1. Meeting the Enemy’s Attacks

By John Thiel, Learning the Lessons of Unity in Christ Conference, Study 1, Audio: mp3

Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2[It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.

Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! Those words are so comforting. You feel like saying aahh… that is exactly what we want; a joyful perfect unity. How beautiful that is to behold. How the soul longs for this in these times of perplexity in which we live. To behold that kind of union and appreciate what this really is in application and living representation.

In reference to the unity in heaven before Lucifer commenced his work, we read the following:

So long as all created beings acknowledged the allegiance of love, there was perfect harmony throughout the universe of God. It was the joy of the heavenly host to fulfill the purpose of their Creator. They delighted in reflecting His glory and showing forth His praise. And while love to God was supreme, love for one another was confiding and unselfish. There was no note of discord to mar the celestial harmonies. {PP 35.1}

Let your mind visualise, behold this union. There was a total focus upon the Creator an allegiance of love to Him a delight to reflect His glory and show His praise. While that was supreme there was a precious harmony among the angels. In the universe there was a confiding and unselfish love. I like that word confiding. It generates a certain sense of openness without fear of any reprisal. To be able to just say as you feel and you know that the other person isn’t going to misuse that. Confiding and unselfish love, that is unity.

We go to another example of that unity in the early Christian church.

After the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the disciples went forth to proclaim a living Saviour, their one desire was the salvation of souls. They rejoiced in the sweetness of communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another, they revealed the love that Christ had enjoined upon them. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts. {AA 547.3}

Such a love the believers were ever to cherish. {AA 547.4}

There we have something to behold. This is an absolute perfection of unity described here. It is a vision that we would all like to be part of, what the heart yearns for. Why do we need to devote a whole camp on this subject? What I have just read to you in both quotes, both in the heavenly harmonies and in the one that took place in the early Christian church, both continue with the words; but a change came. We need to have these lessons of unity in Christ brought to our attention again and again because we live on Satan’s enchanted ground here on this earth. He had achieved disunity in heaven, and he was finally cast out; this is the planet where he has rule to a large degree. We, living in these last moments of earth’s history, do we not need to have this subject and it’s lessons brought very vividly before our minds? Is this not what we need?

When God’s people are born again, when they live the new life in Christ, with His love abiding in their hearts, their candlestick will stand securely in its place. But the principles they have followed in their connection with one another need revising…. {15MR 109.2}

We might be born again, we might have the love of Jesus in our hearts, but the principles of our past relationships need revising.

In their unity with one another and with God through Christ is their strength. {15MR 109.2}

Christ has specified the measure of love we are to show for one another. “A new commandment I give unto you,” He declared, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” By this practical love, seen by the world, “shall all men know that ye are My disciples.” When the softening, subduing influence of the Spirit of God rules the hearts of those who are connected with His service, they will honor Him by keeping the new commandment, new because Christ said, “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” {15MR 109.3}

The disciples never realized Christ’s love for fallen man until they saw it expressed on the cross of Calvary, until He rose from the dead and proclaimed over the rent sepulchre of Joseph, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Lessons have been given in regard to this love which are just as new to us, as far as practice is concerned, as they were to the disciples before the death and resurrection of our Lord. When these lessons are brought into the practical life, when God’s people love one another as He requires them to do, there will be an entire change in the experience of the churches. {15MR 109.4}

Do we need these lessons? This is a very important quote, because this is our theme; learning the lessons of unity in Christ. It says. “A new commandment I give unto you”. Why is it new? To the disciples it was totally new because they had not known the kind of love that Jesus had, until they saw Him going through Calvary and through the death and resurrection. Then the love that He commanded them to have, became clear to them.

