02 Jesus in Our Darkness

By John Thiel, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, mp3

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

What lifts our affections to God? His great love. We are told that

The Lord requires our undivided affections. {TDG 13.4}

If that is what He requires, does He not provide us with something that will cause our affections to be undivided to Him? This is precisely what we want to contemplate. God can bring affections through darkness:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,

God can bring light out of darkness. This is what we see at creation. The earth was dark, without form and void. It was a mess, it was not really a very nice scene; it was just a ball of unstable water in the darkness. And God said, Let there be light, in the darkness, and from the darkness. He can turn the light out of the darkness. This is something for us to think about. He “hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Why does the apostle, speaking about God bringing light out of darkness, connects that to our hearts? If you stop to think carefully about it, our natural hearts are in darkness – the darkness of our ignorance of God, the darkness of disappointed hopes, the darkness of sin, of an overwhelming sense of our unworthiness and hopelessness. All these different things come into focus when we think about our human sinful hearts. And out of those dark hearts God can bring light by presenting in our hearts the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is something to meditate about. And as we meditate on this, it stirs our affections – affections that come from the heart.

 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;

If the minister is going to be true to his calling he must not preach self. He must preach Christ. He must uplift the true Jesus. This is what the servants of God are admonished and directed to do.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.

As Jesus said, the eye is the window of the soul. If I want light to shine into my dark heart I need to have light coming through the senses of my person. We are told that we are to behold with open face that light; then God can bring light out of the darkness of our heart. And as we behold Christ,

The image of Christ is cherished, and it captivates the whole being. {6BC 1098.1}

We are to behold the image of Christ. And how can we do it?

Beholding Christ means studying His life as given in His Word. {Ibid.}

We are to study. And if I am going to preach Jesus Christ I am not going to do the talking from my own mind. I am going to look at Jesus together with you from the study of God’s word. This is what makes the preaching very difficult to many listeners; I know because I have been told again and again over the years that in my presentation of the truth from the pulpit I make it very long-winded, when I could say everything that I am saying in a few short words. Well, if I was to preach self, yes, this is what I would do. But if I am going to preach Jesus then I am going to study the word of God and dig for truth as for hidden treasure. And as we dig in the word of God for the hidden treasure we fix our eyes upon Christ and take Him as our personal Saviour; and “by beholding we become changed, morally assimilated to the One who is perfect in character.”

If I was just to talk my words as I see it, it would not be preaching Jesus. We must preach Jesus as He is given in His word. This is our only security. This is the only way for the light to penetrate. We will fix our eyes upon the hidden treasure. It needs to be dug out. There is something here that is deep and that we are going to dig out, so that our heart’s affections will be stirred deep down and the darkness in which we find ourselves is actually going to produce light. God will bring light out of darkness as we look at this; because in the darkness God can shine.

The sweetest joy comes to man through his sincere repentance toward God for the transgression of His law, and through faith in Christ as the sinner’s Redeemer and Advocate. {1SM 323.2} 

Here is introduced to us the fact that our joy and affections are dependent upon our sincere repentance. How does sincere repentance feel? What is this sincere repentance toward God for the transgression of His law?

It is that men may understand the joy of forgiveness, the peace of God, that Christ draws them through the manifestation of His love. If they respond to His drawing, yielding their hearts to His grace, He will lead them on step by step, to a full knowledge of Himself, and this is life eternal. {1SM 323.2} 

We want life eternal? This is life eternal – a full knowledge of God.

