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For the last century or so it has become increasingly difficult to find an outward distinction between Law and Grace within contemporary Christendom, hence the hypocritical appearance of many who profess faith in the Lord Jesus. It’s my suspicion that the major cause here is not practical hypocrisy (because I think most who profess Christ are genuinely reborn) but a chronic misunderstanding of the Law; which misunderstanding has been extant since the time of the Apostle Paul, who often had to refute many around him that attempted the admixture of these two systems of God (Judeo-Christian).
The Law provided forgiveness (via Levitical ordinances, e.g. Num 15) while manifesting the immorality of those forgiven (via the Decalogue). It was not intended to address the sin nature (old man)—but the fruit of it—sin! Conversely, Grace addresses the sin nature, which not only means forgiveness but the implanting of a new nature (new man) from Christ (Col 3:10; 2Pet 1:4), “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24). Through this new nature the Father “works in you” (Phl 2:13) to “eschew evil” (1Pet 3:11- continue to absent the desire for it) from the old man within, while His Spirit ever opposes it in us (Gal 5:17); which is the major advantage that grace has over law, being God-controlled instead of self-controlled.
God knew that even after repeated physical proofs of love and deliverances, many of His people would continue to choose their own way in “unbelief” (Heb 3:19). I think if you will not desire to have faith in God through “infallible proofs,” you cannot desire faith without them, which would not be love, because “faith works by love” (Gal 5:6).
“Shut Up To Faith”
“And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him (Isa 30:18).
The believer is not brought into spiritual maturity without passing through afflictions, both external and internal. We are slow to learn what is to be done, but still more reluctant to submit to its being done. We want our enjoyments (sometimes too desirably – NC), which war against the full enjoyment of the Lord Jesus.
How blessed that our Father is patient, loving and determined! In order to utterly detach us from earthly ties and fuse us into a loving union with Himself through the Crucified One, His love will not shrink from reducing us to the very dust of despair and death. He will apply the sword to every tie that binds us to this world.
He will spoil all of our pharisaical foliage. He will lay the axe of the Cross to the very root of the old man. We may find the whole inward fabric of our lives overwhelmed and burned and blasted to the very extreme of endurance. Shrink not, fearful soul! This is the Father’s undoing of the old life. Remember that we can enjoy the new only as we learn to “put off” the old. In the midst of all this dreadful baptism (of trials – Mat 20:22 – NC) the Father is teaching you to unlearn the old man and to learn the new man in—“Christ who is our life.”
The old natural life is contrary to faith. The whole of it is dominated by self-love, self-righteousness and self-confidence, and in a single word, selfishness. The process, therefore, of unlearning the old and turning to the risen Lord Jesus will be for every growing believer a painful process. Natural ambitions and aspirations enter so largely into our Christian life and service that the Father simply must cut off these myriad branches of the life of nature. With what frightful exposure of shame and pain was Peter finally driven from his unbounded confidence in himself!
Go back to Abraham, the very father of faith and notice how he had to learn these lessons after the same fashion. Most of his life was made up of “going out” from the natural, or leaving the natural to learn the supernatural. He left his home, his kindred, his idols, and his country. He left Lot the first choice of the land. He left his relative, Lot. He left his spoils of battle to the king of Sodom. At each of these steps of faith he acted contrary to nature, i.e. affection, choice and possession.
There are still greater tests ahead for the father of faith. He had been leaning on Eliezer. Next he had listened to Sarah’s fleshly suggestion. Finally, when 90 years old, with his own vital powers withered and gone, under hopeless circumstances, he hopefully believed. With every door in nature closed, Abraham was at last “shut up unto the faith” (Gal 3:23). Out of this very despair a superhuman hope was born for a supernatural birth of a son. Faith works better when there is no natural hope. If there be but a straw for sight to cling to, then faith finds difficulty. True faith is usually born of despair.
Ask the Father to put a thorn in every enjoyment, and a worm in every gourd that would either prevent your being wholly Christ’s, or would in any measure retard your growth in faith. Submit yourself to the divine will and let your Father cut every idolatrous prop away, whether of feeling or any other manifestation. Why demand to see your faith, or feel His presence? Those who have been used for exploits in the Church have often experienced the greatest desolation and hopelessness.
Like Hudson Taylor, a host of others have found themselves thus shut up to despair—death with the Lord Jesus on the Cross. However, not until they had come to an end of all self-righteousness and satisfaction in themselves, not until all their peace and joy and strength of will and resolution and purpose had been slain by the law, could faith stretch forth its hands for growth and maturity. Only when they realized the tragedy, the futility, the folly and failure of every human attempt to overcome the law of sin and death were they shut up to Him who not only “justifies the ungodly,” but “quickens the dead.” It is a blessed day—when they thus die and are shut up to their union with their risen Lord in death, resurrection and ascension.
Many believers keep themselves in a perpetual foment though hoping they will get into a situation where they can enjoy the Christian life (i.e. “enjoy” - 1Tim 6:17 - apart from difficulties – NC). They feel enclosed in a net of circumstances which they are unable to accept. They are so wearied, baffled and beaten by the continuous pressure about them that they wish and yearn for things to be different, quite sure that if things were only different the Lord Jesus would be more real. It has never dawned upon them that at the heart of these very circumstances they are to find the Lord Jesus, find His grace sufficient and find the life more abundant. Why the unrelenting pressure—why the unending succession? Is it mere incident and accident? The purpose is “that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
In spite of care and prayer, do things go wrong day after day in never-ending succession (thankfully they’re not without a break, but continue until we’re gone – NC)? Are you desperately holding out against the process, praying that the thorn may be removed—only to be crowned with the more? Worst of all, you know that you can neither manage nor control the force arrayed against you. Why then not just settle down and settle in? Accept the fact that this is your lot in life (if you’re a growing Christian – NC)—and is neither accidental nor incidental.
Cease hoping for things to be otherwise (e.g. growth in Christ without trials – NC), and cease nagging to be other-where; for you are not moving on, not moving out. In your weariest, weakest and most bewildered moment, simply say, “Now, Lord, here is my opportunity, and Thine—my chance to die, Thy chance to manifest the life of the Lord Jesus through me.”
- L E Maxwell (1895 – 1984)
He emptied my hands of my treasure store
And His covenant grace revealed,
There was not a wound in my aching heart
But the balm of His breath and healed.
Oh! Tender and true was the chastening sore
In wisdom that taught and tried,
Till the soul that He sought was trusting in Him
And nothing on earth beside.