I asked the angel if there were none left. He bade me look in an opposite direction, and I saw a little company traveling a narrow pathway. All seemed to be firmly united, bound together by the truth, in bundles, or companies. Said the angel, “The third angel is binding, or sealing, them in bundles for the heavenly garner.” This little company looked careworn, as if they had passed through severe trials and conflicts. And it appeared as if the sun had just risen from behind a cloud and shone upon their countenances, causing them to look triumphant, as if their victories were nearly won. {EW 88.3}

How real is this to you today? There are very few people on this narrow pathway; they are all in single file. They’re all experiencing things which perplex them but they are bound together in bundles by the truth.

Zephaniah 3:12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD. 13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make [them] afraid.

There is almost a contradiction of terms here. These are a poor and afflicted people, but none shall make them afraid. They are lying down and feeding, but they are in perplexity, but none can make them afraid? This is the characteristic of being a true follower of Jesus Christ. There is a perfect peace and there is a lot of strife. There is perfect trust, and there is anxiety and perplexity, so that these people are poor and afflicted. That was described as I read it there. They are perfectly united, they are bound together by the truth. This little company looked careworn, as if they had passed through severe trials and conflicts. Are we part of them? What am I to do to be part of them? They are bound together by the truth, but why are they poor and afflicted? What is it that afflicts them?

Zechariah 3:1 And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: [is] not this a brand plucked out of the fire? 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

Zechariah’s vision of Joshua and the Angel applies with peculiar force to the experience of God’s people in the closing up of the great Day of Atonement. {5T 472.2}

This little company is poor and afflicted. Why are they so poor and afflicted? They are in that condition because the picture of Joshua and the angel applies to them.

The remnant church will be brought into great trial and distress. Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the ire (anger/wrath) of the dragon and his hosts.  {5T 472.2}

Are you picking up the affliction? They trust in the Lord but they are severely afflicted. Satan is there with his ire.

Satan numbers the world as his subjects, he has gained control of the apostate churches; but here is a little company that are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete.  {5T 472.2}

There is this little company. Are you among them? In being among them, what is it that we need to understand? We need to understand that Satan wants to blot us from the planet. He has the great majority on his side. This little company is like a thorn in his eye; he wants to get rid of them. Have you experienced that? We can experience that sometimes in an unexpected manner. If he can cause us to become completely distracted in our spiritual life, we will give up. That is what he wants. What will he do? He will afflict us. He is right at the angel’s side resisting the work of these people. He wants to blot them from the earth.

As he influenced the heathen nations to destroy Israel, so in the near future he will stir up the wicked powers of earth to destroy the people of God. All will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law. Those who will be true to God and to duty will be menaced, denounced, and proscribed. They will “be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends.” {5T 472.2}

Do you like being menaced? I don’t; I get very irritated with being menaced, but I have to learn to take it quietly. I have been denounced all my life so that doesn’t quite matter. Every one of us has different responses to this.

Their only hope is in the mercy of God; their only defense will be prayer. As Joshua was pleading before the Angel, so the remnant church, with brokenness of heart and earnest faith, will plead for pardon and deliverance through Jesus their Advocate. They are fully conscious of the sinfulness of their lives, they see their weakness and unworthiness, and as they look upon themselves they are ready to despair. The tempter stands by to accuse them, as he stood by to resist Joshua. He points to their filthy garments, their defective characters. He presents their weakness and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer.. {5T 473.1}

As I was reading that I thought have we not already tasted that? As we go through this subject, meeting the enemy’s attacks, we need to be able to meet this and understand what is happening to us, so that we will be able to learn to trust the Lord. Here is this little company and they are being harassed by the evil one. Among the harassments with which he attacks, the following, entitled “The Snares of Satan”, reveals what I particularly desire to portray.

When I was severely attacked in reference to EG White’s writings, I was very close to ignoring them until the Lord pointed out to me a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Can Satan reveal himself to us as to what he really is like; will he do that? No, never. Sr White is either of God or of the devil. She unveils him perfectly here, and that is what caused me to decide that EG White was a servant of God. She unveils the works of Satan. Here it is.

