Walled Cities: The Believer's Sins (Continued)
IN THE preceding chapter we have seen that the sin question cannot be dealt with (1) by resolution against it, nor (2) by the other extreme, namely, spiritual experiences in which the sinful nature is eradicated. What, then, is the remedy for sin in the life of the believer?
The answer lies in a God who is able and willing to handle the sin question for us, just as He handled the salvation question for us. For us, the answer is faith. It is not a question of getting God to do something for us that He has not already done; it is a question of entering, by faith into what has already been done. When we know the truth, we will find that the question of sin in our lives has been dealt with, just as it was when we were saved.
God has never asked a poor sinner to do anything about his sins except to confess them. He does ask him to believe and accept what God has done about them. As we progress in faith we have the victory.
Let us go back to the experience of salvation. We struggled with our sins but found ourselves helpless to do anything about them. When we finally came to the conclusion that we were helpless and hopeless, and that we could never do anything that would satisfy God about our sins, we were led by the Spirit to trust in Jesus the Saviour, only to find that He had done all that God required for our
sins. We were bought and redeemed by the price of His blood, and God was satisfied. That was true all the time, but we found it only when we believed it. Then we felt the freedom which faith brings. We were born of a new understanding, which became our realization of eternal life, and joy was the result.
Now faith will also bring us to see that Jesus has done all that is necessary about our sins after we are saved, just as He had when we were saved.
When God gave His Son for us, that covered the entire sin question. When we, by faith, received that Son, He became, to us, all that we ever need for time and eternity. We can illustrate this by a story, which, I am told, is true. I may not have the accurate details, but, in the main, it is true.
Once there was a rich young man who called on a preacher to perform a wedding ceremony for him. Like most preachers, this one was limited in this world's goods, and so, he and his wife looked upon the wedding fee as being possibly more than the ordinary fee. The wedding was an extravagant one, and gifts from the groom were in keeping with the event. All the principals in the wedding shared in rather extravagant favors. The preacher received, as his favor, a pair of kid gloves. This, he thought, was quite out of keeping with the rest of the event, but preachers learn to take things as they come, and he went home and presented the gift to his wife. With his explanation of the matter there came some disappointment to her, as it had to him, but healing their disappointment with a few half-jovial remarks, he tossed the gloves into a drawer.
Several months later he dressed up to go upon a journey to a convention in a distant city. As his wife brushed him
off and tidied his clothes, she looked him over and said, "Dear, you look mighty nice; why don't you wear those gloves? After all, they are nice gloves." He agreed and immediately opened the drawer and took out the gloves. As he pressed his hand into one of them, he found the fingers blocked. Turning one of the fingers of the glove inside out, he found in it a ten-dollar bill. Immediately his wife "took over," and soon they had found a ten-dollar bill in each of the ten fingers.
Now, this story illustrates the truth we have stated. When the gentleman gave this preacher the gloves, he gave him all that was in the gloves, but months had passed before they had appropriated what was already theirs. And when God gave His Son for us, then to us, He gave all that Jesus can ever mean to a sinner in time and eternity. Perhaps it will take us all of time and eternity to know the fulness of what God has given us. Yet, it is all ours now!
So, there is a remedy for sin in the life of the believer, and that remedy is the same Jesus who saved us.
This is wonderfully set forth in the Letter to the Romans. Paul discovers four laws, which he sets forth in this letter, and his progression in experience covers exactly the experience of Israel from Egypt to Canaan.
First, he finds that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." In terrible description Paul sets forth the sinfulness of man, and the awful state of sin into which he has sunk. Thus, he concludes, in 3:23, that we have all shared in the awful fate. Unless help from some other source besides man come to us, there is not the slightest hope for either Jew or Gentile.
Second, he discovers that we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"
(3:24). "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:1). Justified is a legal term and has to do with court action. It does not mean that a man is any holier after he is justified than he was before, so far as he himself is concerned. It simply means that, in the eyes of the law, he is blameless. To justify a criminal does not mean to make him any less a criminal in experience, but to make him without offence in the eyes of the law. This requires some one else to take his place.
