A great controversy has been going on for quite some time. In the beginning of that great controversy, God’s Law, His government, and His character were brought into question. Satan has claimed that God’s law is not possible to keep. He knew God could keep it because He is God, but he insisted that nobody else could keep it.
Certainly Satan understood what was recorded in James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” When it says that God cannot be tempted, basically, Satan challenged God to come down and fight like a man—a created man to be exact. Christ answered that challenge. He did come down—as a fallen man—and He did fight like a man.
Christ came to redeem us—fallen man. We all have fallen natures, and that is where the battle had to take place. To be our example, He had to deal with sin the same way we have to deal with sin.
“Christ secured probation for man at an infinite cost. He must suffer for the sins of the world, that the purposes of God might not be defeated. . . . Nothing less than the life of Christ would atone for man’s transgression. He must restore man by placing on vantage ground every one who would believe in Him as a personal Saviour. When there was no heart to pity, His arm brought salvation. God laid help on One that was mighty, saying, ‘Save man from destruction.’ The Son of God accepted the work joyfully, becoming man’s substitute and surety, that He might save him from his sin, and call him from transgression to obedience. He pledged Himself to take man’s nature, and stand at the head of the human race, to satisfy every claim made against them as a people bound in the slavery of sin. Through this gift of God to the world man has been given every opportunity of knowing God and the laws of His government.” The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899.
Righteousness by Faith
Christ not only proved Satan wrong but He paved the way so that anyone, who chooses to, can follow in His footsteps. How did Jesus do that? How did He fight that battle? How can we fight that battle?
A little over 100 years ago, God sent a message to the Seventh-day Adventist Church that would prepare a people to not only stand in the last days but to stand every day of their lives. This message has been called by several different names—Christ our righteousness, righteousness by faith, justification by faith. Sometimes it is called the 1888 Message, because that is the year it was given.
The 1888 Message was rejected at that time, and we have been suffering the results of that rejection ever since. That is why we are still in this world. We have been here for 100 years longer than we should have, but until a group of people understands and experiences this message, the great controversy will continue. I believe this message is the key to how we will stand in the last days.
Over the years, the Lord has given me many victories in my life, but I could not tell you exactly how I gained them. Most Seventh-day Adventists understand that victory over self, sin, and Satan involves conflicts, struggles, and battles, but I am not sure that we understand all the rules of engagement in those battles or if we even understand where the battles are all the time. We know there is a battle, but do we know where to battle?
It seems to me that, with the exception of a few people, we have been doing the same thing—fighting the same battle—repeatedly for about 6,000 years, with similar results over and over and over again. That is why we are still here. God wants us to quit repeating history. He wants us to understand what was rejected and missed in 1888 and bring it into our lives so we can stop doing the same thing over and over and get beyond our failures into the perfection to which God has called us to. At some point in time, there will be a group of people who will have that experience. I want to be part of that group! Do you?
That group will experience righteousness by faith, and that message and experience will unite with and give power to the third angel’s message. We will not only be able to tell people about the downtrodden law, but we will be able to tell them how to experience the victory that accompanies that law. At that time, the latter rain will be poured out, and that other angel of Revelation 18 will join the third angel’s message. In Revelation 18, we are told that the whole world will be lighted with his glory.
As I have analyzed the times when God has given me the greatest victories—and I do not mean the ability to stop some outward action but a change of mind and heart so the temptation held no appeal to me—it has occurred to me that such victories came when I gave up on my own abilities and strength and turned to God in absolute desperation. When I have reached that point and cried out to Him, He has every time given me the victory.
Now do not misunderstand me; turning to God does not do away with our part in the battle. We are told that the greatest lesson to be learned is cooperation with Christ in the work of salvation. (See Lift Him Up, 217; Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 434.) In Education, 29, we are told that cooperation with the power of Christ is man’s greatest need. Selected Messages, Book 1, 380, 381, says: “Man is to cooperate with God, employing every power according to his God-given ability.” “Let no man present the idea that man has little or nothing to do in the great work of overcoming; for God does nothing for man without his cooperation.” These statements make our cooperation sound pretty important! In Testimonies, vol. 6, 236, we are told: “For all created beings there is the one great principle of life—dependence upon and co-operation with God.”