“We must cause distraction and division. We must destroy their anxiety for their own souls, and lead them to criticize, to judge, and to accuse and condemn one another, and to cherish selfishness and enmity. For these sins, God banished us from His presence; and all who follow our example will meet a similar fate.” {TM 475.2}

How clear do you want it? This is what the theme of our conference is, to meet this attack, because what is he generating in our minds by his suggestions? We must destroy their anxiety for their own souls, and lead them to criticize, to judge, and to accuse and condemn one another. As you see this happening, you know it is the devil. If we have fallen for his traps here and there, we want to learn the lessons of unity, to conquer and meet his attacks. Recall what we were reading in Patriarchs and Prophets, we were banished from heaven for doing this, what did he do to the beautiful unity of heaven?

But a change came over this happy state. There was one who perverted the freedom that God had granted to His creatures. Sin originated with him who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God and was highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven. Lucifer, “son of the morning,” was first of the covering cherubs, holy and undefiled. He stood in the presence of the great Creator, and the ceaseless beams of glory enshrouding the eternal God rested upon him. “Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering. . . . Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Ezekiel 28:12-15. {PP 35.1}
Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation. The Scripture says, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” Ezekiel 28:17. “Thou hast said in thine heart, . . . I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will be like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:13, 14. Though all his glory was from God, this mighty angel came to regard it as pertaining to himself. Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator. Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone. {PP 35.2}

What did he do in heaven? He went along and insinuated certain ideas into the minds of the angels. He goaded them into conflict of trust; they began to express certain things, then Lucifer said, see, you angels are in disharmony. It was him that created the disharmony; these perfect angels were in disharmony because he had generated that in them. What happened to the early Christian church? They had a beautiful unity and then came some change.

What was it that Satan does every time to destroy the preciousness that we desire, that precious unity?

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

Just that, to look for defects in others.

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, 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}

Can you see why we need to study this subject? This can creep upon us, and I believe that many times these things have been achieved by Satan, to try to put wedges between us. This is how he does it.

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}

Satan is trying to blot us off the earth. If he can’t achieve it because God is protecting us from all those horrible accidents and death destroying diseases, has He not protected us from all that? Then where will Satan try to achieve it? He will try to achieve it amongst each other to cause us to lose sight of Christ and become occupied with the do’s and don’ts that we expect others to do and not to do.

Our unity is based on the truth. This is what we have been brought together by; contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Isn’t that what we are trying to do? As we contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, something else can happen. We might still be holding together in the truth, but the beautiful love is not holding us anymore. We are very familiar with the quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy, the truths that the Lord has given us for the past 50 years, we hold onto them dearly.

I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body….{EW 258.3}

You may know all that truth, we might be standing on the full platform of original Adventism, but we may not have that truth anymore as it is in Jesus. What will that produce?

There will be some terrible falls by those who think they stand firm because they have the truth, but they have it not as it is in Jesus. {5T 540.1}

We can be valiantly fighting for the truth and know that we have it, but if we do not have it as it is in Jesus, we will make some terrible falls. Satan knows that he cannot swing us off the platform of truth; he knows that we are clinging to it with tenacious determination, so he says, I will get you some other way.

An Unsanctified Individuality

By our unity we are to bear strong, indisputable evidence that Christ came to this world to save sinners. Satan works with all his ingenuity to prevent human beings from bearing this evidence. He wants them to develop an unsanctified individuality so that they shall not love one another. {UL 271.2}

Have you felt that? I feel that frequently. Just leave me alone everybody; I just want to have my relationship with Jesus, you spoil it for me. I just want to be on my own. Have you ever had that feeling? Have you ever had that sense creeping in of saying, I can’t stand people, they annoy me; I will stand on my own. This is Satan at work. He wants them to develop an unsanctified individuality so that they shall not love one another.

Too often professing Christians yield to him, and then the merest trifle causes a difference to spring up among them.  {UL 271.2}

If you examine very carefully, what is it that rises up and causes differences? If you look at them carefully, husbands and wives in your home life…trifles, little things that grow into mountains. Satan is at work, so that those trifles cause differences to spring up.