Jesus was the Holy One; we are the sinners. Yet, in the eyes of the law of God, Jesus becomes the sinner and we become the Holy One. It is not true in our experience that we are holy, anymore than it is true in Jesus' experience that He is unholy. But in the eyes of the law we have exchanged places. On this our hope must rest, for there "is no other name" in which we can find this justification.
Now let us bring the comparison up to this point. The plight of the sinner, which Paul first discovered, corresponds to the bondage of Egypt. God has to send help to release a sinner. The sacrifice of the lamb, of course, is a type of Christ's death for the sinner, and that which protects us from the "death angel," but the Red Sea is a type of the experience worked in the believer, wherein the Holy Spirit baptizes him into the death and resurrection of Christ. This is regeneration in its complete experience of repentance, faith, and new life through the Holy Ghost in us. I have no desire here to try to analyze it in its sequences as to time or operation. It all comes in one great saving experience, but there are always two realms of its operation: One is that which is done on God's book for us, and the other is the spiritual realization of our hope in us.
Suffice it to say that Paul found that a sinner could, by the law of the Sacrifice and faith, be justified and know it. In this the sinner found that God had been reconciled to him by Christ and that he could be reconciled to God by faith in that Christ.
Now the third law that Paul discovered was that what he wanted to do in the Spirit he was hindered from doing by the flesh. "I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me," and, "the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that do I" (Romans 7:21, 19).
The word "law" as used here does not mean something that the legislature has passed. It means a principle of control in the life. When Isaac Newton was lying under an apple tree, and an apple fell and hit him, he began to inquire what made the apple do that. He discovered a "law" of gravitation: any object heavier than air, when loosed from its moorings above, will fall toward the center of the earth. And, this is not just an occasional happening; it happens every time. So, Paul found that every time he would do good evil was present to hinder him. It was a law that bound him. The flesh had him tied so that the Spirit could not operate freely within him.
As William Newell says in his Romans Verse by Verse, Paul cried out for a deliverer. He had a Saviour, but now he wanted a deliverer who could release him from the sin that bound him in experience.
My good friend, Dr. Ralph A. Herring of Winston-Salem, N.C., has supplied me with an excellent illustration for this thought. Here is an airplane sitting on the runway. It is pinned to the ground by the law of gravitation. Gasoline, a potential power, is brought from a source wholly
apart from the plane. It is not a part of the plane. It is poured into the plane and then ignited by the proper devices. That power drives the plane out against the air, and, by sheer power of the gasoline, the plane is lifted in victory over the law of gravitation. As long as that power is applied, and the plane abides in that power, it continues to overcome. When the power is cut off., the plane is drawn down by the law of gravitation.
Paul cried out for a deliverer. He found the same Jesus who had saved him to be his Deliverer. Through the Holy Spirit, poured into the heart of Paul, he found himself able to overcome the other law in his members. This was the fourth law he discovered. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). That is, the Spirit in us is able to overcome the power of the flesh. This is what is meant by the present tense of the old formula of salvation: (1) We were saved from the penalty of sin. (2) We are being saved from the power of sin. (3) We shall be saved from the presence of sin.
Thus, the question now is not, "How shall I be saved from the presence of sin ?" as our holiness friends insist, but, "How shall I be delivered from the power of sin?" The answer is, "the same Christ who saved us." This gives sense to all the scriptural admonitions to abide in the Spirit.
Now going back to the figure of Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan, this period in a believer's life, where sin defeats the good he would do, is set forth in the wilderness wanderings. They have believed in a God who could take them through the Red Sea, but they are trying to find their own way now in the wilderness. They did not exercise faith in that same God to give them victory over the strongholds
of the heathen in that land. Thus the believer fails to trust that same Christ who saved him to give him victory over sin. He finds himself wandering in the wilderness of failure, with the flesh warring against the Spirit, trying to find his own way through these perplexing and conflicting pathways. When he comes at last to the truth, that he cannot find the answer to the sin question in himself, he may come then to Jordan and go over to helpless trust in the same Christ who brought him into this life. Here he will find that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death," and feel, at last, a sense of victory over sin.
