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The fact of possessing certain attributes (e.g. “fruit of the Spirit”) of God does not establish the use of them, only potential for such. Though at rebirth, saints possess “all that pertains to life and godliness” (2Pe 1:3), it is only that which is properly learned and understood in time that will be applied in the walk; and it is true to His Word (Phl 2:13), that every genuine believer (if here long enough) will eventually be given and taught of God to “walk in (after) the Spirit.”
This mostly involves understanding godly truths that pertain to spiritual growth in the Lord Jesus’ “image,” which reveals to us the comprehension of them enough to apply them in our lives—of course, by the blessed Spirit. If there be that urgency of desiring to walk in the love of God toward all, then the entire course will reflect that of “pleasing” God (Phl 2:13).
To judge oneself (1Co 11:31) is often necessary and useful, but if that produces distrust toward God (results in self-condemnation—NC), then it is evil—the spirit of legalism is there, and the heart of the Father is judged (conflicts with “no condemnation”—NC) according to what we find in our own heart—a sad way, if we desire to know Him. The law says, Love; it is a righteous demand. But of the Gospel, the Lord Jesus Himself says, “God so loved,” and from this the new life, and the power to conquer sin flow.
The demand of love does not produce love, and the demand for holiness does not make holy. But also the fact that we have new life, does not give liberty—desire for holiness, no doubt, but not strength for liberty. Redemption provides for us first of all liberty, placing us before the Father, justified and accepted in the Beloved (Christ); the conscience is purified, and we recognize the love that is in our Father, justified and accepted in the question of the dominion of sin, and if we are not clear as to redemption, liberty in the soul is lost. This is what remains to be settled, in part, in your soul.
You speak of having practically (in practice—NC) done with self, and of holding it for dead. But it is with this latter truth that you must begin, and that as crucified with Christ. “Ye are dead” (Col 3:3). Faith recognizes this truth, and the experience which precedes is but the means of bringing us to discover that we do not succeed in delivering ourselves, nor in the dying. We must reckon (realize—NC) ourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God. Experience is useful to make us feel the need of a deliverer—our own weakness. When we have made the discovery of it, we come to know that God in sending His son, has “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3).
There is no acceptance of sin in the flesh (i.e. “in the evil nature; not the physical body but the old man—NC). We learn that is has been condemned, but in the Cross of Christ, that matter being settled by that sovereign grace; sin which tormented us has been judged. Then having been judged in the Cross, we have the right to hold ourselves for dead to sin; the practical carrying out of it (the walk—NC) comes afterwards—as a result. God says, “Ye are dead”—“crucified with Christ.” I accept it, quite convinced that good does not exist in me (old me—NC), and I reckon it of myself to have died (old man’s damnation and dominion nullified in the believer—NC).
Then, after that I bear, more or less faithfully, in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus (2Co 4:10); but it is a consequence—an important consequence—for our fellowship depends upon it. But it is also important to look constantly to the Lord Jesus, and to the love of the Father, because that encourages the soul. There is positive goodness in Him, strength also that He exercises on our behalf, but by looking to Him we are enlightened. It is not only that our condition is improved, but the grace that is in Him above all that we are, is revealed to the heart, and we know where strength is, and what the grace is on which we can count.
If you are tempted and tried, look to Him; little by little you will become accustomed to believe in His goodness, though it be necessary to recur constantly; but the eye directed to Him via the Word makes Him known to the heart. Looking to Him delivers us from ourselves (old selves, against which we constantly “put off”—NC), is what excludes that thought of self, and sanctifying us much more in a practical way—we grow. “We all, with open (unveiled) 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” (2Co 3:18).
- J N Darby