Men and women professing godliness build walls of separation between them and their fellow workers, because not all think in exactly the same way, or follow exactly the same methods.  {UL 271.2}

That is one thing we will never see disappear from among us. We see things slightly differently. If I want unity from my human perspective, and I don’t learn the lessons of unity in Christ, these trifles of differences will become a separating wall. This is Satan’s ingenuity.

Those who stand apart, refusing to harmonize, dishonor God before the world. Christ prayed for unity. It is His will that His followers shall labor together in Christian fellowship.  {UL 271.2}

Although I wanted to go and hide in a log cabin for the rest of my life, I couldn’t, because it’s not His will; so I joyfully move on to be among God’s people. I hope you will all do that together with me; that we will follow His will. But remember it is this principle that he uses to cause this separation between us, because we don’t all think exactly the same way.

Keeping our Attention Diverted from the Saviour

When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan’s constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. The pleasures of the world, life’s cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections–to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by his devices. Many who are really conscientious, and who desire to live for God, he too often leads to dwell upon their own faults and weaknesses, and thus by separating them from Christ he hopes to gain the victory. {SC 71.2}

When he has you separated from Christ, what will he have achieved in regards to each other? We will be separated from each other, because we are not bound together by Christ anymore. This is how it all works. Don’t be deceived by his devices.

Majoring in Minors

We are to pray for divine enlightenment, but at the same time we should be careful how we receive everything termed new light. We must beware lest, under cover of searching for new truth, Satan shall divert our minds from Christ and the special truths for this time. {CW 49.2}

We will be searching for new truth, new discoveries; maybe we think the old truths are getting a bit long in the tooth, we tend to feel we have heard this over and over again, we want something fresh. There comes a new discovery of some item and Satan will divert our minds from Christ and the special truths for this time.

I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to lead minds to dwell upon some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to our salvation. This is made the absorbing theme, the “present truth,” when all their investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure than before, and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth.–Preach the Word, p. 4. (1891.) {CW 49.2}

Becoming fascinated with a certain slant of truth, a certain slant of doctrine, of teaching, that has not an absolute necessity to be circulated, because it is not a point of perfect revelation. We scrutinise and study to see how well we can make it look that way. By majoring in minors we are falling for Satan’s trap.

Side Issues

The Lord will do a great work in the earth. Satan makes a determined effort to divide and scatter His people. He brings up side issues to divert minds from the important subjects which should engage our attention. Individually we are to feel the importance of uniting in the firm bonds of Christian fellowship. With one heart and mind we are to prepare for the conflict, with faith laying our petitions before the mercy seat. The throne of God is arched by the bow of promise, and the prayers offered in simplicity and faith will be heard. It is God’s glory to answer the supplications of His people. {13MR 332.2}
I have been instructed in regard to the danger of drawing apart. Let us leave to Satan and his agents the cruel work of accusing and fault-finding. Our work is to repent before God because of our unbelief and want of love for Him who died for us and for one another. The gold of love and faith is wanting in our ranks. Christ declares, “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” [Revelation 2:4]. {13MR 332.3}

Satan makes a determined effort to divide and scatter God’s people. He brings up side issues to divert minds from the important subjects which should engage our attention.

We are meeting Satan’s devices; we are meeting Satan’s attacks? What are the items of strategy that he devises?

The faults of others. Can’t we find a fantastic field in that? Do we all have some faults? Satan has plenty to feast upon.
2. Life’s cares and perplexities. Isn’t Satan doing a fantastic job to make them very plentiful? Isn’t he putting the pressure on everybody in this world to create perplexities, financial needs that are often-times generated from the status quo, what people expect when God doesn’t expect it of us anyway. It all seems to be so important.
3. Our own faults and imperfections. Satan doesn’t want us to see that we are terrible sinners and we need to flee to Christ, he just wants to show us all our sins to make us feel so despondent about ourselves that we don’t lift up our heads anymore; we lose sight of Jesus. That is what he wants.
4. Majoring in minors; making these little things that are not a life and death situation, which are interpretive, making these things great mountains.

