Focusing on God’s Love

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

We have a desire to come to a point when sin (which is the breaking of the God’s commandments) would cease and we would come to a point of obedience to all of God’s will. A heart that has fallen in love with God through that beautiful story of the gospel, is indeed hungering and thirsting for a pure and holy life, to do God’s will. That is why we sing those words:

One thing I of the Lord desire,
For all my paths have miry been,
Be it by water or by fire,
O make me clean, O make me clean.


I want to be made clean, and to be clean means to keep God’s commandments.

So wash me Thou, without, within,
Or purge with fire, if that must be,
No matter how, if only sin
Die out in me, die out in me.

I want to be clean, to be right, no matter how, if only God would cleanse me. But I don’t seem to succeed. The reason why we feel this way, why we don’t seem to get rid of some of these horrible sensations of our fallen condition, is written in the following words:

Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

It is because of sin that we are in a condition which is a law. It is the law of heredity inside of us. And to correct this, because we love Jesus and because we want to obey God, we become distracted because of our condition and we make some regulations in our life. We begin to become very deliberate in reaching that position of doing what God wants us to do, and we do it by rigid self-discipline. We fall into that danger of the atmosphere of a legalistic austerity. We fall into this danger of really making that effort, and in making that effort we put certain regulations upon ourselves, to make sure that I will get there.

Rules and Regulations

…seeing that they fail to keep the law, they will devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey. {MB 123.1} 

Because we are trying hard to keep the law we put certain disciplinary legislations upon ourselves, devising rules and regulations so that we will force ourselves to obey.

All this turns the mind away from God to self. His love dies out of the heart, and with it perishes love for his fellow men. {Ibid.}

This statement is a very serious reality that I have watched taking place in the lives of so many who have once rejoiced in the love of God, but then have gotten into a state of trying to reach that perfection; and in trying to reach it, the love of God dies out of the heart. It’s a strange thing.

The story of the early Christian church coincides exactly with that. Jesus said to them, I have something against you: you have lost your first love. These believers loved Jesus, they loved the power of the message, and they wanted to obey God’s will, but they began to devise rules and regulations of their own to force themselves to obey, and thus the mind was turned away from God to self, and His love died out. This is what happens when the love dies out:

…gradually a change came. The believers began 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. 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}

We lose love to God when we try so hard to keep the commandments by forcing ourselves to try and keep them. Because as we try to keep them by forcing ourselves and putting regulations across our mind-set, we lose sight of God and self comes into the picture. There is this pivoting point where, in trying to do His will, we begin to look to me instead of God. We often say, Yes, that’s pharisaism; but the early Christian church was not pharisaical until they began to lose sight of the love of God by this process of really trying to keep God’s will, to do what God wanted them to do.

Looking Upon Christ

God has purchased our will by appealing to our affections in giving us Jesus Christ. When we look at the cross, when we see the beautiful story of redemption, and as we see how God has poured out the treasury of heaven in giving us Jesus Christ, our affections are drawn to Him. This meditation of Christ and our affections being drawn to Him, is the only power that we can exercise. There is no other power that is going to get us there. As the hymn says, Pure I am not. I’ve tried, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but I’m not pure. What am I to do? We now want to understand God’s will of love. God creates love in us by making us look at the mercy and goodness of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. As through Christ every human being has life, so also through Him every soul receives some ray of divine light. Not only intellectual but spiritual power, a perception of right, a desire for goodness, exists in every heart. But against these principles there is struggling an antagonistic power. The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience. {Ed 29.1}

I am not pure; why? Because the result of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience. This is our struggle.

There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist. To withstand this force, to attain that ideal which in his inmost soul he accepts as alone worthy, he can find help in but one power. That power is Christ. Co-operation with that power is man’s greatest need. {Ibid.}

This language is so important. We need to pick up on every vein of thought that is generated here. The force that is in us, the dilemma that we have sung of, Pure I am not, is because there is something inside of me which, unaided, I cannot resist. I can force myself as much as I like, it’s not going to be achieved. The answer is given us here. That ideal that I’m trying to reach in my inmost soul I can find in but one power. That power is Christ. Co-operation with that power is man’s greatest need. When it says it is my greatest need, then, if that is clear in my mind, am I going to refer to anything else but that which is going to give me the strength?

