The Path of the Cross

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; 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 that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Modern Christianity lives in a poetic fancy and delusions. They believe that upon entering into the faith your path is going to be glorious and wonderful. Everybody starts to celebrate. There is honourability in being part of a denominational greatness. You are regarded with honour and ecstatic joy. And people shun the idea of conflict. They don’t want war; they want peace. They want everything to go smoothly and happily. This is to them what Christianity is to represent, therefore they run away from anything that is different to that. They want to glory all the time, to always smile, with nothing negative or unhappy. That is what they want in Christianity.

But on the contrary, true Christianity is not honoured in the world today. It is identified in the Scriptures quite differently.

2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

If you embrace true Christianity today your path will not be an acceptable one in the eyes of the world around you. You will live a godly life in Christ Jesus and suffer the consequences – persecution. If it’s not physical persecution, it will be mental persecution, opposition by the general mind. The apostles did not have a very public freedom and joy.

Romans 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

And we think that in this modern time that would not be the case. But whether it be physical slaughter or mental and spiritual antagonism, that still applies. So instead of this ecstatic joy and this fairy tale story “And they lived happily ever after” when they become part of this Christianity, this is the true path:

2 Corinthians 4:8 [We are] troubled on every side, [but because we are in Christ] yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

This is the path of the cross, this is true Christianity. In our inward body experience we bear about the dying of the Lord Jesus. And as we bear this dying of Jesus in our body and self is crucified, the life of Jesus is made manifest in our body. The new Christian life of dealing with negatives in a positive manner, of experiencing the resurrection of Christ out of the suffering and darkness all the time, is a continual experience for God’s people.

As you look at the dying of Jesus, is that an ecstatic experience? Was it an ecstatic experience for Jesus to die? Was it full of smiles and glory?

2 Corinthians 4:10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

There is a suffering and there is a joy, and a suffering and a joy; but there is quietness. It is not this gayish sort of mentality of people who always have to make a good show of things. It is something different to that. This is the suffering:

1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

He who has suffered as Jesus suffered, dying in the flesh, has ceased from sin. This is what it’s all about to become a Christian. It is not just to have a good denominational club-life in a church, but it comes down to the reality of what it represents. It is a life of following Jesus in conquering sin, because he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. If I pamper my flesh, if I want to be comfortable, I will give in here or there and I will not overcome sin. This is a reality. That is what Christianity is all about – we are to suffer with Christ in the flesh. We need to die with Jesus so that the life of Jesus will be manifested. What is the life of Jesus? It is a life of overcoming sin.

Reflecting back upon our past experience in fellowship with those who had been once with us, and as we meet up with people like this who have once understood what we understand, they now express themselves along those lines, “Now I feel free, now I feel comfortable; before I was under a cloud.” What happens to us when the grace of Jesus is implanted into our soul, when the true Christianity comes into the heart?

The grace that Christ implants in the soul . . . creates in man enmity against Satan. Without this converting grace and renewing power, man would continue the captive of Satan, a servant ever ready to do his bidding. But the new principle in the soul creates conflict where hitherto had been peace. {FLB 117.3}

Don’t you like peace? Would you run to something that is going to end you in conflict? To follow in the footsteps of Jesus is to meet conflict, as Jesus did. That is why Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Before we came to this grace of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the true Christianity, we had peace. But the new principle in the soul creates conflict where hitherto had been peace.

The power which Christ imparts, enables man to resist the tyrant and usurper. Whoever is seen to abhor sin instead of loving it, whoever resists and conquers those passions that have held sway within, displays the operation of a principle wholly from above. {FLB 117.3}

When we do what God wants us to do, we go contrary to that which is natural in us and we go through strange internal experiences – conflict in the flesh. For us to do what God wants us to do means to conquer those passions that have held sway within. My responses to negatives around me are no longer to be released, and it puts you into a strange suffering. That is true Christianity. It is enmity against anything that Satan has instigated through sin; and where there once was peace there is now conflict.

