolute enmity with God. It should be forever settled that no type of truce or compromise can bring these adversaries of truth into harmony with heavenly things. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Romans 8:7. “Friendship of the world is enmity with God.” James 4:4.

Don’t miss the amazing relationship between these two definitions. This enmity has always been at the heart of the great controversy. The disobedience of Adam and Eve corrupted their natures to such a degree that they could no longer obey the law of God. Paul stressed that the carnal mind “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. So the major effect of sin was on the mind of man. It could no longer love and harmonize with the things of God. That fallen mind was now more drawn to love the flesh and the world than to love spiritual things. No wonder, then, that the carnal mind and the world are both described as the “enmity.” They are intimately related. Satan uses the “world” and its attractions to assault the minds of all Adams descendants, because their fallen nature makes them easy targets for such appeals.

In the Bible we are admonished, “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. James wrote, “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. Here the lines are drawn so that no one can misunderstand-either, we love God or we love the world. WE CANNOT DO BOTH! To love the world is to be an enemy of God-to be separated from Him. Here are two relationships which cannot co-exist. It must be one or the other. Paul described the enmity this way: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and: these are contrary the one to the other.” Galatians 5:17.

The ability of man’s fallen mind to turn back from its captivity to Satan is rooted in the promise of a Redeemer. God opened that door of deliverance when He said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15. This was the first indication that the human family would have another probation. Through Christ, the seed of the woman, man could break with his self-imposed servitude to Satan, and make the decision to obey God once more. Without a Saviour to provide the power, fallen man had no hope of ever feeling enmity against Satan. Not one of us, in the flesh, has the ability to choose not to sin.

The sinful nature which we inherited from Adam carries with it a predisposition to disobey God. We have no choice about being born with that nature, but now, through Christ, the promised seed, we do have a choice as to whether we continue yielding to the weaknesses of that nature.

Through conversion and sanctification, we may have the carnal mind totally transformed into the mind of Christ. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. “But we have the mind of Christ.” I Corinthians 2:16. “Christ hath suffered for us ... arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.” 1 Peter 4:1.

This brings us back to the marvel and mystery of the mental process through which the Holy Spirit is able to effect this change. We often speak of giving the “heart” to Jesus, but we really mean that the mind has been yielded. Conversion involves a decision of the will to allow the Holy Spirit to exercise total control of all brain functions. Henceforth, the messages sent forth through the maze of neural connections will be in obedience to the brain’s Spirit-charged command center. For as long as we consent, the power of God will continue to flow through the nerve communication system to every part of the physical organism, producing obedience. This is what it means to have the mind of Christ.

Ellen White wrote:

“The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 347.

But even though the converted mind is no longer carnal, the inherent fallen nature is not removed from the child of God. This is what produces the titanic life-or death struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. By exploiting the weaknesses of that fallen nature, Satan’s goal has always been to gain access to the mind and wrest away the central switchboard so that he can start manipulating the lines of communication to the rest of the body. So the real struggle is for control of the mind. Whoever rules there will also be able to dominate every other area of life.

While the Holy Spirit abides at the seat of reason and choice, Satan can find absolutely no entrance. Unless the will is influenced to make a deliberate decision to change masters, the mind of Christ will prevail. The interesting thing is that both Christ and Satan have access to the mind through the same physical pathways of the five senses. Those sensory faculties are absolutely helpless, in themselves, to offer any defense against outside invasion, because they function on the level of the fallen nature. Only as they receive orders from the Spirit-fortified brain are those ports of entry able to close the door against Satan’s intrusive efforts.

Now we will be better able to understand why the “carnal mind” and the “world are both defined as enmity against God. Satan’s only hope is to get rid of the mind of Christ, the converted mind, and put the carnal mind back in command. But he can do that only by securing the consent of that precious sovereign will which God placed in each brain package. To entice the will to let him come in, Satan is confined to the appeals he can make to the fallen nature through those physical senses-sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Here is where the world enters as a part of the enmity to Christ. The Bible uses the term “world” to describe every external, fleshly influence which the devil has devised to attract the soul into sin.