Does this victory consist in coming into power to quit sinning entirely? No, that is not the meaning of this victory. It is mysterious and can be understood only by the spiritual mind. It is a victory, first, of absolute faith. It will be at first a matter of accepting things as God says they are, entirely on faith, without seeing the evidence in experience.
Go back now to the sixth chapter of Romans, and take a position on faith. The question is, "Shall we continue in sin ?" If not, how shall we keep from it? Remember, God told Joshua he could take all the ground on which he set his foot. That is, there can be no gain until we have first believed.
First, in Romans 6:3, 4, Paul recounts the ground on which we must set our feet. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." His reasoning continues through verse 10. In verse 7 he states the final truth for the sinner:
"For he that is dead is freed from sin." That is, he has paid the death penalty.
In this passage we find out that, as far as God is concerned, the sin question is settled. We can never make progress in outward conduct until we find the truth about the sin question as God sees it. We must come to His position, that the sin question is forever settled as far as He is concerned. This takes faith. The flesh will ever be bringing up conduct, and Satan will be constantly saying, "What about that? Look at the things you do. What are you going to do about them?" He will be constantly harrassing us about our sins, and we win, perhaps, try to curb those sins to keep from being embarrassed. It is this that he wants to provoke us to do. He desires to force us into the battle to help ourselves, for he knows we will fail if we do.
All right, what should the believer do? Do what the 11th verse of Romans 6 tells us to do - reckon it exactly the way God does. It is that way; reckon it that way. When God gets us to counting things like He counts them He can have our confidence to work in us. Faith is the basis of all works in us. Absolute surrender of all self-sufficiency and resourcefulness of self, and absolute faith in God to do something about our sins, is the attitude the believer must take.
First, accept God's statement that He has already dealt with the sin question, and that, instead of being offended at our sin, like a loving Father, He is sympathetic and wants to help us to overcome. So He calls His child who has failed and says lovingly, "Don't worry about that. I've paid for all that. Just believe that I am sympathetic and eager to help you, and have complete confidence in
me that I will help you. Reckon it the way I do, and leave it to me. I am the only one who can do anything about sin, anyway, and I have already done it. Just trust it to me, and don't worry."
You see, the question is, "Can you believe?" Is not that the question that came to you when you were under conviction and you could not help yourself? Didn't you turn the whole sin question over to God and tell Him there was nothing you could do? And didn't He take hold of your problem and tell you in sweet gospel sounds that He had already settled the sin question? And when you believed that, didn't you have peace? Then what did you do in that matter? Nothing but trust. Now you are crying out for a deliverer - somebody who can deliver you from the power of sin, and you will find that you can do no more about this problem than you did the other. You will have to leave this also with the same Christ who gave you hope. So, you cross Jordan in absolute surrender, on the sin question, and trust God to perform, in His own way, the matter of bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
Now, again we say, the flesh will hate this doctrine. It is much easier for the flesh to tackle the sin problem and believe that through restraint and self-discipline it can curb sin. Satan is happy when the believer tries to settle the sin question in this way. Self-reform after salvation
is just as bad as it is before. Can we trust God to take care of our conduct as well as save our souls? Ever it is the question, "Can you believe?"
When I have preached this doctrine, people have said to me, how do you apply this in your own life? Well, here is the answer.
I have sins, like all believers. If they are not crimes, they are sins just the same. I see more sin in my life now than I ever did, and that encourages me to believe I am making progress. I am in the light more than I was. But I hate my sin more than I ever did. I find Satan is more determined to attack me now than ever. There is greater conflict now with the powers of darkness, and the attack is more subtle and in constantly varying forms. As far as 1 am concerned I am never secure for a moment. But as far as God is concerned, I am ever secure. Hence, I trust in Him. I know that He wants to help me. The Spirit in my heart ever prompts me to confess my sin and be perfectly honest about it.
If I do others wrong - and it is quite unknown to me that I intentionally do this - I am glad to confess my wrong to the one I have injured, as well as to God. I see nothing but the natural fruit of the Spirit in this. Any believer ought to be willing to do this. So, confession of sin to others and to God keeps me in fellowship, and thus His life can flow into me and His Spirit works His fruits in me. This should be the ordinary life of a believer who has made surrender.
But, they ask, what if a sin continues to plague and harrass you, coming back again and again? What do you do then?
I stand on my ground and say, "Lord, I hate that sin; but that is just the way I will do if you don't keep your hands on me. I can't put away sin; you will have to do it." Then I come to my ground of faith again and say, "Lord, you and I together hate this sin. I want to be delivered from it. If I fight to restrain myself in my own strength, I will simply bottle the thing up in my heart. It must be put on the cross. So, I look to you now to do something for me, and do away with that sin." In simple faith I leave it there.
His remedy varies. Sometimes He lets the sin turn out in such a way as to kill my love for it. Just makes me sick of it. Other times He fills my life with something better, and suddenly I realize I had forgotten it. When the believer keeps his heart open in confession it is easy for God to fill it with something else. Then sometimes He puts me through trial and prunes the tree. Suffice it to say, whatever He does, He is the Great Physician, and I let Him prescribe and apply His remedy, as a loving Father to His helpless child. Do you see what I mean? "I yield" to Him, and that puts me in his hands.
How do I know God will do this for me? I take it on faith. He alone can; so I trust it to Him. What do I do about my sins? I do nothing but look to Christ for help. Thus yielded, I find the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus making me free from the law of sin and death. I know this will work.
I know my reader is almost ready to turn back, feeling that this way is the lazy man's way, and too easy. He thinks it must be harder than that. But, is not that exactly what we preach to the lost sinner, trying to show him that God has done all for him that can be done, and that God
is waiting for him to accept that and trust? And when you and I came to see this truth, did we not stand on the brink of faith, trembling, almost afraid it was too easy and would not work? And when we looked back to self, did we not see absolute despair? For what could we do for ourselves? It was Christ or perish! So, we cut all the strings, fell forward into His loving arms, and let Him have complete control. And what did we find? That Jesus saves! And afterward it was so clear, we wondered why we ever doubted.
But it wasn't easy to believe, was it? I remember going back to myoid home community and preaching this way of salvation to the home folk. A man who had long been a moralist, even participating in religious work, listened to one of my sermons. At the close he came to me and said, somewhat in derision: "Well, where did you get this easy way of being saved?" I replied, "What easy way?" He said, "Why, this easy way of just believing and claiming the promise. Not a thing to do but just say, 'Jesus paid it all,' and that settles it. Mighty fine, if true. Didn't know it could be that easy." There was a derisive smile on his face. I said, "Do you think that is easy?" He replied, "Why if it were that easy, anybody could be saved." Then I said, "I wonder if it really is so easy. Can you believe it and accept it? Is it that easy?" He hesitated, then his face grew red. I insisted, "Just go ahead, and believe it. If you do you are saved. God's Word says so, and I would like to see you do it. Jesus died for you; do you believe it? If so, will you accept it and depend on that alone to save you?" He halted a moment, then turned away, saying, "Ay, I can't see it."
No, it is not easy. Only by the Spirit's power can we do it. It is ever the question, "Can ye believe?" All things are possible to him that believeth.
And that is the way it was with us, was it not? It all hung on that transforming moment when we trembled and dared to trust Him alone.
Now, if it be difficult to get a sinner to see that this absolute faith is that which brings him into God's blessing, is it any wonder that the believer stands on the same brink of faith and hesitates, as he wonders whether or not God can do something about his sins that plague his life? The same faith that saved us brings also the Deliverer who, through the Spirit, enables us to overcome, but only when we trust it all absolutely to Him. It is faith that enables God to work in us. When we trust, God does.
Jesus alone is ever the answer to the sin question in its penalty, in its power, and in its presence. He alone will bring us forth at last without sin. But just as the flesh wanted to help save us, it will want to help reform us, and any resort to its wisdom or strength or ingenuity will be utter failure. Here is where Satan works - in the flesh - and he wants us to bring the battle there where he can have a hand in it and thus deceive us. We must ever look to Jesus. The flesh will never be able to produce anything but its own shameful works.
[Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory, 1951. Used with the permission of Philip R. Kazee. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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