Christ came to reveal to the sinner the justice and love of God, that He might give repentance to Israel and remission of sins. When the sinner beholds Jesus lifted up upon the cross, suffering the guilt of the transgressor, bearing the penalty of sin; when he beholds God’s abhorrence of evil in the fearful manifestation of the death of the cross, and His love for fallen man, he is led to repentance toward God because of his transgression of the law which is holy, and just, and good. {1SM 324.1}

We can read these words so quickly and yet miss the very depth of them. What happens as we see Jesus bearing the penalty of sin? We behold God’s abhorrence of evil in the fearful manifestation of the death of the cross. We are reading this as an introduction so that the undivided affections that God requires of us can be generated for us to give to Him. Our appreciation of the cross reveals to us God’s abhorrence of evil. And what evil does He abhor? The evil that is in my heart, the wrongs I do, the lies I tell, the character defects that manifest themselves when our path is crossed and when we argue and fight. When we go through all these horrible unChristlike characteristics in our life there is darkness in the soul. When deep inside I am mulling around in my darkness God abhors the darkness. And at the cross we see His abhorrence of it and His love to us, fallen men. The sinner is led to repentance toward God. His heart affections cause him to fall in repentance before God because of his transgression of the law which is holy, and just, and good.

He exercises faith in Christ, because the divine Saviour has become his substitute, his surety, and advocate, the one in whom his very life is centered. To the repenting sinner God can show His mercy and truth, and bestow upon him His forgiveness and love. {Ibid.}

As I read statements like this in the divine services, I know that many times there is a thought that comes through my soul and may even come through yours, John, you’re reading too much. But what we are actually meant to be doing here is to explore this story of the cross and its effect on us; not just to announce that this has an effect on us. As we read this, it doesn’t necessarily do it; it just tells me it should. But I need to look at the word of God in such a way that it actually produces it, in a way that I am understanding exactly what is involved in the cross and me in my personal connection with it. This is our purpose.

As I see God’s abhorrence of my sinfulness I feel very dark. As the apostle says, this treasure is in earthen vessels; it is light out of darkness. We have transgressed God’s holy law and He abhors the transgression. Now if I am going to get the full benefit of the cross of Jesus I need to know something about my darkness. What is the problem of the Laodicean? He doesn’t know that he is miserable, poor, blind, and naked. That is what Jesus said, You do not know… But if he does come to know that, what happens? This is what I have experienced over the many years: as I uphold the pure light of God before the people, their darkness becomes manifest, Ah… I am so wretched, I am so blind, so miserable; and people start saying, I don’t like those kinds of sermons, they keep on shining upon my darkness. But if we don’t see ourselves as we really are, can we appreciate God’s love?

Light Out of Darkness

Only he who sees his own sinfulness can discern the preciousness of the Saviour. {DA 494.4}

Only if I see my darkness can the light of Jesus illuminate me. But many people don’t want to look. They just don’t want to look because it shows them how dark and miserable they are; and they don’t like the feeling. But we are to keep on looking until the story of God’s love in Jesus Christ starts to generate a deep affection. Examine yourself deep inside of yourself. Do you have chapters in your life that you do not like to have brought to the surface? Do you have things there that if someone touches on you bristle? Do you have struggles with your character defects and you know there are sins there that are unresolved? When someone brings some of these things to my attention, how do I deal with them? Do I look for excuses? Do I start telling a little white lie here or a little dark lie there to make myself feel better because I don’t like to admit that I have revealed these unChristlike behaviours? The fact is, as I have done my best to do what God wants me to do but I have failed miserably, if I was to let that be exposed, if I was to admit the reality of that, there is a battle inside that does not want me to even discuss it, because it means darkness. Do you know this sense of hopelessness that comes upon you when you see yourself as you really are? If we keep on shielding ourselves from that darkness in the view of the cross, one day it is going to come upon us when it’s too late and we can’t do it. We need to be well equipped for what is coming. This is what is coming for God’s people in the time of Jacob’s trouble, after probation has closed:

Fitting Up for Jacob’s Trouble

As Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins, the Lord permits him to try them to the uttermost. {GC 618.3}

God permits him, He doesn’t stop him. Satan is a relentless person. He comes along with those deep depressing thoughts. He remembers what he tempted us to do, he remembers all our character defects; he knows them well. And God permits him to try us to the uttermost.