In his perverse wisdom, Satan has produced in this electronic age an unbelievable array of exotic temptations. He knows that they must be alluring enough to overwhelm the mind. In order to capture the will of committed Christians those glittering attractions must be cleverly disguised to make sin appear unobjectionable. Satan has no qualms about using subterfuge and deception. As a master psychologist, he conceals the ugly and evil under a gleaming facade of beauty. Our Lord warned that even the elect would be almost overcome by the last-day delusions of the great counterfeiter and deceiver. (Matthew
24:24.) The servant of God wrote:

“Satan will try to deceive, if possible, the very elect. Most seducing influences will be exerted; minds will be hypnotized.” Testimonies, Vol. 8, p. 293.

Again she wrote:

“Cheap unsatisfying pleasures are made all in all in this degenerate age. Satan throws his glamour around these amusements which eclipse eternal things ... worldly pleasure will appear more desirable than the heavenly birthright.” Upward Look, p. 39.

In anticipation of that “hour of temptation” when Satan will consolidate all his weapons against the remnant, warning after warning has been woven through the inspired counsels of God. Especially are we urged to be on guard against those infatuating attempts to breach the barricades of the mind. Since the mind was made to conform to the messages communicated through the physical senses, those avenues must be especially protected and defended.

“For thousands of years Satan has been experimenting upon the properties of the human mind, and he has learned to know it well. By his subtle workings in these last days, he is linking the human mind with his own, imbuing it with his thoughts; and he is doing this work in so deceptive a manner that those who accept his guidance know not that they are being led by him at his will. The great deceiver hopes so to confuse the minds of men and women that none but his voice will be heard.” Mind, Character and Personality, p. 698, 699.

It would be well for us to think deeply about the deceptive ways in which Satan can manipulate people’s minds without them being aware of it. It is frightening to realize that we can be unconsciously influenced to think Satan’s thoughts by allowing wrong sentiments to reach the brain. In these days of subliminal advertising and out of-control media entertainment, Seventh-day Adventist Christians have never stood in a more threatened position. It is only by cooperating with heavenly agencies that the mind can retain its heavenly mold.

God’s secret for victory has always involved a separation from those sights, sounds and sensations which mesmerize the mind. From Eve and David we learn how dangerous it is to linger and look upon that which can lead to sin. Like Joseph, we must often turn and flee physically from the magnet of inviting temptation. The emotions can be overpowered and the will paralyzed if we allow ourselves to smell the aroma of sin, or gaze on the beauty of sin, or listen to the soft sounds of sin. In order for the converted to stay converted, there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the presence of recognized evil. How thankful we can be that God always opens our eyes and makes us aware of the enchanted ground. Total victory is available only through surrender of self, renunciation of the world, and dynamic decision and action.

It is the will which is responsible for deciding and acting against temptation. The power to deny self and say NO to the most alluring form of sensual appeal has been made available to every child of God. This is how Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer ... than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Hebrews 11:24, 25. This was the secret of Joseph’s strength. Potiphar’s wife said, “Lie with me. But he refused.” Genesis 39:7, 8. How that word rings and resounds with the power of a committed will. They refused! God did not refuse for them. He gave them the desire and the strength to resist, but that refusal sprang from their personal decisive choice to obey God rather than self. God had given them a mind to reason with, to choose with, and to refuse with!

Were those horrendous spiritual tests in line with Satan’s usual method of trying to make people sin? Indeed Moses and Joseph were confronted with such an overpowering appeal to the natural, carnal appetites that we almost tremble for them as we read the account. The place, time and circumstances of their temptation must have been adorned with all the powerful factors that Satan could put together as an appeal to youthful emotions. But they refused! Thank God! Had they made the slightest concession to the flesh, their wills would have wavered, and the rest of the story would be quite different in the Bible. A little leaven of sin can gradually break down the spiritual barriers and invade the soul.