But who in their right natural mind would choose such a course? Can you see why people who are living according to the natural mind and heart would not want to be part of such a Christianity? Do you understand why there are only so few in this church? It is because what we represent and what is being taught in the ministry of original Adventism is not appreciated today. It is not something that is comfortable. We want to be comfortable in a church that has lots of people in it and where they are all singing with beautiful melodies and impressive impact upon your natural man. “Oh yeah, that’s where I want to be!” But to be in a little company, fighting the battles, that is not attractive to the natural man. So who would choose such a course?

Choosing Christ

If you choose Jesus and His kingdom you choose the life that Jesus described:

Luke 9:23 And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

If you will choose to follow Jesus, what is the experience? Denying myself, taking up the cross every day. The natural man regards that as oppression. He feels oppressed, “I can’t do as I choose! I have to be under the oppression of submitting myself contrary to my natural heart.” But Jesus says, Follow Me, deny yourself as I did.

Those who travel in the narrow way are talking of the joy and happiness they will have at the end of the journey. {1T 127.2}

What are they talking about? Not the joy and happiness they have now (because they are following in the footsteps of Jesus), but the joy that they will have at the end of the journey.

Their countenances are often sad, yet often beam with holy, sacred joy. {Ibid.}

What sort of joy? Holy and sacred joy. Not the gaiety of the world

They do not dress like the company in the broad road, nor talk like them, nor act like them. A pattern has been given them. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief opened that road for them, and traveled it Himself. His followers see His footsteps, and are comforted and cheered. He went through safely; so can they, if they follow in His footsteps. {Ibid.}

What cheers them? Nothing else but the fact that Jesus walked that path with them – the beautiful atonement of Jesus, He at one with them, going through the battles of the cross – and we will talk about the things that we will enjoy at the end. But at the present time we are not to be surprised, not to think that something strange is happening to me because of the trials that I am going through because I have chosen the path of the cross.

What a work is before us! Self-denial and the cross were shown me as standing all along in the way of life. Can we persevere in such a warfare as this? {RH, November 26, 1861 par. 11}

Jesus Himself said that those who will be saved must endure unto the end, persevere in this path.

Grace is against nature, and the whole strength of self is opposed to the victory. {Ibid.}

This is where people are often confused and they walk away from the pure path, because there is something inside of them that is opposed to the victory over their passions and their flesh.

Can we take up the cross and bear it after Jesus, and consent to be like him who was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin? When the pleasures of the world come before us, we must renounce them instantly, and prefer before these the favor of God and the cross of Christ. {Ibid.}

The pleasures of the world are so comfortable, aren’t they? We sometimes feel quite comfortable with the pleasures that we still have in this world; but there is not the favour of God in that pleasure, then they must be renounced instantly.

And in this self-denying course we shall obtain victories, and in the end win eternal glory. {Ibid.}

Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.

Self-denial and the cross were shown me as standing all along in the way of life. Can we persevere in such a warfare as this? {Ibid.}

This is true Christianity.

The Path of Jesus

The path that Jesus trod made Him a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. So many people once embraced the message that I am preaching, and they once said, Oh, praise the Lord! They told me themselves, This is so beautiful what you are sharing with us here! and they became excited about it. But then, as the practicalities of the truths that we stand for dawned upon them, they said to me in dismay, I thought this was a path of joy! But instead I meet with sorrow and grief. So, sadly, many walk away.

I am pretty used to that now. I’ve gone over it again and again in the ministry over the years – when I was working in the Reform movement, then in the IMS, and then also in HASS. There was great excitement when I first presented the message, and then it petered out. Then it became a burden because the expectations of the natural heart were disappointed. Sorrow and grief. Jesus was a Man of sorrows, and we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Where did Christ’s path lead to? When He came to this planet, what path did Jesus follow to help us?

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

Where did it lead Him? Where does it lead us if we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and persevere in this path? He who suffers in the flesh will cease from sin. He who will follow in the footsteps of Jesus will be made perfect. That is where it is leading us – to perfection. And in the path to that perfection there is much suffering.