Their confidence in God, their faith and firmness, will be severely tested. As they review the past, their hopes sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their weakness and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations and turn from their allegiance to God. {Ibid.}

This is coming. And if I do not have the answer to that experience now, I will falter. I need to be prepared for this. What is it that I need to be prepared for? I need to be prepared for the horrible discoveries of my evils that Satan will remind me of. He will make my case look hopeless as I review all my past life. How important it is that we actually go into this now so that we have answers to deal with that. When it is so black and dark and there is no hope, I will come to the point of saying, I’m lost, therefore I don’t care. This has been my experience when I was around 20 years old. I got very close to that. Then as I continued to travel through life I saw more and more of my depravity. And for me to go on smiling and be happy I had to have answers. It is only going to get worse as we get to the time of Jacob’s trouble. We must have answers when we see our depravity, our character defects, and they become so prominent before our mind’s eye! We ought to thank God that we are going through that, because we are not Laodicean anymore. We see ourselves, we see that we are wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked. It’s not nice, but we must see it.

Unless we have our affections drawn to God in the light of this depravity, we will not survive! Why is it that God requires our undivided affections?

If men are not wholehearted, they will fail in the day of test and proving and trial. {TDG 13.4}

We have seen what the test will be – Jacob’s trouble – when we sense our hopelessness. If my affections are not totally and undivided to God, when this time comes I will fail.

When the enemy shall put his forces in array against him, and the battle seems to go hard, at the very time when all the strength of intellect and capability, and all the tact of wise generalship, is needed to repulse the enemy, those who are half-hearted will turn their weapons against their own soldiers; {Ibid.}

This is something I have gone through in the past. Because when someone shows my detail I will turn against others and say, But they’re as bad as me! and I will turn against those who have been trying to help me, because I was not wholehearted when I was receiving the help. This is what I have experienced. Haven’t we experienced that? In doing the very work of helping others, when they get tested with their battles they then start to turn against the instrument, and they will fish out something that they can mar their characters with, and they turn their weapons against their own soldiers.

…they weaken the hands that should be strong for warfare. {Ibid.}

This plays back my life so strongly. It is exactly what happened when I was working in the Reform. I said to this leader of the church, I have been wounded on the frontline. Do you know what he did? He didn’t strengthen me; he turned his weapon against me. And the church turned all its weapons against me instead of really helping me. “They weaken the hands that should be strong for warfare.”

God is testing all who have a knowledge of the truth to see if they can be depended on to fight the battles of the Lord when hard pressed by principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world and wicked spirits in high places. Perilous times are before us, and our only safety is in having the converting power of God every day–yielding ourselves fully to Him to do His will, and walk in the light of His countenance. {Ibid.}

What is it that we need? Our affections. How important is this subject? It is so important, otherwise we will not survive! I want to press this home. If there is still something inside of me that I keep on shielding myself from, I am not going to have my affections drawn out to God, and I will demonstrate it.

Unless we permit God to show us our entire depravity, unless I permit Him to show me how dark my life really is, the deep-seated darkness, I will not appreciate Jesus. Only he who sees his own sinfulness can discern the preciousness of the Saviour.

Pitch-black Darkness

When I am in the darkest moment of my life I think I’m lost. Don’t you? You think you are really bereft of any hope, and in that dark, dark time, you are thinking, I am totally on my own! Nobody can understand me. You really feel alone. Well, have a good look. This is speaking of Jesus at Gethsemane and the cross:

Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, [and] shall be satisfied:

Jesus had travail of soul. What was the travail?

Isaiah 53:11 …by his knowledge [of that travail] shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

He is in travail; why? Because He is bearing their iniquity, their darkness.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him [a portion] with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

We read that statement so shallowly. So many ministers in my youth made this statement, He was numbered with the transgressors! and they interpreted this to mean that He was hanging between two thieves. That is the way it was taught me. And it took me years to discover what it really meant. When I discovered what it really meant I was amazed. When I am in my darkness because of my transgressions, because of my nature and my evil, Jesus was numbered with me! You need to believe that. Sr. White verifies that. Jesus was here making His way to Gethsemane:

