The Sufferings of Christ

By John Thiel

How well do you know Jesus? Do you know Jesus?  In Philippians chapter three the Apostle Paul poses a challenge to every believer.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

What is the challenge set before us? It is to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. But what is the knowledge of Jesus that the Apostle Paul is talking about?

Ephesians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

From this scripture we come to understand that how well we know the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings is the degree to which we know him. Are we prepared to do what the apostle Paul did and discard everything in the world that was precious to us and count it but dung to follow in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and to gain a knowledge of Him?

To have knowledge of God is important because this knowledge is eternal life.

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

The importance of this knowledge is further enlarged;

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Can you see the value of this knowledge that all things that pertain to life and Godliness come to us through a knowledge of God whereby are given us exceeding great and precious promises?  What are these phenomenal dimensions that are gained by the knowledge of Jesus Christ? We’re talking not only of grace and peace but also an impartation of the divine nature. When we have the divine nature our knowledge is not merely head knowledge, it becomes part of our experience.  No wonder the Apostle Paul exclaimed “I have given up everything else for the knowledge of Jesus Christ”.

In order to become a Christian the Apostle Paul gave up a lot in a worldly sense because he was a Pharisee, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. What sacrifices people make for knowledge of a lower dimension, they spend years in university and when it comes to focusing on the knowledge of God that has much greater advantage in contrast, so little time is spent.  The Apostle Paul raises the challenge to us – what sacrifices are we prepared to make in order to make this knowledge our preoccupation. What are we going to choose to preoccupy our time?

The Knowledge of the Fellowship of His Sufferings

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

The word know is a common denominator for becoming one with Christ and His sufferings, being made conformable even unto His death. It will be our focus to appreciate the fellowship of his sufferings. In order to gain a knowledge of Christ’s sufferings we will refer to the knowledge of Christ’s atonement.

(Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:14-17). Christ Took No Make-believe Humanity.–Of Christ it is said, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” We need to realize the truth of Christ’s manhood in order to appreciate the truth of the above words. It was not a make-believe humanity that Christ took upon Himself. He took human nature and lived human nature. Christ worked no miracles in His own behalf. He was compassed with infirmities, but His divine nature knew what was in man. He needed not that any should testify to Him of this. The Spirit was given Him without measure; for His mission on earth demanded this. {5BC 1124.1}

Christ’s life represents a perfect manhood. Just that which you may be, He was in human nature. He took our infirmities. He was not only made flesh, but He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. His divine attributes were withheld from relieving His soul anguish or His bodily pains (Letter 106, 1896). {5BC 1124.2}

The infinite value of the sacrifice required for our redemption reveals the fact that sin is a tremendous evil. Through sin the whole human organism is deranged, the mind is perverted, the imagination corrupted. Sin has degraded the faculties of the soul. Temptations from without find an answering chord within the heart, and the feet turn imperceptibly toward evil. {8T 312.2}

As the sacrifice in our behalf was complete, so our restoration from the defilement of sin is to be complete. There is no act of wickedness that the law will excuse; there is no unrighteousness that will escape its condemnation. The life of Christ was a perfect fulfillment of every precept of the law. He said; “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” John 15:10. His life is our standard of obedience and service. {8T 312.3}

God alone can renew the heart. “It is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure.” But we are bidden: “Work out your own salvation.” Philippians 2:13, 12, A. R. V. {8T 312.4}

Think of Christ’s humiliation. He took upon Himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin. He took our sorrows, bearing our grief and shame. He endured all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He united humanity with divinity: a divine spirit dwelt in a temple of flesh. He united Himself with the temple. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” because by so doing He could associate with the sinful, sorrowing sons and daughters of Adam (YI Dec. 20, 1900). {4BC 1147.4}

When Jesus took human nature, and became in fashion as a man, He possessed all the human organism. His necessities were the necessities of a man. He had bodily wants to be supplied, bodily weariness to be relieved. By prayer to the Father He was braced for duty and for trial (Letter 32, 1899). {5BC 1130.2}

Think of Christ’s humiliation. He took upon Himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin. He took our sorrows, bearing our grief and shame. He endured all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He united humanity with divinity: a divine spirit dwelt in a temple of flesh. He united Himself with the temple. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” because by so doing He could associate with the sinful, sorrowing sons and daughters of Adam (YI Dec. 20, 1900). {4BC 1147.4}

This is a beautiful contemplation of the atonement. Jesus truly became at one with us and the concept of this is profound as you consider this revelation and the knowledge of his experience.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

He was made to be so much at one with us that he was made to be sin for us.

