Transfer of Theory into Practice

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We have already made experiences with the Lord. We have been washed from sin; that is why we have commenced our walk with Him. But we still need to understand more of His word in the process of sanctification and character building. This is one of the difficulties that even a born again Christian is challenged with. How to continue to gain practical help from the reading of God’s word? How to transfer the words on the page to our living experience? You know what it is like, I’m sure many times we have gone through experiences of having been informed, having gone through school; we have received knowledge intellectually, but when it comes to the doing of it, we still say, But how? We have information, but how to put it into practice is the question.

Then, when we are in such a position and we crave for some help to succeed in doing that – for instance, an apprentice has gone to school on something, but then, when he has to deal with the actual hands-on experience, he still doesn’t quite know. So there is a relief when someone comes and says, This is how you do it; and he very slowly shows you the workings of it. Slowly you put into practice; you learn to know how to do something, to actually experience the answer to your need and your question.

Jesus came to this planet to launch out His church by taking the disciples from their respective walks of life, and He engaged them in an apprenticeship. They didn’t know what true Christianity was really about, and Jesus had to show them by His living example.

It is in our experience in faith that we often have just such a dilemma. We hear from the sermons, we read the word, we are taught the doctrines, the teachings of the Bible – and there are many people that can recite the Scripture off by heart – but when it comes to learning to become perfect, without sin, there is a lot of lack of knowledge on how to do that, how to develop a perfect character.

We have gone through years of listening to the sermons of God’s word, and we have seen people falling away from it, from what they had once expressed with great enthusiasm to be wonderful. They had testified to it, and yet they walked away; yet they lost their reality of what they had once heard with enthusiasm.

There is this possibility of discussing the word. It’s very easy; you can discuss it from evening to morning and still miss out on doing in reality. But to walk the talk, as they say, when it comes to the action of the high calling that God has given us in His word through Jesus Christ, we find that there is much lacking. So it is my purpose to be able to get past that apparent balking experience of action upon God’s word, and to achieve that.

There is often a gap between what we hear in theory and what we can do about it.

The highest qualification of the mind will not, cannot, supply the place of true simplicity, of genuine piety. {OHC 203.2}

You can have a very intellectual mind, and yet genuine piety might be missing.

The Bible may be studied as a branch of human science would be; but its beauty, the evidence of its power to save the soul that believes, is a lesson that is never thus learned. {Ibid.}

This is the point. We can be reading the Bible and intellectually reciting and parroting, and expressing the clichés of salvation that are written in the Bible, but they are just clichés to the mind. So the lesson is not gained, the practical doing is not there.

If the practice of the Word is not brought into the life, then the sword of the Spirit has not wounded the natural heart. {Ibid.}

The word of God is meant to bring to death the natural heart and bring to life a new heart. This is what is written in the Bible, I will put a new heart within you. And people say, Isn’t it wonderful? But the practicality of that doesn’t happen. Why?

It has been shielded in poetic fancy. {Ibid.}

Wonderful words, poetry – and I fancy that to be true, but it’s not a practical reality. Why?

Sentimentalism has so wrapped it about that the heart has not sufficiently felt the keenness of its edge, {Ibid.}

The keenness of the edge of the power of the word,

…piercing and cutting away the sinful shrines where self is worshipped. . . . {Ibid.}

So what the word of God is meant to do doesn’t happen when the mind is just fascinated with the intellectual exercise and the poetic, sentimental fancy. It hasn’t really gone into the cutting and wounding of the natural heart.

Even an acquaintance with facts and theories important in themselves is of little value unless put to a practical use. {8T 316.4}

The word of God has to do some practical work within me. The following statement expresses this reading of the Bible from the perspective of intellectualism as opposed to reading it from the perspective of the heart.

The gospel does not address the understanding alone. If it did, we might approach it as we approach the study of a book dealing with mathematical formulas, which relate to the intellect alone…. Its aim is the heart. {OHC 105.2}

The natural heart is to be wounded. The sharp edge of the word is to pierce and cut away sinful shrines. So if you just study the Bible like a science book, or like a book dealing with mathematical formulas that will reach the intellect alone, then the heart has not been reached. This is what I have experienced all through my religious life. The majority of people who have gathered under the teachings that I have been under, have gone through an intellectual exercise; and after that… nothing. It used to puzzle me as a youth – I had listened to the most wonderful sermon, and it touched my heart and caused me to make changes in my life, and I went outside and I wanted to talk about it after the Divine Service, and what happened? Nobody talks about it. It’s as though we’ve just washed the dishes and now we’ve got to do what we’re doing, and we talk about everything else. It used to puzzle me, and it still puzzles me. The powerful word can be just passed over as an intellectual exercise, and that’s where it stops.