In all educational effort should not this co-operation be the highest aim? {Ibid.}

This is what we want to appreciate. If I try any other way by which I am going to be able to reach God’s perfect will, perfect obedience, it’s not going to work. It must be through this, educating my mind to look upon Christ. If I do it any other way, what will be my problem? If I use any other method but the focus upon the great love of Jesus that started me off in the first place and that caused me to want to obey Him, what will be my problem? Now that I am there, what must I do? Continue. But if I do it by anything else, what will happen to me? It will be a legal religion.

A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. {1SM 388.1}

The Ten Commandments are not a legal thing; it is a relationship. It is love. And the love that we behold in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only motive that is going to bring about a perfect obedience.

The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. {Ibid.}

The words of Jesus to the Pharisees are addressed to those who have lost from the heart their first love. So it is pharisaism then.

A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. When fastings and prayers are practiced in a self-justifying spirit, they are abominable to God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposed sacrifice– all proclaim to the world the testimony that the doer of these things considers himself righteous. … By beholding Christ, you will become changed, until you will hate your former pride, your former vanity and self-esteem, your self-righteousness and unbelief. {Ibid.}

The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. He who drinks from the water of the fountain of life, will be filled with the new wine of the kingdom. Faith in Christ will be the means whereby the right spirit and motive will actuate the believer, {Ibid.}

This is the contrast that is revealed to us here. I love God, therefore I want to obey Him, then I look at myself and I try so hard to obey Him and use my own human methods, and I become absorbed with self, whether I am going to obey those commandments and whether I can see myself obeying them, and I lose my first love. Then comes legalism; and I need to reconnect myself with Jesus because I’ve lost sight of Him.

When our will, our affections, and our mind are purchased by the beautiful gift of Jesus, what is the operative power that now propels my actions? What is it that, in my relationship with Jesus, is going to be motivating me to keep those commandments from a different motive than just me trying so hard to keep them, like by a human-self-pharisaical process?

In our previous message (The Judgment Has Set) we have meditated upon the compassion that God has given us because we fail. By that compassion that we experience from God we can then have compassion on others. We are now looking at the same compassion that is expended upon us and that will generate something within me to lead me to love and obey God’s commandments, not under self, but by the compassion that God reveals.

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.

It is God who works in me to do, and even to will. So the moment I turn to self, I won’t succeed, will I? It is God that I have to concentrate on, because He is the one who works like that.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:

Even faith is not of yourselves.

Ephesians 2:8 …[it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It is God who works in me, and I must relate myself to God. I must focus my full attention upon Him because it is He that does the work inside of me. I am His workmanship, created where? In Christ Jesus. It’s not of myself. It is something that is generated by my focus upon God. The moment I look away from that, into me, concentrating on my job, I lose myself. This is something that we need to discover inwardly, inside of ourselves. What am I doing inside of myself when it comes to expectations of reaching for perfection? Am I so concentrating on my task that I lose sight of Jesus? Or am I concentrating on the task of looking to Jesus and beholding His beautiful love so that this works within me to make the changes in my life? This is what we are being told here. God has ordained that we should walk in those things, but how are we going to walk in those things? It says we are created in Christ Jesus unto those good works.

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight,

How?

Hebrews 13:20 …through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever.

This is the skill of reaching perfection. I look, not to myself as to what I can do, but to God, and I see Jesus, and I behold Him; and as I keep on beholding Him closely and watching Him and being affected by this amazing love that God is demonstrating in Him, then God in Jesus Christ is working in me that which is well pleasing in His sight. It is a very interesting exercise away from myself. To do His will, what He is pleased with – that is the issue. And we ask ourselves the question, “What am I doing, am I pleasing Him? Oh, I better try and please Him.” But we miss the point again. Look to Him. We fall so easily off the wrong side of that pivoting point, and we start thinking of me with my human concentration, instead of God’s beautiful power working within me.

The Father sets His love upon His elect people who live in the midst of men. These are the people whom Christ has redeemed by the price of His own blood; and because they respond to the drawing of Christ, through the sovereign mercy of God, they are elected to be saved as His obedient children. {AG 142.4}

What is the only thing that I should concentrate on? I need to respond to the drawing of Christ, through the sovereign mercy of God. Then we are elected to be saved as His obedient children.

