Courage for the Desponding – The Grace of God
By John Thiel
One thing I of the Lord desire,
I watch to shun the miry way,
And staunch the springs of guilty thought;
But, watch and struggle as I may,
Pure I am not, pure I am not.
As we were singing this hymn, does this resonate with you? You desire for your paths. You desire to be clean, pure and overcome and yet as you so desire, you watch to shun the miry way and stanch the springs of guilty thought but watch and struggle as I may, pure I am not. How do you feel about that reality? Are you sometimes on the verge of desponding that you are ever going to make it? Children, is it easy for you to do exactly what God wants you to do? Are you discovering the challenge of reaching perfection? This meditation we are about to engage in is for you. As historic seventh day Adventists, Adventists of the old school, we believe do we not in sinless perfection? That is what we are reaching out for are we not? That is the doctrine of seventh day Adventism to come through the time of the judgement and have our characters pure, the books of record there with the perfection of Christian character in place. Where is the doctrine written? Is that scriptural? Firstly the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 where Jesus says plainly and simply:
Matthew 5:48 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
You cant get past that statement can you. We are to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect. Then we come to another plain declaration:
Jude1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
We are to stand faultless before God and he is able to bring this about.
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
As we are trying to reach perfection, this is almost a discouraging statement. If I am born of God, I will not sin. As we sang in the hymn, I am reaching for that, but pure I am not. There is the scripture again, we are to be perfect. Gods grace has everything to do with our ultimate perfection.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Where? This present world. Not in heaven one day.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Without any mistaking of the reading of the Bible, it tells us that we are to come to a point in which we will no longer be sinning because the grace of God brings us there. I will read some statements from the SpiSpirit of Prophecy in which we can see what we were reading in the Bible is very true that we will and must come to that position.
God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. DA 311.2
Your human thought can’t reach what Gods ideal is for you. This is Gods ideal. The Holy Spirit has been given to bring us there. To make it abundantly clear of striving to that end, we remember the words of Jesus. To enter into the kingdom of heaven, what does He say? Strive. Many will be trying to get there will not be able. We must strive to get there. That is the word of Jesus.
Perfection of character is based upon that which Christ is to us. If we have constant dependence on the merits of our Saviour, and walk in His footsteps, we shall be like Him, pure and undefiled. AG 230.3
Our Saviour does not require impossibilities of any soul. He expects nothing of His disciples that He is not willing to give them grace and strength to perform. He would not call upon them to be perfect if He had not at His command every perfection of grace to bestow on the ones upon whom He would confer so high and holy a privilege…. AG 230.4
Our work is to strive to attain in our sphere of action the perfection that Christ in His life on the earth attained in every phase of character. He is our example. In all things we are to strive to honor God in character…. We are to be wholly dependent on the power that He has promised to give us.31 AG 230.5
Self-evident, everything we have been reading. We are to reach perfection.
Christ has given us no assurance that to attain to perfection of character is an easy matter. It is a conflict, a battle and a march, day by day. It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of heaven. In order to share with Christ in His glory we must share in His suffering…. He has overcome for us. Shall we, then, be timid and cowardly because of the trials that we meet as we advance? … SD 198.2
Did Jesus have to struggle? Did He have to stive to overcome. He learnt obedience by the things He suffered we are told. In striving to reach Christian character, sinless perfection, Jesus did not give assurance this is an easy task.
I read these quotes to leave us without a shadow of doubt, Gods ideal for you and me. We are to reach character perfection, sinlessness. These are the expectations of the truth of the gospel. Do you feel like sinking a little in your heart? Is this right? It’s going to be a battle; I will never be free of this battle this side of eternity. Am I going to make it? The Bible verifies this concern because if you come to Proverbs 20, there is a question. We are trying honestly to reach perfection, but do we reach it? What is the struggle? What is the conclusions of Proverbs 20:9.
