8. Team Work

By John Thiel, Learning the Lessons of Unity in Christ Conference, Study 8, Audio: mp3

The world knows of unity. In politics they know that in their party they must be united. In sport they know what it means to be united. In business they know that without unity there is no success. The churches of today know that their Christian ideals need to be cemented in ecumenism; they know that unity is necessary. In warfare, in an army, perfect unity is taught in their recruits so that they know they must be in absolute harmony and absolute unity to win the war. All these concepts of unity portrayed in these areas fall far short of our unity understanding; unity in Christ. The representation of this unity comes to us from many different varieties of object lessons that Jesus gives. There is the body, the army in the Spirit of Prophecy but the one I want to focus upon is John chapter 15 which itemises the unity in its activity together very effectively.

John 15:1-5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every [branch] that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Here is the representation of unity which is to be understood as unity in Christ. It is different in principle to the unity that exists out there and yet there are some similarities. Our focus must be on what Jesus has said here that the many different branches in the vine are dependent as a branch upon their connection with Jesus. While these branches are different individual branches, yet they are all dependent upon the nourishment that comes from one source, Jesus Christ.

The branches in the True Vine are the believers who are brought into oneness by connection with the Vine. {5BC 1143.3}
The connection of the branches with one another and with the Vine constitutes them a unity, but this does not mean uniformity in everything. {5BC 1143.4}

This is an extremely important identification criterion. It does not mean uniformity in everything. The union is every different branch in connection with the vine.

  • Union with Christ

Unity in diversity is a principle that pervades the whole creation. While there is an individuality and variety in nature, there is a oneness in their diversity; for all things receive their usefulness and beauty from the same Source. The great Master Artist writes His name on all His created works, from the loftiest cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall. They all declare His handiwork, from the lofty mountain and the grand ocean to the tiniest shell upon the seashore. {5BC 1143.4}

The branches of the vine cannot blend into each other; they are individually separate; yet every branch must be in fellowship with every other if they are united in the same parent stock. They all draw nourishment from the same source; they drink in the same life-giving properties. So each branch of the True Vine is separate and distinct, yet all are bound together in the parent stock. There can be no division. They are all linked together by His will to bear fruit wherever they can find place and opportunity. But in order to do this, the worker must hide self. He must not give expression to his own mind and will. He is to express the mind and will of Christ. The human family are dependent upon God for life and breath and sustenance. God has designed the web, and all are individual threads to compose the pattern. The Creator is one, and He reveals Himself as the great Reservoir of all that is essential for each separate life. {5BC 1143.5}

Christian unity consists in the branches being in the same parent stock, the vitalizing power of the center supporting the grafts that have united to the Vine. In thoughts and desires, in words and actions, there must be an identity with Christ, a constant partaking of His spiritual life. Faith must increase by exercise. All who live near to God will have a realization of what Jesus is to them and they to Jesus. As communion with God is making its impress upon the soul, and shining out in the countenance as an illuminating light, the steadfast principles of Christ’s holy character will be reflected in humanity (RH Nov. 9, 1897). {5BC 1143.6}

I took time to read all that because we are given the picture beautifully here that one branch might be growing this way and another branch growing that way and another one yet another way, and another one down there; they are all going in different directions yet they are united because they are all lodged in the vine. There is no room for looking at the other person in this unity and thinking, why isn’t he doing it in the same direction that I am doing it? There is no room for the slightest judgment upon another person’s action in the vine. There is a united focus upon the one with whom they must be connected. It is the degree of our personal union with Christ from which our union with one another can be derived.

If we are not in unity with each other, we are not in unity with Christ. If I am not in unity with my brothers and sisters, what am I to concentrate on? Do I concentrate on trying to be in unity with them? It doesn’t work no matter how hard you try. Our deliberation must be that if I have problems with my brothers and sisters I am in a problem state with my personal Saviour. When I am truly in tune with my personal Saviour, then it will be a natural course of events to be in unity with my brethren and sisters. This union with Christ that we need to concentrate on so that we can be in union with one another, is further addressed in the same Bible commentary.

