Thursday: Complying With Conditions
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Someone sits in a restaurant, consuming a large meal, filled with fatty food that they wash down with a soft drink. They then finish off with a large bowl of chocolate ice cream covered in hot fudge. That night, before going to bed (and having a little snack before then, too), they get on their knees to pray. Part of their prayer is, “O Lord, please help me lose weight.”1

What’s wrong with this picture?

The fact is, we can expect God to answer our prayers, but there are things we need to do in the process. It has been said that we need to live out our prayers; that is, we need to do all that we can, in our power, to see them answered. This isn’t humanism, nor is it showing a lack of faith. On the contrary, it’s part of what living by faith is all about.

“If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in complying with the conditions of acceptance.”—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 95.

She’s not saying that we have to be perfect in order to have our prayers answered. She’s clear, too, that our acceptance with God is not based on us or on our merit but only on the merits of Christ for us. She is saying that we have to be in an attitude of faith, humility, and surrender to God’s will in order for Him to be able to work in our lives.

How do the following texts help us understand what it means to “comply with the conditions”? (See Heb. 10:38Deut. 4:29Luke 9:23John 14:151 Thess. 4:3.)  



Perhaps, of all the conditions necessary for us to have an effective prayer life, the central one is our own sense of need, our own sense of helplessness, our own sense that we are sinners in need of grace, and that our only hope exists in the Lord, who has done so much for us. To be arrogant, self-assured, and full of oneself is a recipe for spiritual disaster.

What are the things you’re praying fervently for? As you pray, ask yourself, What could I be doing differently that could help bring about the answer that I so desperately want?

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Thursday: Complying With Conditions — 15 Comments

  1. "Conditions" implies we have something to barter with. Our condition is hopeless without God. Repentance, so self can die, is all we can offer Him, and it is for our benefit, not His.

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  2. Kim said, "'Conditions' implies we have something to barter with."

    I reckon that would be true if we were the ones making the conditions. With God being the one making conditions, I believe we just need to make sure we are truly talking about His conditions, not some popular idea of what we suppose His conditions to be.

    A case in point:

    "It has been said that we need to live out our prayers; that is, we need to do all that we can, in our power, to see them answered. This isn’t humanism, nor is it showing a lack of faith. On the contrary, it’s part of what living by faith is all about."

    Contrast that with this:

    "Perhaps, of all the conditions necessary for us to have an effective prayer life, the central one is our own sense of need, our own sense of helplessness, our own sense that we are sinners in need of grace, and that our only hope exists in the Lord, who has done so much for us. To be arrogant, self-assured, and full of oneself is a recipe for spiritual disaster."

    I see a possible contradiction here. How can we emphasize the need to do all in our power, while at the same time sensing our utter helplessness? It makes me want to ask: Who said it? Maybe it's part of what living by faith is all about, but I think that all depends on the real motive involved. I could easily conceive of someone trying to do all in his or her power just in case God doesn't come through.

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  3. I'm not sure what is being said here.
    Being a simple man, and looking at it from the perspective of one that has had to depend on others just to survive, I get the feeling that what they are trying to say is that we are 1] to depend totally on God to do His part, and 2] do what we can [in His strength and always relinquishing our control and accepting His] on our part.
    God has always said if you do this, I will do that' Always conditions to be met, no free ride.
    But remember, even what we do we could not do without Him.
    We all have to choose to do what He asks, and not depend on our own strength and 'wisdom and knowledge' to get the job done.

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  4. Probably we could relate this to Jesus' second temptation.

    The devil tells him to disregard the law of gravity and cast himself off the temple tower claiming the promise that angels would prevent the natural consequences.

    Jesus replied, "It is written thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

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  5. To meet God's conditions, is all by HIS power and grace. On our own we cannot do anything, but my trusting HIM through faith and prayer we can move mountains. But we cannot rely on what we do as way, only through CHRIST.

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  6. Those who would receive the blessing of the Lord, must themselves prepare the way, by confession of sin, by humiliation before Gods, with true penitence, and with faith in the merits of the blood of Christ. (Our High Calling p.129)

    In order to receive the precious gifts of God, we must meet him upon the platform of his own devising, complying with the conditions that he has laid down in his word (Signs of the Times, May 28, 1896)

    There is something for us to do, but even what we have to do we cannot do by ourselves. God is the one who will give us the desire and the ability to meet the conditions. We have to ask Him for everything.