Proverbs 20:9 9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
Who can say this? Pure I am not. The Bible and the spiSpirit of Prophecy, if we read it shallowly, it appears there is a lot of contradiction but reading it under the guidance of the spirit of God, we come to the truth on the matter. If you feel like desponding, this message is to give you courage and comfort. It is on the subject on sinless perfection, that modern Adventism has capitulated. You can’t reach sinless perfection. That is what you hear from the ministers today. Because they have come to this capitulation, they are adopting the evangelical theology. This is the new theology that has struck Adventism when I was a youth. Now it has become rampant throughout the ranks of Adventism.
An evangelical Christian wrote this:
“As new covenant believers it be wise to come to grip that Christ died once for all. Therefore as the perfect sacrifice was already given for the sins of the world, there is no longer a punishment for sin. The punishment is for unbelief (refusal to trust Christ).
John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, (regardless) but whoever does not believe stands condemned already (regardless) because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (The Only righteousness). So, the punishment is on those who don’t beleive, because no one is able not to sin at all. (Brake one brake them all….remember?) The unrighteous are at risk because they focus on sin and not on the Son.
The self righteous are at greatest risk because they go on about not sinning rather that letting Christ love flow through them. If life seems frustrating, than it isn’t the life of the Spirit. “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” I quit trying and started trusting…..joy and life came back.”
That is the mentality of modern theology today. What are we faced with here? Are we going to continue to stand loyal and true to sinless perfection of what early Adventists taught? Or are we going to follow modern theology Which side are we going to take? Don’t we desire what He is saying? A beautiful peace and freedom from the stress from trying to reach perfection? Aren’t we wanting freedom from that? To trust Jesus and be perfectly at peace? The bliss of assurance that I’m saved; I am safe. Don’t we want that? Is it not true if I believe in Jesus, I’m to be free of doubt? I am saved. That is what came from the disciples who said if you believe in Jesus, you will be saved. I should not be under stress should I? I should be free from doubt? Most certainly I should be. I should be absolutely free from doubt. I should be perfectly at peace. Absolutely. There is a struggle knowing how to put that into perfect affect.
The scripture says we should be free from doubt and trusting and perfectly at peace.
Romans 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Romans 5: 1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
It is written that we are to rejoice. We are not to be under stress. We are to be in perfect peace. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. These are the scriptures that evangelical theology points to. They are pointing to the correct scriptures and you can’t argue with that. Perfect internal peace, perfect freedom from sin, this is our privilege. Perfect freedom from sin. Perfect peace. Through what? Through being justified.
What Justification Produces for Us
He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. SC 62.2
Perfect rest. I can stand before God by believing in Jesus and be completely free from condemnation for my sinfulness because Jesus has accounted me righteous as He is. That is justification. I am to be able to stand and be comforted in the knowledge I am looked upon by God as though I had never sinned. Stress free faith. It is the testimony of Jesus. It is the Bible; it says so. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. I am free, I have peace, deep peace as I believe. Modern Christianity and evangelical theology leave it at that. But the Bible tells us this is not the end of the equation. This is not the complete end of salvation.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
His death brought my justification. His death brought me into a position where I am free from condemnation. Jesus has died for my sins and his righteousness stands in place of my unrighteousness. I am accounted as somebody who has never sinned. This is righteousness by faith. Apostle Paul didn’t stop at justification. He said, much more being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. If I am justified, am I saved yet? I’m justified, I am without sin before the Lord, I am accounted that way, but the equation must continue. I shall be saved.
Romans 5: 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. SC 62.2
More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; SC 62.3
You are justified, you are no longer regarded as a sinner but more than that. I am now to continually surrender my will to Him hereafter, after I have been declared righteous because I believe in him.
You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works—works of righteousness, obedience. SC 62.3
We are to be justified and perfectly free from a sense of condemnation because I’m looking to Jesus and He is my saviour. I look at the detail of His goodness to me and I’m free by faith. Perfect freedom from condemnation. Perfect peace, but more than that.
I will keep on looking to Him and as I continue to look to Him, I will be continually surrendering myself to Him. That is the ongoing experience; to be saved by His life. Not merely to be justified. Let us explore what is this more than this. What is more than this in detail?