Jesus had been earnestly conversing with His disciples and instructing them; but as He neared Gethsemane, He became strangely silent. He had often visited this spot for meditation and prayer; but never with a heart so full of sorrow as upon this night of His last agony. Throughout His life on earth He had walked in the light of God’s presence. When in conflict with men who were inspired by the very spirit of Satan, He could say, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” John 8:29. But now He seemed to be shut out from the light of God’s sustaining presence. Now He was numbered with the transgressors. {DA 685.2}

When was that? As He was going towards Gethsemane. That is when He was numbered with the transgressors, now. What was that experience? The transgressor’s experience, the experience of the transgressor whose darkness overwhelms him when he is feeling that he is bereft of God’s presence. Can you imagine how Jesus felt when He was in the place where I am in my darkness? It was “the travail of His soul,” just the travail that you and I feel, and worse, because He had everyone else’s travail as well. So when I am going through my darkest, darkest moments of sensations of absolute rejection from God, when I am battling with my hopeless case and Satan is going, “See?? You are hopeless! You’re never going to make it!” I have Jesus with me.

We must really understand what it is that Jesus did at the cross

Lamentations 1:12 [Is it] nothing to you, all ye that pass by?

Look at what God has done to Me, Jesus says.

Lamentations 1:13 From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate [and] faint all the day. 14 The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, [and] come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into [their] hands, [from whom] I am not able to rise up.

When Jesus was walking to Gethsemane He couldn’t even walk straight, because He was now numbered with the transgressors, and it came up upon His neck. It choked Him, it made Him feel horrible. When you go through that experience in your own life, Jesus is right there in that experience with you. Unless we make Jesus our personal Saviour, and realise that my personal experience is His, I am not going to find my way out of my hopelessness. We must find our way out of this hopelessness! If we don’t, when the hopelessness strikes at the end we will be lost. The Lord requires my undivided affections so that I can stand that test.

Look Sideways

What was the travail of His soul when God laid the iniquity of us all upon Him? This is the prophecy of Jesus:

Psalm 40:12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.

What language is this? Don’t you know that experience? “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up.” When the darkness that we are trying to run away from finally comes upon us, if we haven’t surrender to this story, if I haven’t looked upon Jesus and seen that He is the one who is actually going through that experience, I will not survive! because I can’t even look up. But you don’t even have to look up, you just have to look sideways, and Jesus is right there beside you. And as you look at Him you are looking up, because in your darkness Jesus is there, shining in that darkness of the heart.

They are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me – To explore the depth of Jesus beside me in this darkness I must know my darkness.

The evil works, the evil thoughts, the evil words of every son and daughter of Adam press upon his divine soul. … Though the guilt of sin was not his, his Spirit was torn and bruised by the transgressions of men. {RH, December 20, 1892 par. 7}

My sins are more than the hairs of my head, my heart faileth me; I can’t look up. My experience is His.

If he drank of the cup of suffering, he must open his breast to the griefs and woes and sins of humanity. {ST, November 25, 1889 par. 2}

Here is another prophecy of this:

Psalm 88:3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit:

I am counted with them, He says, I am one of them; I have been numbered with the transgressors.

Psalm 88:4 …I am as a man [that hath] no strength: 5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. 6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. 7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted [me] with all thy waves.

We are reading here material that humanity goes through, but the reason they don’t accept that this is Jesus is because, “That couldn’t happen to Jesus! No. That happens to me!” But unless I believe that this prophecy is Christ, that He is the one who is going through this together with me, then I will not survive! I will lose my way. I will turn against those who are soldiers of the cross together with me. That is what is happening in the world around us today – terrible tests. And unless we can see the answer that is streaming to us from the cross of Jesus and Gethsemane, we will not survive, and when our darkness comes upon us because Satan tempts us by God’s permission, we will not be able to handle that. So now is the time. Prepare to meet thy God.

Jesus in My Darkness

There in that total, hopeless dismay of Jesus’ experience, He is in dismay with you! Watch! Look at Jesus, gaze upon what He is doing in your darkness. What did Jesus do? Was He tempted to give up like we are? Look at Him as He is going through this oppression of darkness. God shines into our dark hearts the face of Jesus:

Amid the awful darkness, apparently forsaken of God, {DA 756.3}

The darkness that we are in, forsaken of God,

…Christ had drained the last dregs in the cup of human woe. In those dreadful hours He had relied upon the evidence of His Father’s acceptance heretofore given Him. He was acquainted with the character of His Father; He understood His justice, His mercy, and His great love. {Ibid.}

Jesus understood the Father. So what does He have to do now?