Consider the story given in John 11 about the death of Lazarus. Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus with Martha and Mary. The tomb was a cave with a stone covering its entrance, and Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” That sounds like a simple request, but it was full of meaning. In writing of this, Ellen White said: “Christ could have commanded the stone to remove, and it would have obeyed His voice. He could have bidden the angels who were close by His side to do this. At His bidding, invisible hands would have removed the stone. But it was to be taken away by human hands. Thus Christ would show that humanity is to co-operate with divinity. What human power can do divine power is not summoned to do. God does not dispense with man’s aid. He strengthens him, co-operating with him as he uses the powers and capabilities given him.” The Desire of Ages, 535.
What an important lesson! Combining His power with our effort equals victory! The two work together—His part and our part—in perfect unity. The question that should be asked is, What is His part, and what is our part?
In this study, we will look at verses in the Book of John that show how Jesus lived when He dwelt on this earth in our fallen nature and how He maintained the victory over self and sin. As our Example, if we understand His method, we should be able to have that same victorious experience.
Background of the Gospels
The four Gospels were written for different reasons, for different groups of people with different mindsets. Matthew wrote mostly to the Jews, and his concern was with Christ’s right to the throne of David—Jesus as king. Of the four writers, Matthew was the sermon reporter. Mark wrote mostly to the Gentiles, and his main theme was Jesus as servant. Luke was the careful historian. His main emphasis was Jesus as the Son of man.
John was the theologian of the four. His main emphasis was on Jesus’ words, and he was very careful to record exactly what Jesus said. His favorite themes were the infinite love of Christ and Jesus as God.
No genealogy is given by John. He starts at the very beginning of his book by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That verse is, of course, talking about Jesus. John was interested in Jesus as God.
John’s account is the most chronologically correct of the four Gospels. He records none of Christ’s parables, and approximately 92 percent of his book is not recorded anywhere in the other Gospels.
“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 4:34. This verse confirms that the Father sent Jesus. John 7:28 says, “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.” Again, Jesus is saying that He did not come on His own behalf. He was sent. The Father sent Him.
The words of Jesus, “sent me,” are found 23 times in the Book of John. It is interesting that Jesus did not just come on His own—His Father sent Him. Do we go where the Father sends us? We should be so in harmony with the Father that we know where He wants to send us—and go willingly. Jesus knew, and He went where the Father sent Him.
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” John 5:19. These are not words Jesus would have said before His incarnation. He would not have said, before the incarnation, that the Son can do nothing of Himself. The Son could do everything the Father could do, before the incarnation. This shows us that Jesus had laid down His divinity when He became a man. He came to fight the battle as we have to fight it, and He laid aside the power not available to us except as we obtain it the way He did. In other words, He laid aside His omnipotence.
“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” John 5:26. Jesus received life from the Father. From the time He came to this earth until His resurrection, all the life He had and all the life He gave to others—the raising of people from the dead—He got from the Father. Christ’s power was restored at His resurrection, when He raised Himself by His own power. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 357, 358.)
Will of the Father
Verse 30 says, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” A similar statement is recorded in John 6:38: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Jesus stated three different times that of His own self He could do nothing.
Interesting insight is given to this by Ellen White: “Before He came to earth, the plan lay out before Him, perfect in all its details. But as He walked among men, He was guided, step by step, by the Father’s will.” The Desire of Ages, 147. That is something that would not have concerned Christ before He came to the earth, because His will was in perfect harmony with the Father, but as He took on the nature of fallen man, He could no longer trust His will. He had to depend on the Father’s will completely to guide His will.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had to pray three times to bring His will into harmony with God’s will. He agonized so in His struggle to accomplish that that His sweat was as drops of blood. (See Matthew 26:36–45; Luke 22:44.) In Hebrews 12:4 we are told that, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” The key to that verse is the little word yet. We have not yet done it, but we may have to before our lives on this world end. Overcoming sin is a battle, and we may come to the point of sweating blood to bring our wills into harmony with God’s will.
“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” John 7:16. His doctrine was not His own. Even it came from the Father. A lot of the world makes up its own doctrine. We need to make sure that, like Jesus, we get our doctrine from the Father.
Words and Works
“I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.” John 8:26. Jesus got His words from the Father. Continuing in verse 28, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [he], and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” John 12:49, 50. Do we want our words to be words of life like Jesus’ words were? Then we need to speak the words of the Father, not our own. We need to watch our words, and speak only those things that are pleasing to God, as did Jesus.
Jesus’ words and works came from the Father. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” John 14:10. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” John 9:4. John 10:17, 18 says, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power [or authority] to lay it down, and I have power [or authority] to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” Verse 37 says, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.”