A union with Christ by living faith is enduring; every other union must perish. Christ first chose us, paying an infinite price for our redemption; and the true believer chooses Christ as first, and last, and best in everything. But this union costs us something. It is a relation of utter dependence to be entered into by a proud being. {5BC 1143.8}

How do you feel if you have been used to pridefully holding onto your own life, steering and holding the reins and all of a sudden you have to give it over? It feels so wrong. It makes you feel so vulnerable. I haven’t got control over my life anymore. It feels dreadful and yet that is exactly what I must feel it is a relation of utter dependence to be entered into by a proud being.

All who form this union must feel their need of the atoning blood of Christ. They must have a change of heart. They must submit their own will to the will of God. There will be a struggle with outward and internal obstacles. There must be a painful work of detachment, as well as a work of attachment. Pride, selfishness, vanity, worldliness–sin in all its forms–must be overcome, if we would enter into a union with Christ. The reason why many find the Christian life so deplorably hard, why they are so fickle, so variable, is, they try to attach themselves to Christ without detaching themselves from these cherished idols. Ibid

As I said before, if I am trying to be in unity and I haven’t gone into this exercise, then pride, selfishness, a fickle mentality will be displayed. We will be fickle with one another. Is this what has happened in the past? Our focus is not upon, oh dear, why aren’t we united? Oh dear, why is this happening here and why is that happening there? Don’t even think about it. Concentrate on your personal reality with Jesus Christ; not the other or me.

Is your all on the altar? This is to be the theme of our unity.

“Who can tell all the love He will send from above and how happy our hearts will be made, of the fellowship sweet we shall share at His feet, when our all on the altar is laid.”

Is there still something to discover in our unity and fellowship with one another? How much has been laid on the altar and how much is still being held back? Is it entire an utter surrender and a relation of utter dependence? Are there still struggles with outward and internal obstacles? I don’t know whether you have experienced this. There is something you come up to when the Lord says this way and you are very much dependent upon your past personal experience of your own life and to suddenly detach. It is a struggle but when we are baptised, this is what we are doing. We are saying to God from the heart, I give up everything; everything I know and everything I don’t know. When the element inside of me comes up with something that I didn’t know about myself before and it wants to create a struggle in submission, I say, I gave that up when I was baptised and it is finished instead of still wanting to hold onto this. If I have truly died with Jesus at baptism, when this element comes up that I haven’t been conscious of, it will be detached because it has been detached. This is the message of Christ our righteousness.
Is Your All on the Altar of Sacrifice Laid?

Recall that the unity of heaven is oriented in the total focus of the hearts of the angels focused upon their Lord. They didn’t even think there existed such a thing as the law.

When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. {MB 109.2}

What happens when agencies in heaven and on earth are so totally focused personally and individually on the Lord?

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter,

Peter had just said to Him, you are the Son of God.

Matthew 16:18 and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

What happens when all the agencies of heaven and earth are totally wrapped up with Christ? In heaven and in earth the same thing is done.

Whatever the church does that is in accordance with the directions given in God’s word will be ratified in heaven. {7T 263.3}

The angels of heaven are listening to the directions of God. The instruments on earth are focusing on their personal Saviour and surrendering all. Can you see how what is bound on earth is bound in heaven? It is a beautiful corporate function. That is what we touched on in the three angels’ messages if you recall in these last days.

Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth,

No one hears the voice of these angels, for they are a symbol to represent the people of God who are working in harmony with the universe of heaven. Men and women, enlightened by the Spirit of God and sanctified through the truth, proclaim the three messages in their order. {2SM 387.1}

Men and women working in harmony with the unity of heaven give these messages. They are on earth. They give messages on earth but they are messages that are in harmony with the messages that come to them from heaven. The angels of heaven are ministering spirits that minister together with human beings.

