Our Besetting Sins
by Ellen White
THE secret of Satan's power over God's professed people lies in the deceitfulness of
the human heart. Their constant stumbling and falling reveal that they have not maintained
a stern conflict with their besetting sins. They have not depended wholly upon Christ,
because they have not realised that they are in peril of being overcome by these sins. It
is the sin which appears small and unworthy of our notice against which we should be on
our guard. If we could understand how deeply we injure our own souls and cause unhappiness
to those around us by giving loose rein to unsanctified thoughts and unholy actions, we
would strive to put them away. We would co-operate with God in working out our own
It is the inclination to excuse our moral defects that leads to the cultivation of sin.
We must never forget that God ascribes sin to the one who transgresses; it is not
registered against Satan, but against the sinner. God never accepts the agency of Satan as
an excuse for the committal of one sin. When there is any excuse for a seemingly wrong
act, it is not sin. Satan triumphs when he hears the professed follower of Christ offering
excuses for his defects of character. Sin unrepented of, unconfessed, can never be blotted
from the books of God's record. Through faithful, thorough confession of sin, the heart is
cleansed from its moral impurity. There must be a forsaking of the sins the Lord has
reproved, before the soul can stand acquitted before God, humbled and repentant, realising
that he has served Satan, pleased him, glorified him, and dishonoured his Lord.
The love of money is the besetting sin of many. Men and women who profess to worship
the true God become so deceived in their pursuit after riches that they suppose gain to be
godliness. The apostle Paul declares: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For
we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having
food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into
temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in
destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many
sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on
eternal life, whereunto thou art also called." 1 Timothy 6:6-12.
The length and happiness of our lives consists not in the amount of our earthly
possessions. The foolish rich man, in his supreme selfishness, laid up for himself
treasures that he could not use. He embezzled his lord's goods that he might add to his
increasing store of worldly possessions. Had he used his means as God required, there
would have been no necessity for him to tear down his barns that he might build greater.
He would have needed no more room for his goods. Had he used his wealth as a bounty from
God, he would have laid up treasure in heaven, and would have been rich toward God. So
those who use their wealth in doing good will see no necessity for large accumulations in
this world. Their treasure will be used to advance the cause of God.
The church of Christ has been blessed with great advantages and precious privileges.
God has given to His people prophets, apostles, pastors, and teachers, "for the
perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of
Christ." Ephesians 4:12. But there are some who are never able to come to a knowledge
of the truth. Filled with self-sufficiency, they will not place themselves in the position
of learners. They desire to be teachers and leaders. To these self-exalted ones God says:
"Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I
dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Isaiah 57:15. True greatness does not depend upon position, but upon purity and fidelity.
Our worthiness is not found in self, but in Christ. We are estimated by our faith in the
Saviour, by the truth and rectitude [moral uprightness] of our lives. Shun the perils of
self-exaltation, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace unto the humble. The servants of Christ are to consecrate their lives to His
service, revealing His character in the beauty of holiness.
When the temptations of Satan are yielded to, mind and heart are brought into captivity
to a supernatural power. In the place of submitting themselves to Christ, men surrender
themselves to Satan, and then pass judgement upon the Most High because they are not happy
under the jurisdiction of the ruler they have chosen. "Rebellion," God declares,
"is as the sin of witchcraft." 1 Samuel 15:23. It leads souls onto Satan's
ground. "Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have
we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is
it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of
hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea,
they that tempt God are delivered." Malachi 3:13-15. This is the language proceeding
from the rebellious heart. Once place your feet in Satan's steps, and this power of
argument will come to you, and you will be powerless to resist it.
It is Satan's work to tempt; it is man's work to resist, and, in the name and strength
of Jesus, to say, "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only
shalt thou serve." Matthew 4:10. Human nature of itself is utterly helpless before
the wiles of Satan, but it is our privilege to plead with God for strength, and to receive
it. Jesus has given us an example to show how we may meet and conquer Satan. At infinite
cost the Son of God came into the world to counterwork the work of the enemy. He came to
destroy sin and bring in righteousness by enabling the human agent to co-operate with the
divine. He took His stand upon the Word of God. "It is written," was the weapon
with which He met and repulsed the enemy. Christ obtained the victory in behalf of the
world, and thus He made it possible for man to become complete in Him, not having his own
righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ.
A holy life is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God. We are to work
out that which Christ works in. Then work, Christian brethren and sisters, "work out
your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to
will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13. Every provision has been
made that you shall come off more than conquerors. Satan is seeking to overcome you, but
it is your privilege to turn to the Sun of Righteousness. He is waiting, longing to fill
your heart with His love, that your joy may be full. Hold the faith with a firm hand, but
be sure that you hold it in righteousness. Live by faith, as seeing Him who is invisible.
All your words, all your acts, are open before the eyes of Him with whom you have to do.
Nothing is hid from the all-seeing eye of the Eternal. Then act as if you realised that
you were in the presence of the heavenly angels, and in the presence of God.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness,
faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have
crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:22-25. When we are enlightened by the Spirit of God,
we shall behold only the glory of Jesus. Seeing nothing but deformity in ourselves, we
shall fix our eyes in faith upon Jesus. And as we contemplate the beauty of Christ's
character, we become transformed into the divine likeness. "We all, with open face
beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory
to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18. Signs of the Times, December 13, 1899.