More than this
1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
We are to abound more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4: 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
What is the other part of the equation? The first part is justification but then He says, furthermore. You have received of us how you should walk. You know what commandments we gave you? What is Gods will for you? Your sanctification.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
Gods desire is not just that we would be fee from the sense of condemnation, He wants us to be at perfect peace. As we look at Jesus and we are free from this stressful state of mind and I have to reach perfection; no I am perfect in Jesus as I believe in him. That perfection must abide with you all the way through as you are now being sanctified. Why should you be sanctified if you are already perfect without sin? Here is something to be understood. The apostle Paul knew exactly what he was talking about as you come with me to the words in Peter.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
It is the knowledge of Jesus by which you are able to stand.
2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
Beside this, more than this, there is something more here. By faith I am without sin because of the justification of Jesus. But we are to add to our faith.
Add to Your Faith
2 Peter 1:4 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we are born again, what do we become partakers of? We are born again, we are born of the divine. We become partakers of the divine nature.
I have read the steps of sanctification. We are already declared without sin through justification but now the Lord wants us to go further because it said, now you have this faith, do what? Giving all diligence. We are to strive, give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. My calling and my election has been done by justification but I am going to make it sure.
Because of sin, we are all in the bottom of the pit. We are in the pit of sin. By the mercy and grace of God we are immediately lifted into the justified position of without sin. All the way of our journey toward heaven, we are always justified as we continue to travel along. But I’m in the bottom of my pit in my living reality and the ladder of Christ, came down and he is right down in the bottom of the pit with us and he is going to take us step by step up the ladder. You can see these are the steps as we read from Peter. Faith lifts me to virtue, knowledge, patience, brotherly kindness and finally perfect love. This is the path that we continue.
Sanctification is step by step but all the way along we are continually looking to Jesus and His righteousness stands in place of my imperfection still. I am not yet perfect. I’m still reaching for that but I am perfect in perfect rest and comfort as Jesus covers me all the way along. Do you see how close this is close to the evangelical theology that you are always safe? But they do not teach that we need to continue to be perfected in reality.
The reality is that I’m justified. I have perfect peace. As I continue to strive up that ladder, I continually hold onto Jesus as Jesus is that ladder. I’m striving, I’m diligent but I’m not stressing out about my condition because my condition is being altered as I climb the ladder. Perfect peace.
We may get rid of this feeling of condemnation. If your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart. As you come up step by step in the living experience of sanctification, are there times that you will see you are not fully out of the pit yet? Absolutely you will see that. As we believe in Jesus, I am as though I never sinned. That is what I’m to be comforted by.
So will it be with all who behold Christ. The nearer we come to Jesus, and the more clearly we discern the purity of His character, the more clearly shall we see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the less shall we feel like exalting ourselves. There will be a continual reaching out of the soul after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen. We shall know that our sufficiency is in Christ alone and shall make the apostle’s confession our own: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Romans 7:18; Galatians 6:14. AA 561.2
I am justified. I never lose my justification if I continue to look to Jesus but as I continue to look to Jesus, the closer you come to Him, the more you will see the guilt and sinfulness of sin. You will see it more distinctly and the less we shall feel like exalting ourselves. Can you see a certain experience inside of you that as you come nearer and nearer, you will see more of your sinfulness and more of his righteousness in contrast. How will you feel? This is an experience that you’re going through. An experience of seeing my sinfulness and as I see my sinfulness, I am brought to what is stated, a less and less feeling of exalting myself. I am totally humbled by all this. As I’m totally humbled in the discovery of more and more detail of my sinful nature, my flesh, I am confessing to the Lord. I’m looking upon Jesus and keeping my eye focused on him to be able to grow in grace. Here we need to understand the most important part of this message – courage for the desponding as you will be in danger of desponding as you see yourself more and more distinctly as a sinful person you really are in your flesh in your inward experience.