There are many who, in dwelling too largely upon theory, have lost sight of the living power of the Saviour’s example. They have lost sight of Him as the humble, self-denying worker. What they need is to behold Jesus. {8T 317.2}

We are to look and examine how Jesus shows us the way. Jesus is the one who is going to show us how; and we need to study carefully what He is saying.

It is not enough for ministers to present theoretical subjects; {3T 257.3}

To just present the theory in front of us;

…they should also present those subjects which are practical. They need to study the practical lessons that Christ gave His disciples and make a close application of the same to their own souls and to the people. {Ibid.}

What is the minister meant to do? He is meant to make close application of the word of God to his own soul and to the souls of the people. Close application. You know, if you’re going to do that, you’re going to lose a lot of people. This is the reason why we have lost a lot of people. The practical work, the touching on practical realities, in living exercise, is not comfortable.

What will open the portals of the heavenly city to our souls? How will we be saved? What is required for us, in practical terms, with the word of God?

Not even God can make our characters noble or our lives useful, unless we become co-workers with Him. {MH 487.2}

You see, we need to engage in practical co-partnership with God. Not even God can change us if we don’t do this. This is what people have been brought up to think, Don’t worry, God can do it. No, not even God can do it if the people that we are praying for, and labouring for, are not entering into a co-partnership, working together with God. Not even God can do it. All our prayers will come to naught. These are very important counsels from the Spirit of Prophecy.

…unless there is a co-operation of man’s will with God’s will, the Lord can do nothing for him. {Messenger, April 26, 1893 par. 3}

Isn’t that a frightening statement? God, who can do anything, can do nothing for the person who is not cooperating in his will with God’s will.

Though the Lord is the great Master-worker, yet the human agent has his part to act with the divine worker, or the heavenly building cannot be completed. All the power is of God; yet all the responsibility rests with the human agent, for God can do nothing without the co-operation of man. {Ibid.}

God can do nothing without the co-operation of man – that is serious.

As we handle the theory of the word, and we have a knowledge of the Bible, and we can recite Scripture – and we have studied the beautiful subject of the atonement of Jesus, the incarnation, the nature of Christ, we see Jesus. We hear people saying it, and we acknowledge it, we can understand it, “If Jesus didn’t really experience my experience, then how can He help me?” So we know that. And it’s a wonderful thought that Jesus was really in nature with us. But how do we apply that knowledge so that we can actually make progress in our spiritual experience with God? How can we transfer the knowledge that we have to our life experience?

Of what value is this scripture of Hebrews 5 to you and me?

Hebrews 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh,

In the days when Jesus was here in our flesh,

Hebrews 5:7 …when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Aren’t they lovely words? and a lovely thought. What a lovely thought is contained here. He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and He was made perfect, and became the author of eternal salvation. We read the experiences of the people in the Bible – good examples, and Jesus is the best of them of all – and the lovely thoughts that are contained there and many other statements like this, are very comforting too. “Oh, how nice. He was such a wonderful person. He’s my Saviour.”

They … say over and over again, “We give ourselves wholly to Christ,” {21MR 306.4}

“We give ourselves wholly to such a wonderful God.” But what is it? Those lovely thoughts, those lovely words, can be held at a distance from our living experience. Poetic fancy, sentimentalism, is aroused, and we enjoy those wonderful thoughts. But why are these words written here? Why?

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

Why was Christ’s experience written down? Remembering that God cannot do anything without us cooperating with Him, we see Jesus here, who was being made perfect, and He became the author. What is meant here? Why was this experience written for us? Because there is here an autobiography of Jesus, and if we are going to be saved, I have to actually translate His experience into mine, to make it real.

If someone gives you a book of instruction, what are you meant to do with it? You are meant to put it into effect, aren’t you? He is the author of salvation.

Christ alone had experience in all the sorrows and temptations that befall human beings. Never another of woman born was so fiercely beset by temptation; never another bore so heavy a burden of the world’s sin and pain. Never was there another whose sympathies were so broad or so tender. A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with, every burdened and tempted and struggling one. {Ed 78.6}

We read of this in Hebrews:

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

Succor: a companionship help. Why is this written? He went through these things so that whatever experience you may have, whatever it is – whether it is a burden of sickness, or a burden of responsibility, or a burden of not knowing the future and what I should do, whatever it is that you can identify yourself with, because it’s your experience – Jesus had it, everybody’s. You have someone there, it’s not just written about Him, it’s someone there who says, I will be with you, even unto the ends of the earth. I am going to help you, succor you, in your experience. He is the author of the path that I must walk. He is the one, after we read all the instructions of God’s word, who shows me the way. He is the one who will be the assistant to the apprentice, who will show me the activity I must go through to be saved.