Hebrews 1:67 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

What are the angels doing? They are ministering for us and as they minister for us and we are in tune with the very One that they are connected with, what does that make us with the angels? Is such a thing possible? Is this really the case that the angels of heaven are working together with us as a complete unit function? Through the beautiful relationship that exists between each individual with Jesus, it is the same relationship as the angels have with Jesus. It is the branches in the vine including the angels. Is this real?

Human nature, through Jesus Christ, becomes allied to angels–yes, even to the great God. {OHC 170.2}

Human nature through Jesus, as the human makes the complete surrender, as the human becomes engrafted into Christ, we become allied to angels. What are they doing with Christ? They are allied with Him. We are allied with the angels and we are allied with one another. This is true team work.

  • Team Work

How expanded is that team? Here we are a little church in Perth, another church in Brisbane and then brethren in Port Macquarie and individual members and now we have another member in France. We are all scattered. Does that matter? This little company is not all that is the team. Perth with its situation, Brisbane with their situation, we become locked up in our own cubicle.

Sometimes we think we are doing the Lord’s work. What is Perth church doing? What is Brisbane doing? They are doing something bigger than we are doing, oh dear, and so on. How big is the team? We are to be a team right across the world right up with the heavenly team; one team; everyone with only one thought, to work in harmony.

One part of the ministry of heavenly angels is to visit our world and oversee the work of the Lord in the hands of His stewards. {6T 456.1}

Here on earth God’s stewards are doing their work and the angels are there to oversee it; we are a team.

In every time of necessity they minister to those who as co-workers with God are striving to carry forward His work in the earth. These heavenly intelligences are represented as desiring to look into the plan of redemption, and they rejoice whenever any part of God’s work prospers. Ibid

Angels are interested in the spiritual welfare of all who are seeking to restore God’s moral image in man; and the earthly family are to connect with the heavenly family in binding up the wounds and bruises that sin has made. {6T 456.2}

Is that team work? Angels are connected with the human family and the human family in its work to apply the balm of Gilead. The angels are working in co-partnership with that.

Angelic agencies, though invisible, are co-operating with visible human agencies, Ibid

There you have the three angels’ messages. The angel flying is in the midst of heaven preaching. Who is preaching? Man is preaching but the angels are interconnected, unseen. Angelic agencies, though invisible, are co-operating with visible human agencies

…forming a relief association with men. Ibid

What is the name of our church? It is Historic Advent Sabbath Society. It is an association, a society. The angels, angelic agencies are forming a relief association with men, a team.

The very angels who, when Satan was seeking the supremacy, fought the battle in the heavenly courts and triumphed on the side of God, the very angels who shouted for joy over the creation of our world and its sinless inhabitants, the angels who witnessed the fall of man and his expulsion from his Eden home– these very heavenly messengers are most intensely interested to work in union with the fallen, redeemed race for the salvation of human beings perishing in their sins. Ibid

Do you remember those angels who loved their Lord so much that when Jesus came to the gates they were interchanging their call? What are they doing with you and me? How intensely interested they are in us. Oh to broaden our mind’s horizon, oh to work as a team with these angels and with one another! The very angels who have the knowledge of the experience which we have studied, the way God was working to try to bring Lucifer back; the way that the battle took place, they know by experience what we are experiencing. They want to work together with us. Are we going to be men and women who will work in harmony with the universe of heaven?

Human agencies are the hands of heavenly instrumentalities, for heavenly angels employ human hands in practical ministry. Human agencies as hand helpers are to work out the knowledge and use the facilities of heavenly beings. By uniting with these powers that are omnipotent, we are benefited by their higher education and experience. Thus as we become partakers of the divine nature, and separate selfishness from our lives, special talents for helping one another are granted us. This is heaven’s way of administering saving power. {6T 456.3}

Is there not something stimulating and inspiring in this thought, that the human agent stands as the visible instrument to confer the blessings of angelic agencies? As we are thus laborers together with God, the work bears the inscription of the divine. The knowledge and activity of the heavenly workers, united with the knowledge and power that are imparted to human agencies, bring relief to the oppressed and distressed. Our acts of unselfish ministry make us partakers in the success that results from the relief offered. {6T 457.1}

