12

MAR

ONLY GOD MATTERS

The way it works in experience is something like this: The believing man is overwhelmed suddenly by a powerful feeling that only God matters; soon this works itself out into his mental life and conditions all his judgments and all his values. Now he finds himself free from slavery to man's opinions. A mighty desire to please only God lays hold of him. Soon he learns to love above all else the assurance that he is well pleasing to the Father in heaven.

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11

MAR

A REVERSAL OF NATURE

Every man looks to his fellow men because he has no one else to whom he can look. David could say, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee," but the sons of this world have not God, they have only each other, and they walk holding to each other and looking to one another for assurance like frightened children. But their hope will fail them, for they are like a group of men, none of whom has learned to fly a plane, who suddenly find themselves aloft without a pilot, each looking to the other to bring them safely down. Their desperate but mistaken trust cannot save them from the crash that must certainly follow.

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10

MAR

THE GREAT TASKMASTER, SELF

They to whom the Word comes in power know this deliverance, this inward migration of the soul from slavery to freedom, this release from moral bondage. They know in experience a radical shift in position, a real crossing over, and they stand consciously on another soil under another sky and breathe another air. Their life motives are changed and their inward drives made new.

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9

MAR

SIN'S HUMAN CAPTIVES

In asserting that faith in the gospel effects a change of life-motive from self to God, I am but stating the sober facts. Every man with moral intelligence must be aware of the curse that afflicts him inwardly; he must be conscious of the thing we call ego, by the Bible called flesh or self, but by whatever name called a cruel master and a deadly foe. Pharaoh never ruled Israel as tyrannically as this hidden enemy rules the sons and daughters of men. The words of God to Moses concerning Israel in bondage may well describe us all: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows." And when, as the Nicene Creed so tenderly states, our Lord Jesus Christ "for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and the third day He arose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father," what was it all for? That He might pronounce us technically free and leave us in our bondage? Never. Did not God say to Moses, "I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey . . . and thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Let my people go"? For sin's human captives, God never intends anything less than full deliverance. The Christian message rightly understood means this: The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free. To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power.

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8

MAR

TRUTH PERVERTED

It is not my desire to minimize the justifying effect of faith. No man who knows the depths of his own wickedness would dare to appear before the ineffable Presence with nothing to recommend him but his own character, nor would any Christian, wise after the discipline of failures and imperfections, want his acceptance with God to depend upon any degree of holiness to which he might have attained through the operations of inward grace. All who know their own hearts and the provisions of the gospel will join in the prayer of the man of God:

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7

MAR

MORAL QUALITY

If we had not first suffered a serious decline in our expectations, we should not have accepted this tame technical view of faith. The churches (even the gospel churches) are worldly in spirit, morally anemic, on the defensive, imitating instead of initiating and in a wretched state generally because for two full generations they have been told that justification is no more than a "not guilty" verdict pronounced by the Heavenly Father upon a sinner who can present the magic coin faith with the wondrous "open-sesame" engraved upon it. If it is not stated as bluntly as that, at least the message is so presented as to create such an impression. The whole business is the result of hearing the Word preached without power and receiving it in the same way.

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6

MAR

A JUDICIAL CHANGE OF STATUS

I think the truth of the matter is not too deep nor too difficult to discover. Self-righteousness is an effective bar to God's favor because it throws the sinner back upon his own merits and shuts him out from the imputed righteousness of Christ. And to be a sinner confessed and consciously lost is necessary to the act of receiving salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This we joyously admit and constantly assert, but here is the truth that has been overlooked in our day: A sinner cannot enter the kingdom of God. The Bible passages that declare this are too many and too familiar to need repeating here, but the skeptical might look at Galatians 5:19–21 and Revelation 21:8. How then can any man be saved? The penitent sinner meets Christ and after that saving encounter he is a sinner no more. The power of the gospel changes him, shifts the basis of his life from self to Christ, faces him about in a new direction and makes him a new creation. The moral state of the penitent when he comes to Christ does not affect the result, for the work of Christ sweeps away both his good and his evil and turns him into another man. The returning sinner is not saved by some judicial transaction apart from a corresponding moral change. Salvation must include a judicial change of status, but what is overlooked by most teachers is that it also includes an actual change in the life of the individual. And by this we mean more than a surface change, we mean a transformation as deep as the roots of his human life. If it does not go that deep it does not go deep enough.

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5

MAR

A SAVIOR FROM WHAT?

I want to be fair to everyone and to find all the good I can in every man's religious beliefs, but the harmful effects of this faith-as-magic creed are greater than could be imagined by anyone who has not come face to face with them. Large assemblies today are being told fervently that the one essential qualification for heaven is to be an evil man, and the one sure bar to God's favor is to be a good one. The very word righteousness is spoken only in cold scorn, and the moral man is looked upon with pity. "A Christian," say these teachers, "is not morally better than a sinner, the only difference is that he has taken Jesus, and so he has a Savior." I trust it may not sound flippant to inquire, "A savior from what?" If not from sin and evil conduct and the old fallen life, then from what? And if the answer is, From the consequences of past sins and from judgment to come, still we are not satisfied. Is justification from past offenses all that distinguishes a Christian from a sinner? Can a man become a believer in Christ and be no better than he was before? Does the gospel offer no more than a skillful Advocate to get guilty sinners off free at the day of judgment?

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4

MAR

GOOD NEWS AND JUDGMENT

Wherever the Word comes without power its essential content is missed. For there is in divine truth an imperious note, there is about the gospel an urgency, a finality that will not be heard or felt except by the enabling of the Spirit. We must constantly keep in mind that the gospel is not good news only, but a judgment as well upon everyone that hears it. The message of the Cross is good news indeed for the penitent, but to those who "obey not the gospel" it carries an overtone of warning. The Spirit's ministry to the impenitent world is to tell of sin and righteousness and judgment. For sinners who want to cease being willful sinners and become obedient children of God, the gospel message is one of unqualified peace, but it is by its very nature also an arbiter of the future destinies of men.

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