Self Versus God’s Love Part 1


By John Thiel, Audio: mp3

What is the will of God? We are often appealed to give God our will and to obey Him and to submit to Him. We often miss what actually is His will because we concentrate a little awry.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.19 Quench not the Spirit.

God’s will is for us to be cheerful. What is the will of God in Christ Jesus that we rejoice evermore; that we are full of thanksgiving? While we have our battles to fight, we pray without ceasing, but we rejoice. This is the will of God.

Sorrow comes and goes; it is the lot of man; we should not seek to magnify it, but rather dwell upon that which is bright and pleasant. When winter spreads its icy covering over the earth, we do not let our gladness freeze up with the flowers and brooks and continually mourn because of the dismal days and the chilling winds. On the other hand, we reach forward in imagination to the coming summer, with its warmth and life and beauty… {HP 274.2}

God is not pleased to have us pass our lives in despondency and gloom, magnifying every trouble that visits us. By so doing we not only make ourselves miserable but cloud the happiness of those around us. We should not search out and linger over the dark shadows in our life experience, but rather open our eyes and arouse our senses to see and appreciate the many blessings surrounding us, which should make us not only grateful but very happy. {HP 274.4}

It is God’s will that we should be cheerful. He would have us open our hearts to the sunbeams of heaven; He would have our spirits mellowed by His love and goodness, apparent in our own lives and in the things of nature surrounding us. Those who are brought in contact with us are affected for good or evil by our words and actions. We are unconsciously diffusing the fragrance of our character upon the moral atmosphere surrounding us or we are poisoning that atmosphere by thoughts, words, and deeds which have a deleterious influence. {HP 274.5}

What is God’s will? God’s will is that we should be cheerful. How can you be cheerful when you are going through dire straits? How can you be cheerful when your sins come up before you? When you think that I can’t ever get there because my sins are too great and I am in a rut of coming out of my sinfulness.

I can’t get out. How can I be cheerful? How can I be cheerful when everything around me is getting worse and worse in the world today? But God’s will is that we be cheerful. God is not pleased to have us pass our lives in despondency and gloom. This is God’s will. Do you want to fulfil God’s will?

God calls for faith in Christ as our atoning sacrifice. His blood is the only remedy for sin. {FLB 102.2}

It is not God’s will that you should be distrustful, and torture your soul with the fear that God will not accept you because you are sinful and unworthy. {FLB 102.3}

How can we be cheerful and happy when I see myself so sinful and things that are oppressing me round about me? Here it tells me how this is possible. God calls for faith in Christ as our atoning sacrifice. His blood is the only remedy for sin; it is not God’s will that you should be distrustful and torture your soul with fear that God will not accept you because you are sinful and unworthy.

You can say: “I know I am a sinner, and that is the reason I need a Saviour. I have no merit or goodness whereby I may claim salvation, but I present before God the all-atoning blood of the spotless Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is my only plea.” Ibid

It is not God’s will that we should be unhappy. We should be cheerful. Why? Because I trust Him that what He has done for me in Jesus Christ, presents me as an acceptable soul before the Father.

…it is His will that we should discern His love and His matchless mercy. {BCL 9.3}

It is His will that we be happy, cheerful, joyful and rejoicing. It is His will because we discern His love and His matchless mercy.

The Work of God’s Law

God has given us His holy precepts, because He loves mankind. To shield us from the results of transgression, He reveals the principles of righteousness. The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law that in obeying them we might have joy. When at Jesus’ birth the angels sang,–

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14),

they were declaring the principles of the law which He had come to magnify and make honorable. {DA 308.1}

When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need of a Saviour. {DA 308.2}

God wants us to be happy and He has given us the Ten Commandments so that we would be lifted above transgression and the results of transgression. So we can appreciate that His commandments are the expression of His thoughts and as we receive them in Christ, they become our thoughts and lift us above the power of the natural desires and tendencies.

That is why He gave the Ten Commandments because He wants us to be happy. He gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to show the contrast of His character with ours so that the law would convict me of sin and reveal the need of a Saviuor.

When you are convicted of sin, do you feel cheerful? Can you see God gave us the Ten Commandments to make us happy and lo and behold, what do they do? They convict me of sin instead. That is not a source of happiness. This is the strange experience that people who accept the Ten Commandments as God’s law for them fall into this experience of contradictory sensations.

