2. Jesus the Focus of All Standards

By John Thiel, The Last Generation Challenge Series, mp3

Scripture reading: John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. … 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do, do all to the glory of God. We will pursue a very close, step-by-step research of the fact that whatever we do in any detail is to be to the glory of God. But as I venture forward into a research of the dos and don’ts of God’s expectations, I always shudder because over the years I have discovered that the consequence of highlighting the dos and don’ts are frequently that it unleashes a whole sequence of legalism that develops in my hearers. The danger we face in upholding the instructions of God’s word is that we fall away from focusing upon the source of those instructions.

We want to focus upon the source of those standards and principles that we are to live by. This source is none other but Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a very obedient life to His Father in heaven, He sanctified Himself so that we might be sanctified through the truth. He says, Sanctify them through thy truth. Our danger is that we will concentrate so much on the truth that we segregate the person Jesus Christ from that truth. Jesus makes this point:

John 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Our study is to be Jesus. Our study is to hear what Jesus is saying to us, and what He went through so that He could be perfect and a perfect example for us, so that we could follow His example and be perfect. Indeed, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do – whatever we do – do it all to God’s glory. To be sanctified by Him, to be sanctified as Jesus was sanctified. Our study is to study the truth about Him, and of Him. Because did He not say, I am the way, the truth, and the life? I do not want to share one sermon on these high standards that God wants us to put into practice without constantly appreciating the beauty of Christ as our personal Friend, our personal Saviour. “How shall I follow Him I serve, how shall I copy Him I love?” This is the question that is raised. We want to truly follow His example, to be sanctified by the truth that describes Him, not merely the truth of what is right and what is wrong.

Jesus sanctified Himself; and what is written in regards to this?

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

He talks about the corruptions of the evil people and He says, Don’t walk like them anymore. But He doesn’t just say, Put your life into order according to these principles! No, rather He says, “You have not so learned Christ.” He is saying that you are to learn Christ in contrast to the wrongs.

Ephesians 4:21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

This is the key word. The truth as it is in Jesus. We must study Jesus so we can appreciate the truth as it is in Him.

Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Our focus all the way through in reaching the high standards and putting the life into harmony with God’s will, whatever we do, whether we eat, or drink, or dress, or speak, or behave, whatever it is, is that it will all be to God’s glory. As we go into the detail of each segment, we must see it as it is in Jesus. We must never lose sight of Him.

The truth as it is in Jesus is of the most vital importance for our salvation. Outside of Jesus we can still have truth but be lost. It’s an amazing disaster:

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}

I have seen so many falls happen over the years by people who have picked up on the truth of Adventism, on the truth of the standards and principles, and they still fall. I have often asked myself, Why are we falling? Why is this going wrong? Because “they have it not as it is in Jesus.” They have the truth, but they don’t have it as it is in Jesus.

A moment’s carelessness may plunge a soul into irretrievable ruin. One sin leads to the second, and the second prepares the way for the third, and so on. We must, as faithful messengers of God, plead with Him constantly to be kept by His power. If we swerve a single inch from duty, we are in danger of following on in a course of sin that will end in perdition. {Ibid.}

This is the terrible danger that we fall into as Seventh-day Adventists, and especially as reformers. We can have all the truth that has been stipulated in God’s word, but we don’t have it as it is in Jesus, and therefore we will make falls – terrible falls. I have seen this happening around me. And I have often been pleading with the Lord, Help us to understand the connection between Jesus and all the dos and don’ts of God’s standards and ways. I am praying that this series I will be sharing will be clearly understood as it is in Jesus.

If we teach the truth according to our own ways, we shall see that there will not always be perfect harmony as there should be. {7BC 914.9}

You can preach the truth but in your own way. I can be preaching the truth in my own way and not get the harmony.