Workers should not feel that it is a virtue to stand apart because they do not see all minor points in exactly the same light. If they agree on fundamental truths, they should not differ and dispute about matters of little real importance. To dwell on perplexing questions, that after all are of no vital consequence, tends to call the mind away from truths vital to the saving of the soul. {CTr 362.5}

Making minor points big and leaving the fundamental truths in the background, instead of enlarging them and making them very important to us, as they are.

And shall there be with the people of God the cropping out of the very same spirit which they have condemned in the denominations, because there was a difference of understanding on some points–not vital questions? Shall the same spirit in any form be cherished among Seventh-day Adventists–the cooling of friendship, the withdrawal of confidence, the misrepresentation of motives, the endeavor to thwart and turn into ridicule those who honestly differ with them in their views? {16MR 240.2}

Have you ever found that? You find somebody in the church who differs from your views.

I have in my last few weeks’ experience learned what little dependence may be placed in man, for these things must be met. Alienation and bitterness give evidence that if possible Satan will deceive even those who claim to believe the truth for this time, showing that they have need to study the character of pure and undefiled religion. God forbid that Satan shall do this. {16MR 240.2}

Godliness, which the gospel enjoins, never bears briars and thorns, never–because all do not see exactly alike–breaks the closest links of association, dividing those who have been one in faith, one in heart, in their relationship. But a difference in the application of some few scriptural passages makes men forget their religious principles. Elements become banded together, exciting one another through the human passions to withstand in a harsh, denunciatory manner everything that does not meet their ideas. This is not Christian, but is of another spirit. {16MR 240.3}
And Satan is doing his utmost to have those who believe present truth deceived on this point, for he has laid his snare to overcome them, that those who have accepted unpopular truth, who have had great light and great privileges, shall have the spirit that will pervade the world. Even if it is in a less degree, yet it is the same principle that when it has a controlling power over minds, leads to certain results. There is pride of opinion, a stubbornness that shuts the soul away from good and from God. Warnings have been scorned, grace resisted, privileges abused, conviction smothered, and the pride of the human heart strengthened. The result is the same as with the Jews–fatal hardness of heart. It is not safe for the soul to rise up against the messages of God. All who are handling sacred truth are only mortal men.–Manuscript 30, 1889. Ellen G. White Estate Washington, D.C. October 2, 1986. Entire Manuscript. {16MR 241.1}

Here is what this leads to; the beautiful harmony and joy of unity is undermined and a certain conviction holds onto a certain person and that becomes so big that pride of opinion, a stubbornness that shuts the soul away from good and from God. When that happens, when that dark shadow of Satan comes in, you know these are Satan’s attacks.

As we see these devices of Satan, what shall we do? We need to meet this and learn how to adjust ourselves to prevent this from deteriorating a precious union.

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

It is the truth in love. It is every member of the body of God’s people realising that they have a particular gift from the Lord that they will use and exercise in love for one another. Every joint (every member) supplies something to make the body function sweetly. Maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

We fall so easily off that track of building up each other in love. We concentrate heavily on the do’s and don’ts because we are trying to protect the foundation principles while we fall away from that other element; the truth as it is in Jesus. That was what the prayer of Jesus was about in John 17, to understand that they may be one even as the Father and the Son are one.

May God keep this very fresh in our minds that those descriptions of the attacks of Satan are clear in our minds yet not to become paranoid about Satan. But as we relate together and we sense some estrangements happening to us, we may recognise Satan at work and resist him by prayer and by focus upon Jesus. May this be our determination and then listen carefully as we go through each subject. God help us to focus diligently.

Amen.

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Posted on October 6, 2013, in Learning the Lessons of Unity in Christ. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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