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Is it Scriptural?
A keen observer once said, "You Christians seem to have a religion that makes you miserable. You are like a man with a headache. He does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it. You cannot expect outsiders to earnestly seek anything so uncomfortable." For the first time, I saw that Christianity ought to make its possessors happy, not miserable. I asked the Lord to show me the secret of a happy Christian life. I shall share this secret.
In moments of illumination, God's children feel that a life of rest and victory is their birthright. Remember your soul's triumph when you first met the Lord Jesus and glimpsed His mighty saving power? How easy it seemed to be more than conquerors through Him who loved you. Under the leadership of a Captain who had never been foiled in battle, how could you dream of defeat?
Many of you have found your real experience far different. Your victories have been few and fleeting, your defeats many and disastrous. You believe in Christ as your Savior from the penalty of sin but have not found Him as your inward-dwelling Savior from its power. Your early visions of triumph grow dim. You settle for the conviction that a Christian's life is alternately sinning and failure, repenting and victory, to be repeated again and again.
Is this all the Lord Jesus had in mind when He gave His life to deliver you from your cruel bondage to sin? Did His promise to deliver us from our enemies and enable us to triumph only mean sometimes? No! Jesus came to save you from thepower and dominion of sin now, in this life. If you doubt this, search your Bible.
When the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream and announced the coming birth of the Savior, he said, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."
Zacharias, "filled with the Holy Ghost," at the birth of his son, confirmed it through prophecy.
Paul and Peter insisted that Jesus' followers must walk a holy, Christ-like walk, both for themselves and as an example to unbelievers. The fact that far more mention is made of present salvation from sin than of future salvation in heaven plainly shows God's estimate of their relative importance. Can we, even for a moment, suppose the holy God who hates sin in the sinner is willing to tolerate it in the Christian? Or that His plan of salvation does not include deliverance from the power of sin?
Dr. Chalmers says, "Sin is that scandal which must be rooted out from the great spiritual household over which the Divinity rejoices." Does not that same God who loved righteousness and hated iniquity six thousand years ago, bear the same love to righteousness and hatred to iniquity still? The cross of Christ, by the same mighty, decisive stroke that moved the curse of sin away from us, also surely moves away the power and the love of it from over us." The redemption accomplished for us by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary, is a redemption from the power of sin and guilt. Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.
A Quaker divine of the seventeenth century said, "There is nothing so contrary to God as sin. It is inconsistent and disagreeable with true faith for people to be Christians and yet to believe that Christ, the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, will suffer sin and the devil to have dominion over them."
"[Some] say you must abide in sin as long as you live. What! Must we never be delivered? Must this crooked heart and perverse will always remain? What sort of a Redeemer is this, or what benefit have I in this life, of my redemption?"
The story of freedom from sin and guilt through the death of Christ has filled with songs of triumph the daily lives of many saints of God throughout all ages. It is now being sounded forth afresh to the unspeakable joy of weary and burdened souls.
Do not reject it, then, until you have prayerfully searched the Scriptures to see whether these things be so. Ask God to open the eyes of your understanding by His Spirit, that you may know "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe." When you catch faint glimpses of this power, learn to look away from your own weakness. Put your case into His hands; trust Him to deliver you.
God's Side and Man's Side
Two teachers held meetings in the same place at alternate hours. One spoke only of God's part in the work of the life and walk of faith. The other dwelt exclusively on man's part. They were in perfect sympathy with each other and realized fully each taught different sides of the same great truth. One perplexed lady said, "I cannot understand it at all. Here are two preachers undertaking to teach just the same truth, and yet, to me, they seem flatly to contradict each other."
I give what I judge to be the two distinct sides to show how looking at one without the other creates wrong impressions and views of the truth.
In brief, man's part is to trust, God's part is to work. We are to be delivered from the power of sin and made perfect in every good work to do the will of the Lord.
Most of us try to do it for ourselves and fail. Then we discover the Lord Jesus Christ has come on purpose to do it for all who put themselves wholly into His hands. Plainly the believer can do nothing but trust. The Lord actually does the work entrusted to Him.
The preacher who is speaking on the man's part in the matter cannot speak of anything but surrender and trust. Such preachers are constantly criticized as though in saying this, they imply there was no other part. The cry goes out that the doctrine of faith does away with realities; that souls are just to trust and there is an end to it. This misapprehension arises when either the preacher fails to state or the hearer fails to hear the other side of the matter.
On the other hand, the preacher who dwells on God's part only is also criticized. He does not speak of trust, for the Lord's part is to bring to bear upon all the refining and purifying resources of His wisdom and His love. He causes us to grow in grace and conform to the image of Christ.
Sanctification is both a step of faith and a process of works. By a step of faith, we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter; by a gradual process He makes us into a vessel unto His own honor.
How is a lump of clay made into a beautiful vessel? It lies passive in the potter's hands. It is not expected to do the potter's work, only to yield itself up to his working.
The potter takes the clay, kneads, and works it until it is pliable. Next he forms a vessel. He turns it, planes it, and smoothes it. He dries it in the sun, bakes it in the oven, and finally it is finished.
Once you have put yourself wholly and absolutely into the Heavenly Potter's hands, you must expect Him to begin to work. His way of accomplishing that which you have entrusted to Him may be different from your way; but He knows, and you must be satisfied.
I knew a lady who entered into this life of faith with a great outpouring of the Spirit and a wonderful flood of light and joy. She supposed this was preparation for some great service and expected to be put forth immediately into the Lord's harvest-field. Instead, her husband lost all his money. She was shut up in her own house with no time or strength left for any gospel work. She accepted the discipline, and yielded herself up as heartily to household chores as she would have done to preach, pray, or write for the Lord. Through this training, He made her into a vessel "meet for the Master's use and prepared unto every good work."
All we claim in this life of sanctification is that by an act of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord; then by a continuous exercise of faith, keep ourselves there. When and while we do it, we are truly pleasing to God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature us. When we do our part, He does His. Do not be afraid. Trust is the beginning and the continuing foundation.
The apparent paradox of, "Do nothing but trust," and "Do impossible things," can be likened to a saw in a carpenter's shop. We say, "The saw has sawn asunder a log;" then, "The carpenter has sawn it." The saw is the instrument used; the power that uses it is the carpenter's.
God's working depends on our cooperation. At a certain place our Lord could do no mighty work because of the people's unbelief. The most skillful potter cannot make a beautiful vessel out of a lump of clay never put into his hands. Neither can God make of me a vessel unto His honor unless I put myself into His hands.
As I am writing for human beings, I shall dwell mostly upon man's side in the hope of making plain how we are to fulfill our part of this great work. But I wish it to be distinctly understood: unless I believed with all my heart in God's effectual working on His side, not one word of this book would ever have been written.