With what joy heaven looks upon these blended influences! All heaven is watching those agencies that are as the hand to work out the purpose of God in the earth, thus doing the will of God in heaven. Such co-operation accomplishes a work that brings honor and glory and majesty to God. Oh, if all would love as Christ has loved, that perishing men might be saved from ruin, what a change would come to our world! {6T 457.2}

Is there not something stimulating and inspiring in this thought? I am overwhelmed with this meditation. How humbling is this picture! You and I are to be the hands of the angels and yet we are intelligent beings on our own. Those intelligent beings can be our counsellors because they have experience that we haven’t got and we have experience that they haven’t got.

We sinners, what have we brought from our past into the church? What a baggage we bring with our inherited and cultivated scars and yet God will use us as a team with the angels. How imperative it is that all is on the altar, that there is none of that scar tissue exercised, none whatsoever, none of self. Self is the scar tissue of sin. Self is the scar tissue of what we have been brought up with while we were in the world. We have been formulated by our parents to develop a certain kind of norm which is totally abnormal to heaven. We come to the church with all that. We might have received a new heart but we still have the scar tissue. That scar tissue shows up every now and then. All must be on the altar resigned, given up.

Here comes another bit of John Thiel, get out of here. I hate him. You know how it is in the world; they call their father my old man. My old man came from my father, which came from his father. My father’s father was an alcoholic; he died of total alcoholism. The people in the world know from the study of genetics that there is an alcoholic gene that passes down. I have it. It is extremely vicious. Each one of us has baggage from our parents and from the way we were brought up. All that must be laid on the altar.

What a privilege to be the hand-workers with the holy angels. What a humbling experience when we think about it. What were the angels doing? They were just listening to the command of God. They had a mind willing to do what they are told because they were happy to do it but we have scar tissue. We need to have a mind willing and yielded to be directed down the chain of command. Are we picking up the lesson? How self does not like to be commanded! Just try your children, if you command them, they hate it and so do we. That is self. When we are surrendered to Jesus, command me please I don’t know what to do, are our words. If you tell me what to do and I don’t like it, that doesn’t matter, I do what you want me to do.

What were the lessons by which we are to work? Close personal intimacy with Christ, recognising His voice. How do we recognise His voice? Through the word, nature, through the impressions in our heart of the Holy Spirit that must coincide with the word. Through the preacher the servant of God speaking from the pulpit. Through providence, through the voice of duty, through the voice of the church, through catastrophes. These are the voices of Jesus that we must listen to personally, individually.

We all are different contributing elements. One person can only contribute that which God has given them; another person has something different. We rely on each other’s contributions. We listen to each other. When somebody shares something that is brought into the discussion, we listen carefully to heed what God is saying. It may sometimes be a bit garbled by human interference, like it is when you listen to a radio wave coming through with static. That happens with different people speaking in the church too.

You have to listen for the voice of God coming through. We have to listen to God and each other and we might hear the blessings that God is communicating with us. Don’t run outside of the sure harmony of heaven. Even the angels had to be commanded not to assist when they wanted to. A tall commanding angel said, no don’t help Jesus; don’t help these people in the time of Jacob’s trouble. There is to be none of self, just do what the commanding angel says. Why do we know that the commanding angel is to be obeyed? It is because he has been instructed by the Lord.

These are the lessons we need to pick up. As we are now in these last days, there is an interesting quote as we are trying to battle through the complications of these mad times in which we live. Sometimes we don’t even realise how mad it is. When you start comparing what it used to be back in Sr White’s time to what it is now, then you begin to realise how stupid humanity has become yet they think they are so smart. The Lord has to work out of the common order of things but still working in perfect order.

Unless those who can help in —– are aroused to a sense of their duty, they will not recognize the work of God when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard. {TM 300}

We are to work in perfect unison with the angelic host. Those in the church, unless aroused to a sense of our duty will not even recognise the work of the angels, the work of the loud cry of the third angel.