It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. Ibid

As the principles of that law are applied by the Holy Spirit, what does that do to me? It makes me feel like – help, I need a Saviour. I am in such a dire strait.

This work it is still to do. In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain; Ibid

He would make the law honourable; He would magnify it. In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain.

…and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7 Ibid

Let us focus on this apparently discouraging experience through which God wants to give us happiness. He gave the law of God to convict of sin and reveal to me my absolute need of a Saviour. As the Holy Spirit takes the law and applies it, this work is still going on in our Christian living. If we follow on in the truth of the law of God, as the Holy Spirit touches my heart revealing Christ, He manifests the expansion of God’s law and reveals our need. He reveals our need of cleansing. The sense of need is expanded in the soul as the law of God and its principles become broader and magnified in our understanding; to convict of sin. The light of Christ reveals the need of His cleansing blood.

How does it do that? This is the very plight that the people who do not believe the importance of the Ten Commandments as such any more, that they look upon those who do accept the law and say, where is your joy? You are a people who are so law-bound that we don’t want anything of that because it exposes to our soul our utter sinfulness.

Isaiah 42:21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make [it] honourable.

Jesus would magnify the law and make it honourable; a magnification of the Ten Commandments. The Jews had the Ten Commandments but did they permit those Ten Commandments to be magnified by God? They didn’t want to know neither do the modern Christians of today want to know.

Psalm 119:96 I have seen an end of all perfection: [but] thy commandment [is] exceeding broad.

The Psalmist is very clear that the Ten Commandments when they become enlarged before the mind’s eye, he could not help but see that they are exceeding broad. You can read the Ten Commandments and think, that’s okay, and we can keep them. To love God it is wonderful, to keep the Sabbath is right and we mustn’t have images. We don’t have images we are not Catholics; we don’t kill but then comes the amplification.

…their principles extends to our words, our actions, and our most secret thoughts, and we should examine our lives in the light of the divine law. {BEcho, June 1, 1887 par. 3}

As Jesus expands that law, it strikes into the details because the principles of the law are exceeding broad. Here is just one example of Jesus expanding the Ten Commandments. It reaches not just external activity, it goes right into the thoughts.

Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Every man cringes when this comes into focus. There are all the other commandments that are expanded by Jesus that if you hate somebody, you are already a murderer. If you covet something, if you put your whole yearning desire for something that is not necessarily yours at this time and stretch every nerve to get it, you are stealing. If we just give an intonation of the voice to communicate something that is not true, we are lying. It goes on and on.  When the word of God comes, the word of God is alive.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

For this reason E G White wrote our character stands up before God and He reveals to us the sins that we would have committed if we had opportunity; the intent of the heart. All these things make you feel dirty doesn’t it? It makes you feel absolutely grotty and you do not feel like smiling. You don’t feel cheerful at all. It is these little details, not merely the big ones that create the problem.

Many who are seeking for happiness will be disappointed in their hopes, because they seek it amiss. True happiness is not to be found in selfish gratification, but in the path of duty. {OHC 63.2}

Children, do you like that? True happiness is not found in playing. True happiness is found in doing your duty. That doesn’t sound right.

But many who are constantly looking forward for happiness fail to receive it, because, by neglecting to discharge the little duties and observe the little courtesies of life, they violate the principles upon which happiness depends. Ibid

The principles of God’s law that are so exceeding broad that go down to the minutiae of life, we fail to find happiness because we neglect to discharge the little duties and courtesies of life because we violate the principles for which the law was given for our happiness. The Bible is very precise about little things.

Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things?

It’s the little things that make up the big things.

Song of Solomon 2:15 Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines [have] tender grapes.

God’s law is very broad; He magnifies the law and identifies right down to the small details. Our words, our actions, the most secret thoughts. The Bible is full of identifying the little things which spoil our happiness.