Obedience of Love
“And 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. Jesus was seeking to please the Father. No feeling of satisfaction can compare to knowing that we have God’s approval—of what we are doing, saying, seeing, reading . . . The list could go on and on.
In verse 42, Jesus said, “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.”
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” John 14:24. And verse 31 says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” The Father gave the commandment, and He obeyed.
From the beginning to the end of Christ’s life on this earth, everything was the Father’s—the will, the works, the words, the mission, the teaching, the doctrine, the decisions. All were His. The Son did not do anything on His own. He was totally dependent upon the Father. What an important lesson for us to learn! If Jesus needed to depend totally upon the Father to get through the battles He encountered on this earth, without falling into sin, how much more do we need to depend on the Father? This is a major key to righteousness by faith—total dependence on the Father for everything.
As stated previously, Jesus had to lay down His omnipotence when He took on the nature of fallen man. He did not have His omnipresence while on earth either. He was confined to a human body.
He also, apparently, laid down His omniscience. In Mark 13:32, Jesus said, “But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” only. Jesus even laid down His all-knowing. In Luke 2:52, it says He grew in knowledge. It would be impossible for Him to grow in knowledge, if He already knew everything. While on earth, He did not know everything.
“Christ in His life on earth made no plans for Himself. He accepted God’s plans for Him, and day by day the Father unfolded His plans.” The Ministry of Healing, 479. How nice it would be to get up in the morning and have the Father lay all our plans out for the day! That is the point to which He wants us to come. We must come to be so in harmony with God that we know exactly what He wants us to do every step of the way.
“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. The Father was with Jesus all the time. We need to experience that same closeness.
John 10:15 says, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The Father knew Him. What a wonderful privilege to have the Father actually know us, to have a personal relationship with Him. We get to know the Father by spending time in His Word every day and in talking with Him through prayer. We get to know God just like we get to know a friend—by spending time with him or her, talking to them, listening to them, and doing things together.
If we are not spending time with God and His Word, we are not getting to know Him. We do not put enough emphasis on how much time we need to spend with God and His Word, in prayer, and in doing things together. God speaks to us in His Word. We speak to Him through prayer. We do things together such as overcoming sin and witnessing to others. We do things with God, as we become co-workers with Him in saving others—and ourselves—from sin.
If we are not spending time doing those things, we really are not Christians. We are in a lost condition. Jesus said, in John 6:53, that unless we eat the bread and drink the blood of the Son of man, there is no life in us. If there is no life in us, we are in a lost condition.
We are told, in John 10:17, that the Father loves us: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”
In verse 30, we read, “I and [my] Father are one.” That is a truly intimate relationship. That is the kind of relationship the Bible describes between a husband and wife. They become one. (See Genesis 2:24.)
Description of this close relationship continues in verses 37 and 38: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father [is] in me, and I in him.” And in John 14:11, Jesus said, “Believe me that I [am] in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” The Father was in Jesus, and Jesus was in Him.
“And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 11:42. The Father heard Jesus, and He hears us. Is it not a nice thing to know that the Father hears us when we speak? He listens! If we take time to pray, He will take time to listen.
John 17:21 also talks about the intimacy of being one: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Jesus experienced that oneness with the Father, and He wants us to experience it with Him and the Father.
“Human language is being stretched to its utmost limits to describe the unbroken intimacy between the Father and the Son. The Father is with me, He does not leave me alone, He knows me, He loves me, He always hears me, He is in me, and I am in Him. We are one.
“We read and marvel. We look at the picture with the wistful longing of a boy staring at toys through a storefront window. What might it be to live like that! What confidence, security, trust—what freedom from fear, from stress! What an incredible privilege!
“As we look with longing, we hear Him say, ‘Would you like to go through life the way I did?’
“We answer, ‘Why do you mock us, Lord? You know we can’t do that. We were born of earthly fathers and your Father was God. We can’t live the way you did. Why do you mock us?’
“He answers, ‘I am not mocking you. I am telling you the truth. You can live on this earth in the same way that I did. The Heavenly Father is willing to be with you, to hear you, to know you, to love you, and to be one with you, just as He was one with Me.’
“Again we protest, ‘Lord, how can this be? We had earthly fathers, and you – —.’
“But He says, ‘You are greatly mistaken. You are asking the wrong questions, and you are looking to the wrong place. Get your mind off my birth. That is not “where it’s at.” ’ Then He challenges us with some questions:
“ ‘Have you read the story of my life on earth?’