But if we teach the truth as it is in Jesus, we shall teach it in the spirit of the true Educator; {Ibid.}

This has always been my cry, Not legislation, but education. “If we teach the truth as it is in Jesus, we shall teach it in the spirit of the true Educator;”

…and we will not have various opinions, and cling to our own ideas with tenacity, {Ibid.}

Isn’t that true? You get on to the subject of the truth and people come up with all their different opinions, and they haven’t got the right spirit behind it all, and we start to judge one another and to pick on one another and all the rest of it – it’s the truth, but it’s tearing us apart.

we will not have various opinions, and cling to our own ideas with tenacity, but we will see eye to eye. {Ibid.}

This is the prayer of Christ, that we will see eye to eye, that we will be truly united, because we have the truth as it is in Jesus. As the scripture of John says, as Jesus sanctified Himself, we need to study that because that is the truth of sanctification by faith as it is in Jesus. The faith as it is in Jesus, the faith of Jesus. All this needs to be clearly impregnated in our understanding.

Where then should be our focus? In the truth or in Jesus? It’s nearly a conflict of thought, isn’t it? Jesus says, I am the truth; so if you are going to study the truth without Jesus, you are going to miss out. But if you study Jesus, you will study the truth. Many focus on the truth, but fail because they study the truth and take Jesus for granted. I don’t know whether you have actually experienced that, but you can so easily fall into that. You can study the truth and take Jesus for granted. You don’t even mention Him anymore, it’s all just His doctrines; and something is missing.

If we swerve a single inch from duty, we are in danger of following on in a course of sin that will end in perdition. There is hope for every one of us, but only in one way, and that is by binding ourselves to Christ, and exerting every energy to attain to the perfection of His character. {5T 540.1}

We must put our whole human effort into it, every energy, to attain to the perfection of His character. Because there is only one hope for us – binding ourselves to Christ, so that Jesus becomes everything to me. And everything that has to do with Him and with our affections wrapped up in Him, will cause me to obey everything He says and does.

Binding Myself to Christ

He says, I sanctify Myself so that they might be sanctified through the truth – I sanctify Myself so that they will study the truth about Me.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The very God of peace sanctify you how much? Wholly, totally. This is the true holistic understanding, not the “holistic” medicine of the naturopathy of today. They have a lot in common with the holistic work of God, but still Jesus is missing. Our whole spirit and soul and body are to be preserved blameless. This opens up an amazing thought. Preserved blameless? But aren’t we sinful? Aren’t we failing Him in different places? If we believe in the justification of Christ’s righteousness, then we are blameless even though we are still imperfect. This is why it says preserved – God wants to preserve us in justification, to teach us to be sanctified and to follow Christ’s example. This is the important thing, to be preserved blameless until the coming of the Lord, and that we will continue to persevere together in following Jesus as our wonderful Saviour.

1 Thessalonians 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

To possess my body in sanctification – I should to learn to know this. Keep me in justification, but teach me sanctification. I am to know how to keep my vessel in sanctification and honour.

The truth must sanctify the whole man—his mind, his thoughts, his heart, his strength. His vital powers will not be consumed upon his own lustful practices. These must be overcome, or they will overcome him (Letter 108, 1898). {7BC 909.6}

This begins to lead you in application. What is it? The truth must sanctify me wholly, completely, and I must have it as it is in Jesus. What does that mean? My mind. Where is my mind? Is my mind with Jesus, or is it just with the dos and don’ts? Sanctify me in my mind, my thoughts, my heart, my strength, so that I will be focused upon the source of sanctification.

Sanctification–how many understand its full meaning? The mind is befogged by sensual malaria. The thoughts need purifying. What might not men and women have been had they realized that the treatment of the body has everything to do with the vigor and purity of mind and heart. {7BC 909.7}

Here you can see that for me to really be sanctified completely, I need to follow Jesus and deal with my bodily functions, my bodily behaviour, according to Him; otherwise I’m not going to be sanctified. That is the reason for this question, How many understand the full meaning of sanctification? You can see how important this subject is. Jesus said, I sanctify Myself that they might be sanctified through the truth – sanctified wholly. For a person to truly understand this important subject,

God’s will is to be diligently and conscientiously studied, and it must be made paramount in all the affairs of life. {2SM 216.3}

Sanctify me wholly. In all the affairs of life we are to give God the glory. In the affairs of my body, in the affairs of my relationships with people, everything is to be placed under God’s will and be sanctified. In this sanctification “God’s will is to be diligently and conscientiously studied.” But once again you hear those words and you start to think, I must be diligent! I must be conscientious! But look how this can be segregated from a living union with Jesus. This is one of the tricks of our human mind. “I am going to be very diligent now, I’m going to do what He tells me to do;” and while I’m diligently and conscientiously pursuing a sanctified deliberation, I can lose sight of Jesus.