John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Here we have someone wonderful in the Bible who will actually turn my inability to do anything, because I don’t know how, and will say, Look, I’m showing you, watch Me. Follow My activity. Jesus rose early in the morning and prayed. He opened His ear to hear. What is prayer? How can I pray all the time? It’s very easy; Jesus gave the example. Follow His example. Listen to God. Pray, ask Him, then listen, and follow the practical engagement that Jesus demonstrated. I love the Spirit of Prophecy, because what is it? It is the testimony of Jesus. We have wonderful expressions of Jesus in detail:

“I have given you an example,” He said to His disciples; “that ye should do as I have done.” “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” John 13:15; 15:10. Thus in His life, Christ’s words had perfect illustration and support. {Ed 78.7}

What Jesus teaches, He says, Look, I’m doing it, watch Me. Follow My example.

And more than this; what He taught, He was. His words were the expression, not only of His own life experience, but of His own character. Not only did He teach the truth, but He was the truth. It was this that gave His teaching, power. {Ibid.}

We are told that we are to look at Jesus; and that means to look on the page with the description of Jesus, and see how and what He was. And as I pray, as I communicate with God, cooperating with Him, learning from Jesus how to do that, God will be there as a person, as a friend. What must I do? As Jesus did. I must pray as Jesus prayed. And God will hear and respond, as He responded to Jesus. So I will follow Christ’s example, because He didn’t just teach; He lived what He taught. He walked the talk. If I want to walk the talk, I need to pick it up from Him.

He was in exactly the same flesh that you and I have, with the same temptations, and He was then condemned because He became laden with our guilt, and He died. That was an experience that we look at; and many people don’t go beyond that description of Him to actually pick up the following of Him.

Christ was crucified for fallen man. {SD 246.2}

We know it. Jesus hung on the cross. And people have pictures of Jesus hanging on the cross. The Catholic Church has it. And people say, “Oh! It’s so sad. He died for me.” Oh, how lovely. This is poetic fancy.

But to many who call themselves Christians this event is nothing. {Ibid.}


In practise they deny the cross of Christ. . . . They admit that Christ died on the cross, but because there is a crucifixion for them to experience, they will not receive the lessons that lead to self-denial and self-sacrifice. {Ibid.}

A lesson that Jesus demonstrated. When we look at the cross we are to study the lesson in which Jesus showed how to come out of our deplorable, sin-laden life. There at the cross, Jesus was laden with our iniquities, like I am laden with mine. And if I am going to transfer the picture of Jesus to my living experience, what must I do? Follow in His steps. There is a crucifixion for us to experience. But many will not receive the lesson that lead to self-denial and self-sacrifice, because people don’t like that part for them. They want Him to die for them, but they won’t die with Him. That’s the problem.

They are Christians in name only. The central point of their faith is not a crucified and risen Saviour, who brings to all that receive Him the privilege of being sons and daughters of God. {Ibid.}

It’s a privilege to become released from our guilt by following Christ into the death, and rising again with Him. Denying self. Self is our biggest problem. You examine it closely. When Jesus was laden with sins, He died, and we are called upon to die with Him. In life He was tempted and tried, like we are. And if we cooperate with the Master-worker, what will we do?

Those who overcome will follow the example of Christ by bringing bodily appetites and passion under the control of enlightened conscience and reason. {RH, March 4, 1875 par. 11}

The example of Christ, what was it? He had sinful flesh like us. He had all the temptations that we have. And instead of saying, Oh, isn’t He wonderful? and going on with what we’re doing, we will bring our bodily appetites and passions under the control of enlightened conscience and reason. What are passions? A passion is something that comes up within you, and you feel like exploding. Whether it is an indulgence, an anger, or a strong feeling of wanting to have something – these are the daily realities of our life, and Jesus exercised the enlightened conscience and reason, and overcame it in His sinful flesh that we gave Him, so that we can have a practical experience with Him and be saved.

If I want to be saved from personal guilt and hopeless condemnation, I can resign myself with Jesus, the Master-worker right beside me. He understood and He suffered with me; and I can die with Him. We are trying to get rid of guilt and condemnation, and how can we do it?