“ ‘Yes, Lord, we have.’
“ ‘Have you found one place, even one place, in that life story in which I explained any of my works by a reference to my birth?’
“ ‘No, Lord, we have not.’
“ ‘Then, how do I explain them?’
“ ‘Well, you always explained them in terms of your ongoing relationship with the Father.’
“ ‘Exactly. Why then do you continue to look to the wrong place and ask the wrong questions? My life of victory on earth was not made possible by the circumstances of my birth. It was made possible by my ongoing relationship with the Father, and you can have exactly the same relationship if you want it. Go to the scriptures and read!’
“And so we read of the Incredible Privilege that is extended to us in Christ’s words reported in the Gospel of John.” Ralph Larson, Tell of His Power, Cherry Stone Press, Cherry Valley, California, 1988, 14, 15.
Eat and Drink of the Son
As we study the Incredible Privilege, read John 6:57: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” Unless we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, there is no life in us.
Ellen White wrote: “In the study of the Bible the converted soul eats the flesh and drinks the blood of the Son of God, which He himself interprets as the receiving and doing of His words, that are spirit and life. The Word is made flesh, and dwells among us, in those who receive the holy precepts of the word of God.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 378.
The people in Jesus’ day did not like hearing those words any more than people like hearing them today. When He said those words, there were about 5,000 people ready to follow Him and be His disciples, but when they heard those words, so many left that He turned to the 12 disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave also?” And they said, “Where would we go? You have the words of life.” (John 6:67, 68.) It has never been popular to talk about devotional time, but it is absolutely a necessity.
“At that day ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” John 14:20. Jesus offers us the incredible privilege of being in them just as they were in each other!
The incredible privilege of being one with Christ and the Father is offered again in John 17:11: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are].”
Jesus also offers us the incredible privilege of being sanctified through the truth, just as He was. “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world [talking about the disciples—about us]. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” Verses 18, 19.
The incredible privilege of being one with Him is given again in verse 21: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” That intimate relationship that Jesus experienced with the Father is offered to us. What a privilege!
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Verses 22, 23.
Love as He Loved
In addition to addressing oneness, Jesus talked about how the Father has love for us just as much as He had love for Christ. It is almost incomprehensible that the Father can love us as much as He loved Jesus, but that is what the Bible tells us, and we need to believe it.
“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare [it]: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Verse 26. The incredible privilege of having that love in us that was in Him is being offered to us. We can learn to love as He loved. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, we realize how important that is. If we do not have love, we are not going to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Dr. Larson goes on to say, “There it is. These are the words of Jesus—in unmistakable clarity. Do we believe them?” That is the question. They sound almost unbelievable, but we need to believe them. That is what faith is all about.
“The apostle Paul believed them. Their full significance was not lost on Him. The words ‘in Christ,’ or ‘in the Lord’ appear in his epistles 90 times.
“According to Paul we are baptized into Christ, we are new creatures in Christ, we have no condemnation in Christ, we are established in Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we speak in Christ, we say the truth in Christ, we have liberty in Christ, we have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, and consolation in Christ, we are rooted and built up in Christ, we have persecution in Christ, and when we die we are the dead in Christ!
“He wraps it up in two beautiful summary statements:
“Galatians 2:20 ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and 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.’
“Philippians 1:21 ‘For to me to live is Christ.’
“The pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church believed the words of Jesus too. They did not regard them as simply rhetorical devices such as a politician might use, spoken for effect and not meant to be taken seriously.” Larson, 15, 16.
We are to take these words literally. Even though they stretch our minds, we still are to believe them literally. If we never really believe these words, not only will we not experience them but we will not be able to teach them to others with power. They have got to become part of our thought processes. Just as our bodies assimilate food that becomes part of our physical makeup, we need to assimilate the Word of God until it becomes part of our thought processes, and our minds are brought into harmony with Christ.
If you have not made it your habit to study the life of Christ, I want to challenge you to make the decision right now to do so every day from this day forward. If you do not make it a part of your daily life, there will be no life in you.
If we are going to have the mind of Christ in us, we must meditate on His words. Our minds, by beholding, will become changed. Our characters are our thoughts and feelings combined, and if we are going to have Christ’s character perfectly reproduced in us, we must learn to think and feel as He does—to see things from His perspective instead of our perspective. We must come into harmony with Him in all our thoughts.