Upon them is manifested the free grace of God, the love wherewith He hath loved them. Everyone 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.}

What sort of a simplicity? That is why Jesus said, Unless you become converted and become as a little child, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This causes me to think deeply about what our problem is as adults who have gone through childhood and have grown up in a battle with adults around us who have been very hard on us. A little child relies so dependently upon his parents. The child is being looked after by his parents; he has no worries really. I remember my childhood and as I look back, I didn’t worry where the next meal was going to come from; I didn’t worry about anything, everything was being provided for me by my parents. Then as I grew up and I had children of my own, I realised more fully how nice it is to be a child. Now I had to look after my children, I had got to provide food for them – and there was quite a few of them. And the Lord taught me, Trust Me, you will be able to provide for your children if you become a child under My care. You just let me provide for you, and you will be able to provide for your children. This is the principle that lies behind the way to conquer my sinful self.

We respond to the drawing of Christ, and we receive the grace of God, His provision, His love wherewith He has loved us in Jesus Christ. As we bask in that love, instead of worrying that I have sinned and that I can’t reach perfection, I am actually to respond to the provisions of God’s grace, His love; and as we humble ourselves as little children, we will receive and obey the word of God with a child’s simplicity, and then we will be among the elect of God.

A child’s simplicity – I love to obey Him, He’s my daddy. I will just be childlike; that’s what is expected of me, I will do it. No conflict. It’s because I love my heavenly Father. I am to respond to the drawing of Christ, to humble myself as a little child, to obey the word of God with a child’s simplicity. Can this sink in? Can we understand what this is actually meant to be? It’s hard for us, isn’t it? Especially for those who have been brought up in a home where there was a lot of violence. It’s hard to put your head around that. But go right back before you experienced that violence, when you were just hanging on in dependence to your mother or your father.

Obeying with a Child’s Simplicity

Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

This isn’t saying, If you don’t keep the commandments of God you won’t get there; this is saying, Become as a little child; and if you don’t become as a little child, you won’t ever keep the commandments. That is what this is saying to us. We won’t even enter therein, because it is the childlike dependence on the grace of God that is going to produce the life that God wants me to live. Here lies the pivoting point. Instead of me trying to grab it and say, I can do it! like children start saying when they think they can do something better than their parents; instead of that, we say, Lord, I can’t do it, show me, reveal it to me, I am dependent on You. That is how we are going to get into heaven. There is the pivoting point – to receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child.

We must have less trust in what we ourselves can do, and more trust in what the Lord can do for and through us. {MH 513.4}

What He can do for me, and then what He can work through me – we need to have more trust in that, to trust Him like a little child.

You are not engaged in your own work; you are doing the work of God. Surrender your will and way to Him. Make not a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. Know what it is to be free in Christ. {Ibid.}

These are all beautiful words, but not easily put into practice. To be as a little child, to humble myself, I have to look to Jesus. And as I look there, that is what He did. He was the Majesty of the universe who came down and became a little child! What a meditation. And anything that He did on earth was in dependence on His Father in heaven. We see Him stilling the sea of Galilee, we see Him doing all those miracles, but those things were not something that He exercised His own power to do. He relied on His Father, and this is what we are to learn – to surrender as a little child, like Jesus did. Surrender your will and way to Him. Remember what He said? I can of my own self do nothing. O to watch Jesus, to learn the lesson that it is the surrender of myself to the Father in heaven that will solve my problems. I must not make a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. That comes back to that pivoting point – we have the love to God, and then we turn and think to ourselves, Now I’ve got to do; instead of staying there and surrendering myself. This is what we must do instead of bracing myself with my own energies and my own strength. We need to get that picture straight.

Make not a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. {Ibid.}

Self is out of it. I must have total childlike dependence.

Know what it is to be free in Christ. {Ibid.}

It’s a beautiful freedom. I have to keep on doing that. That pivoting point is there all the time in my own life. For a little moment I am in danger of falling off, but I catch myself, and I’m back again, “Just rest in the Lord… Ah, that was better, that’s freedom.” Then something else comes up and you think, “Oh, no, self is not to have anything to do with it. Stay there. Stay down, John, stay down.” And as I stay down, there is perfect peace, perfect freedom. But the moment that I pick up my responsibility with myself I am back under stress and strain again. God wants us to be free of anxiety and stress; and in reaching for perfection, if we are not looking in the right process, we will be under stress. The churches that have missed the point of this, have fallen into a state of, Well then, God will do everything and I have nothing more to do; and they lose sight of Jesus as well. It’s weird. It is a weird experience that I am watching around me today.