1 John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

The path of the true Christian is one of perplexity, grief and trial, of conquering passions, denying self, and learning obedience by the things which we suffer, as He did. What are we likely to encounter in this path? Sr. White was shown a company, and you can see that this company is so different to the companies that we see in general Christianity today:

I was shown the people of God, and saw them mightily shaken. Some, with strong faith and agonizing cries, were pleading with God. Their countenances were pale, and marked with deep anxiety, expressive of their internal struggle. Firmness and great earnestness were expressed in their countenances, while large drops of perspiration fell from their foreheads. Now and then their faces would light up with the marks of God’s approbation, and again the same solemn, earnest, anxious look would settle upon them. {1T 179.3}

Do people naturally want this kind of experience? Not likely. And once we have pressed together the way we have under this message, we find that many who were not of us have ended up separating themselves from us. They were once with us, but they were not of us, as the apostle John said. They did not like this experience. The natural man does not like this experience, to go through purification exercises so that self is brought down, and neither does he like to experience the next point, as is described here:

Evil angels crowded around them, pressing their darkness upon them, to shut out Jesus from their view, that their eyes might be drawn to the darkness that surrounded them, and they distrust God and next murmur against Him. Their only safety was in keeping their eyes directed upward. {1T 180.1} 

This is the view that was especially given for God’s people in the time in which we are living. It has been a heavy experience, and the Adventist church, with many independent companies, have fluctuated back and forth in this experience.

Some, I saw, did not participate in this work of agonizing and pleading. They seemed indifferent and careless. They were not resisting the darkness around them, and it shut them in like a thick cloud. The angels of God left these, and I saw them hastening to the assistance of those who were struggling with all their energies to resist the evil angels, and trying to help themselves by calling upon God with perseverance. But the angels left those who made no effort to help themselves, and I lost sight of them. {1T 180.2}

The people in the world, they will press against the odds for the things that they want; they will break through the barriers that hold them back. I went through just such an exercise with a company I was working with some time ago. This one man was pushing against two other men pushing back against him, and he was there determined to push his way through, as an exercise of dealing with breaking through barriers. I thought to myself, This is the experience that we must make against Satan and all the world. We have the entire world against us. And as he was pressing against these two who were opposing him, he was expressing himself with such determination, and finally as these two people gave in, he got his results at the end. This was done as an exercise to teach what it is to resist the inroads and the barriers of self.

In this vision the Spirit of Prophecy says “the angels left those who made no effort to help themselves.” We must make this effort, and as we look to Jesus we see Him making the effort through the darkness and the battles of the passions of the flesh.

Rejoicing in Faith

The path of the cross is not comfortable, but the path we are travelling on because of our grief and struggles leads to perfection and to the joy at the end of the road. That is what we are persevering for. Christ rejoiced while He was a Man of suffering, and we can be men and women of suffering and rejoice:

Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter. {DA 679.2}

Don’t you want to see victories? Don’t we want to see that we’ve broken through some things and to get encouraged by the victories we’ve had? Jesus could say to them, You are getting victories, but you may not see them here. You will see them at the end of the road.

A series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here – so if you don’t see the victories, don’t let this trouble you. Self wants to see; I naturally want to see that the path I am taking is going to get me there. But this is a path of faith, not a path of sight. The faith of Jesus is a faith that perseveres as He did.

He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made – It was before the world was even made that God’s plan had been decreed; and He knew that this plan, if we would remain on that path with Jesus, would lead us to stand there victorious and we would finally be able to enter into the future joy and then look back and say, Look at that! There has not been one step back; we have been making a series of uninterrupted victories. We will see that later on. This is what we need to understand. This is what this is all about.

If you have decided to follow Jesus, the glories and the joys are yet ahead of you; they may not yet be there in all their glory. We will be tempted to fall into despondency because of the anxieties, griefs, and sorrows that happen to us, but through Jesus Christ we may walk confidently among these anxieties and griefs. The reason why I can keep my head up is because of what I am sharing with you here. I can rejoice in the tribulations because of this beautiful subject of Jesus and the path of the cross. Along the path the things that cheer us are the joys ahead of us and the victories that we will see later on but that we don’t see now.

Our Lord says, Under conviction of sin, remember that I died for you. When oppressed and persecuted and afflicted for My sake and the gospel’s, remember My love, so great that for you I gave My life. {DA 659.2}

He foreshadows to us, under the Spirit of Prophecy, that we will be oppressed, and persecuted, and afflicted for the sake of the pure truth of Jesus and the gospel; but He says, “Remember My love, so great that for you I gave My life.”