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  7. I don't think overcoming the addiction of eating is a "condition" that this particular man can overcome on his own. It is no different than a heroin addict, who in a brief moment of lucidity, asks God to help them become clean.

    In fact, I was disappointed that this week's lesson completely missed the amazing truth that undergirds the relationship that now exists between us and God. Since Satan no longer has legal access to the Court of Heaven, we have no adversary, or prosecuter. As we know, if either party fails to show up, or "pray the court" for a particular result, the case is over, and the petitioner wins.

    Through Jesus, we have the legal right to boldly approach the throne of grace, only now, we face no adversary. God is "free" to render judgment on our behalf without having to answer the opposing party's complaint. We see how Satan used his position as "ruler of this world", usurping Adam's position as Son of God, in the Book of Job, where God clearly allows Satan's complaint to have standing in the case of Job's righteousness.

    This legal backdrop is largely ignored in Christianity, and only Mrs. White gives any attention to this absolutely essential aspect of the Great Controversy. Much of the Old Testament can only be understood from the perspective of a legal controversy that was met at the cross. This is highlighted by the appearance of Moses and Elijah to Jesus, as they were purchased on "credit" that Jesus would die for them. This is why Jesus (Michael) tells Satan "The Lord rebuke you" when Satan makes a legal claim for Moses' body. In fact, the entire issue of the investigative judgment and a final judgment of the wicked, can only be understood properly from a legal perspective, as the sentence of eternal life or eternal death can only be given after a judgment.

    To tie this into prayer, we have the legal right to ask God for any good thing, in Jesus' name, being the body of Christ. We can have faith that our good requests will be answered as we have no adversary in heaven. Regardless of how little we do on our own behalf, we still have the right to ask God to make us better. To think otherwise, is to ignore the clear examples we have in scripture that tell us that only by asking, shall we receive, in contradiction to the suggestion by this week's lesson that there is something we can do other than ask. Remember the annoying neighbor who asks for bread, when it was their own fault for not having the bread? Couldn't the neighbor have waited until morning, or asked for flour so they could bake their own bread instead? Indeed, the neighbor boldly asks for a finished product, and the only thing they did was persistently ask in order to receive it.

    In the example of the overeater's prayer, contrary to the author's suggestion, the only action the sinner needs to take is to exercise their free will and pray for God to intervene, in order to give God the legal authority to override the willful actions of the flesh. God will provide the guilt for the overeating, the desire to change, the willpower to overcome, and the ultimate victory. Therefore, the sinner can give God the full glory of overcoming.

    Thus, I can't agree with the lesson author's suggestion that the overeater's prayer to lose weight is inappropriate. In fact, it is not only appropriate, it is completely the right thing to do, even while continuing in the overeating. This is not to imply that the overeater should only pray. No, God will provide the overeater with a means of escape, and the overeater will experience a complete victory instead of a temporary one that would normally result from "doing their part."

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    • Joseph, while I can agree with you to large degree from the standpoint of legalities I also realize that the whole controversy is not solely based on law but is also a revealing of truth. For me the fact is that there are myriads of different ways to view the controversy and that we shouldn’t constrain ourselves to only one point of view.

      When it comes to the overeater’s problem it seems to me that what the lesson simply was saying was essentially the same that Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Mat 7:21 NKJV). That is the Lord is not going to intercede when a person really doesn’t want to change. Part of repentance is turning from evil. Once we make that firm choice then God will work in us to bring about a change. The decision is ours to make and is something God will not override nor will he allow anyone else to override it, including the devil. Therefore, what God does in our lives depends largely on the choices we make.

      And speaking of the devil, we may not have an adversary in the courts of Heaven but we sure do down here on planet earth.

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      • The whole controversy is based upon legalities. If not, why did Jesus have to die? God's law cannot be broken without repercussions, and Lucifer's accusations against God's character had to be answered. This is no different than a human court.

        In regards to your verse, you are taking it out of context. Those who say, "Lord, Lord" are those who ARE outwardly doing everything right, including casting out demons, healing, and prophesying. Jesus says He does not know them because they practice lawlessness, not because they asked for His help even when they were helpless to help themselves.

        You mention that part of repentance is turning from evil. Well, true repentance can only begin by the urging of the Holy Spirit. Nothing you do can bring yourself to repentance, other than asking God for help. Turning from evil is also impossible for the sinner. Otherwise, why do we even need Jesus if we can turn from evil by ourselves?