The heart of Christ is constantly drawn out in sympathy towards fallen man. While upon earth, his only mission was to save sinners; although He had a deep abhorrence of sin, He manifested the tenderest compassion towards the sinner. When the repenting sinner, conscious of guilt and unworthiness, comes to Christ, realising that he is deserving of punishment, {Messenger, April 12, 1893 par. 4}

When guilt comes upon you, you think, “Well, I’m not worthy, I cannot be saved from my wrong, from my indulgence, it’s not fair. I can’t accept the fact that someone else has to suffer because of me.” This is the kind of exercise that goes through our minds.

When the repenting sinner, conscious of guilt and unworthiness, comes to Christ, realising that he is deserving of punishment, but relying on the love and mercy of Christ, the pardoning love of God will be revealed to him, and joyful gratitude will spring up in his heart for the infinite compassion and love of his Saviour. {Ibid.}

This is the transferral from the page to your living experience. In my living experience I am overwrought with my guilt, and I am coming to God and saying, Oh dear, I know how wrong I am, I’m unworthy, I realise that I am deserving of punishment; and now I am looking to the cross and I see my sin and my punishment there upon the cross. As I engage my mind in living engagement with Him there, I rely on that love.

The provision made for him in the counsels of heaven before the foundation of the world, that Christ should take upon Him the penalty of his transgression, and impute to him his righteousness, will overwhelm him with amazement, and call forth from his lips songs of gratitude and adoration. {Ibid.}

What Jesus did at the cross for me, is a provision that was made in the counsels of heaven before the foundations of the world. When was the foundation of the world laid? Not at the time of Genesis 1, because the foundation was already there. In the beginning the earth was without form and void; it was there, with water upon it. The foundation was there. Then God created. But before that foundation was put there, what did we read? “The provision made for him in the counsels of heaven before the foundation of the world, that Christ should take upon Him the penalty of his transgression.” What does this generate in your mind? We have to stop and actually take it on board. God saw me before He even created life on this planet. He saw me with my guilt and my wrong, and he made provision for me. This will overwhelm us with amazement, and it will call forth a rejoicing in my heart. It will actually have a powerful impact to help me overcome my guilt, my unworthiness, and make me rejoice. Joyful gratitude will spring up in my heart for the infinite compassion and love of my Saviour.

How can I continue to go with miserable state of mind about my unworthiness and my character defects if I meditate on this reality? This is the drawing of Christ.

Those who respond to the drawing of Christ, through the sovereign mercy of God, are elected to be saved as the obedient children of God. Upon them is manifested the free grace of God, the great love wherewith He hath loved us. The Father sets his love upon his elect people, who live in the midst of men, because they accept the redemption which Christ has purchased for them by his own precious blood. Every one who will humble himself as a little child, {Messenger, April 12, 1893 par. 5}

What are we to do? Jesus said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Because a little child will just say, Thank you, Daddy. There won’t be any adult questions left. We are to lay ourselves before Him with the selflessness of a little child.

Every one who will humble himself as a little child, who will receive and obey the Word of God with a child’s simplicity, will be among the elect of God. {Ibid.}

Isn’t it easy to just read those lovely words, instead of letting them actually drench our inmost soul, to actually submit to all this?

Having now appreciated this in my daily life, in my daily frustrations of human beings with all their ways. Don’t you suffer under human relationships around you? You remember what it was like in parenthood, when baby won’t calm down. You are going insane, and thinking, When will that baby calm down? We’ve tried to calm it down and it won’t be benefitted from it. A child repeatedly disobeys. These are experiences that are very tempting and frustrating, and we need to have answers there. Or in a martial relationship – husband and wife are going through experiences which irk them about the other person. Have you ever experienced it? Someone that you really love, you suddenly irk? Or a son with his mother, a mother with her daughter – I love her! But she is so ridiculous at the moment! These are the living realities that we go through. Circumstances that crush us in the midst of daily living, things going wrong around me – and it’s there that we are to appreciate the living Jesus. What did we read?

Christ alone had experience in all the sorrows and temptations that befall human beings. Never another of woman born was so fiercely beset by temptation; never another bore so heavy a burden of the world’s sin and pain. Never was there another whose sympathies were so broad or so tender. A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with, every burdened and tempted and struggling one. {Ed 78.6}

Do we really take this on? When I’m going through my terrible personal suffering and circumstances and I can’t make sense of it, and it causes me to become morose and unChristlike, I must come out of all that; I must not stay there. And to come out of it quick smart, I must have a living engagement with what I have read on the page; and I can gain it by following the movement of the Spirit upon my mind. I need to appreciate that before the world was even created, before the foundation of the world, He saw me. He saw me going through my experiences, and He took it on, and He battled with it, to show me the way, so that whatever people do to me, whatever they say about me, even though it hurts me to the core! – and it’s especially sorrowful when it’s your husband or wife, and it really churns you – Jesus experienced it. And I am amazed, and I think, I can overcome this. I don’t have to stay down there.