An adherence to the strictest principles of truth will frequently cause present inconvenience and may even involve temporal loss, but it will increase the reward in the future life. Religion does not consist merely in a system of dry doctrines, but in practical faith, which sanctifies the life and corrects the conduct in the family circle and in the church. Many may tithe mint and rue, but neglect the weightier matters, mercy and the love of God. To walk humbly with God is essential to the perfection of Christian character. God requires undeviating principle in the minutest details of the transactions of life. Said Christ: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” {4T 337.1}

Our human tendency is to say yes, it is the big things that are important but let’s not get too hung up on the little things. We are called upon to be faithful in little things so that the big things take care of themselves. How shattering is that to you? To have sinned in the big things is already bad enough, but then for the clarification of the principles that bring out the little things, right down to the multiple details of the broadness of the law, we become overwhelmed. This is beyond me; I can never attach myself to this particular religion, it is too much. This is why there are so few who will pursue it, and those that do pursue it are not rejoicing. Why not? Because they are overwhelmed; they know they have to stick with it, but it’s too much.

How much do we need the blood of Jesus? That is what the law is meant to bring before our understanding; the great need I have of the blood of Jesus. The law of God is the expression of the thought of God. When received in Christ, it becomes our thought; it lifts us above the natural desires. We try to grasp hold of this law that reveals to me in so many dimensions my utter helplessness and if I will but open my heart to this, to this law of God’s thought, then I am supposed to find the true happiness and the true source of happiness and the cleansing of my life in the blood of Christ.

If like the Pharisees, we steal our heart against this reality and focus on our own efforts instead, what will be the consequence? The thought of God that unveils to me the principles in detail and I am saying that is too much but no, I have to do it. Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. What is the leaven of the Pharisees?

Jesus wants you to be happy, but you cannot be happy in having your own way and following the impulses of your own heart. Our notions, our peculiarities, are wholly human and must not be humored or indulged. {OHC 29.2}

The Pharisees took the law of God and when Jesus came to make them happy, they became morose, they became annoyed with Christ because their notions, their peculiarities of the natural human heart, they indulged. I want us to explore this so that we can find our way through this confusion of sentiments of the law and happiness and the blood of Christ. We want to see this very clearly and I am praying to God He will help me to be able to communicate that in its pristine revelation in words.

Our notions, our peculiarities, are wholly human and must not be humored or indulged. If I am going to find true happiness, I must not have my own way as the Pharisees wanted it, the natural heart, and the notions.

To Be Free In Christ

If I am going to look for and find happiness in God’s intention with the Ten Commandments and His enlarged law that is too overwhelming, how am I going to find it? What must I do with myself?

We must have less trust in what we ourselves can do, and more trust in what the Lord can do for and through us. You are not engaged in your own work; you are doing the work of God. Surrender your will and way to Him. Make not a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. Know what it is to be free in Christ. {MH 513.4}

If we are free in Christ, do you think we are going to be happy? Absolutely; I am going to be relieved. I am going to be rejoicing because I am discovering the relief from the condemnation that I am trying to remove myself from and I am not succeeding. Under condemnation I don’t find happiness. The Lord is trying to show us how to find that happiness in the broad law. Make not a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. Know what it is to be free in Christ. Jesus wants you to be happy but you cannot be happy in having your own way and following the impulses of your own heart; that is self. Can you feel the struggle that goes on as this is being suggested? Make not a single compromise with self.

Our notions must not be humoured or indulged where you muse over these things and you make them an activity inside of your musing acted upon, not only humoured, but indulged.

Self is to be crucified, not now and then but daily, and the physical, mental, and spiritual must be subordinate to the will of God. The glory of God, the perfection of Christian character, is to be the aim, the purpose, of our life. Christ’s followers must imitate Christ in disposition…. Like Christ is the watchword, not like your father or your mother, but like Jesus Christ–hid in Christ, . {OHC 29.2}

I’m like my father, I didn’t want to know that. When the Lord first told me that, the colloquial term my old man became significant to me. The Lord said the old man must die. That’s my father in me, my character, what I have inherited must die in me.

clothed with Christ’s righteousness, imbued with the Spirit of Christ. All the peculiarities given us as an inheritance or acquired by indulgence or through erroneous education must be thoroughly overcome, decidedly resisted. Love of esteem and pride of opinion, all must be brought to the sacrifice. . . Ibid

Make not a single compromise with self.

The currents of spiritual life must not become stagnant. The water of the living fountain should be in us, a well of water springing up into everlasting life, and sweeping away the selfishness of the natural heart. . . {OHC 63.3}

What’s that? The water of the living fountain. Is that not Jesus Christ?