Now consider the example of another young man who faced the same physical temptation that Joseph faced, but he did not turn and flee from it. Samson started out with all the assets of a holy, consecrated life. He had been separated by special vows of devotion to God and his people. Then slowly the Nazarite youth began to incline to the indulgent lifestyle of the neighboring Philistines. Little by little his association with the enemy of Israel led to admiration for them, and especially for one designing ‘ woman named Delilah. By each succeeding compromise, he breached the conditions of his dedication to God. Finally, only one outward symbol remained to remind him that he had been set apart for a special work of deliverance for his people—his unshorn hair. Inevitably the cascade of capitulation led to that tragic moment when he weakly betrayed the final secret of his miserably desolated life.

Like so many other stories in the Old Testament, this one was also written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Samson teaches us that we cannot gain the victory over a foe that we secretly admire. We can’t mingle with the impure and remain pure. We can’t tease and trifle with sin without being contaminated. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition.” 1 Corinthians 10:11.

What “things” is the inspired apostle referring to? What happened to the Israelites which provides counsel and direction for us today? Read the previous verses and you will discover that Paul is talking about breaking God’s law. The very words used in the recital exposes the nature of the transgressions which served so effectively in destroying thousands of them almost on the borders of Canaan. Notice what forms of temptation were the most successful in drawing them away from God--"fornication,” “play,” “lust,” “eat and drink.” Does that sound familiar? All those words are associated with physical pleasure and entertainment. They ate and drank and lusted and “rose up to play...and the people were naked.” Exodus 32:6, 25.

If we tried to describe the vulgarized world of media entertainment today, we could think of no better words than those used in this description of Israel’s folly. When all other Satanic programs failed to halt them in their march toward the promised land, the enemy played his trump card, and assailed their senses with wine, women and nakedness. Those whose minds were not fortified with an unwavering faith in God’s
law of love were swept into an orgy of uninhibited sexual indulgence.

Inspiration reveals that this will be a final resort of the enemy in seeking to destroy modern Israel. “By worldly friendships, by the charms of beauty, by pleasure seeking, mirth, feasting, or the wine cup, he tempts to the violation of the seventh commandment.... So now it is by leading the followers of Christ to associate with the ungodly and unite in their amusements that Satan is most successful in alluring them into sin.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 458.

If our great enemy was able to destroy three thousand of the Israelites at Sinai through feasting, playing and nakedness, how many Seventh-day Adventists will fall prey to these devices just before the heavenly Canaan? We have proven that Satan’s frontal line of attack is emotional and mental. Today he has a million times more equipment to corrupt the morals and destroy spirituality through the avenues of the mind than he did at Baal-peor. God’s servant tells us that two subtleties will be the most successful in alluring God’s people into sin-association with the ungodly and uniting in their amusements.

Just as Israel of old represented God’s only earthly means of communicating His message, so there is only one people today who have the fully restored truths of history to share with the world. We need have no illusions about the type of attacks we can expect from our great enemy. They will be launched against the mind, and they will contain the very same elements which worked so well to keep Israel out of the promised land.

Satan is more desperate now than ever before in trying to prove that God’s law cannot be obeyed. The great experiment will soon be over. In his limited, remaining time, Satan is determined to throw everything in his arsenal against the little remnant who still believe that total victory is possible. He has no problem with those who already agree with him. Most of the Christian world, and many Seventhday Adventists, believe that sin is of such a nature that it can never be overcome in this life. If God is able to vindicate and defend His character against the charges of Satan, He will have to produce a people who have overcome all sin. His gospel is designed to accomplish that very work, but only those who believe it can be done will cooperate with Him in such a purifying program. Those who see the required righteousness of the saints as totally imputed and never actually experienced, will certainly make no provision to live without sin. Only those who do believe it possible to live holy righteous lives will “make no provision
for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14.

Right now would be a good time to pause and ask yourself whether you belong to that little company who will have the privilege and honor of vindicating God before the universe. Do you believe that the gospel of Christ is able to destroy all the works of sin in your life? Will He give you power over some sins, but for some reason, deny you the victory over others? Can He abide in the heart which is tolerant of even one sin? I hope your answers to these questions remove every tiny doubt that you can be a part of this grand cosmic experiment to clease the universe of sin.