I Will Be With You

Part 3: Internal Struggles by Salomon Weissburger (1887-1968)

The Lord led me down an even more difficult path. Despite the wonderful experiences I had already had with Him, He saw that I still had much to learn. In order to be able to help others later on, I had to weather some storms myself. 

These struggles primarily stemmed from my own spiritual ignorance, as I did not understand the difference between temptation and sin. Other issues arose because I was basing my decisions more on emotions than on spiritual considerations. I was 19 years old and content in the state of my soul. I was the only young man in the congregation, and although I lived all alone in the big city of Essen, worldly pleasures offered me no temptation. I was saved and sanctified to the Lord. However, God saw that my spiritual knowledge needed to grow deeper, and so He let me face heavy temptations that challenged me more than the conflict with my family.

One evening, I had some sinful thoughts, and a few moments later, Satan said to me, “You have sinned!” Since I was not yet able to discern between temptation and sin, I let the shield of faith fall, believing I had sinned. This plunged me into deep spiritual darkness, and I felt like God had forsaken me.

To address this feeling, I prayed and fasted and called a pastor, who prayed with me. Having repented of the sin I thought I committed, I regained my equilibrium. Due to my ignorance in equating temptation with sin, this cycle recurred frequently. Over time, this caused me to become spiritually weak and discouraged. I was like a plant that is uprooted every day by a young child who wants to see if its roots are growing. I thought that someone who is saved and sanctified should have different feelings when being tempted. This phase of my life lasted around three years.

Gradually, God granted me insight, revealing some of the secrets of His will. I came to understand that God looks not at our feelings but at our intentions or, in other words, our heart. We can desire to do the right thing, regardless of our feelings. The whispers of Satan may cause us to have the wrong feelings, but God is concerned with what we want to do. It was clear to me that I wanted to do the right thing. It was my wish to do the will of God. When I learned and fully understood this, I had victory. I was able to firmly resist Satan and realized that as long as my will coincides with the Word of God, I have victory and God is happy with me. A sinner’s will is not free. Looking back at his old life, Paul says, “To will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18). 

Children of God have free will since they have been saved from the power of Satan. They can overrule their feelings in order to say no to temptation and yes to God’s will. That is the secret of salvation and victory. We need to live according to faith, not feelings. Scripture does not say that those who feel right will be saved but that those who desire and believe will be saved. God can give us both the will and the ability to do the right thing. We have no need to pay attention to our feelings or Satan’s voice. Be strong in the Lord, and build your faith on the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10–18)!

Clarity on the Doctrine of Sanctification

Having achieved victory in this struggle, I had developed a strong foundation for my soul and was able to be of help to others facing similar issues. 

However, I did not yet fully understand sanctification. I was certain that I had been sanctified, and I saw evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in my life, but I had trouble explaining the experience of sanctification to myself, not to mention to others.

God granted me clarity in 1914, when I was living near the Siberian border, having been imprisoned during World War I. My feelings were an obstacle to me in this regard as well since I was expecting sanctification to express itself at an emotional level. Later, God showed me that the Holy Spirit does not take away our natural feelings; rather, our feelings are like a musical instrument that can play both high and low tones. God created us with these feelings. They are tools for our mind to use. After all, we are not made of stone or wood. People who have been saved and sanctified still have feelings, and we can also be tempted through these feelings (James 1:14).

Salvation and sanctification are based on our will, not our feelings. In the garden of Gethsemane, Satan managed to make a big impact on our Lord’s feelings, but the Lord was able to win the victory through power from above and by remaining devoted to the will of God. The power of the Holy Spirit is not expressed in a frenzy of ecstasy but in joy in the Lord and in strength during suffering. The lives of the disciples before and after Pentecost clearly display the effect of sanctification and the power of the Holy Spirit. Although the disciples were born again before Pentecost, they had lacked the strength from above.

This brings me to the idea of original sin, or innate depravity. While the term “original sin” is not found in the Bible, the concept is biblical. The Lord revealed this secret to me over time as well. In our natural, sinful state, we cannot perceive the Holy Spirit; to do so, we must focus on spiritual things or have our eyes opened by God.