When your duties appear stern and severe, and your burdens too heavy to bear, remember that for your sake I endured the cross, despising the shame. When your heart shrinks from the trying ordeal, remember that your Redeemer liveth to make intercession for you. {Ibid.}

This is what He wants us to remember. When I am surrounded and my flesh, my natural human heart, is oppressed by all sorts of things, I must remember what Jesus was oppressed with, how He had to struggle through the darkness. Can you see how important the atonement is? I need it. When I was told that I should not preach the nature of Christ that I understand because it was not agreed with in the ministry that I was amongst, I said to them, If you want to take the atonement of Jesus and His nature of sinful flesh from me, then I’m a dead man. I cannot see my way through the darkness without that. You can see that people are relying on something else than the atonement to keep them joyful. But it is this that we must remember, that Jesus has gone through this with me beforehand, and is going through it with me.

The Sinner’s Trial

As we think that “Maybe I’m not making a good choice by becoming part of this kind of ministry;” that “it’s going to be so hard” and so on, let us think carefully on the following thoughts. Is life in general on this earth easy anyway?

We often hear the life of the Christian described as being filled with trials, sadness and sorrow, with but little to cheer and comfort; and the impression is too often given, that if he should give up his faith and his efforts for Eternal Life, the scene would be changed to pleasure and happiness. {RH, April 28, 1859 par. 1}

That is the sort of impression you get, isn’t it? “If I leave this, I’m going to find happiness.” This is what people have said, I’m free, I’m much happier now. But is it really so?

But I have been led to compare the life of the sinner with the life of the righteous. The sinner does not have a desire to please God; therefore can have no pleasing sense of his approbation. {Ibid.

He can’t have a sense that God is happy with him.

He does not enjoy his state of sin and worldly pleasure without trouble. He feels deeply the ills of this mortal life. O yes, at times he is fearfully troubled. He fears God, but does not love him. {Ibid.}

Is the sinner free from disappointment, perplexity, earthly losses, poverty and distress? {Ibid. par. 2} 

Is he free from that?

O no! In this respect he is no more secure than the righteous. He often suffers lingering sicknesses, yet has no strong and mighty arm to lean upon, no strengthening grace from a higher power to support him. {Ibid.}

Don’t we see this in society today, people with lingering sicknesses? But they are miserable, they feel horrible. They have no strong and mighty arm to lean upon.

In his weakness he must lean upon his own strength. He cannot look forward with any pleasure to the resurrection morn, for he has no cheering hope that he will then have part with the blest. He obtains no consolation by looking forward to the future. A fearful uncertainty torments him, and thus he closes his eyes in death. This is the end of the poor sinner’s life of vain pleasures. {Ibid.}

Then comes this haunting statement of Jesus, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” There are people who rely on something for the future, but they are not doing God’s will, and they are in even worst darkness than the sinner. They expect something. That is why in Matthew it says that the ministry which is persecuting their fellow faithful ministers will come to the point where there will be gnashing of teeth; they will be so disappointed that their hopes have all fallen around them.

The Christian is subject to sickness, disappointment, poverty, reproach and distress. Yet amid all this he loves God, and loves to do his will, and prizes nothing so highly as his approbation. In the conflicts, trials, and changing scenes of this life, he knows that there is One who understands it all; One who will bend his ear low to the cries of the sorrowful and distressed; One who can sympathize with every sorrow and soothe the keenest anguish of every heart. He has invited the sorrowing ones to come to him and find rest. Amid all his affliction the Christian has strong consolation, and if he suffers a lingering, distressing sickness, before he closes his eyes in death, he can with cheerfulness bear it all, for he holds communion with his Redeemer. {Ibid. par. 3}

I watched that. I watched it in an elderly lady who was dying. She had her Jesus, and that made all the difference. But those who do not have that perfect security are miserable. So if our path as Christians is hard, remember what we have read here. We have something above those who do not have what we have. This is what keeps me joyful.

May it be that we will not forget that though the message we have is one that may be uncomfortable to the natural man, it is a message that is absolute truth. And if we will follow in the footsteps of Jesus we have assurance, we have security; we do not have perplexity that overcomes us, whereas it will overcome those who do not have what we have. May God grant us to be faithful to the end.

Amen.

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

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: