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And when His child does this, in simple faith and love, the obedience is acceptable. The Spirit gives us the sweet a.s.surance that we are well-pleasing to Him, and enables us to have confidence before G.o.d, because we know that we keep His commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.'

This obedience is indeed an attainable degree of grace. The faith that it is, is indispensable to the obedient walk.

You ask for the ground of that faith in G.o.d's Word? You find it in G.o.d's New Covenant promise, I will write My law in their heart. I will put My fear in their heart, and they shall not depart from Me.'

The great defect of the Old Covenant was that it demanded, but did not provide, the power for obedience. This the New Covenant did. The heart means the love, the life. The law put into, written into the heart, means that it has taken possession of the inmost life and love of the renewed man. The new heart delights in the law of G.o.d, it is willing and able to obey it.

You doubt this; your experience does not confirm it. No wonder! A promise of G.o.d is a thing of faith; you do not believe it, and so cannot experience it.



You know what invisible writing fluid is. You, write with it on paper, and nothing can be seen by a man who is not in the secret. Tell him of it, and by faith he knows it. Hold it up to the sun, or put some chemical on it, and out comes the secret writing. So G.o.d's law is written in your heart. If you believe this firmly, and come and say to G.o.d that His law is there in your inmost part, and hold up that heart to the light and heat of the Holy Spirit, you will find it true. The law written in the heart will mean to you the fervent love of G.o.d's commands, with the power to obey them. [2]

A story is told of one of Napoleon's soldiers. The doctor was seeking to extract a bullet that had lodged in the region of the heart, when the soldier cried, Cut deeper, you will find Napoleon graven there.'

Christian! do believe that the law lives in your inmost being! Speak in faith the words of David and of Christ, I delight to do Thy will O G.o.d! Yea, Thy law is written on my heart.'

The faith of this will a.s.sure you that obedience is possible. Such faith will help you into the life of true obedience.

III. THE STEP OUT OF DISOBEDIENCE TO OBEDIENCE IS BY SURRENDER TO CHRIST.

Turn to Me, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding,'

G.o.d said to Israel.

They were His people, but had turned from Him; the return must be immediate and entire. To turn our back upon the divided life of disobedience, and in the faith of G.o.d's grace to say I will obey,' may be the work of a moment.

The power for it, to take the vow and to maintain it, comes from the living Christ, We have said before, the power of obedience lies in the mighty influence of a living personal Presence. As long as we took our knowledge of G.o.d's will from a book or from men, we could not but fail.

If we take Jesus, in His unchanging nearness, as at once our Lord and our Strength, we can obey. The voice that commands is the voice that inspires. The eye that guides is the eye that encourages. Christ becomes all in all to us; the Master who commands the Example who teaches, the Helper who strengthens. Turn from your life of disobedience to Christ; give up yourself to Him in surrender and faith.

In surrender. Let Him have all. Give up your life to be as full of Him, of His presence, His will, His service, as He can make it. Give up yourself to Him, not to be saved from disobedience, that now you may be happy and live your own life without sinning and trouble. No; but that He may have you wholly for Himself, as a vessel, as a channel, which He can fill with Himself, with His life and love for men, and me in His blessed service.

In faith too. In a new faith. When a soul sees this new thing in Christ, the power for continual obedience, it needs a new faith to take in the special blessing of His great redemption. The faith that only understood He became obedient unto death' of His atonement, as a motive to love and obedience, now learns to take the word as Scripture speaks it, Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death.' It believes that Christ has put His own mind and Spirit into us, and in the faith of that, prepares to live and act it out.

G.o.d sent Christ into the world to restore obedience to its place in our heart and life, to restore man to His place in the obedience to G.o.d.

Christ came, and becoming obedient unto death proved what the only true obedience is. He wrought it out, and perfected it in Himself, as a life that He won through death, and now communicates to us. The Christ who loves us, who leads and teaches and strengthens us, who lives in us, is the Christ who was obedient unto death. Obedient unto death' is the very essence of the life He imparts. Shall we not accept it and trust Him to manifest it in us?

Would you enter into the blessed life of obedience? See here the open gate-Christ says, I am the door.' See here the new and living way-Christ says, I am the way.'

We begin to see it; all our disobedience was owing to our not knowing Christ aright. We see it; obedience is only possible in a life of unceasing fellowship with Himself. The inspiration of His voice, the light of His eyes, the grasp of His hand make it possible, make it certain.

Come and let us bow down, and yield ourselves to this Christ. Obedient unto death, in the faith that He makes us partakers with Himself of all He is and has.

[2] [In a volume being published about the same time, The Two Covenants and the Second Blessing, I have tried to show how plain, how certain, how all sufficient the provision is that has been made in the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, for securing our obedience.]

VI. THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH.

By faith Abraham obeyed.' -Heb. 11:8.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive as an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.' He believed that there was a land of Canaan, of which G.o.d had spoken. He believed in it as a land of promise,'

secured to him as an inheritance. He believed that G.o.d would bring him there, would show it him, and give it him. In that faith he dared go out, not knowing whither he went. In the blessed ignorance of faith he trusted G.o.d, and obeyed, and received the inheritance.

The land of promise that has been set before us is the blessed life of obedience. We have heard G.o.d's call to go out and dwell there-about that there can be no mistake. We have heard the promise of Christ to bring us there, and to give us possession of the land-that, too, is clear and sure. We have surrendered ourselves to our Lord, and asked of our Father to make all this true in us. Our desire now is that all our life and work in it may be lifted up to the level of a holy and joyful obedience: and that through us G.o.d may make obedience the key-note of the Christian life we aim at promoting in others. Our aim is high: we can only reach it by a new inflow of the power that comes from above.

It is only by a faith that gets a new vision and hold of the powers of the heavenly world, secured to us in Christ, that we can obey and obtain the promise.

As we think of all this, of cultivating in ourselves and others the conviction that we only live to please Him to serve His purposes, some are ready to say: This is not a land of promise we are called to enter, but a life of burden and difficulty and certain failure.'

Do not say so, my brother! G.o.d calls you indeed to a land of promise.

Come and prove what He can work in you. Come and experience what the n.o.bility is of a Christlike obedience unto death. Come and see what blessing G.o.d will give to him who, with Christ, gives himself the uttermost unto the ever-blessed and most holy will of G.o.d. Only believe in the glory of this good land of whole-hearted obedience: in G.o.d, in who calls you to it; in Christ, who will bring you in; in the Holy Spirit, who dwells and works all there. He that believeth entereth in.

I wish, then, to speak of the obedience of faith, and of faith as the sufficient power for all obedience. I give you these five simple words as expressive of the disposition of a believing heart entering on that life in the good land:-I see it, I desire it, I expect it, I accept it, I trust Christ for it.

I. FAITH SEES IT.

We have been trying to show you the map of the land, and to indicate the most important places in that land-the points at which G.o.d meets and blesses the soul. What we need now is in faith quietly and definitely to settle the question: Is there really such a land of promise, in which continuous obedience is certainly, is divinely possible?

As long as there is any doubt on this point, it is out of the question to go up and possess the land.

Just think of Abraham's faith. It rested in G.o.d, in His omnipotence and His faithfulness. We have put before you the promises of G.o.d. Hear another of them: I will give you a new heart. and I will put My Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my judgments, and ye shall keep them.' Here is G.o.d's covenant engagement. He adds, I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.' He undertakes to cause and enable you to obey. In Christ and the Holy Spirit He has made the most wonderful provision for fulfilling His engagement.

Just do what Abraham did-fix your heart upon G.o.d. He was strong in faith, giving glory to G.o.d, being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform.' G.o.d's omnipotence was Abraham's stay.

Let it be yours. Look out on all the promises G.o.d's Word gives of a clean heart, a heart established blameless in holiness, of a life in righteousness and holiness, of a walk in all the commandments of the Lord unblameable and well-pleasing to Him, of G.o.d's working in us to will and to do, of His working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight, in the simple faith: G.o.d says this; His power can do it. Let the a.s.surance that a life of full obedience is possible, possess you. Faith can see the invisible and the impossible. Gaze on the vision until your heart says: It must be true. It is true. There is a life promised I have never yet known.'

II. FAITH DESIRES IT.

When I read the gospel story and see how ready the sick and the blind and the needy were to believe Christ's word, I often ask myself what it was that made them so much more ready to believe than we are. The answer I get in the Word is this, that one great difference lies in the honesty and intensity of the desire. They did indeed desire deliverance with their whole heart. There was no need of pleading with them to make them willing to take His blessing.

Alas, that it should be so different with us! All indeed wish, in a sort of way, to be better than they are. But how few there are who really hunger and thirst after righteousness'; how few who intensely long and cry after a life of close obedience, and the continual consciousness of being pleasing to G.o.d.

There can be no strong faith without strong desire. Desire is the great motive-power in the universe. It was G.o.d's desire to save us moved HIM to send His Son. It is desire that moves one to study and work and suffer. It is alone the desire for salvation that brings a sinner to Christ. It is the desire for G.o.d, and the closest possible fellowship with Him, the desire to be just what He would have us be, and to have as much of His will as possible, that will make the promised land attractive to us. It is this will make us forsake everything to get our full share in the obedience of Christ.

And how can the desire be awakened?

Shame on us, that we need to ask the question; that the most desirable of all things, likeness to G.o.d in the union with His will and doing it, has so little attraction for us! Let us take it as a sign of our blindness and dullness, and beseech G.o.d to give us by His Spirit enlightened eyes of the heart,' that we may see and know the riches of the glory of our inheritance' waiting upon the life of true obedience.

Let us turn and gaze, in this light of G.o.d's Spirit, and gaze again on the life as possible, as certain, as divinely secured and divinely blessed, until our faith begins to burn with desire, and to say: I do long to have it. With my whole heart will I seek it.'

III. FAITH EXPECTS IT.

The difference between desire and expectation is great. There is often a strong desire after salvation in a soul who has little hope of really obtaining it. It is a great step in advance when desire pa.s.ses into expectation, and the soul begins to savor spiritual blessing: I am sure it is for me, and, though I do not see how, I confidently expect to obtain it.'

The life of obedience is no longer an unattainable ideal held out by G.o.d, to make us strive at least to get a little nearer it, but is become a reality, meant for the life in flesh and blood here on earth.

Expect it, as most certainly meant for you. Expect G.o.d to make it true.

There is much indeed to hinder this expectation. Your past failure; your unfavorable temperament or circ.u.mstances; your feeble faith; your difficulty as to what such a devotion, obedient unto death, may demand; your conscious lack of power for it; -all this makes you say: It may be for others; it is not for me, I fear.'

I beseech you, speak not thus. You are leaving G.o.d out of account.

Expect to get it. Look up to His power and His love, and do begin to say, It is for me.'

Take courage from the lives of G.o.d's saints who have gone before you.

Santa Teresa writes that after her conversion she spent more than eighteen years of her life in that miserable attempt to reconcile G.o.d and her life of sin. But at last she was able to write, I have made a vow never to offend G.o.d in the very least matter. I have vowed that I would rather die a thousand deaths than do anything of that kind, knowing I was doing it-this was obedience unto death. I am resolved never to leave anything whatever undone that I consider still to be more perfect, and more for the honor of my Lord.' [3]

Gerhard Tersteegen had from his youth sought and served the Lord. After a time the sense of G.o.d's grace was withdrawn from him, and for five long years he was as one far away on the great sea, where neither sun nor stars appear. But my hope was in Jesus.'All at once a light broke on him that never went out, and he wrote, with blood drawn from his veins, that letter to the Lord Jesus in which he said: From this evening to all eternity, Thy will, not mine be done. Command and rule and reign in me. I yield up myself without reserve, and I promise, with Thy help and power, rather to give up the last drop of my blood than knowingly or willingly be untrue or disobedient to Thee.'

That was his obedience unto death.

Set your heart upon it, and expect it. The same G.o.d lives still. Set your hope on Him; He will do it.

IV. FAITH ACCEPTS IT.

To accept is more than to expect. Many wait and hope and never possess because they do not accept.

To all who have not accepted, and feel as if they were not ready to accept, we say, Expect. If the expectation be from the heart, and be set indeed upon G.o.d Himself, it will lead the soul to accept.

To all who say they do expect, we urgently say, Accept. Faith has the wondrous G.o.d-given power of saying, I accept, I take, I have.'

It is for the lack of this definite faith, that claims and appropriates the spiritual blessing we desire, that so many prayers appear to be fruitless. For such an act of faith all are not ready. Where there is no true conviction of the sin of disobedience, and alas! no true sorrow for it; where there is no strong longing or purpose really in everything to obey G.o.d; where there is no deep interest in the message of Holy Scripture, that G.o.d wants to perfect us to do His will,' by Himself working in us that which is pleasing in His sight,' there is not the spiritual capacity to accept the blessing. The Christian is content to be a babe. He wants only to suck the milk of consolation. He is not able to bear the strong meat of which Jesus ate, doing, the will of His Father.'

And yet we come to all with the entreaty, Accept it, the grace for this wondrous new life of obedience; accept it now. Without this your act of consecration will come to little. Without this your purpose to try and be more obedient must fail. Has not G.o.d shown you that there is an entirely new position for you to take-a possible position of simple childlike obedience, day by day, to every command His voice speaks to you through the Spirit: a possible position of simple childlike dependence on and experience of His all-sufficient grace, day by day, for every command He gives?

I pray you, even now, take that position, make that surrender, take that grace. Accept and enter on the true life of faith, and the unceasing obedience of faith. As unlimited and as sure as G.o.d's promise and power are, may your faith be. As unlimited as your faith is, will your simple childlike obedience be. Oh! ask G.o.d for His aid, and accept all He has offered you.

V. FAITH TRUSTS CHRIST FOR ALL.

All the promises of G.o.d are in Christ Jesus, and in Him, Amen, unto the glory of G.o.d by us.' It is possible that as we have spoken of the life of obedience, there have been questions and difficulties rising to which you cannot at once give answer. You may feel as if you cannot take it all in at once, or reconcile it with all the old habits of thought and speech and action. You fear you will not be able at once to bring all into subjection to this supreme all-controlling principle, Do everything as the will of G.o.d: do all as obedience to Him.'

To all these questions there is one answer; one deliverance from all these fears; Jesus Christ, the living Savior, knows all, and asks you to trust yourself to Him for the wisdom and the power to walk ever in the obedience of faith.

We have seen more than once how His whole redemption, as He effected it, is nothing but obedience. As He communicates it, it is still the same. He gives us the spirit of obedience as the spirit of our life.

This spirit comes to us each moment through Him. He Himself keeps charge of our obedience. There is none under heaven but what He has and gives and works. He offers Himself to us as surety for its maintenance, and asks us to trust Him for it. It is in Jesus Himself all our fears are removed, all our needs supplied, all our desires met. As He the righteous One is your righteousness, He the obedient One is your obedience.

Will you not trust Him for it? What faith sees and desires and expects and accepts, surely it dare trust Christ to give and to work.

Will you not to-day take the opportunity of giving glory to G.o.d and His Son, by trusting Jesus now to lead you into the promised land: Look up to your glorified Lord in heaven, and in His strength renew, with new meaning, your vow of allegiance, your vow never to do anything knowingly or willingly that would offend Him. Trust Him for the faith to make the vow, for the heart to keep it, for the strength to carry it out. Trust Him , the loving One, by His living presence, to secure both your faith and obedience. Trust Him, and venture to join in an act of consecration, in the a.s.surance that He undertakes to be its Yea and Amen, to the glory of G.o.d by us.

[3] [She says further: We are so long and so slow in giving up our hearts to Thee. And then Thou wilt not permit our possession of Thee without our paying well for so precious a possession. There is nothing in all the world wherewith to buy the shedding abroad of Thy love in our hearts, but our heart's love. G.o.d never withholds Himself from them who pay this price and persevere in seeking Him. He will, little by little, and now and then, strengthen and restore that soul, until it is at last victorious.']

VII. The School of Obedience A Basket of Fragments Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.' -John 6:12.

In this closing chapter I wish to gather up some points not yet touched upon, or not expressed with sufficient clearness, in the hope that they may help some one who has indeed enrolled himself in Christ's school of obedience.

I. ON LEARNING OBEDIENCE.

First, let me warn against a misunderstanding of the expression- learning obedience.'

We are apt to think that absolute obedience as a principle-obedience unto death-is a thing that can only be gradually learned in Christ's school. This is a great and most hurtful mistake. What we have to learn, and do learn gradually, is the practice of obedience, in new and more difficult commands. But as to the principle, Christ wants us from the very entrance into His school to make the vow of entire obedience.

A little child of five can be implicitly obedient as a youth of eighteen. The difference between the two lies not in the principle, but in the nature of the work demanded. .

Though externally Christ's obedience unto death came at the end of His life, the spirit of His obedience was the same from the beginning.

Whole-hearted obedience is not the end, but the beginning of our school life. The end is fitness for G.o.d's service, when obedience has placed us fully at G.o.d's disposal. A heart yielded to G.o.d in unreserved obedience is the one condition of progress in Christ's school, and of growth in the spiritual knowledge of G.o.d's will.

Young Christian! do get this matter settled at once. Remember G.o.d's rule: all for all. Give Him all: He will give you all. Consecration avails nothing unless it means presenting yourself as a living sacrifice to do nothing but the will of G.o.d. The vow of entire obedience is the entrance fee for him who would be enrolled by no a.s.sistant teacher, but by Christ Himself, in the school of obedience.

II. OF LEARNING TO KNOW G.o.d'S WILL.

This unreserved surrender to obey, as it is the first condition of entering Christ's school, is the only fitness for receiving instruction as to the will of G.o.d for us.

There is a general will of G.o.d for all His children, which we can, in some measure, learn out of the Bible. But there is a special individual application of these commands-G.o.d's will concerning each of us personally, which only the Holy Spirit can teach. And He will not teach it, except to those who have taken the vow of obedience.

This is the reason why there are so many unanswered prayers for G.o.d to make known His will. Jesus said, If any man wills to do His Will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of G.o.d.' If a man's will is really set on doing G.o.d's will, that is, if his heart is given up to do, and he as a consequence does it as far as he knows it, he shall know what G.o.d has further to teach him.

It is simply what is true of every scholar with the art he studies, of every apprentice with his trade, of every man in business doing is the one condition of truly knowing. And so obedience, the doing of G.o.d's will as far as we know, and the will and the vow to do it all as He reveals it, is the spiritual organ, the capacity for receiving the true knowledge of what is G.o.d's will for each of us.

In connection with this let me press upon you three things.

1. Seek to have a deep sense of your very great ignorance of G.o.d's will, and of your impotence by any effort to know it aright.

The consciousness of ignorance lies at the root of true teachableness.

The meek will He guide in the way' -those who humbly confess their need of teaching. Head-knowledge only gives human thoughts without power. G.o.d by His Spirit gives a living knowledge that enters the love of the heart, and works effectually.

2. Cultivate a strong faith that G.o.d will make you know wisdom in the hidden part, in the heart.

You may have known so little of this in your Christian life hitherto that the thought appears strange. Learn that G.o.d's working, the place where He gives His life and light, is in the heart, deeper than all our thoughts. Any uncertainty about G.o.d's will makes a joyful obedience impossible. Believe most confidently that the Father is willing to make known what He wants you to do. Count upon Him for this. Expect it certainly.

3. In view of the darkness and deceitfulness of the flesh and fleshly mind, ask G.o.d very earnestly for the searching and convincing light of the Holy Spirit.

There may be many things which you have been accustomed to think lawful or allowable, which your Father wants different. To consider it settled that they are the will of G.o.d because others and you think so, may effectually shut you out from knowing G.o.d's will in other things. Bring everything, without reserve, to the judgment of the Word, explained and applied by the Holy Spirit. Wait on G.o.d to lead you to know that everything you are and do is pleasing in His sight.

III. ON OBEDIENCE UNTO DEATH.

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The School Of Obedience Part 3 summary

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