We see this inherent depravity in the apostles before Pentecost. They were already children of God, and the Savior Himself had referred to them as branches of His vine. He had also stated that they were not of the world, just like Him. These are only some of the verses that prove that the disciples were already saved.

How do we know that the disciples nonetheless struggled with their inherently sinful nature? For instance, in Matthew 20:20–28, the pride of two disciples, James and John, was revealed, and the other ten disciples clearly struggled with jealousy. That is a result of egoism and the sinful nature we are born with. We can see the same issues, among others, in the lives of saved but unsanctified people, including many pastors today. Selfishness is an expression of inherent depravity. It shows that the Holy Spirit has not yet cleansed that person. 

Without Pentecost, the apostles and the first Church would never have become one heart and one soul. Our inborn egoism gives rise to disunity. In His omniscience, our Lord recognized this in His disciples and made them aware of the necessity of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, who would cleanse them of this obstacle. Jesus Himself provided a wonderful practical example of how they should aspire to lead their lives. The Holy Spirit, the faithful teacher, later made it possible for them to achieve this by cleansing and sanctifying them.

It must have made the Lord’s heart heavy to see His disciples’ impure motivations! He must have prayed for them often, like in John 17. Despite their absolute integrity and the perfect example of Jesus, this deeper cleansing did not occur to or for them immediately. This may be the case for sincere pastors and children of God today as well, who cannot understand that a deeper cleansing is necessary.

If the disciples had not experienced this cleansing through the Holy Spirit, they would soon have been divided through schisms as different denominations arose—perhaps Petrine, Jamesian, and Pauline—similar to the way things are today. The tendency towards schisms is also discussed in 1 Corinthians 3. It is caused by the spirit of the flesh.

Children of God are dead to the world and sin but not to their ego. In this state, they live both for God and themselves, not having fully submitted to God. Our original sin becomes apparent in our lives if we live for ourselves. 

Over the years, God showed me that salvation does not require full comprehension of all of His plan. A willing, repentant heart and childlike faith are enough for us to become children of God. More knowledge and deeper understanding follow in time. Even then, much remains a mystery, and we will only fully understand everything once we are with the Lord (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We could say the same about sanctification. If we are fully willing to die to our ego and to submit ourselves fully to the Lord, God will make His promise come true for us and bless us with His Holy Spirit to cleanse us of the remaining obstacles. We do not need to fully understand this process, but it is important to know that the fire of His Spirit consumes everything that displeases the Lord, including our disruptive ego. The Holy Spirit gives us the love of Christ in greater measure, not in the same quantity as God Himself, but certainly of the same quality. This experience has nothing to do with our feelings. As long as we ask for it and sincerely seek it, we will receive sanctification.

Being saved, we need to be vigilant for threats to our salvation. When temptation comes, we must remain dead to sin in order to remain victorious. In the same way, being sanctified, we need to be vigilant for threats to our sanctification. We must maintain our submission to God every day and, if necessary, even increase it. A good comparison might be marriage. Speaking the vows on our wedding day is not the end of it; we then need to keep these vows despite the struggles and temptations we will encounter throughout our lives.

Why did the Holy Spirit keep the twelve apostles in Jerusalem for so many years even though they had already been commissioned to go spread the Gospel throughout the world? The answer may be that Jerusalem was the most difficult place for them to be. In Jerusalem, they had to prove their submission in practice, and they had to learn to practice unity by coming together as one heart and one soul and remaining that way. Unity and self-sacrifice represent the pinnacle of spiritual life in God. Because the apostles and the first Church truly lived this out, the Holy Spirit was able to lead the Church and spark revivals. It was a theocracy in the truest sense of the word. Due to a shortage of spiritual life in God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit has largely been lost today, and people have taken its place.

Human nature and the absence of sanctification are at the root of the many schisms and differing denominations dividing Christianity. There is a major lack of sanctified living, and that is why the Lord can do so little.

I have addressed this issue at such length because I myself went through many internal struggles before achieving clarity, and I have observed that others have yet to achieve it as well.

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