        You also state that God won't intercede when a person really doesn't want to change. Tell that to Saul of Tarsus, who on the road to Damascus was forced to go blind against his will, and who exhibited no outward sign that he wanted to change. Tell that to H.M.S. Richards, who didn't want to change, but his mother's intercession broke his heart. My own experience is replete with intercession, which I did not desire on my own. Only the legal enjoinder of a third, but interested, party, allowed God to intervene, even against my explicit will.

        God does override our will, ESPECIALLY when we call ourselves His servants. See the story of Baalam, where God forced him to speak things against his will.

        I never implied that we do not have an adversary on this earth. The fact that he is no longer welcome to join the Sons of God in their deliberations means that his presence cannot directly affect the way God executes His judgment as it did when his "questions" had to be met, just like a human court. While he can be a thorn in my side, he cannot force God's hand. That is why the gates of Hell cannot prevail, because in the spiritual and eternal sense, he has no more power, other than that which humans willingly give him.

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        • Hello Joseph, I am going to take things one at a time in the order of your reply.

          It is true that the controversy is based on legalities as far as God’s creation is concerned but God Himself is not bound by his own laws or anyone else’s. We need to ask how sovereign God really is. Can He really save anyone He wants to, cross or no cross? The question has to do with the purpose of the cross in the controversy. To His creation it is extremely important for several reasons.

          First, it shows us how much God wants us to be saved (Rom 5:8).

          Second, it fulfills the legal requirements that His creatures demand. God’s laws set up relationships and His creatures need to have reasons why those relationships are not enforced. The cross gives everyone the reason why repentant sinners are saved. It also gives the reason why the wicked will perish, because they didn’t accept the offered redemption.

          Third, it answers the major questions raised by Satan in the controversy, therefore, there is another side of the controversy that is philosophical rather than legal. It has to do with the character of God and the operational philosophy of the two governments involved in the controversy. Without those answers God’s creation would forever remain politically unstable.

          But to God the cross is there for the sole benefit of His creation.

          Regarding Mat 7:21, I said, “what the lesson simply was saying was essentially the same that Jesus said.” I didn’t say it was the same - the principle is the same. A person can scream faith all day long but as James would say, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17 NKJV) which coincides with Mat 7:21. The scriptures are full of admonitions on doing good in both the New and Old Testaments. Now I am not saying that we do what we want by our own strength. The new covenant is clear on that as was Christ (Jn 15:5). Anyone who has read my many comments and the couple of articles I wrote knows I am not a legalist and that to me our power to do comes solely from God. I have also stated several times that the only power we have is the will. That is the only thing we actually have control over. Incidentally, “lawlessness” in the Greek literally means “without law” and those who are in that state have made a choice to disregard law as a principle.

          The question raised by the Lesson concerns what choice we make when presented with the facts. One who eats like a glutton and yet ignores the facts knows better and is making a choice against the revealed will of God. He can certainly ask God for help, but he must make the choice to do the right thing. Otherwise he asks hypocritically. He can’t expect the help he asks for when he stubbornly fights against what he asks for in the first place. As a pastor once said, being a Christian is like being in a canoe out in the middle of a river. The person can choose to fight against the current or go to shore and get out of the canoe and never get to the river’s destination; or he can go with the current and end up where it takes him. The choice is his to make. To put it another way, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17 NKJV).

          That doesn’t mean that we initiate anything. We don’t. God initiates the whole thing and gives us a choice. That also doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions, there are. Jonah is another example but they are not the rule – they are the exceptions.

          Now when it comes to Satan, we should all know that he has never been in control of God. That is why he was kicked out of Heaven. God controls him and only allows him to do what he wants when the outcome is the general good of settling the controversy. That is why we are still alive, that is why committed sinners are still alive and why He allowed Satan and his angels to live out their rebellion for more than 6000 years. That is also why He allowed Satan to nail Christ to the cross.

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  8. What would you say to a person smoking and drinking, or into pronography who says
    "when God takes away my desire I will quit, but till then I won't worry about it for I know God has saved me?"

    While I fully agree all our victories are in Christ alone, and we don't have the strength or power to change ourselves yet we must co-operate with the Holy Spirits promptings. God does not impose righteousness upon us against our will.
    We must seek HIM with all our hearts, and surrender, confess, repent.
    We must place our will under the will of God.
    And we must BELIEVE that God will give the victory.
    Yes, as we come to God He will lead us into doing these things, we can't do it on our own, but He never does it by force -- it is always our choice.