By faith He rested in Him whom it had ever been His joy to obey. And as in submission He committed Himself to God, the sense of the loss of His Father’s favor was withdrawn. By faith, Christ was victor. {Ibid.}

Our faith must be exercised in Jesus to believe that what is written here is truly His experience, which is mine, in the darkness. As I look by faith to Jesus, I look past that darkness into His practice – He trusts the Father, He believes that the Father’s character is not one to destroy Him, even though He is overwhelmed by the darkness; and He calls my sins His, He feels the depravity of being counted among the transgressors, and says, O God, why have You forsaken Me? But as He keeps on looking,

Suddenly the gloom lifted from the cross, and in clear, trumpetlike tones, that seemed to resound throughout creation, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” A light encircled the cross, and the face of the Saviour shone with a glory like the sun. He then bowed His head upon His breast, and died. {DA 756.2}

Unless we know that the darkness He went through was mine we cannot have any light. But as I see Him in my darkness, what I read here is mine. And it can be yours when the darkness strikes. It’s going to happen again and again. It happened to me again and again. But as the darkness wants to oppress me, I know what I believe. I wish everyone would believe as I have believed, because it takes me through the darkest moments with light in the darkness. O that we would do this. Because as we look at Jesus and we see Him with our darkness, looking up to the Father whom He trusts, and whose character He knows, and throwing Himself upon the mercies of the Father in that darkness, if we will do the same, if we will follow Christ’s example, then what is written of us?

Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints:

Patience with my darkness

Revelation 14:12 …here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

I haven’t kept the commandments perfectly. But in Jesus Christ I am regarded as a commandment-keeper; and as I break upon the Rock Christ Jesus, I practise His faith. By faith He became a victor out of the darkness.

Psalm 16:1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

This is Jesus again in our person.

Psalm 16:7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the LORD always before me: because [he is] at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Can you see His faith? He was going to die, but He was going to trust the Lord. This is the example for us. He cries, “Preserve Me, O God: for in Thee do I put My trust. I believe in You that You will help Me in this darkness. And as I do, I am letting everyone know through this prophecy that it is Me with them.” To ensure that this is indeed Jesus speaking, we read the words of Apostle Peter as he was preaching to the people on the day of Pentecost. He was telling them, This prophecy is Jesus!

Acts 2:25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29 Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Jesus went through this horrible experience beside me – He was numbered with the transgressors – and as I take to heart these revelations, when the next bout of darkness comes upon me I will see the light in the darkness, I will realise that Jesus suffered with me in this experience, I will gain the victory, as He did, by the faith of Jesus. He went through it so that we can go through it. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. Jesus says:

Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, [and] established my goings. 3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, [even] praise unto our God: many shall see [it], and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. 4 Blessed [is] that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

As you look upon this and you really surrender to this, what happens in your heart? As the person who is most dark, the worst sinner who can’t see past the darkness anymore, sees Jesus there, and by his trust in God is lifted out by Jesus together with Him, what happens to his heart? Has not God purchased our affections? So when He requires our affections, it is a requirement that He has actually put there by giving of Himself. Such contemplation is extremely profound.

But this experience will deepen. And in our experience of even failing after we know all this, of still sinning even when we have known better, and we see some more detail of our weakness, we still can come out of that as well. The effect of our affections drawn out to Him will lead me into perfect obedience. Let this faith of Jesus, as He is numbered with me the transgressor, carry us through, so that we will come out from underneath this Laodicean thing that hides itself continually from seeing its darkness, so that I will come into the darkness that I really am, and join together with Jesus to be lifted out of that. God bless us as we study this in depth, so that our affections may be so strong for Jesus and for God that we will survive the time of Jacob’s trouble.

Amen.

Posted on March 30, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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