Many who are really conscientious, and who desire to live for God, he [Satan] 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}

What? I am really conscientious and I see what I must do, and then, as I see what I must do, I begin to think, “Oh, but this is hard, I am so weak, I have failed here, I have failed there, and here I am struggling with great diligence to correct myself, and I keep on seeing weakness and failure.” What happens? Satan comes along and says, “See?” Your thoughts already condemn you and he comes along with the extra load of condemnation, and what happens? You lose sight of Jesus! And it amplifies itself because when I lose sight of Jesus and I know what I’ve got to do, it’s even worse. You read Sr. White’s writings, you read all the dos and don’ts that are given us, and you become the most judgmental person upon yourself and upon others; and you’ve lost sight of Jesus. We are so diligently and conscientiously focusing on the works of God’s will that our bond with Him is not there.

I shudder in even going into the details of every affair of life because I know what happens so quickly to us. We become so conscientious that we lose sight of Jesus. This is why we’ve lost so many people in our ranks. I know it’s that reason because I’ve seen it happening in front of me. People begin to hack around on each other, and this does not belong in the sanctification experience. It doesn’t belong at all. That is what happened to the Ephesus’ church period. What did Jesus say? I have something against you. What was it? You have left your first love. What did those who lost their first love do?

But the early Christians began to look for defects in one another. {8T 241.3}

Is that easy to do with the high standards that we have? “Oh, somebody is not doing what we should be doing.” “After all that you’ve heard, why aren’t you doing it??” Have you ever thought that? You’ve lost sight of Jesus straight away.

Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and of the great love He had revealed for sinners. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory of the faith, {Ibid.}

More particular about truth, about the theory of it, and they study into the details of that. And as they became more and more particular in that, they also became

…more severe in their criticisms. In their zeal to condemn others they forgot their own errors. {Ibid.}

If we see our own errors we often fall into the trap of thinking, Well, the other person is just as bad as me, if not worse! We cover ourselves with that. This is what happens when we lose sight of Jesus.

They forgot the lesson of brotherly love that Christ had taught. And, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. {Ibid.}

Isn’t that Laodicea? You do not know that you wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

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

Remember? “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. … the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” Is that the glory of the Lord seen upon us when we walk in darkness because we have lost sight of Jesus? And yet we’re dressing right, we’re eating right, we’re doing everything according to the dos and don’ts, but we’ve lost sight of Jesus. This is the dilemma. Here was Apostle Paul’s dilemma when he was a very fastidious follower of the dos and don’ts:

Philippians 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day,

Weren’t they supposed to be circumcised back in the Old Testament? Yes, he did exactly right.

Philippians 3:5 …of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

What? Blameless according to the law, doing it all according to the law and still something seriously wrong. Notice the contrast to this:

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

What can actually happen is that the flesh jumps in and says, I am doing it so right now, Jesus, come and accept me. That is the flesh, I am doing it just right.

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

Can you see him now? “I have Christ, that is more important.”

Philippians 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, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

I must have the truth as it is in Christ, the faith of Jesus, the faith that was in Him.

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

Then he continues to say that he hasn’t attained yet, he is still reaching for it. But this one thing I do, he says, I press toward the mark, and I am keeping Jesus as the central focus of all my efforts.

With our focus on Jesus Christ as the total example of my life, and never losing Him out of the equation, all the aspects of sanctification that are necessary will be taken care of.