Free in Christ

What is it that really throws the light of practicality on how to do the will of God? We need to learn to be free in Christ.

Make not a single reserve, not a single compromise with self. Know what it is to be free in Christ. {Ibid.}

If you are truly surrendered to God, this is what you will do:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore.

How can I rejoice when I’m all stressed out? It doesn’t work. Deep inside you can’t rejoice if you are all stressed out. But if I am surrendered, then I will rejoice for evermore because I am free in Christ; I am like a little child, dancing about within myself, really happy because I have nothing to worry about. My daddy looks after me. Rejoice evermore. Then what else?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

What does that mean? Am I going to come to God in anxiety? No; rejoice. Now I have a problem, I have a need: Daddy, can you help me here? Pray, and continually talk with Him. Pray without ceasing. Talk with God. He is there to help us. He is there to work through our problems with us. He will show us the way. Pray without ceasing.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks:

Pray without ceasing, and thankfully, not a stressful prayer, not a prayer like, “Oh I’m going to fail here! Help me, please!” No; nothing like that. It is a total rejoicing that God is helping me, and I keep on asking Him for what I need all the time, and I am thanking Him for it. Thank you, Daddy, thank You for helping me. There is freedom from anxiety, childlike simplicity. This is so different to what we naturally do within ourselves.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice.

Rejoice. Be happy, you’re free.

Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men.

You are free in Christ; let it be known.

Philippians 4:5 …The Lord [is] at hand.

What am I worried about? You know, it feels to us that this is irresponsible. It feels like that. I have had to conquer this sense of irresponsibility time and time again. “But I’ve got to do something! That’s not responsible if I’m just there like a little child.” But no, it says, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. It is not irresponsible; the Lord has said, I come to be your Father; I will help you like I helped My Son Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing;

What is this saying? Don’t worry about anything. Don’t worry! When you are worried about something and someone tells you, Don’t worry! how do you feel? “Leave me alone; I’m going to worry.” But we are told here very plainly: If you have a childlike trust in God, be worried about nothing. But what? Pray without ceasing. You have a problem? you have something to deal with? Pray.

Philippians 4:6 …but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

As you are praying, be thankful, not anxious. “Thank you, Lord. You will help me through this. I trust You.” And what will happen?

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

That is peace. That is healing. That restores all your sufferings of lack of health, because the stress of life destroys your health. But when you release yourself it begins to heal. I can feel it in my body; I’ve become very sensitive over the years since I have had my heart condition. I have learned that pivoting point. The moment that I am worried about something, there goes my heart and my feelings in my stomach. And the moment I release myself in the Lord it starts to come down. And I punish myself sometimes, I think, John, why are you even permitting yourself to go down that path to make it painful for yourself? It could be just a continual flow of healing. The more I rest in God the more healing comes upon me. But the moment I pick up a stressful thing my heart is under strain. If I can calm it down immediately my heart calms down. It is a discovery within ourselves of these words of God. It is a wonderful discovery, and we have to keep on praying without ceasing, with thankfulness to our heavenly Father because He is the one who is going to bring it to pass.

God’s Will of Love

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification,

Sanctification means to be made perfect, holy. What is God’s will? He wants us to be holy. It’s His will, our sanctification. So if that is His will, and I am a little child that says, Whatever you say, Daddy; then He is going to make me holy. He is going to sanctify me. Just keep on practising these things.

“This is the will of God” concerning you, “even your sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Is it your will also? {AA 566.2}

This is the question. God’s will is to sanctify me. Is it my will to be sanctified together with Him?

Your sins may be as mountains before you; but if you humble your heart and confess your sins, trusting in the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, He will forgive and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness. God demands of you entire conformity to His law. {Ibid.}

Remember what that law is? The law of love. He demands of you conformity to His law. Be as a child. Surrender. Give over to it.