This happens in the church too. That’s the reason why people have left us, because they saw too many wrongs amongst us. But Jesus saw wrongs among the disciples too. They fled and forsook Him. Imagine what He went through. He forgave them. He continued to move on.

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith;

What was He? He was the author and finisher of our faith,

Hebrews 12:2 …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him

I want to really nail this deeply into our conscience. As we are going through our miserable experiences of relationship conflicts, consider Him

Hebrews 12:3 …that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Have you ever felt like fainting? Spiritually, mentally, emotionally? I can’t anymore! This is too much. I can’t cope with all these different relationship conflicts. Consider Him. He went through with it. Consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Hebrews 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

As He did… What a beautiful exercise that we need to take hold of. And not even God can do it, unless we cooperate with Jesus, as He cooperated with us. That’s the story, isn’t it? He cooperated with us in our guilt, our temptations and sorrows, and He wants us to cooperate with Him in the example of it.

To live a practical Christian life, to know how, is to watch the Master-worker at the very moment of personal anguish, and cast yourself with Him upon the Father’s help. In the very moment of my personal anguish, when everything is crashing down around me and I can’t see my way through, I see Jesus. I look to Him and I appreciate the fact that He is suffering this with me, and He suffered it before the foundation of the world was laid. We are to cast ourselves upon the Father’s help right there and then; I am not to permit the anguish of my soul to take over, but to look at Jesus and let that take over.

We must do it. There is no other way of salvation. This is the only way. This is intent of the scripture of Philippians. Apostle Paul says, I haven’t quite got there yet. I haven’t apprehended. The word apprehend means to take hold of this and make it my own.

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

What was it that he had to apprehend?

Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:

The things I have just described are the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Apostle Paul says, Wow, I’ve given up everything just to know that.

Philippians 3:8 …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: 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. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Jesus apprehended me, and I want to apprehend Him. I haven’t got it perfect yet, but I’m going to keep it on doing it. This is the call for us in these last days.

It is my prayer that, as we have to go through all of our tests and trials in this present world with all its mind-bending contortions of mental trauma, we may keep our mind focused on the wonderful love of God. You know, you something come to the point when you think, Oh, I need counselling here. You know what the counsellors do? The psychologists who will try to assist you, say to their patients to help them relieve their internal stress, I want you to think about something beautiful, I want you to think about something pleasant. They teach you the exercise of the power of positive thinking to get rid of your stresses. Well, here is the greatest counsellor to think of something beautiful when you’re going through the most mind-bending oppression:

We must not give up at the defilement that is in the human race and ever keep that before the mind’s eye. {1888 75.5}

The mind’s eye – it’s not in front of you at the time; it’s something that you’ve gone through, and your mind is continually playing it out. Don’t do it.

We must not look at that. {Ibid.}

Like the counsellors will say, Don’t look at that, look at something beautiful. Here it is.

What then are we to do? What is our work?–To behold “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.” Do not let the blighting influences that are flooding the world be the picture that is before the mind, but hold up the purity and love of God. Do not hang in memory’s hall pictures of all the corruption and iniquity that you can bundle together. No, do not do it. {Ibid.}

Because that’s what we do. We actually do it, don’t we? It comes upon us and we go on and indulge ourselves in thinking about it. Don’t do it.

It discourages the mind. A discouraged man is good for nothing. Just get the mind off these dark pictures by talking of God’s love, and you may hang memory’s halls with the brightest pictures that you can imagine. {Ibid.}

We want to keep the perfect Pattern before us. God was so good as to send a representation of Himself in His Son Jesus Christ, and we want to get the mind and heart to unfold and reach upward. {1888 76.1}

We have painted some beautiful pictures in this message. We can swoon over these pictures in poetic fancy, but we don’t keep them there. But instead we must actually keep this beautiful picture. And let us remember that before the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus saw me; and instead of saying, Well, I’m not even going to create them if they’re doing to do that, He said, That’s alright, I’m going to give Myself as his Helper. As we meet the madness of these last days, brethren and sisters, there is so much that you can look at, so much that you can describe in your mind’s eye and in your conversation with people – don’t do that! That’s what it says. Don’t do that. Fill your mind with the amazing things, and gaze upon that which we have gained here in this message, and which we have gained in our previous studies. Occupy your mind with Jesus.

Let us unitedly make this our mandate, our priority of action, so God will have us ready for Christ’s appearing, and we will know how to transfer what is written on the pages of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy to our living experience. Let us go to and do that.


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Posted on 15/09/2016, in Divine Service Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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