    Notice the sequences in this Biblical passage

    James 4:7-9
    1)Submit yourselves therefore to God.
    2)Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
    3)Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
    4) Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.

    Do we really believe that God is powerful enough to change us, that what we once loved we now hate, and what we once hated we now love?
    Do we REALLY believe He can change us?

    Why is there not more power in the church?
    Why has the Holy Spirit not yet been poured out?
    Why is it that people confess the same sins day after day, telling God they are sorry and asking Him to help them, and then just keep doing the same thing day after day?

    Could it be because we do not really believe God will change us if only we surrender our will and habits completely to Him, and ACT on His promptings.

    Could it be that we don't really WANT to give up the sin? We don't really surrender it and pretend it is legalism to remove ourselves from the temptation of something that God has clearly shown to us, and the Holy Spirit has convicted us, to be sin?

    Won't you recommend that porno watcher who really wants victory, should not only pray fervantly, committing their lives to God and His will, and seeking His pardon and strength, but also remove the source of his temptation? The same with the smoker, drinker, or sugar junkie?

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  9. First of all, the scenario in the lesson never mentions this person's mindset as thinking “when God takes away my desire I will quit, but till then I won’t worry about it for I know God has saved me.” Otherwise, why would this person even be praying for a victory? Secondly, my original post was only arguing that the last thing that a person who cannot gain the victory should consider doing is to quit praying thinking that there is something they have to do prior to coming to Christ. There is no condition that God places upon a sinner to come before Him. Changing him is another matter, that I did not address, but even the change can only come from God.

    I will try my best to show you your errors:
    >>God does not impose righteousness upon us against our will.
    See my reply above. The story of Balaam proves that God has the right to force his righteousness upon those who claim to be His servants, even those who have nefarious motives. Also, the story of the death of the first born in Egypt proves that God has the legal right to kill those who are legally his, even against their will, and the will of their parents, if we do not conform to the terms of his will. His will, by the way, defines righteousness.

    >>We must seek HIM with all our hearts, and surrender, confess, repent.
    We must place our will under the will of God.

    How does one do these things? If I try hard enough can I do these things? Can a man place his own will under anybody elses, even God's. Last I checked, a man's heart is evil and full of wickedness. If we could do any of these things of our own accord, then why would we even need the Holy Spirit?

    >>Why has the Holy Spirit not yet been poured out?

    The Holy Spirit is being poured out all around the world. For those who have not received Him, it is because they have not asked.

    >>Why is it that people confess the same sins day after day, telling God they are sorry and asking Him to help them, and then just keep doing the same thing day after day?
    Could it be because we do not really believe God will change us if only we surrender our will and habits completely to Him, and ACT on His promptings.

    Then are you suggesting that you are without sin? Are you telling me that you have never backslidden, even once? Look at the life of Peter, who even in Christ's direct presence and under His direct tutelage, gave into his fears and to his pride repeatedly. Each sin seemed to be worse than the last one, ending with his denying his loving Master thrice. Only then, did he reach the point in which he could truly be broken and born again. Even after the last time, he was chastised by Paul. I believe that Peter was changed each time he repented, but the process of sanctification proceeded until he died. I'm sure that after each episode, he was more Christlike.

    >>Could it be that we don’t really WANT to give up the sin? We don’t really surrender it and pretend it is legalism to remove ourselves from the temptation of something that God has clearly shown to us, and the Holy Spirit has convicted us, to be sin?

    Are you kidding me? Do you think the demoniac really wanted to stay a demoniac? Do you think that addicts of any sort really think what they're doing is what they want others to do? We all desire to do good, but we naturally do evil. Jesus Himself observed that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Only supernatural power can help the natural human become supernatural children of God. This is the power that those who only have the form of godliness lack.

    Legalism has nothing to do with removing oneself from temptation. A person cannot change their evil heart, just as a leopard cannot change its spots, nor an Ethiopian the color of his skin. Only God can do that which our flesh cannot, including prompting a person to walk away from temptation. Again, this is not what my original post was addressing, but even so, true change cannot begin, continue, nor end with human effort. All phases of transformation can only come from God.

    >>Won’t you recommend that porno watcher who really wants victory, should not only pray fervantly, committing their lives to God and His will, and seeking His pardon and strength, but also remove the source of his temptation? The same with the smoker, drinker, or sugar junkie?

    Of course I recommend any addict to stay away from temptation, but if that is all I tell them, then I have failed my Christian duty, because they have heard that bit of instruction a million times, often from their own lips.

