Grace the True Source and Support of Practical Righteousness

Galatians 6:7‑11  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
It is well to remind our souls and one another, by times, that whatever may be the mighty—almighty—power of God's grace, He nevertheless always maintains His own moral principles. Whatever may be His mercy in calling a soul—whatever the fullness of love that embraces even a prodigal, He never leaves the prodigal in his evil. He never leaves the unrighteous in his unrighteousness; He never deals lightly with ungodliness: even in forgiving it, He has shown Himself utterly, irreconcilably, against it; but, thanks be to God, for us, against our evil and for ourselves. And this is the gospel. And as this is the manner of His love in our deliverance and reconciliation to Himself, so it is throughout that God maintains His authority in our souls, His hatred of sin, and delight in what is good. He undertakes to make the reflection of His own holiness in every soul that He delivers from the wrath to come. And let us remember there is no exception. In one sense there is no difference. Just as there was no difference in saving us as miserable lost sinners—we were all alike lost, and yet there were grave differences in the character of our sinfulness—so now. There may be no small differences in the measure in which we serve and resemble Christ. But there is no difference in this, that we resemble Christ—if indeed we belong to Him, we must. As God is true, He cannot give up working the active watchful work of His love in changing us into the same image, even now as we pass through the wilderness.
It is well for us, therefore, continually to bring our souls to this standard. Let us keep fast holiness. The more we value grace and seek to understand it—and I do not think it is possible to over-estimate the importance of it, both of the knowledge of it and the desire to know it more—even because of this it becomes us so much the more to take care that we never sacrifice the moral principles of God's dealings with every soul of man, and with ourselves in particular because of the mercy that He has shown our souls.
But here is a passage now before us that sometimes startles many a soul not founded in grace; a passage which those who are unacquainted with grace wrest as they do also the other scriptures to their own destruction. They say, There, you see, it all depends upon what we are—how we overcome self, and how far we are changed men: all depends upon our being thoroughly spiritual and entirely devoted. I need not stop to prove that such a statement is altogether false; that the only foundation on which we can stand at all is Christ: “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ.” That foundation is not the work of the Spirit in us, but of Christ for us; it is a work entirely outside us, on which we stand forever before God. But as surely as we do stand on that foundation, there is a work of the Spirit in us, and a constant and serious work. I do not say it may not be eclipsed from time to time and interrupted. There may be sad checks to it; but I do say that God never allows such a thought as that a child of His, blessed with Christ, should not be subject to the present care, and government, and discipline of His heart and hand in our ways and conversation, so as to produce a moral conformity to His own will. He would cease to be God if He did, and He would treat us as bastards and not as sons; for “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.”
Thus, though it may seem strange to those who little understand the ways of God, and it will be thought strong wherever there is carelessness, and anything allowed in our ways that is contrary to God, yet it is most wholesome and needed for our souls that we should remind ourselves of such a scripture as this: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” It is, be assured, universally true, whether of the unbeliever or of the believer— “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” The unbeliever sows to self and nothing but self, and reaps the judgment of God on self—and of self where there is not a single good thing—nothing that will stand before God. But what about the believer? There is where the difficulty comes in. The believer has the mingled crop of good and evil. For just as we know with Christianity; the field where good seed was sown and where there was good soil, yet all was not good seed—tares were sown by the enemy; so Satan may take advantage of the unjudged evil of our hearts in order to lead into sin. It may not be always a question of gross sin; but it is the lawless evil of our nature, that prefers a little present gratification of self to the service, the uniform obedience and glory, of Christ. But what do we gain by it? Can you tell me of a soul that ever departed from the will of God that did not suffer in that very thing in which be pleased himself? Can you look back on any one thing in which you went contrary to God, that gave you satisfaction as a Christian? Wherever we indulged ourselves, in that itself God dealt with us. The very thing for which we spare ourselves becomes the keen rod for our correction. And let us thank God that it is so. “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
If it were not so, what must be the consequence? I must suffer in hell for it. If God did not carry on this discipline in my soul now, as sure as God lives and we live, what is contrary to God must be judged, and it will be judged in hell. Therefore no matter what the thing—be what many would think a matter of indifference, it is impossible that God could pass over a little sin: impossible that He could have communion with anything that is not of Christ. What a mercy that now is the time when God deals with what does not flow from His Spirit! It may have to be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ another day, when we shall receive the things done in the body according to that we have done whether good or bad. But now is the time when the rod is upon us: if it be not so, it is only because a heavier rod is preparing. Where we think that we can go on for a certain time, and it does not appear that God is taking notice of our ways, He is only waiting to deal with us in a more effectual manner.
And let us not think our Father hard. Can any one thing too hard come from such a God?—the God who gave His own Son to die that we might know our sins forgiven and ourselves sons of God with Christ forever? Now such we know to be our place, as it is of all Christians, let them say what they may. Nothing can alter God's truth. But a vast deal depends on what our practical state and conduct as to the dealing of God with our souls in the present time. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” This does not mean anything necessarily shocking, though the very worst evil may be its end. Of course any kind of indulgence of the flesh must be dealt with by God and by God's children. But there may be that which children of God do not see. Does God pass over that because others do not see it, and we may not think much of it? Impossible that God could sanction what is contrary to Christ. And let us thank God for it. It is a part of the scheme of His perfect goodness towards us. It could not be otherwise. And we should prove ourselves to be little worthy of the name of Christ, if we wished it to be otherwise.
May our desire be that Christ be formed in us in everything; not only that we should have life everlasting, but that our hearts should be according to His heart—our spirit, our ways, our walk, according to the mold of Him to whom we belong. This is what God has before Him; and it should be the object of our souls. “Therefore let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”