You know, as we are to be sanctified we have to see ourselves sinful, don’t we? We must see ourselves sinful, otherwise we can’t be sanctified; then we must be clothed with Christ’s righteousness in the process of justification and sanctification; and we must submit ourselves to be changed into the practice of God and His will; and my repentance is meant to deepen so that I can put away all the wrongs in my life and can be found without sin – all these things I must do. I must see myself as I really am, I must clothe myself with His character, I must submit to be changed, I must deepen in my repentance. As I study all that, I begin to think, Okay, I have to do that, I have to do this, I have to do the other thing, etc. We’re on the wrong track already when we start to brace ourselves into focusing on what I must do. In fact, when I see myself I begin to become disheartened and I lose sight of Jesus; but when you look at Jesus, what do you see?

You Will See Yourself as Sinful

You don’t have to submit yourself to the condemnation of the devil. He says, “See? You’re supposed to be like Jesus, look at you;” and you crumble, and you lose your hope. Don’t listen to what the devil is saying, look at Jesus, concentrate on Him, He’ll take care of that one.

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. {COL 159.1}

The early church didn’t realise they had lost sight of Jesus.

While speaking to God of poverty of spirit, the heart may be swelling with the conceit of its own superior humility and exalted righteousness. In one way only can a true knowledge of self be obtained. We must behold Christ. {Ibid.}

Study Him, then a true knowledge of yourself will be found. There is no other way.

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. {Ibid.}

So if I must see myself as I really am, I don’t look at myself and the law. I look at Jesus, and I will see myself as I really am. What will I see?

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.}

Here is the first step by which we can be saved: To see myself as I really am. And I can’t do it merely by studying the dos and don’ts, by studying the law. Because if I study the law on its own, without studying Jesus, this will be the result – I will be thinking, Wow, according to the law, I’m keeping the Sabbath, I am doing all the things that God is saying, as I see it, but not as Jesus is. We are to study Jesus and the truth of the law as it is in Him. Then we shall see ourselves as we really are.

When I need to be justified and I see myself as I really am, hopeless and sinful, condemned as the veriest sinner, then the scripture of Isaiah 43 comes into focus, because I am looking to Jesus.

Covered With Christ’s Righteousness

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called [thee] by thy name; thou [art] mine.

When I feel so totally overwhelmed because of Christ’s righteousness in contrast to mine, by focusing on Jesus and listening to Him, I hear Him say, “O Jacob, you are going through Jacob’s trouble, aren’t you? Fear not, I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” And as I believe in spite of my hopeless, overwhelmed sense of guiltiness that comes upon me because I see Christ’s perfect righteousness, He says, Look, I have redeemed you, accept My grace.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.

What the early Christians lost sight of was the love of Jesus, and they lost joy. How many, many conscientious Christians I have seen losing their joy. There has to be joy in the Christian life! So we try to make ourselves joyful; no, you can’t, you have to look to Jesus. Because in all the recognition of your and my ungodly behaviour and character, He says, “You are crying to Me? I am your Redeemer; I will cover you with My righteousness.” And now, what joy. I have no sense of condemnation anymore because I have looked to Jesus.

It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God’s law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. {SC 62.2}

What joy. But how can you get to that? Only as you take hold of Jesus. “If you give yourself to Him.” But you can only give yourself to Him when you see, through Him, how wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked you really are. Then you will say, “I can’t! I’m really hopeless here! Thank you for covering me.” And now that I am covered by Christ’s righteousness I am made pliable. By beholding Jesus I am now able to actually learn to look upon Him and submit to Him. By beholding I am going to be changed. I’ve got so far by beholding Jesus, and now that I am covered by His righteousness I have to be changed. Keep on looking.

As one becomes acquainted with the history of the Redeemer, he discovers in himself serious defects; his unlikeness to Christ is so great that he sees the necessity for radical changes in his life. Still he studies with a desire to become like his great Exemplar. {6BC 1098.6}

He is looking to Jesus, and what is he catching?

He catches the looks, the spirit, of his beloved Master. By beholding, by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” he becomes changed into the same image. {Ibid.}

You don’t have to worry about changing, because as you look at Him, your Redeemer who has covered you by His righteousness, beholding Him you become changed.