Many build up barriers between themselves and Jesus so that His love cannot flow into their hearts, and then they complain that they do not see the Sun of Righteousness. Ibid

What must they do? When you complain I can’t see Jesus, when you complain that there is something dark around you and you can’t get out of the darkness, what must you do?

Let them forget self and live for Jesus, and the light of Heaven will bring gladness to their souls. Ibid

How will gladness come to you? When the darkness is sweeping around you, when the very mediations of my life are just negative all the time and I am in the darkness and I can’t see Jesus, what must I do? Forget self; make not a compromise with self while you are thinking. Turn the attention upon Jesus. Many people put a barrier between them and Christ. What is the barrier? The opposite of Christ is self. Jesus laid self in the dust.

Even if we have a high standard of God’s law designed for our happiness, what is in the way of that? Why do we feel sad and despondent? During the week we go through experiences and we lose our focus. What is in the way? What is causing the problem? It is self. Let us identify self in its multiple manifestations, so we can intelligently be released and find joy and buoyancy in our spiritual life. If this is what the word of God has laid out before us, the problem of any darkness, the problem of any despondency, the problem of any barrier between me and Christ is revealed as self.

Self

Let me find what those selfisms are that must be washed away. I want to commence with one item of self and hereafter explore as many as we can find but connected with the flow of the water of life that will sweep that away. It’s not just good enough to identify what the self is in that given circumstance because it’s going to make me feel rotten again. I must have the direct involvement of the love of God that will sweep that out of the way. This is what my plan is that we will do this together. Let us explore this one plain scripture that launches out in this research of self. Let’s spend the time we have left here to appreciate this element of self that spoils my happiness. As a very devout follower of trying to do the right thing.

Voluntary Humility

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

The apostle Paul is dealing with self here. What is he saying? In verse 18 he is saying vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. The flesh is only concentrating on number one. It’s there within itself. It has a protective agency to protect my feeling, my sense; the fleshly mind. In trying to do what we learn from the Bible, the laws of God and the expectations of God that are going to give me eternal life, I look at it and say, hmm, that’s how I’m going to get there. God wants me to be happy so I’m going to keep the laws of God by voluntary humility, not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. By not holding onto Jesus but the Ten Commandments and all the enlargements of what is given in the Spirit of Prophecy and concentrating with a mind that has a voluntary humility, a fleshly mind; this is voluntary humility.

Will Worship

How is that enlarged by the apostle Paul? Ye subject to ordinances, Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men. These commandments and ordinances have a show of wisdom in will worship and humility. In will worship, and will humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Doesn’t this sound like a good reformer? I deny my body, I deny my flesh by not doing this, by being faithful in this and that whether it be my diet, whether it be my clothing, or I have to suffer because it’s hot and I am supposed to be wearing dress reform, will worship. Mark the difference. It says here not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

If I look upon the ordinances and all the do’s and the don’ts, the enlargements of Ten Commandments in all their detail and my own will connection is with that instead of with my Lord and Saviour that I am supposed to be connected with, then apostle Paul is saying, this all sounds very good. I have to be humble yes, Jesus was humble and so I will humble myself. I become all serious and people see me and say, he is not a happy person. The word bulrush comes from Isaiah 58 – the fast of voluntary humility. That is exactly what he is talking about, a humility in which I fast whether it is the fasting of a day’s not eating or the Day of Atonement fast; it’s a voluntary humility that is concentrated on instead of connecting with Christ.

This all looks so good, it’s neglecting my body, it’s not satisfying my flesh and I think that is exactly what Jesus did, therefore I am doing that. Here is what Apostle Paul is trying to distinguish clearly, the distinction between self and connection with Christ in regards to the enlargement of God’s word.

The multitudinous minutiae that is portrayed in the Ten Commandments as the principles are open before our mind’s eye as He magnifies the law and makes it honourable and brings it out through the Spirit of Prophecy.

The multitudinous details, we read and look upon them as something that my own self must rigidly hold on to so that I can come through and be saved. I must follow Jesus’ example. I must deny myself and so I do it.

The notions, the selfisms that will make us unhappy, these kind of things come into focus even on this subject. Let’s have a look at the voluntary humility concept.

