I. Introduction: All of these articles are my own personal meditations, put to print if you will. They are stream-of-consciousness flowings, reflecting what is in my mind, and on my heart. If you think my posts are long as is, you should see the originals. Quite often, having revised it a dozen or more times, I manage to get my own words a bit more succinct, though often finding myself adding even more scriptural passages to support the points being made. My writings are not me trying to teach others, at least not first, second, or third and foremost. My writings are my efforts to consolidate my own thoughts, my own understanding, in the hopes of it benefiting me, mine, and any of the brethren willing to take the time to consider.
II. The Underlying Struggle: Christians are commanded to stir up each other, to provoke one another, unto good works and godly obedience. Sometimes, given how so very few people in many grace circles actually do this, some of us who know we haven’t come close to “having arrived,” still discuss these matters to (1) refute the multitude of lies put forth; and to (2) call into our own remembrance these needful things.
Most of us, hopefully, are not walking in open sin and rebellion. However, we know the inner workings of our own hearts. We known our proneness to becoming impatient, angry; to murmur and become discontent; to struggle with lusts/temptations; to struggle with distractions of time and sense (current events, politics, entertainment, good books, and the list goes on and on). We know that in and of ourselves, it is sometimes hard to do the good that we would, and find ourselves doing the evil that we would not instead. Sometimes for a season, or seasons, idols are erected, and family matters, academic/employment matters, finances, elections, wars, matters of health and well-being, other personal interests, and so on, replace God and His word as our primary focus throughout the day.
Sometimes these things spiral out of our control; we see our great need; we see no natural way of rightly resolving such on our own. We feel overwhelmed and can say with David in Psalm 40:12 “For innumerable evils [sin in self and in the world, distractions, slothfulness, coldness, indifference] have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.”
III. The Opposition: So when we look to the brethren for help on these matters, or perhaps so-called brethren, what do we encounter more often than not in many circles? We essentially encounter, “just look to Christ,” “focus on Him,” “stop worrying about your sin, He paid it all;” “We can’t be obedient; Christ is our obedience;” “God doesn’t expect us to keep all of these commandments, in fact, he knows we can’t keep any of them — that’s why he kept them all for us!”
When we encounter this kind of ‘sage counsel” (which is anything but), it perpetuates the problem… It leaves us no better off than when we first sought help. The situation can worsen greatly if we internalize these lies, if we embrace the nonsense, and actually believe that Christians are so helpless, and so hopeless, that the only thing we can do is only ‘look to Christ’s righteousness’ (as Christians) because we can’t possibly really do any good, we can’t possibly really overcome these besetting sins, we can’t possibly really overcome the transgressions that are now so common amongst professing Christians (even those in Sovereign Grace and related circles), that they no longer appear as sin to many of them.
Then you have the other parties within Grace circles that see passages like James 3:1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” and Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” — and seemingly criticize some of our attempts to stir one another up with such commentary.
They seem (and I stress seem, since I do not know their hearts, minds, and intent) to view such efforts in terms of primarily “wanting to teach others,” or “judge others,” and can wittingly/unwittingly put stumbling-blocks in the way of those who really just want to find help for themselves, and for those like them. Sometimes, it appears as if they are saying: “have you arrived, are you there yet, are you doing all you can do? Is your obedience fulfilled!?! If not, do not speak on such things, do not teach such things!” In fairness, it can be my own conscience on these matters, seeing the flesh is always with me… Or it can be something more sinister (Satan is always ready to tempt/slander). God help us to not jump to hasty conclusions. It is better to think that these brethren are just expressing sincere warnings regarding getting too ahead of ourselves in our efforts.
Nonetheless, what a strait we sometimes find ourselves in. On one side, it’s Anomian/Antinomian nonsense that is freely proclaimed… on the other, it’s what seems like “don’t correct them, don’t speak out against them, don’t teach others about these things, unless of course, you’ve arrived yourself.” It can be tough, quite tough.
So what do we do? Like a hot knife through butter, we can cut through the distractions, and through the wonderings (as to meanings and intents), and do what we need to do, so long as it is biblical. We read; we pray; we listen to godly counsel (from faithful men of old and of today); we stir one another up unto sobriety and obedience; we meditate upon these things; we call each other into remembrance; and we let the (real and/or seeming) naysayers do their own thing.
IV. The Point: I finally arrive at the crux of the matter. Before getting into it, please consider the following two passages from 2 Kings chapter 22 and chapter 23:
2 King 22:8-13 “And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. 10 And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. 11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying, 13 Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great [is] the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.”
2 Kings 23:24-25 “Moreover the [workers with] familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. 25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there [any] like him.”
It’s incredible to ponder the great reality of this situation. Josiah found the book of the law of Moses, read it, and lamented the fact that they had not hearkened unto the words of it, to do according unto all that which was written concerning them. Josiah, being moved in his heart concerning himself and for His people, and having a sight of sin, and of their current woeful state, humbled himself before the LORD, rent his clothes (and his heart), wept before God, and proceeded to do what was commanded of Him, all as we read in 2 Kings 22 and 23. The bottom line, Josiah saw their slothful, distracted, disobedient state, understood the wrath justly due it, and was given ears to hear to not just hearken, but to obey.
Now the Christian is not under the law of Moses, or the law of ordinances; such was put away by the Lord, having been nailed to the cross at Calvary. Again (for the naysayers), the Christian is not under the Mosaic law. The Christian is not under any law in the sense of being subject to it (as it relates to trying to establish a righteousness of one’s own, being judged by it, condemned by it, or being eternally damned in light of the violation of it).
However, there is the extant law of God, made up of all of the commandments, imperatives, exhortations, and admonishments for us today (all that which was introduced or reaffirmed in the New Testament, or never abrogated from the Old, seeing that it preceded Moses, and is part of the spiritual law of God).
For people like me, and many others like me (immersed far too long with Anomian/Antinomian error), finding (or returning to) (a) the works of godly men of old, (b) the works of current faithful men; and (c) the ability (all by God’s grace and mercy) to see the truth of the matter straight from Scripture itself, is like Hilkiah finding the law of Moses, reading it to Josiah, and seeing played out the Spirit-wrought effect of being convicted on these matters, and having repentance and a desire to obey and serve, given to you.
We begin to think and feel like little Josiah’s! We don’t say (like the Anomians/Antinomians implicitly/tacitly do) “no Lord, we can’t do this, you must do it for us, so we’re not even gonna try.” Instead we say, “Lord, we have no natural strength to do, but You promise to give such strength. You declare that You work in Your people both to will and to (actually) do of Your good pleasure. You promise to put Your law in us, and to cause us to walk in Thy commandments and precepts. You set us free from the bondage of sin; we no longer are slaves to serve it — but are now slaves to serve You, and Your spiritual law (as the Apostle Paul declared in Romans 7)…. knowing that in You, and only in You, we can be obedient, we can have victory, we can grow in grace, love, and virtue, and we can do all the things that You have ordained for us to do, by Your strength!”
Like little Josiah’s, we have new found hope, new found strength, new found victories, and new found blessings here in this life. We want to press on, striving lawfully, and fighting the good fight. We don’t want lies and stumbling blocks put in our way. We want the old paths, the ancient paths, the righteous paths. We want to be obedient, to be good and faithful servants, forsaking the wicked and foolish things of time and sense. If any have no desire for such, that is between them and God… but it would seem that there is no light in them (I often question my own state whilst in that muck and mire).
May God have mercy on all of His people, those desirous of faithfully, though albeit feebly, and needily, seeking grace and strength to excel in these things.
To God be the glory.