"Exercise thyself unto piety"


"I Ki. 12:24"

The power of sin within us is far too strong for any of us to conquer. Of course, unbelievers give way continually to this cruel enemy of souls. They are slaves of sin, and generally prefer it this way. They are not responsible for having that sinful nature; it has been inherited from Adam. But they are responsible for allowing it to express itself by sinning. Every soul under heaven is personally responsible for his own sins, and God allows no excuses or shadow of justification for this. Yet it is the most common deceit of men’s hearts to blame anything or anyone else for the wrong he himself has done. This is one of the repulsive characteristics of that sinful nature. Such a dishonest cover-up is the very reason that souls find no deliverance from sin.

First, one must face his sins as his own personal guilt, if he is to find forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9).

It is this guilt we must have removed first, before ever we can even understand how God deals with our sinful nature. For the sinful nature is not our responsibility, but our guilt is; that is, guilt on account of the sinful acts we have committed, and which only the blood of Christ, shed on Calvary, is sufficient to remove, before God. Personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great sacrifice for our sins, is the absolute requisite for this forgiveness and justification. For God offers this "to all," but it is applicable only to "all them that believe" on His Son (Rom. 3:22).

But it is fully possible that this forgiveness may be known, with its accompanying genuine faith and thanksgiving to God, and yet the believer in experience find deep distress and perplexity in realizing that still within him is that hateful sinful nature that springs into activity on the slightest occasion, influenced greatly by temptation, so that too often the believer gives way and finds himself defeated and miserable. Romans 6 and 7 deal especially with this question. For God knows well what the soul goes through, and has made perfect provision to meet it. Let us then honestly desire to know his answer, and learn it well from His word. We note here a few outstanding points for serious consideration:

1. Recognize this dread principle "sin" as an enemy. To the unbeliever, sin is his master; but sin has no dominion over the believer, who is under grace (Rom. 6:15). Christ is the Master of the believer, and sin is his vicious enemy, attempting to defeat and destroy him. Nor is it a virtue to underestimate the power of an enemy. His power is dreadfully great; but our Master is infinitely greater. These two points should be deeply impressed upon us.

2. Take sides fully with your true Master against the sin which is both His enemy and yours. This means you must not excuse yourself in the least degree for giving way to sin, nor blame it on anything or anyone else; but blame yourself fully for it. Let it be stressed that this is a vitally important matter, for far too many defeat themselves by not honestly taking the full blame for their failures. Notice Rom. 6:21, and compare Job 33:27-28.

3. Reckon (or count) yourself dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:11). We have full title to do this because God counts the death of Christ as our death; it is an absolute, established fact in God’s eyes, that believers "have died with Christ" (Rom. 6:8), and therefore have died to sin (v. 2). If sin therefore presents its subtle temptation to your mind, it is right for you to respond, "No: I have died to that." You are rather alive to God now: it is in Him your true life is, not in sin.

4. Yield yourself to God as one who is alive from the dead (Rom. 6:13). It is not your determination that will keep you from sin, but submitting to the only one who is able to keep you from it. Remember, having died with Christ, you are now alive from the dead, on the other side of death, where Christ is in the glory of God. Your life is there. If you have not before gotten into the presence of God to take the deliberate step of yielding yourself to Him, then do so without delay. There is certainly no power for you anywhere else.

5. Yield your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom. 6:13). To yield ourselves is first: this should be done once for all. But members speak of the details of our life: our mind (what we think), our eyes (what se see), our ears (what we hear), lips (what we say), hands (what we do), feet (where we go), etc. The first three of these are passive, but they are deeply basic to all that comes from us. "Set your mind on things above" (Col. 3:2), where our life is. If our thoughts are on profitable things (Phil. 4:8) this will greatly influence our actions. As to seeing and hearing, we must constantly be on our guard. Lot, in seeing and hearing, was vexed in his soul from day to day by the filthy conversation of the wicked (2 Pe. 2:7,8). If we make provision for the flesh in the way he did, by friendships with the ungodly, or even by television or radio allowing evil conversation to enter our homes, we cannot but be affected by it. Let our eyes behold rather the purely satisfying beauty of the Lord Jesus, and our ears drink in His precious word.

All of these details we are to be concerned to have yielded to God day by day. This means constant exercise in communion with Him, both in meditation on His word and in prayer, along with the self-judgment that this will rightly produce.

But chapter 7 shows that one may desire all this honestly, and yet lack the liberty of true deliverance, because his eyes are on his own efforts to maintain a proper standard, that is, in the case considered there, a standard of law-keeping. But we must realize that we are just as dead to law as we are to sin. Law can be no standard for the one redeemed by the blood of Christ. In this we must learn that the law of the Spirit, which is that of life in Christ Jesus, has made us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). The Spirit of God in the believer is new ruling principle in precious liberty.

And added to this is the fact that Christ Himself is the standard of the believer, Christ his Object (8:3,4), to engage his heart and his mind, so that he is entitled to look altogether outside of himself and his own sinful heart, to find perfect rest in contemplating the beauty and perfection of the Son of God. Christ has done what the law could not do, and what we could not do. We rest in this, and trust Him simply for everything. Our old sinful nature does not change, but we have title to forget it, and turn thoroughly from it, in appreciation of One who is supreme above it, and sufficient to fill our hearts with praise for eternity.

We need Him for every step of the way: we need His Spirit: we need His word: for we have no strength, and no protection in ourselves. But there is in Him perfection of sufficiency; and as we enjoy Him we shall prosper and bear fruit. This is true liberty, true peace, true rejoicing. Let no believer settle for anything less.

Sins are no longer my burden, (Romans 1 to 5:11)

Adam no longer my head; (Romans 5:12 to 21)

Sin nevermore is my master, (Romans 6)

And to the law’s claims I am dead. (Romans 7, 8)

Now Christ is my heart’s blessed Burden, (Romans 5:1-11)

And Christ my undying Head, (Romans 5:12-21)

My merciful, grace-giving Master; (Romans 6)

While, for fruit, by His Spirit I’m led. (Romans 7, 8)

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