It is not by looking away from Him that we imitate the life of Jesus, but by talking of Him, by dwelling upon His perfections, by seeking to refine the taste and elevate the character, by trying–through faith and love, and by earnest, persevering effort–to approach the perfect Pattern. {6BC 1098.7}

It’s not by looking away! Satan comes and along and says, “See what a wretched man you are? You’re so conscientious and you’re trying so hard, but you’re not going to make it, look at you.” What is he doing? He is trying to take your eyes off Jesus. But if you continue to look upon Jesus after He has shown you how wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked you are, He reveals to you, Look, now you feel so bad, look to Me, I am your Redeemer, I am going to cover you with My righteousness; and now that you’re covered, you have joy, and you are no more incapacitated by your failure because you have joy, you have gratitude. This is the reality. When the heart is filled with gratitude it can perform.

The people in the world know that. They see the stiff, starchy people and someone comes into their life and they make people come away from the stiff and starchy way. Then their life starts filling with joy, and all of a sudden their stiff and starchy way drops off and they are sweet, happy people – joyful. This is what we as Christians ought to have; we have Jesus there to take away our misery, our stiff and starchy ways, as Apostle Paul discovered. Through faith and love, and by earnest, persevering effort, we want to approach the perfect Pattern because we are catching His looks, His spirit; we are actually having a precious relationship with the perfect Jesus.

By having a knowledge of Christ–His words, His habits, and His lessons of instruction–we borrow the virtues of the character we have so closely studied, and become imbued with the spirit we have so much admired. Jesus becomes to us “the chiefest among ten thousand,” the One “altogether lovely” (RH March 15, 1887). {6BC 1098.7}

How little people talk about Jesus. They talk about rights and wrongs, they talk about this, that and the other thing, but Jesus, where is He? in our conversation? in our joy to describe what we have found in Him? This needs to be our concentration and our focus. Then we will change. No other way. As we know that we have to change, and we know that we have many things that are still imperfect in our character, our repentance must deepen.

Deepening Repentance

Jesus is everything to us.

Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just [is] as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ. {SC 65.1}

The less we see to esteem in ourselves, the more we shall see to esteem in the infinite purity and loveliness of our Saviour. A view of our sinfulness drives us to Him who can pardon; and when the soul, realizing its helplessness, reaches out after Christ, He will reveal Himself in power. The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more fully we shall reflect His image. {SC 65.2}

My repentance will deepen, I will be growing brighter and brighter unto the perfect day because my character defects will be revealed to me, and they will be repented of because I am looking at the beauty of Jesus and I love Him, and I just shun those character defects. And they will drop off, because I am looking at Jesus.

The Holy Spirit never leaves unassisted a soul who is looking to Jesus. It takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to the seeker. And if the eye is kept fixed upon Jesus, the work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image. {ST, September 27, 1899 par. 9}

The Holy Spirit will continue to work with us until the soul is conformed to His image. But we have to look.

Through the gracious influence of the Spirit the sinner is changed in spirit and purpose, till he becomes one with Christ. His affection for God increases; he hungers and thirsts for righteousness, and by beholding Christ he is changed from glory to glory, from character to character, and becomes more and more like his Master. {Ibid.}

We are character builders, aren’t we? That is how it happens.

Christ is formed within, {Ibid.}

The only thing we have to fear on our part is that we shall not keep our eyes continually fixed upon Jesus, {2SM 273.1}

What is the only thing I have to fear? That I shall not keep my eyes continually fixed upon Jesus.

As we pursue the studies of God’s word for us to understand what He is telling us to do, let us not become legalistic, but let us have a Christ-centred path of perfect obedience to all He has stated to us. Then we can grasp hold of the dos because we see the lovingkindness, the beautiful character, of Jesus shining through every activity. Whatever we do, we will do it to the glory of God – whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, it becomes paramount in all the affairs of life. So we need to study God’s word, and this is what we will be doing as we continue to spend time from week to week to understand His perfect will. This is my prayer that we will understand.


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Posted on 07/05/2016, in Divine Service Sermons, The Last Generation Challenge (Series). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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