When light goes forth to lighten the earth, instead of coming up to the help of the Lord, they will want to bind about His work to meet their narrow ideas. Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. Ibid

Have you got certain plans? Have you got certain thoughts that you want to see certain things done? This is what has happened in the Adventist circles. The leaders of the church have certain plans that they have made. They claim that they have prayed about this and this is their plan. But it will be done very much out of the common order of things, outside of any human planning.

There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. Ibid

Another angel, the Revelation 18 angel. He is another commanding angel. They want to bind up the work in such a way that they will not be able to recognise that angel.

God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness. Those who are accounted good workers will need to draw nigh to God, they will need the divine touch. They will need to drink more deeply and continuously at the fountain of living water, in order that they may discern God’s work at every point. Workers may make mistakes, but you should give them a chance to correct their errors, give them an opportunity to learn caution, by leaving the work in their hands. Ibid

He will work very much out of the common order of things. Don’t try to hedge the work in by making sure that every worker is going to do it exactly the way that you want if you are in a position of leadership. Just make sure that people have the freedom to exercise and make their mistakes and learn from them. As the angel commanded the other angels not to touch, we are in the learning process to come into their frame of thinking. We are making mistakes along the way. When we make those mistakes, the angels hop in and say, can you see what has happened here? If you would have learned to rely on me and my help you wouldn’t have done that. We become aware and much more trained to work in perfect harmony.

Although He works very much out of the common order of things, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking He is not going to work by this organised church. That is why you have so many independents today. He will not work without team harmony. That is never going to change. That is written in Selected Messages Book 3. Right through to the very end although He works very much out of the common order of things, right to the very end He will work with His team. It is just that we, the hands of the angels, must be submissive hands.

It is a delusion of the enemy for anyone to feel that he can disconnect from agencies which God has appointed and work on an independent line of his own, in his own supposed wisdom, and yet be successful. Although he may flatter himself that he is doing God’s work, he will not prosper in the end. We are one body, and every member is to be united to the body, each person working in his respective capacity.–Letter 104, 1894. {3SM 25.4}

It is not a good sign when men will not unite with their brethren, but prefer to act alone, when they will not take in their brethren because they do not just exactly meet their mind. If men will wear the yoke of Christ, they cannot pull apart. They will wear Christ’s yoke, they will draw with Christ.–Manuscript 56, 1898. {3SM 26.1}

As we near the final crisis, instead of feeling that there is less need of order and harmony of action, we should be more systematic than heretofore. All our work should be conducted according to well-defined plans. {3SM 26.2}

I am receiving light from the Lord that there should be wise generalship at this time more than at any former period of our history.–Letter 27a, 1892. {3SM 26.3}

This is to govern our unity. It is team work with angels an administration of holy angels with man working in perfect team harmony. Here is the call which we are to carry home. It was a message that was given to the people in a conference in Sr White’s time. They had been at a conference like this. This is what the Lord gave to them as He gives it to us today:

And He says, “Except thou repent,” “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place” (Revelation 2:5). Why?–Because in our separation from one another we are separated from Christ. We want to press together. Oh, how many times, when I have seemed to be in the presence of God and holy angels, I have heard the angel voice saying, “Press together, press together, press together. Do not let Satan cast his hellish shadow between brethren. Press together; in unity there is strength.” {2SM 374.2}

I repeat the message to you. As you go to your homes, be determined that you will press together; seek God all the heart, and you will find Him, and the love of Christ, that passeth understanding, will come into your hearts and lives.–General Conference Daily Bulletin, April 13, 1891. {2SM 374.3}

This is the call for us now. As we have come to the end and we have heard these things, what is your decision.

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Posted on September 21, 2013, in Learning the Lessons of Unity in Christ, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The message of this sermon is, ‘The angels are with me! John Thiel, so everyone must obey ME, for what I say is bound in heaven!’ On 21/09/2013 11:55 AM, “Sabbath Sermons” wrote:

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