The nearer you come to Jesus you will see your condition and feel less of exalting yourself. If you are walking with Jesus and you are looking to Him and seeing yourself as you really are, what are you in danger of doing? You are in danger of looking at your sinfulness. If you start looking at your sinfulness, what is going to happen to you? You’re not looking at Jesus anymore and you will despond and become bereft of any hope because of the sense of your unworthiness. You will be overrun with despair and doubt but follow carefully the most crucial statement:
If the enemy can lead the desponding to take their eyes off from Jesus, and look to themselves, and dwell upon their own unworthiness, instead of dwelling upon the worthiness of Jesus, His love, His merits, and His great mercy, he will get away their shield of faith and gain his object;59 AG 185.4
Satan will gain his object. He knows what I’m preaching and he says; if I can get them to look at their unworthiness and take their eyes of Jesus as now they have been made aware of their unworthiness, the nearer you come closer to Jesus the worse I will feel. You will have less feeling to feel exalted. This experience we need to have an answer to as Satan will work hard that the nearer you come to Jesus, he will say look how hopeless you are. He will come with his thoughts and drag your mind away from continuing to look to Jesus. We will clearly see the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the less we feel of exalting ourselves. Here is a feeling. I feel completely unworthy and as I feel completely unworthy, I don’t feel like exalting myself. But where am I supposed to keep looking?
Many make a serious mistake in their religious life by keeping the attention fixed upon their feelings and thus judging of their advancement or decline.. AG 185.6
What was the advancement? We are to keep on climbing. I am looking but I’m not out of my pit yet. I am still feeling my undone condition as it was written. What are we not to do? As those feelings of exalting myself, as that feeling comes upon you, don’t dwell on it. Dwell on Jesus. Keep looking at Him. Because my advancement or my decline is not to be governed with how I feel. My advancement is to be governed by what Jesus has done for me.
Feelings are not a safe criterion. We are not to look within for evidence of our acceptance with God. We shall find there nothing but that which will discourage us. Our only hope is in “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). There is everything in Him to inspire with hope, with faith, and with courage. He is our righteousness, our consolation and rejoicing…. AG 185.6
Are we ever going to start looking at yourself again? If you want discouragement, just look at yourself. Don’t look at Jesus. As you look to Jesus, you will see yourself as you really are. If you will not dwell on your unworthiness but you are climbing and have been declared righteous as though you never sinned. There is an important counterplay here. As I look to Jesus, I am free. Free of stress. I have perfect peace but at the same time, I will see more and more of my sinfulness but only as I look to Jesus can I continue to remain buoyant, cheerful instead of stressing out and being discouraged about myself. Keep on looking to Jesus.
Can you see that evangelical theology have that side correct? But they haven’t got sanctification correct. They have perfect peace because Jesus has covered them but they don’t teach the importance to strive for perfection. They only have one side of the equation. But in this true story, we are going to be forever climbing up the ladder and all the way along we are justified. Justification and sanctification blend together and can never be separated. There are people who separate it and that is wrong.
We are to continually rejoice in justification as we climb up that ladder. Clinging to Jesus, holding on to Him. Rejoicing in His wonderful plan of salvation. Can you see something here? Those who are historic Adventists, reaching for perfection are in danger of slipping into despondency. The other side of the pendulum swinging is evangelical complacency where Jesus has died for me, I don’t have to worry about the law. Nothing is affecting me anymore, I’m perfectly complacent as I’m lost. I can be lost in either direction. If I’m not continuing to look to Jesus as a historic Adventist, I will let despondency get the better of me and I will be lost. That is why modern Adventism has changed the doctrine so now they are in complacency. I am saved, it’s okay. Here is an important understanding. Let us stay on the narrow path of following Jesus every step of the way, keeping our eyes focused on Him but practicing obedience, practising submission to Him. Surrender, learning step by step the perfection experience until we are in reality in practise in the fulfilment of Gods love in our character.
May God help us to trust God. He is going to get us there. He will get us to perfection but only as we keep on looking to the justification that we found in Jesus and always walking along the path. The nearer we come to Jesus, the more we see the sinfulness of sin.
Increasing Our Confession
There will be a continual reaching out of the soul after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen. AA 561.2
May we walk that path and remain on it with our eyes fastened on Jesus. Do not despond.
Posted on 19/02/2023, in Divine Service Sermons, Grace and tagged gods grace, saved by grace. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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