He took our nature, and passed through our experiences, and as our representative he assumed our responsibilities. The sins of men were charged to Christ, and, innocent though he was, he engaged to suffer for the guilty, that through faith in him the world might be saved. “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Christ reconciled the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. O, what compassion and love are here revealed! How is humanity exalted through the merits of Christ! His sacrifice was ample and complete. The Holy One died instead of the unholy. He clothed himself in our filthy garments, that we might wear the spotless robe of his righteousness, which was woven in the loom of heaven. He paid the whole debt for all who would believe in him as their personal Saviour. His blood cleanseth from all sin and purifieth from all unrighteousness. In him, through him alone, we have forgiveness of sins. Through faith in his blood we have justification in the sight of God. {ST, May 30, 1895 par. 4}

What did Christ take upon Himself? Our flesh that we might wear the spotless robe of his righteousness. Here is knowledge of the atonement that will help us to understand the knowledge of the fellowship of his sufferings. Let us consider the experiences of Jesus Christ in the atonement which we have just brought to view. His pure nature and his experience unadulterated by any corruptions combines with our sin polluted nature. The two natures were blended inside one person and this condition is what we medically term today ‘bipolar’. What sort of a suffering does this disorder entail? A mind and a heart that is described in Psalms.

Psalms 40:7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,

40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

Here is this beautiful mind and heart of Jesus Christ. This is the Jesus that we are contemplating. I delight to do thy will O God. I love obeying you under all circumstances so that your law is my contemplation so that your law is in my heart. There is one ingredients of his experience. Now let us examine another one.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

This is the other contrasting ingredient.

This character was revealed in the life of Christ. That He might by His own example condemn sin in the flesh, He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Constantly he beheld the character of God; constantly He revealed this character to the world. {AG 322.3}

Here is the other likeness of this person. A heart that is pure that has the law of God in it combined with the other ingredient, sinful flesh. What is this a recipe of? It is the recipe of suffering.

The Recipe for Suffering

Hebrews 2:16-18 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

He took upon himself a flesh with hereditary weakness so that in all things he could be made like us and suffer. Suffer what? Being tempted. This is the detail of the recipe for suffering.

The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations; for He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. The Lord “telleth the number of the stars;” and yet “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:4, 3. {MH 71.5}

This is the knowledge – to experience.

He put forth his strongest efforts to overcome Christ on the point of appetite at a time when he was enduring the keenest pangs of hunger. The victory gained was designed, not only to set an example to those who have fallen under the power of appetite, but to qualify the Redeemer for his special work of reaching to the very depths of human woe. By experiencing in himself the strength of Satan’s temptation, and of human sufferings and infirmities, he would know how to succor those who should put forth efforts to help themselves. {RH, March 18, 1875 par. 9}

So important are these considerations to contemplate that Jesus experienced what we go through. He suffered for our benefit and yet was without sin.

The Experience of His Suffering

18 (chs. 4:15; 5:7, 8; John 14:30; see EGW on Matt. 4:1-11; 1 John 2:1). The Refined Sensibilities of Jesus.–Would that we could comprehend the significance of the words, Christ “suffered being tempted.” While He was free from the taint of sin, the refined sensibilities of His holy nature rendered contact with evil unspeakably painful to Him. Yet with human nature upon Him, He met the archapostate face to face, and single-handed withstood the foe of His throne. Not even by a thought could Christ be brought to yield to the power of temptation. {7BC 927.4}

Would that we could comprehend the significance of these words, Christ suffered being tempted. While he was free from the taint of sin the refined sensibilities of his holy nature rendered contact with evil unspeakably painful to him. This was His bipolar experience, the divine nature in contact with the evil propensities of the flesh.

Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, “in all points tempted like as we are;” but as the sinless one His nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer. {SC 93.4}

What was the detail that caused the suffering in Jesus? It was His pure nature.

The evil works, the evil thoughts, the evil words of every son and daughter of Adam press upon his divine soul. The sins of men called for retribution upon himself; for he had become man’s substitute, and took upon him the sins of the world. He bore the sins of every sinner; for all transgressions were imputed unto him, though “he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” Though the guilt of sin was not his, his Spirit was torn and bruised by the transgressions of men. {RH, December 20, 1892 par. 7}

What was Christ’s divine soul? It was pure, sensitive and unadulterated. What was His suffering? It was the internal contrasting of sensations. Purity intermixed with a fleshy pollution sensation. Can you appreciate His experience?

What About Us?

Let’s now look at ourselves. Remember the contemplation of this sermon? That I may know the sufferings of his fellowship. Did I suffer like Jesus when I first came to a knowledge of Him? Here is described our condition when we first approach the discovery of Jesus Christ. We are not bipolar at this time.

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The Apostle Paul is describing here everyone who first comes to the discovery of Jesus but is not yet converted. Before we were converted, we were happy enjoying ourselves in the lusts of the flesh and fulfilling the desire of the mind.  It feels good fulfilling the lusts and desires of the flesh. Remember the last divine service. With sin there is no suffering because sin actually feels pleasant. But then comes Jesus and in-5 a bipolar condition arises.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) but God who is rich in mercy for his great love in who he loved us.