This law is the echo of His voice saying to you, Holier, yes, holier still. Desire the fullness of the grace of Christ. Let your heart be filled with an intense longing for His righteousness, the work of which God’s word declares is peace, and its effect quietness and assurance forever. {Ibid.}

Can you see what we do when we read statements? We place ourselves under stress, instead of opening ourselves to this wonderful revelation. God is saying, Let your heart be filled with an intense longing for My righteousness. And as you have the intense longing for His righteousness, pray without ceasing, be happy that Jesus wants you to be there; and He will forgive us if we confess where we have failed. Instead of beating myself, I will confess and He will forgive me. What a wonderful compassion God has. Therefore I will now be a child that trusts Him to answer my need and prayer. It is His will. Remember what Jesus said? If you pray according to the will of the Father it will be done unto you. It’s His will that I should be sanctified. Therefore, if it’s His will, I will trust Him; I will let Him have me.

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

His commandments are exceeding broad; they cover every area of relationships. It is the broadness of His law that God wants to write into our hearts, as we are His submissive children.

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

His law is very broad, magnified. It covers every area of life.

The commandments of the Lord are exceeding broad; their principles extend to our words, our actions, and our most secret thoughts, {BEcho, June 1, 1887 par. 3}

Our secret thoughts – even those are being illuminated by the law. And as we see all that, we see all the more reason to pray continually, Lord, help me, this is beyond me. And God says, I want you to reach it; I will help you, I will be right there beside you. Therefore, as we realise that God’s commandments go into the very secret thoughts of our being, if your thoughts are centred on Jesus how pure will your thoughts become? If they are not centred on Jesus, the negative thoughts keep on coming, all sorts of horrible thoughts, and you’re trying to get rid of the thoughts… I keep on talking to people like this all the time. Even as I am working in the gardening they tell me of their problems. They can’t sleep at night because their thoughts keep on going and going. Well, replace your thoughts. As soon as your thoughts have nothing to do with God’s will and His commandments centre them upon Jesus and see what happens in your brain. Your thoughts start to turn, because Jesus becomes powerful. Then you can be pure.

The power of right thought is more precious than the golden wedge of Ophir. . . . We need to place a high value upon the right control of our thoughts, for such control prepares the mind and soul to labor harmoniously for the Master. It is necessary for our peace and happiness in this life that our thoughts center in Christ. As a man thinketh, so is he. Our improvement in moral purity depends on right thinking and right acting. . . . Evil thoughts destroy the soul. The converting power of God changes the heart, refining and purifying the thoughts. Unless a determined effort is made to keep the thoughts centered on Christ, grace cannot reveal itself in the life. {HP 164.3}

My thoughts have to be purified. If evil thoughts destroy my soul the converting power of God will change the heart, refining and purifying the thoughts. But “unless a determined effort is made to keep the thoughts centered on Christ, grace cannot reveal itself in the life.”

The mind must engage in the spiritual warfare. Every thought must be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. All the habits must be brought under God’s control. {Ibid.}

There is one thing and one thing only that I must do, and that is, I must keep my thoughts upon Jesus. That’s all. I can’t do anything else. I can’t correctly do anything else. But I can keep my mind on Jesus, because God and the Holy Spirit will be there to help my mind, so that the moment that my mind drifts, He will bring me back. My mind drifts, “Oh, here I go again, thank you, Lord. Thank you, You’re helping me.” My mind can be restored into a perfect, peaceful serenity.

Now comes a final and profound thought. Okay, I am all weary, and I can’t even think straight anymore; I have to do God’s will. In today’s society, aren’t we surrounded with real, mind-boggling circumstances? We can’t even think straight anymore.

When your mind is clouded because of physical weakness, do not try to think. You know that Jesus loves you. He understands your weakness. You may do His will by simply resting in His arms. {5MR 170.3}

That is a child. I love to be cradled by my God. You can’t work it out anymore. I know what it is when I am hearing other people speaking, because I have had to struggle with the same things. There are things that are too big for me to try and work out. I can’t achieve it. But when I can’t think anymore because it’s too much for my poor brain, and my weakness is too great, I do His will by simply resting in His arms.

To do God’s will is impossible in our human skill and strength. It’s impossible. You won’t succeed. The barrier is broken when our heart is released from complicated thinking. The barrier is broken when my complicated thinking is released by simple trust in God, in Him being my Father, and I being His child. His will is my sanctification. His will is to purify me. And I must be like that little child and release myself totally from my complicated thinking and simply do as He bids me. That’s all. A childlike trust.

May God help us to break the barrier that keeps on taking us off the rails, and may He bring us back onto the right path of total trust in our heavenly Father, to understand God’s will of love.

Amen.

Posted on March 16, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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