The effort to earn salvation by one’s own works inevitably leads men to pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin. . {MB 123.1}

I don’t want to sin, so now I am going to exercise my selfism as Apostle Paul was just writing, and what happens? We pile up human exactions as a barrier against sin.

For, seeing that they fail to keep the law, Ibid

They see it, I can’t keep the law and I am failing.

they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. All this turns the mind away from God to self. Ibid

It’s just what apostle Paul was talking about.

His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for his fellow men. A system of human invention, Ibid

We pick up on certain things and those notions are harboured and humoured by self and we do exactly what we are reading.

Human Intervention

with its multitudinous exactions, will lead its advocates to judge all who come short of the prescribed human standard. The atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism stifles the noble and generous emotions, and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies. Ibid

Do you know this experience? Can you agree, I have been part of this? This is self, using the broad principles of God’s word and the Spirit of Prophecy in a manner governed from self. As I do it, this is the story and that happened to the Ephesus church; I have something against you. What were they doing? They became very particular on every little detail, on all the ceremonies, the Christian activities and very slowly as they became concentrated on that, they lost sight of Jesus and the love of God, and they became judgmental, etc.

Men who were baptised, who were faithful, became like this. This change came gradually.

…gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. {AA 548.1}

Why did they look for defects in others? They were losing sight of Jesus and were concentrating on a self-motivated examination of the laws and the do’s and don’ts and principles.

Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, {AA 548.1}

What does self do? When I see something wrong in me, I will make the other person look bad so I don’t look so bad myself. That is flesh, that is self.

they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. {AA 548.1}

What is the condition of Laodicea? You know not that you are wretched and miserable, and blind, and naked.

They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness. {AA 548.1}

If that can happen to the early Christian church, can that be our problem? Make not a single compromise with self. There is my secret. There is the answer to find true happiness in looking at the minutiae of God’s principles of law and justice and righteousness.

Jesus wants you to be happy, but you cannot be happy in having your own way and following the impulses of your own heart. Our notions, our peculiarities, are wholly human and must not be humored or indulged. Self is to be crucified, {OHC 29.2}

I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me. He is connected with the head, joined with every joint. Self is to be crucified not now and then, but daily. That’s what the Ephesus church fell into, they didn’t do it daily and they went off into self again.

not now and then but daily, and the physical, mental, and spiritual must be subordinate to the will of God. The glory of God, the perfection of Christian character, is to be the aim, the purpose, of our life. Christ’s followers must imitate Christ in disposition…. Like Christ is the watchword, not like your father or your mother, but like Jesus Christ–hid in Christ, clothed with Christ’s righteousness, imbued with the Spirit of Christ. All the peculiarities given us as an inheritance or acquired by indulgence or through erroneous education must be thoroughly overcome, decidedly resisted. Love of esteem and pride of opinion, all must be brought to the sacrifice Ibid

Can we identify where in my personal life self has clicked into action and spoiled my joy while I am pursuing the very righteousness that is supposed to give me joy? We will next explore more of the manifestation of self but let us not forget this item now that it is in the very pursuing of the minutiae of righteousness by faith that we fall into danger.

The danger of voluntary humility

No man can of himself understand his errors. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. The lips may express a poverty of soul that the heart does not acknowledge. While speaking to God of poverty of spirit, the heart may be swelling with the conceit of its own superior humility and exalted righteousness. {COL 159.1}

That is what can happen and what I have described.

In one way only can a true knowledge of self be obtained? We must behold Christ. It is ignorance of Him that makes men so uplifted in their own righteousness. When we contemplate His purity and excellence, we shall see our own weakness and poverty and defects as they really are. We shall see ourselves lost and hopeless, clad in garments of self-righteousness, like every other sinner. We shall see that if we are ever saved, it will not be through our own goodness, but through God’s infinite grace. Ibid

This is a beautiful summary. May God help us indeed to make not a single compromise with self and we will see how powerful this is. It will bring joy to our hearts in the midst of the most miserable circumstances because self is dead and it remains being put to death. Nothing of self must interfere. May we practice this to find the joy that God’s will is for us.

Amen.

Posted on September 16, 2013, in Divine Service Sermons, Self Versus Gods Love, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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