The Apostle Paul puts it neatly “I was alive without the law once but when the law came sin revived and I died.” Oh no it’s a death experience alright, Jesus came into the Apostle Paul’s life and he suddenly found himself in dire straits – he became bipolar. His bipolar description;

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Here is the experience of the Apostle Paul and every Christian that meets Jesus as He really is. We love to keep God’s law because we become fully convicted that it is good but at the same time the flesh wars against it because in the flesh there is no law. The Apostle Paul describes this experience with clarity;

7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

This is the experience that a believer has and I think we can all identify with this internal struggle, a pure mind dwelling with hereditary and cultivated sinful conditions. In our last study we dealt with the experience we make when God’s word comes and makes us feel rotten and terrible about the things we used to like. All of a sudden there is a tumult inside of me. The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh so that one is contrary to the other. As we meet this experience we come to the point where we have to make a decision as to whether we will succumb to one side or the other of our bipolar condition. Will we conform to the sufferings of Jesus that led to his death? Will we submit ourselves to the spirit that says “come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing and I will be a father to you as I was to Jesus Christ.” Jesus became a son of God so that we might become sons of God. Here is the challenge, will I persevere in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings that I might know them for myself as I die daily?

What did Jesus die of? He died of a lacerated heart. What was the lacerated heart that dies? Was it the spiritual nature that died? No it was the flesh that could not cope any more and it died. This is what is meant by the statement – That I might know the power of his resurrection. How do we remove this suffering when the Word of God comes and we feel objectionable about it because it is a suffering to carry it out? We can remove the suffering by one of two methods. We can sear our conscience by putting it to sleep by choice, or we can willingly suffer the cross with Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings. If we do this what will happen to our sufferings. Here is the privilege and the joy.

1 Peter 2:1-3 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

2:3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

If I succumb to that pure mind of Jesus I will suffer in the flesh and cease form sin. I will no longer live according to the lusts of men. We are a people who are suffering the flesh instead of enjoying the flesh.

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

This is speaking about the person who has decided not to go on indulging his flesh and putting his mind to sleep like King David did. When Nathan came to King David, he woke up as out of a dream and came to realize his sins. Will we decide to follow Jesus in the sufferings of the flesh instead of putting ourselves to sleep?

Will you choose to refuse the indulgence of your flesh like Jesus did? If you will do this, you must die daily but you will overcome sin in the same way that Jesus did. The suffering in the flesh will give me great joy as a child of God to know that I am suffering Christ’s suffering. This is what is meant by rejoicing in tribulation and being happy while you are suffering in the flesh because it is the experience that Jesus had. If we have the power of the resurrection as our experience, the flesh will squirm as much as it wants to but we can still be happy because the Lord is with us. This is the situation of our walk with God.

Let us, like the Apostle Paul continue to pursue this knowledge. He says I don’t yet know as I ought to know, I still have more to learn and I will make slips here and there but I will continue to learn and submit myself to the tuition of Christ’s sufferings until I am made perfect.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Press toward the mark of the high calling

In this contemplation we have attained a new dimension of what it means to sacrifice for Jesus and die daily. With this appreciation, we can follow the example of Jesus to conquer every known sin whether it be a physical indulgence, an act of passion or any engagement to do with my old sensitivities. If we follow Christ’s path of crucifying the flesh daily, the sins of the flesh will all be conquered systematically and we will build up a character of the divine nature.

“Partakers of the divine nature.” Is this possible? Of ourselves we can do no good thing. How, then, can we be partakers of the divine nature? By coming to Christ just as we are, needy, helpless, dependent. He died to make it possible for us to be partakers of the divine nature. He took humanity upon Himself that He might reach humanity. With the golden chain of His matchless love He has bound us to the throne of God. We are to have power to overcome as He overcame. {HP 59.2}

To all He gives the invitation: “Come unto me…. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls . . .” (Matt. 11:28-30). {HP 59.3}

We have a part to act in this work. Let none think that men and women are going to be taken to heaven without engaging in the struggle here below. We have a battle to fight, a victory to gain. God says to us, “Work out your own salvation.” How? “With fear. To all He gives the invitation: “Come unto me…. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls . . .” (Matt. 11:28-30). {HP 59.3}

We have a part to act in this work. Let none think that men and women are going to be taken to heaven without engaging in the struggle here below. We have a battle to fight, a victory to gain. God says to us, “Work out your own salvation.” How? “With fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). God works, and man works…. Thus only can we be partakers of the divine nature. {HP 59.4}r and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). God works, and man works…. Thus only can we be partakers of the divine nature. {HP 59.4}

Here is the consistence of true religious we are to be labourers working in harmony with God. You are God’s husbandry you are God’s building.

Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Will we walk together as a church in the sufferings of Jesus Christ? This is the invitation.

Amen.

Posted on March 21, 2010, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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