    The scenario in the lesson only implied the overeater's prayer as being ineffectual because they were not doing their part. All I was suggesting was that the overeater's only part, as with any addict, is to ask for help, as if they could have helped themselves, they would be in this mess to begin with. Prayer is the key that unlocks the legal power of God's actions. Without it, the Christian should not expect that God would do anything for him, just as the annoying neighbor should not have expected his sleeping neighbor to give him bread had he not asked, lest he think it some coincidence or a matter of luck, or his own efforts that somehow made the bread materialize. It is not for God's benefit that we pray, but for ours.

    By suggesting that we have to "do our part" before expecting that God would help, is like saying that our children should not come to us for advice or help until they have exhausted their own limited resources first. I guess this is what many young people must believe as there are so many teenage pregnancies, drug problems, and droves of young people leaving the church in these last days. WRONG! They should come to their parents first, not last. Similarly, the overater, as any sinner, should come to Christ while in their sins, not after making matters worse.

    Two illustrations come to mind. The first is the publican whom Christ says will be justified. This person did not "do his part" before admitting his great need of a saviour. Rather, after being justified, the process of sanctification could begin, where his evil ways would fall off one by one.

    The second illustration is the story of the prodigal son. The son did not "do his part" prior to coming home. In fact, he had done everything wrong.

    Sadly, many "Christians" have not been justified, since they keep trying to justify themselves. Perhaps that is why they do not begin the journey of sanctification and find themselves, as you suggest, unable to overcome their sins.

    Regardless of whether a person is facing justification or sanctification, the answer is still the same: we are powerless to do anything to change ourselves other than to ask God for help. Because of this, we must make this the first and ongoing step until we see the victory. To suggest otherwise is to fall into the fatal trap of justification by works, since we should have "done our part" in order to allow God to do His.

    When I was younger, I did not live a model Christian life, but I did know that God loved me. One day, I literally heard the voice of God tell me not to worry about the little things, such as smoking, drugs, movies, etc. Rather, He would make all these things fall off like the leaves of winter, when He put a new heart in me, something I had asked for many months prior. You see, there is no way for an orange tree to bring forth an apple, just like there is no way for any human being to bring forth a righteous thought, let alone a righteous deed. Trying to force ourselves to be good enough to come to God is pointless because all of us need heart transplants. Only then, can we bear the fruit of our Lord. In fact, these fruits will come forth naturally. It took a few years, but I never forgot those words, which did indeed come true. While I still have my struggles, I have complete confidence that by asking God to intervene and overcome in my life, I know without any doubt that He will do it. This is exactly the way it happened in every instance of true change in the Bible, and it is no different today. Our only duty is to ask, and God's duty is to provide the change.

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  10. While I do not deny the importance of prayer I cannot stress enough the need to seek professional help for many disorders. This became very clear to me when my father had a bout of depression. Dad was good at prayer. He has prayed morning and night for more than 75 years. He needed the help of professionals in overcoming his problem. Professional help is not perfect but depression is complex and solutions are neither easy to find or fast. We certainly prayed for Dad's healing. We prayed for the professionals who were helping him and we prayed for and supported Mum who had the burden of looking after Dad during this time.

    We seek professional help for appendicitis and broken legs, and we should do the same for eating disorders and addictions. There is nothing wrong with using the wisdom and support of professional people. There is something wrong with thinking that if you pray hard enough you will solve the problem.

    My prayer is that there will be wise Christian professional help available when we need it.

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    • I wonder whether Jeremiah 17:5 (NKJV) might have any application here.

      Thus says the Lord:
      “Cursed is the man who trusts in man
      And makes flesh his strength,
      Whose heart departs from the Lord."

      Personally, I can see a place for godly counsel, which could include Scripture-based cognative/behavioural therapy. Beyond that, I have some rather serious questions. Shall we tell our inmost secrets to another human being? Has psychotherapy ever been proven more effective than a placebo?

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    • Personally, I believe that there is a place for human intervention in the problems sin has caused but it should be treated cautiously. I am not about to go the route that Christian Scientists go in their refusal of medical help. On the other hand I have seen where pride in the human instrument got out of hand and did a lot of damage. So I believe Godly wisdom is needed in those situations so that a correct choice can be made.

      When it comes to the illustration in the lesson of the over-eater he/she may have to get professional help but that is still a choice that must be made. The point that the lesson obviously wanted to bring out was that we cannot pray for something without an honest desire for it to happen. In other words we cannot be hypocritical in our prayers.

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